Category Archives: Conversion
“Be the change you want to see in the world”
“Never change who you are”
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, No one thinks of changing himself.”
“You were born this way”
These are all familiar quotes to us. We hear them in music, in movies, and see them on cheesy prints they sell at gift stores. One challenges us to change ourselves for the good of the world, while the other embraces comfort in not changing at all.
Often people assume they can change the world by giving in to who they feel they are. This means embracing all faults and making them excusable by thinking that removing those faults would be dishonest to who they are. For example, I really struggle reaching out to people. I am shy about meeting new people, and often I make excuses for myself because I am too afraid to get out of my comfort zone. I found out there is another new mom not far from me and I was so afraid to reach out to her. I made excuses like “she’s a bit older than me”, “she won’t like me” , “she is a stranger”, and “I’m too shy”. I convinced myself it was okay to just keep to myself because of my introverted nature. It took several weeks for me to just send her an e-mail.
It seems more apparent that people would rather change their surroundings than change who they are internally. We may challenge ourselves to do good deeds, which in turn can make an impact on ourselves, but it is only temporary if it isn’t pursued and ultimately will yield little or no fruit if we do not continue to change ourselves.
We may need to reflect on the little things we do and ask ourselves some hard questions. Am I humble? Am I modest in dress? Do I love selflessly? Do I always expect something in return when I do something kind for someone else? Do I really put God first?
The change we embrace must not be solely fuelled by the desire for what we wish to see happen in the word nor in what the world wants from us. Instead, any change we make must be rooted in Christ, who is truth and love. It is only by Him that we can be made perfect. This conversion is about seeking holiness rather than temporary happiness.
Christianity calls us to change the world by changing ourselves daily by picking up our cross and conforming out lives to Christ. It means turning away from sins that we may have allowed to become habits in our daily lives. It requires repentance. A murderer can become a capuchin, but it requires a change of heart through conversion, not just once, but daily.
As the Christmas season draws near, let us prepare our hearts for the celebration of the Incarnation. Let us change our ways and continue to pursue a real relationship with Christ, one that requires us to change and to grow. Let us change into the people of God, not of the world.
Part of our Catholic faith is our belief in the Communion of the Saints. We profess this at every Sunday mass and ask for their intercession. They pray for us continuously in Heaven and join us at each and every mass to celebrate. Many people are familiar with different devotions attributed to different saints, like asking Saint Anthony to pray for us when we loose something or asking for St. Josephs intercession when we are selling our homes. We may even ask St. Nicholas of Myra for his intercession when we are about to punch a heretic in the face (just kidding).
I think that we sometimes can forget that the saints aren’t there only for us to ask for their intercession. There is so much more to them than that. The saints have life stories. Some were martyred, others were consecrated religious, hermits, priests, mothers, fathers, and children. One thing ties them all together: they devoted their lives to Christ and sought Him out in love and faithfulness and lived lives of heroic virtue.
I think we have all had an experience where we want to get to know someone better, so we ask their closest friends about how they have impacted them. We ask what they do for fun and how the relationship has affected them. In this case, the person we want to get to know is Christ and one way we can get to know Him better is by getting to know the Saints. We can learn from them how to be better followers to Christ by learning from their examples.
The lives of Saints can speak to us in unique ways. Some Saints may speak to us in very particular ways. One of my favourite saints is Saint Joan of Arc. I read many entries from her journal and was even more inspired to hear the words from her heart about her complete trust in God from the battlefield to the prison cell to death. Her example continues to inspire me to always trust in God, even when the world is against me. This kind of example was what I needed when I was being confirmed as I was going through hard periods of depression.
Likewise, some may find consolation and comfort in the lives of other saints. A mother may be drawn to the fervent prayers of Saint Monica for the conversion of her son Augustine. For the contemplative, perhaps St.Teresa of Avila’s writings. For the scholar, St. Dominic or Saint Benedict. For the struggling student, Saint Joseph of Cupertino. And all of them loved Jesus and now reside with him in Heaven.
“The greatest Saints, those richest in grace and virtue will be the most assiduous in praying to the most Blessed Virgin, looking up to her as the perfect model to imitate and as a powerful helper to assist them.”
–Saint Louis Marie de Montfort
I won’t forget to make mention to the greatest saint of all: Mary. We should not be strangers to Our Lady, for she is the Queen of Heaven . She knew Christ first, and knew Him His entire earthly life, right up to the cross. We shouldn’t be shy about getting to know Mary better. It is in loving her that we can come to know and love her Son in the most amazing and beautiful ways.
With All Saints day and All Souls Day approaching, perhaps we should spend some time getting to know some of the saints. Let us become close friends with the King and with those that worship Him perpetually in Heaven. Let us get to know the crowd of saints that were inspired to live for the King despite the difficulties they faced. Remember the saints not only by their deeds, but by their steadfast faith, devotion, and love for God and all that is His.
Here are a few books to check out and enjoy:
I have noticed that when the subject of faith, morals, and truth comes up, many resort to using emotionalism. Christians and non-Christians alike can fall into this method of communication and at times, it can be somewhat be manipulative and lack a solid foundation of reason. It is something I have been guilty of, and as the years have passed I have been working on correcting, though it isn’t easy.
Many will use emotions to justify choices or their moral preferences because it is simply easier to be subject to emotion than to reason. Do we do the same when we are trying to have important conversations with people about the faith? Do we resort to emotion first rather than providing sound information rooted in logic and reason?
I have found in my experience that what may make me feel one way may make someone else feel completely different. This is because our emotions are completely subjective. Emotions are unique to us, and are rooted in our personality. Although emotions can help us in sharing an experience, or perhaps help others relate with what we are saying, emotionalism cannot stand up on its own in a rational dialogue with someone.
When we use emotionalism to try and convey a truth, we may find ourselves frustrated when people do not understand us. We may feel so passionately about something, and then when we seek to explain why, our explanations will inevitably fall short. An emotional response or the way something may or may not make a person feel is not a valid consideration when approaching the truth. I am not saying that we shouldn’t share our experiences, nor am I saying they are completely invalid. I am, however, saying that it should not end there.
Throughout history there have been countless men and women who have had an experience of God in their lives. These encounters with the Lord have helped aid them in their spiritual life and the impact that their experience had has even lead many people to the Church. These people, however, who were effective witnesses in the world, were able to not simply point to an experience but to a reality. St. Peter in his epistle reminds us to “always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15).
Let us always seek the truth that goes beyond emotion and to convey that to the world “with gentleness and reverence.”
“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” – Luke 12: 49-53
Being a Christian can feel lonely at times. In today’s culture you may feel ostracized by the world that just wants you to keep your mouth shut and your beliefs to yourself. Also at times, you may feel a sort of spiritual loneliness; where like David in the Psalms, you feel like God is hiding His face from you. Being a Christian is not always a walk in the park. I have personally found that one of the most painful feelings for me is wanting to share the joy I have found in Christ, but even among those closest to me, they simply do not want to hear about it. Sometimes I desperately want to be open about that part of myself with those I love who are not Catholic, but I know it will be met with silence, sarcasm, or anger. Though I still speak up in defence of the truth, I have also had to find different ways of showing that faith without words to my family and friends who do not believe or are against listening to anything that leans towards objective truth.
In our present culture, where “hate” has become the new catchphrase for anyone who stands up for objective moral truth, it is almost comical to see how much hatred the world has for authentic Christianity. Jesus warned us of the hate we would experience for loving and following Him, but He also reminds us that the world hated Him first.
The struggle can be difficult at times, yet, we know that there is victory in the struggles that we endure as Christians. The feeling of loneliness we can encounter can become redemptive. We can come to encounter Christ more deeply by offering our suffering to Him and with Him. Saint Teresa of Avila said, “Suffering is a great favor. Remember that everything soon comes to an end… and take courage. Think of how our gain is eternal.” We must take these words to heart and remember that the lives we live here are temporary.
It is of great importance to pray for the gifts of charity, humility, and patience. Charity is one of the hardest things to practice toward someone who speaks ill of you. It can be equally as hard to remain charitable when Christ or His Church is attacked. It can be much easier to get angry than to take a breath, pray for a moment, and speak respectfully to that person. Keep in mind our Blessed Lord before Pontius Pilate. He simply spoke the truth in peace.
It can be difficult to love the people who attack us, whether it be in the online sphere or among our families, friends, co-workers, etc. It is of paramount importance that we continue to love those who hurt us. This doesn’t mean that you have to be best friends, or even get along. It may even mean ending the relationship. But, we must be willing to reach out and serve them. We must remember that they deserve love and respect, even when they don’t give these things to us. Jesus loves the person who attacks us and desires for them to be united with Him for all eternity. Our job is to show that by our deeds, and then our words.
Remember you are not alone.
I remember years ago feeling very alone and wishing that I wasn’t. I was so caught up in myself that I forgot that I was never alone. I failed so many times to enter into prayer, to recall the saints, or to seek out authentic community. In hindsight, I wish I had been able to remember those painful hours Jesus wept in the garden. I forgot that on the cross, Jesus cried out, “my God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Now, I understand that I can take consolation in the fact that not only can I offer my struggles, loneliness, and sufferings to Jesus, but that I can unite them with His suffering for the salvation of souls.
Pray for those that persecute you. Pray that their hearts may not be hardened. Pray that they may recognize the love in you as God’s love for them. Pray for them if they abandon you, or if you have to leave that relationship for reasons beyond your control. Leave it all in the hands of the Father. He will take care of His children.
We should strive to keep our hearts open to the sufferings and wretchedness of other people, and pray continually that God may grant us that spirit of compassion which is truly the spirit of God. – Saint Vincent de Paul