The Good, the Bad, and the Annoying

Earlier today, I went to Mass with my Mom like we usually do on weekdays.  But since my dad was home today, we got to leave all the little kids home and have a nice quiet time. It was awesome as planned, and we went and got some food afterwards.  Things were looking good.  But then disaster struck when we got home.  The kids were screaming and pouting, so we went to our town’s Fourth of July Celebration.  They had some of the best funnel cake I have ever had, not to mention the live music and other attractions.  When we got home, once again, everything fell apart.  Then, my dad came to the rescue with a movie he rented from RedBox, and now everything is quiet while my little sisters watch The Lemurs of Madagascar.

As you can tell, my day has been full of different emotions.  Today I’ve been happy, annoyed, angry, and the wonderful feeling only a good funnel cake can bestow.  But no matter how ‘m feeling, I’m obligated (privileged) to care for my younger siblings.  I’m also supposed to be Christ to others, no matter how I feel about it.

As a Catholic, I promise you there will be times when you’re loving life.  You just feel God’s presence all around you.  Your plans seem to fit right up with God’s, all the kids seem to behave at Mass, and you couldn’t want anything else (except maybe some pizza.  That would be a nice touch).  And there will be times when you feel empty.  You’ll look around and say to God, “What the heck Man!?”.  Sometimes people will hate you for what you believe and persecute you for your faith.  Unashamed Catholic had a great post about constant conversion to a more Christ-like you, and he got comments about how horrible Mary is, and how the Catholic Church is the infamous “Whore of Babylon” spoken of in Revelation.  You have to be Christ-like whatever happens.

My friends know that I’m not to good at doing that when I’m angry.  I can get really bad sometimes when people do stuff like I just mentioned.  But to be perfectly honest, I probably do that a lot as well.  I don’t say it, but sometimes I’ll make fun of what someone believes (even though the stupidity is so thick you couldn’t cut it with a just knife.  You’d need like a lightsaber-chainsaw to just make a dent in it).  The point is, be Christ to others, regardless of who it may be.

There are a lot of people who expect to get something out of Christianity in a worldly sense.  People want to get a good feeling out of going to church or being nice to people.  I’m telling you right now, it probably won’t happen the way you want it to.  C.S. Lewis once said that “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

To people who are expecting comfort out Catholicism, the problem is that you are looking for the world in the Heavens.  Your expecting worldly pleasure out of God.  But, like JPII famously said,

“The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort.  You were made for Greatness”

However, you will get something from living a holy life.  They’re called the fruits of the Holy Spirit (charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity).  While some of them may sound a lot like earthly feelings, they’re not.  They are something far more awesome.  They are fruits because they show when the Holy Spirit lives in you.  It’s basically the Holy Spirit showing through you.

Because we are so addicted to our feelings, we expect what we feel to be right to be the truth.  We might really want something to happen, whether it’s for a job interview to go well, or for your sports team to win, or something even more important to happen, but it might not be in God’s plan.  Have you ever really really wanted something, and told God that His will be done, not yours?  I have.  I did not enjoy it at all.  But, as C.S. Lewis said again,

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

With the way things are going today in America, it would probably be the aforementioned time when you say to God, “What the Heck, Man!”  But it is also the time when you suck it up and keep fighting the good fight, regardless about how you feel.  If you’re happy, spread it to other people, take advantage of those times.  If someone is feeling depressed about what has happened, or if they are being bullied for their faith, stand up for them.

A lot of people are all for that relationship not religion stuff.  They are looking for a perfect relationship, but there is a problem.  I hate to break it to them, but they’re not perfect!  Sometimes you are going to feel down in the dumps, I personally guarantee it.  But, if you follow Jesus through good times and bad, you’ll get to taste what Final Victory is like.  You’ll get to see God and think, “Man, that was worth it”.

In Christ, Catholic2theMax

Elusive Peace

I apologize for not having written in a while.  I’ve just been so busy, and as the title implies, have had only fleeting experiences of peace.  My little brother was born on the 2nd, the 8th child in my family.  As you can imagine, trying to maintain a calm household with my parents gone can be a very challenging task.  Anyway, since peace is extremely valuable and precious, I believe it would be good to learn more about it.

The Catholic Bible Dictionary defines peace as ” The harmony between persons and especially between God and man.”  Not to be confused with concordance (agreement).  Two evil men can be in agreement about the murder plot, but it is anything but peaceful.  As already stated, peace is especially harmony with God and man.  This generally means that your will lines up with that of God’s will.  So, unity brings about peace, which makes a lot of sense.  As Ol’ Abe said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand”.  It seems that it can’t be very peaceful in its not-standingness either.  It seems to me that concordance is not peace, but the beginning of peace.  Since peace is a Fruit of the Holy Spirit, it can only really be achieved as an effect of the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life.  That’s most likely why retreats are so peaceful, they’re quiet and you’re surrounded by the Holy Spirit.

So, we have begun to establish the meaning of peace.  Now, how to come about it.  After all, “elusive peace” is extremely sought after in society, and rightly so.  In modern times, all of us are constantly busy.  We have to get here by x time, and then from there have to meet up with so and so and this place.  Even when we have time to ourselves it seems that something has to be going on.  So, if you’re going to build something, you have to lay down the foundation first.  In life, your foundation is much like trust.  It keeps you rooted in reality.  Imagine a life where you couldn’t trust anything, not even this blog.  You would always be afraid of everything, and would never let yourself be around others.  The exact opposite of peace.  Since the majority of us don’t live like that, we all trust something.  If you’re around someone you don’t trust, you at least trust the probability of that person not killing you.   If you’re smart, you’ll place your trust somewhere that you can rely on, no matter what, like a family member or a close friend.  If you’re even smarter, you’ll put your trust in God.

I heard a really good story when I was on an Opus Dei retreat.  There was a passenger plane that was going through a storm.  At one point they hit extremely rough turbulence.  Every passenger on the plane was petrified.  They were silent and barely dared to breathe.  Well, almost everyone.  There was a little boy, around 6-ish years old, who continued playing with his action figures.  Still making those cute little noises of battle while his two toys fought each other.  A woman sitting across from him was astonished, not to mentioned annoyed.  She said to him, “Kid, why are you still playing?  Don’t you know the plane could go down?  Aren’t you scared?”.  The boy continued playing and replied, “Nope”.  The woman was even more annoyed and asked him why.  The boy replied, “The pilot is my dad.”

I think we could all use some of that boy’s trust.  Remember how Jesus said that we must become like little children?  I would be willing to bet that includes child-like trust.  If my dad told my 3-year-old brother that we were having pizza for dinner, it would never cross his little toddler mind that my dad was lying.  I’m not saying you need to be naïve, but have a rational trust in a reliable source.  The most reliable of which is of course God.  Did you notice how scared and agitated the people on the plane were compared to the serenity of the boy?  They didn’t trust the plane or the pilot, but guess who did?  That’s right, the little kid.  “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

We can’t put some of our trust in God, and some of it in the world, because you won’t end up with God, but the world.  Remember when Abraham was told to leave his homeland and go somewhere else, leaving everything behind?  But Abe didn’t fully trust God yet, so he brought some insurance, his nephew Lot.  Eventually Lot ended up in a very bad place, and so did Abraham.  It doesn’t make sense.  Here you have a all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good God, Lord and Creator of the Universe, and He wants to protect and guide you, and you only give him  part of your trust.  You definitely should still trust people, but rely solely upon the Lord.  As humans, we will always get messed up, especially when it comes to trust.  But try to do your best, and God will reward you for it.  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

We have covered peace with God (which will usually get you that good feeling of peacefulness), but peace with man (along the lines of world peace) is a little different.  It still begins with putting your trust in God, but it requires a little more to achieve, since one party isn’t God.  I think the easiest way to explain it is Pope Paul IV’s famous dictum, “If you want peace, work for justice”.

Now, with both kinds of peace, you have enemies that try to stop the process.  Peace with God will be opposed by the devil, who wants you as far away from God as possible.  Don’t be afraid, God only allows temptations into your life that you can overcome.  If you trust God, this shouldn’t be a problem.  Now, peace with man will also be opposed by the devil, but it is more common for your enemy to be other men.  You can’t necessarily make the sign of the cross  with holy water to make them go away usually unlike the devil, but they can be beaten.  First Step, defend the weak and innocent.  To defeat something, you first must protect what they try to destroy.  In The Dark Knight, Batman didn’t relentlessly go after the Joker, his first priority was the safety of the Joker’s hostages and targets.  And eventually, in doing so, he captured the Joker.  He did kind of change his tactics in the next movie, but that doesn’t matter.

The military can have a great impact on peace, for good or bad.  In the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, it says this:

The requirements of legitimate defense justify the existence in States of armed forces, the activity of which should be at the service of peace. Those who defend the security and freedom of a country, in such a spirit, make an authentic contribution to peace . . . The right to use force for purposes of legitimate defense is associated with the duty to protect and help innocent victims who are not able to defend themselves from acts of aggression. (502ff.)

One of the things I love about Captain America is his shield.  For starters, it’s indestructible and is red, white, and blue.  But my favorite is the fact that it is a shield.  A shield is used in defense, which is what the military should be used for.

So, “elusive peace” isn’t so untouchable as we think it is.  It’s hard yes, but with God, all things are possible.  Stay peaceful my friends, just like this chicken:

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Pentecost and Why it’s Still Important

Almost every Christian knows the story of Pentecost.  The Apostles were hiding in the Upper Room (The Same one where the Last Supper took place) for fear of the Romans.  The Holy Spirit appeared as tongues of fire over their heads and the 11 went out and preached the Gospel.

Pentecost is widely known as the birthday of the Church, the day when the Apostles received the Holy Spirit and were ready to give the Good News to the world.  This is officially what happened according to the RSVC:

1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and wondered, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day; 16 but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

Peter goes on to give an amazing speech and converts 3,000 people on the spot.  I’m gonna try to not give the cliché talk about Pentecost that you here every year, so I’ll begin to head in a slightly different direction.Read More »

7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit

For all of us who took a Religion class during school or attended Sunday School now and then, we all remember the last-minute scramble to get the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit memorized.  I remember almost failing that quiz because I forgot to study.  Anyway, few of us actually took the time to understand what the gifts were, rather than cramming it into our heads just to barf it back up on a quiz.  It’s a shame, really.  These are some of the coolest things you receive from God, and few people actually know what they mean.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the Gifts “complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.” *

In short, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit make it easier for you to be Holy.  You are more able to receive the will of God and act on it.  You get these gifts every time you are in the state of Sanctifying Grace, like when you receive the Holy Eucharist worthily.  Every time you do that, you are infused with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  And without further ado, the Gifts.

1. Wisdom

Wisdom is inseparable from charity.  In a way, it is also closely linked to faith.  As Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., notes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, “Where faith is a simple knowledge of the articles of Christian belief, wisdom goes on to a certain divine penetration of the truths themselves.”  Wisdom is the ability to correctly judge things of a supernatural nature, such as the existence of God.

2. Understanding 

Understanding is very often confused with Wisdom and Knowledge.  After all, their meanings in our language are often very similar.  Understanding is the ability to comprehend the meaning of the teachings of the Church.  Without Understanding, you could have memorized a term and its appropriate definition, but you would never realize what it actually means.  This might have been a little confusing, but it takes some time to fully understand this gift (no pun intended).

3. Counsel

While Wisdom was the perfection of faith, Counsel is the perfection of prudence.  Prudence can be practiced by anyone, but counsel can only be gained as a free gift from God.  Like the cardinal virtue of prudence, counsel helps us to judge what to do in any given situation.  What separates it from prudence; however, is that counsel can make the decision quickly and without a second thought.  Think of it as your Holy Instincts.

4. Fortitude

Probably the most well-known, Fortitude is the courage to stand up for what is right.  It’s not rashness, but always reasonable.  Fortitude would help you to stand up for your Faith in conversation, or as the martyrs did, even die for it.

5. Knowledge

Knowledge is, as the Archdiocese of Washington puts it, “a supernatural habit infused by God through which the human intellect, under the illuminating action of the Holy Spirit, judges rightly concerning created things as ordained to the supernatural end.”  Like the other gifts, it builds on human nature.  Knowledge helps us to judge things in perspective to the ultimate goal of someday reaching heaven.

6. Piety

Piety is the perfection of justice towards God.  CatholicCulture.org says that piety “produces an instinctive filial affection for God and devotion toward those who are specially consecrated to God“.  Piety would help you to be perfectly contrite of your sins (being sorry because you offended God, not because you are afraid of eternal punishment) and to love others because you can see God in them.

7. Fear of the Lord

Most of you reading probably already know this, but for of those who don’t, it’s not being scared of God.  Rather, it is the perfection of hope.  It is a profound respect for God, and a strong desire not to offend him.  Not like a slave fearing his overlord’s punishment, but a child wishing not to offend his parents.  It is also a firm belief in his mercy and confidence in His power.  Again, fear of the lord is not dread, but a filial respect.

These Gifts are so amazing in the fact that they don’t have to be earned.  That’s why they’re called Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

 

* (Libreria Editrice Vaticana (2011-11-02). Catechism of the Catholic Church (Kindle Locations 11167-11168). United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Kindle Edition.)