Let Freedom Ring

It’s Fourth of July weekend which in #Merica means a long weekend full of fireworks and celebrations of freedom. And if you throw it back a few years to my childhood, it would also mean Old Navy American Flag t-shirts. Side note, those should really make a comeback.

Well at least that’s what it means now a days. Back in 1776, it meant signing a piece of paper and hoping to God that they could back it up and win the war, otherwise they were royally screwed. So I guess you can say some progress has been made in the past 241ish years.

But as we are in this weekend of celebrating American Independence from British rule, I can’t help but reflect on how freedom is a weird thing. Maybe not necessarily freedom itself, but modern day perception of freedom.

And I understand that freedom has many definitions. It means not being imprisoned or enslaved, not being under the subjugated to the government, having right to think, act or say what you want without being hindered.

And while the last definition is true. It is lacking in giving a clear picture of what freedom actually means. Freedom comes with responsibility. And I know people in general hate responsibility, at least some of the time.

Freedom is a right, but rights come with responsibilities. I know it’s cliche but it’s true.

Pope Saint John Paul the Great (or is it Saint Pope…I can never remember) said,

“Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”

How’s that freedom thing sounding now?

I’ll admit, to me at least, it still sounds pretty good.  It seems a little bit more difficult, a little taller of an order but still good. Just because we are free to do something, doesn’t mean we should necessarily do it.

And also if you take this quote and if you’re like me, you reach the conclusion that this world offers us a finite sense of freedom, because you know laws, and we can’t actually always do what we like. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. But this world, and our country, limits our freedom. That’s probably a good thing, in most circumstances,  but in other circumstances not much. But still the overarching call from JPII is that no matter what freedoms and rights that we are allowed, we are still called to do what we ought, to do what is right.

And now that I’ve established that this world offers only limited freedom. I’m going to break out another JPII quote, because he is awesome and said some pretty amazing stuff during his lifetime.

“Have the courage and humility to present yourselves to the world determined to be holy, since full true freedom is born from holiness.”

God is the source of our freedom.

Boom, end of discussion.

Okay maybe not quite yet.

The world cannot offer us true freedom, only God can do that. The world can try, but there are always going to be limits on it.

Why?

Humanity sucks.

Okay, not really. But humanity is limited. Freedom is something that cannot be limited. It is something that should not be limited.

And with God, it’s not.

Like with God, if you mess up and do something that you ought not, He does not take your freedom away. He offers you redemption. He died on a cross so that we could be free and that we could be redeemed, even when we fail.

With this world, if you mess up and do something that you ought not, as determined by laws, your freedom is stripped from you. And maybe you get a shot a redemption and regain that freedom, maybe you don’t, and maybe that is done in a very arbitrary way. But even if those people never regain their earthly freedom, they can still have true freedom.

The ultimate freedom comes from knowing and loving Christ. It comes from striving for holiness. It comes from attaining holiness.

So be holy, so you can be free.

 

 

Advertisements
Standard

Happy Freaking Father’s Day!

That might be a little aggressive, but in all sincerity I mean it.

It’s just this holiday in particular is one that I will probably always struggle with.

Guess that’s what happens when what has not always been the best relationship, pretty much is now nonexistent and hasn’t been for a couple years now.

And don’t get me wrong I have grandfathers, uncles, family friends, even friends’ dads who have sort of filled that father role in my life. And honestly I love them for that, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that my own dad has never really filled that role in my life and when he did, he was never that good at it.

It’s a struggle, a cross I have to bear, but it just makes Father’s Day kind of weird for me. And I think in this day and age, it’s probably the case for a lot of people, but it’s not something people talk about. People talk about how awesome and amazing their moms are which can make up for the absence of their dads. Or people talk about the awesome men in their life who filled that roll for them.

Which I can attest to both of those things. My mom is the best mom around, sorry not sorry to everyone else’s mother. And I do have some really great men in my life who have gone above and beyond for me.

But it’s not the same. And I know that in my life, I’m probably better off without having had my dad around that much, just based on who he is as a person now. And my life has been a comfortable one, one surrounded by a lot of love.

But there’s always going to be a what if.

There’s always going to be the thoughts that I should have done more and maybe things would be different and our relationship would be different.

But as my really good friends always remind me, there’s nothing I can do, there’s nothing I could have done.

It doesn’t make it suck any less though. It doesn’t put those what ifs and thoughts out of my mind.

But I think that’s mostly because of the rejection involved in not having a dad who wanted to or even tried to be the dad that I want and need. It’s the pain when you can tell someone exactly what you want and need from them and they completely shoot you down, especially when it is someone who is supposed to value you and who should want to be in your life. It is the frustration in telling someone how you feel about them and their only response is “Sorry you feel that way, but you’re wrong.”

And obviously, I don’t need someone like that in my life. No one should have people in their life like that. But when it’s someone who should play a vital, positive role in your life, it makes it a little bit more of tricky situation.

So yeah, today is always a little weird for.

But it’s also an opportunity for me to just be thankful for all the great men in my life, who stepped up to be there for  me, when my own dad wouldn’t. It’s a great opportunity to see others appreciate all of the wonderful dads and father figures in their life.

Dads are important. The role dads play in their children’s lives will have a big impact on them, in both good and bad ways.

So to all you great dads out there, to all you men who have assumed father figure roles in someone’s life, Happy Father’s Day!

Standard

The world needs to be set on fire…

I don’t mean this literally.

Or maybe I do a little bit. I can be kind of cryptic like that sometimes. Also it’s not hard to see everything that goes on in the world today and not be like something needs to happen. And despite the negative connotation, fire has cleansing powers. But back to the point, I am not advocating for the world to be literally set on fire.

I’m talking about setting the world on fire in the figurative sense. It is Pentecost after all. So today we celebrate the fire that brought about the Catholic Church and the fire that today can still bring about the conversion of hearts.

We are called to bring that fire into the world today. The Holy Spirit might not descend as tongues of fire allowing every single person to understand us perfectly. Although of God wanted that, I would be so game, because seriously how cool would that be.

But what I’m talking about is this:

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the whole world ablaze.”

St. Catherine of Siena expressed this sentiment in the 1300s and the sentiment of that should still ring true today. (Side note, not the exact quote, but a combination of two versions of people quoting her, but you know we’re talking about the basic sentiment of the quote.)

Each of us has the power to set the world on fire and light up the darkness that has become the world.

So why aren’t we?

Because it’s too hard. It’s too big of a sacrifice. It’s scary. It has too many challenges and potential consequences. It requires listening to God and not this world.

All of those thoughts cross my mind on a daily basis.

But so do these thoughts. What is God’s will for my life? Am I where God wants me? Am I who God wants me to be? How can I better be who God wants me to be?

We are only given one chance in this life to become who God created us to be.

And who did God create us to be? He created us to be saints.

And the great thing about that is, it looks different for everyone. But it involves the same basic things, knowing God, loving God and doing His will.

That last one is the hardest of the three. It involves total abandon of ourselves and of this world.

People always say that want the world to change. But I feel like people rarely do anything about it. They want the world to change but expect others to do all the work for it. They are discouraged because the task is too great for just one person or for just one group of people. Or they pass it off to some person or institution that has more power and more ability to enact change.  But that is the devil talking.

It is far too easy to forget that every saint was just an ordinary person. They were sinners. Some were poor. Some lacked any power whatsoever. But they all had one thing in common. They knew God, loved God and did His will even if it was difficult, even if they were persecuted, even if they were killed. They did everything they could to “set the whole world ablaze”. And so can we, because we are ordinary people with the ability to answer an extraordinary call: to know God, love God and do His will.

So what are we waiting for? The Holy Spirit dwells in each of us, let us be consumed by that fire from within. Let that be our strength to “set the whole world ablaze”.

Standard

REPENT AND SUBMIT TO THE POPE…

REPENT AND SUBMIT TO THE POPE…

IMG_1604

 

…or stop using Pope Francis and the Catholic Church to advance your political ideology.

 

There I said it. And yes the first part of that is meant to be read as me screaming it.

Because as a Catholic, as a good Catholic, as a human Catholic, as a Catholic that follows the teaching of the Church of performing your civic duty but struggles with how my faith can fit in with that, this rhetoric and pandering of Pope Francis and the Catholic faith for someone’s mere convenience, but not something they fully want to subscribe frustrates me to no end.

It only further complicates something that I and millions of other Catholics struggle with.

It doesn’t help the dialogue.

And if I’m being super honest, which I have zero problems with, a good Catholic, one who chooses to practice Catholicism faithfully, one who tries his or her best to model his or her life by their faith, one who accepts the teaching of the Church, even those teachings that are difficult to swallow, can not support either major political party in the United States.

There I said it, a good Catholic can not fully support either Republicans or Democrats.

A big sorry not sorry to both political parties and their members/supporters, I will not compromise my religious beliefs to support your political agendas. I will do my best to form my conscious and then make my decision to support certain politicians and policies or not.

Yes, some concessions will have to be made in that process after a lot of discernment and prayer. That’s just the reality of the situation. Unless, you know the country and the world wants to go full Catholic in laws…which I don’t think is the case.

So yet another reason to stop using the Pope and Catholicism as fodder for a political agenda.

And when it comes down to the official teachings of Catholicism and every single thing Pope Francis says ex cathedra or not is to get people to heaven. Not get people to vote for or support a certain party, politician or policy.

Pope Francis wants us to be good Catholics and get us to heaven by giving us the tools to properly form our consciences and to discern our choices accordingly.

Radical concept, right?

Well, not really, but with the way people talk these days you would think so.

The Catholic Church is a big, beautiful Institution that is rich in Tradition and knowledge.

The Catholic Church is comprised of a bunch of sinners who will question, challenge and struggle with its teaching and with the world that it exists, but who will ultimately learn with their limited human capacity the beauty in those teachings and how to navigate the world accordingly

The Catholic Church is comprised of a bunch of sinners who will repent because they want to be better and know that God’s love and mercy is much bigger than their struggles and failings.

The Catholic Church is comprised of a bunch of sinners who will submit to the Pope not because of who the Pope is, because of what the seat of the Pope represents and the rich history of papacy.

 

 

PS: Can everyone, I mean everyone, stop making Pope Francis a political figure? He is literally doing what all the Popes have done and what all Popes should do which is to proclaim the Gospel and the teachings of the Catholic Church. We live in a political world, where people make everything political. If you don’t believe it, pick up a FREAKING Catechism or read some of the statements and encyclicals of other Popes.

PPS: What Pope Francis says is only infallible, official Church teaching when he is speaking ex cathedra. Not that what he says when he is not is not good teaching or consistent with the Gospel and Church teaching. But also, as it relates to just about every statement, context does matter.

PPPS: Aside from the canonization of saints, the last time the Pope spoke ex cathedra was in 1950 when Pope Pius XII defined the dogma of the Assumption of Mary.

Standard

365ish Days Later

May 22nd, 2016

  • Wake up early
  • Put on Harry Potter robe-esque gown
  • Put on silly hat
  • Try to get tassel to lay correctly
  • Move tassel to the other side, messing up previous effort
  • Walk across stage trying really hard not to trip
  • Receive fancy diploma holder
  • Shake hands
  • Sit watch lots of other people do the same
  • Go get fancy piece of paper and wonder if all that time, effort and money was worth it (It is)
  • Hug just about everyone you see

May 23rd, 2016

  • Realize that an integral four years of life is actually completed
  • Pretend that it’s really not over
  • Avoid letting it sink in at all
  • Pack up an apartment you spent two years of your life in
  • Say goodbye to the people who helped you through every up and down of the past four years
  • Unintentionally and unavoidable that it’s really over
  • Embrace the void that you and your friends have been discussing all year

May 24th, 2016

  • Leave the place that was once unfamiliar, but after 4 years became to feel a lot like home
  • Begin the process of hiding the emotional mess you are slowly becoming

I can’t believe that all of that happened only one year ago, 365 days, if we’re being technical 365.25 days, sorry I majored in chemistry and math, I like to get technical.

I’d like to say life has gone just as I always planned, hoped and thought it would. I would like to say that I’m living that dream life, that life I always knew I would. I would like to say I’ve started on the career path that I always planned on. But I can’t. And it sucks, like really sucks.

But it is also probably the best thing that could have happened. God really knows what He is doing some of the time. Okay, all of the time, but especially this time.

This past year has taught me that even if I did nothing else right in four years of college, I picked some of the best people to call friends. In those friends, I found confidants, therapists, cheerleaders, life coaches and sounding boards. I found people who I can always count on as I face my next quarter life crisis, setback and dilemma. I found people who always push me to be better, to try harder and to never give up. I found the people who can always cheer me up when I’m down. I found the people who can always reassure me that my future will be great, not because of what will happen, although I’m sure that will be great, but because they are in it and always show up when it counts and even when it doesn’t, just because they want to be there for me.

And yes, maybe I already kind of knew that about my friends, I mean I selfishly became friends with them for a reason. (THAT’S A JOKE) But every up and down of the past year proved it to me even more. And gave me another reason to be so thankful that people like that find me worthy of friendship.

This past year has also reopened my heart and eyes to a faith I have always treasured. I am one who is always easily complacent in my faith, especially when things are going well or when I feel like I have good control on my life. Neither of those things have been a constant in my life this past year and that’s okay, but it reminded me of the dependence I need to have God. And it has reawakened in me that that dependence is not just for bad times but for the good. God has a perfect plan for my life. He has a will for my life. And at some point during my four years of college, I got so caught up and lost site of it. And I stopped actively discerning God’s plan for my life. I stopped taking all of the ups, downs and decisions in my life to God. And if I’m being honest, it is something I have always struggled with.

But this past year has taught me that when I bring everything to God, He will guide me in the right direction. And it’s still a daily struggle, it probably will continue to be. But life is a struggle, faith is a struggle, but God is bigger than the struggle. His love is bigger than that. His plan for me is bigger than that.

This last year has been a crazy one, like a roller coast with lots of ups, downs, loops and a proclivity for stalling, but it has served a greater purpose. I have learned more about myself this year than I did during four years of college, although I firmly believe that those years prepared me for it. I have rediscovered passions and found new ones. I have gotten experience that has taught me what it is I really want to do with my life and gained some of the skills to get there. But most importantly, I have re-prioritized my life putting God back where He belongs, right at the very center of it. And because of all that, I figured out to be a truly happy person again.

I’d like to think that even if this last year had lead me to the life I always envisioned I would have at this point, I would still have the same outlook. But I know myself better than that.

In time, life will take me where I want to be. In time, God’s plan for my life will come to fruition. And maybe that will be in the next year. And maybe it won’t. But there is joy to be found in the struggle. There is a lesson to be learned every day. There is opportunities to be found in every setback. There is no reason to ever settle. There is every reason to continue to work hard and search for what you want. God has a great plan for me, for all of us.

So maybe, life isn’t exactly how I would have pictured it 365ish days after graduating college, but God’s just getting started with His plan for my life.

Standard

Do not wait for leaders…

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” ~ Saint Teresa of Calcutta

I don’t know about anyone else, but I easily fall into the lie that there is nothing I can do to fix the problems of this world.

I lack resources. I lack the correct disposition. I lack power. I lack authority. I have my own set of issues.

Other people are way better equipped. They are kinder, more compassionate, more loving, more able, richer. They have more resources, more power, more authority.

And honestly is much easier to accept that lie and to fall into the apathy that comes with it.

But that is not what we are called by God to do and that’s what Mother Teresa reminds us with the quote above and with a bunch of other notable things she said.

We do not need to wait on anyone, on any thing or on any law to make this world a better place.

If we can show love, be compassionate and help the people we encounter in our life, we are making a difference.

The world cannot be healed and fixed by any law. Laws can change. They can be repealed, replaced and changed just as easily as their passed.

Our love, our compassion, our ability to help people should not be as easily changed. Because our love and our compassion should be unchanging. Our love and our compassion should not be determined by certain factors and should not discriminate. Our ability to help should only change in its form.

Jesus did not wait for leaders to begin his mission. In fact, many times, he defied leadership in order to help those most in need.

Mother Teresa did not wait for others to help the people of Calcutta. She saw a need and she filled it.

History is filled with countless examples of people who did not wait, but helped people by being loving, showing compassion and helping in whatever way they could.

We can do the same.

And honestly, this world is not in a place where it can afford to wait for leaders, for the government or whoever or whatever else, to make the world a better place. In a lot of ways, this world is not capable of that kind of perfection.

As Mother Teresa said, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

We are capable of doing so much more than we think. Only we have the power to make this world a better place.

What we do matters. So what are we waiting for?

 

 

Standard

Sorry world, love doesn’t trump hate

Sorry, not sorry is probably more accurate. But it doesn’t change the fact, love doesn’t trump hate. And before you accuse me of being a cynic, read on please.

We as humans are incapable of the kind of love that has the power to trump hate. That kind of love exists, don’t get me wrong, and that love triumphed over all hatred for all eternity. And hey the Christians among us just celebrated that love less than a week ago and if you follow Catholicism we will be celebrating it for the next 40ish days. That’s right God’s love for all of humanity is the only love that has the power to trump hate. Why? Because only God is capable of loving perfectly.

What is that perfect love? Check out First Corinthians 13. You know that nice little reading done at weddings a lot…probably too much, but I digress.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

To add to this, perfect love is also merciful. It is forgiving, even to the worst of wrongdoings and sins. God did not send his only son, Jesus Christ, to die for the righteous, but for the criminal, the tax collector, the sinner. God’s love and mercy extends to all. There is nothing you can do to get God to stop loving you and nothing you can do that He won’t forgive. Jesus died on a cross to prove it.

I don’t know about you, but even on my best day with the people I love most that doesn’t describe me. And even on my best day with someone that is merely a casual acquaintance, that doesn’t describe me.  And I don’t know about you, but I can hold a grudge when I think that I’ve been seriously wronged. And as hard as I try, I can’t help but at some times feel hatred to people. Us as humans are only capable of imperfect love, and by extension capable of hate.

Imperfect love is far from being patient, especially when it comes to people that we disagree with. Imperfect love might be kind some of the time, but that kindness definitely does not apply to everyone in every circumstance. Imperfect love is jealous. It is very pompous and comes with an extra dose of inflated self worth to prove itself. It is rude, it is self-serving. It’s full of brooding. It rejoices over wrongdoing. It’s a little iffy when it comes to what is actually truth. Imperfect love is as easily taken away as it is giving. It is full of skepticism. It runs on doubt. It is short lived. Imperfect love fails every moment of every day somewhere in the world.

And that is a hard truth to accept. But when you look at all of humanity’s fault, it shouldn’t be surprised.

The best we can do with our imperfect love is try as hard as we can to imitate that perfect love God has for us. And no surprise there, Jesus provided us with some helpful hints for that. Like Luke 6, I think that is one of those ones that every time you hear it, you pretty much like to pretend Jesus was speaking in some sort of metaphor.

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well…But rather love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back…Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Note, Jesus did not say that a response to our enemies (people we disagree with) or those who hate us (or any person) was to love more than them. He called us to love them. It is a tall order. And we are not going to succeed every time (Damn you, Adam & Eve), but God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He expects us to try. He expects us to show mercy just as He has shown mercy to us.

So, sorry not sorry world, love doesn’t trump hate, at least not the love that we in this world are capable, but if we try a little bit harder, actually try that whole love your enemy and mercy thing.

Disclaimer: I am not opposed to the hatred/dislike of actions and things. Love the sinner, hate the sin. (I hate cliches but sometimes they’re appropriate.)

Standard