Looking Outward - A Letter from Justine

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I’ve always had a rather strong character: ever ready to fight my way to the front of a line for the next great adventure. So after a young life of self interest, boyfriends, pretty clothes and partying, I naturally found my 24-year-old self searching for a new stint to add to my diary of exciting activities. 

I signed up to volunteer as a pro-life advocate for a year, in Los Angeles - only knowing that I’d be living with a nun and other volunteers in a community, while doing some sort of pro-life work. I thought it’d be "cool" to travel to Los Angeles, and live with a nun to be able to talk about it afterward. The fact that it was pro-life was a bonus, because after all I was a cradle Catholic, and respected the dignity of life, so it would all be a win/win. 

Well Los Angeles wasn’t as shiny as the movies made it out to be. With crime, trash and homelessness abound, I knew on day 1 this would be different than expected. 

Life made a pretty quick 180: Friday night partying turned into putting together a puzzle on the kitchen table with a cup of tea, a volunteer stipend didn’t leave much room for clothes, make up, or tanning, my concern for boyfriends had to be dealt with on a very real note of understanding chastity and true femininity. And community life was a denial of self I was unused to. It wasn’t until all this focus on myself was stripped away that I could begin to look outward. 

This outward gaze allows me to use my given character to build up and encourage those along the path. 

I frequently think of my Confirmation saint, St. Veronica, to help me stay true to this lesson. She used her strength of character to fight through the sneering crowd to gently wipe the face of our Lord. She used her feminine veil (I like to think of it as having delicately laced edges) to remove the blood and dirt that accumulated from His travels. Like her, we are uniquely called to use our femininity, not by giving up on adventures, but as a strength for the good of others.

His peace and strength be with you!


Get to know Justine

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

My name is Justine Marie (Veronica) Morris. My first name came from an actress (Justine Bateman) that played in a sitcom (Family Ties) while my mother was pregnant.

I’ve never put much stock in that – but have felt a sense of gratitude for my name because “Justine” meaning “justice,” one of the cardinal virtues. In the Catechism, it’s described: 

"Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the "virtue of religion." Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. 'You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.'"
Marie, a variation of Mary, our Mother, and my grandmother’s name. 

Morris is an English name. I take this name gratefully because it grounds me in knowing I am my father’s daughter. He is one of the most respectful, joy-filled and sincere men I know. When I take my husband’s name, I will be sure that he has these qualities as well. 

Veronica is my Confirmation name. Known for wiping the face of Christ during His Passion, she is the patron saint of laundry workers. Yep. That’s a thing. My household chore growing up was folding the laundry and I looooved it! I still do. Give me your laundry, I’ll gladly fold it. 

I’m 30 years old. How did this happen? 30 was always put-together, established, adult. I wear the same pair of socks three days in a row. How am I 30? 

What do the first two hours of your day look like?

Mornings are a God-send for me! I like waking up before anyone else to have that alone time with Him. Listen to the birds, drink 28 cups of coffee, and read.

Typically I’ll shower in the evening, falling asleep with wet hair and clean skin. This allows me more time to sit when I wake. I’ll get up around 6am, pray a morning offering, make coffee, read the daily readings, reflect, possibly do a load of laundry, throw on the same pair of black pants and a sweater that has become a uniform for the office, and be in silence. How two hours pass so quickly is beyond me, but it never drags. It takes me 2 minutes to brush my teeth. 1 minute to put on eye shadow and mascara. And I don’t bother brushing my hair. Most mornings I’ll make my bed, I’m always happier when I do. 

Describe one fear or personal challenge that keeps you up at night.

I don’t know what my next step in life is. What is the deepest desire that God placed on my heart? I’m not fearful of not having this answer; I trust Him. I trust that He will show me when it’s time. But it sure does keep me up at night. That.. and the 28 cups of coffee from the morning. 

Tell us about the first time you experienced a strong sense of belonging in the Catholic Church.

A moment that sticks out for me, feeling a sense of belonging to the Church, was when I had been living in Wyoming during an internship after college. I went to Mass Sunday morning, alone as usual since I moved away after high school, and it was the feast of Corpus Christi. I don’t believe I knew what this was before then. They announced that we’d be processing with the Holy Eucharist after Mass around the square. So, excitedly I lined up and followed suit. What happened next was a feeling of immense pride in the Faith and comradery. I was walking with people I didn’t know, but were my brothers and sisters, following Our Lord, proclaiming Truth to the town! There was an obligation that I willingly took on from that point; to be a disciple of Christ, with my brethren. 

Tell us about a woman you look up to.

There are two women I can easily say I look up to. My mom is one of them. She dies to herself every day. I’m in awe of it. It brings me to tears sometimes just thinking about how readily she denies herself for others. And it’s not in a way that is boastful. She may not even know she’s doing it anymore since it has become her nature. As long as my memory allows, I recall her going out of her way to help others, to give herself as needed, and be attentive to anyone before she concerns herself with her own wants.

And the other women is my Confirmation saint, Veronica. I can only imagine the courage she had to approach Christ at that time. With all the jeering and cruelness from the crowd, she chose to push through and wipe His face. Others probably laughed at her and thought this as a pointless pursuit to wipe the face of a man walking toward His death. And, as silly as this seems, but that was her veil she used. I put too much importance on my things; my clothes, my food, my thoughts, my car, my books, my coffee, my money, my achievements, my education, my stuff. She took off her veil to wipe from Christ’s face the dirt, the sweat and the blood. She thought nothing of her possession, only that it could be used for Him. 

Favorite literary character. Go!

Josip Lasta, from Island of the World by Michael O’Brien, because of his strength, beauty, and determination.