If we are to call ourselves Christians, then we must believe that God loves us and would never allow for us to experience suffering without purpose. Therefore, there has to be purpose in the cross of unhappiness. Whether we struggle with depression for months on end or just experience a day lacking fulfillment, perhaps these are opportunities to shine brighter and cling tighter. Perhaps there is purpose in our pain.
The good we see in each other is the evidence that we are God’s creation. If we fail to see that in one another then it’s a simple lack of clarity, not gift. What I notice more than anything even as I write this, is what a necessity it is for us to understand who we are and therefore who were called to be.
Fall… it’s that time of year best known for its pumpkin spiced lattes, orange leaves, and crisp, cool air. It’s also that time of year when stores start selling Halloween costumes, Thanksgiving napkins, and Christmas trees… all at the same time. While the holiday season is definitely exciting, it can also be a distracting season…
After two years and the loss of the use of her legs it became clear that Chiara Luce wouldn’t survive. Despite her pain she refused morphine so that she could remain lucid and offer all her suffering up to Jesus. She encouraged her parents to go out to dinner together, trying to prepare them for life after her death. Paralyzed in her bed, she kept loving.
In October 1990, Chiara Luce died at home. But her story doesn’t end there.
People became so inspired by the life and holiness of this “average” girl that her bishop opened the cause for her sainthood. In September 2010 she was declared “Blessed” (or one step away from becoming a saint) at a ceremony attended by over 25,000 people from 57 countries. Not bad for a small-town girl who never sought fame.
We put on this tough exterior in order to try and hide what is really going on. We try to broadcast something completely different from what’s going on in the inside. We think that if someone knew what we really felt, what we really experienced, what we’ve really done, then we would be cast out. That no one could possibly love us.
The next few Sundays looked the same. Each week I was presented with an opportunity to tell them more about my faith but each week, I responded with a one-word answer. After a month of this happening, my siblings caught on. They noticed that instead of cramming for a test on Sunday night, I was at church. They called me anything from “church freak” to “soon-to-be-nun.”
This false life of never enough permeates every aspect of our culture. When we pick out what to wear to school we ask, “Will others notice me?” When we step into the locker room to change out for sports we compare our body with that of others. When we get report cards… sports awards… drama or music evaluations… We are never enough. And when we do excel, there’s always some way we can (and “should”) improve.
This never enough culture consumes us with shame. We feel that we are never enough and so we believe that we are not enough.
It was a Saturday night and I was completely alone. I had cash in my pocket and gas in my truck but I had no friends anymore. The phone was not ringing. The silence was a deafening reminder to how ‘sad’ my social life had become in a very short amount of time. This had never happened to me in my previous three years of high school. My senior year was supposed to be epic! Instead it was growing increasingly lonely and there was only one person to blame: Jesus.
I turned around, and drove back to my house, wiping my eyes so I wouldn’t freak my mom out too much. But as I got out, it wasn’t Mom, or even Josh to meet me outside first. It was my Dad. And I had told myself I wasn’t going to cry anymore, but the concerned look on his face made me start to sob again and I sputtered, “I didn’t forget anything, I just missed you guys.”
The truth about uniforms/dress codes is they help us see who we are, they bring out our personality and true character. The unity in uniforms allows the unique dignity of our person to be truly seen. That is what we all desire most – to be seen. If you have ever met a group of religious sisters, you know that they each have a unique personality; each sister is so different from the others. And yet, they all wear the exact same habit, cut their hair the same way, don’t wear make up and follow all these dress code rules with joy. Why?
Whenever you begin to feel the temptation to sin and you don’t have those accountable people around, have an alternative activity that is your “go to.” You’ll have to do it right away. When you’re tempted to look at someone and judge them, think to yourself, “They are a child of God.” It’s important to train or condition yourself to avoid sin, so you might have to start by making a conscious effort to think that about every single person you see. Maybe you are a musician, and you grab your guitar or your drumsticks.
To make matters worse I began struggling with even more anxieties, anxieties about: past worries, college decisions, the future, and even my faith. I wrestled with these anxieties for a while and though I have certainly been able to manage them better, this is something that I still struggle with today.
Often I wonder why did this happen? I felt fine in the beginning of the school year. I’ve had worries like this in the past, but nothing that has trapped me as much as these anxieties did. After praying and reflecting on this question a great deal, I strongly believe that this was Jesus telling me to wake up.
Everyone seemed to have it all figured out… everyone but me. I began questioning my entire career path (about five times a day), and I felt like I couldn’t keep up academically since there was now a much higher standard. I didn’t know anyone, and no one knew me. I found myself grasping for an identity.
Most of my first month, I was stressed out, anxious about the future, and addicted to microwavable pizza.
If you’re anything like me, then you’ve thought you could only be beautiful if you looked like someone else. You’ve looked in the mirror and thought “why would anyone love or even want to be friends with me?” You’ve believed that there’s a certain way you’re supposed to look, and that since you don’t look that way, no one could possibly think you’re beautiful.
Since I began working as a dietitian some three years ago, I have asked hundreds of patients about what types of beverages they drink during a typical day. This question has resulted in answers such as “a few glasses of water,” “three cups of milk,” or “ten cans of soda.” While soda can certainly be a tasty treat, it is not necessarily something you should drink large amounts of everyday. Why is that? Well, set that can of Mountain Dew down and I’ll give you seven reasons why you should drink less soda this school year:
I talk to teenagers just about every day, and the conversations are often the same. They deal with the Bible and what the Church teaches and how challenging it can be to live a holy life in an unholy culture. I’d say that most teens that I talk to are truly looking for the Lord; some, however, are looking less for the Lord and more for the loopholes.
For instance: “I heard that the Bible doesn’t say drinking alcohol is a sin.”
“Well, no, the Bible does not say that drinking alcohol is a sin,” I respond. I then go on to explain that it does become sinful (very easily), if any of the following happen:
'Well, no, the Bible does not say that drinking alcohol is a sin,' I respond. I then go on to explain that it does become sinful (very easily), if any of the following happen…
I’m often faced with a heart that is racing and sweaty palms when I’m sitting in the presence of the Lord because I question if this was right. But just at that moment he whispers “Hey, look at me! I’m right here; don’t run from me I’m not done with you yet.” In that moment of clarity, I stare at Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament I feel all the weight life off my shoulders. This choice I have made is right because it’s exactly what Jesus is asking of me right now.
We NEED to give Him the shame. We need to give Him the relationships that we totally messed up in. We need to give Him the part of us that feels empty, that doubts. We need to give Him the guilt we carry on our backs. We need to give him the dumb things we’ve said that continue to haunt us. He wants it, He wants all of us… He wants you.
The word “evangelization” reminds me of a time I was ambushed in a parking lot. One summer afternoon I was sitting in the parking lot of Starbucks with my windows rolled down, ready to pull out. I had my iced coffee, I buckled my seatbelt, turned on my country music, glanced in my rearview mirror […]
Last week, as soon as Mass ended, the sweet little old lady sitting in front of me loudly announced to anyone within earshot that I (apparently) sing off-key. Totally shocked, I responded, “Well, I guess that’s why I’m out here, and not back there in the choir loft.” Listen, lady, I never promised you perfection from the pew behind you.