Category Archives: strength
“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
Sometimes, I believe that people are actually choosing to be ignorant (Catholics included), though many people would rather not admit to it. Ignorance can simply make life easier to deal with when you choose to not know the truth.
Knowing the truth can be painful. It can make us question ourselves, especially about sensitive moral issues. Truth can change us, and often we can find ourselves afraid of what those changes can bring. However, it is only if we embrace the truth and the change that it brings that we can enter into fruitful dialogue with each other. I truly believe that it is a chosen ignorance that is preventing us all from effectively communicating and understanding each other.
There are many people out there that think they know Catholicism, but in reality they know only a shadow of it. The world offers often a watered down spirituality instead of actual Catholic truth. Its an unfortunate situation that so many people flock to imitations of truth and few actually go to the source of truth, who is Christ and his 2000 year old church.
When uninformed Catholics or Catholics who choose to be ignorant of church teaching try to communicate what they believe to be Catholic doctrine, there are going to be issues. Often, the dialogue falls flat without real issues ever being addressed. To put it simply, you can’t give what you don’t have. You can’t defend or share what you don’t know. That’s why effective catechesis as well as prayer and an active relationship with Christ are so crucially important for dialogue from Catholics.
On the other hand, when we seek to know the truth and to better understand our neighbour rather than to win an argument, we can find that it is much easier to communicate. It’s not just non-Catholics who need to better understand others and be more open to the truth. It is important that we as Catholics make the effort to understand where other people are coming from and to be respectful towards them.
My plea to Catholics is this: be in love with Christ, who is the Truth. Be in love with His sacred heart, especially in the most Blessed Sacrament. Go directly to the Church for answers, not to those who only think or claim to know the faith when they in fact believe in a self-constructed faith. For those that are not Catholic, know what the church teaches rather than assume. We should all seek to embrace truth and not relativism. If we want to have understanding and peace we must seek charity, truth, and seek to have respectful and logical dialogue. This does not mean that we must agree with one another, but we must all have the ability to communicate so we may love and understand one another better.
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Have you ever asked yourself, “Why can’t anything just go right for once?” I know I have felt that way more times than I can count. I remember asking that question the loudest, while stuck on the side of the freeway in the middle of Maryland. I was on a road trip from Canada, and my car’s alternator had died. I had done everything in my power before making the trip to ensure that everything was good. I did not expect this. As myself and three friends sat in the car, calling the tow truck company, I remember looking at the dome light of the car as it slowly faded to black and saying those very words, “Why can’t anything just go right for once?”
That was the day of my engagement to the most beautiful woman in the world. I had wanted that day to be perfect. Yet, from the moment I woke up that day, I encountered struggle after struggle, from losing my toothbrush to losing my wallet. The only thing that seemed to go right was the engagement itself. Now here I stand, over four years later, married to that same beautiful woman but the struggles continue- why?
Reading through the lives of the Saints, you will see a common theme: struggle. As Secular Discalced Carmelites, my community is just finishing up reading the Letters of St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila), our Foundress. As we have been reading her letters, I realized that this great Doctor of the Church had two major constants in her life: God’s passionate love and struggles. That is not to say she did not experience success and different favours, but it was not without a constant battle simultaneously. Every time she went to try to found a community she’d be hit with another major pitfall, whether it be apprehension from clergy or personal illness. Nothing went without a hitch for her it seemed. But, her struggles were not the end of the story.
The same goes for Team Orthodoxy’s beloved Patron, St. Peter Julian Eymard. St. Peter Julian was a man of failed dreams. Even his best friend betrayed him in the process of founding the community. Every time St. Peter Julian set out to create a worthy throne for Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament, he’d be hit with a huge pitfall; he’d lose the house, the Bishop revoked his support, etc. Whatever good St. Peter Julian wanted to accomplish was 99.9% of the time met with a battle.
The Saints and above all our Blessed Lord who they emulate, truly personify this basic truth: Good will always require a battle. Recently, the Catholic Church has been encountering this battle too. The recent Synod on the Family shows how true this is. How easy was it for the wayward Cardinals and Bishops to get their corrupted version of Relatio document into the hands of the media? Yet, the more faithful and orthodox Bishops and Cardinals struggled to get this fixed. But, the damage has been done. We see faithful clergy like Cardinal Burke seemingly being “demoted” for whatever reason, and attacked by his brother Bishops and Cardinals for his faithfulness to Christ and His Teachings. Yet, the spineless Cardinals who only care about themselves seem to sit in the lap of luxury. This is not a new thing. This has been happening not just for 2,000 years, but all of salvation history. From Cain and Abel to Jesus, to Pope Francis, those who seek good will always be met with a battle.
The current world hates a struggle. Everything seems to be employed in the service of comfort and ease. Make it faster, quicker, smarter. The easier it makes our life, the better. That is the general sentiment. Yet, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” Yet, what does it take to achieve greatness?
Push into the struggle.
Winter is on our heels here in Canada, and with that comes lots and lots of snow and ice. If you’ve read Dante’s Inferno, you know that the final ring of Hell, where the devil lives, is actually bitter cold. It is not filled with flames, but ice. Pretty much, the only difference between there and my home town is that the Devil is not trapped here, forever gnawing on the brain matter of Judas Iscariot. I HATE the cold. Anyways, I digress. One thing they tell us all in “Driver’s Ed” as we prepare to get our driver’s licence is that if you hit a patch of ice and you start to lose control of your car, turn into the spin. It seems counter-intuitive to do it, but it actually helps you regain control of the vehicle instead of making the situation worse. The knee-jerk reaction is to pull away. This, however, only serves to create a greater loss of control. Why am I telling you this?
The point that I am making is simply this: to achieve greatness, we have to push into the struggle. A lot of people, especially young people, are looking for comfort. I recently spoke with a university professor who lamented at the lack of care his students have for their education. If they fail a test, they demand a re-test, because somehow something was wrong with the test and not with them. Our Western Culture has served to create monsters of people, who instead of seeking to be heroic, seek to be comfortable. The recent story of Brittany Maynard (Lord, have mercy) who committed suicide exemplifies where your mind can go when comfort is more important than greatness. Yet, the media praised her as a sort of hero.
False heroism. This is what has befallen our culture, and the local church is certainly not exempt. All of the scandals that have ravaged the church in recent years are rooted in the fact that it is easier to allow evil than to battle for good. It is easier to give into whatever temptation comes at you than to mortify yourself. So-called pastors are afraid to speak the truth out of fear. Not just fear that they will become less popular with the “frozen chosen”, but even with their own Bishops. God bless the priests and Bishops that remain committed to the Truth and speak it without compromise. Yet, we have all seen this before.
Every great story has within it a great hero. The hero will inevitably encounter struggles and enter into battle with a malevolent enemy. The hero wins in the end, but it is not without incredible struggle. Friends, this is our story. We have been called by the King of Kings to fight for Him and for His Church. The first battle begins within ourselves. We are called to discipline the flesh and become virtuous. As we conquer those dark things within ourselves, with the help of grace, we begin to see things change in the world around us. We are also called to restore the social order in the world. We are made to be heroic, not comfortable. There is going to be great struggles along the way. Yet, we know there can also be great victory, though it may not be the easy victory we had in mind. The question is, the next time we encounter something difficult and ask ourselves, “Why can’t anything just go right for once,” are we going to push into the struggle or pull away from it?