PC Blogs

Lenten Blog Series: A Reflection

Guest Blogger: Laura Wells ’14, PC for Life Coordinator

Each Tuesday, when I have lunch with the two little boys I babysit, the two-year old get a kick out of saying the grace-before-meals. He sits buckled in his high-chair, his legs swinging back and forth, his hand pressed together, waiting for the moment: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit — AMEN!” — and joins in, touching his forehead and then enthusiastically clapping to finish the prayer off.

The sign of the cross. It’s a simple gesture, one that even a two-year old can do (and find endlessly entertaining — the choruses of “Amen!” (plus the exciting clap, of course) usually continue for a few more minutes after the rest of us have started eating). Yet this simple gesture is at the same time such a profound prayer.  We do it so often, it is easy to let the sign of the cross become effortless, automatic; I’m so thankful for those weekly lunches with that two-year old that make me slow down and reflect on the craziness of what I’d otherwise do on autopilot.

Yes — the craziness. Think of it: Christians take as their rallying sign, as their indentifying gesture, what was for the ancient world a symbol of extreme humiliation, of an ignominious criminal fate. When Christians made the sign of the cross, they were marking themselves with something that the culture didn’t find attractive, or upright, or noble. Remembering this heritage, when we make the sign of the cross we should bear in mind our calling to be counter-cultural, to stand up for virtue, truth and charity even when it is not popular or easy.

A twentieth century theologian, Romano Guardini, remarked: “We do it [the sign of the cross] before praying so that… we may put ourselves spiritually in order; focus thoughts, heart and will on God; after praying, so that what God has given us may remain within us…. It embraces the whole being, body and soul… and everything is consecrated in the name of the Triune God” (Lo spirito della liturgia. I santi segni, Brescia, 2000, pp. 125-126).

The ancient Greek word for sign was sphragis; this was also the term for a general’s name that would be tattooed on his soldiers. We’re called to be soldiers of Christ’s (2 Timothy 2:3). And the sign of the cross can be our reminder of that –  our “tattoo” marking us as His followers. Radical? –yes. Even slightly badass. (Am I allowed to say that on the camp min blog?) But true. Awesomely true.

Fight the good fight. Because we stand under the standard of Christ — the sign of the Cross.

Lenten Blog Series: Habitat Speaks

Guest Blogger: Nick Ackerman ’15

Lent is a time not only of giving things up, but also a time to give back as Christ sacrificed his life.  Even though, as human beings, we may not be able to give a gift that Christ gave, we should strive to give of ourselves especially in the season of Lent. Further, it is our civic duty to help those who are in need.

I spent my past spring break in Kittanning, PA working with the Armstrong County Habitat for Humanity as a part of the Habitat for Humanity Spring Break Collegiate Challenge.  Helping to build a home for families was rewarding; yet, most importantly I gave some of myself and my time to better the lives of others. Being able to meet the woman whom our group of 20 students was inspiring and touching to know how grateful she was to be able to own her own home.

Every human being is to live a dignified life as we are all created in the image and likeness of God. Personally, I find Lent to be an opportune time to give back to others, in big ways and small, to help them to further live their lives in dignity.

Lenten Blog Series: Mamma Mary

Guest Blogger: Branan Durbin ’16, Prayer and Devotions Coordinator

Lent is a great time to get back to the basics of our faith, to build again from the bottom up, brick by brick.  One of the most beautiful parts of the Catholic faith to start with, I think, is our connection to the Blessed Mother.  But, I have to be honest–throughout all my life I always had the most difficulty relating to her or understanding her.  As a kid, I never really understood praying in general, let alone to Jesus’ mother—what would I say to her? Like any other Catholic school student I memorized my Hail Mary’s, but it took a long while to get anywhere beyond that. (Plus, I would always fall asleep every time I tried to say a Rosary, without fail. #strugglebus)

But as I’ve grown in my faith over the years and especially at PC, her role in helping us grow closer to her Son is becoming more and more clear to me.  Mary’s whole purpose in life—as a perfect follower of her Son—is to glorify Jesus and to bring her us, her adopted children, to Him.  She lifts Him up for all to see and adore!  So going to her in prayer is like pulling on your mom’s dress so that she’ll lift you up to see whatever beautiful thing is going on above the crowds.  People often speak of going to Jesus, through Mary, and I think that this encapsulates this whole idea.  She’s an extra bridge, a helping hand, a guide who will pray for us and take us to her Son because she wants what’s best for us.

And even though saying a Rosary can be rough (I’ve timed it, it’s about a 20-25 minute thing, depending on how fast you pray), it really is a beautiful opportunity to get closer to someone who’s close to our Savior.  Maybe try saying just a decade—an Our Father, ten Hail Marys, and  a Glory Be—to get started and build that relationship (and prayer stamina!).  No matter what, it’s always nice after a rough day to spend a little time with Mama.

 O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Lenten Blog Series: Stabat Mater Dolorosa

Guest Blogger: Scott Thompson ’14, Student Minister for Faith Formation

Stations of the CrossThe Stations of the Cross are commonly prayed throughout this Lenten season. On Friday afternoons and evenings you’ll find the faithful gathering in parishes across the globe to commemorate Christ’s final hours through the prayerful contemplation of each station. The Stations serve as a reminder of the torture that was His passion. We slowly follow our Lord from station to station considering the weight of His cross, the agony of His wounds, and the cruelty of His executioners.

The Stations enkindle within us the fire of appreciation for what was done to accomplish our salvation. We are reminded that this was not an easy task, no, not even for God. He sweat, bled, and died to bring salvation history to this glorious pinnacle.

We are called to be like Christ. Sometimes this entails great joy, and other times it requires a painful sacrifice. This Lent we particularly recall the great sacrifice that was made atop Cavalry. We remember that the way to His death was not an easy one. If we are to be like Him, we must be open to a similar struggle. Christ does not promise us an easy way, He says, “Take up your cross and follow me”. (Mt 16:24)

Lenten Blog Series: Reflection from a Southern Girl

Guest Blogger: Sarah Attwood, Campus Minister for Local Service/ Global Service and Justice

Having grown up in the southwest, I did not realize what beauty I had been deprived of until I spent my first fall in New England and Mother Nature’s beauty swept me off my feet.  I was in awe of the paradox that nature shows its greatest glory – it’s most majestic beauty – in its dying.  As the leaves turn to brilliant shades of red and orange each year and then fall to the ground, I am captivated.  Experiencing four seasons for the first time allowed me to enter more fully into the rhythm and cycle of life.  But we’re also offered a rhythm to follow in the Church’s calendar and its changing seasons.  As my faith has evolved, I have come to love and appreciate the liturgical seasons.

I love the anticipation and excitement of Advent, the continual reflection it prompts in me to dig deep in my heart and question what it is I’m waiting for, hoping for.  It’s God, of course, but the longing so often masks itself in other things – success, relationships, etc.  In Advent I can be reminded that underneath my restless longing is a deep longing for God.

And then in Lent, my melancholic soul typically finds solace in this penitential season.  “From dust you came and to dust you shall return,” we hear on Ash Wednesday.  Such a powerful reminder that we are broken, that our lives and our choices are messy and complicated and so often turn us away from God.  This season begs for us to spend time alone with God, acknowledging our weaknesses and how much we desperately need God’s mercy.

But what I’ve been thinking a lot about this Lenten season is how the different cycles we follow often contradict one another upon first glance, and how the current happenings of our own lives make it harder for us to enter into the season.

Ash Wednesday fell a few days before Spring Break started this year.  Campus was buzzing with the excitement of travels to warmer weather, days of relaxation, and time with family and friends.  And now in the midst of Lent, the days are getting longer and the weather is finally starting to warm up after a long and brutal winter.  Rather than locking myself away for a time of self-denial, I’m eager to shed the lethargy of winter and be out in the world.  Along with the change of weather, I’m preparing for marriage.  My mind and heart have been filled with the excitement and anticipation of this Sacrament.  My fiancé and I have been very intentional about incorporating prayer and discernment into this process, and yet because of the anticipation it has reminded me a lot of Advent.  As Ash Wednesday approached this year I realized I hadn’t given one thought to a penitential practice and really wasn’t as excited about the season as usual.  I confessed to a friend, “I’m just too darn excited to be penitential this year!”

But as I’ve challenged myself to pray with the season, I’ve realized how fitting it is that the different cycles we follow in life are sometimes seemingly at odds with one another.  Because how rare is it that our lives are so easy to make sense of?  Life is complicated, and even the joyful moments are fraught with other emotions.  I see that in the lives of students all the time – as graduation approaches and students find jobs, there is still a great reality of sadness that they are leaving a place they have called home for four years.  The hope of what’s to come is mixed with the fear of what’s being left behind.

And even in our relationship with God, we have this Lenten season because as we grow closer to God we also become keenly aware of how we are not God, and our faults become that much more apparent in light of God’s grace.  This reality has become more real to me because of my relationship to Andy, my fiancé. Just as Peter exclaimed to Jesus when confronted by the truth of his presence, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8), when I am face to face with the guy I love I am confronted by how I fall so short of loving him in the way he deserves.  And so even with the excitement and anticipation of marriage, I am continually called to conversion and penance.  I may not have been as prepared for the season to start, but thankfully it isn’t over yet.

Lenten Blog Series: Lenten Message of our Holy Father Francis, Part II

Guest Blogger: John Clarke ’15, Student Minister for Worship and Liturgy

He became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich (cf. 2 Cor 8:9).Pope Francis Lent Message

2. Our witness

We might think that this “way” of poverty was Jesus’ way, whereas we who come after him can save the world with the right kind of human resources. This is not the case. In every time and place God continues to save mankind and the world through the poverty of Christ, who makes himself poor in the sacraments, in his word and in his Church, which is a people of the poor. God’s wealth passes not through our wealth, but invariably and exclusively through our personal and communal poverty, enlivened by the Spirit of Christ.

In imitation of our Master, we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it. Destitution is not the same as poverty: destitution is poverty without faith, without support, without hope. There are three types of destitution: material, moral and spiritual. Material destitution is what is normally called poverty, and affects those living in conditions opposed to human dignity: those who lack basic rights and needs such as food, water, hygiene, work and the opportunity to develop and grow culturally. In response to this destitution, the Church offers her help, her diakonia, in meeting these needs and binding these wounds which disfigure the face of humanity. In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ. Our efforts are also directed to ending violations of human dignity, discrimination and abuse in the world, for these are so often the cause of destitution. When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.

No less a concern is moral destitution, which consists in slavery to vice and sin. How much pain is caused in families because one of their members – often a young person – is in thrall to alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography! How many people no longer see meaning in life or prospects for the future, how many have lost hope! And how many are plunged into this destitution by unjust social conditions, by unemployment, which takes away their dignity as breadwinners, and by lack of equal access to education and health care. In such cases, moral destitution can be considered impending suicide. This type of destitution, which also causes financial ruin, is invariably linked to thespiritual destitution which we experience when we turn away from God and reject his love. If we think we don’t need God who reaches out to us through Christ, because we believe we can make do on our own, we are headed for a fall. God alone can truly save and free us.

The Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution: wherever we go, we are called as Christians to proclaim the liberating news that forgiveness for sins committed is possible, that God is greater than our sinfulness, that he freely loves us at all times and that we were made for communion and eternal life. The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! It is thrilling to experience the joy of spreading this good news, sharing the treasure entrusted to us, consoling broken hearts and offering hope to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness. It means following and imitating Jesus, who sought out the poor and sinners as a shepherd lovingly seeks his lost sheep. In union with Jesus, we can courageously open up new paths of evangelization and human promotion.

Dear brothers and sisters, may this Lenten season find the whole Church ready to bear witness to all those who live in material, moral and spiritual destitution the Gospel message of the merciful love of God our Father, who is ready to embrace everyone in Christ. We can do this to the extent that we imitate Christ who became poor and enriched us by his poverty. Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.

May the Holy Spirit, through whom we are “as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (2 Cor 6:10), sustain us in our resolutions and increase our concern and responsibility for human destitution, so that we can become merciful and act with mercy. In expressing this hope, I likewise pray that each individual member of the faithful and every Church community will undertake a fruitful Lenten journey. I ask all of you to pray for me. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady keep you safe.

Lenten Blog Series: Lenten Message of our Holy Father Francis, Part I

Guest Blogger: John Clarke ’15, Student Minister for Worship and Liturgy

Pope Francis Lent MessageHe became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich (cf. 2 Cor 8:9).

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As Lent draws near, I would like to offer some helpful thoughts on our path of conversion as individuals and as a community. These insights are inspired by the words of Saint Paul: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor8:9). The Apostle was writing to the Christians of Corinth to encourage them to be generous in helping the faithful in Jerusalem who were in need. What do these words of Saint Paul mean for us Christians today? What does this invitation to poverty, a life of evangelical poverty, mean for us today?

1. Christ’s grace

First of all, it shows us how God works. He does not reveal himself cloaked in worldly power and wealth but rather in weakness and poverty: “though He was rich, yet for your sake he became poor …”. Christ, the eternal Son of God, one with the Father in power and glory, chose to be poor; he came amongst us and drew near to each of us; he set aside his glory and emptied himself so that he could be like us in all things (cf. Phil2:7; Heb 4:15). God’s becoming man is a great mystery! But the reason for all this is his love, a love which is grace, generosity, a desire to draw near, a love which does not hesitate to offer itself in sacrifice for the beloved. Charity, love, is sharing with the one we love in all things. Love makes us similar, it creates equality, it breaks down walls and eliminates distances. God did this with us. Indeed, Jesus “worked with human hands, thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, he truly became one of us, like us in all things except sin.” (Gaudium et Spes, 22).

By making himself poor, Jesus did not seek poverty for its own sake but, as Saint Paul says “that by his poverty you might become rich“. This is no mere play on words or a catch phrase. Rather, it sums up God’s logic, the logic of love, the logic of the incarnation and the cross. God did not let our salvation drop down from heaven, like someone who gives alms from their abundance out of a sense of altruism and piety. Christ’s love is different! When Jesus stepped into the waters of the Jordan and was baptized by John the Baptist, he did so not because he was in need of repentance, or conversion; he did it to be among people who need forgiveness, among us sinners, and to take upon himself the burden of our sins. In this way he chose to comfort us, to save us, to free us from our misery. It is striking that the Apostle states that we were set free, not by Christ’s riches but by his poverty. Yet Saint Paul is well aware of the “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8), that he is “heir of all things” (Heb 1:2).

So what is this poverty by which Christ frees us and enriches us? It is his way of loving us, his way of being our neighbour, just as the Good Samaritan was neighbour to the man left half dead by the side of the road (cf. Lk10:25ff ). What gives us true freedom, true salvation and true happiness is the compassion, tenderness and solidarity of his love. Christ’s poverty which enriches us is his taking flesh and bearing our weaknesses and sins as an expression of God’s infinite mercy to us. Christ’s poverty is the greatest treasure of all: Jesus’ wealth is that of his boundless confidence in God the Father, his constant trust, his desire always and only to do the Father’s will and give glory to him. Jesus is rich in the same way as a child who feels loved and who loves its parents, without doubting their love and tenderness for an instant. Jesus’ wealth lies in his being the Son; his unique relationship with the Father is the sovereign prerogative of this Messiah who is poor. When Jesus asks us to take up his “yoke which is easy”, he asks us to be enriched by his “poverty which is rich” and his “richness which is poor”, to share his filial and fraternal Spirit, to become sons and daughters in the Son, brothers and sisters in the firstborn brother (cf. Rom8:29).

It has been said that the only real regret lies in not being a saint (L. Bloy); we could also say that there is only one real kind of poverty: not living as children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ.

Habitat Speaks: We Were Told We Were the Lucky Ones

Guest Blogger: Emily Marzo

Spring Lake, NJWe were told we were the lucky ones. We were told Spring Lake, New Jersey is a great vacation place and a wealthy area, so we were quite confused as to how we could affect and help rebuild a wealthy area through Habitat for Humanity. As it turns out, we never made it to Spring Lake, New Jersey. Instead we stayed in a church basement in Point Pleasant where it was clear Hurricane Sandy had left her mark.

As a group we reported for duty and we worked on two different houses. One house was practically finished and the owners were going to be able to move in soon. The homeowners were grandparents, who were excited for their grandchildren to come hang out in their new home instead of their apartment that they were living in for the time being.

The other house was “a hot mess” according to the other Habitat employees. This house was a cabin from the Sears magazines from the 1950s. It was a work in progress to say the least. Butch, our advisor, told us, “We had our work set out for us.” So that is exactly what we did. We went to work ripping out nails, insulation and ceilings in order to rebuild a stronger house for the family. One day we spent hours in a tiny room upstairs. This room had a low ceiling and had some decorations still left behind. There were Disney stickers, sports trophies, family photos, and dressers full of children’s clothing left in the very small room. We spent hours one day literally raising the roof and restructuring parts of the roof just in that room alone. We later found out that that tiny room was shared by four children of the owner. We were dumbfounded. It was a small room to a bedroom and a small room to be shared by multiple people. It made us realize that a forced quad in Meagher wasn’t so bad after all. The owner came by to visit later that day and was so thankful for all that we had done. He worked as a painter and could not possibly do this work by himself. He shook our hands and took pictures. It was then that we realized how much of an impact we could really make here. Throughout the week we worked extra hard on that home. We installed insulation, built floors and ceilings, and whatever little task was asked of us. We were constantly reminded by the things we found in the house that we were actually helping a family. Their surfboards were being preserved overhead the entrance ceilings, their toys in the backyard next to clear destruction and mess from Hurricane Sandy. On their outside fence was a stoplight broken and battered just hanging over the fence like a sheet on a clothing line. It surprised us how much work was still left to be done in these areas. Some of the neighboring houses haven’t even been touched since the storm. The damage was unfathomable.

From beginning to end, our group changed from strangers to family. We called our leaders Mom and Dad and did everything together. We had a great group and great advisors such as Butch, Dave, and Kevin to guide and mentor us along the way. As we built these houses for these families, we too built a family ourselves. It was an amazing way to spend our Spring Break, although we never actually did make it to Spring Lake. It turns out we were the lucky ones after all.

Habitat Speaks: Wilmington, DE- A City In the Middle of it All

Guest Blogger: Mary Noonan

Delaware TripThis year, instead of spending Spring Break in my usual style (binging on Netflix and sleeping), I participated in a Habitat for Humanity trip to Wilmington, Delaware.  We spent the week showering at the YMCA, sleeping on floors, exterminating stink bugs from our humble sleeping quarters, and doing some heavy lifting.  It was awesome!

Working on the construction of second story floors of several homes, we learned how to caulk, climb, saw, drill, and swing a sledgehammer, all while enjoying a nice view of the Wilmington skyline from our second story deck.

We worked alongside some incredible Habitat volunteers, shared a dinner and a prayer service with members of the congregation of the Church we stayed in, and even got to watch the Friars beat St. John’s after a delicious dinner at the home of a PC alumnus! GO FRIARS!

After beginning the trip with a group of PC students, most of whom were strangers, I felt blessed to return to Rhode Island with 14 amazing new friends.  From beginning to end, the entire week was a wonderful experience.  I think I speak for all of us when I say we could not have asked for a better Spring Break!

Lenten Blog Series: A Reflection

Guest Blogger: Laila Ettefagh ’14, Youth Ministry Coordinator

Whenever I sit down to pray, I have my go-to checklist- I start with my prayer of thanksgiving for all the blessings and wonderful people in my life (and as a PC student, this is one long list). I then move on to pray for all my loved ones, and at the end I’ll throw in a little prayer for my own sanity and peace of mind. With this, most times, I have no problem.

Whether its one of those days when everything is going right, or there just seems to be a little black rain cloud hanging over my head, praying for the ones I love, comes pretty naturally. In this Lenten season, however, I’ve tried to focus on the other stuff- praying for people that sometimes, I just really don’t want to pray for. You all know who I’m talking about- the friend who has done you wrong, the professor who has you steeped in an ocean of homework, or that rude guy in line behind you at Slavin. In any case, when I do sit down to pray, most of the time the bad guy in my day (or week… or month…) is not the first person I think of. When someone has wronged you, it can be so easy to let those emotions suffocate you- to let yourself fall to the pain and hurt a friend or stranger has struck you with. With this, you only truly hurt yourself. While you must demand from others, especially your friends, a level of respect and kindness, sometimes you meet people who just do not seem to care about the way they treat you, nor how it affects you. I know I have.

Rather than dwell in this or turn to anger, I have proposed for myself an alternative- grace. These people, sometimes these friends, have (when it comes down to it), closed themselves up to God and hardened their hearts. Even more than the hurt they’ve inflicted, the sadness and gravity of this fact really strikes home. For this reason, I have chosen not hate, not anger, but prayer. And I don’t mean, “I pray you realize what a stupid jerk you’ve been lately”- I mean prayer that will genuinely help bring God into their lives; prayer for the well-being of their souls and hearts, and for their own grace. Not even to rid yourself of the problems they’ve cause you or for your own end, but for theirs. Trust me, its not as easy as I’m making it sound right now- I have had moments when, begrudgingly, I force myself into the chapel and, gritting my teeth, begin this process. Just know that the teeth-gritting is truly a beginning- with time and love, and the knowledge of God’s grace, you feel your jaw slacken and your shoulders relax, and you are filled with the very grace you wish for them. It may not always feel like it, and sometimes you’ll leave the chapel with that same, downtrodden hurt, but in the long run, you’ll add these moments of prayer to that long list of Thanksgiving you started with.

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