Today, my student caught me off-guard as she comes into my office, stands in front of me, and says, “Ms. Catalan, can we talk about something?” I say, “Sure, of course! Aren’t you in class right now?” “Yes,” she answered, “but it’s for class, so my teacher said it was OK.” I asked her what she needed help with and she replied, “I need to process our L’Arche trip for my project.” Here we go!!
The topic: Grace. Wow – not an easy topic, but in some ways, not a difficult topic either – rather, a topic that causes pause, reflection, and contemplation when explored deeply.
In that moment, we reminisced about the trip, shared highlights and unpacked them a bit more. Why does that moment stick out to you? What did you learn in that moment? What is challenging about what you encountered? How will you allowthat experience to affect your future interactions with others or affect the way you view the world? A couple of kleenex later, the connections started to be made between the dots, and shortly after, she came back to ask follow-up questions.
Some of us will never be able to go inwards and reflect on deeply moving encounters and experiences. For high school students to take this upon themselves and acknowledge the need to process experiences…wow – I am moved. I am grateful that my workplace cares about our students enough and so values the education found in immersion trips, that these trips are ingrained within our school’s values. I am grateful that I can talk faith topics and social justice topics with students, and these conversations are encouraged. I am also grateful to be a part of immersion trip experiences that I am confident will stay with my students and perhaps shape them in amazing ways for the rest of their lives. That in itself is pure gift!
When placed in the right company, my adrenaline will rush, my excitement level will increase, and I am ready to get to work! That’s exactly what happened tonight, as our Global Solidarity Team discussed our upcoming Ethical Trade Workshop that will launch the Ethical Trade initiative in the Diocese. Catholic Relief Services has recently shifted their “Fair Trade” component to “Ethical Trade” and our Ethical Trade Ambassadors are ready to showcase this in a month. I’m so excited about it!
Rather than simply focusing on how to determine what is considered “ethical trade,” or “fair trade,” this Workshop will focus on what it means to be in right relationship with others, and how this is directly related to our decisions as consumers. What is the connection between us and the earth? How can we be in right relationship with others, while being conscious of our choices in this world?
I saw God today in the energy and enthusiasm in the room for these things that are so important. In a culture that is always seeking the most recent updated product, seeking the most flashiest, coolest, most cutting edge product(s), learning about ethical trade has drastically changed the way I view things.
In this Lenten season, I am brought back to reflect on my needs vs. wants. I am brought back to think about the very hands that make the items I wear. While I don’t think it is prudent of me to dispose of all of my clothes which are not ethically made (probably an upwards of 90%+ of the items I own), I can certainly limit the amount of purchases I make, especially if it is not essential.
I am a work in progress, aren’t we all?! Learning more about ethical trade is so interesting to me, and I am looking forward to hosting an awesome workshop for our Diocese. More to come!
Henri Nouwen writes in The Inner Voice of Love (1996):
“Your unique presence in your community is the way God wants you to be present to others. Different people have different ways of being present. You have to know and claim your way. That is why discernment is so important. Once you have an inner knowledge of your true vocation, you have a point of orientation. That will help you decide what to do and what to let go of, what to say and what to remain silent about, when to go out and when to stay home, who to be with and who to avoid.
When you get exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed, or run down, your body is saying that you are doing things that are none of your business. God does not require of you what is beyond your ability, what leads you away from God, or what makes you depressed or sad. God wants you to live for others and to live that presence well. Doing so might include suffering, fatigue, and even moments of great physical or emotional pain, but none of this must ever pull you away from your deepest self and God.” (p.67)
Prayers for strength, comfort, wisdom, and guidanceresonated in the small room we were all cramped in tonight. I was surrounded by ten beautiful souls who shared with me their names, “roses” and “thorns” from the past week- others simply passed.
The woman left her water jug after her encounter with Jesus. What is your water jug that you want to leave behind? The woman had an encounter with Jesus – one that was powerful enough for her to leave her water jug. Have you had an encounter with Jesus? What was that like for you?
Women shared stories about their powerful experiences during prayer, during moments of temptation, during dark, dark moments, and yet regardless of how they reacted to that moment, knew that it was the voice of God leading them towards hope, calm, peace.
We concluded our time together with our prayer intentions. Tears aflowing, Lord, Hear our Prayer bouncing off the walls…God was present.
One of the women prayed that she would have an encounter with Jesus – one that moves her enough to know and recognize that it is the voice of God and Christ working in that moment. The bold prayers that I hear in that space during my visits are unlike any other small group or prayer gathering that I have ever been a part of. It is a gift for me to be invited into this space and I would not want to spend my Monday evenings any other way!
Long time coming…and today was the Diocesan Confirmation Conference!!
Over 900 teens were included among over 1100 attendees, and the Holy Spirit was indeed present! My role consisted primarily of behind the scenes (arrive at 6:30am to setup!), planning, organization, and programming with the team of 8 who helped organize the Conference, and it was a treat to be a part of this blessed day. And I saw many of my students there!
Been planning since November, it finally happened, and it was all worth it. Confirmation is my favorite sacrament thus far, so my adrenaline was pumping, my spirit was on fire, and joy was all around me, amidst the exhaustion from a long, busy day!