Catholic Girl Journey

Next time is now

Our human nature causes us to fall all the time. When we choose not to do God’s will, or sin, remorse can immediately kick in or it may take awhile as we see the consequences, to feel it. When it does, we often promise to do better next time. Why do we put it off? Why do we wait? Why not make the right choice now?

Let’s take the example of judging others. There are numerous times Jesus remarked not to judge others, yet we do it all the time. I’m not sure if it’s any worse than in previous generations, but with the rise of social media, we can do it much more instantaneously and on a grander scale than before. Plus with the plethora of social media apps, temptation is never far away. 

I use Facebook to keep in touch with family and follow a few companies that I regularly patronize. Everyone has different tastes and hobbies and sometimes I’ll see a posting with which I don’t agree, and I’m quick to think that it shouldn’t have been posted. The whole point of social media is to broaden our outlook and learn from one another’s differences. But our instinct is to disagree, perhaps post a negative response, or even think poorly of the person posting it. Once we catch ourselves in this thought process, what do we do? Close the app and say next time I won’t react? Or do we try to turn the situation positive by reaching out to the person or saying a prayer for them?

As human time is linear, when we commit a fault, we are not forgiven until we confess our sins. It makes putting things off until next time much easier. But God is outside of time and space, not to mention He’s the creator and master of it as well. If we put off making the right choices or repairing a breach caused by our sin until next time or until after our next confession, we are letting precious moments of grace go unblessed. These are times when Jesus lifts us up from our fall. Do we let Him, or do we linger on the ground and insist that we can get up on our own? While we do have to take responsibility for our choices and actions, we can lean on Jesus for assistance, not only to help us up now, but also to help us identify and avoid those times that lead us into a temptation that we cannot defend ourselves against. 

Total failure is to linger in the fall from grace and refuse to accept it as a means out of our situation. When we stop and apologize to God (and any others we have hurt by our sin), we start anew in that moment. Don’t wait for tomorrow or the next time; reach out to God and begin again now. What are you waiting for?

Catholic Girl Journey

Church practice

On the feast of Corpus Christi, the gospel reading from Luke is about the miraculous feeding of the five thousand. Most reflections focus on the miracle and it being a foreshadowing of the Eucharist. But it is also a bit of training for the Apostles.

After a long day of preaching and healing by Jesus, it is the tired Apostles who suggest that Jesus dismiss the crowd so they can go and eat. Perhaps it was the Apostles who were hungry and just wanted some quiet time. Instead, Jesus instructs them to feed the people. It is the Apostles who organize the people into groups at Jesus’s direction. Sounds to me like the precursor to parishes in a large city. Jesus then blesses and breaks the bread and fish for distribution. The Apostles are given the task to give some to each group. I wonder how long it took them to realize the miracle that was happening? Did they notice they kept having food to share with the next group? Or was it only when everyone was finished and they were picking up the leftovers that they knew what had happened?

As fishermen, Peter, James, and John were used to hauling in fish. What were they thinking when instead of gathering fish, they gave it out — for free? Did it go against their instinct? Or were they getting comfortable with the ways of Jesus? How about Judas Iscariot, was he happy to give out free food or did he resent the task? As the Apostle who spoke most of love, I can imagine John as he is gathering up the leftovers, asking each person if they had enough or if they wanted to keep a portion for later. If you were one of the Apostles, what do you think your reaction would have been, both to distribute as well as to gather the remains?

While this miracle is not considered the first Mass, the first Eucharist was at the Last Supper, it does have similar qualities. The people first hear Jesus speak, just like we do in the Liturgy of the Word. Then Jesus performs a miracle with the bread and His chosen ministers give some to each person, just like in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Jesus uses this opportunity to teach and for the apostles to practice part of what will become the focus of their lives. 

We all need practice from time to time. Jesus understands that and often uses circumstances for multiple purposes in our lives, including practice for any future event. So the next time you want to ask Jesus why you are doing something, think of it as practice and ask Him how you can do it better next time. 

Catholic Girl Journey

The ultimate of all-you-can

There are many restaurants that use the all-you-can-eat or bottomless dish promotions to entice people to come and eat there. They do it because it works. But there is another sort of all-you-can in faith, yet it seems that many people pass it by.

Even among those who consider themselves faithful, belief often remains very superficial.  But for those who are hungry for more, there is an endless banquet available in the Catholic Church.  The Trinity is a mystery that we can try to explain, but our language is too limited to easily express the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There are many simplistic ways we try to convey it, like the three-leaf clover analogy, but the mystery is so deep, we could spend not only our current lifetime, but all of eternity probing its  depths. Yet this all-you-can-seek opportunity is lost on many people. Complete unbelievers want to use science to explain away God, suggesting that He’s no longer necessary. Believers, on the other hand, often focus all their attention on Jesus, clinging to him because He had a human nature just like ours. Thoughts like those can lead us to think of Jesus as just a powerful and wise man instead of as transcendent and divine. But God cannot be limited or boiled down to just one aspect of Himself.

The endless all-you-can-eat food events are offered because there is a known limit to the amount of food patrons can eat. They will be sated when they leave. Thinking, praying, and talking to God about the mystery of God, we can never reach that point where everything is known due to our human limitations. We can, however, feel satisfied as the mystery unfolds for us. We can be sated with the knowledge, relationship, and awe we experience when we reach out to God for more. And just like consuming all we can of the bottomless fries offer does not mean we will never eat fries again after we are finished, in the same way the offer to explore more of the mystery is always there and we can return again and again to go deeper. Yes, there may be times when we cry out that we can’t take any more or that we feel more confused than when we first started, but God will never give us more than we can handle.

God calls us to a relationship to get to know Him better, through the gift of wisdom. In Proverbs we hear that Wisdom has “…dressed her meat, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table.” (Prv 9:2) It is truly the never-ending feast that we have all been invited. It takes place here on earth at Mass, and also for eternity. Are you ready to dig in?

Catholic Girl Journey

Rainbow formula

There are two ingredients required to make a rainbow: water and light, or more specifically, rain and sunlight. If we want to see a rainbow, we cannot complain about the rain.

Shortly before I finished my workout, I could hear the water pounding on the roof of the facility. My umbrella was tucked neatly in my car across the parking lot. I was hoping that the storm would pass and I could wait out the rain, but after checking the weather app on my phone, it didn’t seem promising. I got drenched walking to my car. Although the ponding on the roadway played havoc with my nerves, I was able to navigate safely home. When I turned down my street, even though it was still raining, the sun came out — bright and shining. I laughed at the contrast between the two opposites occurring at the same time, thinking that God certainly has a sense of humor. Just as I was about to turn into my development, across a backdrop of dark skies full of rain, the rainbow appeared.

I wanted to just stop and enjoy the moment, but I think any drivers behind me would not have appreciated it. I tried keeping an eye on it as I wound my way through my development, but as soon as I parked, it was gone just as quickly as it had appeared. The rain was much lighter now and reminded me that rainbows require rain. After a day of mostly rain, it can be easy to get caught up in the challenges of our daily life and especially those things that don’t go the way we want them. It’s like the weather is a physical manifestation of our daily struggles. But the rainbow, because it is made of both rain and sunlight, reminds us that even during trials and challenges, there can be bright spots of sunlight that produce gifts like rainbows.

As I walked from my car to my door in the light rain, it didn’t seem to matter much that it was still raining. God had tickled my funny bone with the rain and sun display, and topped it off with a rainbow. Whatever challenges I’m dealing with, God brings His light to them all and transforms them into something beautiful. With God at my side, I can make it through any rainstorm.

Catholic Girl Journey

Answering the call

While many think the month of June is for graduations, weddings and Father’s Day, it also tends to be the month for a liturgy that practically encompasses all three of those celebrations in one: the ordination of priests.

Typically when a man finishes his theological training, he may have a graduation from the college he is attending, but ordination is the final acknowledgement that his training is completed. The priest says vows similar to those at a wedding, each party makes an oath to give their whole selves to the other. In a wedding ceremony, it is the bride and groom that make the pledge to each other. In an ordination, it is the priest making that pledge to the Church. Once the priest is ordained, his title is usually Father, as he is now responsible for the spiritual health of the people he serves.

During Sunday’s homily, my pastor mentioned that he attended the ordination for the Richmond diocese and then talked about the beauty of the liturgy. Every priest in attendance was allowed to pray over each of the newly ordained  and to share the sign of peace with them. It’s a powerful moment for the newly ordained as they are welcomed into a brotherhood who will help support them in their ministry. My pastor recalled looking down at his shoes peeping out from the vestments before one of his first Masses, and recognizing the shoes, but in awe that they were his under those vestments. “Those are my shoes! I’m a priest!” he thought to himself.

Priests have been blessed with the amazing gift of acting in the person of Christ during the liturgy and in celebrating the sacraments. They are human, though, and need our prayers, just as much as we need  theirs. I recall during one confession, the priest asked me to say a prayer for him as we concluded. After being reconciled with God and receiving His grace, it was a joy to ask for God’s guidance and assistance, not only  for the priest who just heard my confession, but for all priests. I have made it a habit to pray for priests immediately after saying the prayers given for penance.

As we prepare for the birthday of the Church on Pentecost, let us pray for those who answer God’s call to become priests and religious. To give one’s life for the life of the Church is an amazing and generous gift that as laity, we are blessed to receive. Without the priesthood, there would be no Eucharist; and without the Eucharist, there would be no Church. Let us say a prayer for priests this Sunday, in thanksgiving for all the men who serve Christ; that they may be guided by Jesus and do His will in all things.

Catholic Girl Journey

Never alone

A recent article caught my eye, “A Solution for Loneliness” by Kasley Killam in Scientific America. One of the suggestions provided in the article was volunteering, with reason being, it “fills our deeply rooted need for belonging.”

As a Catholic, I try to look at situations and challenges through the lens of faith. I was surprised to see a secular article make such a statement. To me that sense, the deeply rooted need for belonging, is more the search for God. However, we look at our physical world to fulfill that need. As Saint Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts our restless until they rest in you.” God is always there calling to us, calling us to a deeper relationship with Him. No matter where we are in our faith journey, as a human, we can never fully know God, so there is always more to learn and experience.

As we experience this longing for something, even if we don’t know what it is, usually we first look at filling that need with external things. Basically, we look for things to make us happy. Once we realize that things don’t make us happy, then we look outside of ourselves, to others. This is where loneliness can become an issue. If we look for people (or pets) to fill the need or ease the ache of being alone, we can become dependent on them. When situations change and the people or pets we relied on are no longer able to be with us, the need surfaces, often with a greater intensity.

I can see why a solution to loneliness would be to volunteer, but I would describe different reasoning than the article. To me, volunteering is acknowledging that life is not about me, but what I can do for others. Volunteering is giving one’s self to another not because it benefits us, but that it is our gift to those we help. When we give away the gifts God has given us, especially things like time and talent, He can fill us up. As Jesus gave up His life so that we can have life in Him, the more we give of ourselves, the deeper we can get to know Jesus. It’s hard to be lonely when we are not thinking of ourselves, but rather what we can do for others.

For the times when the thought of being alone crosses our mind, we can reach out to the Holy Spirit. This Spirit of God comes to us when we pray, when we receive Holy Communion and any other sacrament. He will remind us that we are never alone when we rest in God.

Catholic Girl Journey

Trust like Tweety

Question: If you could describe yourself as any cartoon character what would it be and why?
My answer: Tweety Bird, because he’s always happy.

I was reminded of this question and answer exchange that occurred early in my career during a mock interview. I remember my colleague laughing when I began my answer, but afterwards, she agreed, especially since I had a habit of encouraging people to smile or ask if they were having fun (at work!). I asked that question again to myself recently and thought about the character of Tweety Bird and if the answer would still be the same.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve watched any Looney Tunes, but what I do remember of Tweety is that he was always looking at the bright side of things. He had this way of trusting that everything would work out. His nemesis Sylvester the cat, on the other hand, was always scheming to get Tweety and always failed. But no matter how many times Sylvester tried, Tweety never seemed to get angry or be upset with Sylvester, he just trusted that everything would work out. While I originally described Tweety as always happy, I think it was more; it was a joyful spirit.

Since the beginning, God has been asking us to trust Him, teaching and encouraging our total reliance on Him. All throughout salvation history we see evidence of those who have trusted and those who have failed, either for a moment or a lifetime. It continues to be a challenge for everyone today. But if we live a life trusting, that even in the difficult moments or those that seem like the only result will be a bad one, by trusting in God and embracing the difficulties, we can live a joyful life and move through those moments.

I may not always be as trusting and joyful as Tweety, but I do try to practice total trust in God. Some days it’s a lot easier than others, but practice makes perfect. I think I would still describe myself like Tweety, not because I’m exactly like him, but that I aspire to his character traits of trust and joy.