Sometimes I think everything in life is wonderful: nature, places, people. Then I hear stories of destruction, whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual, and I s ometimes believe this isn’t a world where I want to be living; it’s a world that seems like a nightmare from which I can’t wake.

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I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario in April to see the exhibit “Revealing the early Renaissance: Stories and Secrets in Florentine Art” that has been running since mid-March. The exhibit showcases a collection of religious panels, pages, books, stained-glass windows and altar decorations made by artisans in and around Florence, Italy, during the 14th century. Although these pieces were created centuries ago, we can still find a connection to God and the Catholic community through these works.

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I attended Catholic elementary schools, and when I was in Grade 8, I was choosing a high school to attend. The most popular question people asked me was whether I would choose to attend a public or a Catholic high school. I knew that whatever school I chose — public or Catholic — it wouldn’t mean I’d lose my faith. Catholic schools aren’t a place where you’re forced into your faith, but rather taught how to strengthen it.

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Think of the most beautiful experiences in life. Holding a newborn baby. Feeling the waves of the ocean crash at your feet. Sunsets. Christmas morning. Cheeks that hurt from smiling. A first kiss.

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This past December, I had the privilege of helping feed the homeless at St. Francis Table on Queen Street West in Toronto with five of my Grade 12 classmates.

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Last week I went out to do a bit of shopping and, to my dismay, found myself at a store early in the morning surrounded by too many people. I had difficulty manoeuvring my shopping cart around shoppers, strollers and the odd employee re-arranging displays. Occasionally, I would overhear a grumble of frustration from another shopper. The experience was so overwhelming that I returned home with a headache.

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Crushes are all consuming when you’re a teenager. It’s all you can think about; it’s all you can talk about.

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November 30, 2012

Fortitude and faith

It is all too easy for young people seeking acceptance and recognition to be attracted by the glitz and glamour of a pleasure-seeking lifestyle. The idea of sainthood or even martyrdom at a young age seems unfathomable and difficult to comprehend. Why suffer for an idea?

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During elementary school, my smile was a dental nightmare. The question was not whether I needed braces, but when I would get them. The answer to that was Grade 10. And although I was afraid and uncertain about how this would all play out, hindsight has shown me that dental treatment complemented my faith life.

As soon as I received my braces, I was slapped with a list of things that I could and could not eat, and habits I would have to pick up to make sure my teeth were taken care of properly. After appointments with my orthodontist, my teeth and mouth would ache for at least a few hours, sometimes for days. On top of that, I was told that I would have to wear braces — and all the rules and pain that came with them — for at least two years.

As time passed, luckily for me, things became easier to bear, and I began to notice that my dental work shared similarities with my faith. Sometimes people think that being Catholic restrains you because of all the different rules you’re asked to follow. I knew these rules were far from restraining; they were guiding principles that led me towards goodness and God, the greatest good. I realized that, like the commandments, the rules given to me with my braces were there for my benefit, to prevent me from hindering the treatment. Unless I followed them, the braces would leave scars or be ineffective.

I better understood St. Paul when he wrote, “You are not under law but under grace” (Rom 6:14). That’s not to say that we can disobey the commandments, but it means that by grace we can live a faithful life within the boundaries they set. Realizing this changed my prayer life, as I began to pray often for the grace to make certain good actions habitual.

Reflecting on the pain I sometimes felt because of my braces, I understood that suffering in my life ultimately made me a stronger person. Just as my teeth were only straightened after enduring pain, my virtues were tested and strengthened by trials and suffering. I could only trust in God’s wisdom during these times, and this trustful surrender to Divine Providence became a source of great peace for me.

Having braces also taught me that change comes slowly. It may have taken two years, but God definitely made my crooked teeth straight. As St. Francis de Sales said, “Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself.” Growing in patience, in my prayer life, in my trust in God and in any virtue takes time to accomplish. I won’t be able to make good habits and positive change without a continual effort, but “Patience obtains all things,” said St. Teresa of Avila. “The crooked shall be made straight” (Lk 3:5) if we’re patient enough to let God straighten what needs straightening.

(Pereira, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Brebeuf College School in Toronto.)

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October 10, 2012

A summer to remember

When I first came to The Catholic Register in April to complete a three-week internship, I never thought I’d be staying until Labour Day — but boy, am I lucky I’ve had the opportunity to do so.

I’ve worked in a lot of places — a lot of good places, in fact. But there is something different about The Register newsroom. Here is a rare work environment, one in which people are more than just
polite and conversational. Here, they care.

I graduated from my undergrad at Queen’s University in April 2011, and my experience in journalism really began in September of that year when I entered a two-year masters of journalism program at Carleton University.

I’d always been a confident person, but when it came to journalism, I wasn’t entirely sure I had what it took — and joining a class full of former editor-in-chiefs of their school papers only added to my nerves. It wasn’t until I landed myself at The Register that I really began to believe this was something I could do.

It’s rare for a summer intern to get many bylines — I know that. I see that with my classmates and friends, even the most experienced ones. But here, I’ve been fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to write full articles right from the get-go, ranging in topics from fundraising campaigns to chimney swifts, and everything in between.

In writing my stories, I’ve had the honour of interviewing so many wonderful people who make a difference in the Catholic community, people who have been kind and open and candid in a way that has allowed for my words to flow easily and for their stories to resonate with me.

But what has truly made the difference in my confidence as a journalist is not the length, type or number of stories I’ve written. Rather, it’s the unconditional support and encouragement I’ve received from my colleagues at The Register, people who have not only allowed me to realize I can be a journalist, but who have also taught me the true value of good, real relationships within a place of work.

This became especially clear to me one day about a month ago, when two faithful employees, Vanessa Santilli, the former youth editor, and Nigel Wheatley, the former web editor, both happened to be leaving at the same time.

Publisher and editor Jim O’Leary and the rest of The Register staff threw a goodbye luncheon for them, complete with gifts, cake and many words of thanks and well wishes for the future. The luncheon — which lasted far longer than a typical lunch hour — was full of hearty laughter and lively conversation.

As I looked around, I realized this is more than just a staff. It’s a family, a family of which I am so grateful to have been a part.

And so, as I head back into the world of coffee-fueled all-nighters and early-morning classes, I want to extend the greatest of thank yous to each and every person I have worked with this summer. You have each made my days here so enjoyable, and given me that extra dose of confidence I need to finish off my degree and kick-start my career.
I only wish every workplace could be like The Register.

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