Properly Oriented

Today I find myself recalling a homily from one of our priest friends on Ash Wednesday. He touched on the three main tenets of Lent; prayer, fasting and almsgiving but he went further to instruct on how these should orient our lives beyond Lent. After all, God created us for labor, love and leisure. I think that first one gets forgotten sometimes or at least pushed a little lower on the priority list. God clearly does not want us to neglect ourselves but love and leisure are often byproducts of labor. 

This was the point that our friend was making when he spoke to the assembly. We are happiest and most fulfilled when we are working for the service of others. Money and success can better enable us to help our neighbors but they themselves cannot be the goal. It’s easy to fall into the habit of defining new challenges in life by what we can get out of them. I’m certainly guilty of this. But this thinking is precisely backwards. 

We should not be the center of our own lives. The Sun around which our worlds must revolve is the Son of God. We can only ensure this proper orientation toward Christ through genuine service. Only when we give ourselves to other people can we experience the bliss of doing God’s work. 


The Feast Day of Saint Patrick

Although not originally native to Ireland, Saint Patrick’s work there spanned nearly all his life. He was born in Roman Britain but was captured by Irish pirates when he was young and was sent to Ireland to work as a slave. He never lost his faith and years later he escaped and returned to Britain. Despite his former captivity, Saint Patrick felt called back to Ireland to bring the Gospel to the pagan country. Thus he set out to become a priest and later a bishop before traveling to Ireland a second time. Saint Patrick is still celebrated and Ireland, nicknamed the Isle of Saints and Scholars, was home to many more saints throughout history thanks to his work.

It’s Hard to be Catholic

Photo by Pixabay

I came home grumpy the other day and despite knowing that most of my frustration was largely out of my control, I immediately began complaining to my husband when I walked in the door. It had been a less than stellar day in the office. The friends and family that I’d tried calling on the drive home had all been busy and although I had no major update to give them, I missed them very much. I’ve also been consumed lately with thoughts of the future and trying to figure out how my husband and I might go about starting a family amid two full time careers. 

I know that God will provide for us so long as we continue to turn to Him in our struggles. I’m also well aware that these are small change compared to the trials of others. I understand that prayer is often the best medicine and we need only bear our crosses and give them up to God. However, as I sat next to my husband while we prayed our daily rosary I was struck by how un-catholic my behavior had been that day. I had not done any of the prayerful things I just mentioned. This was also in dramatic contrast with my husband’s actions as he spent the entire evening going out of his way to cheer me up. 

Being catholic is not always easy. It’s far easier to whine and gripe about every little thing that’s going wrong. In the moment, God can slip our minds entirely as was my case. It didn’t even occur to me that day to relinquish my frustrations to Him. But while we keep faith in God, we are never alone and it’s times like these that I feel unbelievably blessed that He sent my husband to me to be an example and a friend on the bad days. As members of God’s universal church we have the privilege of seeing Christ everyday if we keep our eyes open, whether it be in the kindness of a random stranger on the street, in the devout worship of our fellow parishioners during Sunday mass, or in the love and care we receive from spouses, family and friends. 

Let the Games Begin

Soon it will be warm enough for all sorts of outdoor fun and games, even a chess match in the park. I couldn’t resist snapping this photo while visiting my sister in Little Italy once. I felt as if two elderly tweed clad gentlemen had just stood up from this very table to stroll down the street in search of some refreshing gelato after an intense game. I pray everyone is soon able to enjoy similar quiet, warm afternoons.

My Adult Conversion: Beauty of Catholic Marriage

Photo by Rainstorm Photo

I first started attending mass at a time in my life when I felt that modern society had utterly failed me. By all accounts, I had lived an extremely successful life up to that point, making all the widely accepted ‘responsible’ decisions and striking out on my own. I was a well educated, fiercely independent young woman embarking on a lucrative career in a STEM field. However, in addition to graduating with a fancy engineering degree and a job in the steel industry I also tasted real regret for the first time over decisions which society continued to assure me were perfectly smart and reasonable. 

We’re all only human, ignorant and error prone and I’m no exception. But having been raised by two intelligent and amazingly supportive parents, there were some lessons I was convinced I’d never have to learn the hard way. I thought I was smart enough not to make certain mistakes, particularly when it came to dating. I did everything right by cultural standards and had a good life but was still very far from the person I wanted to be. 

After months of genuine scrutiny of my core beliefs, I began to reorient my life in accordance with Catholic teachings although that was hardly my goal at the time. It was the beauty of the church’s stance on marriage which first struck my fancy. In a world of ‘good enough for now’ and ‘let’s see how it goes’ I was completely enamored by the idea that two people could love and trust each other enough to wait for each other and the sacramental bond of marriage. People are so impatient these days and chastity is such an unpopular virtue on a college campus. 

That isn’t to say that I didn’t have solid role models in my life when it came to marriage. My parents are two of the most in love people I’ve ever met. But finding that one person to spend the rest of your life with is a tricky business, especially when the dating pool is full of people who are convinced that marriage is just a piece of paper. I once heard a newly engaged coworker say “you wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it first,” referencing her relationship with her fiance. At the time I had no intelligent argument to offer except that people are not cars. They are not objects to be used and abused for your pleasure even if they’re willing to consent to such treatment on the grounds that it’s mutual. 

As previously stated, Catholic marriage is a sacrament, one in which you vow to each other and to God to die to yourself everyday for the good of your spouse. The ultimate goal is to ensure that your husband or wife enters the Kingdom of Heaven. The sexual embrace is a renewing of those vows and thus ought to be reserved only for marriage. Obviously you should be choosy when selecting your spouse and you both need to be generally compatible but you don’t have to sleep together to figure that out. There are many far more telling judges of a person’s character than their ability to please in the bedroom. Their ability to keep their hands to themself as they wait in anticipation for marriage is a perfect example. 

Having recently been married, I can happily attest that there is no greater feeling than knowing with absolute and total certainty that my husband and I are madly in love for all the right reasons. He doesn’t just attend to my everyday physical and emotional needs as a loving, doting husband. He cares about my soul. It was a very happy day in my life when I discovered that it’s possible to love and be loved that much.

Just Around the Next Bend

Often in life, much like in hiking, we can’t see our destination until we’ve arrived. We hear words of encouragement from folks traveling the other direction that “you’re almost there” and “it’s just around the next bend.” Sometimes in our fatigue we forget to look around and enjoy the views along the way. Even if this week feels like it’s been an uphill slog, I pray everyone can experience happy hiking in their lives today.

How Did Christ Dying on the Cross Save Me?

Photo by Alem Sánchez

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, he gave his only Son.

During my journey through Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) as I deepened my understanding and faith I slowly relinquished my skepticism and somewhat antagonistic questions. When I finally stopped trying to poke holes in the Catholic teachings I found that they resonated incredibly well with me. I started implementing all sorts of changes in my life, both big and small, in order to lead my best Catholic life. I was left with only a few major questions about the faith and these I approached with genuine curiosity and a strong desire to grow closer to God. 

One of the main tenets of the church is that Christ died on the cross for our sins. In my Catholic infancy I struggled to wrap my head around this. Even after accepting that Christ was both human and divine as the son of God, how could someone who lived so long ago be able to absolve me of my sins today? How could He have known my mistakes before I’d ever made them? 

I soon discovered that I already had part of the answer. It was the dual nature of Christ that enabled him to take on the sins of the world. He was fully human and fully divine, a true son of God and yet still subject to all the sufferings we experience here on Earth. There is a common misunderstanding among people today about the association between sin and humanity. Many people believe, as I did, that to be human is to sin. However, we are made in the image of God in both body and soul and true humanity is not sinful. God only creates good things and did not create us with original sin. This came later in the Garden of Eden with the fall of Adam and Eve. Our free will enables us to deliberately turn away from God but it is not our sin which makes us human. It is our suffering. Christ was fully human because he was without sin. He shared in all our earthly suffering but was always turning toward God. 

In dying on the cross he took upon himself the condition of our sinfulness. It was God’s love for humanity which led Him to sacrifice His Son for the collective sin of the world as a parent sacrifices for a child. The Holy Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are outside of time. This is where the divinity of Christ plays a part. As a member of the Holy Trinity, when Christ took the sins of the world upon himself, it was not the sins of the world in that instant but all sins throughout all of time. 

Many months later, I’m still trying to find ways to reverence Christ for this ultimate sacrifice. It’s easy to write off every mistake as a learning experience and continue through life with the belief that we’re all generally good people. While this may still be true, upon honest reflection, I can pinpoint moments in my life when I wish I’d made different choices and I know exactly what He died for.

Lent: What Are You Giving Back?

Everyone wants to know what you’re giving up for Lent but no one ever asks what you’re giving back for Lent. It’s not just a self-improvement kick to get a few of your preferred vices in check. What are you doing with all that extra time that you’re not wasting scrolling through social media? How are you leading your family to new healthy habits now that sweets are off the menu? Most importantly, how do your Lenten sacrifices give glory to God?

Lent is a penitential preparation for Easter and the resurrection of Christ. The forty days leading up to this christian holiday are intended to be a time of sacrifice in which we imitate the forty days of Christ’s fasting in the wilderness before he began his public ministry. As Catholics we do not fast when the bridegroom, Christ, is present in the church. This occurs in the holy Eucharist during Sunday mass and thus Sundays during Lent are a time of relaxed fasting although they should not be treated as cheat days or an excuse to over indulge. This would encourage us to look forward to Sunday for the wrong reasons. Fasting between meals can be suspended on these days but other Lent offerings should continue through the duration of the entire forty day season. 

Here are a few tips for diving into your Lenten resolutions this year.

  • Be intentional – Don’t wait until the last minute to set your Lenten goals. It’s even harder to keep yourself honest when you decide on your Lenten sacrifices after the fact.
  • Replace old habits with new ones – Don’t be content to simply remove bad habits from your schedule. You still need to find something else to fill those holes in your life so find prayerful and charitable activities that you can do instead. Find ways to center this forty day fast around Christ. 
  • Be specific – The wishy washy goals are always the hardest to achieve. Choose specific activities, foods or experiences that you will avoid this season and exchange them with equally specific habits that bring you closer to God.
  • Live Liturgically – In conjunction with other Lenten sacrifices we are called to abstain from meat on Fridays. This practice can also be continued beyond Lent as a weekly reminder of Christ’s sacrifice for us although it is no longer an official teaching of the Catholic Church. 
  • Write it down – If there’s no record of it, who’s to say that was actually your Lenten sacrifice in the first place? This will help you stay true to yourself and to God. 
  • Share the burden – Tell someone, a spouse, a parent, a friend, what your intentions are this Lent season and ask them to help you stick to those offerings. You don’t have to do it alone. 
  • Don’t budge – It’s not supposed to be easy. Every time you have a craving for your favorite indulgences is a reminder to stop and think about why you’ve made this sacrifice in the first place. It’s an opportunity to reflect on God’s sacrifice for us. When this happens don’t be afraid to send up a quick Hail Mary or Our Father asking for intercessions to help you stay true to your Lenten fast this season.

True Love

“Sonny, true love is the greatest thing in the world, except for a nice MLT. Mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe. They’re so perky, I just love it.” – Miracle Max

While I share Miracle Max’s foodie tendencies I also agree with his original sentiment. True love is heaven on earth. I also came up with my own definition during my days of being courted by the hubby. True love is like a high school calculus test. It’s not enough to state the correct answer. You have to show your work. Actions speak louder than words and just as in The Princess Bride, it’s an adventure that’s definitely worth living for.