By Lea Wojciechowski

I’m a perfectionist.  I’ve long lived under the illusion that my wild hopes of achieving a perfect life would be fulfilled.  I’ve dreamed of perfect romance, fulfillment, happiness, peace, joy, beauty, love.  I dreamed that if I only waited a little longer, that unnamable thing that I was waiting for would present itself to me.  I dreamed that my tendency to set standards of perfection would for once not result in disappointment.

Life can be a perpetual state of waiting – the feeling you get when you’re sitting by the phone waiting for a call from someone you thought loved you.  You’re filled with hope and expectation, yet simultaneously the fear that you’ll be left empty and disappointed.

If you have low expectations you’re less likely to be disappointed.

True in a way, bitter and hard-hearted in a way.  In the pain of loneliness, hope sometimes dissolves.  Maybe it’s human nature – we have a longing to feel special and fulfilled, so much so that we’ll do things that satisfy our desires for just a few minutes – a fleeting, disappearing few minutes.  When those few minutes are gone, we want more.  We’re never satisfied.  We seem to be strung along time after time.  For me, the reality seems to never reach the height of my expectations, and so I lower my expectations.  I lower my hopes.  Next time, I rationalize, I will feel better.  Next time I will be happy.

Sometimes I try to avoid the few minutes of a high because the aftermath of the thrill is a heartbreaking reminder of the impermanence of happiness.  I feel both joy and sadness so easily, so readily, and I wonder – is it more difficult to exist on a flat line of neutral and colorless contentment, or to ride up and down crazily on an emotional rollercoaster of euphoria and despair?  How easy it is to feel alone, isolated, to feel like the only one going through something, yet I’d wager that so many of us experience this.

Life is perplexing.  It can be fun to go through days with no worries or cares, simply enjoying things that come along, spur-of-the-moment passions and pleasures.  But the spontaneous highs can’t last forever – eventually we must crash back down to the bottom of the roller coaster, back to reality.  The higher we were the more stark the pain when we drop back down to the bottom.  As we seek happiness and fulfillment, we tend to get caught up in the thrills that satisfy just for a time.  After we pass the peak of this fleeting enjoyment, we encounter the crushing realization that we still haven’t found happiness that lasts.

In somber moments such as these, God is the only one who can truly comfort me.  As I cry myself to sleep, I beg Him to comfort me, to give me strength.  I don’t want to feel sorry for myself.  I know that I have it good, that many people in the world are facing struggles more real and dangerous than mine.  When I feel trapped in my pain, I turn to God, hoping He can pull me onto solid ground – trusting that He will if only I ask.

Life is fleeting.  We are not meant for this world of imperfection and sadness – maybe that’s why we never feel truly satisfied.  “Let not your hearts be troubled…”  Yes, but because of sin and the realities of life on Earth, our hearts will always be troubled.  Peace comes in the wisdom of knowing how to have a trusting, untroubled heart in the midst of a troubled world.  When I wonder why my life is such that it is, God gives me a gentle reminder, the glow of a spark becoming the fire of realization, that He purposely gave me what I have, and He purposely created me the way I am.  And He never makes mistakes.  I have a name.  I am a child of God.  I am here, where I am, who I am, for a reason.  Finding meaning and fulfillment, seeing the path set before us, makes life worth living.  I may not know exactly what my path is, but it’s not completely necessary to know.  I just need to trust God and believe that there’s something to offer, someone to serve, somewhere to go.

I’m a perfectionist, but my recent prayer has been words, I believe, straight from the mouth of God: “My beloved daughter, I wish to free you from the burden of perfectionism.  I want you to surrender.  To let go.  To know that I accept you and love you despite your imperfections.  You don’t have to prove yourself to Me.  Just let Me heal you.  Let Me free you.”

Gradually I am realizing that life is not about doing whatever you want whenever you want, having the perfect family and body and job and relationships, or being happy-go-lucky all the time.  Life is a series of challenges.  The path set before each of us is constantly evolving as we make our choices.  Life is about reaching out to the One who can truly listen to us and comfort us in our pain.  Life is about learning to value the perfection of the next world more than the desired perfection of this one.  Life is about looking beyond the tantalizing gifts of this world to the guaranteed gifts of the next.

We were never meant to base our lives on one fleeting thrill after another.  There is a greater purpose to our lives on Earth.  There is a higher calling.  There is a life of true, unending happiness prepared for us in the kingdom of God.  Excitement and fun times are not bad, but it is only by basing our lives in the stability of God’s love and righteousness that we will find true happiness, true peace, in the midst of a sometimes painful and lonely reality.  I ask God to hold me and to comfort me, and He does.  And I find I can raise my head, my expectations, my hopes, and survive.

Let us pray: God, give us strength.  Let us see the rays of hope you send to us in this world – a baby’s smile, a moment of laughter shared with a beloved friend, the warmth of sunshine, the joy of inspiring or being inspired, the realization that all things work for those who love You.  Let the beauty of hopeful reminders sustain us until we see Your face.


Swim Against the Tide!

pope-installation-newA few weeks ago at our May i.d.916 meeting, I read a short quote from the homily below.  As I said before, Pope Francis is awesome and an incredible gift to the Church.  So, I thought I’d post the entire homily since it definitely applies to our lives and can serve as further inspiration for being an intentional disciple. 

Saint Peter’s Square
Fifth Sunday of Easter, 28 April 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dear Confirmands,

I would like to offer three short and simple thoughts for your reflection.

1. In the second reading, we listened to the beautiful vision of Saint John: new heavens and a new earth, and then the Holy City coming down from God. All is new, changed into good, beauty and truth; there are no more tears or mourning… This is the work of the Holy Spirit: he brings us the new things of God. He comes to us and makes all things new; he changes us. The Spirit changes us! And Saint John’s vision reminds us that all of us are journeying towards the heavenly Jerusalem, the ultimate newness which awaits us and all reality, the happy day when we will see the Lord’s face – that marvelous face, the most beautiful face of the Lord Jesus – and be with him for ever, in his love.

You see, the new things of God are not like the novelties of this world, all of which are temporary; they come and go, and we keep looking for more. The new things which God gives to our lives are lasting, not only in the future, when we will be with him, but today as well. God is even now making all things new; the Holy Spirit is truly transforming us, and through us he also wants to transform the world in which we live. Let us open the doors to the Spirit, let ourselves be guided by him, and allow God’s constant help to make us new men and women, inspired by the love of God which the Holy Spirit bestows on us! How beautiful it would be if each of you, every evening, could say: Today at school, at home, at work, guided by God, I showed a sign of love towards one of my friends, my parents, an older person! How beautiful!

2. A second thought. In the first reading Paul and Barnabas say that “we must undergo many trials if we are to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). The journey of the Church, and our own personal journeys as Christians, are not always easy; they meet with difficulties and trials. To follow the Lord, to let his Spirit transform the shadowy parts of our lives, our ungodly ways of acting, and cleanse us of our sins, is to set out on a path with many obstacles, both in the world around us but also within us, in the heart. But difficulties and trials are part of the path that leads to God’s glory, just as they were for Jesus, who was glorified on the cross; we will always encounter them in life! Do not be discouraged! We have the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome these trials!

3. And here I come to my last point. It is an invitation which I make to you, young confirmandi, and to all present. Remain steadfast in the journey of faith, with firm hope in the Lord. This is the secret of our journey! He gives us the courage to swim against the tide. Pay attention, my young friends: to go against the current; this is good for the heart, but we need courage to swim against the tide. Jesus gives us this courage! There are no difficulties, trials or misunderstandings to fear, provided we remain united to God as branches to the vine, provided we do not lose our friendship with him, provided we make ever more room for him in our lives. This is especially so whenever we feel poor, weak and sinful, because God grants strength to our weakness, riches to our poverty, conversion and forgiveness to our sinfulness. The Lord is so rich in mercy: every time, if we go to him, he forgives us. Let us trust in God’s work! With him we can do great things; he will give us the joy of being his disciples, his witnesses. Commit yourselves to great ideals, to the most important things. We Christians were not chosen by the Lord for little things; push onwards toward the highest principles. Stake your lives on noble ideals, my dear young people!

The new things of God, the trials of life, remaining steadfast in the Lord. Dear friends, let us open wide the door of our lives to the new things of God which the Holy Spirit gives us. May he transform us, confirm us in our trials, strengthen our union with the Lord, our steadfastness in him: this is a true joy! So may it be.

We have seen the Lord

Mexico Mission Team

Normally the title of this post would be Mission Report: Mexico. However, it seemed fitting that the theme for the week act as the title. On the Tuesday after Easter, Jim ‘Butch’ Murphy and I took a group of 14 high school students from Father Gabriel Richard High School to Mexico City. The mission team was rounded out by 5 additional parents and teachers. The overall purpose of the trip involved serving the poor people living in the garbage dumps outside the city, ministering to a parish outside the city, visiting an orphanage, and providing a first time mission experience for the students. Additionally, the action of spending their spring break on mission allowed God to work in their lives without the distractions of our normal daily lives. Even while writing this I recognize that it will fall woefully short of communicating the amazing good work the Lord accomplished through the team and our friends in Mexico. Additionally, this post inadequately describes the intense sense of God’s presence and the dramatic revelation of Jesus in all that we did. With that in mind, I would like to share two short stories that encapsulate my experience of the serving Christ in Mexico.

1) We Have Seen the Lord!

At the beginning of the week, in our first morning prayer, I challenged the students to eagerly look for Jesus and be open to the different ways that He would reveal Himself to us. We discussed that we could see Jesus in the faces of the people, in the smiles of the children, or the eyes of the sick. We left the prayer time with a challenge to anticipate an encounter with Christ and a genuine desire to see Jesus. After spending the day with the people of the Neza garbage dump, distributing food, providing medical care, and playing with the kids, we returned to the hotel and spent some time debriefing about the day. As I listened to the students excitedly report on their real and unique experiences with Jesus, I was reminded of the Apostles when they encountered the risen Christ. The Apostles were surprised, confused, excited, and overwhelmed when Jesus revealed Himself and these very same emotions were verbalized by the students. They couldn’t believe how profoundly real the face of Christ appeared behind the dirty faces of the children. They couldn’t fully understand their deep love for these people whom they had just met and by our worldly standards offered nothing of value to us. Overall, each student confidently proclaimed that Jesus was with them and He had shown Himself to them throughout the day. There was no doubt that we had seen the Lord!

2) The Multiplication of Vitamins!

After a few days of operating the medical clinic, it became clear to our medical team that we were running out of some of our essential medicines. After a thorough inventory, we realized we were out of adult vitamins and almost out of children’s vitamins. Vitamins are severely lacking in many of the people’s diet and both our nurse Kimm Sarosi, and Dr. Kirsten Kreiger were upset that our supply was depleted. The next day we traveled to a parish 3 hours outside the city to spend the day with the people there. When we arrived we were pleasantly surprised to the see the number of people who had come both to participate in a parish-wide retreat day and to receive the food, medicine, and clothing that we had brought. The medical clinic opened and Kimm began distributing the medicine and the remainder of the vitamins. Very quickly, she determined that the vitamins were gone but she decided to reach into one more drawer to check. As she felt inside the drawer she encountered a plastic bag with more vitamins! However, this bag quickly disappeared and she repeated her faithful search in the drawer. Once again, to her utter surprise, another bag of vitamins materialized. This process repeated itself for the rest of the day until the medical clinic was closed. Everyone who needed vitamins received them! In the Gospels, Jesus multiplied bread and fish and now we believe that He has multiplied vitamins!

Overall, the week was grace-filled, crazy, fun, stressful, peaceful, tiring, enlivening, and really awesome. It’s a trip we will take again and if it’s something you would like to participate in, please contact us at intentionaldisciples916@gmail.com. Let’s continue to pray for our families in Mexico. I look forward to the day when I can see them again.

¡Dios te bendiga!