Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Tale of Eggrolls, Plastic Utensils, and Love!

“What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me—don’t hurt me—no more…”
“What is Love?”~Haddaway
These simple lyrics portray the condition of many people: hurt, suffering, and bitter. Many people have been terribly hurt by relationships, and will continue to be hurt throughout life. But these people get by, and they will be faring pretty well—and then Valentine’s Day rolls around.
Several people call February 14th “Singles Awareness Day,” in an effort to ease their pain and bitterness. All around, people suffering for a relationship join together in sadness and try to forget the holiday on February 14th. And this breaks my heart! I try to bring joy and love to all of my single friends, in order to show them God’s great love for them in the midst of their pain.
See, Valentine’s Day is epic. And I love it!!!!!!!! For a variety of reasons:

Well, I was baptized on February 14, 1993 in Christ the King Chapel at Franciscan University of Steubenville. So, Valentine’s Day is my birthday into the Catholic Church! And this anniversary brings me sooo much joy! After all, without my Catholic Faith, I would be nowhere near where I am today. My Catholic Faith and my deep relationship with God is who I am; I cannot separate myself or my life from my Faith!
Why else would I love Valentine’s Day? And what about all of those people who do not have a special connection with February 14—what about them? Should Valentine’s Day take on any special meaning for them, or should it simply exist as an over-commercialized Hallmark holiday? And so I propose a new method to celebrating Valentine’s Day. I am an imperfect woman, so my desire for my “perfect Valentine’s Day” was definitely an inspiration from God.
However many years ago, probably about four or five, the Holy Spirit hit me with a great way to spend Valentine’s Day: celebrate authentic love. After all, Catholics are all about sanctifying and baptizing the pagan. I mean, look at the Christmas tree, October 31st, when Christmas is celebrated, etc. We tend to baptize the immoral or ungodly, in order to bring Christ to all people and places. So, why not “baptize” the over-commercialized celebration of Valentine’s Day by bringing authentic love into action? As a young teenager, I decided how my “perfect” Valentine’s Day would go: Go to Mass, Adoration, and possibly even Confession. Then, spend time with loved ones, and then go to a homeless shelter or soup kitchen to love all the people who have not experienced love (or have not experienced much love).
Well, as February 14, 2012 loomed closely, I began to get VERY excited!!! 

First, Mass is celebrated three times a day on campus, so it would definitely be possible to attend Mass. Criteria #1 of “Perfect Valentine’s Day” would be completed!
Perpetual Adoration was set to begin on February 13, so Criteria #2 of “Perfect Valentine’s Day” would also be complete!
It just so happens that Confessions are offered on Tuesday afternoons, so Criteria #3 would be complete. 

And when I realized that Valentine’s Day would happen on a Tuesday, I became EXTREMELY STOKED because I have homeless ministry in Steubenville on Tuesdays!! So Criteria #4 would happen! Basically, I was looking forward to Valentine’s Day this year a LOT, because my dream really would come true!
The thing is, these were my plans, my criteria for an epic day. I totally was not taking into account God’s plans for an epic day! Let me expand upon this thought:
I had decided to attend 6:30 a.m. Mass to start off my Valentine’s Day with the Eucharist. Well, My alarm went off at 5:55 a.m. And I hit the snooze button, asking my angel that if the snooze didn’t wake me up, to PLEASE wake me up in 5-10 minutes for Mass!

I woke up at 7:20 a.m.

Which, by the way, is a really random time. I mean, whenever I oversleep, I usually wake up at, say, 8:30 or so. But no. 7:20. So I did some homework that was due, which I had neglected to complete. And then I decided that I would skip breakfast, and just go have a nice long time in the Adoration chapel. As I was leaving my dorm, I ran into one of my friends who was on her way to breakfast. And she did not have anyone with her, and I hadn’t talked to her in forever! So I got to spend breakfast with her, talking about life and such.

Then I spent about half an hour in Adoration before my one class (which was really fun! We discussed the sexuality in Twelfth Night by Shakespeare, and the modern misconceptions of homosexuality in Shakespeare’s works). Then, I went to the J.C. and sold roses with my household, Sacrifice of Love! And that was just epic! And I had a free cookie from the Pub, which was wonderful! I had a lovely lunch date with a household girl, and then went to sell more roses¸ and we sold out! So now we have money for our Fall Retreat, as well as for our reunion! Because we sold out early, I had plenty of time to get in line for Confession, and actually be towards the front of the line (the Confession lines are ridiculously long here. It’s so refreshing that there are so many other sinners on campus!) Confession was rockin’, and I went to Adoration afterwards. Then I dumped my books in my room, and went to 4:45 p.m. Mass.

After that, I met up with a good friend, and we headed to Homeless Ministry! That was quite the experience. We had about 12-15 students who went to Homeless Ministry on Tuesday, which was beautiful! And we show up to the shelter….and there are 2-3 people milling around in the shelter! But hey, it’s like one of my favorite quotes from St. Josemaria Escriva:
“The apostle has no aim other than letting God work, making himself available!”

So we made ourselves available. And I had some good talks with some of the residents there. Following ministry, my friend and I headed to late night dinner, which was wonderful! See, at regular dinner in the Caf, they had Chinese food—like eggrolls! And I REALLY wanted an eggroll! But, I was at Mass during the Chinese fool in the Caf. So I thought that I would have to sacrifice having an eggroll because of Mass and Homeless Ministry. But I walk into Late-Night (which always has a different, smaller menu than regular dinner) and they randomly had leftover eggrolls! God is so good!! 

After dinner, I went to Eucharistic Praise and Worship, which was so beautiful!! Then, I finished my laundry, and took one of my girlfriends to a girly movie night in Marian. After dropping off my friend, I met up with my good friend so that we could pray Liturgy of the Hours together. And I was just so excited that Valentine’s Day had been so much more epic than I could have ever dreamed of! 

And then my friend decides to make it more epic (he attributes the idea to the Holy Spirit): He gives me a white paper bag, that has my household symbol (a heart with a cross) drawn on it. And inside are carrots, chocolate, some random yellow candy, and—about 15 plastic utensils (forks, spoons, and knives!)! SO AWESOME! Many women get flowers for Valentine’s Day. I get chocolate, carrots, and plastic utensils.
FOR THE WIN!!!! So yeah. That totally made my Valentine’s Day even more ridiculously epic. Then I went to girl’s night and watched the last ½ hour or so of 7 Brides for Seven Brothers.

Most epic Valentine’s Day ever?

I don’t even think that’s a question.
It reminded me of a lesson that God is continually teaching me: Don’t put limits on His love. Honestly, it’s all about being open and receptive to whatever God has in store. And by being hopeful, immersing themselves in GOD, TRUE LOVE HIMSELF. So many people close themselves off to the blessings and graces that God has in store for them, because they are absorbed in their sorrows. And I know what that’s like; honestly, there have been multiple times in my life where I have lived in the land of gloom and shadows, cutting myself from God’s epic surprises and graces. It’s so easy to focus on one’s own troubles. It's tough when you're alone and a lot of friends are on dates or at parties. Seriously, though, love is only intensified when you stop looking at singleness as a curse, and embrace it as a blessing!
"Suffering with perfect love and perfect joy becomes a sacrifice."
"From here on earth, Love cannot live without suffering. It is through loving the cross that we discover His Heart, for divine Love never lives without suffering. I want my whole life to be inspired by love...Because on earth, pure love cannot exist without suffering. O Jesus Jesus, I no longer feel my cross when I think of yours!"
~St. Bernadette
There are so many opportunities to practice apostolic love--going out to others--when you are single! It is so vital that we all look OUTWARD to God and others! We must be open to God, because He wants desperately to bring us out of gloom and into the joyous light of His love and joy!
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone”
(Isaiah 9:1)