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.

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/

 

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 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.

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

“The second is this ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:31

I find this to be a hard commandment for everyone. There are two reasons for this. But one is a reason you might not think of. You probably have the verse above memorized, but I want to read it closely and think about what is being said. Look closely at the first sentence in that verse. Do you see it, “Love your neighbor as yourself?”

The context of the verse makes it grow in the underlying implication. To summarize the context of the verse, a teacher of the law approaches Jesus and tries to give him a trick question. The teacher asks, “Of all the commandments which is the most important?” In short, Jesus states, “The most important one, the Lord is one, love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” And he states, “The second is Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”[1]

When Jesus says that, He really is summarizing all of the commandments into two. All of the commandments involve the love of God, other people, and yourself. He just boils it done to its most simple premise. However, I want to notice how He says “there is no greater commandment greater than these.” And take note of that statement. Keep it in mind.

When I think about the phrasing and how Jesus puts Mark 12:31 and the other gospel variances, it becomes a very interesting verse. Jesus could have put the verse of loving your neighbor a different way. However, He specifically says “love your neighbor as yourself.” When you really think about it, this is such a powerful verse. He inserts another party into the equation. It’s not just God and your neighbor. He inserts self-love. He puts the person into the equation. God wants us to love ourselves and it is part of the greatest commandment. He intentionally says that we need to love ourselves.

Christians are not to be about self-hate because God calls us to love ourselves. That means forgiving ourselves and being patient with ourselves. It means having no false humility. By false humility I mean, thinking things that aren’t true about yourself. Thinking lower of yourself than everyone else. Even though you love your neighbor, you are not fulfilling the greatest commandment because you don’t love yourself.

The other take for this verse would be “since I don’t love myself then I don’t have to love my neighbor.” This is wrong and would not fulfill the commandment either. I know this because if we work out the verse backward with everything the bible says about treating others, then we come back to good treatment of others and therefore ourselves. God doesn’t give much instruction on self- love it seems, but the greatest commandment is “love your neighbor as yourself.” And through that verse he gives us a hint that if we struggle with loving ourselves the measure is to love ourselves like we were our neighbor. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. And it works in reverse.

Do you see now why this little verse is so powerful? It expresses God’s will that if we struggle with loving ourselves that we are to love ourselves like how we love other people.

I will be the first to admit I have this struggle. I’m always harder on myself than other people. I can be downright cruel to myself. I remember sometimes I would make running a punishment for a mistake I made. I remember a few times, I desired to run myself into the ground. To run until I collapsed from exhaustion. And I would punish myself in other ways. However the truth is, God wants me and you to love ourselves and forgive ourselves. He makes it one of the greatest commandments and that itself says a lot.

One method I found that helps in treating myself how I would my neighbor is to picture a friend of mine in the same circumstances and making the same mistakes. And if I would forgive them than what makes me any different in deserving my own forgiveness. My therapist told me in a recent session, to do that when I remember the stupid and insecure things I did when going through the depths of my most recent episode of major depression.

Looking back, I have a lot of regrets and hate some of the things I did. However, if it was any other person I would understand that they were sick and readily forgive them. I would understand that it wasn’t entirely their fault and understand that they weren’t themselves. And that’s the way I have to look at myself when I think about how I pushed others away and how I was also clingy. And also for when I craved comfort to soothe my pain. I need to put someone else in my shoes to understand that it’s okay that I made mistakes.

The struggle of treating myself how I treat others is something I am trying to work on. And most of all, I hope this helped you to try to love yourself more too. Remember God loves you so much, and he wants you to love yourself too.

Until next time,

Ashes

[1] Mark 12: 28-31

How to Love Your Enemy

Jesus calls us to love our enemies. This calling is not an easy thing to do at all. Though, this is something I am getting better at.

Now, before I begin, I want to say this is not a sure-fire way to learn to love your enemies. It may work for some people and for some it may not work. It may depend on the person’s disposition.

The way I have gotten a little better at loving my enemies is by praying for them and trying to understand why they did what they did. Loving is much easier when you forgive, and forgiveness is much easier to give once you have understanding. In understanding, you realize things aren’t black and white, and there is the shade of gray.

Now, forgiveness doesn’t have to be the first step. However, If you can simply pray for the person’s well-being and growth in the faith; you are likely going to develop good will for people. The practice may be very uncomfortable. From this uncomfortableness, you’ll grow and mature into it so that it becomes second nature to you to pray for people who have hurt you and hold malice for you. It is praying for them and wishing them well in my prayers that I have seemed to have formed the habit of loving my enemies. It helped me see beyond the black and white. And it helped me see beyond how what their actions affected me, and, also, how they might be just very confused or be in a bad situation themselves.

An essential point I want to mention is that this love is more of an act of will than emotion. It is something you will for. You may still hurt inside, but through your will you can want good for them and want what’s best for them.

It may take a while though. I may not hold malice for a girl at my university that slandered me and my reputation, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid of her or wasn’t trying to avoid her. Though, my therapist told me I am not allowed to be around her physically or emotionally for my mental health.

Loving your enemies is definitely a process and something we have to work on. It’s definitely not something you’ll just wake up and have one day. You have to make a choice to start doing it and trying your best at it. You have to choose to love your enemy and from this choice you will grow more into that virtue with practice!

I want to wish all my followers a Happy good Friday and easter! I hope you have a great Holy Week!

The Official Commencement of My Catholic Life

11084243_926191290753049_2046956365257342006_n

A long journey is coming to an end for me. April 12th I will officially and finally be confirmed into the Catholic Church. This journey has taken almost two years because of circumstances that impeded me from signing up for RCIA a year ago.

In a certain way, it’s kind of a little bitter sweet, because I have had so much anticipation and desire for this time to come and it’s finally here. It’s not that I’m having second thoughts about the truth the Catholic Church has, but it’s more or less bitter sweet because I have found these past two semesters I have been so disconnected from God because of my schedule. My schedule this semester itself has been brutal. I have work, 15 credit hours of classes, and an internship. It feels like I’m rushing everywhere and I barely have time to eat or sleep. I am actually now around 20 pounds under weight. I have always been kind of underweight, but never by that much. The feeling of sort disconnection from God is what makes it bitter sweet. My prayer life and meditation on scripture has obviously suffered because of my schedule and that is why I feel so disconnected.

Even though, I’m not as connected I feel to God as I was when I started this journey, I still know objectively I made the right decision. I still know that the Catholic Church holds the whole truth that I my soul desires.

This Saturday, I go to my first confession. I’m a little nervous that I won’t say the right thing to priest to let him know my confession is not a usual confession. I’m can’t wait though for the priest to say I am forgiven. He is a stand in for Christ and it is Jesus saying he has forgiven me. That is something that means a lot to me. As a little girl, I use to doubt my sins were forgiven when I would pray about them because I wasn’t sure how you knew God really forgave your sins. I was more or less thinking of God in human terms and how some people don’t give forgiveness, but all the same you can see how beautiful it is to hear that your sins are forgiven. How beautiful it is to have those words spoken to you and knowing that you are now cleansed from the filth that covered you. It’s also very beautiful how one will receive graces for what they have confessed and these graces are help from Jesus to resist those sins and to stay on the narrow path that leads to eternal life. The sacrament of confession is really such a beautiful sacrament.

April 12th though, I will receive the most beautiful sacrament of all. I will receive the Eucharistic. This is something I will forever treasure. I honestly can’t wait to receive the Eucharist. I can only imagine what it will be like to finally receive Jesus body and soul in the Eucharist.

Who I Was and Who I Am

On this late night many things are on my mind. Things involving my past and the person I am today. Looking back at just two years ago, the change of my understanding of love is astounding to me. My aptitude to give love and love people despite the hurt they inflict on me is something I didn’t have before. The loving and sweet person, some of you know today, back then was a slightly different person two years ago. There are many things different about me today as compared to two years ago, but most of it boils down to truly learning what Love is. It’s incredible how I can still love the girl who spread rumors about me and would even likely take her back and be friends again if she would talk to me and try and reconcile with me. This is not something that just happened overnight this willingness to love someone like that. They say suffering teaches us lessons we have yet to learn and helps in our sanctification. And there is truth to that statement.

There is a quote by Mother Theresa which basically states love hurts. Loving someone is not easy, especially since we are called to love like God. This means loving when they hate you or are angry at you for stupid reasons. It means loving them and caring about them even when they ridicule you or make fun of you. God reconciles all people if they have a true heart and are guilty for what they have done. Love is painful because despite someone hurting you, you don’t harden your heart. Your heart is still open to love them. It’s still warm, and not ice cold to them. You haven’t turned away from them completely and still have hope in your heart for them.

They also say forgiving is hard, and I will be first to vouch for that statement. The more I reflected on forgiveness this semester and what makes, at times, some things easier to forgive than others, I found was if I had an understanding of why someone did what they did. Understanding in my perspective became key to forgiveness, because in the end everyone is just trying their best and most of the time trying to do what they think is right. I can’t say I have met a person who didn’t have a piece of goodness in them. I would even contend Adolf Hitler still had a shred of goodness in him after all the terrible things he did. There is some goodness in everyone and when you understand they are not doing the things they are doing, most of the time, because they are bad or evil then it makes it easier to forgive. You have this understanding of how a deed transpired and how the options were not black and white. Basically to restate my key point, forgiveness seems to be tied to understanding and understanding helps one forgive another.

I have found the person I am today tends to cherish the good in people and, sometimes to a fault, try and look for that good in a person and give the person the benefit of the doubt. Only more study of my faith and more guidance from God will tell me if I am on the right track in following Jesus and his steps. One thing I am learning at present is the reality of who I am is not contingent on others thoughts or words. I am what I am, and someone’s skewed perspective of me does not change who I am or what is true. What false things people think about me doesn’t matter. What people say or think doesn’t mean it’s who I actually am. This is especially true if the person is not my friend. Wounds and reproves from a friend can be trusted. And from my experience with rumors, I have learned to get to know a person and know the real them, before listening or giving heed to things being said about them.

To wrap this up, the only thing I can say for sure is there is more growing to come and I pray God gives me great patience on my journey to be what I am called to be.

What’s on my Mind…

The friends that matter are the ones who will get to know the real you and not listen to the rumors. My friend Jessica said this to me and the more I think about it the more I find it to be really true. With the case of the rumors and lies circulating about me, it has shown me again how a follower of Jesus should be.

Unfortunately, probably because of my illness, it’s hard for me to not think about the things the person said about me and whether there is any weight to what she is saying. However, I can’t find weight in what she says. My friends all fight me when I think I found maybe something she could be referring too as what she deemed to be “attention seeking.” My trust is really broken in people from what I have experienced. She most of all really broke my trust. It’s hard for me to open up to my boyfriend when I am not feeling well or to a few of my friends who want to be there for me. It’s hard to trust when your trust has been broken by so many people.

What this person did in spreading rumors is stigmatize my illness and made herself no better than those types of people who claim mental illness is a lie. People who are like that are part of the reason so many people do not seek help for major depression. It’s hard for me to understand how she can think I am faking it when she has witnessed times when I got really bad. She was the first one at the university I am attending I opened up that I was being tested for depression. In the end, I feel like I should have went with my intuition and not have trusted her.

It’s sad the lack of understanding and the ignorance that is pervasive in our culture on mental illness. There are times when I feel like no one understands and just feel very alone and misunderstood. The truth is most people don’t understand what one is going through when they have depression. Though I don’t think anyone can totally understand unless they have experienced it themselves, they can on some level have some level of compassion and understanding through education and knowledge.

In addition, I want to point out there is a difference between attention seeking and attention needing. Perhaps a better way to phrase it would be, there is a difference between attention seeking and asking for help. Considering I legitimately had a problem, and would reach out to my friends when I wasn’t feeling well or just needed someone to listen that is not attention seeking. In fact, if someone fakes a mental illness to get attention that is something only a sick person would do. If someone fakes a mental illness that is considered its own mental illness. Only someone who is sick would fake mental illness to get attention.

Anyway, this has what has been on my mind and writing a post about it helped a little.