Category Archives: Journal

The Dignity of Women.

Today women are often looked upon by men in ways God never intended.
Satan’s work can be seen all around us, on billboards, on TV, and especially on the internet. Women are slandered and used quite often for monetary gain and pleasure.
Why has the devil cast so much of his effort to distorting and perverting the image of women?
Its actually a very simple question to answer. Women in my mind hold power in heaven unlike anything or anyone else on earth. With them the future is brought into being, future saints, future men and women of God. On them mostly rests the training and guidance of the world through its future generations. And through their prayers, Gods plans are furthered and realized.
I know in my own life I’ve had many rough areas. My parents thought at one point my future was a jail cell, or a life far removed from what I have actually become.
I thank God and all the saints for my mother, who untiringly prayed for me, watched over me, and helped me even when I didn’t think I needed help. I’m already realizing many instances in which I remember my mom saying, “You’ll thank me for this later”. And I do.

Dignity. What is it?
Dignity is a kin of respect, a gift given us by God.
Dignity realizes within each of us the image in God. It is our right as human beings, and should be realized for even the lowest of us. It demands Honor and respect.
Now we have defined what our human dignity is, how has Satan assaulted it within society, and especially towards women?

Firstly, through lust.
God created us to be loved, and from his love for us comes to us our dignity. And because of his love for us, we should love each other with that same dignity.
God creates nothing imperfect. And so we are perfect creation, and only flawed because of the sin that entered the world we are born into. Lust destroys the image of Gods creation in the eyes of those who fall into it.
Society teaches many people today that lust is love, that sex is casual, and that pornography is acceptable.
I think of this as 2 lenses.
The first, the lens of Gods eternal love, the lens of dignity. Through which who we are and who we will become is shown.
The second, the lens of Lust, the lens of destruction. Though this lens we no longer see a person. We see a THING. A MEANS. And dignity never enters the equation.

You could argue this for both sexes. Both being susceptible to this lie. However my focus is from the mans perspective.
What is it that makes us fall into this lie? What is it we really seek?
What most men want to see in a woman is:
1. Modesty. Because we know a modest woman holds her self higher than most.
And hasn’t yet degraded her self by lowering her standards.
2. Morality. Because we know a Moral woman is a true treasure, and walks with Christ.
3. Purity. Because we know a pure woman will belong to only one. And has saved her being for her calling, in this sense, the man who will prize her highly, and love her always.
After all that we look for the other qualities we seek. Good with kids, hard working, fun, ect.

The 2nd way the devil assaults the dignity of women.
The idea of casual sex.
Our sexuality is our gift from God, and in marriage, the most powerful expression of love in this life. And that is why Satan wishes to destroy it.
Married intercourse is the deepest form of love available to us on earth. So powerful in fact that, with Gods grace and blessing, creation is achieved.
God, the all powerful creator, sharing his power with us, in the act of creation.
Casual sex perverts and destroys this.
Marital relations are a covenant with God, in which each person gives them selves to each other totally, completely, and for eternity. Casually this becomes a temporary language of love. And in fact is more than just occasionally, lust. It says “I love you so much that I don’t have the integrity to wait for God to enter this relationship. And I love you so much that I’ll give only part of my self to you, and only for a little while”.
The language of forever is gone and replaced by the desires of now.
And this is why 50% of marriages fail. Trying to seal a forever promise with temporary glue.
So the devil destroys the dignity of our sexuality. And instead of seeing the daughters of God like we are meant to, men see only an object, instead of princesses of the Divine King–playthings for their own selfish desires.
And there is only one thing more degrading, that destroys dignity more than this.

Abortion. Abortion takes the dignity of the human being which we have already talked about, and utterly destroys it. Instead of perverting or mocking it, it stifles and kills it.
And even more than that.. The divine calling for a woman to conceive life within her, and to carry it, to nurture it is destroyed. And in abortion Satan ultimately takes away a woman’s greatest gift from God. Her child. And in doing so deprives the world of a brighter future.

Women of God. You are all SO BEAUTIFUL! And this is why the powers of darkness assail you.
Your dignity deserves the most humble respect from us men.
You capture men’s hearts and tame them.
You are co creators with God Himself.
You are daughters, princesses, beautiful creations of God. And all men should respect you all, and show you great love and dignity.
It was ordained by God from the beginning that women play the most crucial roles in life. By bringing it into being, and nurturing it.
Instead of coming into the world by His own divine power. Christ, God, true God and true man, came into the world from the womb of a woman we now know as the Queen of Heaven. Only through her “yes” did Jesus enter this world for the salvation of our souls. Not because God couldn’t otherwise… He chose to, and this TRULY shows the real dignity of women.

And for those of who you may have lost sight of that dignity. I pray in the name of Christ that your eyes be opened again. And that again you raise your standards to be worthy of who you REALLY are. Because you are beautiful, and you are loved.

For those of you who still stand, dignified but yet modest and kind, continue to set your examples.
In a world where you might stand totally counter to the culture around you, remain strong. Only you can let yourself fall, and your dignity crumble.

God revealed in our lives through suffering and love

In today’s society suffering is often thought of as bad luck or simply something to be endured. As a Catholic though, there is so much more to be offered, literally, in the service of God, by our own personal trials and suffering.

Many of us have often been told or heard about “Offering our suffering up to God”, however not many people know how or even why.
Our example is the Cross of Jesus Christ. During the passion Jesus gave His life for us in absolute and perfect love. Offering our sins up to God with His suffering.
In the same way we can offer our suffering to the Cross for the sake of others.

Something else we’ve all heard before as well is “God is love”.
But we always miss the profound truth in that statement, and the potential with which we can live our lives underneath that teaching.
If God is love, then any act of love we are involved in is not only of God, but brings His graces with it.
The saints and prophets often in the bible would take no reward for the works they preformed. I would say this is due to the fact that all good we do on earth, through love, is simply an extention of God him self in our own lives. We always ask the question: “Where is God? I mean in the real world, if he is in all things, how do we recognize him?”
And this is the answer.
In every act of love we have the opportunity to see Gods face, and through the world he so lovingly created.
But we still have yet to answer the first question:
“How DO I offer my suffering to God? And what does that actually mean?”
We offer our suffering to the Cross of Christ through an act of love. With true love and compassion for the suffering and trials of others, we send our love through our suffering for the sake of others.
If God is love, then an act, even painful, done in love for another person or persons, will ultimately bring Gods grace and love to that person.
And this is the way of Christian suffering.
In the bible it says that we in essence complete the mission of Christ on the cross through our suffering.
How?
By using our suffering to continue his mission of salvation. That by our suffering within the shadow of Christ’s Cross, we bring Christ and his love and grace, to the rest of the living world.

Redemption

I often find it hard to get my mind wrapped around the idea of God’s mercy. Like the stars in the sky that remind me of the great vastness of the universe, I cannot even begin to fathom how unbelievably blessed I am to experience something so boundless and immeasurable, yet tangible and real.

In a very strange way, I am reminded of that awkward time in 7th grade when I finally began to grasp the idea that variables and letters, could represent numbers and values. While I couldn’t exactly explain the logic behind this unsettling discovery, I somehow found it easy to understand how these variables worked – this coming from someone who still thinks that variables are one of the greatest mysteries of life, next to women.

Coincidentally, much like my experience with the peculiar nature of variables, I still struggle with trying to comprehend the wonder and splendor that is my Father’s mercy, love, and compassion. But I am starting to realize in a more profound and concrete way, that unlike those pesky variables, I don’t need to comprehend them. I don’t think anyone can. I simply need to immerse myself in all that He is, and follow Him.

God’s grace has often been compared to the grandeur and depths of the ocean. And to think that this is the same ocean that envelops each and every one of us is beyond all human understanding, and yet, it somehow makes all the sense in the world when you come to realize just how much He loves us.

Too often have I felt undeserving of God’s mercy and wallowed in self-pity.

But I know that God calls me just as I am, flaws and all. He doesn’t love me for what I’ve done, but for who I am – His lover, His child, His friend.

So as we approach Ash Wednesday and Lent with contrite hearts, let us also reflect upon how the love of Christ has changed and transformed our lives.

It’s made all the difference in mine.

Fr Stephen Smuts

See also: Can You Come to Jesus Without Church?

YouTube videos go viral all the time, but sermons rarely do.

Enter Jefferson Bethke, a young “spoken-word” poet who recently posted the video “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” It has been viewed more than 10 million times in the past 10 days.

The video opens with an eerie soundtrack and the phrase “Jesus>Religion” in a stark, white typeface. His poem begins, “What if I told you, Jesus came to abolish religion?”

In a polished, hip style, he continues with such controversial questions for four minutes: “If religion is so great, why has it started so many wars? Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor?” Mr. Bethke describes religion as no more than “behavior modification” and “a long list of chores.” This leads him to conclude, “Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrums.” And…

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Marriage Part 1: Love

Seeing as this is entire series about marriage, I think it makes sense to talk about love first. I think the first question to ask is what love is. Is it warm fuzzy feelings in your tummy when you see that someone special? Is it an emotion? Is it a feeling? All of these combined? You might be shocked to find that none of these are the answer.

What is love then? Well first of all, there are lots of different types of love in different contexts, but we are going to talk about married love, because my love for pizza is a lot different is a lot different than my love for my husband, or even my family and friends. Love is an action. Love is to will the good of another, even at ones own expense. “Love is the free self-giving of the heart. [2346] To have a heart full of love means to be so pleased with something that one emerges from oneself and devotes oneself to it. A musician can devote himself to a masterpiece. A kindergarten teacher can be there wholeheartedly for her charges. In every friendship there is love. The most beautiful form of love on earth, however, is the love between man and woman, in which two people give themselves to each other forever. All human love is an image of divine love, in which all love is at home. Love is the inmost being of the Triune God. In God there is continual exchange and perpetual self-giving. Through the overflowing of divine live, we participate in the eternal love of God. The more a person loves, the more he resembles God. Love should influence the whole life of a person, but it is realized with particular depth and symbolism when man and woman love one another and become ‘one flesh.’ (Gen 2:24)” (Youcat 402) That pretty much sums it up in a nutshell. It is to will the good of another. I’m really only repeating myself, but I feel that it must be stressed because secular society has a distorted view of what love really is. To secular society, it is selfish, and needy, and all about these feelings and emotions that may not even stick around forever. Think about it. How many times have you heard someone say, “I just don’t feel like I love him/her anymore,” or “I feel like I need/want this or that.” There is so much emphasis on feeling and emotions, which isn’t what love is all about! Love is not always convenient, or easy. Love isn’t always about you, or what makes you feel better. There have been plenty of situations where it would have been easier to just opt out of my relationship than trying to love my husband through out our entire 3 years of being together.

I know this post is already kind of short-ish, but if I were to continue, this post would never end, because I could honestly write books, and books about love. I strongly suggest reading up on love in the Catechism though, there is a lot of great information in there, and don’t forget to look under Charity as well! It is basically the same thing! All I don’t really consider myself to be a master of love myself, because I’m fairly new at it :) But I will leave you with another famous Bible quote to reflect on.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, it believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NAB) 

[PURE: The 90-Week Devotional Series] Week 2 – Who Determines Your Worth?

de·ter·mine

   [dih-tur-min] Show IPA verb, -mined, -min·ing.

verb (used with object)

1. to settle or decide (a dispute, question, etc.) by an authoritative or conclusive decision.

2. to conclude or ascertain, as after reasoning, observation,etc.

3. Geometry . to fix the position of.

4. to cause, affect, or control; fix or decide causally: Demand for a product usually determines supply.

5. to give direction or tendency to; impel.

The good old dictionary shows how powerful a word it is: Determine. The first definition means to settle or decide something by an authoritative decision. When the thing they’re deciding is as personal and defining as your own worth, to whom will you bestow that authority?

What does worth even mean? Let’s check.

worth

1    [wurth] Show IPA

(…)

noun

4. excellence of character or quality as commanding esteem:women of worth.

5. usefulness or importance, as to the world, to a person, or for a purpose: Your worth to the world is inestimable.

6. value, as in money.

7. a quantity of something of a specified value: ten cents’ worth of candy.

8. wealth; riches; property or possessions: net worth.

That’s even more powerful. Somebody of conclusive authority is determining your usefulness or importance to the world. Now, how many times in your life have you stopped to consider in whose hands you put that authority? It depends on the judge, what the verdict is. If you put the authority in the hands of the secular world, you’re going to be judged by your appearance and compared to skinny women in magazines. You’ll be compared to rich men with mansions. Realistically, how many people will be worth anything when compared to that?

The problem here is that many kids nowadays choose to give this authority to people who are only going to make them feel worthless. Because if we’re letting someone who edits a fashion magazine judge our usefulness or importance…to put it quite bluntly, most of the world won’t be useful or important. That’s why it’s such a sad world! These people don’t even deserve to hold your value in their hands. Why? Jesus said: And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Mat 10:28, RSV

I think it’s important to point this out. While most people will go straight to the next verses about the worth of a sparrow, we need to let the world know that these people don’t deserve trust regarding your worth at all. A lot of kids will question how we know we shouldn’t fear these forces, but we need to remember that right before Jesus told us how God determines our worth, He also said who can’t determine it and why. It’s in the Bible. How many of you knew that?

Rebecca says:

My tendency was to live with a sense that God was disappointed in me—that I was not good enough. Through study and prayer and time alone with Him, the Lord assured me that I am loved and secure. I know that I’m His princess, accepted and cherished. Pure, page 6

We are all princes and princesses, not by how the world judges us but by how God loves us. He told us not to listen to the world, so why are we? Finally, I’ll share the passage about the sparrow:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matt. 10:29-31

I don’t think this passage quite does it justice, because it’s been read so many times that our brains watered it down. But this is nothing less than a picture out of a fairy tale: We are royalty of Heaven! We may not ever feel like it down here on earth, but our rewards will be great.

St. Patrick put it well:

If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God so as to teach these peoples; even though some of them still look down on me.

As did Rebecca:

How much time do you spend in the morning thinking about how others will perceive you based on what you look like each day? How could you spend some of that time contemplating your worth in God’s eyes? Look in the mirror and realize how precious you are to Him.

Have you put the authority to judge your worth into worldly hands? Turn back now, because the only one who can judge you justly and determine your worth is the Lord. He knows what’s best for you. And He’s watching you…everywhere. Read Psalm 139:

Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Let only darkness cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to thee, the night is bright as the day; for darkness is as light with thee.

How many magazine editors can claim that authority?

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2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 25 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

[PURE: The 90-Week Devotional Series] Week 1 – Are You In Tune With God’s Purpose?

Day One in the book Pure is about being in tune with God’s purpose. It speaks about how everything the Lord creates has its place and purpose in this world, and an important part to being pure is finding your purpose and sticking to it.

Rebecca says:

One definition for pure, when being used in the sense of a musical tone, means “free from harshness or roughness and being in tune.” God has a purpose for every one of our lives, and He invites us to get in tune with His plan. … If we want our lives to have an impact, that begins and ends with discovering and living our our God-given purpose. Without purpose we have no clear direction, and we may not know which decision to make when we’re at a crossroads. (Pure, pages 2-4)

It really does make a lot of sense that to live a pure life you need to know what you’re made of and see what you’re doing, in order to discern what you’re supposed to choose for yourself and the life you live. I’ve read this chapter over several times and I’m still not sure if I’ve discerned my purpose.

As Catholics, after all, our ultimate purpose is achieving sainthood; however, God has different paths planned out for us to get there, and we need to know what we’re doing in order to make the correct decisions so we’ll arrive at that destination.

It’s a given that our purpose is sainthood. God’s plan for us is sainthood. This is the big picture, the destination, if you will. But we also have missions to carry out on this earth that we have to pursue while in tune with His desires, so that we won’t mess up. We need to be in tune with Him to get it right and become saints.

That being said, what’s your mission?

When I got the idea from God to start Universal Faith and I tried to get people in my parish to help me out, they just kept asking me, “What do you want me to do for it?” And all I could reply with was, “Do whatever you’re good at!” Most of them just looked at me with puzzlement, pretended to be interested, and walked away; they wouldn’t bring it up again. I think they didn’t believe that it was as easy as pursuing what you’re passionate about—there has to be something more to serving the Lord and “starting a movement,” as I called it. But believe me, finding your purpose—it’s all about what you’re good at; it’s all about the gifts God gave you.

Finding your purpose is easier, perhaps, than carrying it out properly.

For example, me. I spent almost all my 18 years of life writing (I went overboard because of it, but that’s another story.) The things I spent my earliest teens writing were fiction and fantasy. I created my own world and lived there. I was good at writing, but I wasn’t using it to help God at all. I became so absorbed in my writing that I stopped praying at night and my hobby became my false idol. I was so out of tune.

I’m not saying that I should have been writing religious commentary or devotionals (as much as I’m going to give them a try now.) But I got so out of tune with my purpose, I let the writing get in the way and I distanced myself from Jesus. He’d given me a gift, I took it selfishly, and wouldn’t give anything back—not even a few minutes before bed in prayer.

A year of misery followed when I got Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and I couldn’t write at all! I’d reached the point where I’d become so out of tune, I was now a total wreck with no purpose left at all. At least, that’s how it felt. I’d abused my purpose and messed it up.

I had no choice then but to stop and face the Lord and apologize. And He forgave me. I sank into a depression for the majority of the past year, and I know there are times when I was crying and miserable where He sent the Holy Spirit to comfort me. Though I didn’t quite think of it this way when it happened, I believe He was helping me get back in tune; now I write to serve Him and my fiction works have become an aside. When I do get to working on my fiction again, I feel like my writing style has matured like I have.

I spent a year looking for that balance so I could get in-tune with His plan for me, using the gift He gave me, and I’m starting to find it. I think I get more and more in-tune every day.

So, look at yourself. Look at what you enjoy doing. What are you good at? Your passion comes from God. Whatever you enjoy doing is a gift God gave you. How can you use that gift to serve Him? I believe that’s the first question you should ask yourself when trying to discover your purpose, and a huge priority to getting in-tune with the Lord. Do your hobbies with passion, or don’t do them at all—but if you haven’t yet, find a way to take that gift God gave you and give back with it a little. He never gives you anything for selfish enjoyment: Everything has a purpose.

Take this week to think about what you’re good at, and what you can do to give back to God with it. To be in-tune with His plan for you, it’s very important that you remember: This gift isn’t for idle enjoyment. Everything He gives you has a purpose. Use that gift to change the world.

Find your purpose, and later we’ll work on purifying it and how it affects the way you live.

If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze! -St. Catherine of Siena

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WE ARE…

MARKED!

My story…the conclusion

I ended my last post pretty abruptly with a description on my former perception of the Mass. Now  I will fast forward to college.  I am currently a sophomore at a university somewhere in the Deep South.  My plan to return to the north immediately after high school was foiled by what I formerly thought was my crappy standardized test taking skills but what I know realize was God’s will.  At orientation I signed up to be apart of the Catholic organization’s listserv, once again thinking that I would get involved in Church merely to meet new people and to find a group on campus that would have to tolerate me no matter how annoying and/or boring I would become.

Long story short, through getting involved with the Catholic organization on campus, I went on a retreat that changed my life.  It sounds dumb.  But that doesn’t make it any less of a reality.  Because when you think about it, a retreat is a group of people, sent by God, to do God’s work.  And God’s work almost always involves the conversion of souls, a conversion towards faith, hope, or charity.  I realized on that trip, amidst the serenity of and perfection of nature, the subtle but powerful sense of peace that arises from having a personal relationship with God. And during adoration, I suddenly saw all the puzzle pieces of my life laid out and it all made sense.

What I’ve learned from my “Coming to Jesus” experience is that our personal plans are flawed, unlike God’s.  I’ve learned that no matter how I try to logic myself out of my faith or whenever I stumble and fall into mediocrity, God is there to grab me by the tail of my shirt to pull me back.  I know I’m on a Mission now.  We are all on the same Mission.  And we won’t be perfect.  We’re people and we sin.  But we must persevere.  I once heard a speaker say that a true soldier is the old man who clutches his Rosary for dear life.  He knows what’s at stake, and he’s fighting for it in the best way he can.  So I challenge you all to do the same.  Be the soldier you were meant to be.