Friday, September 30, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (#32)

Thanks to Jen for hosting!

Last week, life as I knew it came to an end. As Tim Staples would say, I learned something “that, shall we say, rocked my world?” Elizabeth and I have always claimed to be the same person. We like the same things, have pretty much the same thoughts on things, and are just generally identical twins separated at birth (minus the looks – we look nothing alike). 

Until last week, when we discovered that we disagree on the issue that divides the nation. Yes, I am talking about this:
Looks kinda like a presidential election map...
I can’t believe it. We're supposed to be the same person! How on earth could someone so like me call pop by any other name (that would NOT smell as sweet), such as – I shudder as I write this – “soda”… or even worse “Coke”!

COKE! COKE?!?! Coke is a brand name. A glass of root beer is not a Coke. Pepsi is most definitely not a Coke. They are all pop. I don’t have an official source on this, but I’m pretty sure that pop is the name that Adam gave to this sweet, sugary liquid in the beginning of time.

Then we had a debate on if this dilemma could be decided with democracy or Truth. Clearly, I won, because the last time I checked, the Magisterium has not made any official proclamation defining pop as pop (they do have more important things to be dealing with, after all), so therefore we must go with our consciences and also turn to the polls. From this map, the blue states are clearly winning. Also, Ohio is all blue - and since Ohio is always the swing vote in elections and has decided the president for the last 20 years or so - whatever Ohio says is correct. In conclusion, pop wins. (Can you tell I’m from Ohio?)

But I just don't know what to do now. I just feel so lost because of this revelation. Elizabeth and I can – I'm tearing up now – no longer claim to be the same person! I feel like I’ve lost my identity... I guess I'll go drown my sorrows and become a pop-aholic. BAM! (Elizabeth, that was just for you!)

Bringin' Sexy Back is a full-time job
I joined the Bright Maidens again last week! It was a fun topic on being desirable versus being sexy, and I enjoyed taking a fun look at it. Apparently, others did too since it's already made my top ten most viewed post! If you haven't seen my post or any of the other posts, be sure to check them out!

Did you see my massive post on Spiritual Dry Spells this week? I spent a lot of time on it, so be sure to check it out and let me know what you think! (Side note: I promised part 2 for this week, but it just hasn't been polished yet - next week, I promise!)

I can't figure out if it's because there's a parish with very convenient daily Mass times down the street from the place I am temping or if I'm finally getting my butt into gear because I posted my dry spell to the world, but I started going to daily Mass again! I think the last time I went regularly was Holy Week, so let's see if I can keep this up.

I really found Jen's post about fitting God into your schedule really thought-provoking. I mean, I only have to worry about myself, and while I have a lot going on in my life right now, I don't have to take care of any kiddos or devote time to a significant other. It's just me - yet, I still have problems adding time for God into my daily schedule. So this week, I found recordings of the mysteries of the rosary online, and I put them on a CD so I can pray the rosary during my morning commute! It's not the most meditative state, but it's better than nothing, right? It will also help me learn all the mysteries - I only have the Sorrowful mysteries memorized (is it odd that those are my favorite mysteries?). Hopefully, this will be a start into writing God into my daily routine.

I had a lot of frustrating disappointments in job search world this week. It seems like I just keep striking out every. single. time. Thankfully, I am blessed to have found a temporary job for at least two months that gives me 35 hours a week, but please pray that I will find something more permanent soon. I appreciate all of you who have been praying for me so far - it's been a long search!

Finally, I'd like to give a shout out to my guardian angel! We celebrated the Feast of the Sts. Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel the Archangels this week, and it was a reminder that we have so much good fighting for us each and every day. When I was little, I somehow became convinced that my guardian angel's name is Emma, so this my shout out to you, Emma. Thanks for watching over me!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Spiritual Dry Spells, Part 1

Here we go. I’m going to write about three words that seem harmless... but when you put them together, oh boy, watch out! I’m talking about...

Spiritual Dry Spells.

It seems like you can easily slip into a dry spell without even realizing it, so the big question is: How do you get out of one?

I'll let you know when I figure it out.


This would be a really boring short post if I waited to share all of my wisdom with you all until I got out of this seven-months-long-and-counting dry spell. Lucky for you, I'm too verbose to do short posts when I set out to really write, and my posts are never boring... (right?)

So, I sat down to write this post on another one of those hard-to-fall-asleep nights. You know, the ones where you can’t fall asleep because you have such great thoughts running through your mind that you just have to write them all down so you don't forget them in the morning. As I was thinking about what to include on my oh-so-helpful list of how to get out of a spiritual dry spell, I realized that maybe one of the reasons why my current spiritual dryness seems to be never-ending could be partly due to the fact that I haven’t been taking the advice I am about to give you right now.

Internal dilemma ensues. Should I still write this post? What if I can’t remember all this great stuff in the morning? What if I do write this and people think I’m a *shudder* "holier-than-thou" hypocrite?

The battle waged for 3.7 seconds before I decided that I really needed to go to sleep. So I quickly wrote down what I needed to purge from my head, and went to bed.
And there those thoughts sat, out in cyberspace, unpublished to the world.

Until now. Most of the time, we, as bloggers, write about our experiences and things we have learned to share with our readers, with the hope that they will gain something from our experiences. Sometimes, we learn even more about ourselves in the process of preparing a post. This particular post, I admit, has some selfish motivations, because while I hope you all enjoy reading it and maybe even learn a thing or two, I'm hoping even more that writing this post will help me to become better at doing each of these things in order to grow closer in my relationship with God.

Without further ado, and in no particular order, my top ten list of things to help you in a spiritual dry spell. The first five are posted here, and the next five will be posted later this week.

1. Go to Mass more than you normally would
Vision of St. John the Evangelist

I used to go to Mass almost every day. It's not something I felt obligated to do, but something I looked forward to each day. I would sometimes come early and stay afterwards just to sit in quiet reflection or prayer, because it was something I wanted to do. When the dryness set in, I started praying even more fervently at Mass. I wasn't able to attend daily Mass as frequently due to my schedule, but when I did go to Mass, I would show up even earlier to spend more time in prayer, and I kept bringing the same petitions to the Lord. After a couple of months of that, with no "visible" results, I gave up.

I explained to one of my friends that I felt like I wasn't getting anything out of going to daily Mass anymore, and I found it difficult to focus on the readings and prayers like I had before. She not only reminded me that we don't go to Mass to feel something - but to worship and praise God - but she also explained that we receive amazing graces just by attending Mass. Just being in the presence of such a sacred mystery, abounding with grace, has got to scare the Devil, which means he will try whatever he can to keep us away! That's why it's so important to continue going to Mass. If you normally only go on Sundays, try to attend Mass a couple of times during the week. If you regularly attend daily Mass already, step it up a notch by arriving early or staying late to spend some extra time in prayer. I can say from experience that when the spiritual darkness sets in, you may lose the desire to go to Mass, which means you come up with every excuse in the book to not to get there that day... but if you do, God will grace you with His presence, even if you can't feel it.

2. Go say "Hi!" to a priest... in the confessional

Wussup, Father! I'm a sinner!
Spiritual dryness can be a heavy weight to carry, which can lead to us letting down our guard, opening up the floodgates to temptation and sin. Even if we don't realize it, being spiritually weary can be physically and emotionally stressful as well. A friend advised me that sometimes we can't do much to get out of a dry spell, but it's important to continue to remain in a state of grace so that we can continue to receive the Eucharist and be fully open to being a channel for God's grace. Even more, frequenting confession helps to protect us from spiritual attack... or at least better recognize particular vices that the sly one can use against us. 

From my own experience, my spiritual dryness has just been the icing on the cake, shall we say, with the other hardships in my life right now, which has caused a lot of stress and anxiety. I start to take this out on those around me, but especially God. I spend days building up anger and frustration with others and with God inside (yes, I even yell at God sometimes... in my head), and my patience was quickly diminishing much more rapidly than usual. It was when I was releasing all of this vented frustration to a friend that I realized I needed to take my soul to the car wash! The second I received absolution, I felt a huge weight lifted from me. The anger and impatience I had been feeling for days was gone. While I still had to come home and deal with the same frustrating situations, I was able to handle them more charitably and with loving patience. There have been a few times where I have walked away from Confession and physically felt a weight being lifted. Experiencing this feeling of God's love is always important, but especially when you are suffering from a dry spell, because it can be a much needed consolation that God's grace is still present in your life.

3. Try to do a Holy (Half) Hour each day

This makes me giggle. 'Sup, Jesus?!
The purpose of this is to make a point to set aside a little bit of time each day to focus on God. Can't do a holy hour? Try a half hour. Try five minutes, even! It can be spent praying in a chapel (or my latest alternative, sit quietly and try really hard not to go over my to-do list in my head), going to Eucharistic Adoration, reading some verses from Scripture, reflecting on the daily Mass readings, checking out some spiritual readings by the saints and other great Catholics... even just lying on your bed and thinking, "Are you there God? It's me, [insert name here]" is better than the alternative - ignoring God. When we (I) fail to do this, we start to use noise and toys and the shiny things of the world to distract us from what is really important, which is working on growing in our relationship with God. Would you not take the time to talk to or hang out with your best friend for long periods of time? Nope! Pretend that God is your best friend by spending some time with Him, because, well, He is your best friend. As with all relationships, a relationship with God has to be a two-way street. God is most likely holding up His end of the friendship, so we have to be willing to put in some effort as well.

4. Go on a retreat

Kairos - Live the Fourth!
I've heard that it's recommended for Catholics to go on at least one retreat a year to work on deepening their relationships with God. If you're in a dry spell, now is the best time to set everything aside and devote all your time to God. It makes a profound statement that you are willing to sacrifice time, technology, work, and other things of the world for a brief period in order to be only with God. While it may not end up being the mind-blowing experience you expect, you will most definitely receive certain graces by reflecting on your faith life and living on God's time instead of your own time. The biggest challenge for me - and many others - is taking what you learn from your retreat and putting these things into practice in your daily life, but it can be an important first step.

5. Serve others

I'm going to guess that she sees Christ in that sweet baby face.
Blessed Mother Teresa felt silence in her prayer life from the moment she answered God's call to open the Missionaries of Charity. Yet, she persevered and didn't give up on her relationship with God. She didn't stop going to Mass, and she received the Eucharist daily. She didn't counter God's silence with the cold shoulder, but instead persisted in her prayer. Most importantly, she continued to follow God's will for her life through serving the sick and poor each and every day. Through this service, it cannot be denied that she found Christ in each face that she saw, even if she couldn't find God in her prayer life. She may have suffered decades of silence, but by serving others, she remained close to God. I'm just going to take a guess and say that's probably one of the many reasons why she is now Blessed Mother Teresa. It's definitely worth years of silence in prayer to spend eternity in His presence.

We discover (or re-discover) our spiritual gifts through serving others. Furthermore, we grow closer to Christ by becoming more like him through service. To become more like Christ, whether it is through serving or suffering, preaching or silently evangelizing, is to grow a little bit further away from the darkness and closer to God's all-encompassing light.

I know that for me personally, I feel closer to God when I am able to use the gifts He has given me to help others. Whether it is cooking a home-made meal for college students away from home, baking a treat for Bible Study, offering free tutoring to friends who are struggling in their chemistry courses, or trying to be a positive, Christian witness to my pre-teen Girl Scouts, I feel more at peace even amidst the dryness in my spiritual life. I know that one of the more difficult struggles for me these past few months has been figuring out how I can continue to serve as my life is in a constant flux. When I felt like I had lost my outlets for utilizing my gifts to serve others, I began to feel a bit worthless. This is exactly what the Devil wants - the more worthless we feel, the less we realize how unique and special we are in God's eyes. This is why answering Christ's call to serve others - in whatever way we can - is so crucial, because it not only helps us shy away from the darkness of the Devil, but it makes us more like Christ which ultimately brings us closer to God.

Have you ever been in what seems like a never-ending dry spell in your spiritual life? How did you eventually pull through?

For other great blog posts about spiritual dryness, check out these great series by Julie at The Corner with a View and Jen at Conversion Diary.

Check back later for my next five tips, which will be posted later this week!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My sins killed Him

I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
I usually bow my head when we pray the Confiteor at Mass, but this morning, my eyes happened to glance up at the large crucifix hanging on the altar. This crucifix is gory - not nearly on the level of Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ - but still a bit macabre.

The crown of thorns pierces his head so that blood drips down his brown like sweat on a hot, humid day.

Blood spatters from the wounds in his hands, the nails the only thing stopping the blood from spurting forth. 

All the muscles in his arms are tensed as they work to hold up his entire body, while also adding to that which weighs him down.

Every rib is outlined in his chest, as if every fiber of his midsection grasps for a single molecule of oxygen from the air.

His abdominal muscles are tensed and inset, as if he just inhaled his last breath, never releasing it in an exhale.

A gaping wound drips from his side, and some of the blood stains the loincloth that covers him.

His kneecaps are red, as they would if they were kneeling under the weight of the world.

Blood drips gravitationally down from his feet, the wounds red and sore.

I have been attending this parish intermittently for two years, but it was this morning while praying the Confiteor that I truly realized how gruesome the crucifix is.

It was at this moment that I thought, My sins caused this. All the sins I've ever committed in my life, and will commit in the future - my sins caused this to happen.

I try to approach repentance and regret for my sins with a contrite heart, saddened for offending God, but it often ends up being more of a sadness out of fear of Hell and knowing that I should feel sorry for my sins.

Not this morning. This morning, the pew held me up as I realized that even my tiniest wrongs have offended our most loving Creator, that my sins killed Him.
Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison.
Thankfully, we have an ever-forgiving God as our father, a God who will suffer a torturous and gruesome death out of love for me, you, and everyone else in the world, past, present, and future.

Lord, have mercy on us.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bringin' Sexy Back

Here I am, joining the Bright Maidens once again!

What is the difference between being desirable and being sexy? I make perhaps a bold statement when I say that I think these might have once had the same meaning. I propose that what we think of as “sexy” really was re-defined when the sexual revolution began.
No idea who she is, but she has "sexy hair"!

When we hear the term “sexy” today, we automatically think of Victoria’s Secret models, certain types of (usually) revealing clothing, even “sexy hair”! The key point is that when we hear the word “sexy”, our minds instantly jump to a bodily image.

Initially, this makes sense. The word sexy derives from sex, which is a physical action. even agrees with me (although I think using the word in the definition is illegal... at least in the literary world):
sexy (adj):
  1. concerned predominantly or excessively with sex
  2. sexually interesting or exciting, radiating sexuality
  3. excitingly appealing
According to our present societal ideals, however, sex is only a physical action, a desire that is natural and should be embraced without regret. This liberates us all to be sexually free, because we don’t have to worry about any* consequences – emotional or physical. We can easily rip the physical bonds as we move from partner to partner, and detach from the biological purpose of the act.
*Any, excluding untreatable STIs, since you know, we’ve taken care of that whole pregnancy consequence with abortion and contraception.

But sex is also an emotional interconnectedness that you share with your partner. You’re not just becoming one physically, but you are uniting emotionally and spiritually. Sex isn’t just for pleasure, as the sexual liberation folks would have you believe. It is also unitive and procreative. When I was discussing this post with Elizabeth (good thing we get paid to work, huh?), she had this to say:
The "sexually liberated" say sex is for pleasure, and if you WANT to, sex can be for procreation... like procreation is the potential side effect. I argue that PLEASURE is the POTENTIAL side effect and that only happens if you WANT it to.
I'm pretty sure that she just took the point I was trying to make and made it ten times better, but much more succinctly, so I'll just leave it at that.

Does it seem like I’ve gone off on a tangent here? Perhaps I have, but it has a point, I promise.

This disconnect on the meaning and purpose of sex in our culture today is what leads to this distortion of what it means to be sexy. Because culture has defined sex as only a pleasurable, physical act, then being sexy can logically only be defined as being physically pleasurable to another person.

So how does being desirable differ from this? I believe that being desirable can occur on many different levels, similar to how I think being sexy used to mean so much more than it does today.

Being Physically Desirable

We, as good, modest, holy Catholic ladies can be physically desirable. Not Victoria’s Secret model desirable, but desirable nonetheless. When it comes to being physically desirable, I take a more “au naturale” approach. No, I’m not a nudist (Adam and Eve took care of that one for us). In fact, quite the opposite, as I like to be a bit more covered than the average 25 year old.

I am, however, a nudist when it comes to make-up. I don’t really like make-up, and so I don’t usually wear it (OK, to be honest, I will put on mascara about twice a month). I have had many friends – female friends! – who have told me in both subtle and abrupt ways that sometimes you have to use make-up to “snag” a man’s attention… to show him that you can be desirable. Yes, men’s brains are wired differently, but if I have to use make-up to snag a man’s attention… what will he think of me when the make-up comes off?

Wuv, twue wuv!
My goal, if I am so called, is to find a good man who is interested in a long-term kind of deal with me (yea, that whole marriage thing). I want him to be attracted – from the beginning – to natural-me. This face I wear all day looks the same in the morning when I wake up, and it looks the same when I go to bed (well, the expression on my face in the morning might be a bit different from my daily cheerful expression…). I want him to see that face and find it desirable in the morning and the evening and all day. I have actually had this conversation with quite a few men who agree with me! They don’t understand why women wear make-up, because they find their natural beauty so much more desirable.

I do not mean to imply that every woman who wears make-up is trying to be “sexy” or catch a man. I know many women who wear make-up because they say it makes them feel beautiful. At the same time, I know and have known women who will not go out of the house unless they’ve “put on their face”… they won’t even let their boyfriends see them without make-up. I am not present in each of these women’s minds, so I cannot say if their intention is to be desirable or to be sexy, but I think this idea reflects societal pressure to always have on our "game-faces".

Being Intellectually Desirable

I think part of why I do not personally wear make-up is because I want to be intellectually desirable to men. I don’t just want to be someone he likes to look at all day long! I want to be the kind of person with whom a man would want to have in-depth conversations – yes, even arguments heated discussions! I want a man to desire my mind, not just what I have to physically offer.

I see you reading on the bus, you sexy thang!
As a woman who holds a graduate degree in a scientific field, I can say with experience that sometimes my intellect can be very off-putting to men. I'm not really sure if they find my mind threatening to them personally, or if they've just never met a girl with brains before, but they have definitely not found me intellectually desirable. I have been at the receiving end of sexist comments from men in my area of study because of my mind (let’s just say that this girl was the only one from the chemistry department to graduate Summa cum laude in 2009… which shut down those comments pretty quickly). At the same time, I have had many male friends who don't seem to be deterred at all (maybe their mommas are super smart?!), and we've had excellent intellectual discussions.

I don't mean to imply that men are smarter than women in most cases. In fact, quite the contrary. Men and women are just different. Physically. Emotionally. Intellectually. We were created to be that way, so that we complement each other. I am attracted to men, even if it is just a friends-only attraction, who challenge me intellectually, and I want to feel the same in return. I want men to feel intellectually stimulated by me. I want to be intellectually desirable - intellectually "sexy". Yet, my intellect is not physical. Nor is my heart, my thoughts, my quick witted humor, or my feelings, for that matter. We have to come to a realization that we are not just longing for certain things physically, but also emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

Two Roads Diverged

This is where being sexy has lost meaning. To be desirable is to be wanted, to be pleasing, to arouse a longing, to stimulate some sense or feeling within a person. It does not have to be a physical wanting, pleasure, longing, or stimulation. It can be a desire for my body or my mind, my heart, my cute morning facial expressions - everything that makes me ME. Men can be attracted to these things with their bodies... but also with their hearts and minds and everything else that makes them men. However, society has decided that sex, and thus sexy, is all about the physical pleasure. 

So here is my challenge to society. Since it's hip to re-define things these days, let's re-re-define "sexy". Let's take sexy from a one-dimensional definition and add back in the emotional, spiritual, mental, and personal levels to sexy. Let's do a re-make of Justin Timberlake's song and bring sexy back... but for real this time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Do not pass me by

  1. Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
    Hear my humble cry;
    While on others Thou art calling,
    Do not pass me by.
    • Refrain:
      Savior, Savior,
      Hear my humble cry,
      While on others Thou are calling,
      Do not pass me by.
  2. Let me at a throne of mercy
    Find a sweet relief;
    Kneeling there in deep contrition,
    Help my unbelief.
  3. Trusting only in Thy merit,
    Would I seek Thy face;
    Heal my wounded, broken spirit,
    Save me by Thy grace.
  4. Thou the spring of all my comfort,
    More than life to me,
    Whom have I on earth beside Thee,
    Whom in Heav’n but Thee.

(sung by Audrey Assad)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Faulty Logic of the Pro-Choice Movement

There is a great post about the awkwardness of being pro-choice up over at BadCatholic. Be sure to go read it.

I especially found the following video interesting, which includes commentary from those who identify as pro-choice.

Some of their statements absolutely astound me. I think my favorite reason to support abortion happens at about 1:04 in the video:
"Unless you're... unless you're gonna start adopting all of these kids that are gonna be born, I dunno what we're gonna do! We don't have the... the maintenance..."
Point 1: She says "all of these kids that are gonna be born" - she acknowledges that these are KIDS, not fetuses or clumps of tissue or a parasitic attachment inside the woman's body... yet, she is still alright with killing these kids because we don't have the "maintenance" to take care of them.

Point 2: Who ever said that we don't want to adopt all of these kids that are going to be born? It can be difficult to find concrete statistics on those wanting to adopt, but the US Department of Health and Human Services showed that in 2002:
  • 18.5 million women had ever considered adoption (1/3 of all American women at that time)
  • Of those who had considered it, 2.6 million had taken concrete steps toward adoption, 2.1 million of these women which were married
  • Of those who took steps towards adoption, 614,000 had actually been able to adopt a child.
In that same year (2002), it was reported by the CDC that there were 854,122 abortions (excluding those in the states of NH and CA, so it's probably much larger than this reported value) while the Guttmacher Institute reported 1.269 million abortions.

Let's look at the numbers for a minute here. 2.6 million women took steps towards adopting a child in 2002, and only 614,000 were successful. Meanwhile, a little over a million lives were abruptly ended in that same year. Doing some quick mental math, I calculate that there were twice as many women seeking to adopt than there were abortions in that same year.

So, Miss Pro-Choice, your premise is flawed and faulty, because, you see, for every child aborted in that year, there were approximately two women hoping to adopt a child of their own. We do have the maintenance to take care of these children, so stop using it as an argument to support your cause, because it is not reasonable. I can only imagine, now that more than half the country identifies as pro-life, that the numbers of those wanting or willing to adopt (especially given the alternative of abortion) have only increased (and I hope to keep doing some research to find more recent statistics).

Point 3: This goes along with Point 2. I do not have a job, and I do not have a husband, so I am not in the position to offer a child the home and life that every child deserves. However, if another person ever presented me with the decision to choose between only 2 options:
  1. This baby will be aborted; or
  2. You, Liesl, can personally adopt this baby. But only you, and no one else. Otherwise, Option 1 holds;
I would choose Option 2. I'd find some way to make it work. I think that there are at least a few million people in this country that would agree with me.

7 Quick Takes Friday (#31)

Thanks to Jen for hosting!

  1. TOMORROW IS MY BIRTHDAY! I am going to be the big 2-5! It sounds kind of weird to say that I'm going to be a quarter of a century old. I'm not sure how I am going to celebrate yet, but I know that my friend is cooking me dinner and baking me a cake (and she is an excellent cook/baker), so I'm looking forward to some good food with some good friends.
  2. I just finished a novena to St. Gemma Galgani this week. She is the patron saint of back pain, so I prayed that my back will heal quickly, or that I will at least have the grace to accept this cross joyfully and offer up my pain for those who need it. 
  3. I had an MRI this week on my back (by the way, those tubes are much tighter than they look on TV!), and you know what I thought about while lying in there for 30 minutes amongst the whirring? I wonder if magnetic resonance imaging is similar to nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopic theory? I almost asked the MRI technician, but then I decided that I already looked like enough of a nerd in my scrubs and hospital socks, and I didn't want him to think that I am a total geek (which, by the way, I totally am).
  4. You see, the nucleus has a spin, and magnetic resonance is observed...
  5. Did you see my latest Reflection on the Readings? It's all about LOVE. Not ooey-gooey love, but what it means and it what we are required to do to really love someone. Check it out and let me know what you think!
  6. Elizabeth and I have been talking about how great we are at procrastinating... we gave each other blogging deadlines, and lo' and behold, neither of us met it! But I hope to have a new, very long post up soon for you all to read!
  7. Please keep my job search in your prayers. I have recently had a setback with a job opportunity that I thought was going to pull through, but it just wasn't the job for me right now. I am continuing to look for temporary work, but in the meantime, I have become an expert couch-sitter. Do you think I can put that on a resume?
  8. Do you remember where you were ten years ago from Sunday? I was in freshman honors biology class, creating two-headed planaria, when our principal came over the loudspeaker to announce that two planes had hit the World Trade Centers, one plane had crashed into the Pentagon, and another had crashed in Pennsylvania, due to the bravery of its passengers. I remember that we were shocked, and most of us didn't believe it was real. We even joked about it a bit, until one of my lab-mates said that his aunt worked in the Pentagon. After class, we made our way to the cafeteria, where the televisions had been turned on to show the news. I have never heard the school so silent as it was at that moment, as we all just sat and watched in amazement and fear. Even though we lived in central Ohio, we all just wanted to go home and be with our families, to feel safe. May we always remember what it felt like that day, and the pride we felt as a nation in the months to follow. Let us all remember those lives that were so suddenly lost, and pray for their souls, as well as their families and friends who have had to learn to live without them. Finally, I hope we can once again stand strong as a country, with that same spirit, someday soon.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Message of Love

The readings this week are all about love.

Now, I can hear some of you thinking now. Uh, Liesl, did you read the first reading from Ezekiel? That doesn't sound so loving to me...

Before you get your breeches in a twist, I'm not talking about the sappy kind of love that pervades our culture today. I'm talking about real love, as in the "let us love one another, because love is of God" and "God is love" (1 John 4:7,16) kind of love.

It all comes down to how we define love, which we read more about in St. Paul's letter to the Romans. Many non-Catholics (and unfortunately, even some Catholics!) would cite this passage as evidence that we no longer have to follow the ten commandments given to Moses by God, in the saying that we "owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law." (Romans 13:8) Adultery? Coveting? It's okay if I do these things as long as I do them because of love.

Preach it!
Yet, what does Paul mean when he says to love one another? By whose standards should we love? My standards? Your standards? The standards followed by the president of the United States? No, we are commanded to love by God's standard. This means loving the entire person, where "love does no evil to the neighbor." (Romans 13:10)

Doing no evil to your neighbor means loving as God loves. It means following the commandments. Even more, it means trying your very best to do as the prophet Ezekiel teaches. How is this rather harsh sounding warning really talking about love? We as Catholics, and all Christians, have a challenge before us. This challenge is to distinguish between loving the person and loving sinful nature. I think many Catholic bloggers, especially in the past couple of weeks, would agree that loving a person is to teach them what it means to love as God loves. Unfortunately, sometimes this means being called "intolerant", a "bigot", and many other unmentionable names. This makes the challenge presented to us even more difficult, but as much as we hate to do it sometimes, we still have an obligation to warn those of the danger of sin, and offer the alternative of God's loving commandments. As Ezekiel says, "[If] you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death." (Ezekiel 33:8)

Let me point that out again, if the boldface wasn't enough. "I will hold you responsible for his death." It is not enough to just live a good life for ourselves, we have to do all within our power to live a good life loving others as well.

This is not to say that we should go out on a vendetta against the world, calling out every sin we see in a hateful manner. We have to remember that we are in fact included among those sinners as well. We have to be sure to remove the logs and dust from our own eyes (Matthew 7:5) while also spreading God's love through teaching the Truth. This is one of the ways in which we can love our neighbor, to "warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way" (Ezekiel 33:9), because not only shall we save ourselves, but we might help to save another soul in the process.

The verse with the Alleluia this week ties the first two readings and the Gospel into this theme of what it means to love: "God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." To love another is to spread the message of reconciliation, the message of Christ. 

Where is this message to be found today? Where was it found yesterday? A week ago? A year ago? 2000 years ago? This message of love has always been and will always be found in the Church, the same Church that Jesus talks about with his disciples in Matthew 18. This church is the place to bring your sins and the sins of your brothers, to be held accountable for each other's faults, but to also seek reconciliation, forgiveness, and a renewal of God's love. 

This message spoken of in the gospel sounds more loving, but it is the same message as the one spoken of by Ezekiel, and it is the same kind of love that Paul means when he says to love your neighbor. As the preface to the Mass in the Magnificat states, "Our love must extend to those attitudes and actions that would prevent our neighbors from truly loving themselves and their own destiny." As difficult as it may be sometimes to present this message and Christian teachings with love, we must persevere, because to love your neighbor in this way is to share God, who is Love, with each person we meet.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Carry Me

Pain is a forest we all get lost in
Between the branches hope can be so hard to see
And in the darkness we've all got questions
We're all just trying to make sense out of suffering but

You say I am blessed because of this
So, I choose to believe
As I carry this cross, You'll carry me

Help me believe it

Fear is a current we all get caught in
And in its motion faith can be so hard to find
And we all falter 'cause we're all broken
We're all just trying to turn the shadows into light but

You get glory in the midst of this
And You're walking with me

And you say I am blessed because of this
So, I choose to believe
As I carry this cross, You'll carry me

And I know Your promises are faithful
And God, I've seen Your goodness in my life
And oh, I've found Your mercy is a river
Your love is an ocean wide

You say I am blessed because of this
You get glory in the midst of this
And You're walking with me

And You say I am blessed because of this
So, I choose to believe
As I carry this cross, as I carry this cross
'Cause as I carry this cross, You'll carry me

You'll carry me, God
You'll carry me
And Your love is an ocean wide

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