Saturday, July 22, 2017

Thoughts on My Vocation

In recent months, my vocation has become clear to me... but I've been unable to live it out for obvious reasons. Before I get deeper into this topic, let me just share with y'all how all of this happened.

For months (since the last 54-day Rosary novena during Advent 2016), I've been praying that God shows me what I need to work on to prepare myself for my future vocation of wife and mother. It hasn't been "send me a man!" or "take this loneliness away!" It's been "please help me see what I need to work on before a husband and family comes my way." I knew that there were certain things that I needed to work on but what I didn't anticipate was just intense it would all get before I started making any real progress.

Looking back at everything I've had to deal with since January -- everything that has tested my faith and produced a profound spiritual dryness in me -- I see that it all makes sense. I was inspired to ask God (during the St. Andrew novena; I did two novenas simultaneously) to help me get rid of my attachment to earthly things that would be problematic for me and my vocation. One of them turned out to be something that I hadn't faced since I reverted to the faith; something that I believed was no longer a danger but which proved to be something I was still very much attached to. It involved the career path I was on prior to my reversion and a terrible nostalgia for things that were once harmful to me.

I dealt with these things until last month into this month. My eyes were opened and I began to work to detach myself from these things... but it has not been easy because of the emotional attachments to a certain group of people that have been a big part of my life in the past year. This is still something I'm working on -- which has been especially hard on social media since we're all active on these various platforms -- but God is slowly working in helping me get past this.

At the same time that all of this is happening, I came to realize one big thing that is going to be problematic in another way: I feel as if I may be called to be a stay-at-home mother (SAHM) in the future. This is a problem for two reasons. First, I can't know that for sure until I discern marriage with someone, get married, have a family, and then see if we can afford for me to be a SAHM. Second, there is so much opposition to that train of thought... including in my own (current) home.

My mother has always worked hard for everything her entire life -- especially after my dad had a work-related knee injury that ended up in a botched operation that left him disabled for the rest of his life. To her, you need to work. Since I was a little girl, she's drilled into me that I need to have my own career and a job in case I marry some guy who will end up dumping me and abandoning our children. That's all I've heard from her and other people (including my godmother) since I can remember. Can you see how terrible cynical and jaded this point of view is? I mean, I get where they're coming from but I also feel like I've been pressured into just thinking about a career and being an independent woman even if I don't feel called to it.

And, I don't. I don't feel called to have a long term career. I don't feel called to put a career and work ahead of my family. I've never felt that way... but I have felt pressured into adopting that attitude or else I will be an immense disappointment to those who've drilled this idea into my head. All of this has become even more obvious in recent months when I discerned my career path and God made it clear that what I'm doing now is enough for what He has in store for me.

I don't feel like I'm called to go to grad school for any particular career path, burdening myself with more student debt. Instead, I feel called to continue down the path (that became clear to me in late May) until He calls me to do something else. It feels temporary but also something that will prepare me for whatever happens in the future.

My plans/goals for the near future are to work to pay off my student loans and to work on my relationship with God while I wait. Since I made these decisions, everything has been falling into place -- my health issues, my career and vocation confusion, etc. I can see myself going forward in a way I haven't since I graduated from college many moons ago. These plans are (currently) short-term because, as I said, I feel like He has something else in store for me. Whether that means a husband and family or a different career path, I don't know but I can't see myself doing this for more than 2-3 years. I think I will be able to pay off most (if not) all of my student loans during that time which is pretty exciting for me.

I do have my moments of impatience because I feel like He's finally shown me what He wants me to do and what my future vocation is... but I can't live it out just yet. The biological clock has started to tick (I just turned 32 in late May) and sometimes I think that maybe I discerned wrong... but then I remember the peace I feel when I think about the immediate plans that have been revealed to me through prayer and saintly intercessions.

I feel like I can't relate to many of my fellow single 30+ year-olds because I mostly hear rants about being single and, while I do have moments of impatience and loneliness, I don't feel the same way they do. It took a long time but I feel peace thinking about the waiting period because I know God is going to make me into a better version of myself in that time. Not only that, I know He's going to make sure that He is number one in my life and that nothing will replace Him. I need this time to make sure I'm spiritually mature enough to deal with the earthly highs and joy without forgetting that He is the center of my life and the only one Who can fill that emptiness and hole in my heart.

I've never been bitter about being one of the last of my friends to marry and/or have children. I don't hate Valentine's Day. I'm not a fan of PDA only because I feel like it's an intrusion of privacy that only a couple should experience. I don't do a lot of things that many of my fellow single ladies (understandably) do because God has helped me see things differently. I think that entrusting my heart to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is the big reason why I'm able to look at the big picture and remember His plans instead of succumbing to melancholic feelings about my vocation.

If you're reading this and you feel differently, that's fine. This post isn't me saying that my way of thinking and looking at things is correct and yours isn't; I'm just sharing what's been happening with me in terms of my vocation lately. Not everyone is going to agree with what I said. Some people will have problems because we think differently and you may feel personally attacked but it wasn't my intention. I'm not attacking anyone; I'm just sharing why I can't relate to some of you... who, obviously, won't be able to relate to some if not all of this post. God has us all on different paths (all, hopefully, destined to the same end: Heaven) but we can all still pray for each other because we can all agree that being unable to live our vocations -- when we so desperately want to -- isn't always the easiest thing.

That's where I am in terms of my vocation discernment at the moment. I gave myself a self-imposed dating break to focus on rebuilding my relationship with God but only He knows how long that will last. All I know is that I will continue to my work on my goal to pay off my student loans, to work on my relationship with Him, and let everything else came as God wills it. No rush. No timetable. Just doing what I feel He wants me to do.

And that's it for now. It's still pretty warm outside and I'm not feeling that great (may be something I ate) so I'm going to go watch a movie and take it easy. :)

I hope you all have a lovely weekend!

As always, thanks for reading and God Bless! :D

P.S. Don't forget to join the Frassati Prayer Community in case you have any prayer requests you'd like us to add to our prayers. :D

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Join the New Frassati Prayer Community!

Photo © Melissa (Emmy) Cecilia
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how I haven't found a good, solid community that I felt a part of. I've tried pushing myself outside of my comfort levels, allowing my extroverted side (which exists... way, way, way deep down, lol) to come out while I tried new things. I joined a young adult group, we switched parishes, and I started accepting more invitations to go out with friends. It's something I hadn't done since a little before I reverted to the faith. I don't feel a part of the young adult group (which I joined 9 months ago) because I don't get notified of all the meetings they have and I have zero contact with the members outside of the meetings I do attend. We can't always get to Latin Mass with the FSSP priests (who we're big fans of) because my mother works most Sundays. Basically, things haven't worked out in our favor.

As I also mentioned in another post, feeling rejected and like I was a terrible Catholic was the devil's way of kicking me while I was already down and it took me months to realize it. Once I figured that out, I tried to remember that discovery whenever I felt the same way. It's still occasionally hard but it does help. I still have trouble getting to Mass often though I've gotten so much better about that in recent weeks. Some days I'm physically unable to go (palpitations, too lightheaded to drive safely, physical pain, etc.) and I try to do spiritual communion when it happens.

I'm taking baby steps to get my relationship with God back on track. In fact, that's what I've been doing these past couple of weeks. I don't blog often these days (sorry!) because I've been so busy working on my third novel. I can spend most of my waking hours writing, rewriting, and editing because my deadline is next month. Still, despite the fact that I haven't shared much, I still pray and I still try to keep God in my mind throughout the day. I try to see the blessings He's given me... and it was during one of these moments that I realized that I was wrong about one thing: I do have a good, solid community... it's just unconventional, in a way.

When we think of a community, we think of the people around us: neighbors, parishioners we see at every Mass, people we interact with (face-to-face) most often. What I didn't realize is that my community has been mostly virtual due to distance. I'm one of the few of my core friends from my teens-mid 20s that are still in L.A.... and the only one who has stayed put and not moved closer (or outside) the city limits. Some friends I've met online and I do occasionally see. Others, I haven't seen in ages because we live in different states (and, occasionally, countries). Others I've only known online but have become part of my "crew." All of these people have inspired, challenged, and have prayed for me over the years; they've been for me through so much despite the distance.

When I realized this, I immediately felt guilty. I didn't mean to not include them as part of my community. I always assumed community was about the people who physically see... but I realized it was all wrong. It's not about who you often see but whom you are in contact with; with whom you choose to surround yourself with, even if there is a distance. Duh, Emmy... you DO have a community.

My community is amazing. My "core" community is compromised of married friends and their families, my godson and his family, a single mother with whom I went to school with during my undergrad years, a couple of single ladies, seminarians, a religious brother, priests across the U.S. and Canada, local FSSP priests, friends who live all over the U.S. as well as in Europe. Then I have my extended community. I don't call or text with them but I do interact with them through social media. We are a community, whether we want to be or not. Why do you think I was so miffed and wrote the last blog post? I didn't want to see my community destroy itself due to things that ultimately don't matter.

So many things changed when I had this realization. I became more intentional about keeping in contact with them (though, mea culpa, I've been slacking a bit because I get too into writing some days) in whichever ways worked best. I haven't been active on Twitter for a little while (I'm sure no one has noticed) but I do pray for everyone. Not only do I do this, I've made the decision to return to the young adult group despite how I feel I'm treated by the other members because I realized that what I love most about the group is what I learn from our spiritual adviser. I'm not going for them -- I have my own community who loves and nurtures me -- but for the sake of my relationship with God. Our adviser (an FSSP priest) is a great, holy man who has helped nourish my spiritual life in little ways every time I've attended a meeting and that's all I could ask for.

A quote of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati's keeps popping up in my mind: "I would like for us to pledge a pact which knows no earthly boundaries nor limits of time: union in prayer." That's what I propose we -- this online community we're a part of -- do: keep each other in prayer. There may be distances (some great; greetings to my regular readers across the globe and especially in India!) but prayer can be something that unites us in such a positive way. How many of us feel alone, rejected, unwanted during difficult moments? Who wouldn't want to think that during moments of trials there were people out there praying for us?

When I was an undergrad, 5-6 years ago, I had a great desire to create a Frassati group at my alma mater. Of course, that didn't end up working out because they seem to be allergic to orthodoxy (hey, I call it like I see it). A few years ago, I once again tried to get one started at my (then) home parish but was met with too many obstacles and oppositions that I couldn't get through. I can't seem to find a way to get a physical community going so I had the idea of creating an online community.

Today I finally went ahead and created the Frassati Prayer Community on Facebook. The object of the group is simple: to unite ourselves in prayer and encourage spiritual growth. Because it will be an online community, things will be a bit different than physical groups. Of course, prayer will be the main focus and I do intend to have frequent novenas posted if I see an influx of prayer requests regarding a specific topic (i.e. vocations, health, work, etc) or if a particular feast day is coming up. We can't take field trips or get together to do things but you are always welcome to share links to things such as soup kitchens, fundraisers for church or religious communities, and events that would help nourish the spiritual life of others. I know many people can't regularly attend meetings or be part of a prayer community at their parishes due to illnesses, familial responsibilities, or time constraints so I think this could be a good alternative to those. Unlike the rest of the Frassati groups, there is no age restriction for this online community.

You are all welcome to join and spread the word to anyone who you think may be interested. I have no qualms about banning Negative Nellies and trolls. There is enough negativity in social media and I want this to be a little corner of the internet where fellowship and goodwill are found. Y'all know how much it's needed when we are at our lowest moments.

The group is visually plain as I'm writing this because I literally created it while writing this post but I will be updating it with photos and more information throughout the day since I have the time (thanks, writer's block!).

It took me 5-6 years but I finally got a group under your patronage going, Bl. Pier Giorgio! lol.

And that's it for now. I need to go eat lunch (it's 2 p.m. and I'm starting to get lightheaded from the lack of food) and then get the group picture and banner figured out.

I hope you are all having a lovely week thus far!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dear (Fellow) Catholic Writers...

Dear (fellow) Catholic writers,

I don't want to compete with you. At all. I know that some people are in this seemingly endless competition to see who can amass more social media followers... whose articles get the most traffic... whose articles get the most comments... retweets... likes, etc. I'm not one of them. I prefer to be an insignificant nobody in the Catholic world (and in the world in general).

If you feel the need to rub it in my face that I've been blogging for 10 years and don't have a column in a popular/well-known Catholic publication have a book deal/contract with a publisher, I have news for you: I'm sincerely happy for you and I honestly don't care that these things haven't happened to me. Do you want to know why? Because I don't feel that it's what God wants for me (at least, not right now) and it is not suitable for me in many ways.

Having a column would open me up to criticism (both from outsiders and from myself) and I'm far too sensitive for criticisms. Why do you think I take extended breaks from Twitter and why I'm very careful about who I add on other social media platforms? I'm very susceptible to being affected by negativity. Too much time on Twitter makes me uncharitable and snippy; that's not who I want to be nor who I believe I am, deep down.

Furthermore, despite having reverted over a decade ago, I've yet to learn enough about Catholicism to feel confident enough to speak out about it. That's how I've seen that perhaps the lay Dominican life is not for me; I love learning but I don't feel prepared to speak to others about all topics within Catholicism. I speak of what little I know; of what I've experienced. I'm happy that in this little corner of the internet, I can express myself and that I don't feel the pressure to churn out some amazing content on a regular basis. It would be too stressful for me and I've only just gotten my anxiety down to a practically non-existent level.

In recent weeks, God has opened my eyes and shown me that I don't want the popularity that comes with having writing success. I write because I love it. I write because it's my way of expressing myself. I write because I feel like it's the one small talent God has given me... one that, I hope, will one day help me stimulate my future children's imaginations since I hope to create magical worlds just for them.

I know that I may someday choose not to blog anymore. I don't think I will ever give up writing completely but I know that my heart is with building my future family. I've discerned my vocation to the point of knowing that what I want most in this world is to get married and have children. I know that I want to devote myself to that vocation as much as I can -- being a stay-at-home mother, if God wills it, would be a dream -- and that I'm very likely to give up writing often while my children are small.

I will continue to self-publish my novels because my object is not to make a ton of money but to (hopefully) help others in little ways -- to escape a problem by being immersed in a world I've created, even if it's for a little while... to learn from the mistakes and lessons learned by the characters in my novels... to be inspired to grow closer to God. That's why I periodically choose to give my novels away and/or donate the proceedings of my sales to various causes (i.e. earthquake relief funds).

For those of you who are successful in the Catholic writing world and have managed to stay humble: you leave me in awe and I will continue to pray that God gives you the knowledge, courage, and humility to continue spreading His word with the gift He's given you. I know that I couldn't do it because I still have too much pride that God needs to whittle away from my very being. If He chooses to one day give what I write any attention from publishers or editors of publications, it will be done because He knows that I will be able to handle it (which I currently cannot). At the moment, I don't see it happening and I'm perfectly content with what I have right now.

Being invisible amongst other bloggers and writers is wonderfully humbling and is shaping me into the person that I hope God wants me to be. I've come to see that I wish to remain as I am now: being surrounded with great people who support me, who choose to be part of my journey (seeking nothing but friendship in return) and who challenge me to seek God and become the best version of myself.

Dear Catholic writers, I pray that you continue to do wonderful things for His kingdom and that your words lead others closer to God. I pray that the popularity, fame, envy, greed, and other temptations that the devil may try to tempt you with will not affect you. If they do, I pray that God will open your eyes and that you are immediately able to fix it. In our fallen human nature, it's very easy to fall into traps that hurt our souls without us being aware of them until much later. I've been able to see this for myself. God has been merciful and shown me what I need to work on; I pray He does the same for you.

Please remember that whatever success we have on this earth does not dictate where we will end up once our time in this world is over. Please remember to build each other up instead of tearing each other down or trying to outdo each other. It's become very evident (at least to me) that the evil one has been hard at work to divide us all... and it's become especially easily through social media. Please be on your guard and pray for each other (and the trolls that may want to engage in a pointless battle with you; don't feel the trolls). Don't be afraid to share what others have written if you think it will be beneficial to others; even if it means your blog/article for the day gets ignored. Do things for the greater good.

Anyway, I didn't write this to shame anyone; I just wanted to express my own opinions and let you all know that I am praying for you. I choose not to compete with you, but to fight alongside you; to help others get to Heaven.

This is not a "farewell, blog/writing world" post, but a letter to all the wonderfully talented writers in hopes that it will remind them of what's truly important.

May God bless you all,

Monday, July 10, 2017

Third Novel and Vocation Thoughts

Hello, everyone! I've been working hard on the third novel which is why I haven't been blogging much lately. That and I didn't like the idea of the novena posts being interrupted by random posts. I know some of you are wondering if the third novel is a continuation of the Will and Lina novels and the answer is no. It's a completely different story with new characters. Some things (i.e. locations) may be similar but this novel is different, darker even. I'm really enjoying writing it (despite the writer's blocks I've encountered) and I have an August 25 deadline so, you know, I gotta work hard. The ending is currently eluding me, which has never happened to me before -- I usually have the middle and ending written out first, but I'll sure it'll all work itself out when I least expect it.

Yesterday, I was reflecting on how I've gone through a major change in my life during the time that I've written each novel. The first novel was written during two major changes in my life: prior and following the death of my father and my time before and following my graduation from my CINO (Catholic in name only) alma mater. The second novel was written at a time where I was at an academic and career crossroads... and I had also realized (too late) that I'd fallen in love for the first time in my life. (side note: it didn't end up like it did in the novel, obviously). This third novel is being written during another big change which involved my vocations (career and life).

I'm trying to keep details off the blog (for now) since what I went through in the past 6-7 months served as the inspiration for the plot although, as usual, it's not exactly autobiographical. As weird as it may sound, I feel like perhaps I need to write this for other young women (or men) who may be the in the same boat. I don't think it's a coincidence that St. Francis de Sales has been popping up everywhere in the past 4 months and that a lot of my ideas for the plot/chapters come up while I pray the Rosary. I keep wondering if God wants me to write this because there seems to be a need to talk about the topic the novel focuses on. I haven't seen a single Catholic blogger (or, really, any blogger) ever touch on this particular topic but I've definitely seen the need to address it. How's that for vague (for now)? lol. I decided to write it as a novel instead of a non-fiction book because it's where I feel most comfortable. People who don't know what's truly happening in my life (only a handful of people know) won't know what was taken straight from my experiences and which was inspired by the events and fictionalized. Either way, I actually feel called to write this.

It's weird but I never felt "called" to write the other two novels. I never even considered that it was my "calling" to be a writer. I always wrote (my childhood best friend used to give me notebooks and pens for my birthday every year until I turned 18); it's always been a natural extension of how I express myself and my ideas. I wrote the novels for fun and then they got published. True, I wrote them with the intention of having non-smutty young adult/new adult novels for young women but that was it. With this third novel, I have my target audience in mind when I write... and I also have the Holy Spirit on my mind. I keep reminding myself that I set out to write this novel to (hopefully) do good in an area that isn't addressed quite enough but desperately needs to be. Sometimes I even wonder if I went through what I experienced the first half of this year just so I could write this novel. since any writer will tell you that it's best to write what you know. Who knows, God works in mysterious ways and this may be one of His ways to get through to others. As I said to God at the beginning of this novel, I just want to His will and if writing this helps one person in some small way, I'll do it.

I do want to eventually write about my vocations since I feel like God has never made my path as clear as He has in the past two months but, for now, I'm going to use that as inspiration for the novel. I also feel that, until the novel is published (late August-early September), I shouldn't talk about either topic. I will say that the big V (life; religious life/marriage) vocation helped me figure out the small v (career) vocation. It might now happen the same way for the protagonist in the novel but it did inspire part of the plot so... gotta keep it zipped.

That's all I can say about the third novel... for now. As I said, I feel like God (through the intercessions of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, St. Joseph, and the Holy Spirit) has taken pity on me and has shown me what He wishes me to do in the near future as well as what He would like for me to do long term (vocations). I can't recall every being this at peace about my vocations or what He wants me to do. Ever. Everything in my life has finally begun falling into place. Oh, how I want to talk about these things right now but I know that I should use that gratitude (towards God and my intercessors) and inspiration to write something worth sharing. Maybe I'll finish the novel sooner and I'll have it published before the August 25th deadline -- I certainly have the motivation to do so. lol. Patience, Emmy... patience. lol.

That's it for now. I will say that this blog post is setting up for something I want to post soon because it's another thing that also needs addressing. I may not write tomorrow since it's the 8th anniversary of my father's death and I don't know how I will feel (some years I'm weepy, others I'm in a depressive funk) but I'll definitely post again before the weekend. I want to get back to a healthy blogging/novel writing balance. :)

I hope you all have a lovely week and had a great weekend. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Monday, July 3, 2017

Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati Novena, Day Nine

Day Nine
Jesus says: “Blessed are you when they revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.”

Pier Giorgio responds: “We who by the grace of God are Catholics must steel ourselves for the battle we shall certainly have to fight to fulfill our program and to give our country, in the not too distant future, happier days and a morally healthy society. But to achieve this we need constant prayer
to obtain from God that grace without which all our powers are useless.”

We pray: Blessed Pier Giorgio, show me how to bear all wrongs patiently. Help me to accept the sufferings which others inflict on me because of my desire to be faithful to Jesus.

Blessed Pier Giorgio, I ask for your intercession in obtaining from God, Who protects the innocent, all the graces necessary for my spiritual and temporal welfare. I confidently turn to you for help in my present need: (mention your request.)

Litany of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (for private devotion)
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

God our Father in heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us.
All the angels and saints, pray for us.

Blessed Pier Giorgio, pray for us.
Loving son and brother, pray for us.
Support of family life, pray for us.
Friend of the friendless, pray for us.
Most Christian of companions, pray for us.
Leader of youth, pray for us.
Helper of those in need, pray for us.
Teacher of charity, pray for us.
Patron of the poor, pray for us.
Comfort of the sick, pray for us.
Athlete for God’s kingdom, pray for us.
Conqueror of life’s mountains, pray for us.
Defender of truth and virtue, pray for us.
Opponent of every injustice, pray for us.
Patriotic citizen of the nation, pray for us.
Loyal son of the Church, pray for us.
Devoted child of the Madonna, pray for us.
Ardent adorer of the Eucharist, pray for us.
Fervent student of the Scriptures, pray for us.
Dedicated follower of St. Dominic, pray for us.
Apostle of prayer and fasting, pray for us.
Guide to a deep love for Jesus, pray for us.
Diligent in work and study, pray for us.
Joyful in all of life’s circumstances, pray for us.
Strong in safeguarding chastity, pray for us.
Silent in pain and suffering, pray for us.
Faithful to the promises of Baptism, pray for us.
Model of humility, pray for us.
Example of detachment, pray for us.
Mirror of obedience, pray for us.
Man of the Beatitudes, pray for us.

Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

V. Pray for us, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray: Father, You gave to the young Pier Giorgio Frassati the joy of meeting Christ and of living his faith in service of the poor and the sick. Through his intercession, may we, too, walk the path of the Beatitudes and follow the example of his generosity, spreading the spirit of the Gospel in society. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.