Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Blinded by Ignorance

Several years ago, after living most of our lives not going to any church, my husband and I decided that maybe we were missing something. So we embarked on the journey of picking a church to join. One of my children had been asking about going to church and I figured it would be good for all of them to learn about God since I hadn't been teaching them anything myself. Besides it would be good for us to start going to church as a family. I really didn't think it mattered which church I picked. I wanted to make an informed, educated search and naturally Google was the best place to start. Right? I don't remember exactly what I typed in the search box but it was something like “how to decide which church to attend” or “compare church denominations”...something like that.

After wading through websites with comparison charts, I finally stumbled onto an online quiz that was supposed to determine what denomination would best fit me based upon my beliefs and values. It never occurred to me to question who wrote the quiz or how they determined the results. I was simply impressed that someone went to the trouble to write it and I figured it couldn't hurt. I didn't understand many of the questions, so sometimes I just picked an answer that sounded right. Many of them involved values that I hadn't even thought about before, so I picked what I thought I should believe. The one thing I never thought about when I was answering those questions was what God expected of me. Nor did I think about the impact my beliefs had on others. I knew I was a good person and I knew I believed in God, but when I was taking that quiz I was only looking at how my beliefs and values effected me and my family.

I was living in a secular world and made decisions with a secular mind. I knew right from wrong and didn't break any laws. I was always willing to help others and never judged anyone for how they lived their life. I honestly thought my value system was good enough. In fact I was probably just a bit proud that even though I had quit attending Mass regularly as a teenager, I still turned out OK. I didn't need to go to church to be a good person. Or so I thought. The truth was, I wasn't being completely honest with myself. I knew what I was supposed to strive for when it came to morals, but I didn't think it was possible to achieve it. Nobody could be perfect. And besides, I wasn't hurting anyone. That counted for something right? Did anyone really wait to have sex until marriage any more? When was the last time anyone was actually shocked when two people moved in together? It's almost expected. And although I would never even consider abortion for myself who was I to judge someone else for making that choice? After all, it's legal. I thought I was a "good person" when in fact I was living a life that was anything but good.

The results of the quiz I took varied depending on the way I answered the questions. I would go back and select different answers to the questions that I didn't really understand anyway and different denominations would come up. Sometimes it would say Methodist, sometimes Lutheran and sometimes Baptist. But I don't remember it ever telling me that I should be (or continue to be) Catholic. I thought this was pretty compelling evidence that I had been born and raised into the wrong religion. This online quiz, with no basis of authority, was telling me I needed to be anything but Catholic. Looking back at it now, how could I have been so blind to believe an online quiz?

The truth is I was blinded by years of sin. I had turned my back on God and thought I didn't need him. I was influenced by society and held captive by Satan. I based my value system on my love for others, not God. I remember many times I would hear someone rattle off their list of who and what was most important in their lives; 1. God 2. Family 3. Career. And I really didn't understand how they could say that. Most of the time I figured they were either just saying it to make themselves look good or else they were just misguided. How could they put anyone or anything above their family? Aren't my children supposed to come before everyone? Shouldn't I love them above even my husband? I truly thought that was what God would want. It was beyond my comprehension that He would ask me to put Himself before my family. I know now that my confusion and mistaken priorities were due to a lack of being educated on Faith. I couldn't live what I didn't know. I didn't know the Bible. I didn't know the Catholic Faith. I didn't know how my decisions effected others. I didn't know God.

Sometimes it makes me sad to look back at how I lived my life for over 30 years and that I couldn't see what was right in front of me the entire time. God was right there waiting for me. He missed me, he loved me and he wanted me to come home. But I was too proud, too stubborn to admit that I needed him as much as he needed me. At the Easter Vigil Mass in 2007, my husband was received into the Catholic Church, my 3 youngest children were baptised and our secular marriage was blessed by the Church. There is much more to the story of my faith journey beginning with why I started searching to begin with and ending with my complete and loving surrender to the Catholic Church and all her teachings on faith and morals that I live by today. I will tell that story another day.

Prayer for today's Saint of the Day: Saint Polycarp, sometimes Christ seems so far away from us. Centuries have passed since he and the apostles walked the earth. Help us to see that he is close to us always and that we can keep him near by imitating his life as you did. Amen

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Closer to God - Preparing for Lent

I'm determined this year to be ready. I'm not going to let Lent sneak up on me. Just the fact that I'm typing this before Ash Wednesday is a good sign. What will I give up? What will I do to become closer to God? What activities or prayers will I add to my children's routine to help them better understand what Lent is all about? One of my very favorite Catholic bloggers, Karen Edmisten, has a wonderful post on preparing for lent. Grab a cup of coffee and read the whole thing. It's long and very inspiring. Karen talks about the debate on whether to give up something you love or to give up something that is bad for you. I'm still not sure what I am going to give up this year. Last year I gave up something I love - Iced Tea. I drink it every day, all year round. I drink de-caf/sugar free so it's not bad for me. It's just something I really do love. I was successful last year giving that up and every time I reached for a glass to get something to drink, I remembered; Oh yeah, Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice....for me. I'm going to drink something else, even though I'd really like a glass of tea. It's the least I can do. It's penance for sin. And when Easter Sunday came around and I had my tea after all those weeks, it sure tasted good. It was a celebration not only that I did it, but also a celebration for Christ. It was the great Alleluia. Christ has RISEN! I'll drink to that. This year I'm thinking of stepping it up a notch. I think I will not only give up tea, but all other cold beverages I routinely drink and only drink water. No diet soft drinks, no flavored water, no juice, no cold coffee drinks. Drinking plain water will again remind me of my sacrifice.

Other things I plan to work on this lent for myself and my children include attending daily mass more often, receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, praying the Stations of the Cross, Praying the Rosary daily, spending time in Adoration at church frequently and doing some kind of charity towards others less fortunate. And of course fasting and abstinence on the days required by the church. Most importantly, as I work through all of these acts of sacrifice, self-denial, increased prayer and alms giving I will be praying intently on the grace from God that many of these "temporary" changes will be changes I am willing and able to continue well past the Lenten season. I only have to look to the early Church Fathers, the Saints and most importantly my good friends right here at my own church as examples of people living their lives for God. Many of them attend daily Mass, pray the rosary daily, and attend weekly Holy Hours and/or Adoration hours. I know some who fast more often than just during Lent and some who abstain from meat on every Friday throughout the year. Are these people better Christians than me? Are they holier than me? Sometimes I think they must be. But I don't think they would agree with that. They are just normal people doing what they can to be closer to God. And they know that they have to work at it.

Lord, protect us in our struggle against evil. As we begin the discipline of Lent, make this season holy by our self-denial. May the light of Your truth bestow sight to the darkness of our sinful eyes and our repentance bring us the blessing of Your forgiveness and the gift of new life. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


On Day 2 of my "Living My Catholic Life" notebook I have the following challenge: "Today in prayer ask God to forgive you for anything you have done to hurt someone else.. Try to focus on specific things. At the same time, think of someone who has hurt you and decide to forgive them. They may be too proud to tell you they are sorry but that doesn't mean you can't let go of that hurt through prayer. Sometimes being hurt can lead to holding grudges. Days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months. Before you know it, years can go by and you can still be come angry just thinking about that person. Holding on to anger can be toxic and it excludes you from God's love."

We are so blessed as Christians to believe that no matter what we do, no matter who we hurt, no matter how grave our sins, that our Lord is an awesome, forgiving Lord. He loves us so much that all we have to do is ask for his forgiveness, and be truly sorry for our sin and we can be confident that he will listen and wipe the slate clean. As Catholics we are especially blessed to have the Sacrament of Reconciliation...a true grace from God.

What is most amazing about this incredible grace from God is that we don't really even deserve it. If God played fair and treated us the way we treat others, we would be in serious trouble. How can we expect God to forgive us if we hold on to anger, hate and grudges against others. We are continually faced with people in our lives who are not nice to us. Do we confront them? Do we talk about them behind their backs? (Gossip) Are we sarcastic with them? After all they deserve it right?

When my children come home and tell me about someone at school who has hurt their feelings, I try to help them through it by first asking them to pray for that child. I tell them that no matter what someone does to them, they are never to return the anger or meanness. And then I tell them to try their best to ignore it. And of course to always come and talk it out with me.

I wonder though, if I practice what I preach? I know that I try. But it is something I have to continually work on. When the offenders are close family, it is that much harder. There are times when I just want to write them off. Life would be SO much easier if I never had to see them again. And there is no way I'm going to help them with anything. Remember, they don't deserve it, right?

Well, like I said above, those feelings are toxic. When I truly let those feelings go; when I offer it up to God and deal with it through prayer, then I am more at peace and I can move on. This is not only what God wants, it is what he expects. It is what he demands. If I can't forgive others then I will never be able to be forgiven by Him.

Monday, February 1, 2010

I have much to work on

I will be the first to admit that I struggle at daily prayer. Most nights I remember to pray before I go to sleep but once the alarm rings in the morning, I hit the ground running and I'm busy all day with my normal daily home and family commitments. I'm not too busy to pray, I just forget to make time for it. I need to change this. God is never too busy for me. I am challenging myself today to strengthen my daily prayer routine with the prayer below.

Christians believe that Jesus had a real human mother and was born fully human. We also believe He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, therefore He is also God. The union of these two natures, fully divine and fully human is called the Incarnation. One very special prayer I hope to make a daily habit is "The Angelus" which celebrates the Incarnation of the Lord. It can be prayed individually or with your family or others. Many people pray this prayer at 6 a.m. to commemorate Christ's resurrection, at 12 noon to honor Christ's passion and at 6 p.m to remember the Incarnation.

The Angelus

The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Behold the hand maid of the Lord
Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

Hail Mary . . .

And the Word was made Flesh
And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary . . .

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God
that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.