There is a Strength in Faithfulness

There is a Strength in Faithfulness

Only once have I really punched someone in anger.

It was a childish expression of frustration and the reprisal was one that kept that outburst of violence to a one-time event.  In general, I am a fairly patient person, I believe, and while I might get annoyed or angry, I am often slow to act on those emotions.

Yet I’ve always wanted to be viewed as strong.  I’m not tall and I probably don’t look very intimidating.  Despite that, it is a desire of mine to be seen as fiery.  The punch I threw in my youth didn’t end well, but I sought to prove my strength in other areas.  In an elementary school gym class, we were challenged to do as many push-ups as possible.  Due to my slight frame and sheer grit, I completed push-up after push-up until my arms quaked each time I neared the floor.  When I finally stopped, only one other person was still going.

As kids, my dad would challenge us to completely unfair wrestling matches.  Being six or seven and taking on a fully grown man did not present balanced odds.  However, I clearly remember wrestling matches where my dad only needed to use one arm or a leg to pin me down as I relentlessly squirmed to get away.  Finally, I would concede defeat, but only with flushed face and worn out limbs.

This desire to be strong was evident from my youth and yet it found expression in various ways as I got older.  Physical prowess was never going to be my gift and so I exercised strength in witty replies and intellectual knowledge.  But I still wanted to be viewed as strong and I had this indomitable longing to be a soldier.  I have a fight in me that needs to be revealed in some way.  It means that while I “hit like a girl,” I still punch my dad in the shoulder every time I see him.  And while I’m not a fan of conflict, I enjoy a good argument or discussion when I’m in the mood.

At my nephews’ wrestling tournament the other day, I saw a woman in army fatigues.  The strength that her outfit symbolized was something I desired for myself.  Which, naturally, means I went home that night and casually perused the Army National Guard website.  I imagined what it would be like to join the military and how that could impact my life.  I don’t really want to fight someone, but I want to fight for something. Continue reading “There is a Strength in Faithfulness”


I Need You, Lent

I Need You, Lent

My bedroom is in a similar state as my soul.  Messy, cluttered, and kind of driving me insane.  The thing is both situations are entirely my fault.

Instead of hanging up my clothes, they have become a mountain covering my ottoman.  Generally, I forget I even have an ottoman and I’ve become increasingly convinced that most of the things in there mustn’t be very important if I never need to access them.  Stacks of unopened letters and papers I should file away add a bit of an overwhelming sense to a place I often use for refuge.  Boxes that need to be broken down for recycling, laundry that ought to be done, and stacks upon stacks of books make my bedroom chaotic.

My soul?  Pretty much the same situation.

There is a great deal of clearing out that needs to happen.  Scripture says to make a highway for Our Lord.  But first, I think I need a plow to come through.  So it is with a heart that loves simplicity yet finds itself attached to abundance that I eagerly head into Lent.

I need Lent.   Continue reading “I Need You, Lent”

A Laity of Saints: How God Uses the Little for Greatness

A Laity of Saints: How God Uses the Little for Greatness

When I mention that my two older sisters are religious sisters, people often wonder what my parents did to make that happen.  In a way, I understand, because it is mildly unusual in today’s world to hear about young women making vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.  Yet I also want to fight against this mentality that holiness is primarily for priests, religious, and consecrated persons.  Sanctity is for everyone and we need to continue to proclaim this good news.  

If you are what you should be, you will set your whole world on fire.

~St. Catherine of Siena

Venerable Jan Tyranowski recently came into my life and he inspires me in the quest for a saintly laity.  He was born at the turn of the twentieth century in Poland.  For over three decades, he led a rather unremarkable life.  But at Mass one day, he heard the priest say that it isn’t difficult to be a saint.  From that day forward, he pursued virtue and holiness with an incredible ardor.

When Nazis invaded Poland, they deported several of the priests in parish, leaving behind only a couple elderly priests.  Knowing of his deep faithfulness, the priests ask Jan to minister to the young of the parish.  Despite his introverted nature and little formal education, Jan began this ministry even though he considered himself incapable.  He formed prayer groups comprised of fifteen young men each.  Each man was responsible for daily praying a decade of the rosary and striving to live out particular virtues.  The groups were called “Living Rosaries” and Jan chose a leader for each group, investing time to spiritually form each leader.

Venerable Jan Tyranowski never married and never became a priest, yet his life of holiness impacts us today.  The Second Vatican Council called for the laity to live more fully the mission of the Church.  This call was anticipated in the life of Jan and he did this in the midst of a Nazi occupation.  One of the young men who was in his prayer group and was spiritually formed by this simple tailor was Karol Wojtyla, better known as Pope St. John Paul II. Continue reading “A Laity of Saints: How God Uses the Little for Greatness”


That Heartburn

That Heartburn

Last year, Fr. Mike Schmitz came out with a video.  And this year, I showed it again to all of my classes.  Sometimes I mind watching the same video six times in one day, but this was not one of those times.  Each time I watched it, I was filled with this desire to be holy and to persevere in running the race.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”  (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Before we watched the video, I put this passage on the board and gave my students time to reflect on it.  Each class period, I found something new to consider in the passage.  I could go through it, line by line, and tell you what stood out to me, but that probably wouldn’t be interesting for you.  Instead, I’ll highlight just a couple.  Of course, the video focused on the “cloud of witnesses” that surrounds us and how the saints are there to push us forward when we want to give up.  Yet I also noticed the “also lay aside every weight” as it shows that we are to, like the saints, strip ourselves of everything that does not help us reach the finish line.  Finally, I was struck by how we are to run the race “set before us” and that it is not necessarily the race that we choose or would want to run.

In listening to Fr. Mike Schmitz and reflecting on that Scripture passage, I am filled again with the desire to be holy.  Though my life is a good one, I do not always feel the adrenaline of being in the midst of a race.  I want it to be exciting always, otherwise I tend to forget that I am in a battle/race. Continue reading “That Heartburn”


George Bailey

I never really associated myself with George Bailey.  “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a classic movie, but I’ve always viewed it as a movie, not something that seemed to speak into my own life.  A couple days ago I re-watched it.  Apparently, the wanderlust desire to see the world and do incredible things is more an aspect of the human condition rather than my generation.  So I watched the classic film, shed some tears, and realized that the longing George Bailey had was fiercely beating within my own heart.

I’m shakin’ the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I’m gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. Then, I’m comin’ back here to go to college and see what they know. And then I’m gonna build things. I’m gonna build airfields, I’m gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I’m gonna build bridges a mile long…

As high school neared its end, I was never one of the students who couldn’t wait to get out of the small town.  It just happened to be that I chose a school hundreds of miles away from home and was only able to come back for Christmas and summer breaks.  When college was finished, I moved back home because moving far away for a job seemed strange to me.  Now I’m in my fourth year of teaching high school and I live about thirty minutes from where I spent my childhood.

Young adult life is filled with many different experiences, but I keep coming back to a desire to pursue greatness, a desire that filled George Bailey his entire life.  He wanted to see the world, to travel, to build structures that will last years, and to pursue adventure.  Yet he ends up spending his life in Bedford Falls, a seemingly idyllic town that feels like a prison if one doesn’t want to spend the entirety of one’s life there.

Any place can feel like a prison, though, if one is constantly desiring to be elsewhere.  The greatness found in the little and the simple can be overlooked so quickly.  St. John Vianney would spend hour after hour in the confessional.  Looking at his life from my vantage point, I can see how much fruit his life of simple faithfulness bore.  Yet in that moment of waking up early to say Mass and then spend the whole day in the confessional, he might not have felt this aura of greatness surrounding himself.  St. John Bosco rallied together the poor street children from Turin and taught them how to be men.  In the daily grind of loving them in the midst of their flaws, he might not have recognized the monumental work he was doing.

And I teach.  It isn’t much.  My younger sister was watching “Freedom Writers” with me and she said each time she watched the movie, she thought of me as the teacher.  I am laughably not like Mrs. Gruwell.  I’m not taking on extra jobs to buy supplies for my students or going to bat for them against a racist administration or devoting all my time to helping them graduate from high school.  There are many teachers who spend hours with their students after school as they guide them through problems (academic or otherwise) and leave this deep impression on their very beings as an adult who cared and sacrificed for them.  I am not that teacher.

During finals, one of my students walked into my classroom with a card.  She told me she was giving me this card because she was thankful that I would go over the study guides with her before tests.  All I did was spend fifteen to twenty minutes after school with her the day before the test to review her answers and go over any questions she had.  But the gesture she made was worth ten cards.  Hidden within that quiet exchange, one done without any fanfare or balloons, was the greatness I am seeking.

Greatness is found in the simple, in the little.  I’ve written about this before.  I write about it again not to convince you, but to convince myself.  As a teacher, affirmations are few and far between.  Even if administration affirms your work, you want to hear it from those you spend day after day with.  Students are unaware how powerful their words are about their teachers.  I don’t need their support or affirmation, but I love it when I receive it.  It means something is sinking in, something is being passed from my soul to theirs.  I don’t have state standardized tests to rely on as a Theology teacher.  I want to know if they know the Lord, rather than if they can ace my tests.  That is when I know that I am successful.

George Bailey wanted a blazing kind of greatness, one that tears through towns and astounds people.  What he finds instead is the greatness of enduring friendships, believing in the dreams of others, helping others pursue human dignity, and building a family that bands together.  A greatness that his father pursued in that very town.

There is greatness in simplicity.  There is simple greatness.  There is unassuming greatness.  Perhaps greatness is found not in doing wild things or going to exotic places but in doing what you do to the best of your ability.  Maybe greatness is simply living your own life well, even if you remain unaware of the impact it makes on the lives of others.

Pa Bailey: I know it’s soon to talk about it.
George Bailey: Oh, now Pop, I couldn’t. I couldn’t face being cooped up for the rest of my life in a shabby little office… Oh, I’m sorry Pop, I didn’t mean that, but this business of nickels and dimes and spending all your life trying to figure out how to save three cents on a length of pipe… I’d go crazy. I want to do something big and something important.
Pa Bailey: You know, George, I feel that in a small way we are doing something important. Satisfying a fundamental urge. It’s deep in the race for a man to want his own roof and walls and fireplace, and we’re helping him get those things in our shabby little office.
George Bailey: I know, Dad. I wish I felt… But I’ve been hoarding pennies like a miser in order to… Most of my friends have already finished college. I just feel like if I don’t get away, I’d bust.
Pa Bailey: Yes… yes… You’re right son.
George Bailey: You see what I mean, don’t you, Pop?
Pa Bailey: This town is no place for any man unless he’s willing to crawl to Potter. You’ve got talent, son. I’ve seen it. You get yourself an education. Then get out of here.
George Bailey: Pop, you want a shock? I think you’re a great guy.


Living Authentic Desires

What if I lived how I truly wanted to live rather than how I wanted to live right now?

Maybe there doesn’t seem to be a difference in those two versions, but in my life, sadly, there is.  I’m a bit dense.  It takes a while for things to sink into this head of mine.  While I often know what would be best for me, I take the easier path and attempt to satisfy deeper desires with more superficial things.

St. Paul understands this little heart of mine.  Perhaps it is simply a condition of humanity.  “I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”  (Romans 7:15)  Even if what I’m doing isn’t sinful, it isn’t living up to the calling God has for my life.  I settle for mediocrity when I am called to be extraordinary.

Examples needed?  My life yields plenty of material.

I truly want to go pray.  I’ve thought about it several times in a given day and I know it would bring peace.  But I’m tired.  So I scroll through Facebook.

I want to go for a run.  But I’m tired.  So I take a nap instead, planning to go for a run the next day.

I want to spend some time reading a book.  But I’m tired.  So I watch a movie instead.

There are a couple trends that should be noted.
1. I’m tired so often.
2. While I know what I should do (and what would actually satisfy the desires of my heart more), I tend to opt for the path that requires far less of me.

Yet when I actually put aside my momentary desires and do what requires a little more effort or discipline, I am always amazed at the internal peace that occurs.

Instead of mindlessly scrolling through the internet, I go to adoration.  I’m far more pleased with myself (because even as I’m wasting time on my computer, there is a nagging feeling that I am not doing what I ought) and I feel a deeper peace because I did what my soul needed, I did what I actually wanted to do.

Sometimes what I want to do, isn’t what I actually want to do.  And sometimes what I don’t want to do, is actually what I really want to do.

It makes me wonder why following my own heart’s desires is so difficult.  Sadly, it is far too easy for the true desires to get overlooked by far more superficial, temporary wants.  On the drive home from the church, I was thinking, “What if I always lived so that I was actually doing what I wanted to do and what was best for me?”  My internal response?  “Huh.”  As though following my authentic desires was a novel concept.

Yet this is what the saints did.  They lived!  As saints they fulfilled the deepest, authentic desires of their hearts and did not succumb to the lazy wants that surfaced.

I could be such a better person if I followed my true desires (at times, genuine promptings of the Holy Spirit) instead of what I felt like doing in the moment.  I could be a saint if I did now what I knew I should do, instead of waiting for a later, more convenient time.

The path to sanctity is now.  And it is truly what I want.  So why not start?

“Do now- Do Now- what you’ll wish you had done when your moment comes to die.”   -St. Angela Merici

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Making Excuses with Moses

Moses and I might as well be twins.  Yes, I am aware of the historical, ethnic, and cultural difficulties associated with that type of relation, but it is very true.  Moses and I both balk at what the Lord asks of us and then we make excuses.  Not just one excuse that can be neatly answered, but multiple.  And if we run out of excuses, we start re-using the old ones, just in case they appear any stronger after a period of neglect.  I don’t even need to alter much to make the excuses of Moses my own.

Granted Moses faced a bit more of a challenging task then I do.  He was saved from infanticide, raised in Pharaoh’s house, sent into exile after killing an Egyptian, and called by God from a burning bush to march his people (that he never really lived with) out of slavery and into a Promised Land.  No big deal, right?  I, on the other hand, am simply told to be the best teacher I can be, proclaim the truth without fear of the consequences, and become of a disciple for the Lord.  When placed in that light, Moses had very good reason to throw up excuses while my position has a much weaker foundation for it.

Q: “Who am I that I should…?” (Ex. 3:11)
A: “But I will be with you…”
Q: “If…they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”
A: “I AM who I AM.”

Excuse: “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice…” (Ex. 4: 1)
Reply: “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you you shall go, and whatever I command you you shall speak.  Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” (Jer. 1: 7-8)
Excuse: “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent…”
Reply: “Who has made man’s mouth?  Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind?  Is it not I, the Lord?  Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”

Final plea: “Oh, my Lord, send, I pray, some other person.” (Ex 4: 13)

This final plea is sometimes what I find myself reduced to.  Just send anyone but me, Lord.  I think of others who are clearly more qualified for the job than me.  I wonder how the Lord could make such a large mistake, could have overlooked their finer qualities and overlooked my giant deficiencies.  This feeling of “Please, Lord, someone else!” isn’t just with large missions, but is with lesser things.  When there is gossip taking place and I feel uncomfortable, but I don’t want to be the one to squelch it.  If I see something that is wrong but wish I hadn’t seen it so that I could simply be naïve. 

When I was offered the teaching job I felt incredibly inadequate.  I had just finished convincing people quite a bit older than me that I was the person they wanted for the job.  Then I was offered the job and I had a more difficult time convincing myself that I was the person for the job.  In fact, I began to compile a mental list of people that would be better at teaching than I would be.  I thought of intelligent priests I knew, passionate young adults filled with both knowledge and fire, and young religious sisters who would be able to articulate the faith in an eloquent manner.  Then I thought of my own abilities and talents.  The list seemed to be woefully short.  I hadn’t lied to the interviewers…I had simply spoken with more confidence than I actually had.  Who would hire someone who said, “I am pretty sure that I can do this job, I think.  _________ and ___________ would be perfect for this job but they aren’t available.  At the very least, I think I could be a decent babysitter for high schoolers.  Hire me.  Please.”  That probably wouldn’t be sufficient.

Instead of relying on my own incredible speaking abilities (which I don’t have) or my limitless intellect (again, fictional), I was forced to rely on the Lord.  Of course, I failed in that but I was forced to try more than if I was gifted with all that was required of me.  I knew that I could not do the task properly on my own.  However, I did know that the Lord could use me to do His will. 

How did I know this?

Past experience, yes.  Bible stories, yes.  Witness of the saints, yes. 

Our Lady.
Padre Pio.
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.
St. Faustina.

It is not my job to tell the Lord that He has chosen the wrong person or that I am under-qualified.  He already knows my gifts and He knows my weaknesses.  I am convinced that often the Lord chooses people with major weaknesses so that it may be evident to the world that He is doing the work and it is not his/her own skill.

The requirement is a wholehearted yes.  Or at least an openness to being used for God’s will.  It is saying, “Please, Lord, choose somebody more qualified” and then going to talk to Pharaoh anyway when the Lord tells you to.  You are required to be uncertain of the future yet entirely certain of He who already knows the future.  It is surrendering your weaknesses to the bridegroom on the altar of sacrifice and welcoming into yourself the bread of the angels, the strength from heaven, the necessary graces.  It is allowing His to overflow in you and into those in your life.  It is hands wide open, entrusting everything to Our Lord even when we don’t know what that everything even is.

Moses and I both question the Lord and ask Him to choose someone else to do the hard work.  Yet God is unrelenting. 

He crafts our souls, breathes life into us, nourishes us, and then poses a question to us that is hard to refuse. 

“Trish, I created you to reveal an aspect of Myself that nobody else can reveal.  I have a plan for you, I have graces for you, I have a mission for you.  Will you reveal Me to the world and be a part of salvation history?”


How can I refuse?


Deo Gratias

“We don’t actually think you’re crazy.” 

I smiled at that as the student walked out the door.  While I wasn’t extremely worried that they thought I was, there was a moment today when I wondered if I had pushed them over the edge. 

We were finishing up a PowerPoint from yesterday about Purgatory and someone asked a question that related to saints, although I’m not quite certain what it was at the time.  The saint they used as an example was St. Anthony.  Oftentimes I don’t share personal stories with them for a few reasons but today one instantly came to mind.

“I got in a fight with St. Anthony once.”

They looked up at me, puzzlement chiseled into their features.

“When I was younger my mom always told us to pray to St. Anthony if I lost something.  So I would pray that he would help me find my overdue library book.  And he would.  One month later after I already bought the book.  So I finally got mad at him and told him I wasn’t going to pray to him anymore.  And so we didn’t talk for a while.”

“Wait…you and your mom?  Or you and St. Anthony?”

“St. Anthony.”

I looked at their faces.  They wore a bemused expression but they were all paying attention and seemed interested.

“You guys think I’m crazy.”  The entire class laughed.  I knew that telling them about a close relationship with a saint (i.e. a physically dead person) probably didn’t strike them as the most normal thing.  But the positive thing is that theology teachers can get away with crazy things and the students just chalk it up to their faith.

“Anyway, I started talking to him again and now he helps me find things all of the time.  St. Anthony is great!”

The PowerPoint presentation continued and I put the incident out of my mind.  While they are one of my favorite classes they also are often the least productive.  The interesting story of St. Anthony was replaced with a frustration that they weren’t working on their assignment but seemed to be talking about everything but theological matters.  Yet when that student told me that they didn’t really think I was crazy, the frustration melted away and I had an “I’m glad I’m a teacher” gushing of emotions.  Of course, it isn’t the easiest thing to do and sometimes I want to give up, but it does have moments of joy and gratitude.

Some of my sophomores even claim that they wish they were me.  I was rather shocked by that statement but then I realized it was induced by my close proximity to their conversation and their combined frustrations over school, tests, and homework.  “I wish I was you, Miss ——”  Instantly my weekly life flashed before my eyes and I was firmly convinced that if they knew my life, they would be immediately grateful for their own.  Late nights grading papers, frantic test-writing, suppers with the parents, euphoria over Friday nights that end in an early bedtime…yes, they would sprint back to their current lives if they knew much more.  Their claim that I didn’t have any homework to do was the added cherry to the top.  Despite my vehement internal opposition to their claims, I had to laugh at the naivete of my lovely sophomores.

I like my life.  It may appear boring or mundane to others.  But it has a fair amount of joy and blessings mixed in with the suffering and trials.  Too often we are in a state of discontent.  I want to just thank the Lord right now for this moment of contentment.  For the sunshine outside, the weekend languidly spread before me, the empty classroom that was just occupied by so many beautiful, wandering, searching young souls, the jeans of a dress down day, the love of friends and family, the imminent Sacrifice of the Mass, and the knowledge that someday all of this will end and what will replace it will be infinitely better. 

Deo gratias. 


Step One: Be a Saint

I know that I am far from being a saint, yet I have this great desire to be one.  Over the past few years I have begun to realize the beauty and necessity of friendships rooted in Christ.  Some friends that I have I would love to speak with daily yet even when months separate our communications, we are able to pick up right where we left off.  Sisterly spiritual encouragement is something for which I am presently grateful.  While they aren’t necessarily my biological sisters (although sometimes they most definitely are), we have a friendship that digs deep into the heart of the matter.  I am able to cut directly to the truth and not hedge around political correctness.  I want these e-mails, letters, and phone calls to be saved as aspects of these stories of souls on their way to Heaven.  Of course this evidence would immediately reveal our imperfections but they would also unearth the deep desires of our hearts.  It is the beauty of the Body of Christ, separated by space and time yet united in the intimacy of Our Lord’s Eucharistic Heart.  When I encounter priests, religious sisters, elderly, young people all striving for Christ, I am renewed and reinvigorated.  The Church is not dead.  She is marching onward.  She is wounded, She is weak, She is comprised of sinful people.  Ah, but She is being sanctified.

Persevere, dear readers, in running the race for Christ, in striving continually for holiness.  Look not at what you are, but what He desires you to be.  Focus not on your imperfections but on His perfections.  Never put out the desire to be a saint.  God wants it of you and the world needs it of you.

“Dear young people, the Church needs genuine witnesses for the new evangelization: men and women whose lives have been transformed by meeting with Jesus, men and women who are capable of communicating this experience to others. The Church needs saints. All are called to holiness, and holy people alone can renew humanity. Many have gone before us along this path of Gospel heroism, and I urge you to turn often to them to pray for their intercession.”   -Pope John Paul II

In times of darkness Our Lord raises up saints.  Well, there is no need to ask if this is a time of darkness.  Therefore, we must be saints.  Anything less is settling.