Joyful Christmas Season!

+JMJ+

Ave Maria! It is the Second Day of Christmas–and the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Martyr! How wise the Church is, to have us remember the first person who laid down his life for the love of God and belief in the Faith that Jesus Christ gave to us.

This Christmas I was at midnight Mass at St. Cyril and Methodius Church in Hartford Conneticut. This is the parish that my mother grew up in, and it is a Polish Parish. We arrived at 11:30 PM and were privilage to a small choir singing traditional Polish Christmas Carols. I don’t know Polish, but I didn’t need to know the language to recieve the gift of those hymns…and I couldn’t help but think of Ven. Pope John Paul II, and that he must have celebrated Christmas in the very same way for decades as a child and a young man in Poland.There was somthing so simple and yet profound about the Church and the Faith of the people there–many old families, but also many new immigrants to the United States.
 
After receiveing Holy Communion, we partook in a Polish Christmas Tradition–Oplatek. Our family had done this earlier duing Christmas Eve dinner (when it is traditionally done)…Oplatek is a thin wafer–very similar to the Holy Eucharist. It symbolizes our daily bread and the Bread of Life, Who came down from Heaven on Christmas! Holding the Oplatek, we offer it to one another, along with a blessing…I found this beautiful story about the tradition:
 
 A story was told us by a woman whose family is still in Poland. Every Christmas their family had Oplatek. When some migrated to America, those in Poland sent Oplatek to America and those in America sent Oplatek to Poland. Came the Russians with their persecution and espionage, and the family in Poland learned to conform, withdraw, carry their religion in their hearts and write between the lines of their letters.
 
When it was time to send the Oplatek, they determined to find a way. That year the family in America received a conventional card on which was pasted a red paper-like disk with a conventional greeting. The censor never suspected it was Oplatek, properly blessed, cut in a circle like a host, painted red for Divine Love not for Communism, and sent as a salute from one part of the Mystical Body to another half a world away. They were reminding each other that they share the same Body, eat the same Flesh.

This story reflects so beautifully the Spirit of our Faith! Regardless of the challenges and even persecution, we stand firm upon God’s promise to us! May we always live our lives with profound gratitude for all the blessings we have–even our inconveniences and sufferings can be a blessing, we just have to be open to whatever it is God is trying to teach us…

Running Update: I am excited to run the (short) but nonetheless fun New Year’s Day 5K in Chicago! I’ll ‘ring in’ the New Year (as they say) with Midnight Mass at one of our local parishes, and be up for Morning Prayer before heading out for the chilly run by the Lake Shore. I am planning to run the race as quickly as possible 🙂 Joyce, Rosemary and I were looking at the 1/2 Marathon Spring options, so we’ll announce that road race date soon. My mom and dad are getting me some new running shoes, so I’ll be on the streets very soon!

I’ve been visiting my parents and family in New England for the past few days. This is the first time I’ve seen them since I’ve moved to the Mission. It has been a blessing to be here and to see all of my relatives. Of all the things that they could ask, they were all very interested in how deep my pockets are and how much stuff I could fit in them–maybe this was something kids used to ponder about their nun teachers?

Each day I continue to pray for you and your intentions, and am tremendously grateful for your spiritual and financial support. I am going to get a graphic up here soon with some fund-raising goals.  I consider it absolutely miraculous to have paid off already over $30,000! If you are looking to make a gift, it is nearing the end of the year! Please prayerfully consider assiting me so that I may be free to enter religious life. I am particularly grateful to the Laboure Society and all of their assitance in helping me to pay off my student loan debt!

God bless you all…and I’ll continue to update! May the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, pray to Jesus for all of you and your loved ones during this Holy Season of Christmas!

Advent Updates!

+JMJ+

O Sapientia! Today we begin prayig with the “O Antiphons”…and I want to wish you a blessed Advent! It has been such a long time since I’ve posted…but I haven’t forgotten to pray for all of you!

So many wonderful things have happened over the past month or so—the weekend of November 14 I was able to attend the first YOUTH 2000 Retreat in the Joliet Diocese. This was a beautiful weekend, full of grace for all who attended. Please keep the young people—especially the Confirmation students—in your prayers that they be open to the graces God is offering!

This past weekend (December 13) we had our neighborhood Christmas Party at the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels. Nearly 200 children and their families came for a meal, making Christmas Cards and horse rides! Through the generosity of many parishes, families and even American Airlines, each child left with at lest 2 gifts. Thousands of pieces of clothing—including warm winter coats—were also given to our neighbors! What an honor to share the joy of Jesus’ birth in such a special way.

Last month, because of your generosity, I was able to pay off the two loans with the highest interest rates—roughly $30,000! Right now the debt remaining is about $60,000. There are still donations coming in nearly every day. I am waiting for enough money to be saved (between gifts and my own saving up of my salary) to pay down the loan with the next highest interest rate, which is about $15,000. If you or anyone you know is still looking for a place to make a gift this Christmas season, please prayerfully consider helping me to pay off my debt so that I can freely enter religious life!

Know that you and your intentions are in my daily prayers—during Mass and Holy Hour, most especially—and I am most grateful for your prayers! I’ll try to post more during these days leading up to the celebration of Christmas! God bless you!