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Tread Softly, Pray Fiercely

Tread Softly Pray Fiercely

The past several months of this year have been exceptionally hard to watch, as friends and family seem to quickly and easily tear each other apart. Assassinations of character, name-calling, ad hominum attacks, and vitriol seem to be spewed with nary a thought of a backward glance. All across social media, the push to speak first, think after seems to be prevalent, and the share buttons seem to promote use of simply sharing what best suits our own narrative, rather than considering the point of view of friends who may not hold that same viewpoint.

We all seem to be in a rush to drown out the other person, without taking the time to not just hear the words of the other person, but to slow down and identify the true intent behind that person’s beliefs. Social media, of late, is simply a tool being used to air grievances, ills, snarkiness, and ugliness.

There used to be an unspoken social norm that said, whenever engaging in public discourse with someone outside your home, “Never discuss money, politics, sex, or religion.” Yet, in today’s world, it seems as though we have all waded into a hotbed of discussion, with no preparation in understanding the best way forward in a debate is to listen to the opponent’s argument – both spoken, and unspoken.

And, our relationships are suffering because of our inability to listen… to truly hear each other.

Left and right we are witnessing our friends and family on social media tout their message, while lambasting those who do not agree.

This lack of voice has left many feeling downtrodden, depressed, and silenced.

This is precisely where the devil wants us.

Matthew 7:19-20 reminds us, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.”

The uncomfortable question to ask ourselves is not where we stand on any given issue; rather, the question to ask is are our actions – spoken and unspoken, in real life or on social media – bearing good fruit?

What are these fruits? The list of bad fruit, or “works of the flesh,” is found in Galatians 5:19-21 and include, “… hatreds… jealously… outbursts of fury… dissensions, factions..” and more.

Yet, the good fruits, or the fruit of the Holy Spirit, are, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

There is a time and a place to correct someone for their sins. After all, we are given the task as Catholics to perform Spiritual Works of Mercy, in addition to the Corporal Works of Mercy, which include admonishing sinners and instructing the ignorant.

However, many of us have forgotten the other Catholic Spiritual Works of Mercy: Bear patiently those who wrong us, forgive offences, and comfort the afflicted.

In an effort to prove our way is the best and most correct, we find ourselves speaking over, and forgetting the patience, the forgiveness, and the comfort to which we are called to share.

As faithful Christians, we are reminded blatantly in 1 Corinthians 13:1, “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.”

Going back to the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and the Spiritual Works of Mercy, the guidance in 1 Corinthians is sound, but is also sometimes a hard pill to swallow.

How do we extend love to others, when we are interested in getting our own viewpoint heard, or even convince others of our approach to situations?

Quite simply:

We tread softly, gently and silently.

We assess the situation.

We determine which battle we want to choose to fight and champion.

We remember the adage that God gave us one mouth to speak, and two ears to listen, and we employ that saying as we approach the situation.

We employ the cardinal virtue of prudence, which challenges us to, “discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1806).

We recognize the bad fruit trying to sway our country toward further division, hatred, and violence. Satan operates under darkness, and in secrecy, to create division.

We call out the prince of darkness, not by casting blame at each other and hurling accusations at them, but by recognizing his sleight of hand in the strife.

We call to mind one of the last words of Christ, as He hung on the Cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Finally, we pray… fiercely.

We ask God for prudence, but we also ask Him for the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and for the ability to speak less and listen more.

We ask God for both the willingness to hear the spoken word of our opponent, and the grace to see beyond the spoken word to understand the unspoken, and perhaps even subconscious, motivation behind the words.

We pray, not just for the other person, but for humility to acknowledge when our own viewpoint may be both difficult to hear, and also at times, completely incorrect.

Simply put, as we continue to wade the waters of instant gratification on social media, and swim these waters of division in this world, we tread softly, but pray fiercely.

– AnnAliese Harry

We listen to the words spoken but listen harder to the underlying motivations and experiences of the other person.

We speak firmly, but with patience.

We love each other.

We pray unceasingly (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

As we continue to move forward, let each of us visit, and re-visit, the uncomfortable question at hand – are our actions, both in real life and on social media, bearing good fruit?

Are we living with our collective and individual sight set on our eternal home?

Are we ready to squirm a little by taking accountability of our own actions, in an effort to live in a manner which is ultimately pleasing to God?

Are we being agents of love?

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Fostering Unity: The Lessons Begin At Home

FosteringUnityTheLessonsBeginatHome

I was remiss in meeting my deadline for this month’s article, and chose a rare lazy Sunday afternoon to get caught up. While drafting an entirely different article, my phone began blowing up with the most recent division causing a stir among Catholics in the United States. I noticed every. single. Catholic. group I belong to on Facebook had individuals posting about the seventeen year old young men and the Native American drummer during a Friday in January.

The thoughts I had spent days drafting about community and the importance of relationships began to unravel, as I watched people begin to launch into political tirades, name calling, and derogatory attacks. 

I’m not going to weigh in on this most recent controversy. But, as I drafted my article, trying to temper the anger and sadness welling within, the following message came to my head and heart.

Satan loves division. In fact, Satan thrives on division. As I’ve explained to my six year old before, Satan does a little happy dance any time we argue and fight with each other, and any time there are bad things occurring in the world. Satan would like nothing more than to have us throw our hands up in the air in exasperation with each other, sling mud and intolerance back and forth, and level our communities with hatred. 

I once had a military chaplain say during his homily, “Where there is the Holy Spirit, there is unity.” The Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, repairs the ripped seams torn apart by God’s enemy. The Holy Spirit provides a strong barrier and fortress against wickedness and snares. The Holy Spirit provides comfort and draws people into community.

Oddly enough, my initial post for this month was going to be about community… and, a reminder that humans are made for relationships. Not necessarily romantic relationships, but we are made for community.

Scientific studies have indicated that those who live within community settings live longer than those who do not routinely interact with others. Married couples live longer than unmarried individuals.

At the end of the day, family is the most basic formation of communities. Family is the initial community of which one is exposed. As 2224 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) reminds readers, “The home is the natural environment for initiating a human being into solidarity and communal responsibilities. Parents should teach children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies.” It is in the family environment that every small human begins to learn the construct of how to be within a larger community. Behavior that is accepted at home will presumably be allowed within the larger community. What is not allowed at home will presumably not be encouraged within the larger community, or society.

And yet, almost daily, there is a new headline breaking which reports on the negative behavior of individuals and negative interactions between groups of people. Scrolling through Facebook feeds, we see calls to action – not advocating compassion, respect, love, and unity; rather, calls to action involving name-calling, derogatory commentary by news reporters and observers alike, and vitriol aimed at making another person feel devalued for their contribution to the matter at hand.

Section 2227 of the CCC reads, “Children in turn contribute to the growth in holiness of their parents. Each and everyone should be generous and tireless in forgiving one another for offenses, quarrels, injustices, and neglect. Mutual affection suggests this. The charity of Christ demands it.

The charity of Christ demands that, within families, “each and everyone should be generous and tireless in forgiving one another for offenses, quarrels, injustices, and neglect.” Within a family structure, we are to learn how to forgive. But, we also learn how to coexist. Every person in a family has their own unique personality and approach to situations, and within that family structure, we are supposed to be learning how to interact with others who may have differing views and opinions.

Yet, somehow, there has been a disconnect. If these lessons are truly being taught within the walls of our homes, then how are we not seeing the wider community positively influenced as an outcome of these lessons?

In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul exhorts in Galatians 5:13-14, “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Furthermore, in Galatians 5:22-23, we find the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Where there is the Holy Spirit, there is unity. 

Where there is the Holy Spirit, we find love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

If we want to see our society grow together, then we must look first at our own homes. 

We must stamp out racism, anger, hatred, and ignorance beginning at home. We must not allow the adults within our walls to breed contempt, mistrust, or derision; and, we must not teach our children the error of those ways.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, we must become united in the fight against evil and the fight against Satan. 

We must stand united in the goal of reaching the eternal salvation of not just our souls, but the souls of our children.

This unity begins at home, within the family. It extends out of the walls to the greater community and society at large.

At the end of the day, we are not alone in this struggle. We have a legion of saints who provide the framework of the way ahead. We have a legion of angels backing us up and joining us in fighting the invisible war for our souls. 

Will you join me in playing your part? And, will you add the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel to your prayers today?

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. 

Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.

May God rebuke him, we humbly pray. 

And, do thou, o prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God,

Cast into Hell Satan and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world, seeking the ruin of souls.

Amen.

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Current Events Faith Formation Fruits of the Holy Spirit Ink Slingers Kerri Series Year of Faith

Come Holy Spirit … Wrap Up

Fruits of the Spirit seriesStarting last December a variety of our Catholic Sistas Ink Slingers started a series of posts to reflect on the 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit. We wrapped up the series last month. We hope you were able to catch all 12 posts and learn something along the way.

Our Catholic faith is full of so much richness. We enjoyed exploring this one small aspect of our faith. We hope to do more multi-part blog posts on a topic as we move forward. There is already something in the works for 2014. Stick around to see what we are up to next.

If you missed any of the posts in the Fruits of the Holy Spirit series, here is a wrap up of all the posts.Galatians

Charity by Misty

Joy by Michelle

Peace by Shiela

Patience by Martina

Kindness by Shiela

Goodness by Hannah

Forbearance by Misty

Humility by Kerri

Fidelity by Mindy

Modesty by Alessandra

Self-control by Allison H.

Chastity by Colleen

I want to personally thank everyone who participated in this series. It was a big undertaking for us to take on a monthly post for 12 months and leave it up to each person to post when it best worked for them. When I proposed this I wasn’t sure how it would go. The wonderful ladies here at Catholic Sistas were awesome! They wrote beautiful, reflective posts and I’m so proud of the series that resulted. I couldn’t have imagined the results of this idea! Thanks, ladies, for your awesome contributions to this series!

I’m looking forward to continuing to work with the amazing ladies here on future series topics and I hope you, our readers, are looking forward to seeing what we come up with next.

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Colleen Fruits of the Holy Spirit Year of Faith

Come Holy Spirit, Give Us Chastity

This is the last of a 12-part, once-a-month series on the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. This month’s fruit is Chastity. Be sure to see previous posts, beginning with Charity!

chastityIn our fallen world, no virtue is more detested than chastity. The secular world often praises the virtues of generosity, kindness, and patience – people who possess these virtues are “good people.” Chastity, however, is completely overlooked as a virtue, and is often simply mocked as something old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy during our “enlightened” age. The incredibly popular pastimes of pornography, contraception, premarital sex, crude TV shows – all of these are diametrically opposed to the virtue of chastity. These have led to greater evils in the world, such as abortion, human trafficking, and the AIDS epidemic. Our modern culture’s message of “Have fun and do what you want!” has had dire consequences. But in her wisdom, the Church continues to present to us the virtue of chastity: not as an outdated ideal, but as a loving, positive command to protect us from harm.

Chastity is the “virtue that moderates the desire for sexual pleasure according to the principles of faith and right reason.” Note that chastity is NOT synonymous with abstinence. Abstinence is refraining from partaking in sexual pleasure altogether; while it can be virtuous, depending on our state in life, it is not a virtue in itself. One who is practicing abstinence is not necessarily growing in chastity; chastity is purity in thought, word, and deed, and abstinence only concerns itself with the “deed” portion of that.

Our Lady of Fatima said that more souls go to hell for sins of the flesh (sins of impurity) than any other sins. Yet our culture is saturated in them! One cannot go to the mall without seeing a provocative poster, watch a football game that does not have a racy commercial, or listen to a radio program without crudity. The HHS mandate is purely an issue of whether or not Christian taxpayers should have to pay for the consequences of others’ unchaste behavior. Pornography revenues in the U.S. each year are more than the combined salaries of ALL professional football, soccer, and baseball players. The vice of impurity abounds, and so we should cultivate the virtue of chastity in our lives.

How can we grow in the virtue of chastity?

1. Prayer. We cannot resist temptation without God’s help. A popular devotion that has been promoted by numerous saints, including St. Anthony of Padua and St. Alphonsus, is the devotion of 3 Hail Marys for purity. The devotion is incredibly simple – pray 3 Hail Marys each morning and night, followed by “O my Mother, preserve me from mortal sin during this day/night.” In the words of St. Alphonsus, “A devout servant of Mary shall never perish.”

2. Avoid Occasions of Sin. If we frequently find ourselves falling after spending time with certain friends,watching certain movies, visiting certain websites, we have a moral duty to avoid them. When we pray the Act of Contrition, we firmly resolve to “avoid the near occasion of sin”, because willingly putting ourselves in a bad situation can be sinful in itself.

3. Observe the Principles of Chastity Based On Your State in Life. Chastity looks slightly different for singles, married, and religious.
If you are single and have a vocation to marriage, consider following principles of courtship. If a couple finds themselves being unchaste, they should discuss it honestly and set some specific ground rules. If you are called to marriage, you are called to help each other get to heaven, and the best time to start is before the marriage begins.

For married couples, the main focus of chastity is being open to life and not using each other purely for pleasure (no contraception or sterilization), as well as not seeking sexual pleasure outside the marriage act.

A comprehensive examination of conscience for chastity can be found here.

4. Persevere. If you find yourself falling frequently, do not get discouraged. Like any virtue, it takes time to build up our “spiritual muscles”. Beg Christ to heal you as he healed the woman caught in adultery and St. Mary Magdalene; go to confession, start again. No matter what your sins, you will receive forgiveness if you ask, and God will pour into you soul the grace to resist temptation.

“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

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Allison Fruits of the Holy Spirit Ink Slingers

Come Holy Spirit, Give Us Self-Control

This is the eleventh of a 12-part, once-a-month series on the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. This month’s fruit is Self-Control. Be sure to see previous posts beginning with Charity and check back next month as another contributor explores the fruit of Chastity.

self3A troublesome partner ~ this is how the allegory King of the Golden City describes Self, every person’s life partner:

“A constant struggle for the upperhand went on, therefore, in most of the huts. Now if any of you think it would have saved trouble to let Self be the ruler in every hut, that the poor owner might have a chance at a quiet life…once master, Self shows himself (or herself, as the case might be) a cruel tyrant. He made a slave of the hut-owner who should have taught him better, and treated him so badly that life was a misery to him. No: the only way to secure any kind of peace was to keep this unruly comrade in his place and put him down firmly when he gave himself airs.”

selfcontrolSelf-control, or continence, or temperance, or enkrateia (if you are interested in the Greek), means possessing power; strong; having mastery. It is the least pretty of the fruit of the Spirit, for no one creates memes with striking scenery or poignant pictures heralding temperance like we see with sweet sentiments like love, patience, or gentleness. But one cannot bear any of the fruits without it. To be charitable instead of hateful; to be joyful instead of slothful; to be patient instead of prideful requires self-control. Or more specifically, Spirit-control. Ceding control of Self to the Spirit involves sacrifice, which is messy, uncomfortable interior work, but is a great relief with beautiful consequences in ourselves, our Church, and the world (like the relief after Confession, listening to a priest absolve our sins in Jesus’ name).

When the ancient Israelites brought their animals to the temple for sacrifice, the animals knew. They smelled blood and death and probably balked mightily, needing to be dragged to the altar. So it is for us, dragging our anger, jealousy, fear, etc., kicking and hollering, to Jesus. This is the work we do to get more of ourselves controlled by the Holy Spirit, so that our lives become better fertilized for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and faithfulness to grow as we work out our salvation.

“…offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (I Peter 2:5b).”

“…present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).”

“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things to receive a perishable wreath, but we, an imperishable (I Corinthians 9:25).”

Let us ask Our Lord for help in allowing His Spirit to control our Self, dragging our sacrifices to Him. A priest once told me, as I wept over losing my temper too often, not to count to ten because that was too high. “Just try to get to three,” he said, “before responding. Just a little window for the Holy Spirit to speak first.” Lord, help me get to three; I want You to control my Self; I want the strength and courage to bear Your fruit.

self1In the final chapter of King of the Golden City, the King is coming for Dilecta’s soul and we read this about controlling Self:

“Little by little she learned to know her place, which is saying a good deal for one so inclined to be forward and to give herself airs. True, she was always at hand, but less troublesome, less given to arguing, more easily silenced and made to do as she was told. She came at length to understand the meaning of that short word ‘No’ and to put up with what it meant, if not with a good grace always, at least with patience. I think we may say that she turned out a credit to her trainer.”

We can do it. We can be self-controlled, with the Spirit of the Loving Lord. “For God has not given us a spirit of cowardice but of power and love and self-control (II Timothy 1:7).