“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:
My husband and I have been doing a Bible study with a friend of ours over the past few months. It has been such a great experience to sit down together, break open and discuss the chapter we have been reading, have dinner, and even play a few board games after if time allows. The fun and fellowship has been an amazing way to build relationship with one another, but most importantly, with Our Lord.
I have been realizing through this journey that we have had so far, how my relationship with the Lord has deepened and how and continues to grow. Through doing this Bible study, the reality really hit me that if I do not take measures for my faith to grow, it will instead gradually die. It is extremely disheartening that I have seen this all too much within my own family and friends, but also within myself at times. When I am not spending time with the Lord and taking measures to grow in my faith, my faith is weaker, but it grows stronger the more time I spend with Him and learn. I have seen the same in my own family and friends. I have seen too many family members and friends go from just regular Sunday churchgoers, to occasional ones, to not at all. I have also seen family and friends pick and choose over time what they believe “as a Catholic” based on their personal feeling and opinion, rather than seeking to come to know, understand, and embrace what the Church teaches and why. Slowly, they become increasingly lukewarm and give up any semblance of living the Faith.
I can recall personally wrestling with different tenants of my faith, everything from the Eucharist, to Sacramental marriage between one man and one woman, to not condoning abortion, etc, however I came to trust our Lord, and the Church He established, knowing He left His Church with the fullness of truth. This is key, for how can we seek the truth in the Church if we do not even believe that Jesus left us with the truth? From there, I sought to understand why He taught what He did. We are not to accept faith blindly, and so with faith coupled with reason, I researched, and read, and prayed, and came to the knowledge, understanding, and deeply held belief in the tenants of the Faith.
Truth be told, it was and is not always easy to push into our faith and learn rather than choose to reject because we disagree. We have a responsibility as Catholics to know our faith, but also to live it and grow in it, and share it. We cannot do this if we do not know it, and especially if we do not know Our Lord, or trust Him.
There are so many ways in which our faith can be deepened and can grow, and I encourage you to try to work one of these into your life, or some of them. You can go to Adoration, read the Catechism or scripture and/or do a Bible Study. For these, Catholic Biblical commentaries are invaluable! I’ve listed some resources below. You can also read and be inspired by the writings of the Saints, or other good Catholic literature, also links listed below.
Jesus once shared with us, in the Gospel of Matthew, the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids:
“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise replied, ‘Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he replied, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
The oil of which they speak is the oil of faith, and only our faith in the Lord, will count for us in the end. But where do we get this oil? We get it from taking measures to get to know our Lord, through the prayer and Sacraments, and through study of scripture and the writings of the Saints, and by their example which we read about. May we all take measures to know Our Lord. God wants to to be with Him, but as He tells us, we need to seek to know Him too.
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