When I came back to New York from Lourdes, France I had a new admiration for Saint Bernadette. It was wonderful learning about the different Apparitions she encountered with Mary, Our Lady. The Apparition which struck me the most was the time Saint Bernadette attempted to pray the Rosary with a Rosary that was not hers. The first thing Mary always asked Saint Bernadette to do when in Our Lady’s presence is to pray the Rosary. During this Apparition though Saint Bernadette tried to use a Rosary from a seamstress from the village of Lourdes, Pauline Sans. Madame Sans had asked Bernadette if she would take her Rosary just once so that she could have it as a memento of the Apparition. Saint Bernadette agreed and that very morning she brought Madame San’s Rosary to the Grotto however when she tried to pray the Rosary she found that she couldn’t. Mary asked her where Bernadette’s own Rosary was, Bernadette realized that she was using Madame San’s and reached into her pocket and brought out her own. When she did that Mary allowed her to carry on with the Rosary and told her to “use those.”
This Apparition was so important because it showed how attentive Mary is to every unique detail of our lives. Mary notices everything even the difference in Rosaries we use when we pray. I believe I had a Marian encounter similar to this in Mass this weekend. It was during the time of the offertory, I always feel rushed during this time. I can never seem to find my wallet in time to place my contribution in the collection basket. When I am fortunate enough to find my wallet I always hastily grab the change from the bottom to make sure I have something to contribute. This time I was actually successful in finding my wallet and was readily prepared for when the basket came to me. I saw the woman making her way down the isle of the church offering the collection basket to each person row by row. As she got to me she made direct eye contact and smiled. I smiled back and started to make the notion to reach out and place my money in the basket but the woman skipped me. I was sitting with a friend of mine and we both looked at each other with the same quizzical look. Did she not want our money?
It wasn’t until I was putting my money back in my purse that some of the coins felt a little weird. I looked at what I was actually holding and I realized the the coins were not coins at all, they were my saint medals. I have four saint medals that I wear around my neck everyday, Saint Michael, Saint Francis, Saint Benedict, and the Miraculous Medal. Recently I had to stop wearing them because I had an allergic reaction to chain they were on. I feel naked without those medals so had put them in my wallet for “safe keeping.” I thought that even if I can’t wear them I could at least have them on my person. I occurred to me that if the woman would have offered that collection basket to me I would have given my medals away. These medals that have come to be almost apart of me. I was reminded of the story of Saint Bernadette and suddenly recognized Mary’s presence in that situation. I have never experienced anything like what I experienced in the that church. I have never been completely surpassed during the offertory, as if I wasn’t there at all. I was so grateful for Mary’s intervention though. I would have been heartbroken if I had lost those medals. Just like Mary knew Saint Bernadette was not using her own Rosary she knew what I could have done with my medals and she made sure I did not get the opportunity to give them away. Needless to say I will be finding a new place to keep my medals until I can get a better chain for them.
My life here in New York can be easily seen as a strange version of Alice in Wonderland. Moving here and adapting to the lifestyle really did feel like adapting to a world where up is down and down is up. At first, I was fascinated and excited to have the opportunity of escaping my mundane life in Colorado. As I spent more time here the excitement wore off and as time continued I got more frustrated with the oddities of this Wonderland. My patience dwindled and I was left with this undeniable desire to find my way back home just like Alice did. The farther Alice ventured into Wonderland things got “curiouser and curiouser” and it got more difficult to find her way back home until she eventually broke down. I have hit that same breaking point. I am sick of enduring the unexplainable day in and day out. I feel lost and often question what on earth am I doing here and why I even came here in the first place. Amongst all the chaos Alice did meet unique and original people, befriended them, all the while creating strong and unbreakable bonds with them. I have done this too. It is the people that keep me here to the point where I can’t imagine my life without them. They keep me sane in this very very insane world.
Here I am standing at a crossroad. Do I take the clear cut path that will lead me back to home or do I take the “short cut” the Cheshire Cat points out that leads me directly in the more intense craziness and combating the Queen of Hearts? I really must be insane because I seem to be choosing the short cut and taking my chances with even more insanity. My lease on my apartment is up at the end of September, I can am free to go home but should I?
I struggle with a deep darkness that comes over me every morning and I am overcome with this terrifying sense of how alone I am. The Holy Spirit is gracious enough to always intervene and provides the strength and courage to get me out of my apartment. As I begin to walk the streets of Manhattan the Holy Spirit brings me out of the darkness. There was a Gospel reading this past week that struck me, Jesus was speaking of the kingdom of Heaven through parables. In Matthew 13: 44-46 Jesus says the kingdom of Heaven is like finding buried treasure. There is that famous saying “life is what happens while we are busy making plans.” I keep on trying to make plans to go back to Colorado but The Holy Spirit continues to surprise me, takes me off guard and give me new reasons to stay in New York. When these surprises happen they have the power to bring me this unbelievable sense of happiness I would never be able to describe. It is truly like finding that buried treasure Jesus spoke of. It is in these moments that I realize that I cannot go home yet because my journey is not over yet. Even though I know that each day will have its challenges and I will most likely question my decision to stay constantly there is still a lot of good to be done here. I am choosing to stay in Wonderland and I may end up loosing my head but I will have lost it fighting for the kingdom of Heaven.
Here it is 3:44 AM in New York City and I am wide awake because it is 9:44 AM in France. I have been back from my pilgrimage to France for a few days now and I thought that I had been adapting to the time change pretty well… evidently not. My inconsistent work schedule most likely has some part to play. I am either getting up really early to open the store or getting up really late to close the store. I am severely lacking consistency. In addition to my unstable work schedule I do have quite a few things on my mind. Coming back from my has been a true emotional rollercoaster to say the least especially going back to work.
Work has become almost unbearable. France allowed me to see my work life with refreshed eyes and it helped me realize how much chaos my work creates. I truly dreaded the first day because I was scared of what I would walk into. I have said this many times that the people I work with are wonderful but can be unpredictable. I never know what I am going to get with them. The pilgrimage ignited a deeper relationship with God and Mary and they definitely had my back as I walked back into my work and ensured that I had a joyful return. There was a select group of people I was very excited to see and it was reassuring when I realized that they were just as excited to see me.
I had brought back assorted gifts for different my coworkers. There was one coworker in particular who wanted a magnet. I must confess getting her this magnet was actually more out of guilt. I had brought back some Colorado magnets the last time I went home and gave them to a few people. She saw them and asked if she could have one. I was not planning on giving her one then simply because I did not think that we had that close of a relationship. She later revealed to me that she collects magnets and if I could bring her back a Colorado magnet the next time I go home she would appreciate it, she even offered to pay for it. The old Catholic guilt seeped in and I was bound and determined to get her a magnet from this trip. I ended up buying her a magnet highlighting the city of Lourdes. I tried to make it as non religious as possible just because I didn’t know what her back ground was. Her reaction to the magnet was something I would have never expected in a million years. I gave the magnet to her Monday and I told my reason for going to France was for a pilgrimage. She smiled and nodded her head, this was the typical reaction I was getting from my coworkers. I assumed she wasn’t sure of what a pilgrimage was. The next day she came up to me and inquired more. She started asking me specific questions about Lourdes and pilgrimages there. I was impressed, she was the first person at my work who actually knew why Lourdes is so important to my faith. She even talked about Saint Bernadette and how she grew up watching the movie “The Song of Saint Bernadette.” It was one of her favorite movies. Through out the day she continued to ask me questions about my religion. It started very general basically just telling her why I went but evolved into discussing her faith and how she had fallen away over the years. She told me that she was baptized but never received any other sacraments. She has a daughter who does not practice any religion and her granddaughter is a self proclaimed atheist. I could hear the regret in her voice and tears even welled up in her eyes. I said that I have had my struggles with my faith and had my moments of questioning. She asked me how I found my way back to my religion. I told her that I first had to reconcile my relationship with the Lord and I did that through prayer. She added that she never has gotten a good answer from her granddaughter as to why she refuses to go to church. At the end of the conversation she seemed to be more determined to readdress the conversation with her granddaughter, she is older now and may be able to articulate her feelings better. My coworker was still in tears and I could tell something was still bothering her. She brushed it off saying she was just going through a lot of things lately. I didn’t want to pry plus we really needed to get back to work. I ended up just giving her a hug and said that no matter what she was going through she was a beautiful person and I was always there if she ever wanted to talk more. The rest is in the Lord’s hands. I will pray for her of course along with her daughter and granddaughter.
God and Mary truly surprised me with this one. This coworker was one of the last people I would have guessed would understand what I encountered in Lourdes. The conversation we had blessed me just as much as it blessed her. It allowed me to relive my experiences I had in France and I was able to give a more honest account of my trip instead of the general, ” oh I had a great time.” I pray that my affirmation of my faith will encourage her to revisit hers and maybe bring her back to the Lord.
My Pilgrimage in France continues. I find it funny that most people come to France primarily for the Paris attractions. Not for my group though, being in Paris were just added benefits. Our main purpose is to visit Lourdes, where Saint Bernadette had apparitions of Mary in a small grotto next to a river in 1858. Such humble beginnings have transformed the site into a grand shrine devoted to Our Lady of Lourdes. This shrine has been a place a numerous miracles over many years especially of healing. The water has become famous for its healing properties. Every single day people flock to this site with the hope of being healed by bathing in the water.
We started the day early to catch a flight from Paris to Lourdes. Anticipation filled the air with each one of us holding special intentions in our hearts, secret hopes that we desire Mary to answer. I confess my deepest desires were rather selfish. I intended to bring the desires I have had since I was a child. The find a loving husband and to start a family. Simple in nature but it is something I have felt is my true vocation. This is also a desire I have feared might never come into volition. However, as sat in the line awaiting my time to enter into the water drew closer my mind, heart and soul began to shift. It felt wrong to place my prayer intentions only on myself. To be honest I already had the faith that Jesus would fulfill my deep desires with or without receiving the bath and there might be more urgent prayer intentions to focus on.
Yesterday, we visited the Sanctuary of Lisieux were we spent our time devoted to learning about the life of Saint Therese and here family. It was also Consecration day for the Pilgrims who went through 33 Days to Morning Glory by Father Gaitley. For those who don’t know, Marian Consecration is a way to give yourself entirely to Jesus through Mary. Through this Consecration you surrender all your entire self to Mary for her to use in whatever way she wishes to further glorify the kingdom of God. This can be difficult to do especially for me who naturally wants to maintain control. Nevertheless, I sincerely felt called to France to do this. After my Consecration I ended up in the gift shop filled with Saint Therese souvenirs. I was drawn to a simple key chain. A small pink rose (a symbol for Saint Therese), I heard a quiet voice tell me to buy it. I struggled with this at first. I knew it would be hard to give this key chain to the person it was meant for, she is a coworker. She is a sweet and in someways very innocent girl but she a victim of this fallen world. While she appears as a girl herself yet she has a daughter and is addicted to marijuana. Before leaving on this trip she asked me to bring her back a French husband. She was serious about it too, listing off all the attributes this husband should have. I promised I would bring her back something even if it was not a husband. I have been working with her for sometime but Mary was definitely working to strengthen our relationship during the weeks leading to this trip. Through out this trip Mary continues to place her on my heart. In that gift shop and after my Consecration I saw why.
Sitting waiting to go into the bath I released my selfish intentions and placed all my time and devotion on this girl. I truly believe that Mary will be able transform her and her life for good. When the time came to enter the bath I was asked to say my prayer intentions. I prayed for her and went down into the water. There are no coincidences and I believe that my graces I have received Mary wishes to use to reach this girl with the help of Saint Therese of Lisieux. Oh and by the way this girl’s name is also Therese.
I find myself on yet another Pilgrimage. This will mark my fifth Pilgrimage I have had the privilege to take. This time my destination is France, the with the main focus to visit many of the places where people have encountered Mary. This is only the second day and I have already experienced Mary’s strong presence here. However, the Lord has shown His presence as well, especially today.
Seeing that this is Sunday, the Lord’s day, our day started with mass at the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral. Our group was given the honor to sit in the front rows of the church to celebrate mass. Of course the entire mass was in French so I probably did not get as much out of it as I could have. Nevertheless, it was truly a sacred time and little did I know of significant the Gospel reading would have for the events that occurred later in the day.
The itinerary for the day was originally supposed to include a cruise on the river and a visit to the Eiffel Tower, both events had to be canceled because of the World Cup Final. Since France’s team was in the final the entire city practically shut down to watch the game. When the match started there was no one in the city who was not watching the game, people were piling into bars and restaurants. The square in front of the Eiffel Tower was blocked off by military because there were so many people in the square watching the game. Our group of pilgrims ended up splitting into a few different groups depending how each one of us wanted to experience the game. I went with the group who wanted to watch it on the square. Our plan was quickly dashed when we were met by a wall of French Military holding machine guns blocking off all entrances into the square. It was a true miracle that we were able to find a bar with seats right in front of a television. Unfortunately, there were two different televisions playing the game in the bar and our television lagged which meant that every time someone score we knew before we were actually able to see it. By half time the group had had enough and we left and went back to the hotel. I honestly don’t know what was more exciting watching the game or watching people watching the game. As the game ended the action in the streets grew wilder and wilder. People were chanting the national anthem, jumping on moving vehicles, setting off fireworks and tear gas. In a sense it was beautiful chaos. When France officially won everyone flooded into the streets and began to march. No one knew where we were going but we marched on anyway. Eventually, my group had to stop and head back to our hotel for dinner but even as we were walking back we continue to see people coming all chanting their anthem.
When we reached the hotel and gathered for dinner we all engaged in intense conversation retelling all the crazy stories. One group saw a gang fight break out while another saw a parked car be completely destroyed because of all the people climbing and jumping on it to see the game. All law and rule to keep order was forgotten, to be apart of the World Cup aftermath was to be apart of something that has never happened before and will never happen again. France winning set Paris on fire. Witnessing it made me think of the Gospel for the day. Mark 6: 7:13 is all about Jesus setting the disciples out to preach the Word of God. The disciples now had their mission which was to set the World of Fire by His Word. If winning a sports game can set Paris a blaze in such a spectacular way can you imagine what the world could be like if we all accepted our mission and set the World on fire?
The idea of me having my own personal Cinderella story is not lost on me. I have started to see the parallels between Cinderella and myself more and more.
First, New York is so very dirty I feel as though I am living in ashes just like Cinderella did when she lived with her stepmother and stepsisters.
Second, I seem to be drawing the attention of a great deal of different forms of rodents. In my past apartment a mouse had found its way into my room and took up residence there for the last few weeks I was living there. I even bought one of those rodents repellents that emitted a high pitched sound to keep mice away. He still refused would not leave!!! Maybe he just liked me. I have moved into a new apartment and now a squirrel wants to keep me company. My AC unit does not fit perfectly in the window. The past resident decided to duck tape it in. Well, this intelligent squirrel discovered that duck tape is not the most solid barrier and is attempting to get through it and he has almost been successful! My bed is right next to the AC unit and yesterday I woke up face to face with the squirrel’s face making its way through the duck tape. I am reminded of Cinderella’s rodent friends. They were actually quite sweet and from what I can remember very talented with making clothes. Instead of getting truly freaked out about these rodents that seem to have become an ongoing theme in my life maybe I should just see them as helpful companions and name them Gus Gus and Jake Jake like Cinderella did.
Thirdly, I have been having the privilege of having some “fairy godmothers” that come in the form of fellow coworkers. A few weeks ago one very kind woman who is a supervisor at my work offered to do my make up. She did a wonderful job. Unfortunately, I did not have a ball to go but I did go to mass. I got made over for God. She is a very kind person in general. I have actually talked to her about my struggles with dating and my desire to get married and have children. She has always been extremely supportive and encouraging.
I also have a fairy god-brother. My financial situation is far from ideal and as a result have not been keeping up with getting annual haircuts. A coworker of mine, who I have gotten so close to I now refer to him as my brother, is a hairstylist. This past week I finally got up the courage to ask him to cut my hair. I went over to his apartment on the Fourth of July and not only did he rejuvenate my hair but he also revitalized me. I could see this Cinderella story all come together as I stood hunched over with my head in the sink while he washed my hair.
God really has blessed with wonderful people and (I suppose) wonderful woodland creature companions to keep me motivated and keep me going especially when I feel like my circumstances are at their worst, just like Cinderella. God does provide and He provides in the most unexpected ways. I am so grateful for all the surprising blessing He has given to me.
So… I have been made over, I have my hair done, my rodent friends I am assuming are hard at work making my dress. I am ready for the Royal Ball!!!
New York City can make you crazy, so much happens and it happens so very fast. I guess I am figuring out what the expression “New York Minute” really means. This weekend I moved into a new apartment. Needless to say it stressed me out and caused me to become a bit unhinged. I found myself moving into a smaller space yet bought more stuff. I could barely fit the stuff I already had into my new place let alone the new stuff. I was also reminded how naive I am regarding New York travel. I went to pick up a TV and I took my little cart with wheels to carry it back to the apartment. When I pick up the TV, I discovered the TV would not fit in the cart and I would now have to carry the TV and the cart back to the apartment. Fortunately, the subway was close by but the looks and stares I received on my way to the subway and on the subway were not lost on me. “Poor little white girl,” I am sure they were thinking or maybe “poor crazy little white girl.” When I am fully in these crazy situations I tend to start to believe that truly am crazy.
What was I thinking?
Is all this struggle really necessary?
Can I just move back home?
I give up!!!
These were only a few of the numerous thoughts that entered my mind. In the midst of this chaos I stopped and literally looked to the heavens and said “okay, Guardian Angel I could use some help.” Yes, I did not just think I was a crazy person but now I looked like a crazy person. I finally got the TV back to the apartment or better said, my Guardian Angel got the TV back to the apartment.
This is only one of the instances that has occurred since moving to New York where I have thought I was crazy. If this city teaches you anything is that people will do crazy things when provoked in a certain way. The funny thing is I am finding that the craziest things I do are often done to help me from going insane, like choosing to take a walk at 1 o’clock in the morning to get frozen yogurt. That is crazy but I did it because I needed something uplift my mood and I love frozen yogurt. I often find myself thanking God for taking care of me when I make really stupid decisions. When I think about it there is no way I should still be alive today based off all the stupid things I have done. This is when I ask God for forgiveness for being so reckless with life. My life is a gift from Him and here I am actively trying to destroy it.
Why is it that everyone is trying to live up to this standard of “normal.” The truth is “normal” does not exist. I believe everyone is a little crazy. I see it everyday on the streets of New York. People actually getting into physical altercations because one cut in front of the other buying groceries. People complaining about a restaurant being out of bagels when there are three other places on the same block that sell bagel also. People selling Lindor chocolates on the subway so they can afford to get off the street. Matthew Kelly, a Catholic entrepreneur, that reminded me that someone is always going through something at sometime. We do what we need to do to survive and there is a lot of surviving being done in New York.
I am here writing this to you choosing to be completely open and honest with who I truly am. I am a little white girl living in New York. I rarely sleep at night, I like being awake when everyone else is asleep. It is when I process things and can encounter God best. I often eat my dinner at 3 o’clock in the morning because I need something to look forward. I drink coffee at 9 o’clock at night so that I have the energy to get back to my apartment after work. I hate eating in front of people which is why I often make excuses to not have meals with people. I will go to three different Whole Foods because each one offers different things. I watch way too much TV. I don’t like charging my phone more than every two days which often dictates how much I use my phone. I refuse to watch videos on my phone. I am also probably the only person at work who will not bring their phone onto the floor while working because it is technically against the rules. I am a lot of things both good and bad but I am NOT crazy. I think this is important to remember when I find myself judging others. God made me and He made me this way for a reason, personal crosses and all. We are all living in a fallen world and sometimes we just have to do crazy things to get through. In the eyes of our Father we are all imperfectly perfect.