Called To Give Our Talent

Today is the Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the First Reading, we hear this descriptive vision that St. John experienced Heaven. He writes about these visions in detail as the Holy Spirit speaks through him for the Book of Revelation.

Embarrassingly, I read the First Reading from Revelation multiple times. I shouldn’t even be embarrassed because this book of Scripture is CRAZY! You’ll probably have to reread it too! No matter how strange or drastic these visions are, it shows us that Heaven is even grander than our childhood dreams and imaginations. Heaven is more than cotton candy clouds and all the ice cream you could have ever imagined. I had a pretty serious appetite as a child, but c’mon who doesn’t like cotton candy and ice cream?

St. John expresses the moment as being caught up in the Spirit as he encounters a beaming throne. Lights and thunder are caught up in this place, torches burn, crystals flicker. He describes a new creature present in his sight. A creature with five eyes in the front and back, which looks like a half man-half animal monster. They all have wings and sing around the throne praising, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty!”

I love giving students scripture verses like this. It’s always comical to me as they discover the fact that angels, do not look like regular humans with wings. It’s a misconception in our Christian culture that man becomes an “angel” when he dies. This is a common mistake due to the fact that saying someone is in Heaven as an angel can be a more comforting response for those who are grieving. I find it entertaining to give them a list of Scripture verses that show different situations with angels. Almost all encounters in the Bible that include human beings and angels usually start with fear. The humans are almost ALWAYS terrified. The angel is either begging them not to be scared or the story already states that they are fearful. Automatically we realize, these angels must not look too pleasant. They must look different than cartoons and movies we are used to.

Angels are completely different creatures than humans and animals.  Pure souls which include intellect and will, just like humans. They cannot die and they cannot recreate. Their duty is to be messengers of God! St. John describes them in detail. We know that they are giving glory and honor to God who sits on the throne. They praise Him for Who He is the Creator of all creation, Goodness, Beauty, and Truth.

As I go on to read and reflect on the Gospel of this day, I was a bit confused with the pairing. Really? The Parable of Talents? I was not expecting that to come after this letter from John. If you pay close attention, Luke starts this Gospel with the understanding that people at this moment “thought that the Kingdom of God would appear there immediately.” I love that, they thought it was going to be immediate! Of course, if I was in the presence of Christ Himself, I may have thought that too. From this thought of the people, Jesus starts to tell them a parable. He specifically tells the story of the Parable of Talents, a master gives his servants a different amount of talents, which were equivalent to money back then. He goes away for a while and comes back to find that the first and second servants have duplicated or increased their talents during his absence. The third servant had nothing new to give, but the old coin back. He was scared to lose it, scared to take the risk. He was condemned by his master.

What does this story mean? Well, God wants us to use our talents, maybe that means financially or giftedness. Maybe it means that he wants us to strive in our efforts to give to others and love the people around us. Maybe he just doesn’t want us to waste what He has given. He doesn’t want His children to be lazy or doubting their abilities.

What an amazing Father… He believes He’s given us more than enough for what we are to do. He has given us blessings, gifts, and the talent to start our journeys. Coincidentally, my 8th-grade class has been given a Grant Challenge. Thanks to Ohio Catholic Credit Union, the students were given five hundred dollars- yes, the class was silent as the man from OHCU pulled out the stacks of money. They were quieter than I expected, maybe they were excited or maybe they were scared. I’m not sure, but the money was given as an initiative. This is a project for my oldest class to embark on their own parable of talents. They’re given this amount of talent (500 dollars worth) and Dean from OCCU will return. He will return to ask what they have done with the money and how they have created it into more using our God-given talents. Unsurprisingly, this took a lot of planning and class discussions. Finally, we decided to host a basketball tournament in hopes of raising money for a nonprofit called Kids of Cleveland. There will be nachos, Gatorade, and basketball teams from 3-8th grade. We’re allowing students to pie their teachers in the face for this great cause. Don’t worry, I suggested it because what kid doesn’t want to spend their piggy bank money on that! I see this Parable of Talents as an exciting journey. A journey of our lives. It starts at the beginning of when we are children to when we’re grown adults. Throughout our lives, we come to realize our true gifts. If you read that statement and thought, “Psh, I have no gifts.” Sorry friend, but you’re wrong and you need to ask God to help you see them. Look deeper, give yourself credit for that good parts that make you YOU.  Look at yourself now in a time of reflection for this parable…

What are your true talents? Have you been using them to serve yourself or to serve God? I hope we all want to serve God and Jesus teaches us here that Heaven is no easy-peasy place to get into! Heaven is a major GIFT. We do not expect gifts or need them, but we should be grateful and use them! What is one of your talents that you don’t give yourself credit for? Please, my friend, use this gift today in some way, shape or form. You are talented in many ways because you are created in His image and likeness. You have much to offer this world, be not afraid to use your talents. That’s the only way we can get into those pearly gorgeous gates of Heaven- and that’s the goal people! That’s the goal!

Briana is a Catholic Doctrine teacher at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel school in Cleveland, OH. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH and is excited to use these skills to bring her students closer to Christ and His Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese

Have Pity On Me!

I don’t know about all of you, but sometimes I feel pretty blind… No, I don’t mean blind in the sense that I should call up my optometrist for a check-up, but in the sense that life is moving fast and I feel as though I’m missing it. I feel blind to the present moment due to the chaos that surrounds it. The workload, chores, obligations, and dreams fill my mind. You may roll your eyes and think, “Great another reflection on the present moment- like we haven’t heard that before.”

To some extent, I want to roll my eyes and state that same comment to myself. I get so exhausted from this constant challenge. The challenge to soak in every moment of the beautiful gift of life that passes. It passes by the second, minute, hour, days, and years. Before we know it, we’re done studying high school or finishing our first real job. For some of you, it means babies and grandbabies flash before your eyes. This wild thing called “life” you may wish you could slow down.

“The blind man was sitting by the roadside begging.” I don’t know why I got emotional when I read this line from the Scripture readings from today. Perhaps its the fact that I imagine this tiny, weary old man put all the effort and energy he has left, begging in the unknown. He begs in the unknown darkness because he cannot see.  He does not have the sense of sight, yet he begs. He begs to be noticed. He begs to be seen. He begs for food and shelter. He begs for love.

No one would ever guess that I feel so intimately the same as that homeless, dirty, weary old man… but I do. I feel tapped out. I feel down on the ground. I feel as though I am brought to my knees, begging. I can just imagine what it would be like for the blind man, hearing a rushing crowd and quickly asking what is happening around me.

“Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”

In a moment, the weary blind old man uses all the strength he has left. At the sound of Jesus’ name, he knows. He knows that in this moment of blindness, he must act. He screams at the top of his lungs. He screams not in fear or anger, but in a cry of begging hope.

“Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”

I can’t explain the way I deeply feel this beggar’s cry. I feel as though our voices are one. I cry with him in the exact bold, obnoxious, screaming at the top of my lungs type of way! I continue to do so with him as the crowd around rebukes his cry. I imagine how the people pushed him and walked in front of him, believing they’re better than him. This doesn’t stop him in his commitment to cry out to Jesus. He’s sticking it through, he’s not backing down. He wants the Lord to hear him and see him.

Finally, He comes and he speaks with us. He comes near to those who are hurting. He comes near to the ones on the outskirts, those rejected and rebuked by others. This moment is such a testament to those who are put down by others or care about others opinions.

In this case of scripture, I just adore this blind man… in case you didn’t already get that. He literally does not care about what others think of him, which can be hard to do. He doesn’t care and lets their comments and rebuking annoyance roll off him easily. He gives no time for second thoughts or doubts in his cry out to Jesus. He doesn’t take a moment to think he should stop once they asked him to. Some may think this blind man was being rude, but I think he’s being remarkably real. An authentic moment of dependence, contrition, and worth. This man is no less worthy than those who can physically see Jesus pass by the crowd. This man is no less worthy than those who shushed him down and told him to shut up.

How often do I let what others think of me affect the vigor and glory of my cry, “Jesus, Son of David have pity on me!” Let’s make that our prayer today as we seek to follow the example of this wonderfully holy, humble old, formerly blind, and miraculously cured old man.  May Jesus come and heal the blindness of our hearts as we continue to cry out to him without hesitation or fear.

Briana is a Catholic Doctrine teacher at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel school in Cleveland, OH. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH and is excited to use these skills to bring her students closer to Christ and His Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese

What Is Truly Important?

I have recently taken on a few side jobs. Yes, on top of my full-time teaching position. I have done so as a means of stability. Emergencies and bills seem to continue to pile up and overwhelm me. As I love to nanny after teaching hours, I also found another business I love. It’s a network marketing company called Arbonne. I dived into this business for security, but as I attended events, I noticed how established and successful this business is. Many women are attracted by the grand prize of a new Mercedes car and cash bonuses. When they reach a certain level, they can receive a variety of gifts! This is a big deal and motivating for many people.

As I read Today’s Readings, I heard the word of the Lord speak to me and say, “Beloved, I work in you. I work in you through your desires and duties. Strive in your labor for salvation with fear and trembling. Carry your cross without grumbling and questioning. For if you cannot renounce all your material possession to follow me, you cannot be my disciple.”

The First Reading and the Gospel passage spoke this summary of God’s Word to me. My friends, God is not telling us to be living life in fear and shaking. He is articulating to us the gravity of our life’s endeavor, to love and serve Him. We must have our eyes upward. Yes, striving to do well in your work for gracious rewards is nice, but it is not the end all be all. Over and over again, I ask my students in an examination of conscience if they love their toys, video games, makeup, and slime more than they love God?! If you don’t know what slime is, consider yourself lucky…

In all our endeavors of our adult lives, we need our hearts to be grounded in the foundation of what is truly important. In your job right now; in all your side hustles and possible investments, what is your goal? What are you holding as truly important? Is it a luxurious retirement or a new high tech gadget? Depending on how you spend your money and what your intentions are, it is in this deep part of our hearts that we learn to see. We see whether or not we’d be able to leave our possessions to follow Christ. We see whether or not we’d cling to the materials we’ve possessed. We see whether or not we have placed those things above Christ in our hearts.

If you’re striving in the life of ministry and pay, as I am, be assured of my prayers as we work for His Kingdom. If you’re finding new ways or old ways to bring in extra income, know that if your purpose is out of safety and responsibility, you have your eyes on Heaven. Our vocations require prudence and labor. If your heart is more focused on the desire for “things”, let’s redirect it. Ask yourself, “What is important for my heart, mind, and soul? What is important for the wellbeing of my spouse and children? How does God call me into responsibility and prudence?” These questions help us to gain clarity of our heart’s desires. Things are not bad, but we need to make sure they are not at the top of the list. Loving and serving Him should always come first. If we cannot genuinely leave our possessions to take up our crosses and follow Him than something must change.

Briana is a Catholic Doctrine teacher at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel school in Cleveland, OH. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH and is excited to use these skills to bring her students closer to Christ and His Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese

Children Of Light

Within this past year, I have been diagnosed with narcolepsy & cataplexy. If you’re familiar with these diseases, you know that it is a large cross to carry. I’m still trying to figure out how to carry it and it looks pretty awkward. For those of you who do not know, narcolepsy and cataplexy have a variety of symptoms. Narcolepsy symptoms include; excessive daytime sleepiness, hallucinations, sleep paralysis, and disrupted night’s sleep. Cataplexy is a separate symptom of narcolepsy; people may have narcolepsy with or without cataplexy. Cataplexy is when a person experiences an intense emotion (laughter, anger, shock) and the muscles in their body give out. Their body is going into REM, but their mind is still conscious and aware, they just do not have control and become paralyzed at that moment. It can last for a few seconds up to a few minutes.

You might be thinking, okay this is not a medical blog, what is your point? My point is that sometimes we have certain parts of us or certain crosses we must carry for life. Some of us can let those crosses define us and become our identity.

I love sharing about my new cross and all the ways it is changing my future. I try to look at it positively and as a means of sanctification. Some may say that I’m a “narcoleptic”. Yes, technically that is true, but I’m much more than that.

In Today’s Readings, God has a large portion of truth to proclaim to us today. He proclaims our true identity. My identity is being His dear child of light. Your identity is being His dear child of light. Everything else is just minor details. As God’s children, we must always protect our hearts and minds from all things that lead us away from our Father. The First Reading explains what impurity, greed, disobedience, and immortality cannot be a part of our light. There is no place for things of darkness anymore, He has saved us from the darkness and brought us into His light.

The Gospel today soothes my weary narcoleptic heart. Jesus doesn’t just tell us our identity as His children of light, He shows us and moves us into that light. The woman that has been crippled for eighteen years had probably identified herself by her disability. After so many years of physical pain and hurt, it would be difficult not to. Jesus sees His daughter of light. He calls out to her and frees her from her disability, He lays His hands on her and she is healed. He sees His child. He tends to His child. He proclaims our identity as His children of light. He did not look at her and identify her by her sickness, but by the core of who she is.

I’m not sure how you identify yourself. Maybe if someone asked you to describe your identity you’d list off qualities and roles in your life. You may start with your vocation, priest, mother, father, or single. You may go to the title of your position in ministry or work; pastor, youth minister, teacher, or student. You may have a cross of illness and say; diabetic, narcoleptic, addict, etc. Today’s Word reminds us that these are all just details. We must remember who we are, His beloved children of light. Live in the light, live in the foundation of this relationship of love with your perfect Father. He cares, protects, and guides His children always. Be at peace, we are no longer in darkness. My friends, we are now in the light. Let’s live out our identity. Let us live as children of light.

Briana is a Catholic Doctrine teacher at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel school in Cleveland, OH. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH and is excited to use these skills to bring her students closer to Christ and His Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese

Cultivating A Life In The Truth Of Love

Standing in front of a class of students for 8 hours a day is one big test of humility it seems. I really did believe I was good in that department. I didn’t need any more circumstances to grow in that virtue, but of course, God usually has different plans. When explaining St. Paul’s teaching of the Church as One Body, I decided to do a really fun project. I had each student draw themselves on gingerbread men cutouts. I was very excited for how I envisioned this project to look at completion. I had them write their name and their greatest talent somewhere on their masterpiece. The class period is over and every student cut out their mini- person. The masterpiece I envisioned was to place each of these little cutouts together to form a big puzzle. The cutouts were specifically passed on to me with that purpose from another teacher… Sadly, I laid out each piece and shook my head.  There was no way this was going to work. No pieces fit together AT ALL. Trust me, I tried a variety of ways.

In a tiny moment of humility, which in teaching can also be referred to as humiliation, I decided to put their mini people together “holding hands”. In the hallway outside the 3rd-grade class, we have our poster hanging with the title, “One Body & One Family”. Even though it did not go as planned, my students saw the purpose and the unity. The poster was covered with words that describe a relationship of one body and family. They wrote words such as; respectful, loving, fair, trustworthy, honest, hardworking, accepting, and faithful. It wasn’t what I envisioned, but it definitely was beautiful.

Today’s First Reading reminds us of the call to build up this Body. The Body of Christ is not one to just be in and not do anything. Being baptized sons and daughters of the King requires us to dive deep. This reading tells us that we all have different roles, different vocations and gifts that we must use to build up His Body. It goes on to say that we should not be tossed by the waves. We should not be blown and swept away by the wind that arises, but “rather living the truth in love”. Living the truth in LOVE! This is our call. This is our vocation no matter what part we play in the Body of Christ. Living a life that is proclaiming His truth in love.

Whether you feel you are the heart, the mind, the strength or the arms, or sight of the eyes, whichever part your gift lies must be rooted in love. When we commit ourselves to living this life of love, “the proper functioning of each part, brings about the Body’s growth and builds itself up in love.”

In the Gospel today, Jesus gives another example for us to receive. He compares the working of the Body of Christ to the cultivation of a fig tree planted in an orchard. When it is not bearing fruit, the ground must be cultivated and fertilized so that it may bear fruit.

I look at my “masterpiece” in the hallway of our One Body and One Family. In it, I see my student’s cultivation and building of His Kingdom. Each talent and characteristic they are striving for requires much work. This is the work of our hearts and soul, which lay the cultivated and ready soil for us to bear fruit. What is a talent you have that you overlook? What is one characteristic of a family that you may need to work on? Let’s cultivate our soil, gloves on or off. Let’s be rooted in good soil, dive deep into that water so that we do not stay close to the shore. The Church, the Body of Christ, grows when we commit to cultivating our lives in living out the truth of love.

Briana is a Catholic Doctrine teacher at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel school in Cleveland, OH. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH and is excited to use these skills to bring her students closer to Christ and His Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese

Knowing Vs. Inviting

Kyra, my new student in 6th grade has never even heard about Jesus. We’re in the middle of the first quarter, Catholic Doctrine curriculum for a 6th-grade level (assuming all others have built a foundational understanding from years past in a Catholic grade school). Seeing her facial reactions the information I provided on Salvation History was a bit priceless. When you evangelize and spread the Good News to someone who has never heard it before, that is a heck of an experience. For a moment I had to stop and think to myself, wow this probably does sound super crazy.

Growing up in the Catholic faith or a Christian home makes some of our core beliefs less shocking than those who have not. Just think about it, we believe in only one God- in 3 Divine Persons; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All are unique persons with different characteristics and roles, yet all are One. When One acts- the whole Trinity acts. When you receive One Person of the Trinity, you are receiving the grace of the whole Trinity. Summarizing Salvation History and showing her the separation or the Old and New Testament was definitely new for her. The moment her eyes almost popped out of their sockets was when I told her what God did for us. We, as His created people, kept breaking covenants (promises) with God. He wanted to be in a relationship with us and bring us back to Him after sin came into the picture. For the ENTIRE Old Testament, this continues to happen! Finally, He sends His only Son, Jesus Christ to become human. Literally, the creating, all-powerful, everlasting GOD chooses to take on our human flesh! He wants to talk to us face to face, just like we’d rather talk to our best friend in person than through letters and voicemails of phone tag.

With this big recap of our entire faith, Kyra brought up some pretty good questions. Throughout these questions and the input of her classmates, I realized a big misconception my students (probably many people) have. They said, “Ms. C if God knows EVERYTHING about me and every moment of my life, why do I have to tell Him things that He already knows?” Well, just like I could see my friend got engaged on social media, I’d rather have her tell me the story face to face than find out from someone/ someplace else. It’s the same for God-He knows and can see every aspect of our hearts and lives, but He wants us to share it with Him.

“BUT MS. C, If God KNOWS everything about our lives and everything I’m going to DO tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that… Then He knows everything I’m going to do or not do. He planned my sins and decisions so that’s not my problem!” Yes, this was a statement, which brings me to our Responsorial Reading from today.  Within this Scripture passage, the Word of God states that He knows us. He knows where we are currently sitting or standing as we read this email. He knows where we will stand in line at the grocery store, and where our thoughts will be as we wait in traffic. He knows sometimes we try to hide, but there is no place He cannot see. We know that He is with us in every moment, that he created our very being before we were even born. He makes us this way and He walks with us every day.

When I read this Psalm, I understand that He knows me, created me, and walks with me. Even though He is all knowing, it doesn’t take away our free will (which I’m sure most of us already know, but 6th grade had to be reminded). Even though He is all knowing- He still needs our invitation. There is a big difference between knowing about something and experiencing it with someone. Our Creator created us so lovingly that in our free will we must invite Him in. He can know all about our lives, but He will not force Himself upon us.  He waits for you to receive Him always.

Slowly read the Psalm again once more. I want you to ask yourself, “Do I invite God to these places? How can I invite Him into my lunch hour? How can I invite Him into the time of car to car traffic? God, do I try to hide from you? Why am I hiding? God, what in my heart and life do you desire to be invited into?” Let’s intentionally invite our King into this day, receiving Him with hearts wide open.

Briana is a Catholic Doctrine teacher at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel school in Cleveland, OH. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH and is excited to use these skills to bring her students closer to Christ and His Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese


Growing up in an Italian family, there are certain phrases or loud words of advice I should say, that are engraved in my mind. Of course, if I’m telling you that I’m Italian, I have to let you know the percentage- 100%. Hopefully, now you believe how credible of a story this is…

If I try to think back to these moments of advice, I can vividly see my grandfather sitting at the head of the kitchen table. Before I went to high school, before I went to college, and before I started my first job he gave me “advice”. The words were said in his thick Italian accent, “Don’t trust nobody.” Over and over again at different milestones, he would repeat those words to me. I usually would feel the need to roll my eyes or nod in agreement, depending on my mood.

As a teenager, when I heard these words I automatically thought, “Yes Gramps. You are so right. Everyone is sketchy and out for themselves. It’s a hard bad world.” Of course, this advice did reign true for most dating relationships for a teenage girl, but hearing this advice always brought questions. “Why can’t we trust people? How do we earn someone’s trust? Am I trustworthy? Will I ever be able to trust someone completely?”.

In today’s readings, there is a lot provided to us as a Church. There are many different topics I could reflect on, but as usual, God grips my heart to one word and there I rest. In the Responsorial Psalm, the hymn proclaims, “The decree of the LORD is trustworthy”. And BOOM. Right at that word is where my heart stops. It stops in demand and it stops there in rest.

Recently, I’ve been having a hard time in my life with trust. Not following my Grandpa’s advice, there are a lot of people I have put trust in. Not because they earned it, but because of their title, religious position, or the expectation I had in them. There is a lot of trust that has been lost. We should all know by now that there is no Cardinal rank, Bishop’s staff, or Sister’s veil that qualifies trust; which is disheartening to say and sadly true. My heart doesn’t always sit well with my Grandfather’s advice. I know deep down that this is not the way God intended us to be; on guard, self-protecting, and untrustworthy. This is not what God’s plan was! This is not the way He intended our relationships to be.

Jesus challenges us in the Gospel today. I believe this challenge He presents shouts to those who cannot trust themselves. He challenges us to rid ourselves of anything that makes us sin! When I hear His words, I want to yell, “I’M SORRY WHAT JESUS? YOU WANT ME TO CUT OFF MY HAND AND FOOT, AND THEN PLUCK OUT MY EYEBALL?! That seems extreme!”. I’m sure His disciples were thinking the same thing. Even though these words are harsh and very shocking to us, they allow us to draw back into the question of trust.

Who can I trust is not leading me to sin? What vices do I have that do not build self-trust? What moments of temptations do I need to remove from my everyday life? Trusting God, yourself, and others takes serious work. It is a job of development, foundation, and authenticity. As I mentioned before, I’m from a loud Italian family.  Which means I am a loud Italian, but one who does not shy away from speaking the truth. Sometimes trusting ourselves in our own lives looks like standing up for what is right and speaking the truth, even if your voice shakes.

In circumstances that have lost much trust in my life, I repeat the Word I can trust. “The decree of the LORD is trustworthy.” If the only One I have in my life that I can state complete trust in is Christ than I have more than I’ll ever need. I want to remind you this day to be a saint, to trust like our Father Abraham, to trust like Our Mother of Mercy, to follow the examples of thousands before us. Please know that you are only in need of trusting God, now and forever.  Amen.

Briana is a Catholic Doctrine teacher at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel school in Cleveland, OH. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH and is excited to use these skills to bring her students closer to Christ and His Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese

Old Fulfilled In The New

I’m almost 100% positive that every single one of my 6th-grade students can hear my voice when they dream shouting in excitement, “THE OLD IS FULFILLED IN THE NEW AND THE NEW IS HIDDEN IN THE OLD!” I’m confident that they would all call that dream a nightmare. I get excited about this almost every day in my 6th-grade class as we make our way through the Old Testament. When this happens, I look out to find a class filled with tweens rolling their eyes or giggling at me. Actually, scratch that. They don’t giggle- they laugh out loud. My students tend to be blunt in most circumstances and if they want to laugh at you, don’t worry they won’t hold back.

Those reactions may seem a little depressing to you and I can agree on a certain level, but there is a moment that makes it worth it. There is a moment where I’ll stop and pause as we go over stories from the Old Testament and ask, “What does this remind you of?”. Recently, they learned about Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. We watched a video illustrating how Abraham led Isaac up to Moriah to sacrifice him. Isaac held the wood of the sacrifice upon his back as he traveled up the mountain. I paused the video. I asked the question… Mouths dropped, eyes widened- and hands shot up. “What does this remind you of?”. These moments are so necessary for understanding our faith. These moments of discovering the unity of the Old and New Testament.

In today’s Mass Readings we hear from the book of Wisdom and the Gospel of Mark. The Book of Wisdom forcefully tells us what they thought would happen to the Son of God. They believed God will defend and deliver him from his enemies, because of this they wanted to put the Son of God to test and to death. They tested God in “taking care” of him. They planned to torture him and condemn him believing that this will prove God’s gentleness and patience. If I were to pretend you were my 6th-grade reader, I’d stop and ask you the question. What does this remind you of? Why? How? I hope at this moment some wide eyes and jaw-dropping moments are happening. Or maybe you are already past that 6th-grade Catholic doctrine level. This passage reminds us of those who betrayed Jesus, those who sentenced Him to death. It reminds us of those who executed the Son of God and tested God to save Himself and come down from the cross.

If we go to read Matthew’s Gospel today, we hear Jesus’ words of utter honesty and seriousness. This was a time He brought His disciples near to Him on their journey.  He tells them the truth of what is to come. The Son of Man will be handed over and killed. He will be crucified, but He will rise. I love how straight to the point Christ always is, He doesn’t leave room for us to over analyze Him.  He makes Himself clear in the words He states, but sometimes the disciples did not understand and were afraid to ask questions. I guess Jesus forgot to tell them that, “There is no such thing as a stupid question!”. (Just kidding!)

When I look at the readings for today, my heart is drawn to the Responsorial Psalm. As fun as it is to scream and shout about the unity of the Old and New Testament to my students, sometimes I need to come into my hidden oasis with God. A place of not being a teacher, catechist, or nanny. A place where I am just His and He is mine. I hear the One Body of Christ, proclaiming in song, “The Lord upholds my life”. His mighty defense is my cause, my helper, my sustainer, my life. Freely we sacrifice offerings, freely you save me oh God. Behold, this is our God.

We believe in a God who is a Man of His word. One who fulfills His promise unto the end. He never goes back. He never changes his mind. How often do we need to be reminded that this infinite God has made all things good for those who love Him?  From the Old Testaments stories of Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark, Abraham and Sarah. Over and over He fulfills the Old Testament through the ultimate revelation- the ultimate sacrifice: His Son Jesus Christ. He will forever uphold your life. He will forever be your helper. He will forever sustain you, defend you, and love you. This God of unity, integrity, and surrender.

Jesus, be not far from us.  Guide us and protect us always. And Jesus please teach us. Teach us how to be more like you today. Teach us how to be men and women of our words. Teach us true gentleness, patience, and integrity.

We ask this in Jesus’ name,


Briana is a Catholic Doctrine teacher at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel school in Cleveland, OH. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH and is excited to use these skills to bring her students closer to Christ and His Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese

Fully Known, Fully Loved

“O LORD, you have probed me and you know me.”

Today’s readings bring a wave of peace, acceptance, and intimacy over me. My mind wanders to all the ways our world tries to hide.  We sometimes put on masks of confidence. We cover up our blemishes, we try to hide our failures. We feel the constant need to be perfect and sometimes we pretend that we are.  We are afraid to be truly seen and truly known.

Personally, it has taken a long time for me to feel comfortable in my own skin. At a young age, I struggled with an eating disorder. In high school, I would wake up at an ungodly hour to do my hair and makeup for the day. Fast forward to college, my roommates and best friends had to hide my makeup when I decided to give it up for Lent.  I’m constantly battling between being seen as I am or as I wish to be.

Throughout the years I have learned to be just as confident with a bare face as I am all done up.

I have learned to love my body and take care of it.

But sometimes, I still struggle to be seen. Not so much with physical appearance anymore, but more so spiritually. I get anxious to show God my bare heart. The heart that isn’t always pretty and glamorous.  The heart that aches and hurts. I worry that there’s too many blemishes, too much nonsense for Him to handle, the same old garbage on this heart again and again— just too much”.

The wave of beauty and affirmation that washes over me sings:

“O LORD, you have probed me and you know me; you know when I sit and when I stand; you understand my thoughts from afar… I give you thanks that I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are your works. See if my way is crooked, and lead me in the way of old.”

When I think of those who know me deeply, memories of best friends flash before my eyes. Times when you know someone so well that you can give them a look and they know exactly what you are thinking. I can recall times where I believed no one understood me.  Not one person could relate to me and I was isolated and alone.

How mind-blowing it is to recall the TRUTH that God sees me and He knows me. There is not one day or one second that I can be misunderstood, unseen, or ignored. He knows my every moment, my every thought and my every word. He has not made us bad or imperfect, but GOOD. He has made us  FEARFULLY and WONDERFULLY.

It takes courage to let the Lord love you. To see your bare heart no longer hidden or cover it up. It takes vulnerability. When this happens we can grow in love and intimacy with the Lord. Someone once told me intimacy sounds like “ into me see”. This is fitting because when you allow yourself to be seen- love builds.

If your heart is crooked today, do not fear.

He desires to lead you and make your path straight.

He sees you- He knows you.  He loves you.

Briana is a Catholic Doctrine teacher at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel school in Cleveland, OH. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH and is excited to use these skills to bring her students closer to Christ and His Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese

Take Courage, Have Hope

In Today’s Readings we hear the story of St. John the Baptist. Whenever I hear this story, I can’t help but imagine the gruesomeness of his beheading. I am not one that can handle the sight of blood, surgery, or wounds. AKA I am not and never will be called to any medical profession. Although I struggle to stomach those sights, I’ve realized that it is important to not flinch away. As faithful Catholics, we are being put under a microscope right now. Like John the Baptist, we are being asked for our heads. It’s completely normal in a time of trial, injustice, and serious sin to flinch away- to seriously look the other way out of fear.

How often do we do this? When we hear something tragic and horrible on the news, do we just turn off the tv or change the station? When someone shares with you their hardships, struggles, and sin, do you encounter them or turn away because it’s “too much to handle”. I’ll be blunt with you all. The injustices that have come to light in Christ’s Church today make it seriously hard to not flinch away, to not want to know details, and to look away due to the gruesomeness. But that is not the Gospel message. That is not what Christ would do.

In my fear of all things messy and dirty, my mind wanders to the face of one of the most beautiful women. A face full of wrinkles and compassion. The face of Mother Teresa comes to mind. When I was on a mission trip in Romania we entered the gypsy slums. A place of complete garbage, shacks, and children playing with trash. I remember the serious smell and how hard it was for me to breathe it in. I remember seeing these people in their town of debris and being told how many of them have lice and some have serious diseases.

At one point we were surrounded by a group of young girls. There was one smaller sister who was there and being picked on. She had to be around 4 or 5. years old. We were told not to touch anyone for our own health. I remember seeing this little girl get hit by her siblings and she started to cry. I walked over to the girls and using my body language, tried to tell them to stop hurting her. I clearly did not speak a word of Romanian. The little girl stretched out her arms to embrace me. In a split second I had a moment of fear- a moment of flinching away. But also a moment of grace. Mother Teresa’s face came to my mind and the thought of how many sick, dying,  and contagious people she had helped fearlessly. I automatically embraced this young girl. She cried in my arms as I held her tight and picked her up. I found out from the translator that her name was Esperanza, which means “Hope”.

I’m sharing this story with you because there are two things that are very needed in the faithful of the Church today. We are in dire need of following the example of St. John the Baptist. Following in his complete obedience to the Gospel and to his intimate relationship with Christ.  He is an example of heroic courage in facing one’s martyrdom. We are in need of the virtue of true COURAGE. The second virtue we need to cultivate is the virtue of HOPE. Esperanza embodied that to me. Wiping away her tears, while making the deliberate choice to not mind the strong stench I breathed as I embraced her. Rocking her in my arms as she slowly stopped crying, I made the choice to not care if I caught lice. I made the decision to not care that the nauseating smell would be stuck to my clothing and hair the rest of the day. I saw her and I loved her. Embracing others in the lowest of lows is what we are called to, especially today. We are called to respond to the needs of our Church, to be with those who are hurting and those who have been seriously horrifically wronged.  We are called to listen to them, hear them, and actively love them.
If we do not know these people personally, if we do not know how to handle the gruesomeness or the truth- we are called to pray in hope for their healing, for God’s justice and mercy, and for the future hope of our faithful people.

It is in the darkest and dirtiest places that we see the merciful face of Christ.  It is here that He does not flinch away, He encounters. He embraces His people in the bloodiest, most gruesome wounds and places.

It is going to take true courage and true hope to stay faithful to our relationships, our encounters, and our love for Christ and His Bride, the Church.

Take hope. Let’s love and listen to our hurting brothers and sisters. Let us not be ignorant or absent, but present in the Church’s need. Let us intentionally choose to not flinch away. Let us make the choice to pray for our leaders who have horrifically let us down. Let us pray for those who are hurting and in need of Christ’s healing and peace. Let us choose to encounter our brothers and sisters with true courage and true hope.

Briana is a Catholic Doctrine teacher at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel school in Cleveland, OH. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH and is excited to use these skills to bring her students closer to Christ and His Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese

Friends Don’t Let Friends Go To Hell

Accountability: Adjective

  1. (Of a person, organization, or institution) required or expected to justify actions or decisions; responsible.

  2. Explicable; understandable

Personally, I hate being called out. When those who are closest to me decide to tell me their thoughts or feelings on certain mistakes I’ve made, it’s uncomfortable. I am blessed to have many dear friends who know me well and who are close enough to be blunt with me.  It is helpful for me to be held accountable for things I’ve done or did not do.

At times, I have been the one calling others out as well. In those moments I have always tried to do so with gentleness and love.  Love is the main reason we call one another out! We are moved by love for the other person that we sometimes need to stop and say “Hey, that wasn’t a good idea” or “Do you really think this is the best decision for you?”

In high school I went to a youth group retreat and our group t-shirt read,

“Friends Don’t Let Friends Go To Hell”.

Yup, it said the word hell. And as a 16 year old I thought it was pretty cool to wear at a retreat. That quote became engraved into my heart throughout my life as I realized how honest it was. All the times I have been called out by my friends or family, and all the times I have called them out is due to love. To genuinely wanting Heaven for that person and wanting what is best for them.

I’ll be honest.  In today’s readings, I feel very called out by St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. St. Paul states to us that we should watch carefully how we live. He’s reminding us to not live in foolishness and ignorance.  He reminds us to not get drunk on wine and lies of debauchery, but to try to understand the will of the Lord. He reminds us to fill our hearts and our minds with the Spirit of God in a prayer of thanksgiving.

We are being held accountable to try. He tells us that we should be giving our absolute best to God.  We should always strive to understand God’s will for each of our lives, which cannot be done without prayer.  How often I need to be reminded, called out, and held accountable for something as simple as setting aside genuine time with Christ and putting in the real effort to try.

In the Gospel Reading, we hear the tender voice of Jesus. I swear every time Jesus calls me out in Scripture, it is done with such love and tenderness. He shares Good News with us, that He offers us the bread of life! He reminds us that we remain in Him and He remains in us when we receive the Eucharist. He shares that whoever receives this bread will live forever!

Looking at St. Paul’s words to us and Christ’s words in the Gospel, I feel a pull to the Eucharist. I feel called out to more time of prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

I don’t know where your heart is today. I don’t know how much effort you’ve put into trying in your relationship with Christ. I don’t know if you go to daily mass, have a weekly holy hour, or what your prayer life is like. I don’t know if you feel called out by these Scripture readings the way that I do. But I do know that each of us is called to give 100% effort in our choice to try today. That each of us should set more time aside for Christ today than we did yesterday. I hope we watch more carefully our words and our actions this day and remain in His Sacred Heart. Choosing to try today is making the choice of our daily conversion. Choosing Christ in this moment, in this day is a victory.

Let’s choose to give Him our hearts today.. Let’s choose Him and remain with Him today.


Briana is a Catholic Doctrine teacher at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel school in Cleveland, OH. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH and is excited to use these skills to bring her students closer to Christ and His Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese

The Comfort Of His Sacred Heart: Rest

Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew tells us the inner comfort of the heart of God. When I read Jesus’ words, “My yoke is easy, and my burden light”, I couldn’t help but chuckle.  Jesus’ words are in no way funny, but this Gospel passage always reminds me that when I was a child I did not understand it correctly. I thought Jesus was describing Himself as an egg! An egg you can scramble or enjoy over- easy.  No one ever explained to me the difference between “yoke” and “yolk”.


Although eggs are a great source of protein given to us by God, Jesus is talking about a “yoke”.  A yoke is defined by the Webster dictionary as, “a bar or frame that is attached to the heads or necks of two work animals (such as oxen) so that they can pull a plow or heavy load”.  Jesus gave these analogies to the Jewish people during this time because they automatically knew what he was referring to.  They could visualize this yoke as it meant work.  Yokes placed upon animals were heavy and burdensome.  It’s interesting that something that has to do so much with labor is used by Jesus to explain the rest He desires to give us.


First and foremost, Jesus tells us to come to Him. This requires an action of opening our hearts and to genuinely seek Him, to come into His presence. He wants to give all those who are overworked and overtired a time of rest. He wants us to stop from the crazy busy schedules and errands. He knows that we need rest. His yoke is not one of more work. A relationship with Him is not another errand or duty to mark off our checklists.  It is a relationship of love that comforts, restores, and rejuvenates.


This passage in its simplicity is a comfort to me.  Jesus speaks to us of rest and if you’re like me- we automatically desire to receive it. We’re tired. We want a break. We want some rest.  The heart of God is meek and humble. He has a heart that is not burdensome or destructive. His heart is a place of comfort, a place of rest.  His Sacred Heart wants you to come and rest with Him today. Snuggle up in His Sacred Heart today. He wants to give you His heart and His rest just as much as you want to receive it.

Briana is a Catholic Doctrine teacher at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel school in Cleveland, OH. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH and is excited to use these skills to bring her students closer to Christ and His Church. “My soul has been refined and I can raise my head like a flower after a storm.” -St. Therese