Tag Archives: spirituality

Are Women’s Rights at Risk?

As the election creeps closer and closer, the political ads are even more prominent.  Something about the election is featured in every news broadcast.  Every commercial break holds at least one political ad.  It saddens me to see the turn that these ads have taken.  With all the issues that face this nation right now, much of the political agenda has been focused on a women’s choice lately.  And the problem is not one sided.  The Obama campaign is pouring money into ads with women stating how frightened they are by their rights being threatened because of Romney’s previous “support” of ending Planned Parenthood and fighting abortion.  On the opposite end, Romney’s campaign has denied many of these claims and does not clearly state his position at all.  The reason these ads sadden me so is that it has taken a touchy issue, twisted it, and made it the face of the campaign.  While we are facing economic troubles, healthcare debates, international tensions, and more, we are arguing over whether women’s rights are at jeopardy.  While everyone will have their own opinion, I would like to state mine.  Are the rights of women being jeopardized by the threat of a Republican candidate opposing Planned Parenthood and abortion?  No.

Planned Parenthood’s website offers information on the services they provide.  Abortion, birth control, the morning after pill, STDs, and women’s health are among the services listed on the main webpage.  So let’s think about what Planned Parenthood truly has to offer.  Abortion is the top service listed.  When you click on their link for information, the website tells you that 1 in 3 women in the United State will have an abortion before the age of 45.  Now, in all these political ads, the focus seems to be on how terrible ending abortion would be because of victims of rape who become pregnant.  Rape or any sexual assault is terrible.  Never ever ever would I defend that.  The Rape Abuse and Incest National Network estimates that in one year (using 2004-2005 as their study year) .o5% of rape resulted in pregnancy.  Looking at those statistics, I think it is clear that rape is certainly not the leading reason for 1 in 3 women in America having an abortion.  Most women are having an abortion because they are having unprotected relationships when they are not ready for the actual consequences.  Instead of teaching women to respect their bodies and to wait for a real relationship, Planned Parenthood spends 33.5% of its funding on contraceptive services.  Not surprisingly, another 38% of their funding is spent on STD testing and treating.  So over 70% of the funding goes towards preventing pregnancy, and another 3% of funds are strictly for abortions.  73%.  That’s a huge majority.  What makes this more upsetting is the fact that 46% of the funding Planned Parenthood receives is from the US Government.  (All of the above Planned Parenthood information is taken from Planned Parenthood’s most recent annual report found on their website)

Planned Parenthood also lists services such as women’s general health including preventative health care.  Many people are latching onto this as a reason to continue Planned Parenthood.  Well, according to the new healthcare reform, every American must have insurance.  And every insurance provider is required to provide women with preventative healthcare without charge.  So why is Planned Parenthood necessary for this?  Is it really necessary to spend that money on services we now have required elsewhere? 

So with all these questions in mind and with all of the information above, do I believe that my rights as a woman are at risk because of the possible statement that Planned Parenthood is unnecessary?  Absolutely not.  If anything is at risk, it is the right to religious freedom which is being threatened by the HHS mandate.  The right to stand up and say, I do not believe that and will NOT support and pay for something that goes against my beliefs.  If someone’s rights are being threatened, perhaps it is the rights of the unborn children who are being lost to abortion.  These rights truly are at risk and truly are being threatened. 

Many people will fight for the “Right of Choice” when talking about abortion.  It seems to me that this is not the argument at all.  If these people would only listen to the Lord who tells us that He knows us in the womb, from the moment of conception, they will see that this is not a matter of choice at all. It is ending a life, plain and simple.  Women do have a choice.  They can choose to have sex.   They can choose to go for routine checkups or to avoid the doctor.  They can choose to take care of their bodies in whatever way they feel is appropriate.  But no woman, no person at all for that matter, has the right to make a choice that will end the life of another innocent person. 

The political ads are telling me that I should be frightened of the times ahead as a woman because of the threat to our choice.  They are asking me what choices I will be left with as a women.  While it is not what the ad intended, I would say that I do agree with one small point.  Rights of Americans are being jeopardized and that is a frightening thing.  Too many people don’t get a choice at all.  Instead of fighting for the right for a woman, or for anyone, to make a choice that ends the life of another person, I believe we need to be more interested in the choices of those who are unable to voice their own desire to live.  I believe that we need to protect one very important right for ALL Americans.  And that is the right to life for everyone. 

A Wonderful Transformation

little-girl-626114_640As a child, like most little girls, I loved fairy tale stories.  Even now I must admit that I will still watch the Disney classics and other children’s princess and fairy tale movies!  The stories always have a happy ending, good always triumphs over evil, and there are girls in gorgeous princess gowns singing and dancing.  What could be better?  One common scene in all these movies is the “transformation” scene.  You know the ones… 

Ordinary girl is transformed into beautiful princess

Poor peasant boy becomes prince

Hideous beast turns into handsome man

Mermaid becomes beautiful girl

 Two frogs become the beautiful prince and princess

…and so on.  Despite what happens throughout the rest of the movie, the transformation scene not only transforms that particular character, but it changes the lives of the people around them as well.  In one miraculous instant, the lives of the characters are no longer the same.

Yesterday our Parish was blessed to have the Bishop visit and give the sermon during Mass.  The Bishop spoke in his sermon about making a commitment.  He spoke of having full trust to commit to your family, your spouse, and our God, without knowing what may come next.  To agree to follow Christ without knowing where the path may lead us along the way can be a challenge.  But that ultimate trust, as the Bishop told us, is what gives us that amazing peace found in Christ alone.

So how do we carry on through the day to day trials, stresses, ups and downs?  When times get rough, how do we keep our eyes on the Lord and trust fully in Him when we are confused by the path before us?  I believe it is in these moments that we reach out to the Holy Spirit for guidance and strength.  

When we are confirmed, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit just as the apostles received the Holy Spirit after Christ’s ascension into heaven.  This gift, this flame of love and peace that came to each of them, it transformed them.  They were filled with the Holy Spirit. They were able to speak in languages understood by all.  Not only were their lives transformed, but by the grace of God they were able to reach and be heard and understood by everyone in the crowd.  They were able to extend the transformation to all those around them.

The Holy Spirit is present in our lives as well.  In the mystery of the Holy Trinity, we come to know God as One in three persons.  God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit, surrounding us all with God’s everlasting love and peace.  When we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, we too can be transformed.  Our transformation may not be filled with swirling, twinkling lights and beautiful gowns.  It may not be a transformation of our outward appearance.  But it is a transformation just as life changing, beautiful, and exciting as those in the Disney movies we love.  We are transformed in our hearts.  We are renewed in our spirit.  A sense of peace, of calm, of joy, should fill our hearts.  And that transformation, just like in the fairy tales, is not limited to our person alone.

The transformation within our hearts should fill us with a joy that cannot be contained.  We are called to carry that joy to all that we meet.  We are called to use the gift of the Holy Spirit within us to transform those around us.  Through our actions, our words, our example.   At Confirmation we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2).  These gifts enrich our spirit and we are called to use these gifts to spread the love of Christ to those around us.  And this is not only something we receive in Confirmation.  We can pray for guidance and strength every day.  Constant prayer with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will enrich our lives, transform our spirits, and allow us to spread hope, joy, and faith all around us.

Little girls everywhere see the fairy tale movies and dream of a transformation that will bring the happiness and beauty that is reflected in the movies.  And I believe that transformation is very real.  It may not be at the hands of a fairy godmother, a big blue genie, or a magical rose.  No, it is a far greater transformation at the hands of the ever loving King of Kings.  It is a transformation through the Holy Spirit, bringing us closer to God, wrapping us in the love, joy, and beauty of Christ, and calling us to share this wonderful gift with everyone we meet.

True Faith

When it comes to faith, we are all on a journey.  Everyone struggles with faith in one aspect or another at some point in their lives.  And we all constantly strive to have a deeper faith in God. Sometimes it can be difficult to know where to focus our faith when we have reached a rough spot.  Whether it is an answer to prayers for a loved one to be well, for work, for food, for relief from financial troubles, in times of hardship we seem to be desperate for answers from God.  Jesus tells us that if we have faith even the size of a mustard seed we can move mountains (Luke 17:6).  We are also told by Our Lord that if we ask, we shall receive (Luke 11:9).  When we look at these verses, it can be easy to fall into thinking that is we do not get what we want, maybe our faith isn’t strong enough.  Or worse, it can sometimes cause people to doubt the very existence of God. 

When we begin to see this pattern of doubt in our faith, we need to remember what Jesus taught us to do when we are faced with temptation.  Jesus, too, was tempted.  Sometimes it is easy to think of temptation as something that is more concrete or physical.  It is easy to identify temptation when it is something like the temptation to steal, to lie, to gossip. But the devil can tempt us to doubt.  This is what we see when Jesus was tempted in the desert.  Jesus is tempted by the devil to throw Himself down and trust that angels will save Him.  Jesus answers this temptation by saying, “It is also written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” (Matthew 4:7).  When we are praying for a specific answer, do we put God to the test?

There was a story in the news this past week about a pastor who handled snakes. (read the article here: http://www.kansascity.com/2012/06/01/3637443/veteran-snake-handling-pastor.html)  In Matthew 16: 17-18, Jesus tells us that those who truly believe will drive out demons, speak in tongues, pick up snakes with their hands, and drink poison but not be harmed.  With these verses as his motivation, this pastor took his congregation to a park area and began to handle a poisonous snake.  The snake bit him and the man died. This man had faith in God.  But he was also testing Him.   

When we are facing tough times, it is important to pray for a strengthening of true faith.  Faith not only in what we want, but faith in God’s perfect timing. We may believe that our prayers need to be answered in a certain way and at a certain time.  And God has told us that we can ask and we will receive an answer.  Our faith needs to be strong.  Not so we can test God and guarantee we get the response we want.  Our faith needs to be strong enough so that when we ask God for something, when we knock on His door, we are willing and open to what may be on the other side.  We need to pray for the faith to ask God, and then receive His answer with the knowledge that God’s plan is far greater than our own. 

1 Corinthians 13:13 tells us that “These three remain: faith, hope, and love.  The greatest of these is love.”  Why is the greatest love?  Because love is what makes faith and hope even possible.  God is love.  Only by loving the Lord, Our God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind (Matthew 22:37) can we experience the fullness of the faith and hope that comes from Christ alone.  When we open up our hearts to God, when we empty out our souls to be filled by Him alone, when we focus our minds on prayer and praise to our Loving Father, we allow the Holy Spirit to move within us and to fill us with a deeper faith.  A true and living faith to believe and trust in God in all circumstances and to trust that His plan for us is greater than anything we could ever imagine.

True Peace

Peace be with you

Jesus offered these words to His disciples upon appearing to them after His resurrection and we use the same phrase in Mass each Sunday.  The priest offers peace to us, we offer peace back to him, and we offer signs of peace to those with us in church.

Peace be with you

How short and simple these words are and yet how awesome and grand at the same time.  Jesus offers us peace, true peace, through His death and resurrection.  By coming into this world and teaching us how to live, Jesus showed us how to bring peace to our lives.  By dying on the cross and rising from the dead He brought everlasting peace to us all.  The peace that comes from knowing that Jesus is our salvation and that death is not the end of our journey.  When Jesus appears to His disciples in the locked upper room, He greets them by saying these words

Peace be with you.

This short phrase calmed His disciples by filling them with the peace of God.  He could have said many things to His disciples.  But he chose to offer peace.  True peace.

True peace is more than stopping children from arguing.  It is more than keeping politicians from disputing practices of the government.  True peace is more than stopping a war between nations.  True peace can be found in Christ and in Christ alone.  He offers us a peace that is far greater than we can imagine.  The peace of our Lord surpasses any peace we could attain on our own.  

The gift of our Lord’s peace is a gift that fills the heart.  True peace enters into your soul and fills your very being with the Holy Spirit.  It lifts you up and erases your doubts, your fears, your worries about tomorrow.  The peace of Jesus fills us with an inner calm that is like a gentle breeze on a summer day, or the sound of the waves lapping onto the shore as you stare into the sunset.  True peace is the love of our Lord within us.  It fills you with hope, with joy, with faith, with calm.

This inner peace goes further than simply within ourselves.  We are called to spread the peace of Our Lord.  By opening ourselves up to this true peace and by allowing God to work through us, we spread His peace to those around us.  In this way, the peace of the Lord is the peace that we search for in all aspects of life.  Before we can solve worldly conflicts as small as an argument between children or as large as a war between nations, we must have the peace of Christ.  It is His peace that makes any wordly peace possible.  Our prayers for peace should be prayers for true peace to enter into the hearts of all on earth, especially those engaged in war or other widespread conflict.

The peace of Christ can enter into the soul of each of us if we only allow it.  It can fill us with a calm that can withstand even the greatest of storms.  It can guide through times of trouble and through times of triumph.  True peace in our world really can begin with us.  It begins in each of our hearts and grows as we allow the peace of Christ to work through us to inspire others and to open their hearts as well. 

 So today I pray for peace.  For the peace of Our Lord to fill my body and soul, to fill the lives of those I love, to bring hope to those who despair, to bring life to those surrounded by death.  I pray for the true everlasting peace of God to touch the hearts of all of us here on earth and I pray that our hearts are open to accept it. 

Peace be with you.

Three Thoughts

Happy Easter to everyone!  I hope you all had a wonderful and holy celebration of our Lord’s resurrection!  Yesterday as I was preparing to get ready for Easter Sunday Mass, I opened up a small book I have called “#22: All for Jesus.  It was taken from Blessed Pope John Paul II’s Address to Youth on November 8, 1978.  In this address, Blessed John Paul II leaves us with three thoughts for our lives:

Look for Jesus,

Love Jesus,

Bear witness to Jesus.

These three thoughts have stuck with me.  So simple, and yet so profound.  Since reading these words just yesterday morning, I have found myself going over them in my head. 

How do I look for Jesus?  Do I see the face of Christ in those around me?  When I am getting aggravated or frustrated with someone, do I stop to see Jesus in them? Do I look for Christ in good times and bad?  Jesus is always present in our lives.  We can find Him in spring buds beginning to open up, in the warm sun shining on our skin, in the soft breeze that blows through the trees.  We can see Him in the wonder of the ocean, in the glory of the mountains, in the majesty of the forests.  We can see our Lord in the faces of the people we love.  By remembering to look for Christ in all that is around us and to look for Him even when times seem rough, we can react differently to situations and shine with the light of Christ.

How do I love Jesus?  In our thoughts, words and actions we can show our love for Christ.  By following the commandments, by participating in the sacraments, by praying faithfully and looking for Jesus in our daily lives, we show our love for Him.  And we can tell Him of our love.  We can be quick to tell family and friends that we love them.  How often do we tell God?  There is something so simple and pure about saying the words, “Jesus I love you” as a part of our prayers.  By affirming our love for Him, we open our hearts up to His Holy Spirit to move within us.

How do I bear witness to Jesus?  Do I share my faith with others?  Do I act in a way that shines Christ’s light to the world around me?  Bearing witness does not have to be preaching on a street corner or going door to door with a Bible in hand.  We can bear witness to Jesus through our actions and by being open to sharing the Gospel and our faith with those we come in contact with when the time arises.

I hope that these three thoughts from Blessed John Paul II inspire you as they did me.  In closing and with these three thoughts in my mind, I will leave you with my prayer for today.  I must admit I was a bit nervous typing my prayer to God out here.  But then I began to think, much of what I write is almost a prayer in itself.  God knows my thoughts already, and certainly there are prayers in my heart that are for me and God alone.  But today I felt compelled to post a short prayer here in hopes that someone may read my simple words and feel inspired or feel a desire to pray in whatever way is fitting.  Perhaps sharing this is a small way I can bear witness to Jesus with whose of you who read this.  So here is my little prayer for today:

+ O Lord Jesus, help me to see you and your glory in all that surrounds me.  Send your Holy Spirit to guide me so I can see you in the face of all meet.  I love you Lord with my whole heart.  I pray that you might make my heart pure so my love for you and for others can grow.  Help me to share your everlasting love with others through my thoughts, my words, and my actions.  Amen +

Listening for God

Happy Palm Sunday!  Before I head off to Mass today, I wanted to share with you a recent experience I had.  Many of us talk to God frequently.  We pray to Him asking for guidance, praising Him, and just talk to Him throughout the day.  It is sometimes difficult to hear an answer.  God can speak to us in may ways.  Through nature, through a friend, and through the Scriptures among other things.  I love when you are having a tough time with something or have been praying for something for a while, and suddenly you open your Bible or listen to the sermon at Mass and it seems like it is directed specifically to you!  I believe that in those moments, God is talking to us!  All we have to do is listen, and we can hear God in many different ways. 

Just a day or so ago I was opening my Bible and happened to flip to a passage that perfectly fit with what I was praying for on that day.  I was worrying and stressing about things in the future.  I had been praying for guidance but a part of me was still feeling that worry.  I have been reading through Matthew and flipped open to where I last left off.  But a separate passage caught my eye instead. 

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are not you more important than they?  Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?  Why are you anxious about clothes?  Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.  They do not work or spin.  But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like the one of them.  If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows toady and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will He not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?  So do not worry and say ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?  All these things the pagans seek.  Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom [of God] and all His righteousness , and all these things will be given you besides.  Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”     Matthew 6:25-34

I read this passage and then paused and prayed for guidance and handed over tomorrow to God.  And suddenly I did not feel stressed at all.  I felt calm.  At peace.   I continued reading and just a bit more into the Gospel was this verse:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”     Matthew 7:7

A short while back I posted about learning to beg.  Learning how to humble ourselves to the Lord and to truly ask for His guidance and will in our lives.  On this day, I felt the Lord answering my prayers, listening to me begging Him for guidance.  The Lord hears us when we pray, and He always answers our prayers.  Sometimes it might not be through a miraculous healing or a lightning bolt from the sky, but He does answer.  We just need to listen.  A beggar on the street cannot merely beg and run away, but needs to wait for a response.  We cannot knock at the door and then move on in our lives before the door even has a chance to be opened for us.   We need to wait patiently for the door to open.  I have been praying and begging the Lord for direction, but had not taken the time to listen for His response.  And because I didn’t hear a response, I began to worry.

When I opened up my Bible and read these words from God, I knew He was telling me that He hears me.  He knows what it is that I need.  He knows what it is that I am asking.  And He will take care of everything far better than I  ever could alone.   I only need to ask, to trust, and to listen for God, and then to respond with His guidance according to His will. 

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.


Learning to Beg

This Sunday in mass our priest asked a question in his sermon: What are you begging God for?  The word “beg” means to ask with emotion.  Our priest challenged us to look at our prayers and see what we are asking God for?  What do we beg the Lord for in our lives?

It was a sermon that hit my husband and I smack in the face.  One of those sermons where you feel like it is meant specifically for you at that moment in your life.  My husband and I are preparing for some upcoming changes in our lives.  We have our own plan for our future.  We think we know what is best for us, and we have been begging God for our plans to fall through.  While I know that God can do all things, and that things may work out just the way we think we want them to, we have been begging the wrong way.

After we left church we talked about what we should be begging for.  Begging for God’s will to be done in our lives!  After all, He knows what is truly best for us.  He can see so much more than we can.  We see what is surrounding us in our small little world and think we know what we want.  What we really need to want is God’s will.  What He has in store for us is the perfect plan for us.  We only need to trust in Him.  God’s plans for us are greater than our plans for ourselves.  Instead of focusing on our plan, we need to pray for guidance to follow God’s plan.

So this Lent we are learning how to become beggars to the Lord. We are humbly begging for guidance, for a deeper faith, and for God’s will to be done in our lives.  Begging for peace in our world and in our hearts.  Begging for our hearts to become pure and for our light to shine through the darkness as a reflection of Christ’s  light.  We beg to be like Jesus our Lord and Savior who prayed to His Heavenly Father, “…not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42).     

Do Catholics worship false gods?

Many people who do not understand the Catholic faith will see a statue of Mary or Jesus or hear Catholics asking a Saint for help and assume that Catholics worship false gods. Non-Catholics see these religious statues and artwork as idolatry. They don’t understand why we would ask Saints for help. Do we think they are gods too? Do we think Mary is a goddess? Absolutely not. Catholics are Christians too, and as Christians we worship the one and only true God and we worship Him alone.

Catholic churches and many Catholic homes hold religious statues and artwork. Images of Jesus, Mary, and various other saints adorn jewelry, hang on the walls, and are displayed as statues both indoors and out. But certainly Catholics do not worship these items! Look around your own home. Chances are you have photos of family members, past and present, friends, maybe even photos or posters of celebrities, sports figures, or pop stars hanging somewhere in your home. I think it is safe to say that we do not carry photos of family members in our wallets or display family photos in our homes because we are worshipping them. We love these people, we look up to them, care about them, and enjoy having a visual reminder of how much they mean to us. The same holds true for religious artwork. I have a crucifix in my home not because I worship or pray to it, but because it is a daily, visual reminder of our Lord’s sacrifice for us. A high school athlete may have posters of famous athletes in their room. These are not so the student can worship them, but are for inspiration! Again, the same holds true for Catholic displays of religious art. I have a statue of the Mother Mary in my home because she is an inspiration to me! And the same is true for churches. Catholic churches display religious pictures and statues as reminders to us of the holy people who have gone before us and as an inspiration for us. Not idolatry at all!

Many non-Catholics also do not understand our relationship with the Saints. This is probably because they do not understand what a saint is. A saint is quite simply anyone who is in Heaven. It’s really that simple! Now certainly the Church does not say that the only people in heaven are those officially recognized as Saints. The Church developed a formal process for officially recognizing saints to be sure the same standards were being used everywhere. The Church does not make anyone a saint. Rather, the Church can officially acknowledge that someone is in heaven and declare them an official Saint. This is done through a careful process called canonization which takes several years and is finalized with miracles being attributed to the intercession of the person as proof that they are in heaven and God is working through them.

So do we pray to the Saints? No. We pray with the Saints. Jesus says to us in Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” It is for this reason that we pray in groups, with family members and friends. Likewise, we join in praise with the Saints in heaven and pray with them! Many people will ask family and friends for prayers. You might ask someone to pray for a family member who has become ill. Or you might request prayers for a friend who has lost their job. Certainly you are not praying to these people by asking for their assistance. In the same way, we ask the assistance of the saints. Who better to ask for prayers and guidance than those who have gone before us and are in Heaven with our Lord? We ask the Saints to intercede for us, to pray for us, and we pray along with them.

Mary is a Saint as well. So when people question our devotion to Mary, my first response is the one just given. We do not pray to Mary. We pray with her. Just as we pray with all the saints in Heaven. But our devotion to Mary goes further than that. Mary is not just another Saint. She holds a very special place in our Catholic faith. Mary said yes to God’s will to be the mother of His only Son. This was not a decision to be taken lightly. She was not married at the time. Aside from having to explain to Joseph, her betrothed, that she was now pregnant with the Son of God, she also faced being stoned to death if it was discovered that she was unwed and with child. There was a lot at stake! But Mary loved God and trusted Him completely. When Gabriel explained what was going to happen, she didn’t ask to think it over. She said “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done tomeaccordingto your word.”(Luke 1:38) What’s more, Mary was not a random choice. Gabriel didn’t go to every woman to see who would be willing to do this. He was sent by God specifically to Mary. In Luke 1:28 Gabriel addresses Mary, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” Gabriel refers to Mary as the favored one and acknowledges that the Lord is indeed present with her. If an angel of the Lord can see Mary as holding a position of favor, certainly we can give her a position of honor and recognition as well! What’s more, Jesus shows us the respect for Mary as well. In John 2:12, we read the story of the wedding at Cana. Jesus publicly recognizes Mary’s desires as being worthy of His first miracle as He changes the water into wine at Mary’s request. Our Lord listens to Mary, and so we know that when we ask Mary to intercede for us, her prayers are heard by our Lord. We call Mary our Mother. This is also based in scripture. In John 19:26-27 as Jesus is dying on the cross we read, “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” We believe that Jesus wasn’t just telling His disciple that Mary was His mother, we believe He was sharing her as the mother to all of us. We honor Mary because she is honored in the Bible. We consider her to be favored, because God did and sent His angel Gabriel to tell her so! We look to Mary for inspiration for the holy life she led and the willingness she showed toward God’s will. We know that her prayers are heard and so we ask for her intercession to her Son, our Lord, Jesus.

There is only one God. And as Catholics we worship Him alone. To Him all glory and honor is given and no one in heaven or on earth is above Him. We pray to our Lord regularly. We also use visual representation of His love for us through His Son and through holy Saints who have gone before us as inspiration for our own lives. We pray with those who share our faith. We pray together with friends and family on earth and with Mary and all the Saints in Heaven. United in our faith, we pray together to our Lord in Heaven whose love for us is unfailing and whose glory is everlasting.