Tag Archives: Christian Living

We Walk By Faith, Not By Feelings

I saw a church sign that said, “God seem far away? Who moved?”

Implication: it’s your fault if God seems distant.

Nonsense. What about Job? What about the Psalmist? What about Jesus who said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” What about folks going through a very real depression or “dark night of the soul?” What about Saints such as Therese of Lisieux or Mother Theresa, etc. who felt a distance from God despite their holy lives?

Sometimes God seems far away and there’s not a darn thing you can do about it. There’s more to being Christian than sitting on a mountaintop and dancing for joy all the time. There are valleys, too, and sometimes they are excruciatingly deep and wide.

We walk by faith, not by feelings.

What? To Jesus Through MARY?!

I used to worry about the phrase, “To Jesus through Mary.” In my years away from Catholicism, I took it as verification that Catholics were misled into placing way too much emphasis on Mary, to the detriment of their relationship with Christ. I used to think, “No, we go through Jesus to God, not to Jesus through Mary. Jesus is the ‘one mediator between God and man.’ This “going through Mary” stuff just isn’t right.”

Then, during my journey back to Catholicism, I began to become aware of something. How did I learn about Jesus? How did I learn that Jesus is called “the one mediator?” I learned it through people at my church who knew the Bible. How did those people learn about the Bible? They learned about the Bible through other people. It seems that no one simply picks up a Bible and learns it in isolation. There are always other people involved, even if it is just the person that placed that Bible in the drawer of your hotel room. The Bible itself came to us through the Catholic Church.

No one actually goes directly to God through Jesus alone. There is always someone else involved, just like Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch. I once had a pastor that liked to talk about how he found Christ through Billy Graham. I think Billy Graham is a great preacher. Lots of people have discovered Christ through Billy Graham.

One might argue that the Apostle Peter or Paul was even greater than Billy Graham. Many have come to Christ through Peter and Paul. But, do you know who is an even greater disciple than either Peter or Paul? Mary. She is the perfect disciple of Christ. When I ask myself, “Who can take me by the hand and lead me to Jesus Christ?” I have to respond, “Mary.” No one was physically or spiritually closer to Christ than Mary. No one lived a more pure life of devotion to Christ than Mary.

Mary was always within the will of God, even when she was confused, scared and grief-stricken. If anyone can show me how to live for Christ, it’s Mary. So, should I go through Mary to Christ? Of course! It makes perfect sense. I can’t think of anyone better than her. “Let it be done to me according to your word.” Hmm…sounds like something her Son would say (“Not my will, Father, but your will be done”). Yeah, now I have no problem going through Mary to Christ.

Go Ahead And Be A Princess, Girl!

I recently took my family to see the new Cinderella movie.  I applaud Disney for making this movie.  Prior to seeing it, I watched Fr. Barron’s video commentary.  You can watch it yourself, so I’ll not go into everything Fr. Barron said.  Suffice it to say, he helped me see the story from a Christian perspective.  For me, it made the movie that much more impressive and inspirational to watch.  (If you have not seen the movie, there are a few little spoilers in Fr. Barron’s commentary, but they didn’t bother me).

Disney princesses tend to get a lot of criticism from people that disapprove of their unrealistic representation of girls.  Disney makes their waists too thin, their eyes too big and their hair too perfect.  These princesses rely too much on being rescued by handsome princes when they ought to be fending for themselves and determining their own destinies.  They give girls the wrong idea of what true feminism is, superficially and internally.  Some of this criticism is probably justified.

Recently, there were billboards around my city advertising for an all girl Catholic high school.  The ads had fairy tale imagery and the message was, “You’re not a princess,” or “Make your own dreams come true.”  I understood that the idea being promoted was for girls to get their heads out of the fairy tale clouds, quit waiting to be rescued, stop being the proverbial “fair maidens in distress” and get a practical education.  I think the idea certainly has merit.  However, I believe girls need not relinquish the title of “Princess,” as long as they know where true royalty comes from.

The Cinderella story (and the movie) focuses on the Catholic virtues of fortitude (courage) and charity (kindness).  Other virtues are exemplified within the movie as well.  Fr. Barron’s video commentary highlights the Christian salvation theme in the story and how it mirrors the relationship between Christ and His Church.  Cinderella is all of us.  We do need to be rescued from the slavery of sin which covers our true beauty.  We do need to embrace virtue.

As Christians, we are all called to embody fortitude, charity and all the virtues.  We know from Romans 8:15 that we are adopted children of God and cry, “Abba, Father.”  We know from 1Peter 2:9-10 that we are royalty.  We are destined to reign with God on high.  As children of The King, what else can we be but princesses and princes?

I have no qualms about referring to my daughter as a princess and my son as a prince, because I am teaching them that they are children of the King.  As they grow, they will know that their ultimate destinies lie not with Disney, but with royalty on high.  They will know that, long before there ever was a Disney, they were called from above to have courage and to be kind.  They will know they have a seat at the royal table.

Self

Self awareness is good. I must pay attention to my body, my thoughts and my soul. I must know myself and know how I may be affecting myself and those around me for better or for worse.

Self care is good. My body, my mind and my soul are gifts given to me. I must take good care of these gifts and not neglect them or abuse them.

Self control is good. I am responsible for managing my emotions and for choosing my thoughts and my actions. No one else can do this for me.

Self-centeredness is not good. I am not the center of all things; God is. My life must revolve around God. God is love. Love includes self, but love is not centered on self. Love must ultimately be centered on others.

The Little Flower Strikes Again

A few years ago I discovered St. Thérèse de Lisieux (The Little Flower) through her book Story of a Soul.  I fell in love with her “little way” and her desire for the vocation of love.  Since then, I notice her showing up in my life in various ways.  Sometimes, it’s very subtle, like noticing a small flower in the grass.  Other times, it’s more obvious that she has been an influence in my life, even before I knew who she was.

I haven’t piloted an aircraft for several years.  When I was actively flying, I did have some close calls.  Suffice it to say that some of those incidents could have had disastrous consequences.  I refuse to call it luck.  I was being watched over.  I sensed it.  Naturally, I thanked God for protecting me (and whoever else was involved).  Only more recently have I had the awareness that, through God, others were also pulling for me.

There were loved ones on Earth and in Heaven who were praying for me.  The book of Hebrews tells of the “great cloud of witnesses” that surrounds us.  The saints that have gone before us reside within the heart and mind of God and intercede for us through the singular mediation of Jesus Christ.  I was being prayed for.  The family of God, the Communion of Saints, was praying for me through Jesus.  Today, one of those prayer warriors was revealed to me.

I was briefly skimming through a book about saints before taking it downstairs to put on the shelf.  I just happened to open it up to the page that lists the patron saints of various professions.  I wasn’t even looking for anything in particular.  If I would have been looking, I would have looked alphabetically under “Pilots.”  Instead, my eyes just happened to fall upon the words “Air Crews.”  One of the patron saints of air crews listed there was Thérèse de Lisieux.  Thank you, Little Flower.

 

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The Eucharist: Living To Eat Or Eating To Live?

Some people think that going to church is what Christianity is all about.  That’s like saying that eating is what life is all about.  Eating (though enjoyable) merely keeps us alive so we can actually live life.  People who focus too much on eating end up obese and unhealthy.  They can’t live life as well.

People who focus their Christianity on “going to church” have a similar issue.  Mass is where we are spiritually fed so we can leave church and live the Christian life.  After Mass we are told, “The Mass is ended, go!”  We have been fed, now it’s time to get to work!  Many folks consider their church attendance to actually be their Christian work.  That’s like going to a job and only “clocking in” during lunch break.  Who would hire such an employee?

Imagine if soldiers never left their training grounds and mess halls during a war.  They would be very good at running obstacle courses, marching, doing drills, cleaning their weapons, etc.  They would not be much use in defending their country.  In fact, an invading force could simply take over.

Spiritual warfare is no different.  If Christians are preoccupied with “going to church,” who is out in the world “fighting the good fight?”  Who is out there putting God’s love into action, healing and defending the hearts that the enemy seeks to devour?  A lot of well fed soldiers are not much use unless they are willing and able to risk themselves and engage in battle.

Catholicism is meant to be shared with the world.  It was never intended to be a “private religion” we keep to ourselves.  The spiritual food we consume on Sunday is given to us to sustain and equip us for daily life.  That means that from the time we wake in the morning until the time we fall asleep at night we are to be conscience of the fact that we are Christians on a mission.  We are always disciples who serve a Master.  We need to resist the tendency to flip our “Christian switch” on or off as it suits us.  We can’t be Christian only when it’s convenient or comfortable or acceptable to others.

I’m not suggesting that we Catholics all become obnoxious, Bible-waving, verse-quoting, overbearing, over-zealous, Christians that people avoid like the plague whenever they see us coming.  I’m suggesting that we allow the gift of Himself that Christ feeds us at every mass to change our hearts into Christ’s heart.  Then we will not mentally leave Christ behind in the tabernacle as we leave church and go out into our daily, distracted lives.  We will actually be Christ in our daily lives.  Then, life won’t be all about eating.  Eating will be all about life.

Just One Of The Guys

Recently, my wife and I were invited to an information meeting for those who may have a calling to be permanent deacons.  People at church have been suggesting to me for some time that I may have this calling.  This is something that will require a good bit of discernment over time.  I don’t know if I have the call to be a deacon or not.  What I do know for sure is that I am called to be a follower of Jesus, no matter what.

I had a good conversation with a deacon who shared some of his thoughts about his vocation.  It struck me when he said, “Since being ordained, I’m no longer one of the guys.”  People treat him differently now.  For example, men who ordinarily might share an off color joke or make some unseemly remark speak more cautiously around him.  I suppose this is a good thing insofar as it shows some reverence for his ordained status and his representation of Christ and the Church.  It may also reveal their guilty consciences and highlight their need to conform their minds to Christ.  Or, maybe they are simply being “courteous” by trying not to offend the deacon as a person.

In any case, it occurred to me that we are all called to serve Christ.  We are all told to be living sacrifices and to let our minds be conformed to Christ.  Ordination may set certain men apart for specific purposes in the Church, but it does not make them “more called” to serve Christ than the layman.  Therefore, it seems to me that a deacon should always be “one of the guys” because “the guys” need to be striving for holiness as much as any deacon, priest, bishop or pope.  There is nothing that says a Christian man is exempt from living a holy life unless he gets ordained.

There is also a perception that, if a man has a keen interest in “spiritual matters,” or he possesses certain gifts, he must be called to some ordained status.  Maybe, maybe not.  All men and women are called to have a keen interest in following Jesus Christ.  Devoting one’s entire life to Christ is not reserved for priests, deacons and nuns.  It is for all of us.

Adding to a perceived “spiritual gap” between clergy and laity is the notion that canonized saints are something other than ordinary human beings.  We see their pictures and hear their stories and we believe they are not us.  The irony is that the very reason we are supposed to be mindful of the saints and in touch with the saints is that we are supposed to emulate the saints.  They are not there to show us a lofty ideal we can never reach.  They are there to show us and to tell us, “If we can do it, you can do it!”  The saints are not “the exception” they are “the goal.”  They show us what we as Christians are expected to be.  That is why there are so many saints from all walks of life.  They are us!  They are cheering us on!

It seems to me that if a deacon is living a holy life, and is surrounded by men who are striving for the goal of sainthood, he will feel like he is “one of the guys.”  Maybe God is calling me to be a deacon.  I don’t know yet.  He has already called me to be a Christian man, a husband and a father.  He has called me to follow him, no matter what.  I want to be “one of the guys” for Jesus, ordained or not.