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Love is Hard

Ever since I was a little kid, I've felt the need to pray for others and do whatever I could to help them on their way to heaven. I distinctly remember my mom teaching us a prayer in Portuguese that is similar to the prayer said by many children all over the US:
Portuguese Version
Nesta cama me deito
para dormir e descansar.
Se vier a morte para me levar,
apego-me aos cravos,
abraço-me à cruz
e entrego a minha alma
ao Menino Jesus.

My Translation (not the best I am sure)
In this bed where I lay
To sleep and to rest
If death should come to take me
Clinging to carnations
I will embrace(hug) the cross
And give my soul
To the Boy Jesus (baby Jesus)

I learned this prayer by heart and would repeat it every night. However, one night I realized that I was only praying for myself and got worried that there were others out there with no one to pray for them. I imagined that some forgot to pray or that others, on the verge of death, had been unable to pray. Being a child who believed in God's generosity, I decided to kill two birds with one stone by switching all the singular first person words to the plural version. In essence, I was smart enough to turn my prayer into a prayer for myself as well as a prayer for others....without having to add on any more prayers. Looking back, I know this is a bit lazy...but I had the best intentions in mind. 

Little did I know that this habit would carry into many other parts of my life. I find myself praying for the people in China, North Korea, and other regions of the world who are not yet permitted to know God due to an anti-religious government. I pray for the souls of even the most hardened individuals out there, knowing that my efforts would be scorned if word ever got out that I was praying for them. I pray for the unborn. I pray for the souls in purgatory. I pray for the homeless. I pray for people that I struggle to like, and that includes the annoying tourists that have the tendency to stop in the middle of the sidewalk (as you are trying to rush to the next train) and take pictures of (you guessed it) another tall building.

The way I see it...we need all the help we can get. I was fortunate enough to receive enough grace for an inner conversion. The more I look back, the more I realize that even in my worst moments, I remained open to the possibility of grace. I may have not been the best Catholic back in the day, but I always believed that I could change to better serve and live for God. However, not everyone is like this and the way I see it, God can only work through us if we are open to Him. There are some out there who would turn God away even if He appeared right before their eyes. They would either be unable to recognize Him or unwilling to invite Him into their lives. God is omnipotent, but He does not violate our gift of free will. This gives us a great power over our lives, but it also makes us more able to reject Him if we wished. It makes it easier for us to shut ourselves away from Him. (On the other hand, it gives us the opportunity to love God authentically of our free will, and this is a very beautiful thing.)

God cannot give us His grace if we refuse it. However, I do not believe there are too many people out there who truly want to refuse God's grace. There are some out there who are currently locking themselves up in their room, refusing to deal with God right now. There are some out there who have their fingers in their ears and are trying their hardest to tune Him out. There are even some out there who have decided to run away from home in order to seek a god out of some kind of addiction, infatuation, etc. that gives them instant gratification. However, I am pretty sure that only the souls in hell have truly and irrevocably abandoned God. I have read that our guardian angels do not abandon us in this life and that they will remain with us and speak on our behalf during our judgment. If we are condemned to Hell, they will only leave us as we enter Hell. This is the only point where they ever give up on us.

However, our guardian angels are only part of the story. We are also meant to help each other in our journey to heaven. I think a part of me understood even when I was a child. Mothers and fathers must do all in their power to ensure that their children make it to heaven. Wives must help their husbands make it to heaven and husbands must help their wives make it to heaven. Based on what I have learned since my fiance and I started making serious steps towards marriage, we are to live our married life selflessly and in a manner that will help the other person attain heaven. This, in some ways, is difficult when you factor in chastity (both pre- and post-marriage), imperfections, and all kinds of friction that is bound to occur in a marriage.

When talking to a priest mentor about my oncoming marriage and previous considerations on religious life, I was told that getting married is, in some ways, no different than entering religious life. Women entering religious life are married to Christ because they know him in a certain way. Women who enter the sacrament of marriage are, in a sense, learning to love and know Christ through their husband. I can tell you from experience that love is nothing like you see in the movies or read in a magazine. When you attempt to love as we are meant to love, you quickly realize just how hard it is. True love is not easy and I can honestly say that I have learned a lot about myself and my own imperfections as a result of my relationship with my fiance. He has, in his own way, taught me how to love and know Christ by teaching me patience, selflessness, and humility. At my angriest times, he has helped me see the other side of the story. In my most petty moments, he has enabled me to see the error in my ways. Small things like this have helped shape me into a person that is more prepared to love Christ as fully as I was meant to love him.

God knew exactly what He was doing when He instilled the capacity to love within us. This love will compel us to pray for friends and family as well as complete strangers. I do not know anyone in North Korea right now, but I desire their freedom and well-being out of love for them. I express this love through prayer and hope that God will let me help them attain their freedom. I do not know many of the annoying tourists that tend to get in my way in NYC when I am running late. However, regardless of how cranky I may be...I will always help these tourists when they ask for directions out of concern for their well-being...a concern that begins with love for a fellow human being.

We are called to love one another, but it doesn't stop at simply loving. That would be too easy. No, this call is merely the tip of the iceberg. Our call to love is also a call for action.

Because of the love I have for my fellow neighbor, I will always want the best for everyone out there...even if they're currently covering their ears and trying to tune out God's love. I believe attainment of heaven qualifies as something very great and so I will help steer people there in whatever way I can. I ask God to help me do this and feel that it is my mission to help people get to heaven. For whatever reason, I feel that I can talk to people regardless of where they are on their path to heaven. I get along with just about any religious background and have had some great religious conversations with many people over the years, whether they were family or complete strangers, Catholic or atheist.

For whatever reason, I feel that I am in my element when I talk faith even though I am not the most articulate person out there. When I talk for a prolonged period of time, I will probably laugh at some point in the conversation, use a lot of hand gestures, make strange facial expressions, and forget what I want to say half of the time.

However, when it comes to talking faith....that's another story.

Pax Vobiscum

*Somewhat Relevant Wedding Spoiler*
Below is the image of the Save the Date cards I sent out. The Fiance, Yours Truly, Lord of the Rings and Doctor Who in a stained glass theme. What's not to love?
I'm such a geek.

Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives...A Geeky Review


Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is an eloquent and very knowledgeable scholar. Even so, he knows how to reach out to readers in a very sincere manner.

Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, like the previous books in this series, is a work of love. It is a work that is designed to make Christ known to the world in a manner that is relevant to our present times. Without adding to the narrative, Pope Emeritus draws out many meaningful observations from the Bible and other historical texts and traditions. In doing so, he reveals and explains very significant details about Christ’s life and mission that are often overlooked or hidden from those who read the biblical narratives of Christ’s birth and youth. While we are familiar with many of the moments of Christ’s life that are discussed in this book, we often take them for granted, not knowing just how important they are. This book seeks to enlighten us about Christ’s life and help us appreciate even the smallest details.

Using rich descriptions of the world during Christ’s time as well as tradition and Biblical text, Pope Emeritus Benedict expands upon familiar moments in Christ’s life, such as the passage about the twelve- year-old Christ in the Temple. We are all familiar with this portion of the New Testament, where Christ is left behind in Jerusalem as his parents returned to Nazareth. However, as this book illustrates, there is much more that we can derive from the dialogue as well as the circumstances of this passage. For example, though Jesus was not required by custom to return to Jerusalem during the three great feasts (Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles) until the age of 13, he was still brought along by his parents. This may not seem to be a big deal to us, but as Pope Emeritus explains, the fact that Christ came along is quite significant. It demonstrates the piety of the holy family. Neither Jesus nor Mary was required by custom or law to go to Jerusalem with Joseph, but they went anyway. They went because it was God’s temple and their journey was a journey towards God.

Small and often under-appreciated tidbits of information such as this shed light into a passage that almost seems too short and too early in Christ’s life to be of much significance. They also shed light into how Christ can be encountered today. As the holy family sought God by making a pilgrimage to the Temple, we too must also go to mass to seek Christ. In illuminating the pious and faithful lives of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, Pope Emeritus Benedict beautifully explains how we can implement this faith into our daily lives even if we are not called to be preachers, healers, or prophets. This passage, and many others in this book, will help any reader see how Christ’s mission began far earlier than the years of his public ministry and how we can glean many lessons from his earliest years that we can then apply to our daily lives.

Altogether, this book is a good read if you intend to take your time reading it. Though Pope Emeritus is able to break down a lot of material in a way that can be easily understood by the average reader, this is one of the books you will need to take your time on. It is not a quick read and it is full of information. I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever wanted to know the back story to Christ’s earlier years and to anyone who has ever been interested in exploring what life was like in Christ’s time. As the bibliography will tell you, Pope Emeritus Benedict did his homework and somehow managed to incorporate the works and ideas of many great authors from around the world when writing this work. I highly recommend this work if you are willing to invest quite a bit of time in reading it. It will certainly help you look at Christ’s earlier years in a new and very enriching light.

Disclosure:
All opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was offered a free eBook copy of this book for review.

Padre Pio, Saint Therese de Lisieux, and my First Surgery

I had a very vivid dream about a year ago. I was in a church with a bunch of saints, some I recognized and some I could not. Among them, I distinctly remember Saint Therese, the Little Flower. In the midst of our conversation, she told me that I would suffer greatly in the time to come but that she and the other saints would pray for me. Since this dream, I had a panic attack in front of my PI, was hospitalized a few times for excruciating pain, prepared for my qualifying exam, took my qualifying exam, was hospitalized for a bad reaction to a prescription, and those are just a few examples that come to mind. Two weeks ago, I had my first surgery....a few days following my first dissertation committee meeting.

I have to say, surgery is not a pleasant experience. Two weeks ago, I got to spend a whole week a t home simply waiting for pain to subside as I tried to let the pain slowly disappear. Breathing hurt, lying down hurt, laughing hurt, moving hurt, walking hurt, re-positioning myself hurt. In short, I felt like a big bruise. I am not in pain anymore, but my body is still healing from the incisions and stitches.

And still, I feel blessed.

In my dream, though Saint Therese told me I would suffer greatly, she also assured me that I would not suffer alone. I had an army of saint to pray for me. I also had a loving God who would always watch over me. However, I'm not perfect and I know all-too-well just how hard it is to always remember just how much God loves us and how we should just put all our trust in Him....especially when there's surgery involved.

One of the last things I did before surgery was go to confession....just in case. As much as I knew I would be okay, I felt like I should still keep all of my bases covered. Boy am I glad I did so, because this confession was quite an experience for me. Have any of you ever been in a confessional with a priest who knew exactly what you needed to learn and hear at a particular point in your life? Well, that was the kind of priest that confessed me on the day before my surgery.

I think Padre Pio must have been looking out for me that day. During the lowest points in my life, he tends to make an appearance. I have dreamed of him several times and each time, he has helped me find the wisdom, strength, faith, and courage I needed to overcome an obstacle. This Monday preceding my surgery was a pretty low point for me between pre-surgery stress and a fight that I had gotten into the previous day. Both of these together had me feeling down and asking God for help and forgiveness. I dreaded each moment before my confession (as any Catholic can relate to if they ever find themselves in line for confession weighed down by sin and discord). It seems like the more I mess up in my prayer life and in my personal life, the less worthy I am of forgiveness and the less worthy I am of coming back to God. Yet, as distant as God may seem to be at these times, He never fails to prove to me just how close He was the whole time.

After confession, I felt a wave of peace and forgiveness wash over me even though I had stumbled through much of what I wanted to say. I am sure it wasn't the most calm, collected confession I have ever made. No, this one was definitely me in my most pathetic, ugly-cry Catholic mode. 

God proved to be merciful that day and I did not fail to notice his sense of humor. Not only did I end up being stuck in a room with a statue of Padre Pio as I waited for confession (for the record, I was also the only person waiting for confession that was sent there)...but I could have sworn I saw Padre Pio sitting in a pew of the church as I was leaving. I wish I could have had the courage to stare at the man longer, or even approach him....but I did not want to stare or interrupt his prayers. However, I did do a double-take on my way out. He was still there as I was leaving and he still looked like a modern-day Padre Pio.

Fast-forward to the operation day and there I was in the hospital. Surgery was delayed, but I was in pretty good spirits. My fiance was with me, keeping me in good spirits. We both have a pretty great sense of humor and you could probably hear our shared laughter throughout the entire wing. When the time came for the injections to begin, I gritted my teeth as best as I could, looked up at the cross above my bed, and offered it all up. I ended up offering up the pain for the souls in purgatory, uniting my own sufferings with that of Christ. It was a powerful experience and it certainly was a great help throughout the healing process.

I may have suffered in all kinds of crazy ways this past year. However, in this time, I have learned quite a few lessons in patience and humility. I have learned to accept imperfections. I have learned to stop turning science into a god of sorts (even with qualifying exams, it's just not healthy to allow science to take over every moment of your life). I have learned to ask for help. I have learned to tell people that I need a break every once in a while. I have also learned to trust. If God has a mission for you, he will give you everything you need to complete this mission. This has been a hard lesson to learn, but it has been one of the most powerful and sustaining lessons.

I still have quite a few lessons to learn, but I have to say that I have been feeling better this past year (even with the suffering) than I have in a long time.
Saint Therese, a perfect example of how we should deal with suffering
"....it is suffering that draws us near to God. Trials help us detach ourselves from the earth; they make us look higher than this world. Here below nothing can satisfy us. One cannot enjoy a moment's rest save in constant readiness to do the will of God. Life passes so quickly that it is better to have a most splendid crown in heaven and a little suffering than an ordinary crown and no suffering. I realize that one will love the good God better for all eternity because suffering borne with joy! And, by suffering one can save souls... Sanctity lies not in saying beautiful things, or even in thinking them, or feeling them; it lies in truly being willing to suffer. It is so sweet to serve our Lord in the night of trial; we have only this life to practice the virtue of faith. I suffer much but do I suffer well? That is the important thing."
-Prayers and Meditations of Therese of Lisieux
Pax Vobiscum

Atheists and Catholics UNITE!

I can't tell you how excited I am that someone thought about creating a website where Catholics and atheists can come together for civil discourse on faith. I am even more excited to announce that this website EXISTS. Don't believe me? Then head on over the Strange Notions, a new website where Catholics and atheists can come together and do what they do best...talk religion. I have often said that some of the best theological discussions I ever had involved me sitting across a table with atheist, agnostic, and questioning friends and colleagues. In the past, I have not found the internet to be the best place for discussion with some folk with regards to religion (on comment threads or Facebook, at least) but after checking out the site, I have hope.

I mean, just check out the list of contributors. It is chock-ful of some of the best writers, apologists, bloggers, and padres that the New Evangelization has to offer.

These names include:

Fr. Robert Barron- Father Barron is one of the most intelligent and well-rounded speakers of all time, especially in matters of the faith. If I were a bit older, I would liken him to modern-day Archbishop Fulton Sheen. I thoroughly enjoyed his Catholicism series and am currently in Year 2 of his Word on Fire series (his podcasts available for free on iTunes).

Brandon Vogt- seriously, what hasn't this guy already done for the New Evangelization. He has his own website, blogs, he writes, he speaks, and gets all kinds of great things together.  I mean, he's the father of the world's cutest padre for Pete's sake!

Marc Barnes- BadCatholic is, essentially, my blogfather...the blog that ultimately inspired me to start this blog. I love his writing style as well as his sense of humor. If I liked his blog and New Evangelization efforts any more than I already do, I would probably be considered a stalker.

Leah Libresco- a very intelligent atheist-turned-Catholic blogger (AND fellow geek) at Unequally Yolked. I may not always agree with all of her views, but I have to say that she is probably one of the best people to have in your corner when it comes to apologetics.

...and many more great names such as Steve Gersholm, Mark Shea, and  John C. Wright

I am super excited about this site because, unlike quite a few other sites on the internet, it offers individuals a chance to have their questions answered without an all-around internet brawl taking place. I've already read over some of the posts (and the comments that followed) and have reason to believe that this site may turn out to be a great place for civil (and informed) dialogue regarding quite a few hot topics. There's bound to be something there for just about everyone (history buffs, science geeks, etc).

A sample of articles you will find here:
Evolution Doesn't Select for Ethics by Leah Libresco (SCIENCE! Huzzah!)
Catholic, Gay, and Feeling Just Fine by Steven Gersholm (the comments are also worth a read)
The Alleged Conflict Between Science and Faith by Fr. Andrew Pinsent (another Catholic science geek of the physics persuasion!)

I've only had a chance to explore a bit of this website, but I am liking what I have seen thus far and am confident that we can expect great things here!

Pax Vobiscum and best wishes to Strange Notions!

Of Martha's and Mary's: A Reflection on Vocations Part II of II


I am of the opinion that holiness can be attained in many ways and that God has a different plan for everyone because each person is different. My younger sister, from what I know of her character, is not one of the people who are called to live the life that this friend of ours thinks is best for her. Just as she may not be cut out for the life of mother and wife as my mom would have probably wanted to live. God is calling her to sit at his feet as she gives him her complete attention. Though God loves us all, I am sure that He also loves to be loved by all of His creations. With that said, I am sure he calls all of the Mary’s out there to sit at his feet and drink in each word, each expression of love, each moment of His true presence. Yes, God is omnipresent, but the average 9-5 job prevents us from truly appreciating God’s omnipresence. If we are lucky, we get maybe a rare handful of moments in our ENTIRE LIVES where we truly acknowledge His presence. I live for these moments and cannot wait for the next one, so who am I to prevent anyone from entering the monastic life?

With that said, I know monastic life isn’t for everyone. Does that make us any less than our religious brothers and sisters? No. A priest (and Benedictine monk) once explained it all to me in a way that made sense. Not all are called to religious life. However, that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have a plan for them too. Some go on to give birth to children who do get the call to religious life. Others simply learn to truly love Christ after learning to love their husbands or wives. After being in a relationship with my fiancé for 7 odd years, I have learned more about how to love God and live selflessly than I knew when I was planning on entering a convent. I am a far less selfish person and I am a lot more patient than I once was. I have also delved deeper into my faith over the years. In learning to love my fiancé, I have learned to love Christ as God intended for us to love him. Religious life brings people closer to Christ, but marriage does as well, only in a different way.

Regardless of where you stand on vocations as a parent, sister, brother, aunt, cousin, grandparent, etc… I would like to stress that ultimately, God knows your loved one far better than you do. He knows every strength, weakness, thought, heartbeat, and feeling as intimately as if it were His own. Taking all of these things and many more into account, he knows what vocation is best for this person. He knows the Martha’s from the Mary's. He knows which ones will profit most from inviting Him to their home and which ones will profit best from accepting an invitation to His home.

The world profits from doctors who speak out against abortion, just as it profits from religious sisters who pray for an end to abortion. The world profits from the missionaries just as it profits from those who pray for the world’s conversion. People today don’t really appreciate the power of prayer. However, as the stories of our saints will tell you, it is prayer that often leads to a small conversion in the heart of even the most hateful individual. Perhaps it was the prayers of the monastics that ultimately brought Blessed (and soon to be canonized) Pope John Paul II to Poland and ultimately helped spark the end of the USSR. Perhaps their prayers, united with JPII’s openness to God’s plans, made it possible to convert this area of the world when so many of the Martha’s out there had given up on sending missions here, etc.

I support my younger sister’s vocation, regardless of where it takes her. Yes, it may one day mean that she will live far away from me and we will not be able to see each other as often as I would like. However, it will also mean that my family will constantly be prayed for, even when I end up falling asleep mid-Rosary when I am on the train. It will mean that another young woman had the courage to say give God a wholehearted “yes” when He invited her to give Him her all. It will mean that regardless of how awful our world will get within my lifetime, there will be at least one more person out there in a community that is focused completely on God. God will have a resting place in the hearts of each religious, even when our hearts are tainted with the sins that come so easily in everyday life in an increasingly hostile world.

If you are reluctant to support a loved one’s vocation, please take a few moments to reflect on why you are reluctant and what you would wish for this individual. Is your reluctance selfless or selfish? Is your reluctance based on your own personal needs, or the needs of your loved one? Are you truly unwilling to give up a loved one to one that willingly gave His own son to the world so that you would be saved? Please consider supporting the vocation of your loved one and giving them all the love and help they need to pursue the mission that God laid out for them. It isn’t an easy road and they will need all the love and support they can get. 

Pax Vobiscum

Please pray for more vocations

Of Martha's and Mary's: A Reflection on Vocations Part I of II

From what I have seen and experienced, even when religion is accepted, the call to religious life can be treated as “throwing your life away.” In one of the last conversations I ever had with my mom, I had brought up the possibility of one day entering the religious life (something that had been my goal since I was a child). My mom, one of the most religious women I ever knew, responded with a question that stuck with me “Don’t you want to know your own children?” That question remained with me and I subconsciously found myself writing about parenting and children for my high school valedictory. Even though I am to be married this October, the questions still come up…

….”What if I had entered religious life?” 

.... “Was that an authentic calling?” 

…. “Can I consider my current path as my vocation?” 

…. “Can I still serve God on my current path?” 

…. 

My mom, God rest her soul, was an intelligent woman who could have done just about anything with her life had she been given the opportunities I had growing up. However, God had other plans for her. He gave her a family and she ended up devoting her life to this family. God gave her a husband and three children that would stretch the limits of her patience and demand far more of her than she ever thought herself capable of giving. To say she lived for her family would be an understatement. Yet, that is exactly what she did. She loved her family and did everything for us. As a result, I feel that she ended up living out the vocation that God had set aside for her. He had given her a family, sanctified her with a purgatory that consisted of having us all up, ready, and dressed for church and making sure all of us did well in school and never went to bed hungry. On top of battling mental illness and working a full-time job, she managed to raise a close-knit family that continues to support each other. 

God called her to be a mother, so that may be one of the reasons she was so reluctant to let one of her daughters enter religious life. She understood well the struggles that are associated with a call for marriage, but the blessings that came along with it were foremost in her mind. In her mind, motherhood was the best vocation and I know she only wanted the best for her daughters.

Fast-forward several years and I find myself breaking a difficult subject to my dad. My younger sister feels she is being called to religious life and is afraid to break it to my dad. We’re sitting in a little Portuguese café in Newark, NJ and my dad is taking it reasonably well. The family curse comes up (many are called to religious life…especially the men…but none of them ever make it out as priests or nuns), but my dad is more than happy. It turns out he had always wanted God to call at least one of his children to a vocation. He had secretly wished for his first child to be a boy and for this son to become a priest…just as my great- grandfather had wished for his son and his son had wished for the same. God had other plans. My dad never had a son and his eldest had never expressed any desire for religious life. Still, my dad was happy about my sister’s vocation.
Cistercian Coat of Arms
Source: Wikipedia

Fast-forward a few more years, a degree in theology, and a few “come and see” events, and my sister seems to have narrowed her gaze to a monastic order…the Cistercians in particular. Though she imagined herself being a missionary of sorts, it looks like God is calling her for a closer relationship to Him. I could not be happier for her, especially having read Saint Faustina Kowalka’s diary. It is these souls that Christ takes delight here on earth and these souls that put Christ at the center of their lives. There are no distractions in this life and this life demands everything you are and everything you could be.

As wonderful as mission life would have been for my sister, I could not imagine her in anything but monastic life…and I am over the moon that she is currently taking serious steps into possibly entering this order.

Not everyone, however, is as excited. Some think she is throwing her life away by not having a family of her own (if you ever say My Big Fat Greek Wedding…substitute Greek for Portuguese and you pretty much have the story of my life). Some think she must be out of her mind and are trying to convince her to get into a more lax order that isn’t as cut off from the world. Fortunately, no one has done her the dishonor of suggesting she join a dissident pantsuit “order.”

A few months ago, in the middle of all of my qualifying exam madness, I felt the need to go admire pretty things that are well above my price range. Sometimes when I get stressed out, I go window shopping….the more expensive and unattainable the items in the store, the better.

As I was window shopping, I caught up with an acquaintance and we eventually started talking about my sister and her vocation. At one point of the conversation, she expressed some concern about my sister’s vocation and wondered if my sister wouldn’t be more use to God outside in the world rather than inside of a convent. I thought she had a point, but the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-10:42 came to mind....
"Now it came to pass as they went, that he entered into a certain town: and a certain woman named Martha, received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sitting also at the Lord' s feet, heard his word. But Martha was busy about much serving. Who stood and said: Lord, hast thou no care that my sister hath left me alone to serve? speak to her therefore, that she help me. And the Lord answering, said to her: Martha, Martha, thou art careful, and art troubled about many things: But one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her."
I told her that while my sister could make a great impact on the world by living a holy life, as my mother had done, I expressed an appreciation for monastic life. You see, we can be holy in many places and living situations. I can attempt to live a holy life in the laboratory just as my sister currently lives a holy life working as a religion teacher at an academy. However, as much as we attempt to keep God in the center of our lives, we have distractions. We have commitments that keep us from the holy lives we could live if we had the opportunity to live the monastic life.