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I Know Iraq Will Be Okay...Eventually

A long time ago, in 2003 on the night before the US invasion of Iraq, I had a very vivid dream that I still remember now. In this dream, I was standing in the middle of Iraq. It was barren and covered in the darkness of night. From where I stood, I could see every border of the country surrounding me through the darkness. I was alone. I then saw the northern end of the country catch on fire. This fire quickly spread. Eventually, every line of this country's perimeter was on fire. The flames grew tall and I grew afraid. I considered leaping over the flames before they grew too high, but the fire spread too fast and I was soon trapped on all sides. My mind went back and forth, trying to find an escape. Could I dare try running through them as fast as possible? Could I try jumping over them? Would I suffocate or burn if I stood where I was? I was alone, so no one could help me. Yet, even as the fire grew around me, it did not touch me. Even as it threatened to cover the entire nation, I was untouched. I was so scared, but it did not engulf me as I feared it would.

At the time of this dream, I was a high school student with a mind that had just digested books like 1984Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451 as well as more war histories than any teenager should ever really read. I thought I knew everything and I thought my president was an idiot for going to war over a bunch of blurry satellite pictures of "weapons of mass destruction" while ignoring the heavily armed nation of North Korea that was constantly killing its own persecuted people and sending rockets into South Korea. I got in a bit of trouble one day for wearing a backpack with a small sign attached to it saying "This war is all Bush" with the letters "l," "l," "i," and "t" artfully arranged into the sign so that it ultimately can imagine. I was asked if that's what I really thought of the whole thing. I said yes. Keep in mind, this was 2003 and the nation was still, in some ways, reeling from the September 11th attacks and demanding retribution. Now that's something you don't see in the media these days...the sentiment of the nation that allowed Bush to declare war. I don't think we would have allowed him to declare war in Iraq if September 11th had never happened and so I can never fully blame him or Cheney for the events that transpired in Iraq and Afghanistan in the years to follow. All things considered, as much as I wanted Iraq to be free from Hussein, I did not support the war that ensued...and continued to ensue in the years that followed.

This dream made little sense to me in the years that followed....but I never forgot it. It is still vividly imprinted in my mind and I keep thinking about it now because it is finally starting to make sense. I told my husband so a few weeks ago as more and more news of beheadings, crucifixions, and murder came out of Iraq. This dream was not about the US invasion...but of the consequences that would come with it. It is the Christians and other religious minorities that are currently trapped in Iraq with enemies on all sides, threatening to suffocate their faith with their destruction. Yet, even with all the violence and senseless murder, no member of ISIS can destroy faith. They will destroy until they rule a pile of ashes in the middle of the desert, but they will not triumph. Both scripture and nature tell us that much. To God goes all the victory and every Iraqi martyr is a victory for God if that person's soul is now in heaven. Ultimately, that is what is important. Salvation.

Though the blood of martyrs currently flows over Mosul and other occupied cities, this blood will bring more sanctification if history is any teacher. Remember Rome? Remember the triumph of Christ over Rome though its streets once flowed with the blood of Christian martyrs, the triumph that came after so much destruction and death? Remember the stories of countless missionaries that were killed over the history of the church? Where did each of these martyrs go and how many Christians do you see in these places now? A prime example comes from Pope Francis' recent visit to South Korea. Look at the images of millions on the street, waiting to hear his words! It's hard to imagine that this nation was once the site of martyrdom.
The same Catholic Rome we know today was once home to one of the greatest persecutions of Christians in history.
Read Quo Vadis for more on this scene. It is a wonderful historical fiction that will give you a good idea of what once occurred to countless Christians that suffered under intense persecution.
These Muslim extremists don't realize it yet, but they are on a path to self-destruction. The death they bring now is the death of their own twisted faith. Their actions blaspheme the God they claim to serve...but these actions, awful as they are, will ultimately make Iraq a Christian nation. God does not operate on our time, he is far too patient for that. We see only fire and ashes now...but he sees the results of a great forest fire. The land that was once barren will be made fertile again and from these ashes will grow a forest from the seeds of every tree that crafted into a cross. We must decrease while he must increase. We may not see the renewal that will come to this land in our lifetimes, but it is coming. Even those who don't believe should know enough about history to know that persecutions ultimately lead to great conversions. It may take tens or hundreds of years for Iraq's lands to be renewed, but it is coming.

We may see fewer and fewer Christians in Iraq right now...but God has plans for those that remain. He has plans for those in Iraq who may not be Christian, but happened to witness the bravery of those who died in the name of Christ. Perhaps these witnesses will feel the presence of God now whenever they pass through a site where Christian children, the Holy Innocents of today, were slaughtered. Then will they know that there was something about the faith that these children died for...something that was lacking from the faith that was twisted by these militant extremists. Maybe they will convert in secret. Maybe they will baptize their children as Christians. Maybe their neighbors will do the same. Maybe more and more people will realize that there was holiness in the Christian martyrdoms that we are witnessing today. Maybe the sites of these horrific beheadings and deaths will one day become pilgrimage sites and shrines dedicated to these martyred saints. ISIS may feel that these horrific deaths will scare us into submission. However, I feel that the gruesome nature of these murders will only make it harder for the martyrdom of these Christians to be forgotten.

The true enemy of Christianity is not death. The true enemy of Christianity is the lukewarm complacency that comes from forgetting. When we remember the people that have fallen for our own salvation and for our own freedoms as Christians, we cannot help but become better Christians. We cannot help but be more committed to our faith when we remember the heavy sacrifices that came with it.

Do Your Part to Help Iraqi and Syrian Refugees!

I may be a broke PhD student but know well enough that my situation is nowhere near as bad as that of our persecuted brothers and sisters in dire need of material help like food, water, shelter, medicine, etc. Please consider making a donation to this organization or to others that are currently on the ground, providing much-needed aid to Iraqi refugees.

Please, please, please consider giving a monetary donation as well as prayers. Any dollar amount you give is sure to be life-saving in some way. These people have little to nothing as most were forced to flee genocide with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Almsgiving is a big part of what it means to follow Christ and what you do for the least of His do for him. I've made a donation and will have to cut back on a few things in order to afford making this donation....please consider doing the same! They desperately need our help NOW! 

The US is finally helping these people 2 MONTHS after these atrocities started...and as wonderful as it is that our nation and others are finally helping...the need of these refugees is far greater and more immediate than the help currently promised to them. If you have been on Twitter lately, you know that Pope Francis is calling upon us to help these modern-day martyrs....what better way to help than helping a charity like Church in Need USA. This charity and others like Catholic Relief Services is currently on the ground, providing much-needed assistance to our persecuted brothers and sisters in Iraq. Whatever you can afford to give...please give...even if it means tightening the budget a bit! 

Pax Vobiscum

To All the Amazing Priests Out There....THANK YOU

To all of the priests in my life....THANK YOU.
Thank you for sitting through hours of ugly-cry confessions by people like yours truly.
Thank you for the countless hours of migraines and tired eyes resulting from the studying of St. Thomas of Aquinas' Summa Theologica just so you could teach us about God and faith.
Thank you for always making openings in your schedule for people in dire need of help.
Thank you for sitting though extremely awful "come as you are" choir performances.
Thank you for accepting the sacrifices that come with accepting the vocation of "He must increase; I must decrease." (John 3:30)
Thank you for comforting parishioners in time of grief.
Thank you for accepting the heavy cross that comes with "in persona Christi."
Thank you for defending the faith in a world that would rather attack a priest rather than accept uncomfortable truths.
Thank you for leaving your loved ones to become a minister to strangers in different lands.
Thank you for continually defending life.
Thank you for giving up on biological fatherhood in order to become a father to all.
Thank you for changing my life and helping me during my faith journey.
Thank you for ministering to the poor, the sick, and downtrodden.
Thank you for bringing so many souls closer to God...even if it means having to stay up late writing homilies.
Thank you for helping so many people grow in my faith.
Thank you for selflessly giving up so much time for spiritual direction.
 Thank you for continuing the work of Christ and his apostles...even in a world that hates you.
Thank you for accepting this hate with grace.
Thank you for accepting and standing up for immigrants, illegal or otherwise, who may not have a welcome home beyond the Church.
Thank you for inspiring people to find the transcendent in a greedy, self-centered world.
Thank you for learning new media in order to better engage the young and tech-savvy.
Thank you for fighting for us. I don't think many people truly appreciate the spiritual attacks you deal with as you strive for holiness.
Thank you for celebrating would literally be impossible without you and others like you.

We don't often thank the padres in our lives for the sacrifices they made and the hard work they put into saving I am taking the opportunity here to thank them and to encourage young men out there to take the plunge with regards to priesthood. I was very fortunate to have known so many wonderful priests throughout my faith formation. I have truly been blessed with some very great role models growing up and hope that I can one day pay it forward to all the great priests I've known.

My sister had the opportunity to sit beside a bunch of great seminarians during her time as a student of theology...and the stories she'd come back with were great. There were a lot of fine men in her theology classes and some of these fine men will one day be fine priests. It is hard for any young man to accept a call to priesthood and the world makes this journey even harder. It takes a lot of sacrifice, A LOT of studying, and A LOT OF COURAGE. Even if your family isn't behind you, seek God when He calls you. Pray, discern, visit the seminaries, seek answers to your questions, and "be not afraid."

I am of the belief that God knows what He's doing when it comes to increasing or decreasing vocations over the years. Better a few good priests than a plethora of false prophets leading sheep astray. With this said, I do believe St. JPII was right in announcing that this is "a new springtime in the Church." God is awakening hearts out there in this spiritually starved world...and He is calling for men to consider priesthood. He is calling for vocations. He is calling for more priests.

Father Barron (an AMAZING priest that has shaped my faith even though I've never had the opportunity to meet him) has created a powerful documentary "Heroic Priests" that I encourage all priests (and all potential priests) to check out. Please take a look!

Priesthood is an amazing vocation that gives you the ability to use your talents (whatever they may be) to bring souls to heaven. What better way to serve God than by helping Him with his plentiful harvest.

Pax vobiscum

ن (Nūn) Shirt Giveaway

My heart is breaking for the Christians and other religious minorities that are being brutally murdered or forced to leave their homes, monasteries, churches, etc under penalty of death. People are literally being crucified in the Middle East right now all for the sake of some militants who have more hatred and stupidity in their hearts than they do the love of God. I cannot even imagine how twisted their minds must be to ever think that they can one day stand before God and explain to Him why they blasphemed His name and slaugtered his children for the sake of greed, ignorance, a "caliphate," and other false idols. As angry and helpless as I feel seeing these atrocities and how little is being done to end them, I cannot sit by and spend too much time condemning.

I will, instead, use my time and energy to help those who are helping the Christians that are under attack, the refugees in dire need of humanitarian aid. uCatholic  is currently selling t-shirts and stickers with the  symbol on them to raise money for relief services for Christians that are currently under attack in the Middle East. I've been praying for these Christians and know that my prayers and the prayers of others will not go unheard. STILL, I want to help them in other more immediately tangible ways (food, shelter, water, medical aid, etc). I know I cannot simply send myself or a box full of supplies to the Christians out there...but I can do my part to support relief services that are already on the ground and in dire need of all the help they can get as more and more refugees flee their homes for fear of death. Each shirt sold will benefit these Christians in two big ways. First, it will provide relief services with some much-needed supplies and services. Second, it will allow you to raise awareness. Let's face it, the news is doing as good a job as ever of avoiding inconvenient truths...and the slaughtering of people for their faith is not as newsworthy to some networks as it should be.

This symbol has become a symbol associated with modern-day genocide. It is the symbol spray painted on the homes of Christians to single them out for death. 
According to uCatholic,"OVER $3,000 RAISED SO FAR for those being persecuted by Islamic Militant Groups who are being identified publicly by this letter written on houses of Christians. Proceeds from your purchase go to relief services for Christians in the Middle East region. Please pray for our brothers and sisters, and wear this shirt as a reminder for others to join us in supporting them."

If we continue to raise awareness to these atrocities, we increase the likelihood that the persecuted Christians receive some kind of aid and that the Islamic militant groups will be brought to justice. I am hoping that more nations step up to the plate by condemning these atrocities and doing more to stop those committing them.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
In an effort to do my own part in raising awareness and funds for those helping the persecuted Christians, I am sponsoring a giveaway for one uCatholic Nun shirt. A winner will be selected at random after a week. I will announce the winner in a week and they will have their choice of shirt size and the shirt will be mailed at no cost to the winner. This is my first real giveaway and I have no idea how to run a decent giveaway on my own so I am employing Rafflecopter to facilitate it. Good luck and please keep praying for peace!!!

Disclaimer: This giveaway is not sponsored by uCatholic. I requested permission from uCatholic to hold this giveaway and was given permission to do so.

Movin' On Up

Looks like New York City is now home to at least 2 more Catholics. Surprisingly, the apartment I moved to is actually bigger than my last place. The good news with this move is that I may be able to blog more often because my 3-4 hour per day commute has pretty much disappeared. I can now roll out of bed and walk to the lab as opposed to roll out of bed, walk to car, drive car to parking lot, walk from parking lot to train station, take train to NYC, take subway uptown, and then walk to lab. Needless to say, the long lab days have gotten that much more bearable. Did I mention that there's a gym downstairs and laundry room a few doors down? One word for you: HUZZAH!

Naturally, I had a rough time trying to find a suitable and affordable place in NYC for years, meeting road
block after road block. In hindsight all of these minor misfortunes turned out for the best and as much as I questioned God's plans for me in the meantime, He ultimately  took great care of me. I'm not going to lie, sometimes it is quite hard for me to leave everything up to Him and it is especially hard for me to feel His presence during some difficult situations where it seems like there is no end of road blocks. During these times, I question and complain A LOT. Without fail, each and every time I ultimately get to see how foolish I had been to despair.
Dat Bridge
One of my aunts once told me that my grandfather used to adamantly petition God and question Him until things fell into place. I really hope that all of my questioning and petitioning means that I have inherited his kind of strong faith. Sometimes it feels like I have. Sometimes it feels like God gives me trials before great moments just so that I can better understand that all things come from Him and I should DEPEND on him for all things. Sometimes it is extremely hard for me to have that kind of faith, the kind of faith that allows me to simply depend on Him and simply trust that he will provide for me. I hope this move will help me reach that understanding.

Speaking of understanding, I finally know why I took all those years of Spanish in high school and not French. I can always learn French at leisure, but I am definitely going to need the Spanish to survive in my particular corner of NYC. I am definitely rusty, but seem to know enough to get around and to procure the things I need from the little bodegas that seem to exist on just about every corner. And then there's the churches around here. It is no secret that they cater to their predominantly Spanish-speaking populous. I love that about the Catholic Church...permanent but always in flux with regards to the changing needs of her flock. I stumbled upon a prayer service here the other night as I searched for a church to call home during my time here. It was in Spanish, there was singing, and there was a strong show of faith. Mantillas, rosaries, prayer books, and lots of families with children in tow. This tight little community of Hispanic Catholics reminded me so much of the Portuguese Catholic community I grew up in. I have no shame in admitting that the experience brought tears to my eyes, hearing the women singing their songs of praise, remembering how I used to sit up there in the front pews singing with my mom in the choir. We Portuguese are a very nostalgic people. We cannot help but cry.

Pax Vobiscum

Don't Pray Like a Parrot

A long, long time ago...back when I had bangs and wore massive sweatshirts to school, my family had a parrot we called "Birdie." We taught this parrot phrases and I even tried to teach this parrot how to pick out playing cards based on numbers and colors. This bird was a bit of a silly genius at times and other times, it could be super creepy. Every Christmas it would see the house decorations and exclaim "HAPPY EASTER BASKET!" and when Easter came, we would get a drawn out and somewhat eerie "Merry Christmas" in a scratchy, baritone voice. In spite of its inability to tell one holiday from another, it learned how to mimic quite a few phrases and sounds, the creepiest of which was the laugh of one of my parents' good friends. For whatever reason, the parrot picked up the habit of trying out this laugh when it was dark and quiet. One minute you'd hear crickets chirping outside, and the next minute you would hear a low-pitched, hollow laugh that belonged in a movie like the Shining and not your typical suburban household.

Some species of parrot, especially the African Grey, can learn to say quite a few things. According to a Benedictine padre in the monastery I frequent, there are two parrots in Sri Lanka that were once housed in a convent. These parrots learned how to recite the prayers of the rosary. This padre made a point that people can sometimes pray like these birds. They can pray mechanically, without feeling or emphasis...or even and understanding of what they are praying. It is impressive when parrots can "pray" like this, but it is not so impressive when people pray like this.

As much as we may hate to admit it, we are sometimes guilty of praying like parrots. In our everyday hectic lives, we may quickly recite a prayer out of necessity or habit without really pausing to reflect on the significance of each word of this prayer...or the significance of even being able to address God as "Father." We may simply recite the act of Contrition during mass more out of habit than piety...simply reciting the words to this prayer without considering the need for reconciliation with God after we sin. I don't know about you, but I know I have been guilty of praying the rosary in parrot mode during those hectic days when I just want to be over and done with my prayers. In these instances, I may not realize it, but I am simply reciting a series of words out of obligation to daily rhythm rather than praying from the heart. We've all been there and we will all reach points in our lives when we turn into prayer life parrots. We are only human.
Image credit:
It is rather sad, actually, when people turn prayer into a simple recitation of a series of words from memory. It is sad because this mechanical prayer business pulls us farther and farther away from God. When you pray like this, you will find it harder to feel God's presence. You will find it harder to feel the power that comes with the Holy Spirit, the power that can flow from God, through you, and to a world in desperate need of miracles and holy people. Miracles can come through devout prayer. They cannot come through rote memorization of words. You can work miracles through prayer if your prayers allow you to orient yourself towards God, if your prayers make your soul stir with an ardent faith. You cannot do any of this if you treat prayer like a mere series of words.

When you pray like a parrot, you mechanically repeat a series of words you have learned. You aren't dwelling on God's word or the purpose that God has given you. You are not really communicating with God as if He were a loving Father. You aren't really talking to Christ in a way that acknowledges his significance in your life. You are simply repeating words without any real emotion, words whose meaning is lost to you. Parrot prayers result in your distancing yourself from God. They turn God into some kind of entity that is too far to reach and too unconcerned with your life. You owe it to yourself to avoid parrot prayer at all costs. Firstly, prayer should not be treated as a magical spell or formula that must be recited daily in order for you to consider yourself in good standing with God. Prayer should allow you to not only converse with God, but to listen to Him as well.

Prayer should make you feel alive. It should lift you to heights that are normally explored by angels if it is a prayer of praise. It should be a transcendent experience that breaks the barriers that currently separate the kingdom of this world to the kingdom of God, allowing miracles to triumph medical impossibilities if it is a prayer of intercession. It should bring you to your knees, knocking the wind out of your lungs if it is a prayer of repentance. This type of prayer helps you experience God being closer to you than the air you breathe. This type of prayer helps you truly experience the company of saints and angels in your everyday life whenever you need their support.

Today, I prayed the St. Michael prayer in a truly powerful, powerful way with a priest. As I prayed, a felt a power rushing over me, a power that could easily vanquish all evil. It was both exhilarating and frightening at the same time. Even though I felt the tranquility of God's peace upon me, my knees were shaking and I was almost breathless as I prayed. There was an emphasis with each word and the priest helped me envision Pope Leo creating this prayer as a defense against the evils of this world. At the end of this prayer, it felt as if I had been exorcised of all the doubts, fears, and sadness that had been afflicting me off and on for the past month or so. At the conclusion of this prayer, I felt a peace that I had not felt in some time. I was strengthened, and the blessings that came with a devout recitation of this prayer were more than tangible. I even ugly-cried...though the priest assured me that even ugly crying was an incarnation of the gift of tears. After experiencing this from one St. Michael prayer, I have resolved to avoid parrot prayers at all costs.

Henceforth, I will try to do the following in order to ensure a faithful, powerful, transcendent, and even mystical prayer life:

1. Focus on the biblical history of each prayer. Put myself in the scripture passages that these prayers were based on and try to envision God's universe as explained by each prayer.

2. Meditate upon the words used in each prayer and the images they evoke. This will help me better understand how normal people like me become saints...and hopefully lead me to a more holy life.

3. Speak with God. I need to speak more extemporaneously and more often. Speaking to God as I would to my dad may help me better appreciate God as Father.

4. Listen to God. This is very important because I do feel that God often sends me warnings and advice in the most unexpected ways. I should trust in God more so that I can better hear Him when He does try to help me through this life.

5. Take my time. I need to take my time with prayer. Rushing through prayer is a one-way ticket to parrot prayer and its consequences. I probably can add hours to my prayer life if I use my time more wisely. Who needs to take pointless online quizzes anyway? We all have time that can better be why not invest it in a better prayer life.

6. Depend on God and trust Him completely. I should pray with a fire in my heart as well as an ardent trust in God. I should pray KNOWING that He will help me in the best way possible...and simply trust in Him when that way does not conform to my own way.

7. Follow the Holy Spirit. If you feel a nudge to give a homeless person $20 while you are praying or conversing with God...then DO IT. God will work great things through you if you give Him a chance.

8 Ask for help. There is an army of saints, angels, and souls in purgatory that want to help us get closer to God. What better way to attain holiness than by asking for the intercession of those who have been in our shoes before. They understand our flaws well and want to help us make it to heaven...even when we may not have heaven in mind. God will help you too...if you open your heart to Him.

9. Pray with Love. The most powerful prayers are the prayers that start with love. Love of my savior on the cross. Love of the poor old woman who sifts through trash cans at Penn Station for recyclables. Love of the weak and vulnerable. Love of family. Love of life. When you pray with love, you pray with Christ because He is love.

10. Pray with feeling. Emotional prayers can be extremely powerful experiences...and what better way to pray than to pray with joy, contrition, etc. You can even ugly cry during prayer. God doesn't mind even the snottiest ugly cry if it heals you, draws you nearer to him, or helps you turn your life around. God made us the emotional beings that we are and what better way to celebrate this than to pray with feeling.

I am sure that it will all get easier once I have more practice, but I think these are good ways to start turning my prayer life into something more meaningful and powerful than my typical subway rosary. I am very excited to move forward in my prayer life and hope that today's experience is a sign of experiences to come.

Pax Vobiscum

Setting the World on Fire

"If we become who God created us to be, we would set the world on fire."
-St. Teresa of Avila
St Teresa of Avila
I want to set the world on fire so badly. I want to ignite hearts and stir souls. I want to inspire others and do great things. I want to become that person I was meant to be. Sometimes I feel like God gave me the spirit of the warrior, the wimpy body of a scholar, and a mind that belongs to an ancient Roman politician. I want to do great things, but then I start thinking and next thing you know...I fall back into the usual routine. Back to reading scientific papers, back to running stats on data, back to slicing brains, back to everyday lab-related "blah." In spite of all of this, I cannot shake off this feeling that I am made for more. I may not yet know it, but I am constantly called for it. This restlessness must mean something. This desire for something else must mean something.

Currently, I just wrapped up year 4 of a PhD program that is most likely going to squeeze out another 1.5-2 years of work from I cannot set the world on fire for another 1.5 to 2 years. Truth be told, I am on the fence about so many things right now. I am on the fence about where I want to be in 5 years, where I should be in 5 years, and how I get there. Do I want to teach? Yes. Who will I teach? I don't I go back and forth between college students, high school students, and middle school students. Where will I teach? I don't know because I may or may not want to try teaching in a foreign country before settling down somewhere. I'm also realizing more and more that I am not the only one that is going to contribute to the decisions taking place in my life. I have a husband now and his needs need to be taken into consideration.

In the long run, I suppose the details don't really matter. The important part is that I want to teach. The important part is that I know that I will set the world on fire as soon as I start teaching.

In the realm of PhD programs, it is generally frowned upon to get a PhD and then go off to a small college or high school to become a teacher. PhD's are trained to become grant-writing machines or to simply go into industry. Surprisingly, industry is also frowned upon even though it is, as a whole,  a far more lucrative option than academia...a strange paradox. There's a bit of a stigma that is associated with careers outside of academia. The idea is that only the best get into PhD programs and only the best PhDs can score a nice job in academia. Anything else is deemed inferior. Even industry, lucrative as it may be, is deemed an inferior career path to academia...if only because the odds are so low for those setting their sights on a career in academia. This mindset is something that I have had to deal with for a few years now and I am finally coming to terms that there is nothing wrong with choosing a different career path. I'm a square peg that simply is not made for a round hole.

So now that I have some idea of how I am to be what I was born to do I satisfy my need to set the world on fire in the next 1.5 to 2 years? I cannot simply drop everything to become a missionary right now...nor can I drop everything and go on a pilgrimage. I cannot disappear from my current life of lab drudgery to teach a classroom of students. Well, on the other hand, I suppose I could do all of these things, but God put me here and kept me here this long for a reason. I know I could not have done it of my own will or even my own talent. I trust that God knows what is best for me even during the times where I feel the most restless. After all, it is in these times where I have learned to be a better, more patient, and even more faithful Catholic.

If you look back to the key moments of your life closely enough, you will begin to see patterns in decision-making, chance, luck, fate, or whatever else you call it. You will start realizing that each stone you hopped on served as an essential part of a bridge that spanned the river separating the place you come from and the place you need to go. The difficulties you experienced 10 years ago made you better able to bear whatever cross you bear now. The times you fell to the ground made you more resilient, more able to prevent yourself from falling again, more appreciative of the good moments.

I may not have set the world on fire during my time in graduate school, but I've become better able to be the person I was born to be. I don't think I have ever had it as rough as I have had it for the past 4 years. The stress, the medical issues, the failures, etc. took their toll on me and changed me. Strangely enough, I have changed for the better. I have become more resilient, more humble, and more empathetic. My faith has been strengthened in a way that I never thought possible and I have probably done more good in this time than I ever did as a complacent-bordering-on-apathetic teenager and young adult.

The restlessness is almost painful sometimes, but this is all a test to ensure that I am ready to set the world on fire when my time comes...

Pax Vobiscum