Creating A Sabbath Routine: Tips For Keeping It Holy

Creating A Sabbath Routine: Tips For Keeping It Holy

“…I think I’ll just stay home.”

I muttered those words often growing up. It was not until the Spring of 2016 that I was confirmed into the Catholic Church; before that, I grew up loosely Methodist and very rarely went to church on Sundays. For the past two years however, I’ve taken a dive into this Faith that the Holy Spirit guided me into and living liturgically has helped immensely with that. Mainly for two reasons: 1) living liturgically strengthens my catechesis and 2) it builds my excitement and confidence to mold my calendar around my Faith first.

So, while trying to keep a healthy spiritual detachment to all earthly things (emphasis on the word *try*), the first step to liturgical living – in my book – is to start with celebrating the feast we get 52-times a year: Sundays. But to reiterate: it’s not about living liturgically just to do it – the Heart of it is to bring us closer to God and in all things, attempting to abandon all parts of our life to Him. If you “live liturgically” truly, that will be the end result. We so often just group Sunday together with Saturday because our commercial calendars have trained us to. We no longer view Sunday as the Sabbath but simply one half of the weekend. Of all places to start living liturgically, this is one that needs to happen…yesterday. After all, it is a commandment (not a suggestion).

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it Holy.” (Exodus 20:8)

“The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship “as a sign of his universal beneficence to all.” Sunday worship fulfills the moral command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people.” (CCC 2176)

Whether you attend Sunday Mass religiously (pun intended) or not – which…you should, we could all use a refresher on treating Sunday like the Feast day it truly is. Below are the steps I am taking to “re-train” myself to center my week around this Holy Day. Keep in mind that it can take a few months to really acquire a new habit (or to take up old habits again). While attending Mass is obligatory and should be treated as such in all cases, give yourself grace if one Saturday you forget to pray preparatory prayers or your favorite dress/suit is in the wash so you go with the next best outfit although it’s not quite as dressy. As long as you’re showing up to Mass with proper deference and reverence to the Eucharist, that’s all that really matters!

Start on Saturday

Many people who attend Mass on Sundays may already do this subconsciously but what I’m urging here is an intentional and very conscious decision to utilize Saturday, yes as a weekend day, but also as a day of preparation for Sunday. Sundays are Holy – it is THE day designated for us by God to come into union with Him. Yes, there is daily Mass which is good and beautiful but Sunday was specifically written into the Commandments. I’ve been particularly inspired by Maria Von Trapp’s story in her book Around the Year with the Von Trapp Family of the old tradition in Austria where they would “ring in the Feierabend” (as she puts it – Feierabend is a term for “end of work day/work-life balance” but in this instance is used to designate the upcoming Sunday). Church bells used to ring across Austria around 3 or 5 PM letting people know that it was time to switch over and prepare for the next day. Work would stop, foods were prepared, baths were taken…you get the idea: imagine a whole country of people doing these actions together in protection and celebration of Sunday.

So, how can we bring this back? The answer won’t be popular nor easy but it is straightforward – set aside time on Saturday to dedicate towards preparing for Sunday. Maybe to start you focus on cleaning/tidying the house up, getting clothes set out for Mass the next morning, and preparing with prayer (more on that below). Make a point to go to confession (and go OFTEN – at least a once a month) so that you can truly be in a state of a grace to receive Jesus. As time goes on and this becomes more routine, maybe we all step it up a notch and decide to dedicate more of our Saturday evenings to preparing for Sundays, maybe we get a little more dressed up the day of, and maybe we invite more friends and family to join us to make it what it truly is meant to be: a feast.

Prepare with Prayer

This particular idea isn’t new but how often do we pass up the opportunity to truly emphasize an event or blessing in our life with prayer? Prayer is ultimately discussion with God and I can’t think of a better blessing there is this side of Heaven than the Mass – why not honor that and bring it to Him in thanksgiving? Ever since reading Theology of Home, my senses and drive to create a welcoming, Catholic home have been heightened. Once again, this starts with Sundays – in the book, one of the authors mentions a visit to a farm in Virginia where every Saturday, the family followed a similar tradition to the Von Trapp family from above. During their prayer, however, they would go around and mention their blessings from the week, they would literally break bread and have wine, and pray a set of prayers specifically intended to prepare for Sunday.

Prayer is a full body experience – it helps us enter into that relationship with God mentally, emotionally, physically, and of course, spiritually. Set aside time once you’ve done your Saturday routine or traditions to sit down and enter into that space with God. Pray a Rosary asking for a heightened devotion to the Eucharist, find prayer from your confirmation or patron Saints that inspire you, and spend time reflecting on the week’s blessings, practice gratitude! Ideally, do this later in the evening before bed so that it’s the last thing you do/think before falling asleep – when you wake up, you’ll be in a better mindset to continue that routine of preparing for Mass.

Treat Mass Like the Big Deal It Is

So, it’s finally Sunday. How do we keep this momentum going? Well, for one thing, it’s a feast day! While there’s something to be said for keeping a peacefulness before Mass out of respect of the reverence of the Eucharist, that doesn’t mean one can’t be joyful about it. More and more people are doing this by starting to really dress up again to go to Mass and I believe that that is a beautiful outward expression of what’s going on internally – a celebration that we’re about unite with our True Love. Wouldn’t you want to look your best for that? Perhaps, you make a big breakfast to start the day off right, just be sure to leave 1-3 hours before Mass where you don’t eat to properly fast for the Eucharist.

Get to Mass early and pray some preparatory prayers (St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Ambrose have really beautiful ones). Take some time to gaze at the tabernacle and imagine a piece of Jesus’ Heart lying in there – because that’s exactly what will happen after consecration. Try your best to maintain this image and meditation throughout Mass (if you have children that might be easier said than done, and that’s okay!) Slow down, enjoy Mass for everything it is, take it all in as if you’re seeing it for the first time, and let the Holy Spirit guide you through it all. At the end, do not leave early. Don’t. Spend time after Mass to thank God for this blessing of the Eucharist – reminder: we’re actually called to do this as Catholics but unfortunately, over time it’s a practice that has fallen to the wayside as many people are rushed to leave. Don’t leave: spend at least fifteen minutes and take up the tradition of reciting the Leonine Prayers if your parish doesn’t already to that.

Feast, Feast, Feast!

I want you to pick something to do on Sunday to make it feel like a Feast: invite family over, make a fancy or comforting dinner with favorite foods, have a game night, spend time outside…do something that is distinct from what you would do during the week to celebrate Sunday and then make that a standing tradition. Every Sunday try to do that thing! For some, that could be taking the whole day to be at peace in silence and truly rest. For others, it could be inviting family over and making that your weekly game or movie night. Perhaps it changes with the Seasons – during Holidays Sundays could be more quiet and during Ordinary Time it’s spent with more people or vice versa. Whatever you choose to do, just make sure to make time to thank God for the blessing to be alive to celebrate Sunday! And get. to. Mass.

Every inch of my heart and soul has been craving a rhythm to life, one that offers peace, belonging, and security. The thing is: none of these are promised – this world is not our Home. It can be a lonely thing to live life constantly searching for Home knowing that you’ll never fully find one here. Yet, it is in that loneliness and fear that we find our trust in God and complete abandonment to His Heart. This has also led me to realize that the closest thing to a true “home” I’ll ever experience this side of Heaven is Mass. We need to do everything in our power to not take it for granted, to see it for the true beautiful Mystery that it is. We need to protect it and uphold it. We need to re-claim the Sabbath, not just for us, but for Jesus. It is the least we could do.

Celebrating the Alliance: 7 Ideas to Honor the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts

“I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of Jesus.”

-Saint Margaret Mary Alocoque

If you’ve never heard of the First Friday or First Saturday Devotions, then learning to celebrate the Solemnities of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (June 11th 2021) and the Immaculate Heart of Mary (June 12th 2021) is a great place to start! While the First Friday and Saturday devotions occur all year long on the respective days of each month, there are also these days set aside to specifically honor the long-held (yes, even before Saint Alocoque) devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary.

It can be overwhelming to commit to attending the first Friday and Saturday of every month if you’re not used to frequenting Mass and Church events outside of the regular obligations but I encourage you to try anyways. Start with these Solemnities, make a big deal of them, read about them, maybe use some of the ideas below to really dig deep into these devotions and what they mean to you then when July rolls around start off the month continuing the devotion by attending First Friday and First Saturday if you’re able. If you can only do one, then do that! I’ll link below some websites that have more information concerning the history and tradition of these devotions for those interested.

Ideas for Celebrating the Alliance of the Two Hearts

Attend Mass on Both Days

Some parishes may have dedicated Masses scheduled or events outside of Mass you can attend but if not, don’t worry, the heart of this Devotion is based on personal consecrations to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary. Read and discern over what is being asked in each devotion and then plan accordingly – most of the time one needs to go to confession, receive communion on both days, and offer up communion in reparation. For Saturdays, there is are added meditations and a Rosary!

Host a Cookout

Why a cookout? It’s Summer! One of the first ever liturgical celebrations I did was in conjunction with a small, young-adult group I was a part of not too long ago. This was also the first ever “larger” event that I hosted and I loved every second. Over time I’ve realized a small formula to help with hosting events to make them feel organic but meaningful: have something to eat/drink, something to do, and something to pray. Simple, but powerful! In the case of this cookout: we smoked BBQ while guests brought sides, drinks, and desserts plus yard games (“something to do”) and then we prayed before dinner. Should I do another in the future, I would spend a little more time in prayer and talking about the devotion but the rest of the evening was just wonderful.

Commit to the Devotions

As I mentioned before, a powerful takeaway from these Feasts would be to carry them throughout the year. I don’t think it’s coincidental that we’re being asked to dedicate the First Fridays and Saturdays. What better way to start out your month and align your goals, plans, and hopes? Make a point to schedule these in your calendar, take time off work if you need to/are able to, and maybe even make it a standing event with friends or family: every First Weekend is devoted to celebrating the Two Hearts and then grabbing a bite to eat or spending time together.

Practice a Penance in Reparation to the Two Hearts

In an increasingly gluttonous and hyper-stimulating world, I think it’s always good to practice fasting, abstinence, and penance to balance out all the worldly things being thrown at us. Perhaps you fast the days leading up to these Feasts or next month on the First Friday and First Saturday or at least abstain from meat. If you struggle with fasting: try giving up music, wearing a St. Thomas Aquinas chord, taking cold showers, or praying a full-crown of Rosaries. Offer whatever it is you pick in reparation to the Two Hearts – it’s similar to a friend buying you flowers or your favorite candy for you when you’re sad. They needn’t go so far to show their sympathy, just their presence would be enough, right? But the gesture emphasizes their intentions and that is ONE reason why penance is so beautiful (there’s many more but I digress…)

Home Enthronement

Schedule to have your home enthroned! It is basically a small event where a priest or group of dedicated organizers bring an image of the Two Hearts to your home. It is then blessed, the home is prayed over, and the image is enthroned in a place where it is seen often – some people may have it over their home altar if they have one while others may simply pick a wall that can’t be missed. We are essentially dedicating our earthly sanctuary to the Heavenly Sanctuaries of the Two Hearts. You are left with something that will provide protection, encouragement, and a powerful reminder in the most important place this side of Heaven: home.

Holy Hour

A part of what Jesus said to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque also included a plea to keep Him company on Thursdays. In and of itself, to keep Him company in Adoration (or prayer, if Adoration is not readily available) is a beautiful thing always! In the case of the First Friday and First Saturday or these Solemnity Days coming up – to have a Holy Hour on Thursday is a wonderful way to prepare. This way we can enter these Solemnities with a focused state of true repentance and offering.

Watch “For Greater Glory”

One of my favorite movies that I feel goes very well for this time of year, particularly these Solemnities because the focus on the Sacred Heart of Jesus is very clear throughout the movie. For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada (2012) is based on a true story – the Cristero War that took place during the late 1920’s in Mexico. However, the people the movie is based on have their own feast day that took place not too long ago on May 21st. If you’re looking for a movie that will inspire you to live out your Faith and life “for greater glory” this is it.

Let me know what traditions you might start this year! How will you be celebrating the Solemnities of the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart?

Resources

First Friday Devotion: America Needs Fatima – ‘The Nine First Fridays Devotion’

First Saturday Devotion: Catholic Answers – ‘First Saturday Devotion Requirements’

Holy Hour: Blessed is She’s ‘How to Make a Holy Hour Tips + Resources’

Feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus/Immaculate Heart of Mary: article explaining why we celebrate the two back-to-back

Cristero Martyrs: Saints of the Cristero War

Finding God in the Secular Workplace: 4 Tips for Honoring Your Faith

Writing this post gives me major imposter syndrome. Who am I to advise anyone on keeping God and their Faith at the forefront of their day when I fail to do so many times? Know that as you read this, it is coming from someone who is also looking to do this more often; someone who wishes they had read this kind of article much earlier in life! It comes from a place of understanding and sincerity – I hope it helps in some way. The secular workplace (a place of work that is not a faith-based employer/organization) can be filled with opportunities to both honor your Faith and forget your Faith…it can be tricky and especially in today’s political climate.

I’ve been lucky enough to be employed into an environment where I’ve felt comfortable for the most part expressing my Faith when needed or asking to take time to go and do something Faith-related. That might look like using a lunch break to go to Daily Mass on First Fridays or using PTO so I can attend a Eucharistic Conference or even just having the privilege of taking a quick break to go and pray for five minutes in private. All the times I’ve ever felt embarrassed or scared to do something like make the Sign of the Cross or pray a Rosary in public, the fear has been self-imposed and I think that that is a phenomenon we’re seeing more frequently. People think everyone will care or be offended at what they’re doing when most of the time, as long as you’re respectful, they don’t. Even if they did, when it comes to your Faith, we (as in everyone: you AND I) need to be much more courageous in sharing it. So what if someone yells at us? Throws things or even beats us? Dare I say, even fire us?

Again, this can be much easier said than done. I know that. So I wanted to write some tips below to help begin taking those steps to being more fearless in our Catholic Faith (some I need to work on myself while others are things I try to do often). At the end of the day, the most important thing is that we try to live a life of Faith and devotion to the best of our ability. This will look different for everyone: some may be more outspoken and brave while others may be more quiet and private. The only time we fail is when we fail to defend Christ and our Faith from blatant evil or disrespect. There is a time and calling to everything and that is something each person must discern for themselves.

4 Things To Do To Honor God at Your Secular Workplace:

Religious Art and Quotes

The best way to begin a conversation about the Church as well as remind yourself of God’s presence in all things is through beauty! People love beautiful things and most of the time, it’s easy to get away with posting a picture of Jesus or the Blessed Virgin or any of the Saints on or near your desk. In my office, I have a few sticky notes with Scripture on the desktop as well as a card that has a Prayer for Life on it. Generally, I wear jewelry that always has something that draws back to my Faith – the miraculous medal around my neck, Crucifix earrings or Miraculous Medal earrings from The Little Catholic. I don’t necessarily recommend going this far but tattoos can even count in some ways as reminders – I have a tattoo of Magdalene with her alabaster jar of oil on my left wrist and a Memento Mori skull on my finger. There are many ways to intertwine the beauty of Sacred Art into your office or clothing and it’s usually a great way to start being more Faith-forward in a secular workplace.

Use Your PTO or Lunch Breaks for Church/Rest

Take time off! Use your PTO and lunch breaks to go to Mass or Confession or a Holy Hour. The whole point of PTO is to use it and what better way than to use it to balance your work life with your Spiritual Life. Perhaps take a long weekend to go on a Silent Retreat somewhere or attend a conference. If you’ve been feeling called to attending Daily Mass, try talking with your supervisor or employer about working out a schedule that fulfills your obligations but allows you to go to church when you want. Another big statement that I’ve noticed more Catholics slowly taking back is prioritizing Sunday as the Sabbath, a day of rest. If you’re able: don’t work – don’t answer emails, don’t answer calls, don’t answer text messages. Obviously, there are going to be some moments and careers that require working on Sundays (especially first responders, nurses, doctors etc.) but if you’re in any way able to not work and set strict boundaries to protect the sanctity of Sunday, do it.

Public Prayer

This for me is the hardest, even down to the Sign of the Cross, I get nervous praying in public. Some days I’m braver than others and will pray a Rosary with it laying in my lap and quietly muttering the prayers but other days temptation wins out and I look for a bathroom to sequester myself into to pray. For some of you, perhaps your environment may force you to pray in private – all of that is up to you, where you work, and the context of the situation. I think as long as we choose to pray instead of not (even if it’s silent), then we’ve chosen the narrow path and that’s good. Maybe set an alarm to go off at 12 PM or 3 PM, step away for a break to pray the Angelus or Divine Mercy Chaplet, respectively. Make the Sign of the Cross before your meal and make a point to pray for a minute or two before eating.

Talk About It

I work in a fairly open office where most of the time everyone gets along well. There are moments where I’ll get questions on why I’m eating less one day (fasting) or not eating meat or where I’m disappearing to on my lunch break — all asked respectfully, not interrogatively. And they are great opportunities to discuss Catholicism! So, I explain to the best of my ability why I abstain from meat on Fridays and sometimes fast or I’ll mention that I ran to confession or Mass real quick during my lunch break. There have been times where, again, I’ll chicken out for fear of ridicule or punishment but that’s never happened for me yet and I pray it doesn’t happen to anyone else. Keep in mind, someone responding in curiosity or even disagreement doesn’t mean it’s personal they might not be used to seeing a Catholic practice their Faith openly before. Stay hopeful and persist! If you’re able to fulfill your obligations to work while still making time for your own life and spiritual happiness, then there should be no problem. (I say it like that as an arguing point for you to use to your employer if need be – hopefully you won’t have to experience push back on trying to live your life outside of work).

Tell me in the comments your thoughts and what’s the hardest part about living in the world but not of it? Especially in the workplace?

Ad majorem Dei Gloriam,

The Joyful Servant

Learning to Love: The Importance of Boundaries and How To Set Them

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12-13)

We are all called to love in all things. So when it comes to romantic love, especially in today’s world, the lines are blurred between the fraternal, Christian love that is a part of our inherent mission and romantic, sensual love between two people. It is no coincidence that these lines are blurred because by creating a gray area it means anything goes – people can prioritize pleasure over commitment, they can deny the natural order of the World for the sake of their own lust, and the reverent becomes irreverent. All these things are goals of the Enemy.

To understand what love is and how it exists in all areas of life as well as how we are called to act on love in various areas are crucial for living intentionally. Most of us know what it’s like to be led on or even perhaps to lead on someone else – it’s not a fun game to play. Some people may say they like “playing games” or “just want a good time” but that is never wholeheartedly meant, at least not for the long term. At some point, life is going to take a turn, times will get tough, and the desire for support, friendship, and a true connection will arise. True love is the blessing that sustains us through the desert that this World can be.

In some ways, the best way to figure out how to love is to understand how NOT to love. When we determine our boundaries, we protect our morals, beliefs, and feelings (“keeping the reverent reverent” so to speak) from those who do not see eye-to-eye. It’s kind of like when you’re online shopping and you filter the colors, pricing, and styles to only focus on those items you know you want and need. Boundaries provide a similar filtering in dating – they are healthy, they are good, they are needed.

Joyfully Setting Boundaries 

I have also noticed that we tend to make dating much more complicated than always necessary. Granted, we’re talking about an area that is filled with the full spectrum of human emotion and passion – complexity and drama is warranted at times. That being said, our society today is saturated with unhealthy expectations and understandings of love and emotions. We live in a world where everyone is always wanting more, more, and then even more then sit back and wonder why they get no fulfillment from their choices. We are not fasting with our feasting. We need boundaries.

“We are not fasting with our feasting.

We need boundaries.”

So, how do you determine your boundaries? Simple: sit down and list out what you want and do not want in a relationship. Make it as long as you want – then go through and circle the non-negotiables. Write down anything and everything; it could be certain physical traits, character traits etc. but then go through and really ask yourself, “do I really have to have this in a partner/spouse?” Whatever you end up circling are the boundaries you’ll place on YOURSELF as you start going on dates. For example, if you know you definitively want to only date Christians, don’t open yourself up to anything outside of that. If you’re open to any religion, then that is not a boundary you would emphasize.

The next list: sit down and think of your vices. What are you easily tempted to do? Gossip? Sex? Impurity? Drinking too much? Gambling? Be blunt and put them all down. Then next to them come up with traits and virtues that battle those vices – ex. if you struggle with vanity, write humility. Think of past relationships (not necessarily just romantic) and how they may have hurt or helped you taming your vices. What boundaries do you want/need in place of your next relationship that will help you be better? Because a healthy relationship does that: it brings out the best in you, not the worst.

Finally, brainstorm different ways of introducing these boundaries to others. Make sure you do this in a way that it is positive and get acquainted with your statements so that they easily come up when the time comes. If you’re on a date and the person asks you if you’re open to hook ups, responding in a way that makes you sound unsure of yourself or shy doesn’t properly represent your morals if you don’t believe in doing that. It’s not just about the message you’re sending to the other person (sounding unsure could potentially make them think you might be convinced) but also about being true to you and true to God. Make sense?

Crossed Boundaries + Shame

While we should all remain vigilant and hopeful that we will keep our boundaries in place…more than likely, we’re all going to cross a boundary at some point. I pray that that is not the case for many people but if it is for you (because it is for me), know that to err is human. The solution: get back up (figuratively speaking), go to confession, and repent of any potential sins – not all crossed boundaries are necessarily sins – then reflect on what caused the boundary to be crossed.

Sit with any emotions that may come up: embarrassment, frustration, shame, hopelessness, whatever you may be feeling, and just kind of watch those feelings go by. Recognize their existence but try not to let them rule yours. I will go to a trusted friend or family member for feedback (or even a priest) and sometimes just to vent. Once you feel capable of approaching the boundary objectively, try to think of what needs to be done in the future to make sure it is not crossed again. Another very important lesson would be to discern what God is trying to teach you through all of it as well.

Remember, that shame is a tool of the Devil. The Enemy wants us to be defeated and hopeless – to feel that is what keeps us from moving forward and seeing our God-given purpose. If a lot of the emotions you are feeling are overwhelmingly feelings of shame, my advice would be to step back and take some time for yourself. Go and talk with trusted people, especially priests, for guidance then just focus on your life as it is without anyone in it. Just for a little while! Enough time to not let the shame keep you from enjoying and participating in your life. Don’t let one crossed boundary be the destruction of your whole life.

Reclaiming Boundaries

I’m only going to say one thing about reclaiming your boundaries: you are allowed to re-set them (or set them in the first place) even after breaking them or never having any at all. You are worthy of that. If anyone says anything differently, they’re manipulating you. 

And, that’s all I have to say about that.

Journaling Prompts – Relationships and Boundaries:

  1. Grab a journal or piece of paper, set aside 30 minutes or so to reflect. Be completely honest with yourself doing exercises like this – you’re only hurting yourself when you aren’t honest about what you believe or want.
  2. First: make a list of the qualities you admire and would like in a relationship. It could be a characteristic of the other person or perhaps even a dynamic you want between the two of you (praying together, communication etc.)
  3. Go through and circle the non-negotiables. These are qualities that would be deal breakers.
  4. Now, go through again and ask yourself if you are emulating the qualities you want in your significant other yourself. If not, write a list of these things so you can make an action plan for doing them yourself.
  5. Secondly: meditate on what your vices are. What are the temptations you constantly fall to or battle? Write them.
  6. Now, go and write the opposing virtue next to each vice or sin and perhaps an action item to help cultivate the opposing virtue.
  7. For those temptations on your list (if any) that could easily come up in a relationship, write how you can set a boundary to protect yourself from falling to that temptation.
  8. Finally, for each boundary you wrote out, come up with a sentence you would actually say (word-for-word) to another person to set that boundary with them. Pro tip: make it sound positive, as if you’re happy to be setting it.

So, what do you think of these journaling prompts? Let me know!

5 Ideas on Feasting for Fatima: Rosaries, Peri-Peri Chicken, and More

It was last year that I first celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. My plan is to do most of it over again and that is what I’m really coming to love about liturgical living: creating traditions. When Candlemas rolled around this year, I got more excitement out of the fact that I would be cooking crepes and watching Mass the same way I did the year before to honor the day more so than eating the actual crepes themselves. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? Our first concern with liturgical living is to put God at the center of our lives and our time. The second concern should be to emphasize each liturgical event with a tradition in a way that adds a rhythm to our lives. One that ebbs and flows throughout our lives alongside God’s Word and Gospel.

You can read more about the history of Our Lady of Fatima here. In fact, I encourage you to browse America Needs Fatima’s website and explore organizations spreading her message because it is not only needed but also a beautiful devotion to practice. Other than reading about this Marian Apparition, here are some more ideas for celebrating this beautiful Feast!

(This year, the Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord falls on May 13th which means it precedes celebrating Our Lady of Fatima. It is still okay to honor her in some way this day but be sure to attend Mass as it is a Holy Day of Obligation and give proper attention to the Ascension Solemnity as it is of most importance that day!)

Go to Mass

Celebrating a feast or liturgical event is really not all that complex – even just saying a prayer that is special to that day or event is enough to be considered “liturgical living.” You really only make it as ornate as you want to! Above all else, I think the best way to celebrate a feast is to get to Mass and focus on praying more throughout the day. In the case of Our Lady of Fatima, which again falls on a Solemnity this year so we should all be going to Mass anyways – perhaps after though, spend 15 extra minutes praying in reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary or praying one of your three Rosaries to make a full crown (explained next).

It’s okay if you don’t make a full-blown Portuguese meal or break out in a traditional Spanish song – going to Mass is really the best way to celebrate and thus, that is why it is number one on this list.

Pray a Full Crown of Rosaries

I used to think that a full Rosary was just five decades until I read The Secret of the Rosary by St. Louis de Montfort. In fact, a full Rosary is all fifteen mysteries contemplated (Glorious, Joyful, and Sorrowful). Of all days to pray a full Rosary, this might just be one of the top ones to consider doing so! One of the biggest takeaways from the story of Our Lady of Fatima is her urgency in getting us to pray the Rosary.

Pray one in the morning, one at lunchtime, and one before bed. Or, make sure to pray one at Mass this year and the other two whenever they best fit your schedule. There are videos you can follow along with, Sacred Art online you can meditate over with each mystery, or perhaps even praying with friends and family in a group – no matter how you do it, just pray a Rosary.

Watch Fatima

I still have not seen this movie yet and it is definitely something I plan on adding to my traditions for this year. It’s a small blessing that comes with living in 2021 that we have so much music, art, movies, and books that we can use to supplement Mass and prayer for liturgical celebrations! While of course it is always good to take a break from the noise and data-saturation that comes with technology, they can also be used for good and watching a movie that portrays important events in Church History is one such way to utilize modern day technology and art.

There are also many books on OLF you can read from throughout the day or perhaps, research her message and take small moments to read excerpts and pray over them. Research traditional Portuguese music and play in your car ride to work or Mass – there are many ways to dive into the universality of the Catholic Church which can make liturgical living not only fun but also very educational.

Make a Portuguese Dinner

Last year, the biggest undertaking for me was the cooking. Since we were knee-deep into lockdowns at that time, I couldn’t go to Mass BUT I did plan a big Portuguese meal to make the day feel extra special. Although this year, I’m very excited to be able to go to Mass and celebrate in the truest form. All that being said, I now have a food tradition that I hope to keep throughout my life for Our Lady of Fatima and that is Peri-Peri Chicken and Pasteis de Nata.

If you’ve ever seen the Great British Bake Off, you might know what Pasteis de Nata is – a delicious but not overly-sweet custard tart that originated from Portugal. Peri-Peri spice/sauce originates from both Portuguese and Africa and has been made famous with the global food chain, Nando’s, which is where I actually experienced it for the first time. When I was thinking of foods to make last year for the feast, I remembered going to Nando’s and was inspired to try making Peri-Peri Chicken at home. The recipes I’m using this year are below but my plan overtime is to be able to commit them to memory with my own twists so that they become me and my family’s own in a small way!

Pasteis de Nata

Peri-Peri Sauce

Wear A Chord Around Your Waist

Jacinta, Lucia, and Francisco, the three seers of Our Lady of Fatima, were children at the time the apparitions occurred. One of the details of their story that has always inspired me was when they felt called to tie chords around their waist as a form of penance. Ultimately, Our Lady of Fatima asked them to stop wearing the chords to bed as their sacrifices and penances had pleased the Lord and He did not want them to be in pain. That being said, wearing a chord is still a powerful form of penance. Should you choose to do this, I do urge you to do it prudently and with the proper disposition, consult a priest first if you must. Don’t make the chord so tight that you seriously injure yourself or bring attention to your discomfort. It should be tight enough that it reminds you throughout the day of what you’re doing but loose enough that you can bear to go along with your daily tasks albeit perhaps a little uncomfortably. Then, offer your private discomfort up for others (the souls in Purgatory, the unborn, for the proper consecration of Russia etc.)

I hope that you are excited to celebrate this beautiful Feast this year! Tell me in the comments what your plans are! If you’re interested in learning more about how to get started with liturgical living especially if you’re a young, single Catholic – check out my video below:

A #75Hard Journey: 5 Tips For Finishing It Strong

If you’re reading this, I’m assuming it is because you’re intrigued about potentially doing the 75Hard Challenge, or perhaps the whole LiveHard Program (created by Andy Frisella – you can check it out here). From what I’ve noticed: people either love or hate health/fitness/wellness challenges – there is usually no in-between. Most people who are sick-and-tired of hearing about it are going to peace out as soon as you start talking with a similar tonality as Tony Robbins – and that’s okay! Not everyone is into this kind of stuff and some people are. If YOU are, keep reading and watching along for my testimony and five tips to help you finish #75Hard.

To start, I gave my whole testimony in a YouTube video below. It outlines how I used 75 Hard to not only prepare for law school but also intentionally-kind-of-unintentionally as a supplement to my prayer and spiritual practice as well. If you’re interested in hearing a more personal testimony, what I did and did not do for the challenge – watch below!

If you’re here just for some tips in the case that you are starting your own personal 75 Hard Journey, I’ve listed my top five takeaways for finishing strong!

My Tips For Finishing #75Hard:

  1. Make The Tasks Easier on Yourself: At the beginning of each week, as well as when you first start the program, set aside time to plan and schedule in as many of the tasks, or what you’ll need to complete the tasks, as you reasonably can. Go ahead and get a gallon-sized water bottle (or half gallon and fill up twice), get the app so you can just check off tasks as you go ($5 for life), commit to what types of workouts you’ll do and print them out/save them somewhere so you can just refer to them and get them done without second guessing, and set an alert to take the progress photo at a time you know you’ll get it done (for me that was best in the morning).
  2. Set Yourself Up For Energy Not Burn Out: if you’re going from not working out barely at all to working out twice a day, be realistic about what your body can do. At the beginning, I told myself three main activities would be my baseline (if I do something different or more, great!): walks, running, and Pilates. By having three types of activities that I would rely on, I didn’t waste time trying to figure out what to do. I had only one of three things I could pick from for that workout. With the Pilates, I picked one main person after trying a few different YouTube accounts – again, it cut down on decisions: just go to their page, pick out the latest video or line up enough videos that I hit the 45 minute mark. This was also a great way to learn more about a particular type of exercise, in my case, Pilates; as opposed to changing it up so often that I don’t learn about proper form, intermediate/advanced sequences etc. (Move With Nicole’s YouTube page is my favorite!)
  3. Stop the Doubting: not everyone is like this but if you doubt yourself and second guess a lot, this will help. Set limits and boundaries. I picked the Mediterranean diet as my “diet” which is inherently not restrictive. So, how in the world would I know if I cheated? For me, I drew the line at no processed snack foods, fast foods, or sugary items like soda. Any of those would be considered a cheat meal. Everything else is fair game: that being said, I was still very stingy with grains, chocolate (I stopped eating dark chocolate on Day 4 to challenge myself even more) etc. Once you have that limit set it will help any doubt you might have as to whether you’re doing the program “right.” This is also a great mindset for stopping doubt in other areas: pick exercises you know are doable but still challenging, pick books that are interesting but perplexing and maybe even complex and so on.
  4. Have Accountability Partners: it is much easier to quit something when you haven’t told anyone. For me, I told myself I would share this journey with my Dad and therapist so I could have accountability on it and also vent to people when it got tough. By week three I was starting to talk to anyone and everyone about it because my mental/emotional health had taken a 180 degree turn for the better and others were noticing too! It’s hard NOT to talk about this when you see such big changes! I am now in a group text of five other likeminded women who are on their 75 Hard Journeys and it’s amazing to be a part of as well as witness.
  5. Understand Your Why…Then Tape It Somewhere You’ll See It: why are you doing this? For me, it was both spiritual and as a way to prep mentally and physically for law school. I wanted to know that I could manage my time, commit to something and see it through all the while creating healthier habits for the long-term. Sit down and really consider what it is about this program that allures you to it…what repels you? More than likely, your “why” is buried somewhere in between those two dichotomies – what you want to get from the program and what keeps you from doing it. Pick out that “why,” tape it where you’ll see it, and get started.

These tasks force you to think ahead, plan, and be on top of your schedule. All of which is going to more than likely change your sleep schedule, your routines, your planning – this is GOOD. The fact it is for 75 Days, which is only the first of four total phases in LiveHard, is super exciting because it makes creating real long-term change in our health and wellbeing that much more attainable. If this is how I feel now at the end of these 75 days, imagine how I’ll feel next year if I can complete Phase 4.

“75 Hard is truly about changing your life and mindset for the better.”

A Conversation About Stewardship + A House Guide for Starting Your Intentional Journey

The Heart of Sustainability

I started my journey to living more “sustainably” in 2017 when I moved into an apartment solo for the first time.  Every single decision I made was fueled by a sense of shame and guilt for being wasteful. Deep down, there was that true love for wanting to be resilient and mindful of the Earth. Yet, each failure or obstacle along the way where I “messed up” or created waste would result in a pitfall of eco-guilt.

Fast forward four years to now and my outlook on this process has completely changed – don’t worry, I still try my best to cut down on waste: I’ll bring my own tupperware places and usually bring my own food more than eat out (although I still eat out), when I buy products I always look for used/secondhand, low-waste and cruelty-free brands, plus over the past few years have been whittling away at donating/re-gifting items that no longer fit or are not used. 

For transparency’s sake though I still want to take a moment to address my achilles heel when it comes to trying to be more intentional. There are moments where I succumb to self-imposed pressure and buy new clothes for work or upcoming school. I do not compost as there are no readily available composting sources where I live and our recycling system here is sorely lacking. I drive to work everyday and so much more. 

It is so easy to get into that mindset of tallying up all your efforts, successes, and failures when it comes to this kind of effort. But, as it did before, that mindset leads to burn-out. While guilt is  a great motivator for change, too much of it is ultimately counterintuitive. 

Sustainability is not a competition, it’s a state of life. 

One of resiliency and fortitude, resourcefulness and intentionality. The biggest change that has occurred is not my opinion on whether I should be sustainable or not but how I go about that and why. 

My ‘How’ and ‘Why’

Fear, eco-guilt, different adversities in life may alter living sustainably being a goal: money, time, and resources are some of the main things that can keep someone from making environmental stewardship a priority. What if I told you that making and keeping it a priority would completely change, not only our personal lives, but our culture as a whole? And for the better?

Enter: intentional living. I love this term so much, and I do because it truly gets to the heart of the matter. Everyone’s journey to living more sustainably is going to be different, some more smoothly than others. When we put the focus on the effort to try and be more mindful of our decisions and the impact it has on the world and other people, I think it will hit home for people more than just talking about Global Warming or Sustainability – especially since, unfortunately, we live in a world where those two terms have been heavily politicized. 

Is it possible to say you lived a life completely zero-waste? No.

Is it possible to say you lived a life of intentionality? Yes.

That’s the difference.

The largest motivator for me now when it comes to living intentionally is my Faith. One of my favorite examples of someone living out respect and love for Creation is Saint Francis of Assisi. Saint Francis was one of the most intentional people, besides Jesus Himself, to ever walk the Earth. Every single decision he made, he did it to glorify God and He saw God in everything. Saint Francis literally made the World his Church and every day was just another worship song to share the Truth. 

Where Do We Go From Here?

So there’s more to this conversation. For me, it is rooted in my faith: resiliency, compassion, resourcefulness, and temperance. The products we use and fill our lives with are more than just mere possessions – they are glimpses into how we view ourselves and those around us. It is no coincidence that we live in a world where most products are made to be thrown away. Our culture is so scared of commitment and true care for others that it has extended into our supply chain as well. If we started to really and truly care for every single thing we bring into our lives and the lives those things affect when we purchase them, we would see a mass change in our culture too. 

You don’t convince others or yourself, for that matter, that caring for the Earth is important by debating or arguing or shaming them. If you want to convince others to live more intentionally: show them. Be a beacon to that way of life and how much joy and benefits it can bring. Be Saint Francis. Our attempts to do so will be better in some seasons of life than others but the heart of our stewardship should no longer just be about “being green” or trying to solve the world’s issues on our own – it is a deeper, more meaningful, and divine reason to live out this calling that all of us are invited to.

Keep in mind, our time here is limited and so is Earth’s. This home of ours will pass away – this doesn’t make our efforts to care for it fruitless or pointless, if anything it means more. Remember: living intentionally with the goal to live in a way that betters the world than when you found it not only heals the Earth but it heals people too. That deep passion and nurture for our environment, and everything in it, brings people closer to God, who is all love and nurture.

Isn’t that ultimately what we want?

Beginner’s Intentional Guide For Starting Environmental Journey

Start Here: go through each room of your house and take note of areas that have more waste. It helps if you’re in the process of decluttering and organizing too so you can see everything. Here are some questions to help:

Kitchen: do we recycle? Compost? Are we able to in this area? If so, how do those processes work? Do we throw out food a lot? Do we eat out a lot? Is most of our waste plastic? What are some items in here that I can replace with reusable items instead of disposable?

Bedrooms & Closets: do we use these items anymore? If so, how often? Would I miss them if they were gone? Do they fit? Are they broken? Can we fix them? For those things you want to get rid of: can you donate to a thrift or consignment store? Can you gift to someone? Can you sell online? Can you buy more ethical/sustainable options when it comes time to?

Living Room/Hallways/Community Areas: is there a lot of clutter? If so, why? Do we keep multiple items or things we don’t use/need? Do we decorate? If so, do we decorate with meaningful items that will last a long time? Is it hard to keep clean? Do we use the items in these areas? Would I miss them if they were gone?

Bathroom & Laundry: what are some reusable swaps I can make in here? Are my products all packaged in plastic? Are they cruelty-free? Toxic substance free? Can I afford those products? If not, what are some other ways I can make better decisions in here? How long do we shower or run water?

Habits: do I shop a lot? Online or out in public? Do I eat out a lot? Can I bring my own Tupperware? Am I able to start cooking at home and prepping meals more? Can I afford to buy more local items (local meats/dairy, CSA boxes, farmer’s markets etc.) What are my habits when it comes to shopping – is it more spur of the moment, emotional etc. Do I make an effort to recycle? Do I take time to learn more about ways to be a better environmental steward? Do I talk and invite others into the conversation?

Let me know what you think of this guide and if you’d be interested in a PDF version!

Seasonal Living: 5 Ways to Celebrate Spring

I used to hate Spring. Truly! Growing up, I remember feeling uninspired, bored, and dreading the hot weather when April would roll around. If you were to ask me today how I feel about it, I’d tell you that I love it. It’s been a goal for the past year or so to work on cultivating more joy into my life year-round, not just when good things like holidays and milestones happen. The way to start is by searching for things to find joy in and making time to celebrate them all year-round – this goes hand-in-hand with living intentionally since it requires you to reflect on what’s worth celebrating…and to me, that’s the best part.

Below are some ways that I celebrate Spring – to clarify, when I say “celebrate” it doesn’t necessarily have to be a big party (although I had a big Garden Party for all my friends planned last year before COVID hit, one of these days it will happen). Sometimes, it is as simple as intentionally setting aside the time to do something specific to honor a specific thing. Celebration is truly just a state of being that comes from your state of mind!

“Celebration is truly

just a state of being that comes

from your state of mind!”

Freshen Your Home

If you think about all the ways we describe and symbolize Spring, it gives a pretty good indicator of what we feel makes Spring, Spring. Flowers, sunshine, light breezes, Easter, baby creatures – it’s a season of newness, life, and growth. Have you ever wondered why Spring cleaning was a thing? Personally, I think it stems from when Christians would deep-clean and declutter their home during Holy Week to prepare for Easter. However, it’s also a great way to help yourself be in a better mental and emotional state!

Don’t make this overwhelming! For each week, pick a room that you’ll tackle until you’re done. Next thing you know, not only will your whole house be clean, but by the time Summer comes around you’ll have spent the season, even in this small way, celebrating by making your home match that Springtime feeling of freshness and newness. Here are some tips for starting out:

1) declutter first and separate items from things to find a home for and things you’re not sure if you should give away. Hide the latter group until you can decide and in the meantime, research ways to responsibly re-home the other items!

2) organize your things in new ways which can help make your spaces feel new. Re-arrange furniture, where/how you store items and try to use what you have already before splurging on new stuff. If you do end up buying, try to buy used or thrift!

3) clean! Lately, my goal has been trying to set up a regular cleaning cycle each week where I knock out a room or area every day so that cleaning the house is not so overwhelming. We do have someone who comes regularly to do a deeper clean but there’s always stuff to do between those times like sweeping, vacuuming, dusting etc.

If you need more reasons to consider incorporating this into your life, read the article below about how cleaning connects to mental wellness:

Article: “The Powerful Psychology Behind Cleanliness”

Be Intentional About Going Outside More

A true gamechanger for me this season of life has been going on my daily, morning walks. I’ve been doing 45-minute walks and it really feels like a little retreat during the day. Yes, even during pollen season! I highly recommend finding ways to step outside more. I nearly fell asleep reading on our front porch yesterday because the weather was so delicious. If you need more incentive for trying this out: getting outside helps with mental and emotional wellness too. Here are some ideas for getting outside (especially if you’re busy):

  • schedule time in for a walk (even if it’s only 10-15 minutes, try to aim for at least 15 minutes)
  • eat lunch outside at work
  • start a garden or get some plants for your porch/deck to draw you outside
  • get a bird feeder that you can refill to also get you looking and going outside
  • plan a picnic with friends
  • join a recreational group (running, soccer, golf etc.) that plays outdoor sports
  • go hiking
  • enjoy your coffee on the porch
  • open your windows/curtains as soon as you wake up

Article: “Sour mood getting you down? Get back to nature”

Eat Seasonally

This part is the hardest for me as I’m a creature of habit, I’ll make the same meals for every day of the week to cut down on waste and budget. So, a lot of the produce I get is typical produce you’d find in any store but not necessarily always “local” or “seasonal.” Eating seasonal produce has both great effects on health and the environment: 1) it diversifies your plate which means more nutrients, 2) it makes you a better cook by having to switch up your recipes and knowledge of food to cook with whatever is in season, and 3) it makes you more mindful of what grows in your area instead of shipping in produce from another country which can take a lot of time, money, and resources. (Go and read the “Economy of a Banana”) P.S. I’m not saying to never eat bananas, I love bananas! Just be more mindful and branch out to try new things here and there!

Here are some ideas for practicing more seasonal eating and ways to make it fun!

  • Go to a farmer’s market as much as you can (BONUS: talk with the farmers about their produce and where they are from)
  • Pick out a new vegetable or fruit to try each week that you haven’t before
  • Subscribe to a local CSA box
  • Look around for local resources for dairy and meat
  • Plan a cooking night with friends/family where everyone brings a dish made from local, seasonal produce (or cook together!)

Set and Reflect on Goals

The beginning of the year is not the only time to set and reflect on goals – utilize Springtime as a way of reinvigorating your New Year’s goals and perhaps, even make this a quarterly check in. Just set aside some time around the first day of Spring (30 minutes to 1 hour) to make a vision board, write a list of your short, mid, and long-term goals or bullet journal how the first quarter of the year has gone and how you’d like the rest to go.

Practice Joy…and Enjoy It

Joy is a muscle. You grow it, you exercise it, you utilize it. You don’t let it just sit around weakening or ignore it when it comes your way. I really do encourage you to make a regular practice of finding the things that bring you joy in each season of life. It’s a game changer. I went from disliking Spring and it being my least favorite season to me not having favorites anymore because I look forward to every season!

A few of the things that have really made Springtime a season of joy and one I love:

  • sunrise walks even though it was initially difficult to get up early/not get winded or tired
  • a good cup of coffee even if it takes a little longer to make it
  • starting my mornings slow with prayer and reading even though it requires scheduling
  • eating healthy but still listening to my body
  • gardening even though it requires scheduling and budgeting
  • getting fresh flowers, especially tulips, even if it means paying a few extra dollars

…did you notice? A lot of these things that I LOVE also all require taking the time to schedule it in, budget for it, or just patience. All good things usually do. That is what Spring has taught me this year.

So, give Spring a shot – come up with your own annual traditions to really embrace this season of life and exercise your joy! Tell me what you’re going to try in the comments!

“Joy is a muscle.

You grow it, you exercise it, you utilize it.”

‘What is Truth?’

“The existence of truth is self-evident. For whoever denies the existence of truth grants that truth does not exist and, if truth does not exist then the proposition: ‘truth does not exist’ is true, and if there is anything true, there must be truth.”

– Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica 1Q2, A1

“What is truth?”

I watched the scene unfold on the screen this past Easter Sunday as it would if I were reading the scene from the Bible (John 18:38). Pontius Pilate’s character in The Passion of the Christ, with open palms and jaded tone asked Jesus Christ, “quid est veritas?” My stomach dropped. I have often asked this question and a few years ago did so in a very public manner when I wrote an article for The Courier-Tribune (Asheboro, NC) that was aptly titled “Your Truth Is Not My Truth – Or Is It?” and it remains one of my biggest failures as a writer to date. I’ll explain why it was a failure here in a second but not until after I tell you what happened after the article was published…

Not too long after, I had received a few different comments from readers. As a beginning freelancer, to receive any response at all was amazing! The first two responses I received from readers were very complimentary and certainly inflated my ego; but then, I read the response published by The Undercurrent challenging the logic and reasoning behind my article. Since then, my words have haunted me.

My Critic Is Correct

I remember reading Duke’s response and thinking to myself, “I agree with everything he’s saying.” I also remember re-reading my own article and still thinking to myself, “I stand by what I said…so, where did I go wrong? How can both of these be correct to me at the same time?” Years later, as I tried to write a response last year in 2020, I printed off both articles to try and get to the bottom of what was going on. Duke and I can’t both be right, right? Since I’m the only person who can explain my intentions, I believe my errors were three-fold:

  1. I was attempting to apply an anthropological point of view as an analogy to an exercise from a creative writing class I was in and also to a fiction book that had inspired that class that explores “truth.” There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, if we’re just looking at the article from a creative lens but it definitely alters my message. Although I was steeped in more relativistic views at that time of writing this article, I still believed, and always have, in an objective right and wrong. I should have made that clear and established the boundaries within which I was examining what Truth is.
  2. My goal for the article was for readers to walk away considering their impact on people. Although you wouldn’t believe it reading the article, I was attempting to explain how the impact we have on the world is not always what we think it is – my main intention was never actually, directly about Truth. Our intentions don’t always come through crystal-clear (I know, the irony is not lost on me in this situation). If someone is hurting and they’re telling you that they’re hurting, who are you to tell them they are not hurting? I wanted to stress the need for empathy but unfortunately, it was lost underneath a very poorly executed argument. Mea culpa, mea culpa.
  3. Let’s face it: the more you write and debate, the better you get at it. On topics concerning such heavy items as truth, relativism, and empathy, I need more work and experience! What you’re reading when you read that article is an essay by a college student who was undergoing intense self-reflection and discovery on what her world views and opinions were at the time. Many of them were very conflicting inwardly just as they were outwardly. Ultimately, I should have written on something else if we’re talking about expertise here – “write what you know,” you know?

The Truth Will Build You Up

We live in an age where everyone wants immediate responses. There’s a phenomenon occurring in discourse day-to-day where if you don’t talk or type fast enough or respond within an acceptable timeframe (and “acceptable” is very subjective here), you must be ignorant. It wasn’t that long ago that people would wait weeks and months to receive letters from loved ones but now we live an age where if you don’t send out the perfect thought in 140 characters or less, you’re considered dumb or that your argument is weak. Here I am, five years later finally stringing along sentences I should have said originally but again, we learn in our own time and often through error do we get better. Don’t let this self-imposed pressure to speak quickly keep you from speaking truthfully and prudently.

What I want to get across today that I did not in my original article: there will always be someone who experiences life differently from you. That does not negate the existence of Truth, it just makes the journey to finding it a little more complex. I can understand now how my words defended a relativistic view of “truth” (i.e. there is none). But Truth is real and it does exist – there is objective right and wrong, truth and falsity. My concern for the article was to get across the need for more empathy in our world, true empathy. Not just the smile-at-a-stranger-kind of passive empathy but true, listening, understanding, and researching kind of empathy. The kind that makes you want to get your hands dirty finding solutions to the world’s problems instead of just arguing with people all day to hear your own voice (sums up a lot of the politicians in today’s world, in my lowly opinion.)

Empathy and justice can co-exist. We’ve just done a horrible job at creating a world that nurtures that.

People have no sense of justice anymore. Only tit-for-tat politics based on faulty logic (much like my original article) and vengeance.

People have no empathy anymore. They only care about themselves and vindicate their selfishness because “everyone else is being rude to them too.”

These extremes are creating a never ending cycle of insanity.

Unfortunately, we are long past the age where educated discourse can take place. Everyone has to have the last word and if everyone is so focused on getting that perfect 140-character-comeback-Tweet then who is taking the time to think before they speak? We are so scared of making mistakes, coming off as stupid when people find out about our mistakes, or offending others when we are simply expressing and discussing ideas that we’ve created a never ending field of landmines out of words.

What I Would Tell Pontius Pilate

If I had the opportunity to talk to Pontius Pilate in that moment, I think I would hug him first. I know what it is like to feel jaded, to be overly concerned with earthly things and people. It wears on your soul and starts to chip away at your logic. I would tell him to not let the wiles of this world keep him from seeing that Truth is as real as water. It is inherent, logical and discoverable – anyone who claims to “believe in Science” should be climbing up this hill to defend the existence of Truth. Yet, it seems that the very people you would think would defend it are running in the other direction.

“I would tell him to not let the wiles of this world keep him from seeing that Truth is as real as water.

It is inherent, logical, and discoverable.”

On a more spiritual note, if I was with Pontius Pilate in that moment, I would take his hands and point to Jesus Christ. The man standing before him whipped, beaten, bleeding, hemorrhaging, broken, and yet, still standing. A man who was innocent and yet, was traded in for a murderer. A man who forgave and prayed for his critics until His last dying breath. The Truth was staring Pilate in the face and yet, he still couldn’t see it? He still had to ask what Truth was?

We are all Pontius Pilate.

When my stomach dropped hearing those words escape his mouth in front of Jesus at that moment, all I could hear were my own words. I felt the shame that I hope Pontius Pilate did later when realizing what he had done. He may have washed his hands clean (Matthew 27:24) but his words still made him culpable in the crucifixion of Our Lord. All I could see were the very same arguments and ideas that are being spewed and shared, which I unfortunately have contributed to, in today’s world.

We live in an age where Pontius Pilate is ruling. Let’s not let him walk away without understanding the Truth this time.

What Would Socrates and Hemingway Do?

My biggest inspirations as a writer, although there are many, are Ernest Hemingway and Socrates. Both of them have one thing in common and that is their ability to withstand critique and challenges. After all, the teaching method where professors answer their bright-eyed pupil’s questions with more questions is called the Socratic Method for a reason. Hemingway himself had a career-long rivalry with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Both are legends that live on in literary history. Neither one canceled the other. They critiqued each other instead.

One can only hope that a single person’s critique will leverage you to the same level as renowned, dead philosophers and writers (if that’s the case, I owe Duke a drink) but more than likely that won’t happen. I’ll live. What WILL happen is progress – being challenged on my thought process, writing execution, and ideas did not kill me. It forced me to know myself better. Looking back over my article showed me all the ways I can get better. Does that mean that I completely kowtow to Duke’s opinion? No. I stand by portions of my ill-executed point that during the length of our lives we often form opinions and beliefs about the world that in turn affect the way we act and our actions affect those around us. Sometimes in ways we don’t even realize. However, I agree with him that my flawed execution of that argument tries to prove that Truth does not exist…and it fails, as it should because Truth does exist.

What I committed was a False Analogy fallacy: if I wanted to talk about empathy, I should have talked about empathy. So, the next time I write an article or vocalize an opinion, I’ll keep in mind the things I’ve learned from this experience: what’s the point I’m trying to get across? Am I doing that? How am I doing that? How would this sound to a stranger? All practical questions we could ask ourselves when writing Facebook posts or Tweets or whathaveyou.

Freedom of speech is for everyone. Even for the person you don’t like. Even for the idiot who keeps talking when everyone wants them to shut up. It exists for the person you agree with as well as for your critic. Had my critic never written his article, I would never have realized how badly executed my message originally was. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed after reading Duke’s review to find that he did not lavish me with glorious praise and idolization. However, once my ego came back down to earth I realized that Duke had done me a huge favor and one that I was already paying thousands of dollars to go to school for: challenging me. If your idea, more importantly your ability to represent an idea, cannot withstand the rigors of questions, debate, and argumentation – then there’s something wrong either with the idea, your knowledge on the subject, or both.

Most importantly, did you see what Duke did NOT do? He didn’t cancel me. He didn’t ask for my article to be withdrawn or for the editor to demand an apology. He didn’t start a hashtag with my name calling for my head on a platter or send me death threats. He wrote his own, thought-out response challenging me to either shut up or defend myself. Another piece of dialogue, moving the conversation forward and being challenged on our opinions is not the end of the world nor does it make the critic a bad person.

Sometimes, a critic is exactly who you need to help you see the Truth.

Should You Go To School? Tips For Deciding on School, Graduate School, and Work

This is a big topic and it’s one that is so underrated. I wish that I had more people in High School (honestly, before then) who really sat me down and taught me how to reflect on my skills, interests, and passions to come up with a game plan for my future. The main focus when discussing college, was always: which school are you going to and how to get in. Never was it: is school the next best step for you right now? If so, what kind of school? If not, what kind of job or experience will you pursue next?

I wish the discussion as to whether I should go to school or not had been more of a pronounced conversation. I remember having two counselors at school who questioned me as to why I wanted to go out of state but they never took the conversation further. So, I want to have the conversation that I wish I had because this discussion is not just for those in High School. The questions at the heart of this matter is not just: “what college are you going to?” but “what is your vision?” and THAT is a very important question for anyone at any stage of life.

School vs. Work: What ‘Should’ You Do?

First things first, let’s talk about the most glaringly obvious question here that everyone faces in our American society at some point: will you go to college or not? School is a wonderful privilege to have. It is a tool. Some people have sharper tools than others when it comes to this arena and some people have the completely wrong set of tools for what they’re trying to build. Yet, we live in a society that treats school as a Rite of Passage instead of a toolbox and I firmly believe that is setting us up for failure and financial insecurity.

There really is no ‘should’ in this situation – it depends on your plan for yourself. Looking back on my experience, I didn’t have a clear-cut plan, I knew the subjects I was interested in and had different ideas of careers I might pursue but nothing solid enough to make college the best next step for me, and yet, I went anyways. It is at this point where we face a crossroads in trying to figure out what we should do with our vocations: do you not go to school simply because you don’t have your whole life mapped out? No, I don’t believe so. However, going to school simply because “everyone does” or “you need to to be successful” as many people would have us believe, are not good enough reasons either.

As with many things today, there needs to be a balance between having an end goal that we work for and being flexible when times and visions change. Most importantly, we really need to teach this balance to the upcoming generations; otherwise, they run the risk of getting stuck like many today over decisions they made when they didn’t have the proper tools and discernment to make them in the first place. Essentially, the skill I am talking about is resiliency and boy do we need that now more than ever.

We Need To Have A ‘Why’ As Well As A ‘How’

Here’s my opinion: school is good and I think people should go to school if it is necessary for your end-goal, whatever that may be. If it is not necessary for what you want to do in life, then there is no need to go. We often equate our degrees with intelligence but this is false equivalency – think of all the people who cheat their way through school, who “just get by” and end up with the same piece of paper as those who work hard for it. Can we really measure intelligence and success just by getting a degree alone? Plus, there are many people who didn’t go to college, and some even high school, who are incredibly intelligent and successful now, how do they factor into the equation?

So what are we missing?

We’re missing our reasons for pursuing school or work – the ‘why.’ This will ultimately determine our decisions. If you are in my situation and realize that you want to be a lawyer, school is the next best option. If you were like me in high school and kind of all over the place with interests and passions: working for a year to get a concrete experience of some sort or getting your basic requirements done at a community college would be the next best step. I believe that would have been the next best step for me because my solution would have allowed me to experience different developmental settings (still being in school but also while working) thus matching the state of life and mind I was in. I was nowhere near ready to commit to a specific school and degree so I should have put myself in a situation that allowed me to try and do different things to determine what was right for me.

Why are we investing and committing years of our lives to things we have not properly discerned are right for us?

This isn’t to say that you take so much time thinking about your options that you never make a move. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to taking action and making a decision to see what the result will be. You may pursue a career only to find out five years later that you want to do something different. Who says that you made the wrong decision? It’s not wrong, you just evolved and that’s normal. That being said, what we should be aiming for here is that balance we talked about in the first section – resiliency. The first decision we make shouldn’t put us in a situation where we can no longer evolve or change our mind if we do. Again, a balance between commitment and flexibility is key and yet, sorely lacking.

How We Can Change The Game

So how do we change these extremes? How do we create a better atmosphere for education and career development that can nurture people of all talents and backgrounds for their vision? A few suggestions of mine would be:

  1. Stop treating a school or career decision as if it will determine the rest of your life. You may spend twenty years working for the same business or twenty months. Neither one is wrong as long as you are able to sustain yourself. We need to be able to set goals, pivot on those goals when challenges arise or opinions change and then put an action plan in place to pursue those goals.
  2. Stop treating college as the only option: college is good but not for the person who doesn’t know what they want to do or knows what they want to do but it doesn’t require a four-year school. You do not need a degree to be successful.
  3. Stop having these conversations about school until we can make the financial side of it the majority of the discussion: if you can afford to go to a four-year school “for the experience” that’s great! But that’s not the case for most people. I am now inundated with private loan debt (that I brought upon myself) for going to a school that I should have thought much longer and harder about attending. I accepted because they offered the biggest scholarship but that scholarship was not big enough to offset the out-of-state tuition. People need to have a better understanding of personal finances if they are going to decide whether they go to school or not – and that applies to anyone at any age.
  4. Stop treating graduate school as if it’s worthless: there are in fact some people who need to go to graduate school to get the career that they want. That path is not for everyone just like not going to school is not for everyone. The problem in this situation lies in why people are needing more and more degrees to do what they want to do but that issue does not rest upon the shoulders of any one person. Nor can it be solved overnight.
  5. Stop treating community college and trade schools as “less than” liberal arts or four-year schools: there is an unspoken snobbery that comes with pursuing these options instead of going to a four-year university and/or a liberal arts college. If I could go back, I would have stayed home, taken my General Education Requirements from a community school, and worked part-time before deciding on going to a university or not. These options are GREAT options for those who are in an interim period where they are deciding what they want to do next or know what they want to do but don’t need to go to a four-year school to do it.

One of my friends knew she wanted to be a nurse and she knew the nursing school she wanted to attend. She ended up going to community college and nannying for the first two years out of high school to take the pre-requisite credits she needed to get into her first-choice nursing school and to work on her application. She is now graduated from said school and working full-time in her dream job.

I know of people who never went to school who are working hard in fields they love and those who are still in school going on their sixth year of higher education to receive their Doctorate in a field they are passionate about – what do they all have in common? A vision. That vision doesn’t necessarily have to be a lifelong one but it does need to help you decide as to whether you should go to school or enter the workforce (or something alternative, which I’m going to discuss in a video tomorrow!) Everyone’s definition of success and happiness is going to be different so why would we treat our careers and education as a one-size-fits-all system?

Final Thoughts

If you are in the process of deciding what to do next in terms of school or career, I encourage you to reflect on the following three things to help make your decision:

  1. Finances: will the reward outweigh the cost?
  2. Result: will it move you forward, closer to where you want to be in life?
  3. Why: why are you pursuing this decision?

If you can not answer these three questions then I would step back and not make any decisions until you can. Even if you are in High School – I don’t care what people say, it is okay to not go to school right off the bat. And to the young adult (or even older adult) who is considering a career change or going back to school, these reflections still apply! The goal here is to make a decision knowing that it moves you closer to what it is you desire; if you’re not sure if it does that then stop and re-consider. Can you even say in detail what your goal is? Stopping to re-evaluate or deciding to take time to think things over doesn’t mean you never go to school or change careers, what it does mean is that you are being more intentional about this decision-making process than what society is currently encouraging us at the moment. This is your life and you deserve to treat every decision as an important one because it is.

At the end of the day, if the only thing holding you back is fear of failure then you’re in a good spot…pursue the next best step that will put you in a situation where you are closer to your dreams.

“Pursue the next best step

that will put you in a situation

where you are closer to

your dreams.”

KimberMarie Faircloth