Sunday, September 29, 2013

Theology of the Body in the New Evangelization (Part One)

Theology of the Body and the New Evangelization. Whew, these two statements that are quite overwhelming.

Theology of the Body (TOB) is a collection of Blessed John Paul II's General Audiences while he was Pope. He examines and explains the "nuptial meaning of the body" and practically rediscovers the meaning of our existence and really, the meaning of life in general.

The New Evangelization is simply proclaiming the Gospel, trying to convert people, getting people into church, and even getting Catholics who are in a state of complacency back to being on fire for their faith. The word "evangelization" and "missionary" are practically synonyms. Adding the word "new" to "evangelization" makes the definition more like: proclaiming the Gospel ad gentes (to all the Nations) and outreaching to fallen away Catholics.

Since childhood, I have been very affectionate and loving. If I would take the "The Five Love Languages" quiz, I'd probably be Words of Affirmation, Receiving/Giving gifts...maybe Acts of Service and Quality Time too hahaha
So, once I grew older and learned about Theology of the Body, I was hooked. Nothing can be more affirming than the Song of Solomon in the Bible. Nothing you read can make you feel more loved and beautiful than TOB and Song of Songs. When you meet a person who loves and lives out TOB, you just know it.
For example, I have a friend named Roch and he is like THE ultimate man. I picture him as Lazarus...if Jesus was around today and Roch died, Jesus would weep. Jesus' heart would be broken. Just how David is a man after Jesus's Heart... Roch is too - I just know it. Roch embodies Theology of the Body and it is evident on how he lives out his faith and the way he speaks and the way he listens. His temperament or disposition and demeanor IS Theology of the Body and his example to others promotes the New Evangelization. His love and gentle personality is what makes people yearn to be true genuine Catholic.
If you'd meet someone with a Fire and Brimstone, someone may not be apt to want to join whatever organization. But, if you would meet someone like Roch - a gentle, kind, welcoming, holy man - you'd be more apt to do whatever he's doing.

In prayer the past two weeks, Song of Songs has been very present in my life. Last week in community morning prayer, a specific line said: "I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; For he has clothed me with a robe of salvation, and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, Like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels." Isaiah 61:10

Then, when I went to do my personal prayer, I opened Scripture to Psalm 139:13-14 "I praise you for I am wonderfully made." To this I made the connection that the Lord takes delight in us. We, the church, are his bride and He is our bridegroom. We are all jewels in His eyes and that we are beautiful and wonderfully made. I have no reason to be self-conscious because God made me the way he did for a reason and I am exactly the way I am supposed to be for Him. In His eyes, I am beautiful. Reaffirming my realization during Desert Day, I read from Song of Songs 7:1 "...your rounded thighs are like jewels, the handiwork of an artist..." Even in my insecurities and my disillusions about my self image, I "shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the Lord, a royal diadem held by my God"..."you shall be called my delight", "as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you." The Lord takes delight in my fat thighs and what I think are my imperfections.
I just love the comparisons of the Church being the Bride! mmmmm, so good.

I have been reading "At the Heart of the Gospel" by Christopher West which is about "reclaiming the body for the new evangelization" and is recommended by many chairman of the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) and many elite professors of philosophy and theology and authors. Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, cardinal archbishop of Vienna; general editor, Catechism of the Catholic Church; and grand chancellor, International Theological Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family said that this is a "teaching so urgently needed for an effective proclamation of the Gospel."

I'll have to update everyone on this book about Theology of the Body and the New Evangelization in my next Blog!

*Happy Lord's Day*

Saturday, September 21, 2013

We Must Go

The life of a Missionary, man - it is GLORIOUS.

It has been an unbelievably awesome first week at Intake at Big Woods in Abbeville. I have had an incredible experience living in community with over 37 other missionaries. The transition from living in a house with my parents in my own room in Thibodaux to living with 4 girls in a (really nice and home-y) trailer in Abbeville has actually been easier than I expected. God has definitely given me the graces I need to live through this transitional period. The first night was very very difficult because everything hit me like a ton of bricks. I got in bed and prayed the rosary but I cried and cried and cried. I didn't want to wake anyone up, so I went to the bathroom, sat on the floor and cried for a good while. Everything hit me... I moved away for the first time, I can't call my mommy and daddy whenever I want to, I am literally making a complete life change, I am living simply, and I am living amongst people I don't know. It was so overwhelming and terrifying and I felt like I was a baby. I was a small baby girl sitting on the floor absolutely terrified and alone. Then I looked up at an image on our wall of Jesus' face, in agonizing pain, with blood dripping from his head from the crown of thorns. I told Him I was afraid, but I was reassured that if I unite my sadness and suffering with Jesus, blessings will pour fourth into my life and my families life and all of the lives of the people I am praying for. My mindset since I have made the decision to drop my life at home and become a missionary to proclaim the Gospel and serve the poor in a foreign country has been: "I am a daughter of God, with childlike faith I am fully relying on God for EVERYTHING. He is enough. His grace is sufficient for me. He is literally all I need." I stopped crying, went to sleep, and woke up a different woman. I spoke with Brooke, one of the FMC Directors, about my tears that night and she knew exactly what to say to calm my heart and explained how to discern that the spirit of anxiety and fear is absolutely not of God. After I spoke with her, we had community prayer time (family style) and everyone laid hands on me and some of the others who were feeling anxious and scared and overwhelmed. I am so happy. I really and truly love it here and I'm glad I got my good first night cry out of the way because every cry since then has been of pure and complete joy. I CANNOT believe this is my life!!!

Just a glimpse of my day: I wake up around 7:30AM and pray the Rosary in bed. Then as a community we have breakfast, praise and worship and morning prayer (community prayer is always at least an hour) in the Big House. After community prayer we have a teaching workshop then a break for either service/chores/or lunch prep, then we have a lunch study after we eat. After cleaning up we have personal prayer time and rest, then dinner, community prayer/praise and worship/fellowship, and lights out at 11PM (but we're always finished around 9ish).  Sundays are our free days and every day is a little different, but that is the general schedule. We are also spilt into 3 groups and are assigned either breakfast, lunch, or dinner prep each day. Along with preparing one of the meals and cleaning up after meals with my group, I am also assigned personal chores. My chore is to organize the community pantry and fridge and to help with the Proclaim Conference preparations (EVERYONE should come to the's going to be AMAZING. Seriously, come see me). I actually learned how to make Taco Soup and Spaghetti (everyone survived, Praise God!) so I am pretty excited all that I'm learning. The day by day schedule is so ideal because it is the perfect balance of community time and personal prayer time and rest time and workshop time. Living in community has been the ultimate blessing. It has calmed my spirit and quenched my anxiety and my fears and is re-ordering my life. I just cannot put into words how blessed I am to be living in such a wonderful community.

This is the question I have been asked the most, "Breana, you really can't date or drink or text for a whole year?!? You're going to DIE!" Well actually, I made a first year commitment to daily personal prayer time for at least 15 minutes, daily personal reading of Scripture, no personal use of phone/internet other than 2 hours on Sunday, and no alcohol or dating/romantic relationships. Of course it will be a challenge at times because things will always be challenging, but these challenges will bear good fruit. Dude, why not sacrifice to benefit the Kingdom? Why not sacrifice if it will save souls?

The other night during community Praise and Worship we sang a song called "God of Justice." I've never heard of it before, but watching and listening to everyone pour out their heart singing this song...oh man. As I watched one of the little Eckstine children sing, I just cried and cried (The Eckstine's are a family from Oregon with 10 children. Their youngest daughter, Rebekah, who I believe is 4, was the one I was watching). The song says, "We must go. Live to feed the hungry, stand beside the broken. We must go. Stepping forward, keep us from just singing, move us into action. We must go. Fill us up and send us out!" She is FOUR years old and singing these words. She is living to feed the hungry and to stand beside the broken. I know you're thinking, "who in their right mind would take their children to live in a third world country?" Umm, those children are SAINTS. Who wouldn't take their children to a third world country to proclaim the Gospel and to save souls? Do you want your family to be Saints? If we don't tell these people the good news, who will??? How selfish is it that we live in the world consumed by our culture where everything is about me me me and I will just dieee without my cell phone. Dude, some of these people have probably never heard of or touched a cell phone. Over 7 Billion people in the world have never heard of JESUS. Are you kidding me?
Why aren't there more missionaries? Why aren't people taking every opportunity they can to go out to all the world and proclaim the good news that there is more to this life??? I cannot believe that people around the world think that this life is it. I am being trained to be sent out to share this news that there is salvation! There is hope for the future! There is Heaven and there is a God who loves and knows you and want to have a personal relationship with you! This world is fleeting and this life is temporary, but Heaven is forever. For eternity. How can we deprive the world of this good news??
I can't... I have to go. I have to tell the world the good news. Jesus is sending me on the great commission.

Whew, sorry if that was a little intense hahaha! But I am passionate about this. I believe in this. I know that this is exactly how I'm supposed to be living my life. I have been keeping all of my family, friends, donors, and benefactors in my prayers and have been lifting you all up in community prayer as well (especially praying for my dad's work situation). Thank you all so much again for your generous monetary support and prayer support for my family and I!!! We appreciate each and every one of you seaux much.

If you'd like to read more about The Great Commission from Jesus Himself:
Mark 16:14-20
Matthew 28:16-20

Saturday, September 7, 2013

You Lead Me

As I rode in the passanger seat of my moms car on Hwy 90 going home to Thibodaux, I had a flashback to Sunday, August 18 - the day my mom picked me up from the Family Missions Company 'Come and See' Retreat. We were listening to the Christian band All Sons and Daughters when my mom was hysterically crying because she did not want me to become a Missionary. I was incredibly calm the whole ride knowing that if God was calling me to be a Missionary, He would comfort my mom. She kept saying that I could not go until she got a sign from God (she actually said, "He needs to come down here and TELL ME." But who's quoting?). I told her that she had to listen. ...bad idea... She said that she does listen and she prays really hard but He doesn't tell her anything. She had just been crying and crying and scared all week. I understood where she was coming from. You see, I was on the retreat crying as well. I didn't want to disobey my parents and leave our house if it made them so upset, but I also did not want to avoid or decline the call that Jesus had so graciously given me. In the end I had to make the decision if I would totally rely on God to take care of me and most importantly, take care of my family. Back to the "sign" thing that my mother was asking God for. I kind of took a nap in the car but then I dramatically woke up, wiped the drool off my face, and said, "YOU SEE! This is how God sends signs!!!" The song that was playing...if that wasn't a sign, I'm not sure what is! Well, she ignored me. And I completely understand...I would have ignored me too initially if I were in her shoes.
The song that was playing is called "Called Me Higher" and I've never noticed what the words meant until that car ride. The lyrics made me realize that it would be easy to stay in the comfort of home and the routine of my daily life... but God has called me higher and deeper and I will go where He will lead me - because what could be better than that? He opened up the door for me and I recognized it and I want to run through it. I want to run to Him. I cannot get enough. Even though it was Hell watching my mom and dad suffer, I was in some type of mystical ecstasy... the God of the Universe is calling ME to serve the poor and to have a direct encounter with Jesus...every single day. He is calling ME to be a missionary. Dude, I still cannot even fathom it. Of course, mom didn't see that the song was about me.
Fast forward to this week. I was listening to my music and she walks in and said, "I like this band. They sing a song and it's you." Well, forgetting all about the car ride and the song (because I subconsciously blocked out my mothers suffering), I kept playing all their songs to find the one she was talking about. Once it hit me, I played it and she started crying and she said, "Breana, it's you." Then she started singing along with the parts she knew. Ahh, so cute. I love it when she sings and when she dances and when she embarrasses me. I've always loved it. Who wouldn't be proud of their cool crazy mom?!

So this all leads me to night before last. Me, some college church friends, and my mom went to the Audrey Assad concert in Lafayette (which is near Abbeville). The concert was incredible, of course, but watching my mom love the concert was so much more incredible. Seeing my family encounter Jesus is.. ahhh.. it's just the most wonderful thing. My mom was actin the fool at this concert and she was enjoying EVERY SECOND of it!
Anyway, on the way home, we took the same Highway as we did going home from the Come and See Retreat. We were on Hwy 90 and listening to All Sons and Daughters and "Called Me Higher" comes on and she tells everyone in the car that this song is about me. So we sang it together and I knew she was probably tearing up a little bit, but this time she was not crying out of anger or fear; she is proud of me. She understands that I am saying yes to God's call. Why not give just 2 years of my life to God as a Missionary? (I mean I hope I am called to more years of missionary life...but He's the Boss.)
In 19 days my mother made a radical change from being so upset and angry and almost standoff-ish to the idea of listening to God in different ways to listening to Him in the quiet of her heart and to scripture and through the kindness of others. As my dad said, "In the 62 years I've been alive, God had never talked to me." No. That's a lie. God may speak to you through images, art, music, people, scripture, the sacraments... you just can't be close minded. You have to open your heart to listen to the whisper.

If you'd like to hear the song: Called Me Higher by All Sons and Daughters

"I will be Yours, I will be Yours for all my life..."