Posts Tagged With: Faith

Guns Have Nothing To Do With It

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There are a lot of high emotions right now around guns. We’ve seen absolute horrors unfold has gunmen have plowed through human lives as if they were nothing. There are those who want to take guns out of the hands of civilians, and those who want armed civilians in every public place.

Does anyone else feel like the conversation has been hijacked? This isn’t about guns.

Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people with bombs made of fertilizer. I’m sure you could find a recipe online. If you want to kill people, you don’t need a gun.

Ryan Heber talked down a 16-year old shooter without any sort of weaponry. If you want to defend yourself, you don’t need a gun.

There are plenty of ways to get a gun outside of legal means. Background checks give us no indication of the soul. Arming a civilian does not give them good judgment or create a hero.

More guns is not the answer.

Less guns is not the answer.

Guns are not the problem.

We need to take a step back and consider the fruits of our society. Mass shootings, parents murdering their children, men murdering their wives (even pregnant wives), children who are abused for the span of their short lives, rape, theft, and a never ending stream of violent hatred. We are producing rotten fruit because we are sick. But day by day, we continue to sow the same seeds: violence, pornography, promiscuity, materialism, hatred, abortion, and every other kind of sin that degrades the human person. When there is little or no love to offset the poison, the human person becomes a rotten husk of what it should be.

We sow vile seeds and reap rotten fruit. What a surprise. We can’t legislate our way out of this.

I know a lot of people would not agree, but I truly believe the gunmen, the mass killers are victims, too. They are the product of living in a world of poison without ever knowing enough love to overcome the darkness. What is the answer to this problem? We need to become a society that loves instead of constantly spewing hatred. We need to become a society that values human life above all else, and fosters respect and love for the human person.

3190370532_0b2e71c90bWe can’t legislate love. But if every Catholic and Protestant started living their faith, that would be an outstanding start. We need to be authentic disciples of Christ to break through this darkness.

What can we do? Pray the rosary, fast, practice charity, return to the sacraments. Monthly or weekly confession. These are dark times, and we have to light the way.

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Annus Fidei: Year of Faith

Is anyone else getting super excited about the Year of Faith starting tomorrow? I think it’s just the thing we all need–a big refresher! Our faith has been pushed from the center of our lives to the outskirts, where it serves as a Sunday activity that has no bearing on the rest of our week. We need to do a deep dive into our faith; to say enough with milk, we’re ready for meat.

“I gave you milk to drink, not meat; for you were not able as yet. But neither indeed are you now able; for you are yet carnal.” –1 Corinthians 3:2

Do you want to end up like the Corinthians? Or are you ready for a faith steak? I’m ready! I get all giddy just reading through Porta Fidei, St. Benedict’s latest Apostolic letter.

“Ever since the start of my ministry as Successor of Peter, I have spoken of the need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ…..We cannot accept that salt should become tasteless or the light be kept hidden (cf. Mt 5:13-16). The people of today can still experience the need to go to the well, like the Samaritan woman, in order to hear Jesus, who invites us to believe in him and to draw upon the source of living water welling up within him (cf. Jn 4:14). We must rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the word of God, faithfully handed down by the Church, and on the bread of life, offered as sustenance for his disciples (cf. Jn 6:51)…… At this point I would like to sketch a path intended to help us understand more profoundly not only the content of the faith, but also the act by which we choose to entrust ourselves fully to God, in complete freedom. In fact, there exists a profound unity between the act by which we believe and the content to which we give our assent. Saint Paul helps us to enter into this reality when he writes: “Man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved” (Rom 10:10). The heart indicates that the first act by which one comes to faith is God’s gift and the action of grace which acts and transforms the person deep within.” –Porta Fidei

The Year of Faith coincides with the 50th anniversary of the 2nd Vatican Council, as well as the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. But the Year of Faith isn’t just about developing a deeper understanding of our faith, it’s about becoming more effecting at sharing our faith, so that the faith that we pass on is authentic and vibrant. Our faith has become so watered down, the world around us can’t see Jesus in us, and what’s worse, we don’t see Jesus in our lives. No wonder there’s so much despair in the world! A Year of Faith, a fresh injection of the Holy Spirit–let’s have it! Let’s pass it on! I’m not even sure what to expect, but I’ll keep an eye on the Vatican’s website every day and read from my Magnificat Year of Faith Companion daily. I can’t wait to follow the church on this journey.

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Trust Falls with God

Last week, after 8 months of planning, my husband and I arrived in Hawaii for our first big vacation since our honeymoon. I was delighted at the prospect of sitting on the beach reading a book on my Kindle. Getting in the ocean? Absolutely not.

Waikiki Beach

You see, the ocean is on my list of the most horrifying things on the planet. I don’t have a particular order, but it’s quite possibly number 1. Of course, underground tunnels….are pretty horrifying. I’m sorry, I can’t breathe right now because I’m thinking about….tunnels. Okay, no more of that.

Let’s just talk about the ocean. The ocean is terrifying because:

  • It’s huge. The human brain can’t really fathom the hugeness of such an immense body of water. All land is just a series of islands floating on this enormous expanse of ocean.
  • It’s full of creatures. Creatures we don’t even know exist. Do you think you know what’s down there? So did all the scientists who said for over 100 years that giant squids don’t exist. NOBODY knows what’s down there.
  • I can’t actually swim. I can paddle around enough to survive a pool, but even lakes are tricky. If I can’t touch the bottom, I tend to freak out and hyperventilate, then go into full-blown panic attack mode. This makes it difficult to paddle about.
  • I’m blind. Technically, this isn’t the ocean’s fault, but in order to get in and swim, I have to take my glasses off. When that happens, I can’t see.

I made a few cracks before we left about Scott tying a rope around my waist as a means of dipping me into the ocean and pulling me back out when needed, but it actually seemed like a pretty sound idea. What if the waves pulled me out and I freaked out and couldn’t swim back?

To sum up, “horror,” “terror,” “trepidation….” such words can never describe the feeling I have when I think of the ocean.

But I can’t go to Hawaii and not swim in the ocean! I have to!

Well, O-Day (Ocean Day, a day to live on in infamy) didn’t come until Thursday. Believe it or not, there’s so much to do in Hawaii that we almost didn’t have time to go to the beach. At all. But Thursday morning, we packed a beach bag and walked on down to the beach.

Now, we had walked down to Waikiki Beach Monday afternoon when we arrived. I have never seen any one place so crowded in my life. It was insane. Thursday, morning, however, it was still pretty calm. We laid down our beach towels and prepared. I did some deep breathing exercises. Scott did a mental review of his CPR training. I marched down to the water.

Ordinary citizens stop to gape at the whitest person on earth attempting to enter the ocean.

I splashed around a little. The water tugged at me. I ran back to my towel.

Scott went down and did a little better than me.

A little better. Not much.

Scott actually suggested we leave once he came back, but I didn’t want to. I dug my heels into the sand (literally) and demanded we stay a while longer. For all my mental envisioning, I failed to bring my Kindle with me, but I wanted to stay. I felt like there was something more I needed to do.

I thought about everything that had happened on that beach. All the celebrities that had stayed just a few hundred yards away at the Pink Palace. The soldiers that came here on their time off while they were stationed at Pearl Harbor. Millions of people had sat on this beach, watching history come and go and a hundred years from now, people will still come to this beach. Rich, poor, homeless, aristocrats, and every level in between.

There it was. My determination was back. I marched down to the water again. This is my leap of faith, I told myself. I’m going to put myself into the hands of my maker! I piddled around with the water lapping around my waist. I decided to paddle out and….a swell slammed me into the sand below. Saltwater burned down my nose and throat. At that moment, I wanted to go back to my warm towel so bad. But I was on a mission. So, I paddled out again. When I saw a swell coming, I backed up to dodge it. Once again, I was slammed into the sand, and now lava rocks.

I was stalled there for a bit. Every time I advanced, the swells knocked me back. I wanted to give up, but I knew I was almost where I needed to be. A thought occurred to me. What is it people always say? Go with the flow? Ride the wave? Metaphorically, of course, but it must be true literally as well.

When the next swell came, I didn’t back up or try to dodge it. I paddled into it. “Jesus, I trust in You!” I said aloud as I threw myself up into the wave, trying not to think of what would happen if it carried me off. And then…

Safe and sound.

I realized that all those things we say about Jesus keeping us safe on a restless sea…it works literally, too! I said prayers as the swells lifted me up and set me down, and it was the most beautiful prayer time I’ve ever had. Floating in the midst of the enormous ocean, I felt like a tiny speck, and yet I felt safe and sound in God’s hand. I went pretty far out, too, about 100 yards or so. Scott got anxious for a while there.

Waiting for the waves to come and surrendering to them, it was like doing trust falls with God. It was my time alone with Him. Granted, I don’t have to go to the ocean and throw myself in to spend time with God. But it was a little time the two of us had together where I could know that no matter how big the ocean is, or how  restless, I was taken care of. The woman who was terrified of the ocean? Once I got in and remembered who is in charge of the waves, I was just fine.

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I Can’t Do This Alone

I’ve been doing a pretty good job of reducing my cigarette intake. Within about a week and a half, I reduced from up to 30 cigarettes a day, down to 10 a day. I got to that point by reducing down to 20 a day, doing that for a few days, then going down to 15 a day, and doing that for a few days until I got to 10. But something has happened at 10. I seem to be stuck.

Throughout this journey to quit, I’ve come to the realization that smoking isn’t just a crutch, it’s what I turn to when I’m stressed, bored, or tired to give me a little pick-me-up. I say I don’t have time to pray the rosary every day, but how much time do I spend smoking? And in those times of anxiety, shouldn’t I be turning to God in prayer?

I keep thinking to myself that I need to just cast off cigarettes cold turkey and throw myself wholly into the grace of God. I’ve been pretty good at talking myself out of it and telling myself that continuing to pare down gradually is better for me. It’s seamless. There’s no suffering. But every time I lit a cigarette, a thought sparked in my head: You trust your cigarettes more than you trust God.

Talk about the mother of all disturbing thoughts. However, I have a pretty strong sense of denial. I’ve been doing so well at reducing, there’s no reason to do anything crazy. Let’s be sensible, right?

I’ve been stuck at 10 a day for almost a week. To be honest, I actually had 11 yesterday, with the excuse of “an extraordinarily stressful situation.” Then, this morning, I had 2 instead of just 1. I shrugged off the rising worry that I’m moving in the wrong direction. On the way to work, I realized something. No, I didn’t have an epiphany or sudden divine revelation. I realized I didn’t grab my smokes!

There was a moment there where I nearly turned right back around to go and get them. I would never turn back to go get my rosary or my prayer book, but I couldn’t imagine getting through the day without my cigarettes. No matter what lies I told myself, I knew I needed to go on to work without them. It was no accident that I’d left them behind, this was God sending me a clear message.

I didn’t turn around. I turned up the rosary meditation CD I had playing in the car and just kept going. My mind kept working on all the reasons why I absolutely had to smoke, constantly coming back to the “no one would expect me to just go without completely!” Then, I remembered how small my cross was compared to those who are suffering from addiction to meth, heroin, cocaine, crack, and whatever other demons rear their ugly heads. How much easier it is for me. I decided to offer up this tiny suffering, asking that those suffering from more difficult addictions would be given strength.

As I drove on, stripped of my excuses, the rosary meditation song filled the car with the perfect words at the perfect time, “I can’t do this alone, but I can do it with You…”

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Suffering, Offering it Up, and The Jesus Prayer

For some time now, I’ve had painful “pins and needles” sensations in my legs, especially when I lay down at night. About a week and a half ago, it started keeping me up at night, which I went into a little more detail about here. Propping my legs up on pillows and taking aspirin has given me some relief, but I still find myself lying awake, in pain and afraid. Afraid, because I have a little medical condition called hypochondria which turns every ache and pain into a blood clot headed straight for my brain. It doesn’t help that my husband has been working the night shift and I’m lying in bed alone.

Since my conversion, I’ve heard the expression “offer it up,” however, as many times as I say I need to look it up or find out more about it, I’ve never gotten around to it. A few nights after the pains started interfering with my sleep, I was lying in bed, starting to feel like sleep was impossible. As my legs ached, I worried about my health; as I worried about my health, I couldn’t sleep; the longer I couldn’t sleep, the more I worried about that and the prospect of facing a workday on little to no sleep….my blood pressure soared and my legs ached harder. I kept going around in circles until I was on the verge of a panic attack. Suddenly, a thought came to mind: You need to offer it up!

“Lord!” I said, “I don’t really understand what that means, but I want to give You this pain and this worry!” I thought of a couple I know who are militant atheists. I thought of my sins. I struggled to find the words to say. I thought of a simple prayer I saw on a blog, The Jesus Prayer. “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I said the prayer. Then again. And again. Then something unexpected happened.

I was laying there asking for just enough comfort to doze off. I certainly wasn’t asking for a lesson in the true nature of faith. However, as I prayed, I realized I was hoping for comfort. I asked Jesus to come to my side and I hoped He would come. The message came to me as plain as day: Faith does not hope God will come to our aid, faith knows that He will.

In that moment, I held on to the faith that God would come to my aid and prayed The Jesus Prayer over and over again. Within just a few minutes, I dropped off to sleep. Since then, my nights have been easier. When the pain troubles me too much, doing a few recitations of The Jesus Prayer soothes me to sleep straight away.

So what is The Jesus Prayer

The Jesus Prayer is a prayer used widely in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and is featured prominently in the book The Way of a Pilgrim. The prayer has scriptural roots in Luke 18:11-13:

 The Pharisee standing, prayed thus with himself: O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican. I fast twice in a week: I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven; but struck his breast, saying: O God, be merciful to me a sinner.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is repeated over and over, with the aid of a prayer rope as a meditative prayer, similar to how Catholics pray the rosary. The power of this prayer comes from the invocation of Jesus’ name, and the humility of acknowledging oneself as a sinner. Eastern Orthodox monks say the prayer hundreds of times a night in their private cells, in an attempt to internalize the prayer, thus praying without ceasing. Some say the prayer in sync with their breathing; others use it as a method of self analysis, listening as they pray to which words they emphasize. If the word “Jesus” is stressed, it points to needing to appeal to Jesus’ human nature, if the word “sinner” is stressed, it points to needing to repent and accept forgiveness of sins, etc. There’s more, of course, but I don’t want to go into it too far here. Bottom line, reciting the prayer helped me to focus on God during a time of distress and pain.

What is “Offering it up?”

This has been a strange concept to me, that would have been a lot less strange had I taken the time to do just a little bit of research. After browsing around, offering it up, is a means of drawing closer to Christ by uniting our sufferings to Him. There is no sacrifice or pain that can atone for our sins, but as Christians, we are meant to share in His sufferings. It draws us nearer to Him.

 For the Spirit himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God. And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God, and joint heirs with Christ: yet so, if we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him. For I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us. –Romans 8:17-18

For unto you it is given for Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him. –Philippians 1:29

But the God of all grace, who hath called us into his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little, will himself perfect you, and confirm you, and establish you. –1 Peter 5:10

 Furthermore I count all things to be but loss for the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but as dung, that I may gain Christ: And may be found in him, not having my justice, which is of the law, but that which is of the faith of Christ Jesus, which is of God, justice in faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death. –Philippians 3:8-10

Our suffering brings us closer to Jesus, who suffered so much for us. The best analogy I can come up with (and it’s awful, I know) is a child “helping” their mother out in the kitchen. The child isn’t really helping at all! But the child is learning and bonding with their mother.

So when I’m in pain and can’t sleep, rather than getting upset, getting worried, and complaining, I can offer that to God. I will cheerfully bear this pain as penance for the ugly things I said about someone else. I will bear it as supplication for someone who doesn’t know God. It isn’t even restricted to pain. It can be fasting, hardships, annoyances.

It’s a way of tolerating the pain and sufferings of life, large, small, and minuscule, by joining them to Jesus’ sufferings. I’ll go through this for You, Lord, and I won’t complain, because You suffered for me without complaining.

It really makes me think about all the things I complain about. Instead of getting upset about having a headache, taking lunch a few hours late, or not being able to sleep because my legs hurt, maybe I should take it as an occasion to remember the One who suffered for me and offer it up to Him.

You can find more information about offering it up at these sites:

http://www.fisheaters.com/offeringitup.html

http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2011/05/offering-it-up

I’ve been enjoying reciting The Jesus Prayer throughout the day, but I’m still working on the rest. I do love to complain and freak out. After spending a day calling just about every doctor in town and being turned away for an appointment, I was able to get an appointment next week with a new doctor. We’re praying that whatever is causing the circulation issues can be taken care of before there’s any irreversible damage. As far as smoking goes, in a week and a half, I’ve gone from 30-40 cigarettes a day down to 10 per day. As long as my resolve holds out, I’ll be done by the end of next week!

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