Prayers for the Banquet

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Last year’s banquet

Saint Paul’s Outreach New Jersey’s Annual Benefit Banquet is coming up this week. I am finishing up many last minute details for the event, so this week’s blog post will be short because there’s a lot to do before we greet guests at the banquet hall. This week is full of printing, organizing, picking up last-minute supplies, and coordinating with all the vendors. Your prayers are greatly appreciated as we approach the big event!

We can use prayers for

  • the guests to understand and have passion for the mission of SPO,
  • all the details of the event to go smoothly, and
  • the generosity of the guests of the banquet.

I am coming up on the end of the school year at Seton Hall, so next week I will share more about the end of the year and all the events we have for students as we approach the summer. It’s been a full but blessed time as things wrap up.

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Last year’s banquet

 

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Guest Post: Mountain Men

My fiancé Ben is also a missionary for Saint Paul’s Outreach. A few weeks ago he took a group of men on a hiking trip to Mount Washington in New Hampshire. He wrote a blog post for the SPO website about his trip, so I asked him if I could share it here. Enjoy!

Throughout Holy Scripture, mountains have been used as a physical location where man comes into contact with God.  In Genesis 22 God commands Abraham to take his only son Isaac upon one of the mountains and offer him as a sacrifice. In Exodus Moses came to the mountain of God at Horeb where God revealed Himself through the burning bush. In the New Testament, Peter, James, and John follow Jesus up to a mountaintop where Jesus is transfigured in the presence of Moses and Elijah, and where the voice of God reveals Jesus to be His beloved son. It is at the intersection of God and man on the mountain that we see transformation happen. Abraham’s faith is put to the test, and after proving his faithfulness to God, he enters into a new covenant with God. Moses encounters God’s heart for his children, and is given the command to set the Israelites free from slavery. Peter, James and John are convicted to stay and pray on the mountain with Jesus, Moses and Elijah. In all of these stories, man is transformed by encountering God in the heights.

Therefore, due to their significance in Scripture, mountains make a great place to plan a camping trip with students. And that is just what we did here at Seton Hall. On the weekend of April 2nd, we took a group of 6 students to New Hampshire to attempt a summit of Mount Washington. Now if you aren’t familiar with Mount Washington, it is important to know that it is considered one of the most dangerous mountains in the United States. It isn’t the tallest mountain in the states, but it currently has the world record (yes, that’s right, I said world) of the highest recorded winds on the surface of the earth. On April 12, 1934 (about 82 years and ten days before our trip) wind speeds at the Mount Washington Observatory were recorded at 231 miles per hour! On March 30th, just 2 days before our climb, there was a gust of wind recorded at 135 miles per hour, about the same as a category 3 hurricane. Aside from the wind, Mount Washington is covered in snow and ice from September to June and temperatures can drop to -30 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite knowing all of these dangers, we checked our gear, packed up our van, and drove 6 hours overnight to arrive at the base of Mount Washington at 6:30 AM. We were ready to make the ascent.

Well, I guess we weren’t completely ready…although we had packed our warmest and most waterproof hiking gear, we were missing the most important piece of equipment – crampons, or ice climbing shoes. Mount Washington was completely covered in ice and snow, and we were missing the one piece of equipment that would allow us to overcome the ice and reach to top of the mountain. But we attempted anyways, not knowing when or how the ice and weather would turn us back. Sadly, on our first attempt we were about a mile in when a large sheet of ice flowing into an icy river in a ravine proved to be too dangerous to cross. But hope remained as we made our way to a different trail.

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The second trail we attempted, called Jewel Trail, proved to be the better of the two. For the first hour of the ascent we encountered almost no ice, and our hope was that this would continue to be the case the higher we went. We weren’t lucky enough, and encountered a half mile of the trail covered with a sheet of ice. There was no river, no ravine this time, just trees on both sides of the trail. Since the only apparent danger was slipping and falling on the ice, we continued slowly up the trail bouncing from rock to rock like a frog on a pond and using the trees to support ourselves. Finally after about 2 hours we made it to our first major checkpoint – treeline. From treeline we could see the summit of the mountain off in the near distance, and a successful summit attempt seemed more real than ever and we were confident we could get there in an hour and summit before 11 AM. If you have had any experience climbing mountains, you know that the summit always looks much closer than it really is from treeline. Turns out we were actually about 2 hours from the summit. As we got closer to the summit the wind blew harder and the ice on the trail got thicker. A few days earlier when I was talking about the trip with a  few friends, one of them said, “When Mother Nature antes up, it’s time to fold”. And unfortunately Mother Nature anteed up, forcing us to fold. By this time, it was below freezing, the wind was blowing pretty hard, the ice was too thick for us to safely go any further, and fog limited our visibility to less than 200 yards. With less than a quarter mile to the summit, we posed for a group photo and turned back.

Despite the blow to our pride, failing to summit the mountain did not break the trip. We overcame some very difficult conditions with less than ideal gear to even get with a quarter mile of the summit. What we learned is that we could overcome the challenge of summiting the mountain with the right conditions and equipment. We also left Mt. Washington with a greater sense of brotherhood because we fought together to climb the mountain. Each of us left that mountain being transformed in some way through the experience, whether is was an encounter with God, with brothers, or with self-realization.

He Sends Us Out

Last time I wrote about my reflection as I read the story of Christ meeting Mary Magdalene and the other Mary on their way from the tomb. Christ had come to meet them as they left the tomb—he didn’t send them on a hunt to find him and he didn’t first appear to a large group of people. He came personally and immediately to these faithful women.

The story continues on, though. He did not stay with them, celebrating. He sent them on. And, after seeing the empty tomb, and even more after seeing Jesus face-to-face, they were able to shout, “He is risen! We have seen Him!” They had the important job of telling those who knew Him where they could see Him. They all hurried to the mountain to see and hear their Messiah.

And there, on that mountain, He meets His disciples:

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28: 16-20)

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What is amazing to me in this verse is that He didn’t wait until they trusted Him again, and He didn’t wait until they all believed (for some still doubted), but He told them right there and then to go out and make disciples. I hear him saying, “Even in your doubt, fear, or imperfections, go, make disciples, bring people close to me, and live in the way I have shown you” (my paraphrase.)

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Jesus doesn’t want me to wait until I have it all together to tell others about him. He wants me to go now, even with all the things that could hold me back, and tell people about Him. So, even on the days where I don’t feel qualified or prepared or trained to do mission work I am still called to go out, get coffee with one of the college women that I work with and share the ways Christ has worked in my life. And this call isn’t just limited to full-time missionaries like me. We are all called to step out of our comfort zone, take a deep breath, amidst the doubt or fear and make disciples—this could mean inviting a coworker to your church, buying a meal for a sick friend and showing them Christ’s love, or explaining to a family member why you are still celebrating Easter weeks after Easter Sunday.

And even in this challenge, this send-off, He gives us everything we could ever need: “I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

In this short verse, I hear him saying to me, “I am your protector and comforter, I will always be there guiding you, protecting you, and loving you. Do not fear, do not worry, and do not be anxious, for I am there at all times. Pray always and you will know that I am near“(my paraphrase.)

Easter Monday

I woke up on Easter Monday. It was a special gift to sleep in and have the day off on a Monday. Having worked in and gone to public schools my whole life, I had never had the Monday after Easter off before. But now, working at a Catholic school, I am blessed with a day to celebrate, rest, and rejoice in Jesus’ resurrection.

I got out of bed, put a kettle of water on the stove and prepared a cup of tea. Warming my hands around a mug of black tea, I opened my bible to the Gospel for the day and read, “So Mary Magdalene and the other Mary departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, ‘Hail!’ And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee and there they will see me.’” Matthew 8-10

As I sat there, curled in my chair, reading this familiar verse, I thought about what it would have been like to be there that day. If I were one of them, I would have approached the tomb that morning with apprehension, expectation, and questioning. Could He really do what He said He would? Is He going to come back on the third day like he told us?

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But there these two women were: they had come to the tomb, found it empty and now were leaving the tomb with both fear and great joy. They knew he had come back and they had to share the news. They were leaving to tell the other disciples and were excited to bring the good news.

They didn’t expect to see Him so soon, but He couldn’t wait. And He didn’t make them wait to see Him again. He didn’t come back, hide Himself, and then send His disciples on a hunt to find Him. He could not wait to meet them. He met them on the road as they left the tomb. They did not have to look for Him—He came seeking them. And He met them, individually and personally on the road. He didn’t make his first appearance to a big crowd saying, “I told you so.” He came in a small way, a personal way, a quiet way, a powerful way. He came to these two women to confirm their hope and quiet their fears. He came to them saying, “Do not be afraid.”

He came on the road, on their way from the tomb to these women to show them who He is and at the same time he saw deeply who they were.

Sometimes (ok, more than just sometimes) I think that I have to search for Christ, to run around hunting Him down, thinking that he has hidden himself and it is up to me to find him. But, he is here, looking for me. He is ready to meet me as I walk away from the tomb—unsure, fearful, but full of joy. He comes to meet me in a personal powerful way. I don’t have to search; I don’t have to wait; He comes to me.

Easter is a Season

Alleluia! He is Risen!

Lent has ended, we have observed the Triduum and woken up to the glory of Easter morning. Jesus has risen and Easter has begun. You’ll notice that I didn’t say that Easter has “happened” (in the past tense), but that Easter has begun. That is because Easter is a season, not just a single day. Easter is a 50-day season that lasts from Easter Sunday to Pentecost. It is a season to be filled with rejoicing, reflecting on the resurrection, and following the journey of Christ and his disciples from the resurrection to the Ascension to Pentecost.

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I attended a parade on Easter Sunday where we sang praise songs and then released balloons to celebrate that Jesus is risen.

It is easy to celebrate Easter Sunday and then go back by Monday to regular life with all its distractions, stresses, and busyness. It’s hard to focus on the celebration of the season when so many other things are getting in the way. Amidst this challenge, a quote from Saint John Paul II keeps coming to mind, “We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song.” We are defined by Christ’s victory over death, not by his crucifixion. We are meant to live in praise and rejoicing that Christ has risen. But, what does it mean to live life, and especially this season, as an Easter people? How do I live out a season about rejoicing and resurrection during the challenges and busyness of day-to-day life?

We are and Easter People and Alleluia is our song.

-Saint John Paul II

One of the things I am doing this season to remind myself of an ongoing Easter is praying using a devotional written especially for this time. It is called On the Way and it was published by one of my favorite blogs: Blessed is She. It is a devotional that reflects specifically on the journey from the resurrection (where Christ rises to save us all) to Pentecost (where the disciples are sent out to share the Gospel). So far, this devotional (and other things that I have been reading and listening to) has helped me see the Easter season in a whole new light. Throughout the journey of the season, I plan on sharing some of my thoughts and reflections with you all, so watch for upcoming posts.

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I am also working on remembering the glory and beauty of Christ’s resurrection throughout my day, especially when I get stressed, tired, or discouraged. What Christ has done is so much bigger than any of the things that I do or encounter on any given day. His dying and rising to give me eternal life is bigger than my work, my tiredness, my wedding planning, or anything else that may discourage me. His resurrection gives such a greater joy than any of the passing happiness or frustration of this day. His resurrection gives me eternal life and what more could I want than that? What more can I ask for than spending eternity with my creator and the God of the universe? Nothing. So what should get in the way of my joy over that fact? Nothing!

So, I invite you to join me. Live this Easter as a season, not just as a day. And if you haven’t been doing that already, it’s not too late to start. Journey with me from His Resurrection to Pentecost. Embrace the joy of the season, allow yourself to celebrate, and live in the joy of being an Easter people. Alleluia!

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P.S. It’s been pretty quiet around this blog lately. I had a rough March because I was ill with Mono and spent 3 days in the hospital with tonsillitis. I’m feeling much much better, but my body is still fighting the virus and recovering. Thank you for your prayers for my continued recovery.