How Catholicism changes me.

Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
St. Augustine

I am very satisfied with my life. In fact, I love it. And, I wholly attribute this to Jesus and Catholicism.

Why is this?  Do I mean this? Does my life bare witness to this? This is not meant to be triumphant, or to gloat. But hopefully instead, it is a reflection on what I am grateful for in the life I have lived to this point. I pray that if you’re open, you might have this  experience too.

I’ve got a restless heart. My finite body has infinite desires. I desire fame, fortune, and power. I have lustful desires too. Girls are really good looking. I’m a slave to many things in life, most of all desserts. In the immortal words of B.O.B, “Everyone’s addicted to something.” I’m definitely selfish, and prideful.  But Catholicism teaches me that God still loves me. Jesus never abandons me. Even in my weakness and failings I know deep in my heart that Jesus loves me, and that He is gracing me in life, helping me to grow day by day. God desires me to be happy, and to grow in holiness (to become whole). My life is not meaningless. Every life has inestimable worth.

The Christian life is not so much about being good, as it is about being free.

I also am taught that the world is created good. The world is something to be enjoyed. Desserts are good, when used properly. Alcohol is good, when used properly. Sex is a beautiful gift, when used properly. God desires us to be happy, not miserable. And Catholicism is teaching me how to truly experience this freedom. Jesus Christ frees us from slavery.

Catholicism also inspires me in the true radical nature of what life can be. I’m freely choosing to live a celibate life because I have confidence in a dynamic loving relationship with God. Marriage is a wonderful good, a beautiful gift, and most all of us are called to it. I desire it more than you could imagine. But for some of us, freely choosing celibacy can be a gift and witness in the world. Jesus, though unmarried, found a way to love perfectly. That’s my mission to learn (and Lord knows I’ve got a lot to learn about it).

I’m Catholic because of the saints. Saints such as Francis of Assisi, Therese of Lisieux, John Paul II, Mother Theresa, Maximilian Kolbe, Teresa of Avila, and Damien of Molokai show me lives that are worth living. Catholicism produces the most wonder-provoking lives. Saints inspire awe and challenge like nothing else. Read stories of the saints and I promise you will find no greater inspiration. The saints glorify God fully in their life. They show us concrete examples of God working in the world.

Catholicism makes me humble. It reinforces that I’m most happy when I can strive to overcomes selfishness and greed. St. Francis’ prayer provides beauty and wisdom:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

I’m Catholic because of Reconciliation. Confessing my sins to a priest humbles me, and it is also cathartic. Through Reconciliation I know that I am forgiven for anything I have ever done. Reconciliation is the definition of grace- a free gift. The Prayer of Absolution, prayed aloud by the priest during confession is fantastically powerful:

“God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of your son, you have reconciled the world to yourself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the church, may God grant you pardon and peace. And I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Those words give me peace like nothing else. It provides a finality and concrete assurance to know that I am forgiven.

I could list a thousand more reasons for why I am so grateful to be Catholic. But for now I’ll end it here. As G.K. Chesterton wrote, “The difficulty of explaining ‘why I am a Catholic’ is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.” I honestly believe it is true.

So I offer you the chance as you explore what makes life worth living. What do you live for? I pray that you might at least be open to Catholicism. Please message me with any questions or struggles that you might have. I’d love to talk. I’d love to listen.

“Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? . . . No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen.” -Pope Benedict XVI

Advertisements

And the stars looked down upon a happy man?

The stars looked down upon a happy man.  G.K. Chesterton wrote a biography on St. Francis of Assisi, one of my two closest saints (buy it here – it’s good). As I was reading it, that line struck me. The stars looked down upon a happy man. Two years later and it still strikes me. A man who grew up prosperous, knowing the thrills of the world, with a father who literally clothed him in jewels, a man who was magnetic and generous with his friends. But a man, though rich in appearance, had a heart unsettled. Uncharmed. Slowly his heart changed. Conversion. From that San Damiano Cross, when Jesus spoke to him saying “go and rebuild my house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins,” this was only one of a series of conversions (First Bio of Francis).

stfrancispainting
My friends AJ and Terri graciously painted this for me last week

Francis abhorred lepers. Until he kissed one. He never felt poverty. Until he traded clothes with a beggar in St. Peter’s square. His heart slowly turned, through physical encounters of love and solidarity. It wasn’t until 9 or so years after his initial conversion that he began preaching to animals. And they listened? If all we need in life is what the world can offer us, then we would never have had a Francis of Assisi. Fortunately, we do. And through these small conversions of the heart, in little ways, Francis became the great saint he is. As his father took him to the Bishop of Assisi to charge him as a thief for giving away his money, Francis’ actions perplex me in such a beautiful when he answered, “Up to this time I have called Pietro Bernadone father, but now I am the servant of God. Not only the money but everything that can be called his I will restore to my father, even the very clothes he has given me.” And he took off all his clothes, except a hair shirt.

“He was penniless, he was parentless, he was to all appearances without a trade or a plan or a hope in the world; and as he went under the frosty trees, he burst suddenly into song.” – GK Chesterton

He suddenly burst into song? What Francis found was joy. He found the pearl of great price, Jesus Christ.  He found that Jesus was the only thing that would give him profound, authentic, and enchanting joy. And isn’t that deep down what all of us are looking for? A spark in our soul that fills us with vigor? The knowledge that we are greatly loved and that we have the blessing to share that love endlessly? The gift to the heart to burst out in song when everything else crumbles?

I pray that God might continue to grant me the grace to know joy more fully and the capacity to laugh more easily.

ppff

 

This is Christian Joy.

I decided to try and write this blog to share and dialogue with you about the joys and questions that I’ve found in my life. I hope that through comments below, or maybe emails, or messages, that you can share insights, questions, joys from your life. I have many wonderful friends and acquaintances that I’m blessed with in life, and over the years we’ve gone and journeyed down different roads. But I think we have a lot to offer each other, especially as we come to the world from countless backgrounds. I hope St. Francis can continue to teach us through the example of his life. Pope Francis too. I hope I can share some of my joy from this beautiful life that I’m blessed with in seminary. And, I hope that your wisdom, and maybe even pains, can help to teach me about the great mystery that we live in. And maybe the stars will look down upon a few more happy men and women.

I’ll share my life with you. I invite you to share your life with me as well.

The grace of Lord Jesus be with all.