Unplanned

Unplanned

My younger sister, parents, and I went and watched the movie Unplanned. It is the true story of Abby Johnson, who went from Planned Parenthood clinic director to pro-life advocate shortly after being called in to assist with an ultrasound guided abortion. I had heard many things about the movie, most of them about how sad it was or how it had the ability to change hearts and minds.

I thought it gave an accurate portrayal of the positives and negatives of both the pro-life and the pro-choice side. (Note: I use the terms pro-life and pro-choice because those are generally what each side wants to be called and if I want to engage in a genuine conversation, I don’t start off by alienating them over a title.) Not all pro-lifers are compassionate figures who reach out in love to assist women. Similarly, not all pro-choicers are concerned only about the money behind abortion. The situation is more complex than a simple good people vs. evil people.

During my time outside an abortion clinic in Pittsburgh, I saw some of each type of person depicted in the movie. I saw people who loved the men and women entering the clinic so much they endured hours of standing in the cold and being cruelly mocked by the pro-choice escorts. Yet I also saw pro-life people yelling at abortionists that they are baby killers who are going to burn in Hell or that the women will for having an abortion. While there, I encountered people who genuinely thought abortion was the best option for some women and thus volunteered their Saturday mornings to assist these women. I also met pro-choicers who were extremely hardened, who intentionally pushed into me when I tried to talk to the women, who stood in circles as they joked about physically harming those of us who were praying.

It is because of my time spent at the abortion clinic in Pittsburgh that I watched Unplanned and didn’t think it was as difficult to take in as some people had said it would be. No, I didn’t enjoy watching it, but I had already watched countless women, escorted by best friends, boyfriends, husbands, and parents, walk passed me and into an abortion clinic. I saw women slowly walk out of the clinic after they had their abortions. The reality is far harder to take in than watching a movie about it, as powerful as the movie may be.

Continue reading “Unplanned”
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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”

He is Human

He is Human

I gave him a detention for typing something inappropriate into his graphing calculator.  Understandably, that made him upset.  As class progressed, I had them work in partners and he was not interested in doing anything I asked.

It is your fault you got in trouble, I thought to myself, as I watched him sulk.

Each of the partners was responsible for give part of the response to the rest of the class.  His partner went first and then I asked for him to give the rest of the answer.  It was brief and visibly filled with bitterness.  It was enough to qualify as disrespectful and I narrowed my eyes slightly as I deliberated about what to do. Continue reading “He is Human”

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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