Thursday, October 25, 2018

Reason no. 24 why I remain Catholic: The Holy Spirit

Just a reminder that my posts on why I remain Catholic are not written in any particular order.

Who is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity?

The Holy Spirit is the love of the Father and the Son. The Father who begets (not made) the Son gives His eternal love to His Son and then the Son gives it back in return; this life-giving love that is eternally exchanged, that is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the life and the love that comes forth from the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son."

So how exactly does the Holy Spirit, the love of the Father and the Son, help us in our everyday? The Son, Jesus Christ, promised us a helper, the Paraclete. (John 14:16). The Holy Spirit is here to help us and to guide us towards the Son. We cannot even say Jesus is Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3) without the aid of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit truly helps us to live the life that Jesus has called us to live so that ultimately we can dwell in heaven with the Father.

We receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism and this grace is deepened through the Sacrament of Confirmation. For "by the sacrament of Confirmation [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed."  (CCC 1285)

It is truly the Holy Spirit, like at the time of Pentecost, that comes to dwell in us. It is this love, this life that is from the Father and the Son, that comes to dwell in our hearts. It is only then that we can proclaim that Jesus is indeed Lord, furthermore, He gives us the courage to go out and proclaim to the all the nations this truth that transforms us from within.

It takes courage to tell others of Christ. With the many martyrs we are witnessing in today's age, we should but ask the Holy Spirit to give us this courage. It is by the Holy Spirit that we are brought to the realization that we are made new in Christ and so it is by the Holy Spirit that we can make known to others that they too can be made new in Christ.

Ask the Holy Spirit to come into your heart and renew your life. We receive Him at Baptism but we can continuously receive Him again and again and have Him renew us from within. Do not be afraid of the Holy Spirit for He is only love and life, sent from the Father through the Son.

More reading on the Holy Spirit? Go here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Reason no. 23 why I remain Catholic: Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

This post will not do justice to this saint. He was a young man, from a wealthy family in Turin, Italy. He was involved in many activities both within and outside the Church. He was a normal young man to most: loved skiing, study at the Politecnico. But no one knew that he was living a virtuous life helping the poor.

What I love about Pier Giorgio is the fact that he lived a life like most young people. He was very active in the things of his time. Yet, he was a pious young man who attended daily mass. He would even make time to attend daily Mass before taking the train out to go skiing. He would take his allowance and purchase medicine or food for the poor of Turin.

I remember the first day of teaching at a local high school in Miami. I had placed a poster of Pier Giorgio in my classroom and many of the young people who walked in would inquire as to who this young guy was. He was good looking and just had a look about him that he would be a good friend.

When I told them that he was beatified by St. John Paul II, they did not believe me. It is really beautiful to see holiness in such a real way. This young man made holiness achievable. He made holiness look "cool".

There is so much more to say about Pier Giorgio Frassati but the best way to describe his life and his love for Jesus was something he liked to say: "Verso l'alto" which translates from Italian to "To the heights" and that is exactly the way he lived. He lived his life, despite his circumstances of wealth and a cold upbringing, always striving for the heights of holiness and love of his neighbor because he loved Jesus.

The proof to this was the day of his funeral procession, the poor from all over Turin gathered to pay homage to this great young man. His parents expected his friends and all of the elite of Turin and to their surprise, they say hundreds of poor gather for the sake of their friend Pier Giorgio.

To learn more about Pier Giorgio, go here.

"Heavenly Father,
Give me the courage to strive for the highest goals,
to flee every temptation to be mediocre.
Enable me to aspire to greatness, as Pier Giorgio did,
and to open my heart with joy to Your call to holiness.
Free me from the fear of failure.
I want to be, Lord, firmly and forever united to You.
Grant me the graces I ask You through Pier Giorgio's intercession,
by the merits of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Disclaimer: photo and prayer courtesy of Frassati USA

Reason no. 22 why I remain Catholic: St. Teresa of Avila

So today I have a woman to introduce to you. Perhaps you know her. Perhaps you don't. My little take on her here will do no justice as you can read a plethora of books/biographies based on her life. Even still you would only scratch the surface of this woman's impact on the Church [Catholic], on Christianity and for women in general. She was a woman ahead of her time. I am writing about St. Teresa of Avila also known as Saint Teresa of Jesus. Today is her feast day.

St. Teresa, was baptized as Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada. She lived between 1515 and 1582 in Avila, Spain. Avila is a town just North-West of Madrid in the region of Castilla-Leon. She was born into a pious Catholic family. Her upbringing made her into a prayerful young woman from a very early age. But it wasn't until later that we see Teresa's true colors surface; the characteristics that will shape her and her future as a reformer of the Carmelite order.

Like many teenagers, Teresa also lost some of her earlier more devout ways. She began to yearn for more worldly things and this was reflected in her enjoyment of social gatherings and parties. She was naturally charming and became a kind of social butterfly within her social circles. She loved fashion and reading lots of fiction, just like any other teenage girl. This would set off concern in her father. Soon after her mother died her strict father decided to send her to an Augustinian convent school. Off she went at the age of 16. Although this experience reignited her zeal for the Lord, she soon fell ill and returned home.

To read more, please click here.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Reason no. 21 why I remain Catholic: St. John Paul II

Today is the feast day of St. John Paul II. Here is an article I wrote for Aleteia on-line publication back in April of 2017.

On, April 2, 2005, I was standing in St. Peter’s Square praying for our very frail Pope John Paul II.

Along with thousands of others, I had gathered to pray a Rosary led by a few cardinals. The prayers reverberating across the Square were a testimony from the throngs that had come to keep vigil, as we anticipated that our Papa was about to depart for his heavenly home.

He had a great love for the youth and his last words to us that evening were, “I have looked for you. Now you have come to me. And I thank you.”

We indeed had come to look for him, to say goodbye.

At 9:37 p.m. the light in his papal apartments went dark. The light that had always shined until the late hours of the night, had finally been extinguished.

The bells of St. Peter’s began to toll: 84 times for the years he had spent as a pilgrim on this earth. He had finally returned to “the Father’s house.”

Six days later I found myself looking across St. Peter’s again. The ocean of people stretched all the way down Via della Conciliazione and passed the Tiber. The people joyfully exclaimed, as their many signs read, Santo Subito! Sainthood Now!

To read more click here.

Disclaimer: photo courtesy of uroburos @ pixabay

Reason no. 20 why I remain Catholic: The Saints

Sorry, forgot to publish this yesterday!
Two for Monday :)

Do you have friends that you can look up to and rely on? Do you have friends that pray for you, especially when you are going through a difficult time? I really hope so.

If you feel you do not have friends like this, I have great news. One of the beautiful things about being Catholic is that we gain a multitude of friends in heaven that can intercede for us at all times. From the heights of heaven and through their proximity to our Lord, they are able to help us receive God's graces and become are signposts towards heaven.

Saints are not canonized for their own benefit. The only reason the Catholic Church is in the business of making saints is for us!

Saints are supernatural heroes that show us the way towards our ultimate goal: heaven!

They have literally "been there and done that" when it comes to everything that involves trying to be Christ-like and even failing on the journey. There is a saint for every example under the sun of what it is like to strive for sanctity, a vocation that each and every person on the face of the earth is called to.

The beauty of the Catholic Church is our faith and friendship is not limited to this earth.

We have the  Church Militant which refers to us Christians here on earth who are like soldiers. We battle against the enemy who is always "seeking to ruin our soul".

Then there is the Church Penitent which is the Christians in purgatory who await their entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.

And finally, there is the Church Triumphant which consists of this cohort of saints along with Mary who dwells in the beatific vision and resides in Paradise (aka Heaven).

Church Militant pray for Church Penitent but asks for prayers from Church Triumphant.

We are all connected by the desire to see God.

The saints are our friends and for the next few days, I will take the time to write about a few of my favorite friends whom I call upon often.

Disclaimer: photo courtesy of pixabay

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Reason no. 19 why I remain Catholic: The Sacred Heart of Jesus

Imagine if you will, being wrapped in complete love. A love so deep and so profound that you want for nothing. This is the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Our Lord came to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in a series of apparitions beginning in 1673. "In them, Christ informed her that she was His chosen instrument to spread devotion to His Sacred Heart, instructed her in a devotion that was to become known as the Nine Fridays and the Holy Hour, and asked that the feast of the Sacred Heart be established."

This is where the devotion of the Sacred Heart began, in a little town of Bourgogne, France called Paray-Le-Monial.

Our Lord said to St. Margaret: “Behold this Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love. In return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrileges, and by the coldness and contempt, they have for me in this sacrament of love…. I come into the heart I have given you in order that through your fervor you may atone for the offenses which I have received from lukewarm and slothful hearts that dishonor me in the Blessed Sacrament.”

It was in discovering the gift of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that I came to know this message. This allowed me to reflect on all of the love Jesus has given to me and how ungrateful I have been in my own lukewarmness towards Him.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus to me is a sign of God's everlasting love. That he would allow himself to be hung on a cross, pierced in His side so that we may have life. This heart that to this day gives of itself over and over and receives so little love in return.

This heart is like a furnace, burning with a fire of love so powerful it will consume anything that comes towards it. This fire consumes not in the way of obliteration, but to consume with love. This is the heart where we can be wrapped completely in a love that is so intense, so all-encompassing that we can only give in to its intensity and give love for love. 

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is the love of God poured out for every human being to accept or reject. Because God is love, He can only love and wait for us to reciprocate.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Disclaimer: photo courtesy of pixabay

Friday, October 19, 2018

Reason no. 18 why I remain Catholic: Sacramentals

The Catholic faith is a very tangible faith. Where ever you turn there is something to touch, hear, smell, taste or see in our faith. 

I can touch the ground upon which Jesus walked on in Jerusalem. I can touch the ground upon which the Saints tread in Rome and elsewhere. 

I can see the first-century streets in Rome where Peter and Paul walked to their deaths. 

I can see the place where Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. 

I can hear the bells toll during the consecration of the Eucharist. 

I can hear the bells toll when it is time for Mass. 

I can hear the words of absolution when the priest, acting in the person of Christ (in persona Christi) says "...through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

I can smell the perfume of incense when the priest incenses the altar before the Liturgy of the Word.

I can smell the scent of fresh flowers as they are offered before a statue of Our Lady.

I can taste the bread that now through the words of Consecration has turned into the body of Christ. 

I can taste the wine that now, through the words of consecration, has turned into the blood of Christ.

Our faith is concrete!

The Lord God has regard for our sensitivities. He knew as he created us, that we perceive the world through our sense of touch, taste, sound, sight, and smell. He knew that in order to get to our hearts he had to go through our hands, our mouth, our ears, our eyes, and our nose. And so he has and he continues to do so through the Sacraments. 

But we also have what the Church refers to as sacramentals. Sacramentals “are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them, men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1667).

Once a priest or bishop blesses a certain object: such as a rosary or statute, it becomes a sacramental. But the first of all sacramentals are blessings. Blessings of peoples, food or things are the most important type of sacramentals. 

And why do we need sacramentals? Because we are people of flesh who function through our senses and things, material things can help us come into contact with spiritual things. 

For instance, we may carry a picture of our late grandmother that we often look at or share with others when we speak of her. Of course, this picture does not bring her back to life and it is not a replacement of our deceased grandmother, but it helps to remind us of her when she was alive and all the memories we shared with her.  This is a concrete object (the picture) that allows us to connect with something spiritual,  (our deceased grandmother.) This is not a sacramental but it explains the way sacramentals work. 

The sacramental should lead us to the sacraments that in turn reveal to us, Christ. 

Probably the most well known sacramental is the rosary. The rosary is a concrete object we use in order to pray and reflect on the mysteries of Christ's life and ministry. The rosary then helps us to reflect on all that the Lord did for us and hence it spurs in us a deep desire to unite ourselves to Christ in the Eucharist. 

These are beautiful instruments of faith. God is so practical! 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Reason no. 17 why I remain Catholic: The Domestic Church

What is the domestic church? "The Second Vatican Council brought us the term “the domestic Church” the family “as a ‘Church in miniature’ (ecclesia domestica) in such a way that in its own way is a living image and historical representation of the mystery of the Church” (Familiaris Consortio, #49).

In a world that is so broken: broken marriages, broken homes, broken souls, we find an image such as this one, extremely foreign. But the Church has always set the bar high for us. We are called to more! With the divorce rate being over fifty percent it's no wonder that the idea of a domestic Church seems unattainable. But for us who have an inkling of faith and wish to strive for what is good and holy, we can in some small way, contribute to the betterment of society. We can give witness to the possibility of families built on faith and love.

It begins with marriage. A couple, exchanging vows, promises to raise their children Catholic. Then with their first child that they present in the Church for baptism they promise :

“You have asked to have your child baptized.  In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him in the practice of the faith.  It will be your duty to bring him up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor.  Do you clearly understand the commitment you are undertaking?”

This is the promise to create a home where Jesus will be at the center. The home will become a place of prayer, both with the family and as individuals. Their faith will not only be visible in their love but also concretely visible through icons and crucifixes and the reading of Scripture. The family will gather around the table and bless their food and give thanks for their blessings. The parents are the primary educators and the primary education is to teach their children of God's love. Mother Theresa said, "The best and surest way to learn the love of Jesus is through the family.”

When I first discovered the notion of a domestic church it rang true in my heart. I knew that this was what I wanted our home to be. I wanted the presence of Jesus to fill each room and for our home to be a place of love, hope, truth and most of all of forgiveness. The domestic Church is not a perfect place by any stretch of the imagination.  Our homes are messy. There is fighting. There is screaming, an occasional door slamming. There are tears and hugs. There are hurt and sorrow; joy and laughter.  There are all these things and more, but most of all there is a steadfast love that is rooted in forgiveness. Without that, we cannot build a domestic Church.

So besides the tantrums, the late nights with the baby. The endless hours of picking up and cleaning and checking homework and doing laundry, the domestic Church is a place of worship and prayer. We have a designated place where we come together to pray every evening. It is our home altar. There we have on display a crucifix and a few icons. There we have our list of those we keep in our daily prayers and there we sit with our children to talk about the day's events, to cry, to laugh and to live our lives the best way we can, imperfectly.

“Every home is called to become a ‘domestic church’ in which family life is completely centered on the lordship of Christ and the love of husband and wife mirrors the mystery of Christ’s love for the Church, his bride,” Pope Benedict XVI said in his Feb. 7, 2007, general audience remarks. 

Disclaimer: photo courtesy of pixabay

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Reason no. 16 why I remain Catholic: Sanctity of Marriage

"He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Matthew 19:4-6

Marriage is a holy covenant; an indissoluble bond marked by the grace of God.

When David and I got married, we had recently read about a tiny little town called Siroki-Brijeg in Bosnia-Herzegovina where there have been no documented divorces for centuries! We couldn't believe it. We knew that we were wanting to marry for life. For us, divorce wasn't even a question. It wasn't a thought!

The people of Siroki-Brijeg believe that salvation comes through the Cross of Christ; through suffering and sacrifice. When young couples are preparing for marriage they are not told, you have found your other half, they are told, you have found your cross! "A cross to be loved, to be carried, a cross not to be thrown away but to be cherished."

The ritual is this: the bride and groom bring to the Church a crucifix. During the exchange of vows, the bride places her right hand on the crucifix and the groom places his hand upon hers. Once they have exchanged their vows, they do not kiss each other, but the cross. Their marriage is rooted upon the Cross of Christ. If they abandon their spouse, they abandon Christ.

This is the what marriage is, a cross we are to love and cherish. Through marriage, we find the one who will lead us to heaven. My duty is to take my husband to heaven and thus his duty is to take me to heaven. We become each others cross in as much as God works through each one of us to bring us salvation. It is Christ who works in and through us to save our spouse and love our spouse.

The proof is in the pudding. Here are some interesting statistics:

Fifty percent or more of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce.

Couples who marry in the Church have a 38% divorce rate.

Couples who attend Mass have a 17-18% divorce rate.

Couples who practice NFP have a 5-7% divorce rate.

Couples who pray meaningful prayer together have a .06% divorce rate! That is 6 out of 10,000 marriages!!!

Families who pray together indeed stay together and that is simply because the Cross is at the center. The Cross of Christ is a school of love because His ultimate sacrifice is what real love is all about. To give our life, to give ourselves to the other is love that lasts. And in order to have an enduring love, it must be sustained in and by Christ.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Reason no. 15 why I remain Catholic: Human Dignity

"God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." Genesis 1:27

We are created in God's image. The creator has given us a royal dignity. We are created to be like God. We were not created to be Gods. This was the mistake of the first man and first woman.

We have our God-given dignity and our life is gifted to us. Our dignity is bestowed upon us by God himself and Jesus came to show us how to live out that dignity.

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him* were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together." Colossians 1:15-17

Because he was firstborn of all creation, the son of God, God made man, he is the living example of what it means to be human. Having given his life for us and in obedience to God the Father, he goes before us and shows us the way of love. He died on the Cross, the ultimate sacrifice of love.

The Cross is the school of love and of life!

We live in a world today where life is disposable. From abortion to prevalent suicide and rampant abuse, we forget that our dignity is what makes us unique from the rest of creation. We were given a dignity rooted in love. Therefore we are called to love and be loved; to love and serve God and others. To go against this dignity is to go against not only God but also our fellow human beings.

Although man and woman are different in every way, we have been given the same dignity. It is through this dignity that we are called to live and honor our feminine and masculine genius.

No other faith honors the dignity of both man and woman equally and above all other creatures. We, different from all other creatures, are given the gift of free-will. We are able to love, think and choose. And in that choice, we are able to honor the dignity of others or not. This is a caveat. Free will comes with the possibility of dishonoring the gift.  But it is the only way love can be lived, in freedom.

We see the result of this freedom. However, our freedom has been disjointed from responsibility and love. Hence, this new form of freedom, a convoluted and distorted form of freedom produces "choices" that lead to a culture of death.

No other faith upholds the dignity of every human being, born or unborn, whatever age, no matter their abilities or disabilities. The Church defends all human life, from womb to tomb and in whatever state.

Human dignity is not something that is earned nor can it be taken away. I came to realize this when I began to learn Scripture and understand the value of life. It wasn't until I came face-to-face with the results of abortion from women dealing with post-traumatic stress after having had an abortion. I witnessed for myself, the devastation that the culture of death had on women who thought they had made a "choice". It left an indelible mark on their heart and in their lives.

The value of human dignity can never be fully understood until it is placed under the light of the life of Jesus Christ.

Disclaimer: photo courtesy of AndisBilderwerkstatt @ pixabay

Monday, October 15, 2018

Reason no. 14 why I remain Catholic: Masculine genius

I have two sons. I have always had an affinity for boys, particularly in my classroom. Whether I taught elementary, middle school or high school, my heart always went out to the boys. Why is it?

I have witnessed a huge change in the way boys are treated in the past two decades. In my almost twenty-five years of working in education, I can say that there has been a drastic change in the way we handle boys and the way boys act and learn.

If you take a look at media in the past twenty-five years you see a huge shift in the way men are portrayed. Watch any prime-time series or children's cartoons and you will see that men/boys are depicted as idiots. On television and in movies, men are characterized as incapable. Incompetent. Immature. Often, boys are portrayed as inferior to girls. It can be seen hiding in plain sight.

Yesterday I wrote about feminine genius and the many gifts that we, as women have been given. If used at the service of God and others, there are fruits of peace and growth to be had. Women have the natural gift of nurturing and educating.  The instinctual maternal side of every woman helps us to "nourish and protect true humanity and bring it to development." The woman was created to receive love and through that receiving she moves toward nurturing service. When a woman is deeply loved, she can work wonders. She brings forth life, not only physically but also spiritually and emotionally.

Although men were created to give love, today we witness men who are childish, immature, inconsiderate and irresponsible. Why? What has happened to all the good men we ask ourselves?  Men initiating love? This seems counterintuitive to what we observe in our families, in our workplace, and in the media.

We are a broken humanity. Men, in their weakness, are prone to these very faults: immaturity, iresponsiblity, carelessness, and promiscuity. In our brokenness, we women are disposed to bitterness, jealousy, viciousness, and disrespect. Consequently, the many decades of women suffering at the hands of broken men have given rise to the radical feminist movement, the antithesis to men's folly. This movement has done everything in its power to push men and boys to the peripheries. Hence, we have added to the problem and we have now abandoned men to the very vices we despise them for. Moreover, at times it seems that the feminist movement has taken on the masculine attributes we most abhor.

However, there is an opportunity here.  A great opportunity for redemption on both sides. The very order of things has become convoluted. No longer is man the initiator of love and the protector of families.  Bygone are the days where women receive a deep and trusting love from men so that she may confidently nurture her family by his side. It's as if we have swapped places.

What is this opportunity? The opportunity belongs to women.

In our gift as loving nurturer and natural educator lies an opportunity to redeem man and save him from his vices and consequently allow things to fall back into place.

Man is an image of the God and God became man in Jesus Christ. God is often referred to as Father. 

"Men as masculine are made to actively initiate love and use their strength to protect and promote that love. Over and over again in the Bible, we see God the Father actively initiating love with His chosen people and with His Son, Jesus Christ, and then using His power to protect and promote that love even in the face of destruction, exile, and death." 

He is the initiator...the giver. It is imprinted in him physically. We must encourage him and allow him to initiate.
He is protector...created to be physically stronger his instinct to protect stems from his love and desire to be the one who will fend off evil. We must give him the opportunity to protect us and not disregard him.
He is promoter...through the honor and respect that we give him he is spurred on to promote love and to provide for his family. Let us respect him not only in our words but also in the way we look at him. Let us look at him with pride and respect.

We can re-teach men and young boys in the ways he has been entrusted to serve God and others. We must reveal to him his "masculine genius". We must boycott media that portrays men in any way that is less than what he was created for. We must appeal for more movies and series that portray men who are strong, loving, honest, responsible and heads of families. We must ask to see men of integrity. We must convince the men in our lives that they have the potential to be men of honor, valor and of true heroic virtue.

There has never been a more beautiful time to use our talents, our feminine genius, to help restore the masculine genius to its rightful place.

We were created for each other and so we must live for each other.

The LORD God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman. When he brought her to the man, the man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of man this one has been taken.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body. Genesis 2:22-24

Disclaimer: photo courtesy of Pexels @ pixabay

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Reason no. 13 why I remain Catholic: Feminine Genius

The term "Feminine Genius" was first used by St. John Paul II in his Letter to Women on June 29, 1995.

The Church sees in Mary the highest expression of the "feminine genius" and she finds in her a source of constant inspiration. Through obedience to the Word of God, she accepted her lofty yet not easy vocation as wife and mother in the family of Nazareth. Putting herself at God's service, she also put herself at the service of others: a service of love. 

There is no better example of what it means to be a woman than Mary. Mary is the source of feminine genius. Her life was given as a complete gift to God and to others. Her whole life was to serve God by raising her son, Jesus Christ. As mentioned in my post on community (see here):

Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself." (GS 24).

By serving others, we give ourselves. This is the "gift of self". Women give of themselves in so many ways. We give ourselves in raising our children and in serving our husbands (that one will really turn heads). We give ourselves in our careers and in serving our community. But this "giving" is not lived as a servitude. "Service"-which, when it is carried out with freedom, reciprocity, and love, expresses the truly "royal" nature of mankind"; of womanhood.  (Letter to Women).

Women give of themselves in a completely different way than men. Our genius is expressed by and through our femininity. We are natural teachers and nurturers. We see the bigger picture and yet are able to focus on the details. Our gifts are vast and were created to complement the gifts given to men. This is the genius of humanity but the genius of the woman is unique and life-giving.

We are mothers, wives, teachers, doctors, nurses, politicians, lawyers, advocates, theologians, professors, pilots, artists etc. But the one unique part of our "giving" to others is that it is expressed through our femininity. We can't do things like men, because we are not men. We do things like women and that is beautiful.

It is a beautiful thing to be a woman. I did not discover the true beauty of my femininity until I discovered the teachings of the church on women.

Letter to Women
Mulieris Dignitatem (On The Dignity and Vocation of Women)

And of course, the many women who have changed the Church and have contributed so much by way of their intellect and love of God:

Saint Catherine of Siena Doctor of the Church
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux Doctor of the Church
Saint Teresa of Avila Doctor of the Church
Saint Edith Stein Scholar and Martyr (Jewish Convert)
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla Doctor (MD), Mother and wife

And how can we forget the feminine genius expressed by the countless women in history who by their God-given talents and courage have helped to change the tide of evil and have left a record of their intimate thoughts by which we have been blessed?

Harriet Tubman Underground railroad- a former slave
Rosa Parks American civil rights activist
Margaret Thatcher Britains first female Prime Minister
Anne Frank young author killed in Holocaust

There are so many more to be named here. However, the real feminine genius God is asking to see is yours. How will you serve others? How will you serve your family and community so that others can see your feminine genius and give glory to God for you?

Disclaimer: photo courtesy of pixabay

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Reason no. 12 why I remain Catholic: Forgiveness and mercy

I could write for days on this topic. I could write from so many angles, but I will have to stick to one. I. AM. IMPERFECT. This is my recourse to God's mercy. I cannot strive towards holiness, heck I cannot even strive towards getting through one day without losing my patience. I can't do this on my own.

Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. It is one of the most difficult things to do and one of the most humbling things to ask for, but there is a wellspring of healing and goodness in forgiveness. Forgiveness flows from God's mercy.

God is the first to forgive us. As long as we are sincerely sorry, God will always forgive us, no matter our sin. I have experienced many times over people asking me "What is the point? If you are going to continue to sin, what is the point of asking for forgiveness (going to the Sacrament of confession)?

We are broken. We are weak and we need a lifetime of learning and grace to overcome our sinfulness. But asking for forgiveness (sincerely), time and time again is not a waste of time. In it comes healing and grace. God's graces gives us the strength to try and overcome specific sins and it also gives us the strength to continue to ask His forgiveness. Indeed it would be much easier to just give in to our sinfulness and say "I am too weak. I am doomed to fail."

I myself have experienced this healing grace through the sacrament of confession. There was a time in my life where I could not overcome a certain sin. I took it to confession, over and over again. It was not until a few years later that I finally noticed that, with God's grace, I not only had overcome this particular sin, but I had done so gradually and gracefully without even noticing. Time and time again, God had cleansed me with his healing balm and slowly but surely I became stronger and more faithful to choose good rather than sin. I had been healed!

This was my story of forgiveness. Through that, I have learned and I am still learning to forgive others. God's mercy has shown me that I must forgive others if I seek to be forgiven.

Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:24

I have learned to forgive more swiftly and sincerely. This has taken years, and I still have a long way to go in learning to forgive all those who have offended me. However, God's grace is taking me one step closer to the Cross where he cried out the greatest forgiveness of all:

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

I too must forgive from the cross, from the places where I hurt most and to those who hurt me most. Forgiveness flows from mercy and mercy is God's love for us.

Disclaimer: photo courtesy of pumukel @pixabay

Friday, October 12, 2018

Reason no. 11 why I remain Catholic: Sexual morality

This is probably one of the most mind-blowing things I discovered during my conversion. I, just like many in the western world, thought that the Catholic Chuch's teachings on sexual morality were outdated, prudish and absolutely rigid. Then I came across St. John Paul II's "Theology of the Body" and my life changed. Literally, it changed!

“The human body includes right from the beginning... the capacity of expressing love, that love in which the person becomes a gift – and by means of this gift – fulfills the meaning of his being and existence.” St. John Paul II

This theological time bomb of a teaching, as George Weigel likes to call it, literally changed my existence. I found not only meaning in my life in Christ but then I discovered that Jesus gives meaning to our sexuality as well. Every, single, aspect of our sexuality.

So how to summarize something that has taken me years to discover? It has been like peeling back the layers of an onion, where with each layer there is always a more dense and rich teaching that ties back to Scripture and Tradition.

God is a trinity of persons. Within this trinity exists an eternal exchange of perfect love that flows from the Father to the Son.  From this perfect and eternal love proceeds the Holy Spirit. Therefore, God is a family. God is a perfect relationship of love within Himself. This is all expressed of course with the very poverty of human language that we speak. To summarize who God is is practically impossible.

We, in turn, were created in and from this Love that is God. We were created in the image and likeness of this most perfect union. Therefore, we are created to reflect this union in our own relationships. This unity of God can best be expressed in the union between man and woman. Essentially, it is only from the intimate union between one man and one woman, that life can spring forth. This makes us like God, co-creators of new life in love.

This is why the Church expresses the sacredness of sex. This is why the Church preaches that sex outside of the sanctity of marriage is cheapened. This is why sex is not only a sacred act that makes us co-creators with God, but it also expresses the beauty of God's perfect love. Sex is beautiful! Sex is pleasurable. God made it this way! It is only when sex is stripped of its meaning and severed from responsibility and life that it becomes a source of hurt and shame.

When I discovered the core of these teachings, I began to dig for more and more of the Church's teachings on sexual morality. I soon unearthed an abundance of treasures.  That the Church is rigid, prudish and outdated, cannot be further from the truth. The Church is wise and loving in her teachings on sex. It teaches us the truth of the beauty of how and why we were created so that we may live in the happiness God created us for. The Catholic Church is the one Church that has never changed her stance on the beauty and sacredness of the sexual union between one man and one woman.

In these teachings, I discovered true freedom from the shackles of what I had grown up learning from friends, media and sheer ignorance. It was in finding this fountain of truth that I was genuinely freed and able to live up to my full potential as a woman. I was released from the bondage of what society said I had to do in order to be accepted. Slowly I began to discover that my happiness was found not in what the world was preaching but what the Church had been preaching for centuries.

“There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.” Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Other than the freedom I found in Christ, there has been no other freedom more exhilarating and sweet than to discover the truth and beauty of sex.

Disclaimer: Photo courtesy of pixabay

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Reason no. 10 why I remain Catholic: Community

A Christian alone is a Christian in danger.

We need community. We need not only the support of our fellow Christians, but we also need their accountability.

When I was younger, I didn't fully comprehend why we needed to go to Mass every Sunday. It was pointless to me. I felt I could just worship God on my own. I could go anywhere and "be with God".  After my conversion, I was in for many surprises. I not only discovered the True Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, but I also discovered that I could not do it alone! 

Living Christianity in the modern world is a great feat. It is completely countercultural. What the world tells us and what Christ asks of us are complete opposites. This cannot be lived in isolation.

God created us to be a body of people. The Church is the body of Christ. "...we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another." Romans 12:5

We were created in and for relationship. We were created out of God's love in order that we may love Him back and we were created so that we may love and be loved. "Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself." (GS 24).

What does it mean to be a gift, a gift of self?
"Becoming self-gift means that God has entrusted to each and every one of us the task of giving ourselves in love to him and to one another. We are, in fact, to become increasingly like God, who, in his very essence, is self-gift: Three Persons giving themselves eternally in love to each other.
To become self-gift is our primary vocation."

It is only in this act of giving ourselves to God first and then to others (i.e. spouse, friends, family), in an unhindered love, that we can find our true happiness. It is in seeking to give our love and receive love that we find the true purpose of our life.

In Italian, they have a beautiful way of saying "I love you." They say, "ti voglio bene" which translates to "I want good for you." This is essentially what true loves is: to want good for the other. Love does not seek to fulfill itself but rather it seeks to make the other happy.

In our relationships, in our friendships, we discover that true Christianity can only be lived in a community. We need our brothers and sisters to move forward, to inspire us, to give us courage and to correct us when we have failed to do what is right.

So who exactly is our community? Firstly it is our family at home. Then it is our parish community. Those with whom you share a pew week after week. It is those you share your faith with, in prayer. It is also the larger community of your diocese as you seek to do community works as Christians for the betterment of your city or towns. And finally, it is that body of Christ, which is the greater Church, the worldwide Church. It is humanity itself whom God gave us to be our family. Therefore, we must give ourselves by willing the good of all persons.

The greatest good we can give to all of our brothers and sisters is to bring them Christ, the source of all goodness. Community is not only essential, in our Christian walk, but it is also vital.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Reason no. 9 why I remain Catholic: Communion of Saints

Probably one of my favorite things about being a Catholic is that we have so many "friends" to help us out; to pray for us: the saints!

The saints are the superheroes of the Catholic Church.

A hero is someone who is admired for their outstanding qualities or virtues. They typically stand out in a crowd for their courage and care for others.

Saints are heroes. They show heroic virtue and stand above the rest of us Christians for their courage and compassion and love for others and above all their love and imitation of Christ.

The communion of saints is the company of those who have gone before us and now dwell in the beatific vision and thus can intercede for us before God. The saint par excellence is Mary, our Blessed Mother. To whom should we turn to first. She is the one closest to God because she was chosen by God himself. But those who once dwelled on earth and were unperfect creatures like us and yet strived to imitate Christ with both their actions and their love, are given the privilege of heaven.

So we as Catholics are taught from a very young age that we can go to these holy people and they will intercede for us before God.

Who has not had a favor to ask from a friend who might help them get that job they have their heart set on? What about asking that friend to introduce us to that person we really like? Asking others to intercede for us is natural. It is what makes us a community of people. We help and intercede for one another on many levels. The same goes for the highest level.

Those who have gone before us, the saints, can help us reach our end goal. We who dwell yet on earth—as well as the saints and the Blessed Virgin in heaven—are "mediators of grace"; but Christ alone is "the mediator of justice."

Saints are said to be road signs that lead us to heaven. They exemplify the life we are created to live.
We are all called to be saints. And so the saints are our role models in heaven. They encourage us to imitate Christ just as they did. And as many lived imperfect lives and finally rose to the level of holy virtue through God's perfect grace, they give us hope and make the goal of reaching holiness a bit more attainable.

And for every saint, there is a specific intention.

If you have a specific intention? There is a particular saint!

There is the saint for studying: St. Joseph of Cupertino.
There is the saint for impossible causes: St. Rita of Cascia
There are saints for motherhood/mothers: Mary, St. Anne, St. Gianna Beretta Molla

And the list goes on.

"Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” St. John Paul II

Disclaimer: Photo courtesy of Tama66 @ pixabay

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Reason no. 8 why I remain Catholic: Hell

Hell is probably one of the most disputed topics in the Christian faith.

Does hell exist and if it does, is it empty?

Jesus warns us, "[I]t is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched." Mark 9:47-48

And in Revelation, we read: "And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name." Revelation 14:11

And in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs" (CCC 1035).

Many religions and even Christian denominations deny the existence of hell and sometimes, in the Catholic church, you may hear pulpit that hell is empty.

We live in a time where both sin and hell are no longer a concern for most. The claws of relativism have taken hold of our society and convinced us that everyone has their own truth and thus just do what makes you feel good. To each his own. We shouldn't judge others?

However, this way of thinking leaves major room to interpret what pleases me and what pleases you. What if looking at child pornography in the privacy of my own home makes me happy? What if doing drugs and driving under the influence, makes me happy? What if being promiscuous and having no concern for other peoples feelings, makes me happy? And the list goes on and on. It is a slippery slope to live an existence where anything goes and everyone makes their own little world of "what makes them happy."

The fact of the matter is, that we were created for goodness. We were created for real lasting joy and that is what we truly long for. This joy, this goodness is connected to our conscience and to a sense of morality. This is our compass. In fact, morality is derived from natural law.  God has destined us for an end and that end pertains to the things that are good, true and beautiful.  This desire is innate in us Hence why when we do things that are immoral we hide and do them in secret. Secrecy reveals to us that our intuitive nature, in fact, knows that what we are doing is going against the very natural law that God instilled within us.

Therefore, if we choose to pursue this route, could we go on without any consequences? At times it seems like those who do wrong, many times get away with it. But this is not so. There is always a price to pay for our actions. You see, the beauty of heaven and hell, that which I discovered during my conversion, is that they are a choice. What we choose in this life, sets the way for what we will receive in the next. Because God has given us free will.

Hell does exist. Many saints have witnessed it and our tradition points to it. Jesus himself spoke of it. On July 13, 1917, Our Lady of Fatima showed Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco a vision of hell. Jacinta’s father Ti Marto witnessed the children’s actions in the Cova da Iria that day. He remembered “that Lucia gasped in sudden horror, that her face was white as death, and that all who were there heard her cry in terror to the Virgin Mother, whom she called by name,”

So if you find yourself doubting Satan and you find yourself doubting there is a hell, just think that the devil Himself believes in God, His greatest enemy.

In the current state of our Church, we can see the effect of what men have done by choosing evil things. We see it all around us. Sometimes it is so prevalent and in our face, we forget to see the good that is still in this world. Many Bishops throughout the U.S. are asking their parishes to pray the St. Michael prayer at the end of Mass. This was a custom that Pope Leo XIII began after writing the prayer and asking it to be said after all Masses.

Our enemy is prowling around to seek the ruin of our soul. We cannot fight an enemy if we don't acknowledge that he exists and that hell is definitely not vacant!

Disclaimer: Linus_Picture @ pixabay

Monday, October 8, 2018

Reason no. 7 why I remain Catholic: Heaven

Yes, I want to make it to heaven. I especially want my children to make it to heaven. But how can we get to heaven if we do not have Jesus in the Eucharist, or the Sacraments, or grace?

What exactly is heaven?

Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified [whether in this life, or in the next life in Purgatory] live forever with Christ. They are like God forever, for they “see him as he is,” face to face. (CCC 1023)

It is also known as the beatific vision. When we are able to see him, perhaps not with our "eyes", but we will dwell in His presence and see Him intuitively.

“Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2

Heaven is principally a state of utter and absolute fulfillment. In the possession of God in the beatific vision the blessed will experience what cannot be put into words; a radical union with God that transcends anything we could envisage. And it is precisely because of that radical union with God in Christ, the blessed will also experience a union with the other members of the Body of Christ that transcends our ability to imagine as well.

Thomas Aquinas tells us that "our intellects will be so illuminated by God to empower us to be able to “see God” in the beatific vision that an ancillary effect of this empowering will be the comprehension of “the whole order of the universe.”

This is amazing!

Really heaven is the perfect paradise we were meant to live in. Heaven is the place where we will be free from suffering and the bondage of sin. Heaven is the place where we will dwell in perfect happiness.

I don't know about you, but that is where I want to be after this life.

In faith, I believe that there is life after death. Jesus Christ rose from the dead to give us just that,  eternal life; aka Heaven! There have been countless saints and even regular people who have experienced the beauty of heaven. People have witnessed it and never been the same.

We were created for so much more. God created us for perfection and beauty. God created us to live eternally with him. This life is passing and heaven is something I want to work towards. May God give us the grace to make it to heaven and may we have the wisdom to choose what is right and understand God's unparalleled love for us.

Disclaimer: photo courtesy of Karigamb08 @ pixabay

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Reason no. 6 why I remain Catholic: Grace

Where would we be without grace? Grace is like this image of delicate beautiful flowers set upon the harsh background of rough wood. We are the rough wood and the delicate flowers are the grace God give us.

Grace is amazing because it lifts us up from our human poverty and brings us to a place of mercy; a place where God meets us and says I want you to live with me in eternity.

There are a few types of grace. But without getting into too much theological explanation, I will touch upon how grace helps me to live my faith.

I don't want to share false humility here but without grace I am nothing.

I struggle! I struggle with my impatience. I struggle with my temper and I struggle with myself. I am my own worst enemy and truthfully I am my own stumbling block to receiving God's grace.

One of the graces that God gives us is sanctifying grace. This grace dwells in our soul. It's a free gift God gives us, we just have to take care of it and nurture it. Sanctifying grace is our ticket to heaven. Without it our soul is incapable of dwelling in heaven, in total communion with God.

So God gives us this grace and then of course, we mess up. We lose our temper. We lose our patience. We speak badly about others. We do not trust in God. The list goes on and on. The worst of these is mortal sin. This totally deadens our soul to this sanctifying grace. But, God then gives us actual grace, or a swift "supernatural kick in the pants. It gets the will and intellect moving so we can seek out and keep sanctifying grace."

So then we go to confession. We seek God's forgiveness, our soul receives sanctifying grace and there we go, as humans do, doing this over and over again. Some people would then argue, what's the point. Haven't we done this with your own mother? Didn't you mess up, talk back, lie or not give her the respect she deserves and then ask for forgiveness? Did we not do this over and over again? Do we not continue to ask for forgiveness in all of our relationships? Without forgiveness where would we be?

Well that forgiveness, that mercy, gives us the chance at our ticket to heaven: sanctifying grace. I see how that grace has changed my heart many times over. I still have a long way to go. I still struggle. I struggle big time. The only perfection that lies in me is God's grace and my desire for it. But "sanctification isn't just a one-time event, but an ongoing process in the life of the believer."

Grace is what guides us on the path to sanctification (aka holiness). Grace is our ticket to heaven. Without grace I am nothing. Grace is a treasure and it's another reason I remain Catholic.

Disclaimer: photo courtesy of Theodoros Douloumpekis @ unsplash

Reason no. 5 why I remain Catholic: Apostolic Succession

So what is apostolic succession really? What is all the hoopla about?

Simply put, apostolic succession is the fact that all the Catholic bishops around the world come from the same lineage that traces all the way back to the apostles. The apostles were the twelve men chosen by Christ himself to found the Catholic Church.

Bishops are chosen to teach, govern and sanctify. They are there to preserve true doctrine. 

"[W]hat you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). " This is Paul speaking to Timothy.

So really the Catholic church traces it's roots all the way back to Christ himself. The word Catholic means "universal". Christ desired that "all men be saved." (1 Timothy 2:4) He founded the "universal" church so that God the Father would be known through His Son, Jesus Christ throughout all the ends of the earth.

Have you ever traced your lineage? Better yet, have you done one of those ancestry tests that tells you what percentage of you is this background or the other? How amazing is it to find out about your true roots?

Well for Catholics, we don't need one of those ancestry tests, we know that the Church can trace itself all the way to Jesus. How amazing is it to know that we can trace our Church all the way back to Jesus Christ Himself, who chose Peter as the first Pope. Christ said to Peter:

"And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it."  Matthew 16:18

Pope Francis, our current Pope is the two-hundred and sixty-sixth pope counting all the way from Peter. This is amazing.

This all explains why we believe in Scripture and Tradition unlike the Protestants who say "Sola Scriptura" which means scripture alone. This is one of our major differences as Christians. We rely on scripture and tradition to preserve it and help interpret it. This would not be possible without the unbroken line of Popes.

What a rich heritage we have as Catholics. I feel so blessed to be a part of something so great that has withstood the test of time. No matter what forces of evil have tried to bring the Church down from without or within, we know that our heritage and our Church will be preserved because it is Christ Himself who preserves her.

"...and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it."

Disclaimer: photo courtesy of tama66 @pixabay

Friday, October 5, 2018

Reason no. 4 why I remain Catholic: Holiness

God is holy!

God created us in His likeness and image. (Genesis 1:27)

Therefore we too are called to be holy!

If it were only that simple, right? Striving to be holy is not only not simple, it sounds absolutely crazy! Let's face it. It's absolutely countercultural. Holiness is just not a part of our vocabulary these days.

Successful? Yes!

Ambitious? Absolutely!

Do what makes you happy? Of course! Why wouldn't you?

I discovered a while back, through the school of hard-knocks that all these things, you know, the stuff that really make you happy...well, they don't. They just don't deliver on their promise of true happiness. At least it didn't make me happy.

After my conversion I realized that I needed something more in my life other than making money, paying bills and being successful. There is nothing wrong with being successful however I longed for something more. I longed to be fulfilled and what I was doing, was just not fulfilling. So I began my search and began to pray.

Then I discovered Saint John Paul II; then Pope John Paul II. I began to read his documents and listen to his words and he always managed to reach those crevices of my heart that yearned for something more. And then he said this:

“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.” 

Those words he spoke at Tor Vergata, Rome on August 19th, 2000. The jubilee year and the gathering of young people from all over the world at the eighth "World Youth Days."

Those words changed my life. I knew that my yearning for more was not only found in Jesus but found in what He was calling me to do. To be holy! In other words, to be happy.

My life was not meant to be just any ordinary life. We all believe that, right? But why do we believe this? Why do we believe that we must be greater than just plain old ordinary? Why do we intuitively feel that there is more to life? Why do we seek it in a career, a relationship, a place, or in material things? Because God has placed that desire in our hearts from time immemorial. He created us in His image and He is holy! It's like He handed us a compass but somehow it got busted along the way and so we don't know where to search for this "more than ordinary life."

"Young people of every continent, do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium! Be contemplative, love prayer; be coherent with your faith and generous in the service of your brothers and sisters, be active members of the Church and builders of peace. To succeed in this demanding project of life, continue to listen to His Word, draw strength from the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Penance. The Lord wants you to be intrepid apostles of his Gospel and builders of a new humanity." Rome 2000

Do not be afraid! We cannot be afraid of what we were created to be! We were created to be holy, to be saints.

There is nothing more exciting! There is nothing more challenging! There is nothing more perfect because it is why we were created.

So here's the catch: I am not even close to being holy. I am, in many ways, far from it. Those closest to me can probably attest to this. But, my faults, my flaws, my sinfulness is not a stumbling block because God's grace is far greater. All we have to do is get up every morning and try again. Pray some more and strive to be "builders of a new humanity" and in turn God will build us anew.

"Be a saint - What else is there?" (Patrick Coffin)

Disclaimer: Geralt @pixabay

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Reason no. 3 why I remain Catholic: The Sacraments

"The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us." CCC 1131

Divine life! Isn't that what we are striving for as Christians? We need food for the journey. The sacraments are our nourishment. They provide the sustenance and the grace for this arduous journey called life. 

As a child I never understood the sacraments. They were just "rituals" that Catholics had; milestones or rites of passage. Heck, if we're going to be truthful, sometimes sacraments are just a good excuse for a celebration. 

My parents gave me the gift of baptizing me and then having me receive my first holy communion. Still I did not understand my faith. I left the Church for some time in my late teens.

It wasn't until my early twenties, when I received the sacrament of Confirmation, that I realized they were actually Christ's instrument to give us His grace. 

"The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament." CCC 1131

I was on fire for the Lord, having been newly converted. I asked to receive the sacrament of Confirmation and learned that "I would receive my mission from Christ and receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit." CCC 1294

I was to become a soldier of Christ and give my yes to Him of my own accord. The faith had finally become my own and not just something I had inherited from my family. I was responsible to grow in my faith and not remain stagnant. I had a relationship with Christ and just like any relationship it was a two way street. I was responsible to grow in my love for Him and therefore to know Him better.

The sacraments can only "bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions." CCC 1131 

I began to frequent daily Mass and seek reconciliation often. However, in order to receive God's grace in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist I must be properly disposed to receive Him. I must be in the state of grace in order to receive the God of the universe into my heart. This compelled me to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation where, through the ministry of the priest, I am able receive the grace of Christ's forgiveness by asking His forgiveness with a contrite heart.

I later administered the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony together with my husband David before a witness of priests and friends and family. Here we received the graces to live our marriage and to bring up children. 

With each sacrament and with those I can receive daily I am striving for the Divine Life.  

The Sacraments are God's concrete way of working through our senses to make himself known to us. And knowing God helps us to love Him more and the more we love God, the more we can convey the divine life so that some day, we can reach heaven. 

Disclaimer: photo courtesy of Didgeman @ pixabay

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Reason no. 2 why I remain Catholic: Mary

She is gracious. She is sweet and full of grace. 

She is holy. She is wise and always aids us in our needs.

She is our hope. She is our advocate. She is our mother. 


The single most venerated woman in all of history. 

She is the mother of God. Chosen before all time. "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel." Genesis 3:15. 

She would be chosen to be the Mother of God and our mother. 

Mary is the figure of perfection. She is the mother who awaits so that she may lead us to her son. 

It took me a long time to come to know Mary. I often battled with the question: "Why do I need Mary if I have Jesus?" 

But Jesus wanted me to have Mary. "Behold, your mother." John 19:27

How could He resist us coming to His mother? Mary is the fastest and surest way to Jesus. This is what I learned through contemplating the mother of God. 

We do not worship her. We ask for her intercession. We ask for our mother to lead us to her Son. 

Often she is depicted standing on the moon. She does not have her own light but only shines the light of her son, Jesus Christ. Mary does everything for her son and with her son. 

The words of the Memorare hold true:

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Reason no. 1 why I remain Catholic: The Eucharist

I grew up Catholic. Well, I grew up culturally Catholic. The only thing I recall from the catechism of my youth are the Our Father and the Hail Mary. That is it. Growing up, I had no idea why we attended Mass. It was boring. It was pointless. The best part of Mass was when it was over. 
It wasn't until my late twenties that I discovered the core of my faith. It wasn't until I read the words from the Gospel of John, Chapter 6, that I finally understood the "real presence."
"I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink." John 6:51-55
The real presence is the understanding that Jesus is truly and literally present in the consecrated host: body, blood, soul and divinity; under the appearance of bread and wine. Once I understood and accepted this in faith, my life changed. 
I was able to go beyond the "duty" of attending Mass every Sunday and instead I desired to be in communion with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, whom had given His life for me, through His sacrifice on the Cross. "And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." Matthew 28:20 Jesus' promise here was fulfilled in His presence in the Eucharist. No matter how corrupt the institute of the Church becomes or how sinful those within her fold are, the Eucharist, Jesus himself, is still present to us. 
The Protestants have it right. We need to have a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior and in the Eucharist we can do just that. It is in consuming His body that I began to have a relationship with Him. It is in visiting Him in the adoration chapel (a chapel where the consecrated host is reserved and exposed so you can pray and adore Christ in the Eucharist) that I was able to speak with Him and listen to Him. 
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1324) it says that "the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life." In the Eucharist is found all that the Church is, it exists for and by Jesus Christ. The Eucharist therefore, is the number one reason I remain a Catholic. How could I ever leave Jesus himself and how could I ever leave the one Church that brings Jesus to me at every single sacrifice of the Holy Mass?
I remain Catholic because of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Photograph: Courtesy of Robert Cheaib @ pixabay