Category Archives: Love
“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.
“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
Scandals these days are a dime a dozen it seems. In the world and in the so-called “faithful” of the Church, we need not look to far out our front door to see that there is a lot of darkness out there. All we need to do is take a gander into our own hearts and we can see just how dark things can be. It can be greatly discouraging. For those weak in faith to see the scandals within the Church can cause them to give up on the Christian life altogether. Although there needs to be people within the Church pointing out where the darkness is within Her members, it can seem that there are not a lot of great examples of holiness today. Even though we have great things like the lives of the Saints and have access to millions of books on these incredible Catholics of the past, we need authentic witnesses today. Two weeks ago, I saw a beautifully authentic example of this in one of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, and felt that it needed to be pointed out.
If you are not familiar with the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (FFI), they are a beautiful religious order founded by Fr. Stefano Maria Manelli and Fr. Gabriel Maria Pellettieri, two Franciscan Friars. According to their website they, “like the Seraphic Father St. Francis…strive to be perfectly conformed to the poor, humble, crucified Jesus through a life of charity, supernatural charity and poverty. They are totally consecrated to the Immaculate Virgin after the recent example offered by St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe.” Sadly, in recent years, the FFI received a crushing blow. The Institute, which was one of the fastest growing in the world, was brought to task by the Vatican “to restore among the Franciscans of the Immaculate the original charism that has characterized the service the Institute has rendered to the Church.” Fr. Fidenzio Volpi was assigned by the Congregation for Religious as Apostolic Commissioner to basically bring the order into line. Now a lot of what is being said online leans strongly in the favour of Fr. Volpi being tasked with ending the order itself. I cannot seem to get a clear statement as to the entire purpose of handing the Order over to Fr. Volpi. The situation, however, turned nasty.
The community was made to no longer offer the Mass of the Extraordinary Form, unless given express permission. The founder was also removed from leadership. The subordinates of the Founder were transferred to different countries. He shut down their seminary. He suspended ordinations within the Order. For a year he suppressed the activities of the Lay Apostolates affiliated with the Institute. He also suspended the publications of the Academy of the Immaculate, which produced beautiful catholic literature. There are certainly differing things being said online about how Fr. Volpi handled the Institute. There are people who say that Fr. Volpi slandered and defamed the founder, Fr. Manelli and his family. At any rate, Fr. Volpi truly in the eyes of outsiders, became the “thorn in the side” of this little institute, who though faithful to the Church’s Tradition, are not extremists by any means. Whether all the statements about Fr. Volpi are true or not, they have been treated (and still are, please pray for them) very badly by many members of the clergy and laity, and endure much slander and calumny. I share this because in the midst of all of the craziness at the hands of the Apostolic Commissioner, the Friars and Sisters of the Institute have simply kept their mouths shut and remained obedient. It smells of the sanctity of another Franciscan friar who was placed in solitary confinement for over ten years, the great St. Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio).
Yet, with all of this in mind, these kind Franciscans not only remain obedient, but they also remain completely humble. This is what inspired me two weeks ago. It was announced that Fr. Volpi died on June 7, 2015 (God rest his soul). The response to this from the FFI floored me again. Shortly after his death, Fr. Elias M. Mills offered a Requiem Mass for him. In the description of the video, it states that the Mass was done in “gratitude that the Franciscans of the Immaculate have for the faithful and beautiful service of Fr. Fidenzio Volpi to our community and an additional gesture of unbounded gratitude to His Holiness Pope Francis for appointing such a wonderful priest to guide and govern our Institute. May God grant Fr. Fidenzio a speedy entry into eternal rest and unending peace. Ave Maria!” I encourage you to watch the four minute video of the homily given at the Mass by Fr. Mills. For a community to speak in such kind and generous terms about a man who had done much to effectively destroy the Institute that they loved (though they may not openly admit it), is certainly a beautiful thing and an incredible example of christian charity. Loving your enemies is a true sign of a Christian, and these Franciscans knew how to best love Fr. Volpi, by offering the one thing in the world that matters most – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. God bless the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. May we too learn how to speak well of those who have hurt us, and love them with the love that only Jesus Himself can give.
For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.
Defending the Faith in an increasingly secularized world freaks me out. I have to be honest. It is a tough proposition to speak the truth when you know that you might become less popular. It can be a great way to kill your pride, if you’re into that kind of virtuous practice. We live in an especially ruthless and cutthroat culture, where the true colours of people really begin to show themselves when you challenge their actions or opinions. Yet, it is precisely in those places where we might be uncomfortable that we are called to go and bring the truth. Yet, many catholics hide from the public eye, in order to retain some semblance of popularity, stability, etc. Some catholics even hold places where they could speak and people might listen, however, they choose the road of least resistance and keep their mouths shut. One such public figure is Jim Gaffigan.
Jim Gaffigan is a comedian from New York City. His skit about “Hot Pockets”, made him more widely known. He’s known for generally having clean humour. He is also a catholic with a family of five. I have always loved his comedy, personally. That being said, however, recently he began producing a show called the “Jim Gaffigan Show“, which can be viewed on Comedy Central. His introductory episode is definitely making people talk (including me – well done, Jim). In it, he explores the idea of being a catholic in the public sphere. Yet, instead of showing any sort of pride and joy in being part of the One Church founded by Jesus Christ, he instead focuses his attention on how afraid he is of being outed as a catholic.
The Washington Post picked up on this and wrote an article entitled, “What’s so funny about Jim Gaffigan’s Christianity?” In the article, they explore the fact of Jim’s fear. Michelle Boorstein, the writer of the article, interviewed both Jim and his wife Jeannie to discuss this. In the article, Jeannie shares that their endgame essentially was to show the “Catholicism they live – while also strategically ‘critique-proofing’ themselves.” It was a strategic move to protect themselves from ridicule. When asked if the episode related to Jim’s actual fear of being seen as a catholic, his wife definitely admitted that, “It’s resonant with Jim’s paranoia, that’s definitely true.”
During the episode, Jim admits, “I don’t want to get involved in the culture war. Religion is a very iffy business. As soon as you identify yourself as believing something, you open yourself to ridicule.” Is he right about some of the consequences? ABSOLUTELY! Is that a justifiable reason to never speak the truth though?
His wife goes on to say in the interview that, “He still has point of view, but he’s not going to take a stand because there are people who love Jim who are atheists, and who love Jim and are of all faiths. The Christian ghetto is a hard one to get out of if I’m only preaching to the choir.” Yet, if you watch the episode, there is not one ounce of joy that he takes in his faith. Sure, as a family they may not be using artificial birth control and may go to church on Sunday, but that is certainly not all that makes up what it means to be a real catholic in the world.
Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places, like the first Apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel (Cfr. Rom 1,16 ). It is the time to preach it from the rooftops (Cfr. Matth 10,27 ). Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living, in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern “metropolis”. It is you who must “go out into the byroads” ( Matth 22,9 ) and invite everyone you meet to the banquet which God has prepared for his people. The Gospel must not be kept hidden because of fear or indifference. It was never meant to be hidden away in private. It has to be put on a stand so that people may see its light and give praise to our heavenly Father. ~ Pope St. John Paul II to the youth of the 8th World Youth Day in Denver, CO
Now, before you get your Pope Francis scapulars in a knot, I want to clearly say that I am not judging the state of Mr. Gaffigan’s soul. I am simply speaking about what he has admitted to publically, and how that compares to the call he has received in Baptism; a call that all of the baptized have received. I think in many ways all of us who take this beautiful thing called Catholicism seriously, can relate to dealing with some degree of fear of ridicule from our friends and acquaintances when speaking the Gospel. The Feast of Pentecost which we celebrated this past Sunday is a great reminder of this fact. The Apostles, though pretty solid, had not yet been invigorated by the Holy Spirit to go out into the world and preach the Gospel as they were commanded. So, they huddled up in the Cenacle and kept praying until the Promise of Jesus was fulfilled in their midst. Once the Holy Spirit showed up, they burst through the doors of the Upper Room and declared the “works of God” to the world, first in Jerusalem and spreading across the globe (Acts 2).
We, as baptized and confirmed Christians have this same gift. The Holy Spirit has come to dwell in us through the Sacraments, and has given us the ability to come to know the Truth, to speak and to live it in the world. For Jim Gaffigan, and I think a lot of us, we fail to tap into this reality. Yet, it is our sacred duty, instilled in us through the Sacraments, to go out into the world and “make disciples of all nations.” We must speak the truth, no matter how much the world will hate us. In light of the recent feast the Church has just celebrated, let us take this gift of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling more seriously and ask ourselves, “Are we truly unashamed of the Gospel?”
In this secularized age, when many of our contemporaries think and act as if God did not exist or are attracted to irrational forms of religion, it is you, dear young people, who must show that faith is a personal decision which involves your whole life. Let the Gospel be the measure and guide of life’s decisions and plans! Then you will be missionaries in all that you do and say, and wherever you work and live you will be signs of God’s love, credible witnesses to the loving presence of Jesus Christ. Never forget: “No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a bushel” (Mt 5:15)!
-Pope St. John Paul II