You know what will get you absolutely nowhere? Comparing yourself to other people. It's pointless and Jesus doesn't like it. I know He's not a fan because He isn't comparing us to everyone else (Psalm 139:14).
So why on earth do I want to compare myself to other people? I take that back. I don't want to . . . my mind is obliged to compare myself to everyone. (Okay, so maybe that's slightly dramatic.)
Last week I ran in a race and a couple times I was reduced to the 'I feel hot and nauseous; I'm so over this' jog that is very slow (if you've never experienced it for yourself). And you know who did NOT motivate me? The 70 year old next to me who was speed walking at the same (if not a faster) pace than me. Come on. Really?
It's in moments like this, and other times when I feel like I'm not good enough, that I ask myself, 'Why can't I be more like that person? They must be so much better than I am.'
But . . .
What if St. Therese only wanted to be like St. Clare?
What if there were no soccer players because they all thought football was cooler?
What if everyone thought plaid or neon was cool so no one wore anything else? (Wait, bad example – that may or may not be actually happening.)
What if we had no doctors because everyone just had to be interior designers?
The point is that God made us different and it just doesn't help to compare yourself to other people. So let's just stop. There will always be someone better than you at something. There will always be someone who you think it more attractive than you, or who in your mind has better talents. You have to constantly remind yourself of the truth that you are enough just as you are.
I have a hard time with comparing myself to everyone . . . in just about any situation. But I am uniquely me for a reason. You're you for a reason. And Jesus wants us that way. Jesus doesn't compare us because He's so in love with who we are right now. Let's ask for the grace to see ourselves like He sees us.
'If you are who you should be you will set the world on fire.' St. Catherine of Siena
Have you ever thought about how many things we take for granted? . . . Things like sounds, for instance. Imagine what your life would be like if you couldn’t hear your phone ring, the microwave beep, or the doorbell? What if you couldn’t go to the movie theater or hear birds?
That’s what life was like for Sarah Churman until last fall. She was born deaf and last fall received an implant that allows her to hear. You’ve probably never heard of her before, but you might recognize her if you were one of the 12 million people who saw the viral YouTube video, “29 years old and hearing myself for the first time.”
She shared her story with me and I was blown away by the beautiful faith that she has in God. If I were deaf from birth, I don’t know if I would have the strength to not be mad about it, and say that I trust God has a purpose for everything. But Sarah is able to say that. She had hearing aids from the age of 2, but was only able to hear garbled, muffled sounds, as if she were under water. She learned to speak and understand others by reading lips, and watching mouth, tongue, and body movement.
Check out the video if you’ve never seen it! And listen to what she has to say about her experience and the miraculous story of God’s hand in it all.
I begged and cried and begged more . . . 'God fix this. You have to. I know you're in charge but come on, this can't be what you want . . . right?'
That's how my prayers typically went when I prayed for Catherine, my friend's mom, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. Catherine's health fluctuated in the following years and she never left the top of my prayer list.
Her family said it was time to pray for a miracle when Catherine stopped responding to treatment last fall. So I continued to beg God for a miracle. Every time I was miserable about something – the Arizona heat, a hard workout, the flu, or heartache – I offered up my suffering for Catherine.
'What are you doing God?' I kept asking. I couldn't wrap my mind around it. She was an amazing, holy woman with six children, most of them still in grade school. Hundreds of people were praying for a miracle; I knew I couldn't give up hoping. Miracles happen all the time.
So why not this time? Catherine died this past January 30th. I felt like God had let me down. I felt like He wasn't thinking about how many hearts were torn apart. 'How could you, God?'
I've been Catholic my whole life. I know these answers, but this time my emotions were so strong that I forgot everything I knew about God's goodness.
Struggling because of unanswered prayers is bound to happen in any person's faith life. God will always give us grace to see His heart again though. Staring intently at the Eucharist in adoration I saw a God who loves us so much He took on our human nature and remains with us in the Eucharist. I had to admit that He does know what's best. He loves us so much that He has our best interest, Heaven, constantly on His mind.
Praying for a miracle is not wrong or a waste of time because God hears and responds (Psalm 34: 17 – 20). He wants us to ask for what we need. We have free will so He doesn't force Himself on us, even though He cares intimately about our daily lives.
We need to learn from Mary and echo her words 'Let it be done according to your will.' That miracle wasn't God's will; He had something better in mind.
Catherine 'fought the good fight and finished the race' (2 Timothy 4:7). She's home and enjoying eternal happiness. And now we have another amazing woman praying for us the way we prayed for her. While it's still sad, I have found a lot of peace in trusting God. Sometimes we get earthly miracles. However, at the end of life the true miracle is our resurrection and the eternity we spend with God and the saints in heaven. That's the greatest miracle we can pray for.
How do you define a miracle? Is it only Jesus walking on water, raising someone from the dead, or healing people? And then there’s the saints – they did some pretty awesome things that are definitely miracles. Those miracles were such a long time ago though. We don't see too many today, huh? Or do we . . . ?
You see it all depends on your definition of a miracle. There's this amazing athlete, Emmy Kaiser; she's 21 years old and the #1 U.S. woman's wheelchair tennis athlete. She has Spina Bifida but that didn't stop her from pursuing her dream of being a professional athlete. This girl has competed in tennis on every continent except Antarctica. (I guess they don't play much tennis there.)
I interviewed Emmy, who's also a Catholic from Kentucky and a recent graduate of St. Thomas More College. I couldn't help but realize that God is working small miracles all around us. It's the birth of a baby, that smile when you're having a bad day, an 'A' on the math test you thought you bombed, or God giving a girl the grace to decide her wheelchair isn't going to define her.
Were you ever mad at God that you have Spina Bifida?
No, because I've never known anything different. There were some things that I wish I could do or experience but I never wished to be permanently able-bodied. I just look at where I am at with my career in tennis, school, and relationships and right now I'm happy with where I'm at.
What was different for you when you were growing up?
Not too much, I went to Catholic schools for preschool through college. I played just as many (if not more) sports than the typical kid in grade school and excelled at many of them. I was on the academic team in grade school and had the typical fights with my sister.
Did you feel like people defined you by your disability? What really defines you?
At first glance, people used to . . . but I'm just your typical 20-something girl. Once people talk to me or see what I'm doing they realize that the chair is just a tiny aspect of who I am. For me my drive to set and accomplish my goals, my life experiences, my sense of humor, and my personality (just like everyone else) is what defines me.
What made you want to start playing tennis?
I was 5 years old and there was a demo at Sawyer Point [a tennis facility in Ohio] and my parents made me go. Once I was there one of the staff members handed me a racket . . . and I have been playing ever since.
What's your favorite part about being an athlete?
I love the competition and the camaraderie between people. Also, being on the U.S. team is fun because it's like another family to me and we get to go all over the world to compete together.
What role does your faith play in your life, especially as you travel the world to compete?
For me I don't really notice it as a separate aspect of my life. I'm grateful for what I have been given and for the people I've gotten to meet. So for me my faith a reminder that there is somebody out there who is the reason I got to experience everything I have and I need to be grateful for that because not everyone can feel secure in seeing that the experiences we have are for a purpose in our lives.
What do you want to say to someone who thinks God can't or doesn't want to work a miracle in their life?
Then they should look at their definition of miracle again. They either need to appreciate the smaller things in life and see that miracles are not always these huge things that could only happen once in the history of the world or something. It is possible and it probably has happened to them they just didn't look at it in the way they needed to to see it that way.
I was grumpy, annoyed, discouraged, and despairing. All I wanted to do was go be a hermit somewhere so no one could argue with me about what I believe about faith and morals. With things like the HHS Mandate, abortion, and the definition of marriage being such hot topics today, you're bound to be questioned drilled as a Catholic on what the Church teaches.
These feelings were dragging me down after having a heated moral debate via Facebook comments. I walked into the kitchen where my roommate Sarah was. I sighed dramatically and said,
'No one get's it. No one gets why we believe what we believe. Why do I feel like a minority when there are millions of others who claim to be Catholic? What's the point of even trying to defend ourselves?'
Sarah said, 'Because what if one person changes their mind?'
Ugh . . . there's the kicker. There’s not really anything to say to that, so I walked away thinking, 'She's so right. I'd do it for one person if I'm passionate enough about my faith.'
Jesus Was Mocked
I bet you experience this too if you're brave enough to stand up for what we believe as Catholics. I realized this past weekend as I listened to the Gospel on Palm Sunday was that this mocking is nothing new. Jesus dealt with it too during His ministry and even while He was hanging on the cross.
He was laughed at for the things He said. They called Him a liar. They even spit on Him while He was hanging on the cross. What I've experienced in my life is that people like to laugh at my beliefs when they don’t conform to what they're comfortable with. I haven't been spit on but I've been verbally slapped for sure.
The Easy Way Out
Jesus never promised this life was going to be easy. Remember the line – 'Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness'? (Matthew 5:10) We can make it easy for ourselves if we just 'go with the flow' and don't take the time to learn the truth and stand up for it. The Church's teachings on faith and morals are protected and guided by the Holy Spirit (CCC 888 – 892). If we don't take the time to learn what those teachings are, its an easy way out of these debates.
St. Augustine said, 'If you were the only person on earth, Christ would have still suffered and died for you.' I dare you to let that sink in. He would have gone through all that pain, humiliation, and suffering just for you . . . or just for me.
If He did that, then I can put up with being ridiculed for my beliefs. I will keep speaking truth even if it means my whole life only one person changes their mind.
Stand With Me
You have to stand up for what you believe in. Actually, let me rephrase – we have to stand up together for what we believe in. And if you're not sure what to believe, educate yourself. Use the Catechism and Church documents to find out what the Church teaches and why. You will find only reasonable, logical moral arguments that make sense for the good of all people.
I saw this quote from JPII the other day and it fits perfectly with how I was feeling!
'I plead with you – never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.' – Pope John Paul II
Okay, listen. I really like the Hunger Games. I could not put the first book down this summer and so of course at the first minute of Friday the 23rd, at 12:01am, I was sitting in a theater to see the movie.
'But it's about teens killing each other!!!' This is the reaction a lot of adults have. (At least that's what my parents said.) Yes it is about killing. And it's terrible. It's horrific.
See, this movie is not supposed to be about glorifying killing. The two main characters, Katniss and Peeta, are horrified that they have to participate in the Hunger Games and fight to the death, much like Roman gladiators. Though the governing body, the 'Capitol', finds it enjoyable, the majority (except for three districts) of the population is appalled by these games year after year.
But I found some very inspiring themes in this story:
I cried when Katniss volunteered to go to the Hunger Games instead of her little sister who she loved more than anything. She loved her more than her own life. Hmm . . . what does that remind you of? 'No greater love hath a man than this, to lay down one's life for one's friend' (John 15:13). When faced with this decision, could I be as brave? Could I give up my life for my little sister? Or my brother? Or my best friend? I can only hope and pray that I could. When we see Katniss offer her own life, it's inspiring. Could you do what she did? Can you make even small sacrifices in order to show your love for your family?
Katniss and Peeta are not going to win. That's what everyone thought when they first arrived. These two were the underdogs. I often feel like they did. When I'm having a bad day, or week, or 4 months, and everything seems to be working against me and my happiness . . . what am I supposed to do? These two don't give up. They keep going, keep fighting for their lives. And in doing so they imply to us, 'You don't have to give up when you're dealt a rough blow,' 'There's more strength inside of you than you think.' We need to hear that. We need to see that played out.
Valuable, precious, treasured, unique, dignified – these are the unspoken words that define a person's life in this book and movie. The Capitol may think the lives of the kids in the Hunger Games are just about as valuable as their extravagant food – great for a bit of enjoyment, but ultimately – disposable. There's this powerful moment in the movie when Katniss mourns the death of someone else in the Hunger Games, Rue. You get this sense that everything Katniss had been holding in, all her emotions about being in the Hunger Games, the reality of people dying around her, and the fact that she had to kill someone to defend herself, it all overwhelms her. She sits sobbing uncontrollably. What if we had the same respect for life? What if the reality of the thousands of babies who die every day hit us in the same way? Katniss in this moment is not being self-centered. If only I could think about the value of the lives around me every day. I would treat others with so much more respect. I would fight harder for life. What about you?
What are we going to do about the injustices in our lives? Katniss and Peeta are heroes because they stand up for what they believe in. They say 'NO' when told to conform to the expectations of their world. What's eerie about this movie is that since it's set so close to modern-day, you can almost envision these things happening. It would never happen though if each of us stands up for what we believe in. If you and I say, 'NO' to things like bullying, abortion, people living in extravagance and not helping the poor – the world could be a different and better place sooner than we think.
Are these the reasons that so many people love this story? I believe that deep down we want to see characters who have more virtue than we do so that we can look up to them. Of course, just like us, who sin and fail, all of their actions aren't perfect.
So I'm not saying in any way that this is a perfect story. (In fact there's no such thing in today's entertainment industry.) I'm also not advocating that everyone go see it; it's pretty violent and I recommend it only for mature teens and adults.
We have to be honest though and admit that this movie was a HUGE success at the box office. I like to believe that this movie was huge because we're tired of mindless, romantic comedies. Maybe that's not true and some people went to see the film and their only thought afterwards was, 'I want to marry Peeta.'
There's a way to find good in some secular entertainment and I challenge you to search for truth in anything that you consume, whether it's books, TV, music, or movies. Don't just check out when you go to the movies. Ask questions, think about it, dig deep into the meaning, and maybe you'll realize why the Hunger Games was devoured by the world this weekend.
Maybe we're hungry for a story of sacrifice, courage, life, and justice. I can hope so.
The idea of stealing something is totally scary to me. I can't even imagine the amount of fear that would paralyze me if I ever went to steal something like shoes, cash, or a camera. I would be shaking like a wet puppy in winter. But I would be sweating like it's Phoenix in July. And I'm also pretty sure that the sick feeling in my stomach, the shame, and the guilt would drive me to return the stolen item the next day. I'm a sensitive person.
So, why am I writing about this commandment?
Because I have stolen before. Not in the way that you'd think though. I've never stolen any sort of 'item' for the obvious, above-mentioned reasons. I stole money from my employer . . . multiple times. The typical deal when you get a job is that you spend your time and energy doing labor and in return you get paid. When I was in high school, I worked at a library and made $7.35/hr.
Myself and the other people I worked with would purposely waste time. We would sit in a corner of the library where no one could see us and we would just read. Magazines, kid's books, Harry Potter . . . anything.
Or we would just talk. Whatever it took to escape the monotony of shelving or organizing books. And it was no big deal. Okay, in all honestly, sometimes I would feel bad about wasting all these hours. I justified it though by telling myself 'everyone does it' or that 'I'll work harder the rest of the time I'm here.'
But that was stealing. And the scary thing is that it was so easy. I wasn't doing the work but I was getting paid. I took the money without exchanging my time and effort. At one point I read an examination of conscience that asked, 'Have you stolen from work? Including time?' It was such a gut check as I realized, 'Oh my gosh, I do that ALL the time.' I became convicted that this was a big deal because all those half hours added up to hours, and all those hours (at $7.35/hr) actually surmounted to a lot of money. There's not much difference if I took it from a cash register, or took it dishonestly in my paycheck.
I realize that since I didn't know I was breaking the seventh commandment, I wasn't totally to blame. But my conscience had been hinting to me that it wasn't okay.
After confessing this sin a couple times, I learned my lesson and decided to be honest and responsible with my time at work. I felt so much more free without the guilt weighing on me.
Even when something seems like a little sin or that it's not a big deal, it still takes you one step farther away from God. I learned that just because everyone does something, whether it's shoplifting, downloading free music, wasting natural resources, taking wages that haven't been honestly earned, or cheating on a test, I have to answer to God about my sins. Doing the right thing isn't always the most popular thing to do, but God and I were both happier when I earned my $7.35 the honest way.
I'm praying for you.
How to Obey the Seventh Commandment
Be responsible with your money so that you're able to afford the things you need.
Be a good student and study so that you won't have to cheat on a test and steal someone else's hard work.
Live simply and give some of your time and money to serve other people.
Buy music on iTunes instead of ripping it off someone else, or downloading it free, which is stealing from the musician.
Be respectful of public and private property and don't vandalize.
Anything in God's creation (natural resources, animals) deserve to be honored, cared for, and not wasted. God gave us these things for our good, but we have to be mindful of the good of our neighbor, including future generations.
When this video started I quickly labeled Leila Hurst as “cool” and “popular” and “happy.” I saw a gorgeous, blond, teen surfer who was getting lots of money and fame for doing what she loved. What could be better?
As the video went on I saw her close relationship with her sister who has spinal bifida, and how strong the bond of siblings can be if we don't let our struggles or resentment get in the way.
Then I listened more closely to what Leila was saying. This is what I heard:
'When I started going forward in my surfing and making money I felt really guilty.”
'It's really hard to live with that [guilt]. I don't want to tell her that I won because she can never do that. I want her to be able to share all this great stuff that's getting handed to me. It's hard for me to go forward in life and not bring her with me.'
'Anything I can do to get my sister involved is the best feeling ever.'
'[Surfing together] was a better feeling than anything I've ever experienced in surfing.'
What she's saying is that the fame and success isn't all that it appears to be when what she cares about the most is including her sister in every part of her life.
The disabled certainly don't deserve the labels we put on them that say 'broken' and 'not good enough'. But what about the 'happy' or 'has it all' labels that we put on the popular girl?
The theme of Leila's words are that she's doesn't have it all just because of her fame or how much money she makes. She's saying that those things aren't what define happiness. Happiness is in loving others. It's in sharing your joys and sorrows and using your talents to serve other people. That's what true success is.
And that's what I heard Leila Hurst saying.
(This video is a part of Van's 'Pass the Bucket' Video Series, one of which was included on our Video Support 15 DVD)
There's a hole in the side of my parents bathtub and it's all my fault.
I was 11 years old. We had only lived in our newly built house for 2 years. On this particular evening my siblings and I were getting ready to go to a square dance. Yes, I just said square dance. Leave me alone. It was cool.
Since I have four sisters the mirrors were in high demand. Being lower on the totem pole also meant my need for a mirror was not as important as the 16 year old's need.
So what's a girl to do? I had to see what I looked like from head to my sweet cowboy booted toes! There was no other option. I had to stand on the edge of the bathtub in order to see myself in the mirror above the sink. (And I looked great!)
It's a bit wobbly though standing up there. I lost my balance and leaned backwards, my arms thrown out to the sides to steady myself. That's when I felt the heel of one of my boots break through the side of tub. I felt it . . . heard it . . . looked at the hole . . . and started sobbing.
My dad was going to be furious. Remember when I said it was a new house? Did I also mention he built it himself!? And I had ruined it. All because of my stupid boots too. I couldn't believe it.
He arrived home from work a couple minutes later. I didn't even have time to calm down before my mom told me to go tell him. My feet felt heavier than lead as I dragged myself downstairs. Can you picture me in my cowgirl outfit, sobbing and gasping out the story of the hole to my dad? I braced myself for the worst.
He hugged me. He told me to stop crying and that he wasn't mad. He said there was a lesson to be learned here about vanity. That was it. The hole is still there in the bathtub over 10 years later and it always reminds me of my vanity . . . and of a father's mercy.
When we go to God the Father with our sins, His perfect love and mercy embraces us no matter how badly we think we've screwed up. He can't get mad if we're sorry, because it means at least we're trying and we want to be better. Through the priest in confession, God tells us what we need to learn from our mistakes.
That day I learned that a seemingly small sin like vanity matters. I learned that we never have to be afraid to tell our Father in heaven that we broke one of His commandments. He is always waiting with open arms to say,
'It's okay. I'm not mad. What did you learn from this mistake?'
I also learned you probably shouldn't stand on a bathtub with heels on.
It's such an honor to be able to write just for you girls this time. I love being able to share with you some of the most important lessons I've learned over the past couple years about being a woman and being a Catholic. It took me a long time to learn these things! I hope you can put this advice to good use in your own life.
Emotions are not bad, but don’t let them control you. If you're sad, cry. If you're angry, let it out in a healthy way (like exercise, or venting on paper). If you're happy and you know it shout 'hurray.' That idea is not original, actually.
The point is, don't bottle up your emotions inside because later they'll explode. Trust me, I did it all the time … both the bottling and the exploding part. Being a woman means feeling a lot of different emotions. We get kind of a bad rap for that. But we don't have too!
You have the power to use your emotions for good. When you're upset about something, ask God to comfort you and heal the wound. In the future you'll be a more compassionate and empathetic person because you know what it's like to hurt. Instead of acting out against someone when they make you angry, take just 10 seconds to cool off before you say something you'll regret.
Don't let your emotions control you … there’s a strong woman beneath that emotion and a wiser woman after that emotion.
Did You Hear?
Don’t gossip and try not to listen to gossip. Every time I do, I feel terrible afterwards.
What if I spill some nasty rumor I heard about a guy named Phil to my friend Emma. Before, Emma never thought badly of Phil or questioned his motive for something. Now though, every time she sees him, she thinks of what I told her and can't help but think of Phil in an uncharitable way. And who's fault is that? It's my fault for introducing those mean thoughts.
There are so many people hurt by gossip. You hurt yourself, those you gossip to, and those you're talking about. Once a priest told me, 'Don't talk about other people's issues or problems unless you have a serious reason or need to do something constructive about it.'
What Do I Do?
Spiritual direction … get it. There are usually about 56 things going on in my heart … on a good day. Who doesn’t need objective, drama-free advice once in a while? I was totally scared of spiritual direction. And now that I think about it . . . I can't really remember why.
You can share whatever you're comfortable with and in exchange get free, Catholic advice. This has been a huge blessing in my life and one of the reasons I'm the person I am today. Find someone you can trust. It's great to have a priest or nun because they have special graces from God. However, if you ask your diocesan office, they probably have some lay spiritual directors too!
Help Me Feel Better
Don't lean on anything or anyone but Jesus when you're low. Chocolate, boys, spending money . . . whatever it is you rely on to help you feel better, how long does it work? How long until you need more chocolate, a different guy's attention, more clothes and shoes?
There's a Jesus sized hole in your heart and until you let Him be the one to fill it, everything else won't satisfy. Sit with Jesus in prayer, journal and tell Him how you feel, what's upset you. Open up Scripture and let Him love you through His words. It's great to have other people to support you but ultimately, you have to let Jesus have that #1 spot in your heart.
Get Off the Scale
Do you care if you best friend gains a couple pounds on her hips? She's your best friend for a lot of reasons and the size of her hips is not one of them. (At least it shouldn't be!) People feel the same way about you … no one cares if you have a little gut.
You're not going to be happier by obsessing over your weight and feeling guilty about every little thing you eat. Let it go. Of course, you have to be healthy and a good diet and regular exercise are part of what makes you a well rounded, balanced person. All I'm saying is don't go overboard, don't stress about it.
If it matters to the people you hang around … go hang around new people. You are beautiful because you are a woman, not because you've achieved a size 2 at Hollister.
Wait For It
So I can't finish this advice without talking about boys. If I could tell you girls one thing, it would be this … wait for the man who God intended for you.
Try not to just date so that you won’t be lonely. Date someone who respects you. Dating can be a great way to understand guys better … how they think, how to communicate with them . . . etc. When you meet your future husband do you want to tell him about all the guys you've screwed around with, or tell him about the guys who've helped you become a better person? There's a big difference.
Don’t forget though that it's never too late to recommit to purity. When we're forgiven by God, the past is forgotten. He said, 'Behold, I make all things new.' (Revelation 21:5)
Last Thing . . .
Being a woman is an incredible blessing. Look to our mamma Mary as a model and pray to her to help you understand what kind of woman God wants you to be. I hope you can take all this advice to heart because it came from mine.
One of the things I hate about flying is the discomfort and awkwardness of sitting very close to a stranger for 4 or more hours (the typical length of one of my flights).
I'm an introvert, but I'm not anti-social. I like talking, but I hate small talk … which is what plane conversations often are. (For me, at least)
It's my luck to always get stuck next to: the creepy, flirty man; the smoker or perfume over-doser who gives me a headache; chatty Cathy who ignores the book in my lap; and many others who have left me with the opinion that I'd rather sit alone.
I often fly on a certain airline where you can pick your own seat. So in order to avoid people picking the seat next to me, I came up with a list.
My hope is that if I do one of these things, it results in me sitting next to big, fat, nobody!
Read a large newspaper
“Accidentally” spill coffee on the seat next to me
Sneeze repetitively and blow my nose
Bring a child
Gain a large amount of weight
Paint my nails
Eat potent food (like Chinese or fish)
Creatively combine any of the above mentioned
This may seem extreme, but so is my discomfort.
I had to have a serious talk with myself yesterday after I came up with this list. How am I supposed to be Christ's hands and feet in this world, to show His love, and spread joy, if I'm too busy keeping strangers away from me! I mean, gosh, all my best friends were strangers at one point.
So . . . I hear-by promise (as tempting as it is) to not angrily eat Chinese and spill nail polish on the airplane seat. I will smile, make small talk, and act with love.
Some people are able to strike up a conversation with their flight neighbor. I've known people who can even evangelize successfully on a plane. That's not my battle though. Mine is simply to let Christ love on the world through my smile, kindness, and invitation to 'go ahead, sit here if you'd like.'
If you've had an abortion you know how much it hurts. It’s not over and done with when you walk out of the building.
I want you to know something. And I say this from the bottom of my heart. You are loved. You can be forgiven. And healing is possible.
I want to share a video that has a powerful message of hope for those who’ve suffered through an abortion.
Here is a link to a video of a woman named Lisa who dealt with abuse, divorce, and had three abortions. She has an incredible witness about the healing she received. The beauty of being Catholic is that besides counseling, we have the Sacrament of Confession where Christ Himself forgives us. Lisa experiences peace when she stopped hiding her abortions in the dark. Her shame was wiped away.
The most moving part of this video to me is when she says she can’t wait to get to heaven and have Jesus tell her, “you have three beautiful children here to meet you.”
When you hear the word “abortion” you think of a woman. And rightly so. A woman is the one who carries the child, undergoes the procedure, and loses her motherhood. But men are not numb to what is happening. Just as many men are stripped of their fatherhood by this horror. Those who haven’t experienced an abortion, are still passionate about protecting women and children and are saddened by abortion.
I asked a handful of men some questions about abortion and I was deeply moved by their answers. It convinced me that it’s not just women who are hurt by abortion. Men have strong feelings about it and want to stand up for life. They are affected too.
To me abortion is one of the saddest things that happens in our world. It breaks my heart that we live in a society and in a world where we feel like we can take life away. I think I've gained a new appreciation for what it means to have life beginning at conception now that I have a child on the way. – Eric Porteous
I was a public school student and I can remember in 5th grade in 'sex ed' I was taught that abortion was one of three equally appropriate actions to take when a child was conceived. Since that's what I was taught, I thought it was right. Praise God for the gift of my faith and the grace to learn what is true. Especially as an adopted child, I value the gift of life. It would have been easy for my birth mother to 'terminate her pregnancy' but she chose to give me life. – Scott Williams
Are men affected by this issue? How?
Absolutely, and I speak from personal experience. 11 years ago my girlfriend at the time told me she was pregnant, but because she already had one fatherless child and I was a drunk and an addict she told me she was going to abort the baby. I was not practicing my faith back then but I knew it was wrong. I fought for her to keep the baby but in the end I gave up.
Eventually we split up, I went to rehab and straightened out my life and found myself working in youth ministry, all by God's grace. I thought my life was pretty good. But there was something missing. Although I had a lot of joy in my life I felt like there was an emptiness in me that I couldn't fill.
A few years ago I was driving home, listening to our local Catholic radio station and there was a man talking about abortion. I can't remember his name or much of what he said, but the one thing I can remember was that he spoke about how men suffer from abortion too. At that moment I realized what the emptiness in my own life had been, it was the loss of my child, the child I gave up on years before.
I had to stop the car and pull into a parking lot. I sat there and thought about all the times certain T.V. commercials brought me to tears unexplainably, how I was never able to talk about that incident and I could go on and on about all the other bad choices I had made. I tried to forget the part I played in the abortion of my child and it was tearing me up inside.
A few months later I heard about a Rachel’s Way retreat for women and men suffering from the loss of their children. It was there that I learned more about how and why women and men suffer from abortion and how to deal with it. I was also given a special grace from God. As we watched a video of men and women sharing their stories, I heard a small voice. It was the voice of little boy. I heard it clear as a bell, he said 'Joshua, Joshua, my name is Joshua.' I knew it was my son and that God had allowed me to hear him so that I could grieve his death and begin the process of healing.
Today I still regret my lost fatherhood, but I'm able to share that with others. I still cry when I think about Joshua, but I pray for him and ask that he prays for me. The hurt is still there, but the emptiness is gone. – Bert Hernandez
When one hurts, we all hurt. If a woman is hurt, that is our mother, sister, daughter, or friend that is hurt. God has a plan for us all. We can’t pretend that if one life is gone, the world will be the same. – Michael Grothem
As a man, I want to be able to support the woman I love as much as I can. That means that when a woman becomes pregnant, the father needs to be there just as God is there for his bride, the Church. Just as Joseph was there for Mary. Men are affected by this issue because having children means accepting responsibility. Agreeing for a woman to have an abortion is saying no to the responsibility that has been given to the man. … Andrew Jones
Absolutely. We've lost a whole generation of children. That affects us whether we're men or women. It breaks my heart personally because life is something that should be treasured and sacred. We've lost millions of people that could be doing amazing things in this world and we'll never know. Suppose one of those babies could've come up with a cure for cancer, suppose they could've been a great priest, or the next pope, we'll never know. And that has an impact on all of us.ÌâåÊ- Eric Porteous
Men are certainly affected by abortion. Some men don't outwardly show their emotions, making it hard to spot or it is often quickly dismissed because it's 'not their body' and shouldn't concern them. While walking across the country, promoting the pro-life movement a man came up after we did a speech at mass with tears rolling down his face telling us a woman he conceived a child with had an abortion without him knowing. He pleaded with us never to let someone go through the same misery he has. He still suffers the loss of his child to this day. – Scott Williams
What would you say to a woman who’s about to have an abortion?
You are beautiful and loved. You matter. God has chosen you to be a mother, to bring a life into this world. You can do this. God has trusted you with this child. He gave you this child for a reason. You can change the world. – Michael Grothem
Clearly, this is a decision that weighs heavily on any person. When people are faced with such dire decisions, meeting these with anger and legalism doesn't change hearts or minds. Explaining that there are options like adoption, and programs, both Church supported and secular to support mothers who need help can create an environment of love where fear is trying to take hold. Replace fear and doubt with love and support. – Adam Eichelberger
I'd talk to her about the life inside her and the beauty of parenthood, but more than anything else I would try to convince her that she's not alone. I believe a large percentage of women who get abortions have been convinced by the industry that they can't do it; that they can't give their child a good life. I think many just need to be told that they can do it. That there are people who can and will help them be great parents. … Rey Guevara
Why do you care what a woman does with her body?
The claim of pro-choice goes beyond a woman's right to do what she wants with her body. When the leading atrocity being executed in our country and across the world is played out from our very own hands it's not a claim of rights or choice for the mother. It's a claim of liberty for the beating heart in the depths of her womb that is being silenced beyond it's already limited stature. Our voices must rise in resounding shouts of love in defense of the very breath we take for granted each second. – Cristopher Matthews
Blessed JPII said that every man has the duty to uphold the dignity of every woman. Unfortunately too many men think more about what a woman can give him than what he should be providing for them. Men are built to protect, it part of our nature. – Bert Hernandez
I care because she is a daughter of God and deserves the truth when all she's been hearing are lies. I care because she is my sister in Christ and I care a great deal about my sisters and want only the best for them, and the best is God's will. – Bryan Kujawa
Because she is a child of God. As a servant of God, I have the right to stand up for God's creation. This stands for both the child in the womb and the woman who carries that child. – Andrew Jones
What can men do to stand up and fight against abortion?
Men can do a lot to fight against abortion and stand up for women and unborn children. They can start by living lives of holiness and virtue. They can start by truly seeking to honor women in all of their interactions with them. They can show women that they genuinely care about them. They can realize that their actions have consequences and think about these consequences before doing anything. They can seek the truth and educate themselves so they may be better informed when asked about tough topics. They can live holy and chaste lives. … Bryan Kujawa
First, understand what being a man really is. Realize that the gift of creating life is set aside for the bond of marriage between a wife and husband. When we choose to pursue selfish pleasure rather than the true embodiment of love, we become the problem. So much of the problem that we have made when it comes to women feeling cornered into ending life, if we respected life as men and honored women with true, selfless love, there would be no need for abortion.
Second, stand for life. Be unafraid to lovingly stand for life. Don't engage those who are facing such a hard choice with anger or frustration. Remind them of the power of love by being an example of love. Show love not only in how you speak, but how you act. Invest time, be kind, realize how vulnerable and conflicted women who face abortion are. … Adam Eichelberger
Why do you think men sometimes pressure women to have an abortion?
Fear and misunderstanding. There is a generation of men who grew up without someone to tach them what a it means to be a man, so men have misunderstandings about the role of the man. Society has portrayed men as either womanizing playboys or incompetent dolts. So naturally, thats what most men have become. When a man find out he is going to be a father they fear the responsibility that comes with a child. They are afraid of their inability to provide for the child or afraid of change of lifestyle that happens when you have a child. … Bert Hernandez
Because it’s so easy. It’s not our body. It’s not our choice. It’s not our life on the line. And yet this is the argument the pro-choice people use as well. It’s not our body, it’s not our choice. We, as men, have to act like the men God wanted us to be. Protectors. Redeemers. Counselors. And yet so many of us panic. We freeze, like Adam froze in the Garden. We blame it on Eve. When ultimately it is our fear that outweighs our responsibility to protect the new life that God has breathed into the wombs of our women. … Steve Gonzales
Men don't pressure women to have an abortion. If a male pressures a woman to have an abortion, he doesn't deserve the right to be called a man. A man's role is to love, protect, provide, and grow chest hair. When males pressure women to have an abortion, it is because unfortunately, they lack what it takes to be a man, to be a father. … Scott Williams
When faced with fear people tend to act courageously or cowardly. That's not to say there isn't a time for the fight or flight instinct, but it would seem in the case of a man faced with an unplanned pregnancy he's reaction is either one of courageous nobility or cowardly fear. Thus, the latter results in seeking to eliminate the inconvenience in order to remove the internal angst. – Cristopher Matthews
I've been thinking about life a lot lately. Mostly my own, really. This past weekend I celebrated my birthday.
It was an awesome day. How could it not be great? There was a Boston Cream Pie cake, calls from all my favorite people, and Facebook notifications endlessly popping up on my phone from wall posts.
I can't help but thank God over and over again for the gift of my life, especially at this time of year with so much talk about abortion. A lot of our generation never made it out of the womb, let alone into their 20's. Why me?
I'll never forget one of my professors in college telling my class that for each of us, our chance of being alive is less than the chance of us winning every single lottery in the whole world.
It's crazy to think about.
I am so unique and I wouldn't exist if my Dad didn't marry my Mom, and if my Grandparents didn't marry each other, and if my Great Grandparents didn't meet . . . and on and on for thousands of years.
If I'm so unique there must be a reason I'm here, right? God wouldn't line up all of my genealogy to lead to me just by chance. I can almost feel the weight being laid on my shoulders when I think about that responsibility. It means a lot.
The 'reason' I was born probably isn't so that I can waste hours on Hulu. Or sit around judging people. Or any of the other negative attitudes and actions that take me away from God. Some day I won’t have any more birthday’s. Time runs out for every single one of us. We all want to do something tremendously different and extraordinary with our lives . . . but what is it?
This year, I just want to live with more passion, joy, hope, and selfless love.
Not many people know the exact 'reason' God put them here. And I'm not sure either. There’s one thing I’m sure of though: Jesus said, 'I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.' (John 13:34) I need to write that on my hand in a permanent marker.
After more than 20 years of being alive, I'm pretty sure the reason I’m here isn’t to be the astronaut I thought I was going to be at age 5. But if I could just live out God's love day after day, that's all I really want. Is that “extraordinary” enough?
I love you so much. You are my everything. I don't know what I would do without you. Life can be hard sometimes. Ok, actually a lot of times. It never seems to stop throwing me curveballs and catching me off guard. Things can be overwhelming and then it's easy to be emotional. I love how I can always talk to you and feel close to you throughout my day but especially at Mass and adoration. I never stop feeling your love and your presence there. You're so great.
Sorry that sometimes I get distracted at Mass. It's so easy to get caught up in everything going on and forget the incredible miracle that's happening right in front of me. But then again, I don't find it hard to re-focus myself because of this great mystery that the Eucharist is. I can't believe that you humble yourself behind a piece of bread every single day countless times all over the world. And that you want to come and dwell within me – of all people.
You hide all your glorious splendor in order to be close to me … who can't handle seeing or holding all that glory. I can't believe I mean that much to you. When I receive you in the Eucharist my whole body and soul feels more peaceful. I can tell as I consume you, that your love is consuming me. I've never felt so close to anyone as I do to you in the Eucharist. And the best part is that it never gets old. You constantly are able to love me like I need, strengthen me for my day and speak personally to my heart. All I have to do is get out of bed and show up.
I'm sitting right now in Adoration. Well, you know that … you know everything. But as I'm looking at you in the Eucharist, I feel like we're best friends, just sitting and talking.
I know that Mass is the high point of our relationship because it's when you and I become one, so that your life flows through my veins. You are the one I love and I want to be as closely united with you as possible – like when I receive Holy Communion. I will never give that up because I don’t ever want to be separated from you.
But in Adoration, we can just look at each other, just hang out. Your gaze hits me and all I can say is 'I'm nothing without you.' Being there in your presence prolongs and extends what happened in Mass, when we were united. In the silence of Adoration, you help me process what's been going on in my life. I love when you just simply remind me who I am, and how you're taking care of me.
I'm really thankful for you. Especially the ways you love me in the Eucharist. I don't know what else to say. There aren't anymore words.
My grandmother has the most beautiful things, including china, dishes, candlesticks and lamps. In other words, a lot of beautiful, breakable things. My grandmother also has a lot of grandchildren. These things don't always go well together.
Myself, as well as other cousins, have on numerous occasions broken one of Grandma's pieces of glassware. I remember one family party when dinner was just being served up, and I was trying to navigate the crowded food line. Holding my plate, silverware and napkin was just too much for my small hands. I felt it slipping but didn't know what to do. The ornate, china plate fell to the tile floor.
You know that split second of silence after something shatters on the ground? It’s in that split second that I caught my breath in shock waiting for the reprimand, gasp or look of disapproval. And in that moment, my grandma had a choice.
She would always, no matter what was broken, say something to the effect of: “That’s ok! Don’t worry!” Immediately, that’s what she said to me. No hesitation. I remember asking her about it later and having her tell me, “What’s done is done and it’s no use being upset over.”
Her reaction had a profound effect on me and I desperately wanted to be like her. By the grace of God I was given the chance last night. We had a young family over for dinner and when the 3 yr. old begged for a small glass cup, I had a sense it wouldn’t end well. Sure enough, she dropped it from the table on to the cement floor. In that tiny second, my grandma crossed my mind and I said as cheerfully as possible, “That’s ok!!” So the toddler knew we weren’t mad at her for the accident.
My first reaction in these situations is not to be patient. I have a temper just as much as anyone else. All I can do is thank God for the grace of that moment that my own temper, stubbornness and impatient reaction shattered along with that cup and it became a moment of victory over “self.”
As we're trying to become holier people, I think one of the hardest things is to overcome these natural inclinations that we have. It's the difference between virtue and our fallen, human nature that leans towards sin. You know like how you don't want to say 'hi' to the awkward kid because it's uncomfortable? But if you did it would be a great act of charity. Or when your little brother is driving you crazy and you want to explode ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâ_ instead of keeping your cool and being patient.
These opportunities for virtue can seem like such little things. It's easy to think they don't matter. But to God, every little action or sacrifice matters.
You know that split-second of silence after something shatters on the floor? We face that moment of silence, that split-second choice between virtue and sin lots of times throughout the day.
All I can do is pray for grace in those little moments. I don't want to think about myself all the time and how I feel … mad, annoyed, grumpy, etc. It's a good thing we have such an awesome example in the saints to look up to. Everyday it was the little choices that got them closer and closer to heaven. I still have a long way to go … a lot more broken cups to not get mad about.
I hope nothing breaks for you today … but if it does … I also hope you think of this and are able to choose virtue.
Pretty Little Liars is over for the summer and I was one of the 3 million people who tuned in last week to see what would happen to Aria, Hanna, Emily and Spencer.
I'm not quite sure what we'll do now without that slice of drama and suspense on Tuesday night. Maybe Teen Mom will suddenly become suspenseful. I can see it now: 'Boy or girl?' 'What's it going to be?' 'Will the name be A or Jenna?'
No, but seriously, of all the things I could say about Pretty Little Liars, there's just one thing that's been on my heart: those poor girls!!!
If you watch the show, you can't help but feel bad for them. I don't think I've ever seen someone look so distraught, anxious, miserable or burdened as those four girls do. I know it's one of those things that's like, 'Well duh, Christina' because that's the whole plot of the show. The four girls are caught in this turmoil because of the mystery that surrounds the death of their friend Alison. How could they not be upset?
Now, just a warning, what I'm going to say would completely kill any plot line. The show would no longer be a money-maker for ABC. And instead of breathlessly awaiting January for the next episode, fans would be stuck watching Teen Mom on Tuesday nights forever. But I'm going to say it anyway.
What if Aria, Hanna, Emily and Spencer just came clean with everything? What if they told their parents and the police what's really going on and showed them all the creepy text messages they receive? Life would be a lot more pleasant for them.
Have you ever heard the Bible verse, 'The truth will set you free' (John 8:32)? If there was ever a situation that this verse applied to, I think this is it. Those girls are trapped.
That's what secrecy and lying does. It traps you because you're constantly afraid of being found out. It can be lonely because it distances you from people, especially those you're lying to.
I hope none of us ever get caught in a situation like the Pretty Little Liars are … stuck in a huge web of lies and secrecy. I know that telling a little lie here and there can be easy and doesn't seem like a big deal. Little lies can pile up to be a big mess though. Then who's trapped, burdened and miserable the way the Pretty Little Liars are? I don't want you to be that way.
It might be harder to tell the truth and it's not always fun. A clear conscience and peaceful mind is totally worth it though. That's what Christ wants for us, as He said in John 16:33,
'I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.'
It's just something to think about. I'm praying for you.
(Oh and PS. Don't date your teacher. Thanks for that example, Aria!)