Faith, Freedom

Make America Pro-Life Again

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“Perhaps we are out of line with the rest of society, to which I say – Good. So were the abolitionists, so were the civil rights marchers, so were the martyrs in Rome, and the Jews in Egypt. Righteousness doesn’t have to be popular, it just has to be righteous.” -Ben Shapiro’s words from the 2019 March for Life

Hi friends! I’d like to share a little bit about my experience at this year’s March for Life with you, as well as some important topics that I feel need to be discussed in relation to this critical issue.

We attended this year’s March for Life with our church from New Jersey. We started our day with mass and a beautiful homily by our parish priest. He encouraged us to fight for a change in the law on the books, but to more importantly pray for a change of hearts.  After mass we began our trip to DC! Despite one of our buses breaking down on the way, we were able to make it to DC just in time for the march to begin! We joined in with over 650,000 others to march for the most fundamental right of all, the right to life. It’s amazing what a truly joyful march it is. When you’re fighting for what is beautiful and true, there really isn’t a need for nasty remarks or hateful behavior.

Granted, 61 million children murdered in their own mother’s wombs under the laws of the United States is certainly something to be angry about. As a nation, the blood of these children is on our hands, and any anger harbored over this matter is certainly righteous. However, we don’t allow ourselves to be defined by our frustration with the intrinsically evil, secular law that governs our land and destroys women and children every single day. Instead, we choose to define ourselves by our hope for the future, our faith in God’s power and goodness, and our love for every precious human life.

We had a beautiful day marching for the abolition of abortion and we will continue to fight for the rights of the unborn – who are truly the most vulnerable, marginalized, and abused group in history. Today, we often hear about groups that are mistreated by our government and whose lives are perceived to be devalued. Frankly, some of these concerns are valid, but others simply fit the mainstream media’s narrative and are used to push a certain agenda that ultimately doesn’t value them. No matter what group pulls at your heart strings, there is no group more widely massacred and devalued than the unborn. The March for Life serves to fight for an end to abortion, and this is the original definition of what being pro-life means. While there are other pressing issues that you may feel passionately about, abortion + euthanasia are the sole issue that as Catholics we must agree on. This is informed by the doctrine of the Catholic Church. According to church doctrine, there is room for discussion and even disagreement on matters of economics, border security, immigration, healthcare, and waging war. There is no room for discussion, disagreement, or compromise on abortion + euthanasia.

This is why there is indeed a correct way to vote as Catholics, and there are causes we are obligated to support. While we don’t need to enthusiastically attach ourselves to a specific world leader or political party, we do need to value a candidate’s stance on this issue before and above all others. If you have been instructed otherwise, you have been misled. I encourage you to dig deeper into the Catechism and doctrine of the Catholic Church and search for the highest truth and prayerfully discern who to vote for and what causes to lend your support to. While we certainly treat all human beings with respect and uphold the dignity of all lives, we are called to value the most vulnerable and fight for those who are truly the only ones with no voice at all.

Moving forward, I continue to urge you to always stand up for what is right, and always fight for life. Support the women who are faced with unplanned pregnancies or find themselves in an incredibly difficult position. Be bold in sharing the truth of what abortion is and how harmful it is to women, children, and our nation as a whole. Do your research and remain informed on matters of abortion + euthanasia. Vote for candidates who are pro-life and vehemently anti-abortion. Most importantly, pray for those who are victims of abortion, and also pray for a change of hearts in those who support abortion.

I’d like to end this post with some photos we took while in DC at the march! We spent the day with family, bumped into some friends along the way, and left with such joy and hope from being among this beautiful, huge crowd of people who feel passionately about the right to life!

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Thankful for all of those who spent their time, talent, and treasure organizing The March for Life and for those who are in the trenches every day fighting for and praying for an end to abortion. God bless you & God bless America!

Faith

Saint Stories: Elizabeth Ann Seton

I’ve heard the expression that sometimes people come into our lives for a reason. I feel the same way about Saints. Sometimes, we feel drawn to certain Saints based on our circumstances or a connection we share. More often than not, I think Saints choose us. I think sometimes they feel a connection with us and want to pray for us on our path to holiness. There have been several Saints who I have developed a relationship with during my life. They’ve  pointed me towards Christ and helped me to grow in my faith through their example and intercession. I consider these Saints my friends. This blog series is going to focus on particular Saints that have impacted my life. I hope it encourages you to look for inspiration + intercession from the Saints on your own path to holiness! 

I’d like to begin this series with the person who really brought Saints to life for me and showed me the power of their example + intercession. I’d like introduce you to my very first Saintly friend, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. 

It all started back when I was in seventh grade and getting ready for my confirmation. We were instructed to choose a saint for our confirmation name, to be our patron. I began researching Saints—paying more attention to the names I thought were pretty than their lives and experiences. I had heard of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton before, I liked her name, and I read she was a patron saint of homemakers (#goals), so I chose her. I liked that she was married and had a big family, I always felt that would be my vocation. Basically, I thought she was a cool enough lady to take on her name for my confirmation.

There was a brief period where I thought of switching to St. Cecilia because I also loved her name and I really liked that she was the patron saint of music + singing. Looking back, this is hilarious to me because at the time (ripe old age of 12), I thought I was musical. It turns out I’m not musical at all. At the very last minute I settled on St. Elizabeth Ann Seton as my confirmation Saint for really no particular reason at all. 

Fast forward to my junior year of high school. My parents and I had gone on several college tours in a very short amount of time, and I was exhausted. Seton Hall University was the very last college we were scheduled to tour. I told my parents I knew I wasn’t going to go there anyway, so maybe we should skip this one. They said that was fine, we didn’t need to go to Seton Hall. It was clear to me they were just as tired as I was of meandering through campuses with musty dorm rooms and classrooms that were empty for the summer. Oddly enough, at the last minute I told them I felt like we should go to see Seton Hall after all. I had a strong feeling that I should give it a fair shot. We toured the campus and everything seemed fine to me. We walked past similar musty dorm rooms, decently sized classrooms, an occupational therapy program I was interested in, and a nice library. The very last stop on our tour was the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, the church on campus. Our tour guide asked if we’d like to go inside for a minute and we said yes. I walked through the large wooden door and into the chapel, which has been beautifully restored to depict the Book of Revelation. We knelt to pray, and as I did I felt an overwhelming sense that I needed to attend Seton Hall University. Something was telling me, this is where I’m supposed to be. It’s a little crazy to choose a college based solely on a feeling you had while in the school’s chapel, but that’s what I did. Luckily, God is in the details and Seton Hall also happened to be one of the only schools I applied to that had the degree in Occupational Therapy I would end up wanting to pursue.

It wasn’t until another two years later when I began my freshmen year at Seton Hall, that I finally made the connection that Seton Hall University is named for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. I know! How could I miss that? Frankly, I don’t know how I never made the connection before, and I don’t know how I missed the statue of her in the chapel, but I was blissfully ignorant that I was attending the college inspired by my patron Saint that I had chosen all those years before. 

I didn’t live on campus during college, so I didn’t make friends as quickly as everyone else freshmen year. Instead, I was saving money and living with my grandparents and great uncle who coincidentally lived down the street from Seton Hall. I loved living with them, but it didn’t exactly give me the “college experience” I saw everyone around me chasing. I figured I would use my time to study and to delve deeper into my faith, until I made friends outside of the classroom. In those first few weeks of college St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was my closest friend. I went to the chapel each morning to pray and I would ask St. Elizabeth Ann Seton to intercede for me. I asked her to intercede for my relationship with a boy from high school that I thought could really be something, but that I was nervous about making work while at separate universities. I asked her to intercede for my education and future career, that I would be on the path God had planned for me. I asked her to intercede that I make friends, real ones, soon. I asked her to intercede for me to grow in my faith, trust in the Lord, and to show my why she brought me to this school. 

It didn’t take long before I felt more confident in my relationship, I was doing well in my classes, and I had joined Saint Paul’s Outreach on campus. Through this community based organization in campus ministry I made more Christ-centered friendships than I thought possible, and developed a significantly closer relationship with the Lord. All this time, I had continued to ask St. Elizabeth Ann Seton to intercede for me. During the next few months and years of college, I learned of more connections between me and my patron saint that I had half heartedly chose. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was married, though her husband died of tuberculosis. She was a mother of 5, worked in education, and was the first American born saint. If you know me, you know that last one really thrilled me most of all! As I learned more about her, I realized just how many connections we shared. I felt that she was my friend, my sister in Christ, who was rooting for me from Heaven and interceding for me all along. 

Years later, I was praying in the chapel at Seton Hall University for the last time as a student, this time a graduate student in my final year of occupational therapy school. I wholeheartedly thanked St. Elizabeth for bringing me here. I thought of all that had happened since that first time I prayed here, and I began to cry tears of joy. I thought of the beautiful Christ centered friendships that I developed here that I knew would be life long. I thought of Saint Paul’s Outreach, which really did bring my faith to life during my college years—and showed me how to live in communion with the Lord and with others. I thought of the unique experience I had of living with my elderly grandparents and uncle who lived nearby, that I knew I would be eternally grateful for. I thought about how close I was to earning my degree and beginning my career as an occupational therapist. Lastly, I thought about that same high school boyfriend I prayed about years ago. He had proposed to me in that very chapel just days before, and was now my fiancé. Tears streamed down my face as I thanked the Lord for every single one of these blessings and for answering all of my prayers. 

In that moment, I thanked St. Elizabeth Ann Seton for choosing me—for being so much more than a confirmation name, and for showing me exactly why she brought me here. 

Faith, Fashion

A New Year + An Ethical Fashion Resolution

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Happy New Year, friends! The start of a new year is so exciting—I love all of the possibilities that come with a fresh beginning. For many years I came up with lists of way too many resolutions that I would have loved to keep, but most of them never stuck. Last year I only made one resolution, which was to find a new hobby + grow in my faith, which has manifested in this blog! It’s not lost on me that the beginning of the New Year is also the Solemnity of Mary, so I want to be intentional with any resolutions I have and strive for holiness in a new way at the beginning of each year.

This year there is something a little different has been on my heart for quite some time. In addition to it being a resolution, it’s also a bit of a lifestyle change. My 2019 resolution is to make a shift toward shopping intentionally + ethically. Thanks to the influence of some lovely friends online, I’ve become interested in seeking out shops and businesses that share my values and uphold the dignity of all human beings, especially those who make our clothing. 

While I’ve never been someone who chases every new trend on the fashion scene, I’ve definitely contributed to the world of fast fashion in more ways than I’d like to admit. As I’ve learned more about the fashion industry, I’ve been heartbroken by stories regarding how the people who make our clothes are treated. This is certainly not something I’d like to participate in. Additionally, I’ve developed an interest over the past several years in shopping for classic, versatile pieces that remain timeless. Developing a capsule wardrobe is something I’ve been indirectly trying to do, and I hope that this year I can really bring this idea to life.

In this next year (and for years after!) I hope to find shops that share my values and embrace the ethical fashion movement. I also hope to detach from materialism and consumerism in a big way by buying less overall. In doing this, I hope that I can grow closer to the Lord by detaching from worldly things and witness to my faith by upholding the dignity of human life with each purchase I make. Lastly, I hope to build a capsule closet of clothing that is sensible and classic, with quality items that I am proud to wear. I think it will be an especially fun + challenging time to begin this pursuit due to how my body is sure to change in this upcoming year with a baby coming in June! 

I hope that you’ll join me in this pursuit of shopping ethically + intentionally while building a capsule wardrobe! This isn’t a fashion blog, and I’m no fashion expert, but I have gotten questions about where I shop and what I like to wear, so I think this will be a fun way to incorporate this into the blog! Along the way I’ll be sharing some of my favorite finds, tips + tricks for navigating ethical shopping, and sharing about shops I love to support.  Above all, I hope that this resolution + life style change can help me grow closer to God, strengthen my faith, and be a witness through the choices I make and what I put on my body.

 

Faith, Farm

WWJD?

Happy Gaudete Sunday, my friends! This is a really special day in the liturgical year as we are reminded that the birth of Christ is quickly approaching. While we’ve been renovating our farmhouse and decorating for Christmas, I’ve also been feeling a huge pull to do some deep cleaning in my own heart and soul to prepare myself for Christ’s coming. I shared a couple of weeks ago some traditions that we are embracing this year to make Advent fruitful for us, and I’m happy to say that this has definitely brought us peace and helped us prepare for the season of Christmas. I wanted to share with you all something that clicked for me recently, and how it has helped me to grow in my faith.

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So, we purchased our old farmhouse about six months ago! t’s not just any home, it’s a house AND a real, working farm! While we have so many ideas for how to use our farmland in the future (more cows, chickens, Christmas trees, horses, vegetables, herbs, flower gardens, oh my!) right now we are really trying to make this house a home for us and our growing family. I’m someone who relies very much on aesthetics, and I like for everything to look a certain way. When you’re 25 with a tight budget and you buy a house + farm that is a bit of a fixer upper, not everything is going to be perfect.  The Lord has really been speaking to me through this process and I have felt a strong sense that He is using this situation to help me to learn, to grow, and to trust in Him. Through prayer I’ve really come to be at peace with understanding that it takes time, effort, and patience to make this house into our beautiful home. It’s the same as with our own souls – there is no quick and easy fix. There is beauty in working hard and having patience, and forming something into what we envision it to be. I like to think that this is how God views us + our souls! We are all a work in progress, and it is the process and the journey that makes the end result that much more beautiful.

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While we are fixing up our farmhouse, I’ve been finding myself uttering the term “WWJD” often. Only, it might not be what you think. I’ve been thinking “What Would Joanna Do?” in regards to paint colors, furniture choices, and décor options. By the way, if you don’t know – the Joanna I’m referring to is Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper – just in case you’ve been living under a rock (or without a TV) for the past few years.  It’s funny how this question guided me when making decisions about our home.  Joanna Gaines has the unique ability to update a home into a beautiful and practical space for a family, while capitalizing on it’s historic qualities and highlighting it’s unique beauty. So, she’s kind of a role model for anyone hoping to bring new life into an old farmhouse, like me.

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I found myself thinking – imagine if I chose to ask myself “What Would Jesus Do?” in my everyday life, as often as I was contemplating “What Would Joanna Do?” in regards to my home. I can only imagine that if I reflected on the real meaning of WWJD in my marriage, at work, with my family, and even behind the wheel of my car – that there would be a profound difference in my actions in my daily life.

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The phrase “WWJD?” is so simple. I think I learned I first learned it at Vacation Bible School when I was a kid. I even had a little bracelet with the letters on it for quite some time when I was younger.  It may sound childish, but Jesus did say we need to become like little children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3).  Life can be hard, but our faith doesn’t have to be. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking “What Would Jesus Do?” in our everyday life. When we’re faced with challenges and carrying crosses that can feel unbearable, it can become easy to get wrapped up in ourselves. If we are able to shift our mindset and reflect in each and every situation “What Would Jesus Do?” I think we’d be surprised by how capable we are of choosing holiness and striving for sainthood.

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I pray that wherever you are today, whatever you’re struggling with, you are able to ask yourself “What Would Jesus Do?” and have a clearer idea of how you’re being called to respond to different challenges and situations in your daily life. I think sometimes we can over complicate things, and I hope this will simplify your pursuit of holiness just a little bit. Please know I’ll be praying for you, and I would love it if you would pray for me too!

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While we’re here and talking about houses, I figured I would share some updates of the house! We’re making progress over here slowly but surely, and I’m so excited to share these photos with you! Enjoy!

Faith, Family, Uncategorized

Merry Christmas from the Ocello’s + Some BIG News!

“For this child I have prayed, and the Lord has granted the desires of my heart.” 1 Samuel 1:27

We are so excited to share our big news with you, baby Ocello is on the way! We are about 13 weeks along and due June 17, 2019. We feel truly blessed this Christmas season. We are so grateful for the Lord’s faithfulness and for the plans He has for our growing family. 

 

We took these photos a few weeks ago for our Christmas cards, and it is incredible to see how much our baby has grown in just the few weeks since then! We’ve had a few doctor visits and everything seems to be going well, praise God! I’ve been feeling pretty fatigued and nauseous most days but I seem to be feeling better as time goes on. We would really appreciate it if you would pray for a safe + healthy pregnancy for the baby and I.

 

We’d also like to acknowledge anyone who may be in a time of suffering or loss this Christmas season. We pray that you are able to experience the peace and joy of Christ, our newborn Savior, in a special way this year. 

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We wish you all a peaceful + fruitful Advent season and a very Merry Christmas with your loved ones from the Ocello Family! 

Faith, Family

Making Room: Advent 2018

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Hi there, friends! I’m sorry things have been a little quiet over here on the blog. Life has been really full which is wonderful—but it also means we’ve been a little busier than I like to be! In the spirit of intentionally slowing down to take in all the goodness this season has to offer and to prepare for Christ’s birth, I’d love to share with you all what we are up to this Advent. Just like the inn keeper in the Nativity story, we can be quite full of extraneous things during this time of year. We’ve chosen to do a few things to prepare our hearts for the coming of our savior and to bring peace and joy into our home. We want to make sure that there is always room in our inn for our Savior, Jesus Christ.

In honor of the first Sunday of Advent we got our Christmas tree yesterday after mass! I love to put up decorations early because they just bring so much joy to our home, but we intentionally waited for Advent to begin decorating because this is the true season of preparing for Christmas. We have a tradition of going and cutting down our tree at a local Christmas tree farm which we love doing! One of my dreams is to have a Christmas tree farm on our property, but we’re also loving the animals so we’ll have to wait and see how that all pans out. Anyway, back to Advent! We brought our tree home and we had a little decorating party with snacks and Christmas music to make the day really fun and festive. This is a tradition Dom’s family began years ago to motivate the kids to help decorate and we want to continue it with our family! We ended the day with some cookies and a Christmas movie.

While I love Christmas movies and decorations as much (or more) than the next person, since Advent is a time of preparing our hearts for Christ’s birth we also have more reflective and prayerful traditions that we practice daily.

Every night before dinner we light our Advent candles and say an Advent prayer before we bless our food and begin eating. It is a simple prayer that we found online and it changes each week as we get closer to Christmas.

After dinner, we choose a bible verse to read together from our Advent calendar. I found this Advent calendar at Michael’s a couple of years ago on clearance and I absolutely love it! I think you’re supposed to put little treats or candies in it for each day but I think bible verses work just as nicely. I hand picked a bunch of Christmas related verses to put in so that we have yet another way to focus our minds on the true meaning of Christmas as we prepare for it. We take turns reading the verse and then we reflect on it and discuss it together.

Finally, we say a rosary together every night before bed. We always pray together before we go to sleep, but we’ve found that praying the rosary brings us together in an special way and instills immense peace and joy in our hearts. During Lent we prayed the sorrowful mysteries together every night to reflect on Christ’s passion, so we decided for Advent we are going to pray the joyful mysteries each night in order to focus on Mary’s journey and the birth of Jesus Christ. We try our best to meditate on each mystery as we pray, and I’m hoping that doing so will continue to remind us what (and who!) this season is all about.

While I’m certain that some days it will be harder than others to practice these traditions, I have hope that Christ will honor our imperfect attempt at preparing our hearts receive Him at Christmas and grant us peace and joy in this season. We certainly aren’t perfect, but the Lord knows our intentions and He sees our efforts. I’m hoping that as years go by we can continue these traditions and have fruitful seasons of Advent. I’d love to know if your family has any Advent traditions that you do together to prepare for Christmas!

Freedom

Surviving & Thriving In An Election

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I named this blog “Loves Jesus & America too” because of my love for my faith, and also because of my love for this incredible country I get to call home. Most of the time, I share about my faith and how that relates to my lifestyle—my marriage, family, farmhouse, and more. Sometimes God places something on my heart that’s a little different, maybe a little more controversial, to share about. It can be hard to share things that have the potential to be divisive, such as particular views on a topic like politics. However, I really feel that as a Catholic woman in America, it’s important that my voice be shared among the many others that often seem to speak louder.

Something you may not know about me is that I actually love politics. While election seasons can be discouraging and exhausting—I also find them absolutely thrilling. I know, it’s weird. Moving on, I’ve been interested in elections since I first voted in a school election. I remember it well; it was the presidential election of 2004 and I was in fifth grade at the time.  With my dad and brother’s military backgrounds, topics of politics and world issues were always discussed in my family growing up. As I got older, I became more and more invested. I attended my first March for Life in high school, and was captivated by all of the people there marching for change. On my 18th birthday, I registered to vote. During college, I actually created a political blog—but it only lasted for a short time. While I enjoyed writing on the topics of politics, it began to bring me more stress than joy. I’m both proud and embarrassed to say I also incited quite a few political bloodbaths online. Don’t get me wrong—it is necessary to stand up for truth. We need to share our voice with this world, and it can feel pretty darn good to prove that jerk from high school wrong. However, I began to wonder if this was truly how God wanted me to use my voice. It took a lot of self reflection, prayer, and humility to admit that while I must use my voice to stand up for the truth, I also must use it to bear light to those around me, rather than throwing zingers their way and bringing them down. I slowly made a conscious effort to shift my focus from being right to being kind.  While I believe that I may very well have to answer for who or what I vote for at the pearly gates someday, I know that I’m definitely going to answer for how I treated those around me and whether or not I loved as Jesus did.

Please don’t mistake these words for weakness. I am strong in my beliefs, and you should be too.  I share this story because I think that regardless of what side of the aisle we’re on, we can all be quick to be judgmental, dismissive, and unkind. I feel that our generation struggles more than previous ones with tolerating those who have views that are different from our own, and it’s not helpful to any of us.  Recently, there was a controversy in the news and I had privately messaged a few friends on Instagram who posted something that I disagreed with. I wasn’t looking for a fight, I was inviting them into a conversation in order to better understand their viewpoint and hopefully help them to understand mine. Of the several friends I messaged, one wrote back. That friend and I had an extremely fruitful discussion that I think softened both of our hearts and enriched our minds. After I had that conversation, I thought of the other friends who immediately dismissed me for having a different view than theirs. We will never have the opportunity to understand one another better because they chose to not engage with me. If we aren’t able to enter into a discussion with one another, how are any of us ever going to achieve any type of positive change we are searching for? We need to pump the brakes on our emotional reactions in order to engage in productive conversations with one another. The only thing worse than shouting at one another is ignoring and dismissing one another completely. When this happens, there is no relationship, there is no understanding, there is no progress, and ultimately there is no love.

As for voting, get out there and do it! I really do believe it is your duty as an American and if you’re Catholic like me, it’s also your obligation to exercise your right to vote in every election. We need to take our responsibility seriously and value the sacred freedom we have. There are a few things I like to remind myself before I vote. First, take the time to educate yourself and prayerfully discern how you should vote on large and small issues alike. Sift through all the noise (God knows there’s too much of it) and make an educated and prayerful decision. While doing this, I try my very best to pay attention to policy—not personality.  I feel it’s extremely important to allow my faith to inform my choice and to be acutely aware of where the Church stands on important issues. Catholicism is not relativism—there is a correct way to vote as Catholics. There are several issues that are non-negotiable according to the Catholic Church. These issues include abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, and marriage. There are also issues that are extremely prominent in our world today such as immigration and healthcare. I feel that not only our nation, but our world as a whole falls short so many of these categories because we do not fundamentally value human life.  For me, it’s really obvious that the right to life is at the core of all other rights. How do we expect our society to value human life while we are killing our children? Whether it is the poor, the marginalized, the elderly, or our very own children, we are unable to see the intrinsic value in each and every human life. I believe that in order to enact change in nearly every arena, we need to shift our mindset and value all human life, especially those that are the most vulnerable. This is where it all begins.

While I encourage you to get out there and vote, don’t stop there! I encourage you to talk to others about the issues that matter to you.  Allow yourself to be heard, and listen to others too.  Most importantly, pray for our leaders. I feel called constantly to pray for local leaders, our nation’s leaders, and our world leaders.  As a Catholic, I believe in the power of prayer, and as I pray for our leaders I ask that God’s will be done in our world. Praying for our communities, countries, and the world also brings my soul immense peace at a time when I can feel restless.  God bless you & the good ol’ USA. Happy voting, friends!