The Less Than Glamorous Side of Catholic Converts

In 2014, The Pew Religious Landscape Survey, a survey of the United States, found that only 2% of Americans born evangelical, or protestant, convert to Catholicism. From that number, it’s safe to say American converts are scarce in ratio to cradle Catholics. Converts are unique to the Church. It’s often asserted that converts make the best Catholics because they are knowledgeable about their faith, chose it for themselves, and are deeply passionate for it. A famous convert that often comes to people’s minds is Scott Hahn, professor at Franciscan University, Catholic writer, and speaker. As a Catholic Convert myself, even though we’re seen as special and unique in the life of Church, there are still struggles that arise with our conversion from a protestant to Catholic, and much of these struggles are not something we talk about. Today, in this blog post, I want to give you a look at what goes on behind the intellectual mind that converts to Catholic faith. I want to show you the less glamorous side of being a Catholic convert.

To begin, per my experience as a convert, being unadulterated Catholic is not as easy as going through RCIA and accepting all the dogmas of the Catholic faith. I am constantly having to throw out background knowledge that I attained through the cultural milieu with my protestant peers, the knowledge I gained from famous speakers like Francis Chan, and Church learning functions. Basically, one has to hunt and locate even simple ideas that are not aligned with the Catholic faith. It’s a process of conversion that is likely to take years. Most of the time, without guidance from my Godparents, I do not recognize small concepts I have that are fundamentalist, or Baptist in nature. For example, I accepted the idea, through my own independent learning as protestant, that if a dating relationship led to you to sin then it was not a relationship that was ordained by God to happen. You were, in fact, in the relationship of your own will and not God’s will, because God’s will would not lead to sin. This idea is not Catholic, and is not accepted by Catholics, it flies in the face of logic and reality. The reality is, God can bring two people together, but just like with everything there is temptation. The aspect of temptation itself was lacking in the “Godly dating” understanding I learned as a protestant. Temptation is a part of life and it’s too simplistic to state that God did not bring a couple together just because there is temptation, or because they mistakenly fell into temptation. Now keep in mind this is only once simple concept that I have shown you as an example for what I am asserting. Now, these ideas, that are not found in the truth of Catholicism, are hard to locate, and can only be done bit by bit. (Unless you find a Catholic book that starts from the very basic of ideas and works its way up to build to the entirety of the true Catholic intellectual mind. However, that is a resource I have not been able to find yet.)  This is likely the first you’re hearing of this phenomenon within Catholic converts, and the trouble doesn’t stop there either.

Besides having no clue about cultural aspects and celebrations of Catholicism, like the May crowning of Mary, converts grapple with the simple logic that was once a part of their faith life as a protestant. Being that I pursued the study of theology in college, as an evangelical we had this saying “God will provide,” in regards to the uncertain future of graduating college with theology degree. The phrase meant that God would provide you with a ministry right out of college. This is also a bit of knowledge that I had to learn was not a statement of truth. Here I am searching for jobs, a year after my college graduation date, and I’m contemplating giving up on my dreams of working in a career field that involves Jesus and christianity. Life is not simple. In the examples, I have provided for you thus far of the struggles of the convert, one can see that the statements are unrealistic. The statements lack the messy dimension of life. They are black and white statements, and life is not totally colored in black and white. Life is messy, and things of faith are not as simple as fundamentalists make them out to be. This bring me to point of this paragraph, The simplicity, the black and white perspective, are things the convert has to unlearn. This likely happens naturally as one matures with age, but being that I’m only 23 years old, I’ve had to focus on this aspect tremendously. The black and white glasses that are typically found in fundamentalism leaves no room for mercy. It’s very hard to understand mercy when one wears spectacles with lenses that are only black and white. This thinking, at its core, lacks an understanding of other people, and understanding is the first step, in my experience, to the virtue of mercy. This particular problem leads into the next struggle that I have only begun to understand.

In relation to what I mentioned above, there is a significant problem that can form within the convert. I, from being a convert, have slight scruples. I suggest googling “Catholic scruples,” if you don’t know what I am referring to as I don’t have the time to explain the idea. Basically, with scruples, and some bad experiences in helping in Catholic education, I have found that with the realization of numerous minor things I once believed false, you can, and I have, come to this sense of questioning if you even know God at all. This is where I am at the moment. Not all of my protestant background knowledge of God can transition over to the truth found in Catholicism. This final point I bring up is truly the spear head of this blog post. Basically, you can lose this sense of who God is. You aren’t quite sure which depictions of Jesus growing up with are accurate. Let me ask you this, if you picture Jesus improperly is it really Jesus you are following? It’s surely possible to make a Jesus in your mind that is not actually Jesus. This is the side I want my readers to think about. The disruption that can be created within the convert of how they picture God. It may not have been a struggle for some, like Scott Hahn, but it is a tangible struggle nonetheless. It is a struggle that I am facing now. This loss of clarity is most troublesome, and is an obstacle in my relationship with God. This problem is truly the pinnacle of hardship in being a convert to Catholic faith.

If you are a convert like my myself, you are not the only one facing these challenges. I am right here with you. You’re not alone. Being a convert is not all fun and games like many people think it is. To be frank, in some ways I envy cradle Catholics because they can trust the knowledge they have of God, and have an image of God that is not influenced by evangelical ideas. They picture God as a what a Catholic is supposed to. This picture they have of God, it is something I have to try recreate, and even then it may not be exactly perfect. Well, to conclude this blog post, this is just only a brief look at the secret struggles that occur within convert Catholics.

If any Catholics have book recommendations, containing citations and documentation, on the character of Jesus, or God, I would appreciate it if you commented below with the title and Author. It would be extremely helpful for me, and for other like me! thank you so much, and thankyou for reading this ramble of mine.

Afternote by Author:

If you say that my image of God should not have changed than you don’t see how correct teaching helps correct right relationship, just how correct information creations good relationships with others. If you thought Susie was always mad and yelling at her friends, would that not make you less likely to have a friendship with her? The same is true with God, but in more subtle matters than the obvious deterrent in the example with Susie. Correct teaching, understanding, and image of God are important to the faith life, and to one’s relationship with God.

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Grace: The Electric Toy Sports Car

Under the hot sun this morning, I was vacuuming out my car. Yesterday, my grandma and I had discovered that Hermine had left the inside of my car nice and wet. It smelled like a swamp. You almost didn’t want to breathe. And that is pretty accurate description considering the water came from the marsh when my street flooded. My car during the flood had managed to become a poor excuse for a Transformer and became a little golden submarine. Gilda, my car, had to be driven to higher ground before the water got any higher, and thus become a submarine to make it to higher ground.

As I was vacuuming up the muddy water from beneath the seats and footboards, an old lady and her grandson were walking up my street. The little grandson, maybe 3 or 4, was chugging along in an electric toy yellow sports car. The grandson had been instructed to follow behind grandma. At that moment, I had an epiphany about grace.

I  pictured sweet and strong Jesus walking in a path in front and young children struggling to keep up and not be left behind. Their little legs were scrambling to try and close the distance between Jesus and them. They just couldn’t keep up no matter how fast they moved their little feet, and the distance grew and grew.

However, Jesus had given us grace to help us follow him. This grace I pictured as the electric toy car the little kid was riding in this morning. The car gave us a faster and better means at following Jesus. We could keep up and not grow so tired. The car, or grace, was a needed gift from God to help us in our disadvantage. There was no way the small gait of a child could keep up with Jesus and his grown up size strides. So, God gave us an electric toy car to chug along in behind Jesus. We wouldn’t lose Jesus as along as we followed behind him. Of course, there was still the option to turn right or left or to crash and break the car. It was the children’s choice to decide if they wanted to follow Jesus, but we would not lose sight of him in the distance from the ever widening gap between his walking strides and the walking strides of the children.

We all have access to the rideable electric toy car called grace. Without this, there would be no way to heaven. We cannot earn heaven, and so God gave us the grace to help us attain it. Though, to keep up with Jesus, and then get to heaven, one has to cooperate and follow directions. Grace is amazing, but one has to work with God, and with grace. There is a cooperation between man and God in the incredible gift called grace.

The Tragedy of Contemporary Christian Lingo

My focus these past few weeks have been about issues that I see within the Catholic Church and in all churches. These issues, I believe, are a relatively recent phenomenon that has resulted because of the last 300 or 200 years of Christian “events,” for a lack of a better word, in American society. I plan on writing a book when I feel like my investigation is complete and I’m able to offer practical solutions to ministers.

I’m writing this at the present moment because I do not feel I can keep quiet about this issue on language. In the contemporary Christian culture the language used has emotionalism and this lack of awareness about it. To clarify, examples of these statements include, “I feel led to go to (X place),” “God laid it on my heart to tell you (X thing),” “I felt in my heart I should do (X thing),” and etc. I do not feel I should have to list all the common phrases used by, at least young, Christians today. If you are involved in ministry or a church you should know exactly what I am referring to.

This language is very flawed. It shows a desperate need for a true interior life and the awareness of something called “discernment.” It lacks the idea of divine providence acting in circumstances without your “feelings” or “emotions.” It focuses so much on how someone feels at that moment which is very likely to be a temporary feeling and not from God. What one is doing when using these phrases is applying authority that they are not certain of, or they are blissfully ignorant in understanding that the “heart is deceitful above all things.” This jargon also lacks humility and tries to assert something that may not be true. What is the better course of action is just to acknowledge that you desire to do something. This is more truthful. Only time and much discernment can lead to the understanding if such a feeling is not just originating yourself.

In Catholicism, this jargon, I believe, is a consequence of Protestant influences and is born out of the faulty movement in Protestantism that focuses on feelings and emotions. This emphasis is because they lack something solid that the Catholic church has, so they put authority on how they “feel” as they think it is the “Holy Spirit” and to assert that they truly have the Holy Spirit.  The Church is having such views leaked into it via popular Protestant singers, at least, to the youth who do not understand the complexities of Christian spiritual life and living for Christ. Additionally, there MAY be a chance Catholics are using the same techniques as a way to ensure that people do not leave the Church. If this is the case, then what we have is a church that is having Protestant social ideas leaking into the Church and creating a mixture of spiritual understanding. This mixture is very likely not stable as I consider most entertainment and emotionalism tactics to be missing the key point of Jesus. It creates a spiritual idea where only the loud and boisterous “passion” or “love” is truly someone following Christ. The mature passion and love of Christ are one that is quiet and reverent.

To clarify what I mean by mature, C. S. Lewis states:

“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,’ then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. it is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”

Most experiences where God teaches you or have you do something will not be a drama of emotion. What I see as the issue that is creating problems is the emotionalism which is a result of consumerism in American society. People want something that is not really “Catholic.” Baptism can be accompanied with emotions or it may not be, but just because there are no emotions does not change the beauty of what happens at baptism. There is a stable reality that can be known and is not limited to subjective feelings that tend to be very unreliable.

Now before I let my musings sink in, I want to remind you that this information is a work in progress. It is a tentative theory for things that I see which are problematic in everyday life as someone heavily involved in Catholicism and Christianity. Take my information and think about it. Chew on it. Reflect on it and come to your own conclusion about if the Christian jargon is uneducated and harmful. What I said is not set in stone, but only a tentative perspective.

Sites that helped me put this into words: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2014/02/828/

http://www.ewtn.com/v/experts/showmessage.asp?number=333051

https://www.thecatholicthing.org/2014/02/06/faith-and-emotion/

http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2007/07/08/the-spirit-the-modern-world-pentecostalism-and-orthodoxy/

 

The Catholic School Kid

Since August, I have started work at a Catholic School. I am, currently, a substitute teacher and an extended care assistant. My job at the school and my involvement in children’s lives are a very enlightening experience. In many ways, I expected Catholic School to be different from my own experience of growing up in public school. In a certain way, I was right, but some of the ways it is different are not a good thing.

The school system is fine. What is different is the environment the kids grow up in. I expected prim and proper families as a private school is not cheap. However, a lot of the parents I meet are single moms. One of the sweetest kids I have met so far, his father is in jail. It seems that there isn’t much of a stable nuclear family anymore. Kids have to remember which parent they have to go home with for the weekend. A group of sisters that I interact with a lot has five other step-siblings who are also from divorced parents. That is eight children that one has to keep track of who goes where. Going into this job, considering it is a private school, much of what I hear about the condition of the family unit is surprising.

As a millennial with constant articles and elders complaining about my generation, I can’t imagine what they will say about these elementary kids. The only people we can blame for how these children turn out is ourselves. In public school, it seemed like everyone I knew still had a stable family unit and their parents were not divorced. It was the same in college. Thus, it was very surprising to me see that most kids, I get to interact with at least, do have a “broken” family.  In addition, we, millennials, are complained about like it is a new accessory to wear to make you look sophisticated. Therefore, if these kids have more family trouble than us “entitled millennials” then I do not know what the older generation will cook up about these kids. As a facility member of the school, I have come to realize that the school offers some children an assured stability. No matter who they go home with, and which bedroom they sleep in, the school will always be a constant place for them to go when home is traveling between two locations.

God has shown me that despite the conditions these kids live with they are beautifully resilient. There is a giant light for them in their life through the school and the Catholic faith. Today, the group of sisters I previously mentioned were re-enacting mass. A dictionary was used as a pretend Bible for the readings and prayer book. During their fun, they were trying to teach me how to be an altar server as they had gone through training to be altar servers. It was a very sweet moment for me to witness, granted the eldest and the youngest started fighting over who would be the priest. Eventually, the middle sister joined in too over the quarrel of the priesthood. I made sure to remind them in real life only men can be priests, but there is a study going on to see if the Church can ordain deaconesses. As a Protestant, I have never seen kids playing a church service for fun. The kids enjoy Mass and the traditions that come with it. Today, this little moment showed me that even though life is confusing for the kids, there is a light in the darkness for them.

God’s love for these young children is truly boundless. Even with all the sin in the world, He somehow reaches the hearts of these kids in such a unique way. And He uses the Catholic faith to light up these little hearts for Him. I hope He continues to show me what the fullness of truth and tradition can efficiently accomplish.

The Censorship of Christian History

There is nothing quite like reading documents written by the early Church Fathers. Early meaning the span of 100 to 400 years Anno Domini, or AD, and Church Fathers meaning the successors of the twelve apostles. These documents capture explicitly the thoughts and doctrines within that time period. The evidence of christian history and historical doctrine can be found outside the bible in sermons, books, treatise, and etc. They are truly and interesting and captivating read!

I was not exposed to early Christian writing outside the bible till I decided to become catholic and attended a Catholic Universality. Today, I see that there is a great crime going on in Christianity. This crime is where history is censored and done away with. The bible alone is seen as what should be used for understanding of Christianity. More worrisome is how Christians deny the legitimacy of proven Christian history and let the information go in one ear and out the other. They treat history like it tends to do with science. They treat it as bogus and made up. They question the validity of early Christian writings and go against reason and logic. It is almost as if they do not appreciate sound and researched information. Historical facts matter nothing to them if it is not indicated in the bible, even if it is information about first century Christianity.

In college, I wrote a paper on Jesus descending into Hell as stated by the Apostles’ Creed. The way I tried to work this paper was with the use of scripture. I did not want to use history to prove this statement as I knew history would do nothing to improve my argument if I used it later as a means to inform people about the catholic faith.  Non-Catholics, or churches that do not focus on real seven sacraments, only want evidence provided by verses and passages in scripture. This leaves out another half of the story. In my upbringings as a protestant, we discussed the founders of our church, John Wesley for example, and the characters in the bible. Other than that no other prominent figure of Christian history ever seemed to be discussed. There was no mention of Athanasius or the Councils that clarified the doctrine of the Trinity. There is a tendency among people to reject any historical fact that goes against there own doctrinal understanding of Christianity. For me it is a times frustrating, it limits the conversation to little phrases like “let go and let God” along with other short, ambiguous, and misinterpret-able sayings.

The censorship that is involved in this phenomenon is the lack of information about early church writing. Never had someone mentioned early Christian writing until I was teaching myself the ways of being a Catholic. The fact that this fails to get mentioned even in the pulpit is very concerning. Additionally, I also find it concerning how one is expected to have understanding of God’s word when they lack a good understanding of Jewish history and culture. How can the old testament be understood, along with cultural aspects in the New Testament, without educating people about Judaism? It is almost as if we are told to read the Constitution without ever knowing about the American Revolution, the Revolutionary war, and the articles of Confederation. Reading the Constitution without background information leaves out the context and key information.Today, even with the historical understanding of the Constitution there are still many interpretations on the document. This is, of course, not a prefect example.The question remains though, when did history become so unimportant that we think that we can understand ancient documents without context?

My questioning of this censorship is rhetorical. Cardinal Newman said, “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” Part of this phenomenon pertains to the existence of the Eucharist found in early church writing. The Eucharist is the most intimate interaction with Jesus. It is where the bread and wine go through transubstantiation where they become the body and blood of Jesus. It is one of my favorite sacraments, followed by confession. The body and blood of Jesus look like and taste like bread and wine, but God has changed them to have the substance of Jesus. The fact this is found in explicit detail outside the bible in historical writings is partly why Christian History is censored along with the evidence of the other Sacraments.

In the turn of the 20th century mostly everyone was literate, it is tragic that history is disregarded even though, today, we have higher literacy rates than ever, according to Western history. How can a world where mostly everyone can read and have access to information neglect parts of history just because they do not like what early church documents explicitly say? To add irony, most churches accept the doctrine of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity also can not be found explicitly in the bible, but was a formulation made in the early church. In any case, many people I encounter do not regard history about Christianity to be valid information and it is truly very tragic. They think the history you spout is lies. The only way to really talk to most protestants is to use scripture alone.

Insecurity: what do you do and what if no one believes in you?

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At baptism, in the Catholic faith, a candle is lit to signify us becoming a Christian. This fire is also symbolic of being a light to others as well as the light in our hearts. Additionally, God spoke to Moses through the burning bush.

It’s taken me a while, but currently my health has been doing well. I have been going to the gym often, I have received the maximum dosage of medication I have been prescribed, I eat very little sugar nowadays, and vegetables and fruit are my go to food. Things are not as bad as they were, at leastfrom my last update. 

This blog post was sort of inspired by My God sister, Tiffany, and her post about her reflections while on her mission trip in Haiti. You can read the post here:  https://tiffanyfettigblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/24/diggin-up-dem-fears/

I never considered Tiffany to have similar insecurities such as mine. The fear that you may be ill suited for what you desire to do. Thus, I myself wanted to talk about this as my mood has been stable for quite a few days. Though, today it seems shaky, but I chalk that up to the nightmares I had last night and this morning. I think we’ll always have these little fears in us about our abilities and aptitude. Specifically, I do not think magically things will get better in these insecurities. Sainthood is a process after all. Give your insecurities to Jesus and through concrete experiential means He will heal them and bestow strength upon you.

Insecurities are often seen as something that needs to be gone in order to lead ministry or people. This is not so, especially in the biblical sense. I want you to wipe that from your head and fight that idea tooth and nail whenever it pops up in your head. In truth, when serving the Lord there will be times you will mess up and perhaps not be what someone needed, but the beauty is that someone’s salvation is not limited by your actions. God endlessly pursues us until our last breath. Therefore, there should never be despair upon your failure because someone’s salvation is not dependent on you. Additionally, I want to touch on insecurities that spawn from events like a failure and insecurities in general. Everyone has them, but they may be different from yours. This is a fact, and only by the sanctifying grace of God can we overcome these fears. This, like I said before, is a process in communion with Jesus.

To better clarify my point, having insecurities, I believe, does not in any way bar you from ministry. When Paul writes in 2nd Timothy, much of what is written, from my perspective, is reassurance to Timothy. Timothy is struggling and needs guidance from Paul. However, the thing I want to focus on most is the story of Moses. Moses is so insecure about his talking abilities, he has some sort of impediment, that he begs God to choose someone else. Long story short, God relents and has patience with Moses, and says that Aaron, Moses brother, will be Moses’ mouth piece. For specifics, Exodus 7:1-2 states, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country.’” Despite Moses’ insecurity about his speech and his failure to be obedient to God, Moses was still considered a great prophet and even gave the Jewish people the law. Insecurities are bothersome, but they do not disqualify you from the calling on one’s life. God will use you despite them and transform you along the way into the person that he calls you to be.

In the midst of my illness taking over the following months after my medication stopped working in October, like expected, I lost all confidence and self-love for myself. Insecurities and fears chipped away at myself. Such is the nature of my illness. It eats and corrodes your sense of self. It basically eats you from the inside out until you can’t take it anymore and believe that people would be better off without you. Then it kills you by your own hand because it has tortured you into submission of accepting such lies. For me, I very much consider it to be akin to being a captured enemy soldier and being tortured for information until you snap. It is my hope that my readers never have to experience something so awful happening inside their own body. What I want you to take away from this is that I know what it is like to struggle with insecurities, and I want you to know that God can still use you. I believe, and the key point here is “I,” that God has called me to serve Him in some way, especially since it seems my happiness is linked to theology.

Here are little questions I want to ask you: what do you do when you realize no one really believes in you? Do you give up? Do you ignore people? Do you resign yourself to the doubt of perhaps not being suited for your dream? The truth is it doesn’t really matter if people believe in you or not.

One of the hardest parts about converting to Catholicism was that everyone who believed in me lost faith in me. My youth pastor and church friends lost faith in me. They thought I was making a big mistake and was not following the bible. When I encountered a catholic community,  I can’t say I felt most Catholics believe in me. And this was compounded when my medication for my Major Depressive Disorder stopped working in October, and on top of that, graduation was quickly approaching. I remember reaching out to people I looked up to for hope that I was called to ministry. In return, I felt like I was met with aversion tactics. It hurt a little and it wasn’t very hopeful, but the thing is, now, I don’t care if no one believes in me because I have to do what will make me happy. If working for the Lord makes me happy than who is someone to cast judgement. I have always understood that I am not the most “popular” Christian, but I think God knows that I am the way I am because I do not need it. I am simply hard-headed, tenacious, theological, and kindhearted Ashley. It doesn’t matter if I am not “popular,” “outgoing,” or if I don’t have “rose-colored glasses.” God has and will give me the things that I need, and He knows I don’t need those things.

Even though today I feel the same thing about people not really believing in me, it doesn’t really matter. My heart clings to the story of Paul and how no one wanted to believe he was called by Jesus at first. No one believed him. Not to mention, he spent much time alone with God and no other disciples after Jesus graced him with his presence. Galatians 1:15 -17 states: “But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.” In fact, before he even met with the apostles he took ministry on by himself in Damascus. The apostles did not believe in him at first either thinking it was a plot to kill them. What sustained Paul was his faith in Jesus and believing he was meant to do this, even if no one else believed in him.

In conclusion, I want you to fight this idea that you need others to believe in you to pursue ministry and the idea that people in ministry should not have insecurities. Especially, if you bear the weight of thinking you are the chance to bring someone to Christ. The truth is, no matter what, someone’s salvation is not dependent on you. God relentless pursues people. Additionally, Insecurities will not magically disappear once you give them to Jesus. You will attain peace through prayer once you give them up, but Jesus does not use magic. He uses Sanctifying Grace to make us into the saints He has called us to be. Additionally, remember, despite Moses and his protests to God involving his insecurity, God used Moses in a great way. Despite being so insecure at the start of his ministry, Moses become a central figure in Judaism. God used him, and He can use you, insecurities and all.

Is God to Blame?

The sun was slowly climbing out of bed to give light to the world. The colors of the Sun’s blanket as she slowly lumbered out bed painted the sky in brilliant hues of yellows, pinks, and reds. At the same time, a man climbed out of bed at the sound of his alarm and got ready to start his day. Once dressed, he proceeded to the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. In the medicine cabinet, there was an organizer with a little compartment for each day. In the allotted compartments was medication, vitamins, and supplements all organized for each day for the week. Every day the man had to take pills of medication, vitamins, and supplements for a chronic health problem. To many, the idea of swallowing pills as if it is second nature is something to be envied because they themselves struggle with this ability. The irony is to the man they are lucky to not have needed to learn such a skill. Unlike him, God had planned for them to live a relatively healthy life.

This story is not uncommon. In fact, I myself struggle with my own health. In October, my medication for my illness had stopped working. From what I understand, this is a common problem. It is simply that the body has grown use to the medication, and thus, it has become ineffective. Since then, I was thrown back into a struggle that I hoped I had left behind for good. To this day, doctors and other professionals are still trying to find another medication that will help alleviate the worst of my symptoms. It’s a process of trial and error as not every medication will work the same for each person.

In the midst of the time since then, I was once again plagued with the internal struggle of wondering why God would give and plan my life to have this illness. This was a recurring thought as I struggled through each day at college. It was compounded by the carefree attitudes of my fellow devout catholic peers. Deep in my heart, I wished to be just like them and not know the heavy burden that laid upon my shoulders. Even today, such a desire exists, I am definitely not yet a saint. I graduated this spring with a bachelors in Theology. Thus, my peers and I went our separate ways, and some, like me, started a new chapter in life. Today, I see my peers going on mission trips, summer camps, and other ministry and theological orientated tasks, but instead of feeling great joy and pride in them, I find that I am frustrated because I could be doing those exact same things. I could be but instead I have to attend to my health. Such adventures are on hold until I am healthy again. This sadness and envy at my season in life is not holy, and I say these things to be truthful with my readers and I feel there is an advantage to my message by sharing it.

The thing I want you take away from this, and it took me longer than it should have to discern it, is we tend to think illnesses, and other misfortunes to be what God planned for us and this is an error. This was something I struggled with because of my own suffering, like I showed in the previous paragraphs. Usually, such a thing as suffering would not bother me, but the difference here is the sheer amount of suffering that caused me to really question how God could have planned this struggle for my life. I would tell myself that this will make me a better person, but at the end of the day it was not much of comfort. The truth is God did not originally plan for this to happen to me. God did not plan for me to suffer from poor health. What created this was the first sin by Adam and Eve. It took me too long to come to this conclusion, and I probably should be embarrassed. 

What the first sin by Adam and Eve destroyed was the harmony that God had created. The harmony within the body controlled by the soul’s spiritual faculties was broken. Spiritual faculties did not control it anymore. Thus emotions, mind, and fleshly urges were in disarray and were not controlled by Spiritual faculties anymore. It is from the fall of Adam and Eve that misfortunes and suffering are in life. It is not correct to think that God is to blame for one being sick. Original sin is to blame and God did not create original sin. Original sin and the consequences that arose were created by man, namely Adam and Eve. If you read Gensis, you can see that disorder is let loose into the world by Adam and Eve’s disobedience. I do not feel I am doing it justice, but the harmony and peace that God had created was destroyed by the first sin. This subsequently is why we now sin, and why we need abundant grace from God to attain salvation. What original sin created was a wound “in the natural powers proper to,” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church 405, human nature. God did not create disease, illness, misfortune, birth defects, cancer, or anything else. The world is fallen and broken because of sin. We suffer because of the effects of original sin. In the case that I am not doing this justice, I recommend you read the Catechism. It can be found online for free. 

The sense that this had not come from God has put peace in my heart. Suffering is beneficial, and, just like with Job, God does allow us to suffer, however this suffering is created by the fall of man. This is the truth of the matter. It was not correct for me to struggle with God over this issue as He did not create suffering. If it was not this suffering than it would be something else. 

This is what I want you to take away from this post,  God is not to blame for our suffering, but He is a place we can run to for security. It’s tragic that we assign, almost on instinct, blame to God when misfortunes come our way. It is damaging to our relationship to God and eats away at our trust in Him. You can blame God for allowing you a certain misfortune, however he did not originally intend for this to happen to you. What made this happen to you was original sin and not God. I hope that what I have written here you take to heart and that it might also bring you peace.

The Spectrum Between White and Black 

I am not certain how to hook you into reading this post, but I always found such things as a “hook” to be arbitrary in the grand scheme of things. In an intellectual book, I care not if the book has a good introduction only that the substance is profound and enlightening. Thus, since I can not come up with a good introduction on whim, I will put it to you plainly. Additionally, In any case, such a situation might be blessing as I believe the “hooks” I come up with to be cheesy. 

Well to be plain, I am in, and have been in, circumstances that have changed me and matured me, much like everyone else has had such experiences. Though currently, I have come to realization that sin and virtues are at times over simplified into simple categories of white and black, especially so, from what I have seen of Protestantism.  I can remember being a teenager and watching hour long sermon after hour long sermon. This activity was what I did for fun back then as I was attending a community college near where I lived. As such, most people at the community college were way older than me and there wasn’t much social bonds or activities to be found. Thus, being the weird 18 or 19 year old I was, I took to watching sermons and trying to answer my own questions about my religion. 

Distictly, I can remember the harsh sound of a preacher who criticized people for being what he called “people pleasers.” From the impression I got, and what I recall, he seemed to think it was a simple choice. He seem to portray it as a simple realization of standing up for yourself. These simplifications, from what I can remember, are very common. Another example, we say jealousy is bad and that we should not be jealous. There are much more examples I can give, but for the sake of brevity I shall stick to these two and clarify how sins should not entirely be looked at in simple terms. 

To clarify my first example, the problem with what the preacher called “people pleasing” is that it seemed to have a personal a opinion and bias to it. However, let’s say such a notion was clearly stated in the Bible to be wrong. The problem with the way he simply puts it, as a change that can happen that night and it’s easy, presents this idea of it not being a more deeper seated issue. Additionally, much like everything else people pleasing is not an entirely bad habit, unless you compromise your own values. I would say, a child should want to please his parents. That is not a desire that is wrong. You should want to please your supervisor at work and do a good job. This, again, is not a bad quality, unless you compromise your own beliefs and values. You should also want to please your wife or your husband. Additionally, should you not want to make a friend happy and make thier day? No, such is a good thing. However, this only explains half of my arguement. What the preacher also did not include was the psychology behind personalty types. The fact is some personalty types get joy from pleasing other. Again, such a thing is not necessarily bad until it is out of balance. Additionally, let’s say one does compromise thier values in a certain situation because they are pressured, guilted, or manipulated into it. In the strict black and white sense, this circumstance, in Protestant theology and opinion, means nothing to how guilty a person is to commiting a sin. The problem with this simple classification is the lack of compassion, forgiveness, and understanding in it’s overall message. It lacks the compassion to see that abuse may have shaped a person into being a people pleaser. And, more importantly, it lacks the sight to see that there will be a struggle because it could be related to trauma. It is not a simple switch with being flipped off because of some enlightening moment, but it is a process. This, from what I can remember, was not mention, and in good will, may have been an oversight. The problem I am addressing is not the preacher, but the black and white categories that sins, and more importantly emotions, are put into.

Not to beat a dead horse, however, I feel I can gain more understanding by discussing the problem with Jealousy. Typically, jealousy is always defined as evil, and yet we, when I was a Methodist, never talk about how God being jelous for his people when they made idols to worship is a good thing. Jealousy in the right context is good. If another man is kissing your wife then you should be jealous. It is the samething as what God felt when his people, who made a covenant with him, started worshiping idols. As you can see, jealousy is wrong when it is not in the right context. However, to expand one’s view beyound that, jealousy is wrong in certain circumstances, but there may be an unmet need associated with jealousy. Jealousy can be a result of more complicated problems that will take time to heal. This, in particular, I am coming to understand myself. Jealousy is not an evil thing  in the sense that everyone chooses to do it like one would with murder. Its a more complicated matter, and there should be compassion for it as well. Yet when we define sins into broad categories and don’t explore the situations, we pigeon whole something and never treat the root cause or figure out how to heal. Even worse, we define it wholly as a sin and do not see that in certain contexts it is not a sin.

To conclude, this rather more lengthy then intended post, things should be meditated on and be understood in a less black and white mindset. It leaves out key information and realistic ways to overcome sin in one’s life. In my opinion, this black and white simplification is at it’s worst when sins are thought to be all equal in value. I can remember as a child telling myself that my little white lie was the same thing as murder. This is unrealistic, and not to mention unbiblical. Additionally, from the perspective of black and white there is less compassion and no regard for circumstances. More importantly, it can be unrealistic. 

   

The Perspicacity of Giving

Hello my readers,

It’s been a long while since I posted on my blog. I apologize for that, but I have a good reason for being inactive. Back in October, October 2015, my antidepressant medication had stopped working. From what I have gathered, it is common for this to happen. Thus, I have lost interest in many things. I have lost interest in video games, reading theology as a hobby, crafting, and other things. At times, I can’t even seem to enjoy the idea of going out with friends to a fair. My doctor and I are currently working on trying to find new medication that will help me function again as I should. It takes more than six weeks to know if a medication is working for me or not. It is a tedious process of trial and error and me feeling like a dart board. The different medications are the darts in this case.

One thing I noticed today and is compounded by something I read is, giving is very hard when I am struggling with depression. The last few weeks I have been so wrapped up in my own pain and anguish that I find it hard to give back to others. On my good days, when I have clarity of thought, I can look outside myself and give to others. I love those days. And I love giving to others, so I am very much struck by my observation that it is hard for me to give when I am suffering a lot. Recently, I wrote my Godparents a letter and mailed it to their house. It took me a few days to write it after I had the idea of writing them a nice letter. Rationally, I waited for a day when my mood was not bad as I noticed that my mood tends to bleed through in my writing. (Thank you, texting! things you realize from being a person who loves texting!) Thus, in a certain way, I already understood that in order to give someone has to be in the right state to be able to give. Though, I had not made the connection itself with giving.

The nature of giving is one that is made out of surplus. If there is no surplus than the giving could be seen as sacrificing. They are two different things. I understand, though I don’t like it, I am not in a very good position to give to others. A person who has no money cannot give money to someone else. Thus, when I have no comfort within myself I can’t really give to others. Thankfully, unlike money, what I give can be considered something that is renewable since on the good days I can give to others. Whereas, with the example of someone having no money they have to save up when they get money so they can give to others. However, as I write this, I realize that it is only recently that I have felt like it has been hard to give to others. There are days that are so bad for me that there is no possible way that I can look beyond my own suffering and help someone else. On the bright side, there are days where I am not doing so well, but I can give to others and do something to show them how much I care.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” I see now that there is a time for me to give to others, and a time when I cannot give to others. Thus, I am coming to understand that at times in my depression there are days when it is not the time to give. There are people out there that consider people with depression to be just self-absorbed and self-centered. In a certain way, they are correct, but they use the wrong words. They use words that say that a depressive has a surplus; when a depressive probably doesn’t even have scraps. Granted, these individuals tend to be people who fall away from the mainstream idea that depression is a biological illness, so they don’t see it as a depressive having nothing. They see it as being greedy. This is wrong. However, my focus is on the idea that there is this aspect of perspicacity to the action of giving. Perspicacity, when you type it into google, means “the quality of having a ready insight into things; shrewdness.” I realize that there is a sense of perspicacity in giving. There are times when it is not the time to give, and there are times when it is the time to give.

The perspicacity of giving, also, deals with the understanding of when a person can help someone and when they will only make things worse. Have you ever been in a situation where someone wants to help you, but they only make it worse? I’m sure all of us have some sort of experience with that. I definitely have experiences like that. Ha ha ha, now, since usually it has to do with my depression, I educate people before if they want to help me. I give them articles on what is helpful to say and what makes things worse. (That’s supposed to be funny.) Anyway, there is a certain aspect to the act of giving, when one has to see if they are really suited to helping this person. I can’t tell you how many times good people with good intentions have given me bad advice about my health. There is a time when one needs to discern when they should give and support another person because it suits their abilities and when they should not. Or perhaps, people need to educate themselves before they try to give support to another person. Perhaps, it’s the time to educate yourself and then it’s the time for giving. These things all fall under the perspicacity of giving because one has to know when it is the time for giving.

Anyway, this is something that my trial has recently taught me and I thought I would share this insight that I am gaining with you. This is in no way a complete analyzation in the perspicacity of giving. This is only the beginning of the flourishing of what God is teaching me as reflect upon myself and the events in my life. I hope you, at least, found this to be a little bit insightful about the act of giving.

Confession

Sorry, it has taken me so long to make another post. I said I would write a series of posts on my perspective as a Catholic convert. I apologize for taking so long. I have not been quite inspired to write. I’m sure this will change though once I’m back at Saint Leo and can attend mass regularly and have fellowship.

Confession.

This word should spark something in every Christian. A few words or images may come to mind like forgiveness or maybe dread. You may picture a dark place full of shame. Or you may picture a scary place. However, when you come to understand what confession is, it’s nothing like that. Confession is about forgiveness and not being judged. It is where you can hear words “you are forgiven.” Confession is a sacrament I love and it might even rival my love for the Eucharist. (Eucharist is the transubstantiation of the body and blood of Christ into the bread and wine in communion.)

Generally, this sacrament is controversial in Christianity. Though, the purpose of this post is not to provide evidence to convince someone that confession is instituted by Jesus, but to discuss what confession is to me. I ask that anyone who wants to debate the biblical truth of confession with me please refrain from doing so.  For those who do not know catholic teaching, and to avoid anyone who wants to be a troll, confession does not mean that God is so limited that he cannot forgive sins directly. He can, there is no argument about that. It matters on the motive. It has to be out of love for God and grief over hurting and offending a Lord who is goodness himself. It cannot be out of fear or terror for your salvation.

Back to the purely spiritual side of the faith, and the intended topic, confession is very different for me than compared to some cradle Catholics. That’s not to say I don’t get nervous before confession, but I don’t dread it. Confession is still quite tricky for me still. I’m new Catholic and I was accepted into the church this year the 2nd Sunday of Easter. I am in no way a baby Christian though, and should not be mistaken for one. I am just new in the catholic faith. Therefore, I’m still getting use to how confession works and what is considered a good confession and what is a bad confession. I have actually only been to confession three times, but I would love to go every week; my circumstances prevent me from doing so though.

Beyond my personal circumstances and experiences, Confession is a great gift. I love how in confession I can hear a verbal expression of my sins being forgiven. However, it should not be understood that you need a man to forgive you. God is the one who forgives and knows your intention in the confessional. The priest in the sacrament of confession represents the Church and Jesus. The love of hearing absolution stems from when I was a child. As a child, it was hard for me to ask for forgiveness and not really know if God forgave me. I was left wondering if I was forgiven because I kept doing bad things over and over. Things like disobeying my parents and arguing with my brother. Some were intentional, as in “its fine if I do this over and over again because God forgives me.” This is a common faulty notion among people and can be found in every denomination. It didn’t seem right within myself that someone should forgive another who is just abusing forgiveness to do the bad act again. The Lord’s Prayer says “forgive our trespasses as those who have trespassed against us.” Therefore, I had this sense that just asking for forgiveness wasn’t something that could guarantee that God forgave you. This sense had some truth to it. Forgiveness depends on your intention and if you are repentant.

Another crucial aspect of confession is the examination of one’s self. With the sacrament of confession, I am more aware of my failings and my need for grace. We see ourselves as we really are. We get to know ourselves very well.  This is beneficial to us in that we actually see who we are and not what we think we are.  To clarify my point, there is this notion that the way we see ourselves is not how we actually are. We see ourselves better than we are. Conversely, other people are a better gauge at who we really are because they don’t have our biases, nor are they in our head. One way to see ourselves is by the others, but we can do that also by examining ourselves and not fooling ourselves to feel good. This helps us grow as people and not to settle for who we are now.

This aspect is important to me because I can see where my faults are and have better understanding of being humble. This humility is also facilitated in confession by the fact you stare your sins in the face and have to own up to them. You speak aloud your faults and fully acknowledge that you had done wrong to the priest. You acknowledge that you are not as good as you should be and acknowledge that another person. This can be uncomfortable, but it teaches you to see yourself with reality and not have a distorted perception of yourself.

In addition, when speaking out loud your sins to a priest, you come to see how patient and kind Jesus is. You can see how forgiving He is. The priest is supposed to emulate Christ and his love. In my confessions, the priests were undeterred by my sins and were kind. They respected me and did not look down on me in any way. Not to mention, some of the priests I saw for confession acted like my sins I had confessed was not the bane of all evil. Their view of me didn’t seem to change. They saw it as the past and left it there. lack of negative reaction or even having slight negative expressions on their faces has lead me closer to understanding how to forgive like Jesus. There were no judgments except that I was trying to follow God as best I could. And nothing will be or would be held over my head against me. In little a way, I think priests have helped facilitate my views on not listening to what I hear about someone’s past because it is in the past. They could have changed and realized their mistake. Though, I am not perfect at this yet and I’m leery about doing such in certain situations, it has helped me see that past mistakes are just that. In the past.

The sacrament of Confession has offered way more to me than with only praying for forgiveness to God. It has let me see past the darkness and cast me into the light. I can see my need for God and see my true self with all its faults. I have clarity in understanding myself and judging myself. I see humility as what it is. I also see the crime of deluding myself in thinking some questionable choices I made were right. I see my need for forgiveness since confession requires awareness of one’s self and your sins. Confession is a great gift. The greatest part about it though is the slate is washed clean. The sins are gone. Forgiveness, love, and grace has washed them away. And if grave sin was committed, God warmly embraces you back into communion with him.