Tag Archives: catholic women

Pope Francis on Mary

I did not get a chance to write my Empowered Catholic Women post for this week…but I promise there will be one next week! I did come across this article though and it states so eloquently what I was hoping to convey in my own post on the Blessed Mother a few weeks ago.  Here’s a sample…

Despite everything, even the “deepest darkness,” Mary does not leave, but stands faithfully, he said. “That’s why we all love her as a Mother…We are not orphans: we have a Mother in heaven, who is the Holy Mother of God.”

The full article can be found here.

Also, did you know that this Saturday is the 100th anniversary of Mary appearing to the children in Fatima? It’s been a favorite story of mine since I first learned about it as a child and I hope to write more about it someday. In the meantime, if you aren’t familiar with the inspiring story and Mary’s message, check it out! EWTN has a great site with all the info you could ask for here.

God Bless!

Empowered Catholic Women

What does it mean to be empowered? Particularly as a woman? 

I’ve been absent from this blog for awhile. As many of you know, I struggled with infertility for years and was blessed with a miracle baby boy just six months ago. As I started to think about what direction to take this blog in, this is the question that lit the fire within me

What does it mean to be an empowered woman?

In the months since I published my last post, mainstream media here in America has had a lot to say on the topic. With the election of Donald Trump as President, so-called champions of women’s rights and feminists have come out in full force to demonstrate the importance of women and to empower women to make a difference and be all they can be.  

Or at least that is the message they claim to send.  But in reality, many of these groups seem to think an empowered woman is only one who thinks like them. After all, only one who supports all women’s rights, including the rights to birth control and abortion, could truly be empowered as a woman. And so conservative organizations and the Catholic Church in particular are seen to be “anti-woman.” A Church refusing to allow women priests, opposing birth control and abortion must be opposed to the success of women, right? That crazy Catholic Church just wants all the women to stay home and keep house and have babies and never contribute anything more to society…at least this is the message that seems to prevail. But let’s really think about what empowerment means.

Empowerment, according to Oxford Dictionary, is “authority or power given to someone to do something.” By this definition, it seems the most empowered women would be those receiving their power and authority from the highest source.  Whoever has the highest authority themselves would be able to bestow the greatest authority onto another to do great things.

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Matthew 28:18

Of course our Lord and Savior holds the highest authority! So those who act according to His will are certainly empowered to do great things.  The Catholic Church, the church that Christ Himself founded, believes this to be true also. In fact, those who follow the will of the Lord and live extraordinary lives of faithfulness are recognized by being pronounced as Saints. And sainthood is not limited to men! In fact, many of the most influential Saints in the Church were women! Catholic women who were empowered by the Holy Spirit, who used the gifts given to them by Jesus Christ who holds all authority, and who accomplished great things. Things like becoming scholars, fighting battles, founding hospitals and schools, caring for immigrants, going to places no one else would to care for the poor, the sick, and the dying. They were women who risked their lives to do the will of the Lord. Women who perhaps received little to no recognition in the secular world for their greatness, but who were instead honored by the Catholic Church. Certainly doesn’t seem very anti-woman to me!  The Church shows us through these amazing women that to be empowered means embracing the gifts God has given us to do the things He calls us to. Women have special and unique gifts that allow us to do incredible things. 

Over the next several weeks, I’d like to highlight just a few of these inspiring women. Women who live thousands of years ago, and women from our own lifetime. Women who are mothers, teachers, scholars, and more.  Women from various backgrounds and walks of life who had one thing in common; they were empowered Catholic women.

Follow along with the ECW (Empowered Catholic Women) series weekly to learn more about amazing women of faith including…

Blessed Virgin Mary

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

St. Joan of Arc

St. Teresa of Avila

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross)

…and more!

Marriage Takes Three

What makes a marriage work?  And not just work, but truly thrive and grow stronger through the years?  Countless experts will say things like conversation, making time for each other, and compromise.  While those may be good suggestions, the truth is that in order to have the best marriage possible, it doesn’t take just one, it doesn’t take two, it takes three.

 “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8

Without God, there is no love.  God is love!  Love is essential for a happy and healthy relationship.  Why else would you commit your life to someone if not for love?  Loving someone means putting their needs before your own.  It means making compromises and sacrifices at times.  Love can make you float in the clouds with light heartedness and joy.  But true love takes work, too.

We are merely human.  We think we know what love is.  But one look at the cross reminds us that there is a love so deep we cannot begin to grasp it.  A love that created life.  That sacrificed itself for us, even when we stubbornly refuse it.  The love of Christ is never-ending.

“For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

There is nothing we could do that would cause God to stop loving us.  Nothing that would separate us from his awesome and wondrous love.  Knowing that such a love exists, even while not fully understanding the depth of it, opens our eyes to the reality that we have so much tot learn about love. We need Christ to show us how to love.  We need Him beside us in all aspects of life, in our relationships, and definitely in our marriages.

Marriage is more than the “next step” in a relationship.  It is more than two people in love. Marriage is the lifelong commitment of love between husband and wife with God at the center of it all.  Marriage is not about “you” or “me.”   It is about “us.”  And for a marriage to remain strong in love, peace, and joy despite what life throws our way, that “us” must include Jesus.   With God at the center of our marriages, we may continue to grow in love for each other and for Him.

Marriage takes love, trust, faith, patience, and understanding.  It takes commitment and sacrifice.  It takes more than we can give on our own.  It takes husband, wife, and most importantly God.  Marriage takes three.

A Woman’s Choice in Lifestyle

Just the other day I was with a group of women I had just met and a discussion about what each of us was having for dinner came up.  Some of the women were ordering out.  Some were making a dinner.  Some were having leftovers from a previous night.  One woman said to me, “Well I would think your husband would make you dinner, right?” To which I replied that while my husband is willing to help out when needed, I do all the cooking.  Suddenly, this woman who I had only barely met was looking at me with incredulous eyes.  “Really?  You have to do the cooking?”  I explained that I enjoy cooking and do it because I like to.  Clearly she did not believe this explanation and her and the other women struck up a new conversation.  A conversation about how far women had come from the days when they were forced to stay in the house and cook and clean all day.

Now, to be completely fair, I suppose there is a chance that the conversation was unrelated to my comment about enjoying to cook for my husband.  But even so, I had the same feelings I always do when I’m placed in this position.  It is very true that women have come a long way.  And in no way am I trying to deny that or give up the rights that women have earned.   Women in this country have fought and fought to be treated equally and to be able to make their own choice about how they live their lives, what they choose to pursue as a career, and how they treat their bodies.  What is ironic about this, is the fact that many of the women who will be so outspoken about a women’s right to choose her own path in life, whatever that may be, are the same women who will look down upon and become utterly shocked at my life choices.

Every child has a dream of what they want to be when they grow up.  Some women may dream of becoming a doctor, a teacher, a ballerina, a firefighter, and so on.  Ever since I was little, my dream has been to be a mother.  I have never been strongly career oriented.  At the present time, I do not have children.  I am looking for work and plan on working until we are ready to begin our own family.  But I have expressed my desire to stay home with our children to my husband and he fully supports me. He doesn’t force me at all!  Instead, he supports my choice.   Now, if we are financially unable to raise children on his income alone, we will need to revise this plan and I will understand that.  But we are careful with our finances and are already saving and preparing for living on just one income so we will continue on with this plan and will pray for God’s guidance to make the right decision when that time comes.  I know this is not for everyone.  Some women have strong career goals.  Some women work so hard and have such a strong desire to be a doctor, politician, nurse, teacher, or any other career choice, that they want to continue that career even once they have children.   And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!  Some women may not be able to afford staying home and I certainly understand that as well.  I fully support any woman’s choice to go back to work once they have children.  What I fail to understand is why my choice cannot be supported as well.

Not only in searching for a career, but in my lifestyle.  I choose to plan meals and make homemade dinners almost every night.  No one forces me to spend a cool fall day making homemade bread.  No one forces me to take a trip to the fabric store and make my own unique sundress or new skirt.  No one is forcing me to do laundry, to run errands, or to want a family.  These are all my choices.  I am proud of the choices I have made and the ones I hope to make in the future regarding raising a family.  And in the same way that I support women who choose to follow a career, the same way that I do not care if another women cooks or eats dinner out, all I would wish for in return would be the same tolerance for my choices.

The 2003 movie Mona Lisa Smile tells the story of an art teacher at a conservative girls school in the fifties who challenges women to question their traditional roles and to go after their true dreams.  Late in the movie, one girl chooses to end her career path to become married.  The teacher becomes frustrated with her and questions her decision.  The teacher wonders why she doesn’t just decide to do both.  The student responds with this: “You stand in class and tell us to look beyond the image, but you don’t. To you a housewife is someone who sold her soul for a center hall colonial. She has no depth, no intellect, no interests. You’re the one who said I could do anything I wanted. This is what I want.”

And that sums up how I feel. Women have fought and fought for the right to be able to do anything they want.   And what I really, truly want is to care for my family.  To cook homemade meals.  To sew, to clean, to raise a family.  While this may not be the most popular dream, this is what I want.  Not something I am forced into.  This is my choice for my life.   This is my dream.  And I hope that someday, with God’s help, I will be able to realize my dream.

Stepping Up to the Challenge

My co-workers and I are currently competing in a daily steps competition at work.  We formed teams and were given pedometers to track how many steps we take a day.  Each week we average our team’s steps per day and see how they compare with the other teams.  It’s a four-week long challenge and we’re on week two right now.  We have all gotten pretty competitive about it and it has been a lot of fun.  But as I hear my coworkers talking about how much they are working out to increase their steps, I can’t help but wonder if I should be doing more.

I consider myself in pretty good shape.  Like most women, I would like to shed a few pounds and tone parts of my body.  I do my best to workout at least three times a week and to eat healthy. I work a desk job so I know my work days aren’t the most activity filled and I try to make up for that outside of work.  I’m not trying to be a size two supermodel, I know that isn’t my body type.  But I am pretty happy with my overall weight and appearance.  According to the BMI charts and my latest physical, I am  in good health and my weight is normal.  So why should I feel the need to do more?

You always hear the media talking about how America is overweight.  You can find new articles daily on things like “Five Ways to Tone Your Abs Fast!” or “10 Healthy Foods to Lose Weight.”  It is important to take care of our bodies…but when does it go too far?

We are made in the image of God.  In 1 Corinthians 6:15 we read “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?”  Our bodies belong to God and are made in His own image.  We are called to take care of our bodies because are “a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God.” (1 Corinthians 6:19)  Part of taking care of our bodies is physical fitness and healthy eating. 

I believe that while taking care of our bodies is important, we need to realize what is most important in our lives and prioritize accordingly.  We are told what our number one priority should be from Jesus Himself.  He tells us in Matthew 6:33 to “Seek first the kingdom [of God] and His righteousness.”and that we are called to “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).  Our number one priority should be our spiritual relationship with God and how we share His love.  Spending time in prayer and in strengthening our faith is more important than doing an extra set of crunches or spending excessive time researching the latest and greatest fat trimming workout routines.  Taking care of our spiritual selves is more than just prayer.  It involves reaching out to others through our words and actions to share God’s love.

For some, physical activity becomes a part of spiritual expression.  People who are successful athletes have the unique opportunity to help inspire others and can share their faith in that way.  My sister, Amanda is a serious competitive runner.  She uses her running as a way to give back to God and uses her fame of sorts to connect and share her spiritual journey with others (check out her blog notrunning4awin.blogspot.com.)  How cool is that?  I am not an athlete by any means.  My jog around the park is fun for me and my dog, but hardly anything newsworthy!  Instead, I try to inspire people through my regular daily activites and through the volunteer work I participate in.   Working out just isn’t a priority for me. 

My priorities after God go to my family.  To spending time with my husband, keeping in touch with my sisters, talking to my Mom, catching up on the latest sports news with my Dad.  After a long day at work, I come home to make dinner and relax with my husband.  We both know that we won’t always have this time together just the two of us and I want to cherish this time.  After Mass on Sunday we might take a nice walk in the park, but then I like to relax and enjoy the rest of our day off together. 

For me, working out is something that I schedule in about three times a week to keep in good health, so that I can take care of my “temple.”  Through this steps challenge at work I have been feeling that I need to schedule in extra time to workout even more.  But I realize that adding time for exercise simply isn’t a priority for me right now.  I am not willing to give up extra time with my husband  for more workouts.  I am healthy and in shape and happy with the way I look.  For me, I am going to keep working on my faith, sharing God’s love in the ways I can, and spending time with those I love.  I may not win the steps challenge at work, but I am stepping up to my own challenge to balance the things in my daily life and keep God at the front of it all.

Why Wait for Marriage?

In today’s society, modesty and conservative views are not always popular.  Especially when it comes to sex.  In a time where it’s widely considered to be pathetic and embarrassing to be a virgin, it is hard to explain to young girls why they should wait.  Television shows, movies, music, and even commercials give the message that sex is something casual that you just must experience as soon as possible.  Many young girls and boys feel that they are doing something wrong if they do not have sex because popular culture tells people: Why wait? 

It’s a good question.  Why should you wait?  Does it really matter?  What about sexual compatibility?  What if we really love each other and we know we’re getting married anyway?  I mean it’s just sex. Right?


It is not just sex.  Or at least it shouldn’t be.  The act of sex is meant to be a loving gift between a man and wife.  It is a gift that is shared in marriage, in love, and that can bring forth new life as a result of deep love. 

Before I go any further I need to say that I know it can be hard to wait.  I know it is not a popular view to have.  I know the pressure that society puts on us to give in and give up on waiting.  I know because I went through it.  I am 24 years old and until my wedding this past July, I was a virgin.  I know what it can be like to start dating someone and to worry, what if they don’t want to wait?  I know how uncomfortable it can sometimes be to hear friends talk about their first time or swap stories of different people they’ve been with.  I know how awkward it can be to go to the doctor for your yearly checkup and to have to reassure the doctor that there is no chance you are pregnant.  But when I was a teenager, I made a promise to myself and to God that I would wait until marriage and that the first man I was with would be the only man I would ever be with and that he would be my husband.  I was very blessed to find a man who agreed to wait until marriage.  And we did.  And I do not regret waiting even the slightest bit.  So I do know it can be hard.  But I am telling you it is so worth it.

So why should you wait?  There are many reasons to wait until marriage.  The most important is for God.  Because God created man and woman to be together in marriage.  Because God has commanded us to keep sexual relations within a marriage.  Look at 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5

“This is the will of God, your holiness: that you refrain from immorality, that each of you know how to acquire a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion as do the Gentiles who do not know God.”

Another passage is 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 which reminds us that we are all members of Christ’s body.  Verse 19 reads: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God and that you are not your own?”

 You want to be with someone you love and who loves you back.  You might say, well we do love each other and we’ll probably get married anyway.  That may be.  And if you plan on getting married, you will have a lifetime to be together.  Why rush into it?  It is such a special act of love, why not wait until you know you are in a loving, committed, lifelong marriage to enter into it?   And the fact of the matter is, you may not end up marrying that person.  And when you do get married, do you want to marry someone who has been with 20 other people?  Do you want to have to tell your husband that he is #15?  Or do you want to be able to tell your husband, I have saved myself for you because I value every aspect of our relationship and want to give myself to you fully in love once we are married?  Think of a piece of chewing gum.  Would you want a fresh piece of chewing gum…or a piece of gum that had been chewed by ten other people?  It’s a graphic metaphor, but think about it! 

Many people see sex as a quick fix.  Get into a big fight?  Well, sex will fix that.  One of you did something wrong?  No problem we’ll just have sex and it will be fine.  One of the reasons I really was determined to wait was because of this.  I have seen friends go through this.  I’ve seen marriages end because problems were solved in the bedroom instead of actually talking about the issues at hand.  Do you know how great it feels knowing that my husband and I could resolve any arguments we had without having to fall back on sex?  On the opposite end, some people stay in relationships even when they aren’t going well because of the sex.  I love the fact that my husband and I were able to make a loving and lifelong commitment to each other knowing that it had nothing to do with the physical act.  That it was pure love for each other, not persuasion because of what happens in the bedroom.

Some people think you must have sex before marriage because otherwise how will you know if you are sexually compatible?  Well when you are with the person you love, you are compatible in every way.  To base a relationship on a physical compatibility is foolish.  The physical act is not what will sustain a relationship.  Being with that one person you truly love and who truly loves you will make everything compatible and you won’t need to worry at all.  You should instead focus on spiritual compatibility.  Finding someone who help you to grow in faith and in your relationship with God.  That is so much more important!

I know it can be tempting.  My husband and I were in a financial bind and ended up sharing a 2 bedroom apartment before we were married.  Though we lived in the same apartment, we kept our promise to God and to each other to wait until marriage.  It is hard to resist the temptation!  But it is definitely worth it.

Now before I close I want to say just one last thing.  I am not condemning anyone who has sex outside of marriage.  I remember the words of Jesus, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)  We are not made to judge others.  I am certainly not without sin.  And this post is be no means a judgement or condemnation on those who have chosen not to wait.  Instead it is meant to be a post to inspire young women to stand up for what they believe in and have the courage to wait until marriage in a society that holds the opposite view. 

Why wait?   Simply this: Because true love is worth waiting for. 

I am a Catholic

There are many ways we define ourselves.  We might define ourselves by our physical characteristics (I am tall, black, white, blonde), by our relationships (I am a mother, a father, a wife, a son), by our occupation (I am a doctor, a student, a lawyer), by our stage in life (I am in college, in high school, retired, just married),  and the list goes on and on.  These various definitions need to be prioritized to see who we truly are.  Are we more concerned with our occupation or our relationships?  With our relationships or with our physical attributes?  I often think of this for myself.  How do I prioritize the varies definitions that I fit into?  What would the first few terms be that I use to define myself?  I am a wife.  I am a daughter.  I am a sister.  But first and foremost: I am a Catholic

Being a Catholic comes first in my life because it defines everything else that is important to me.  Being a Catholic is not about following rules, standing up and sitting down in Mass, chanting prayers, and carrying rosaries.  Being a Catholic is about following Christ.  It is about striving to live like our Lord commanded.  It is about growing closer to God, helping to spread God’s love with everyone around us, and worshipping the Lord for all we have been given.   Among the many things we have been given, being Catholic gives me even more.

Catholic is my religion and my faith.  My faith in Jesus and His saving grace!  Being Catholic offers me a way to pray using my own words or prayers given to us by our Lord and various holy Saints throughout time.  It gives me an opportunity to worship God in His holy church each Sunday.  To praise Him in song many times throughout the Mass.  It means I can receive my Lord in the flesh each Sunday during Holy Communion.  It means I can trace back the roots of my religion to Jesus himself.  I can follow a line of men who have served as the human leader of Christ’s Church here on earth starting when Jesus said to Peter, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)   From Peter to Linus to Anacletus to Clement and on and on throughout time I can trace a line all the way up to Pope John Paul II and now to Pope Benedict XVI.  And what’s more, Jesus has told us that the gates of the netherworld will not prevail against His Church!  I know that despite the bad times, our Church will stay strong in faith and will be protected for all of time.

Being a Catholic gives me hope.  I have hope for whatever lies ahead because of my faith.  I know that my God will always be with me.  I know that what we have here on earth is only temporary.  That our time spent here, while it seems long to us, is only a small portion of eternity!  An eternity that we can spend with Christ because of His great love for us and His sacrifice for us on the cross.  Even in the worst of times, I have hope because of my faith.

Being a Catholic allows me to love.  1 John 4:16 says “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.”  Without God, we cannot know love.  Without God’s love for us, how could we begin to love anyone at all?  God loves us so much that He creates us all with free will.   He loves us enough to let us make our own decisions.  He loves us through our triumphs and through our mistakes.  He loves us despite all our sins.  To remain in God, we must believe in His deep and everlasting love for us and show Him that we love Him too.  We can show our love for God through our thoughts, our actions, our words, and our relationships.  To live like Christ lived we show God we love Him.  To speak the word of God and spread hope to others, we show God we love Him.  And through the love we have in God, we are capable of building our own loving relationships.  It is because of God’s love for me and my love for Him that I am capable of being in love with my husband and being loved by him in return.

Certainly I must say that the Catholic religion is more than just what I have listed.  And I do not believe that only Catholics will be in Heaven, nor am I condemning other religions.  But if someone were to ask me to define myself, I would say I am a Catholic.  I am a Catholic because I can’t imagine my life any other way.  I am proud of my Catholic faith and religion.  I love that through the Catholic  faith, I grow closer to God.  With millions of other Catholics around the world,  I pray and praise God and I hope in salvation.  I know the love that God has for me.  And I love Him.   And through that love I can know how to love others.   I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, and many more things.  But I am nothing without my Catholic faith and my God.


Still fighting…

Just a quick update on the HHS mandate and the recent compromise made by the government.  Many people are wondering why religious institutions are still upset.  Here it is:

The government is still trying to decide what constitutes a religious institution at all!  The government is telling us right now they will provide full exemptions for religious institutions but that if you serve more than one faith, you do not qualify.  Of course Catholic hospitals, universities, and other charitable organizations serve many faiths.  Jesus served many faiths!  That is what we are called to do!  So the fight at this point is mostly concerning this decision to determine what a religious institution is.

The other part of this is that many small organizations will still have to pay for the contraceptive services because they pay the insurance companies who will have to provide it free of charge to women!

So while the compromise seemed to be in the right direction, the fight for religious freedom continues.  We’ll see where it goes!  Jus keep on praying that those in power in our government will make the right decisions!

True Beauty

Recently there have been numerous articles and discussions regarding what we tell children about their appearance.  Several articles have been written regarding the dangers of telling girls they are pretty.  The authors of such publications argue that comments regarding a child’s beauty place too much emphasis on outward appearance.  You can read two such articles here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-bloom/how-to-talk-to-little-gir_b_882510.html and here: http://www.parents.com/blogs/unexpectedly-expecting/2011/12/12/must-read/please-dont-tell-my-little-girl-shes-pretty/.

Certainly beauty is more than outward appearance.  And of course we want all children to grow up knowing that it is what’s on the inside that counts.  Too much focus on outward appearance can distract from the true person.  But at the same time, I think we need to strike the proper balance. 

Children are beautiful.  And they need to know that!  We are all beautiful because we are all made in God’s image.  Genesis 1:27 says that 

“God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.” 

 We are created in God’s perfect image.  Take a look at 1 Corinthians 6: 19

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” 

 Clearly we can see that our Lord created us to be beautiful, in His own image, and that we should respect and care for bodies. 

God created us in His image, yes.  But not just our bodies.  Our whole selves, body and soul.  We are called to respect our bodies, but more importantly to care for our souls.  In 1 Samuel 16:7 we read

“But the Lord said to Samuel: ‘Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him.  Not as man sees does God see, because man sees appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” 

The Lord sees our hearts, our souls, and our body.  He looks at us for our whole being, beautiful inside and out.  Because we are created in His image and our bodies are made to be the temple of the Holy Spirit within us, our Lord does not want us to neglect our appearance.  We need to tell children that they are beautiful because God made them beautiful.  And not just children, but all people.  That we are all beautiful because God made us all.  But we can’t forget that God made out hearts too.  He can see our hearts and souls, so we need to make those even more beautiful!  It is not sinful to take care in our appearance, but we do need to strive for true beauty, not just worldly beauty.

True beauty is a unity of body and soul in Christ.  To be truly beautiful we must go further than hair, makeup, and the latest trends.  We need to make our souls beautiful through prayer, scripture, the sacraments, and works of charity.  If we focus on making our hearts and souls beautiful, that inward beauty will shine through and make us truly beautiful in the eyes of God. 

“Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul.”  ~Saint Augustine

The Beginning of Lent

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent, a time of fasting and prayer leading up to Holy Week and Easter.  Jesus went into the desert for forty days to fast and pray before he began his public ministry.  Likewise, Catholics spend these forty days praying and fasting in preparation for Easter. 

I remember when I was teaching an 8th grade confirmation class a few years back we began to discuss Lent and the practice of giving something up.  Most of the kids saw this is something silly…why would giving up chocolate or pop or abstaining from meat make any difference?  And in a way, they’re right.  Simply giving something up just because it’s Lent without giving it a second thought isn’t the point.  The whole point is to find something you take pleasure in, and go without it as a sacrifice.  Certainly a small sacrifice compared to the one our Savior made for us, but a sacrifice nonetheless.  And not only to give it up, but to recognize the physical absence of something and to use that recognition as a reminder of the holy season of Lent. 

I encouraged my 8th grade class to think of giving up not just something physical, like a food, but to give up a practice.  I asked my class if they thought they could give up sin for forty days.  It sounds silly and most of them rolled their eyes at me, but then we began to discuss this further.  Jesus spent forty days in the desert fasting and praying and resisting temptation.  Jesus then paid the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.  And yet even with that knowledge, how easy it is for us to give into temptation and sin against our God.  I challenged my 8th grade students to focus on one behavior and try to alter it during the course of Lent. And not to continue the behavior once Lent is over, but to continue avoiding it as a changed lifestyle.

This year for Lent, that is what I am attempting to do.  I am giving up a physical sacrifice so that I notice something missing and am reminded of the season we are in. This will be a reminder that as I sacrifice something so small, I should be remembering the sacrifice Christ made for us. But I also wanted to make a lifestyle change.  A change in behavior.  I am certainly not perfect and would be the first to admit that I fall into temptation and sin just like everyone else.  I consider myself to be a fairly positive person.  Even so, it can be so easy to fall into the trap about complaining about a co-worker, a new policy change, traffic, weather, the list goes on and on.  And when we are around someone who is complaining, typically it brings us down too.  It can be a contagious behavior.  So for the next forty days, I am going to work on becoming a more positive person.  I  am giving up complaining.  When things get frustrating, I am going to try my very best to see the bright side in the situation and focus on that.  To say a prayer asking for Jesus to assist me in my day.  And not to complain about anything!  My goal through this is to become a brighter light.  Jesus says we are the light of the world.  Well, it’s very hard to shine Christ’s light when we focus on negativity!  So by maintaining a positive attitude, I hope to share Christ’s light with more people.  I’m sure it will be difficult, especially as things get hectic during our busiest time at work.  But I also hope that the more I work at it, the easier it will become, until it is less of a challenge and more of a lifestyle.