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Ink Slingers

I Pick Me: Responding with Love

Have you ever had a disagreement with someone that ended with you feeling like less? 

I recall a situation not too long ago between me and a colleague. This person became extremely upset, and began to speak down to me. Instead of responding by speaking up, I let him continue to berate me. I drove home that night questioning what was wrong with me, and why I felt incapable, stupid, and used.

I used to struggle with the idea that as a Christian, we must be overflowing in mercy in all interactions with others. Submission, humility, meekness – these are all words that cross my mind when I am thinking of how to love best in a conflict situation.

What Does Meekness Look Like?

Meekness attempts to leave room for others and learn from them. To be meek is to be patient with others, practicing restraint and selflessness. What meekness is not is allowing others to hurt us, or choosing to stay in a harmful situation.

And as much as others may say hurtful things to us, I’m willing to bet that we say more hurtful things to ourselves. In fact, it’s easier for us to be compassionate towards others than towards ourselves. 

We Have Dignity

We are all dignified and constituted with value by virtue of Christ’s incarnation. All of us carry the responsibility to honour human dignity – including our own. Reverend John J. Coughlin outlines this in his article “Pope John Paul II and the Dignity of the Human Being”:

God’s forgiveness of humanity, which is expressed in the Son’s perfect self-sacrificial love, serves as a testament to the highest degree of human dignity both by revealing the love of God for humanity and by demonstrating the fullest possibility for the human person. (2003)

God’s sacrifice demonstrates the fullest potential for the human person, which means that the only appropriate response to one another is love. Unconditional, self-sacrificial love. Now we know that we cannot love perfectly, but we have a calling to participate in that love to the degree that is possible for us. If we don’t, we risk undermining the dignity of all human beings. 

John Paul II writes that the human person cannot live without this love. In the absence of the “revelation” of love, the human person remains “incomprehensible” to self” (Coughlin, 2003).

Understanding that preserving human dignity requires love, how do we train ourselves to respond with love?

Some important things I learned in therapy:

  1. Managing your thoughts can be a way of protecting yourself. We can begin to change the negative thoughts and emotions we have about ourselves during times of conflict and stress. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) was, and continues to be useful in mind management.
  2. Setting boundaries is a way of honouring human dignity. It is, in fact, necessary that we do so to protect and uphold our own dignity. This can look like learning to say “no”.
  3. Like most important life skills, setting boundaries must be practiced. As any healthy relationship takes time/effort, so does our relationship with ourselves. We must love our neighbours as ourselves after all.

Responding to yourself with love is not allowing others to use or demean us in any way. It means not allowing others to walk all over us, or take their anger out on us. As women on the receiving end, this behaviour may even become normalized, which tends to result in lower self-esteem and higher negative self-talk. We need to have a loving relationship with ourselves in order to extend our hearts genuinely to others. In the context of a conflict or confrontation, it is okay to pick yourself.

Picking yourself can look like: 

  • Suggesting you have the conversation at another time, when you will be in a better headspace.
  • Walking away if you don’t like the way you’re being spoken to. 
  • Telling them that you will not continue the conversation if they continue to disrespect or call you names.
  • Choosing to stay silent, and listen rather than speak.

Although this may not be new information for us, a reminder never hurts. Sometimes it takes more than once to draw your boundary. If we do not show up for ourselves mentally, physically, and spiritually, we will struggle to show up for the people in our lives – this we know! Be patient with yourself, and above all remember that we love because He first loved us.

Reference

John J. Coughlin, Pope John Paul II and the Dignity of the Human Being, 27 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 65 (2003-2004). Available at: https://scholarship.law.nd.edu/law_faculty_scholarship/494

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Ink Slingers Martina

Creative Ways to Practice the Pause

Being female, first born, and Mexican American, I have plenty of practice in asserting my opinion – and shockingly enough (because I know this will come as a surprise to those who know me IRL), it’s hard to keep my opinion to myself and, instead, pause at times. Unsolicited advice, opinions, theories, reactions…they’re all in my wheelhouse, friends, lol.

But I heard it put so beautifully the other day when I shared on social media about the seeming uselessness of being angry when compared to the thought of dying the next day. Would that anger really matter in the grand scheme of things? One person commented they were trying really hard to “practice the pause.”

“Gold,” I thought. ABSOLUTE GOLD.

How often do we react when we should listen and thoughtfully respond? How quickly do we react? Do we listen to listen or listen to react? Are we listening so that we can craft a response that builds us up or tears others down? What are some strategies we can employ so that we can be a better listener and respond in a way that invites an authentic discussion for both parties? When we make an honest effort to do the following, it can go a long way in curbing the angry response to others.

HOW TO PRACTICE THE PAUSE

Stay close to the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation. I know many of us were kept away from the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for a long time due to the shutdown. Staying close to Jesus in the Eucharist is just one way we can ensure our relationships with others are rooted in genuine charity.

Make Reconciliation a regular habit. Once a month is a great goal to have, if not more frequently if you feel God calling you to go more often. Consider going to confession as the pathway to hear the marching orders God has for your life. Kinda hard to hear Him if we’re steeped in sin.

Listen to listen. Have you ever had a conversation with a friend who listened to you? I mean REALLY listened to you? Like…they want to know all about what’s going on with YOU and not just leap in at the end of your sentence to tell you how you should fix your problems.

Extend charity. Especially when you don’t feel like it. Admittedly, this one is hard to put into practice because it requires a lot of looking outside of yourself for perspective.

Remember these are people you are arguing with. This is especially important online when we tend to reduce people to screen names or handles. One good strategy is to ask yourself “would I say this to someone’s face?”

Walk away. Or exit the app or close the laptop. Whatever is robbing your peace, take the wind out of the sails by walking away. That thrill of getting that zinger in will dissipate, leaving you to wonder if you should add that to your confession list – ouch.

Create a list…of things you can do to make walking away easier. Are you at work? Should you be working? If you’re at home, are there chores that you should be doing?

What are some things you would add to this list? Share below in the comments, OR share in a reel on Instagram and tag us – we’ll feature you!

Looking for some similar reads? Check these out:

Categories
Current Events Ink Slingers Michelle Spiritual Growth

Becoming Salt and Light

At the beginning of the pandemic last year, there was a beautiful transition in our world from a “me” society to a “we” society. It was amazing to watch as people began to think outside of themselves and instead worried about others. True love and concern for neighbor ran rampant throughout our families, our cities, our countries- our world. Unfortunately, as the pandemic persisted and people began to feel weary of lockdowns, food shortages, masks, and being separated from those they loved, their patience with one another became noticeably short. Where salt and light surrounded us at one point, it now seems as if we struggle to be decent to one another again. As we continue to fight our way through the lingering effects and damage the lockdown caused, we may wonder how we can recapture this spirit that once infected everyone around us.

HOW ARE WE CALLED?

In Matthew’s Gospel we read, “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Heavenly Father.” (Matt 5:13-16)

SALT

Christians are called to live our faith in a way that glorifies the Lord. Everything we say and do should lead others to God. Christ tells us in Matthew’s Gospel that we are the salt of the earth. Salt is one of the most important (if not the most important!) minerals for civilization. Historically it has been used for preservation, healing, and even as currency. Our bodies not only crave it, but need it to function properly. Wars have been fought, friendships have been made, civilizations built, and religious customs have flourished all because of salt. When salt is so vital, it’s no wonder that Christ would call His followers the salt of the earth!

As the salt of the earth, we are called to “flavor” the world with Christ. What we say, what we do, and who we are should all glorify God and inspire others to seek out the Lord. Our “saltiness” is vital to making sure that God’s presence is felt by others. Of course being “salty” in today’s terms means something completely different than what Christ calls us to be. Often it is easier to be “salty” than to be the “salt of the earth” and yet God still calls us to the task.

LIGHT

With this call to be the “salt of the earth”, Christ also calls us to be the “light of the world”. He tells us that we are not to hide the light which burns within us and which reflects God’s love and life under a bushel basket. I would venture to say that in today’s world we have many “bushel baskets” under which we hide His light. Perhaps we are embarrassed to share our faith.  Maybe we worry about persecution, ridicule, or rejection. It might be that we think we are not knowledgeable enough or even faithful enough to spread our faith. Maybe the timing is never right or we simply want to keep our faith private.

Whatever our reasons for hiding Christ’s light, we must come to realize that as Christians we are not just called but are expected to shine His light brightly for all to see. Christ’s light which lives inside of us is not simply for our own benefit, but instead is meant to “shine before others” so that they have a clear path to God through us!

ANSWERING THE CALL- BECOMING SALT AND LIGHT

What does it take to become salt and light? While we know that our good deeds are not what get us to heaven, we do know that God calls us to live out our faith through doing good works. These acts of love and hope help others to see our Christian faith being fully lived out as God has asked us. Christ modeled this life for us. He was a man of action. He fed the hungry, taught the masses, healed the sick, forgave the sinner, He died upon a cross, and rose from the dead. His actions were vital to His ministry. Likewise, our actions are vital to making Christ known and felt in the world. If we are to call ourselves Christians then we must be heavily involved in doing good works.

At the beginning of the pandemic we saw that “good works” became the norm for most people. People rushed to help one another to secure food, medicine, or other needs. These good works were not just corporal (taking care of one another’s physical needs), which is sometimes the easier work to do. They also encompassed the spiritual works of mercy as well. We saw people extend kindness, mercy, forgiveness and openness despite differences in political ideology, religious practices, economic status, or any other qualifier. People were comforting others in their sorrow, counseling them in their doubt, and praying like crazy for one another. Life was no longer “us” versus “them”; it was simply “us”.

This is what God desires for His people. He wants us to be united as one and He knows that the fastest way to achieve this is through good works. When we stop fighting and start loving one another it follows that God’s love and goodness can be more readily seen and felt by others.

WHERE ARE WE NOW?

It is true that the pandemic has worn many of us down. It has broken spirits and for some contributed to hatefulness and anger towards others. There are still many people doing good in the world, but the last year and a half has also hardened many hearts that were open and giving at the beginning of the lockdown. If we are to follow Christ’s call to be salt and light in the world, we can’t allow our own hearts to be hardened by the overwhelming distress the virus and the lockdown have caused us. Instead we must continue to look out for the needs of others. We must attend to both the physical and spiritual needs of our neighbors even when it is difficult.

The pandemic took so much away from all of us… but it can never take away Christ’s light shining through us. Only we can hide it away. God tells us that He desires good and holy work from us. Through these good works His light shines brightly and draws others into a relationship with Him. If we want to see a change in our world, if we want peace, we must be the salt and light that Christ has called us to be. By living out our Christian faith in love and good deeds, we can lead others to Him- the One who brings ultimate peace and healing.

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Ink Slingers

Jesus, How I’ve Missed You

My children are always funny when they see blood. Nine times out of ten, they run screaming from the room, whether the blood they see is a legitimate bleed, or a small poke on the skin in which the blood barely makes it to the surface of the skin before coagulating. At the rate they are going, I won’t hold my breath in hopes that one of them enters the medical field one day.

Yet, for all their squeamishness when they see blood, especially on themselves, they certainly have a fascination for blood. Driving to school one morning this past year, my five year old cackled in her maniacal, wicked witch way, “Mom, I want to drink blood!”

Upon further discussion and conversation, she mentioned, “But, Mom, you drink blood. When you go to church, you get Jesus’ Blood!” I immediately sighed relief that my blood-averse daughter wasn’t hoping to become a vampire. Rather, she is hoping to participate more fully and actively in the greatest action of love story of all time, through the Eucharist at Mass.

For over a year and a half now, most lay Catholics have had to forgo the Precious Blood of Christ during the Mass. It’s the reality of our times, and since I know receiving the Precious Host means receiving fully Christ, I haven’t thought much about missing His Precious Blood. I didn’t even think my daughter remembered a time in which others around her would partake of both the Precious Host and Precious Blood. 

And yet, over a year and a half since I last received the Precious Blood, the faith of a little child reminds me that there is something very extraordinary about the Mass – that Christ longs to be longed for.

Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen is quoted as saying, “The greatest love story of all time is contained in a tiny white Host.” Christ is present there at Mass, simply waiting to shower each of us with His love and His Mercy.

To be Catholic is to embrace Christ – not only the young Christ we meet in the manger at Christmas, but also the Man Whose Precious Body hung on the Cross with blood and water pouring forth. 

Embracing Christ challenges us to not only seek Him, but also find Him, both in the world around us, as well as in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 

To be Catholic is to remember the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (para. 1365), “In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he ‘poured out for the forgiveness of sins.’” It is also a call to live as though those words mean something in our lives.

For many, the pandemic has been a period of introspection and reflection. While it seemed forced upon us, the pandemic gave each of us an opportunity to return Christ’s longing for us with our own longing for Him.

When Christ’s Precious Blood poured forth from His side, He was extending Himself to us, in order that through His sacrifice, we would be saved. 

To know this reality of love is life-changing, but only if we are open to being changed.

As the wheels of this world turn again, and knowing some places are just now beginning to open back up, the question to ask isn’t about Christ’s role in our salvation history. 

Rather, it’s whether or not we are prepared to be radically changed so as to play our own role in salvation history?

Are we ready to open ourselves to change, and to leave a lasting impact of faith, hope, and love in the world around us?

When we approach Christ in the Eucharist, are we ready to receive His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity? 

Are we ready to be cleansed by His Precious Blood, even if we are unable to receive it in the chalice?

Like my five year old, yearning for a more active participation at Mass, and not wanting to miss out, I pray that each of us has the courage and desire to yearn for Christ, and to ultimately be transformed by Christ’s actions on the Cross. 

In a few years’ time, I also hope we all look back on this past year and a half and recognize how God’s Love was so strong that it was continuing to guide us through this period.

Christ’s Blood and Water poured forth so that we have the opportunity of everlasting life.

When everything is said and done, and you look back on the time of pandemic, what will be stopping you from being transformed by Christ’s sacrifice in your life?

As the wheels of this world turn again, and knowing some places are just now beginning to open back up, the question to ask isn’t about Christ’s role in our salvation history.
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Confession Faith Formation Ink Slingers Martina Prayer Resources Sacraments

How to Turn a Sob Story into a Good Confession

The other day my husband and I had a decently intense conversation about the merits of a sob story. One of us (my husband) prefers to speak to a contractor in simple terms. His details are succinct and to the point. The other (me) likes to paint a beautiful picture, complete with smells and sound if possible. I want you to SEE and FEEL that our cut propane line is an emergency. When my husband calls a plumber, his conversation goes something like this:

Hi, yes – our propane line is broken. Mmmhmm…yes, we need it repaired. Oh, next week? Yeah, we’re going to need it taken care of sooner. Calls someone else, rinse and repeat.

When I call the plumber, it goes like this:

Hi! I’m driving behind one of your trucks and thought I’d call! We have a bit of an emergency with six children at home and have been without hot water or the ability to cook on the stove the past five days. Is there any chance we could expedite service? Oh, I see the truck I’m behind is turning into my neighborhood – can you send that guy over?

30 minutes later, the plumber shows up – I would wager because I gave enough description for them to determine our need and location to a worker in the area.

Tying this into confession

But how does this relate to what God wants from us? I immediately likened it to confession. I mean a REALLY GOOD confession. You know the kind you give when it’s a priest you’ve never met? I know you’re nodding in agreement right now.

I know when I sit in the pew waiting for confession to begin, I feel nauseous…because sins. Same sins as last time and the time before that and the…well, you get the point. We usually try to get to confession ahead of time so we can wait on the front end instead of wondering if we’ll get to have our confession heard before Mass begins.

And then…as I inch seat by seat as members of the family head into the confessional, that stress creeps in.

“Just focus on how you’ll feel when you walk out,” I tell myself.

And the internal dialogue that follows resembles that of a tantruming toddler tussling with the momma.

I go in and I bare my soul, and pour out my sob story because I think it’s what God wants of me. I know that confessions of old (and even today still) involve enumerating ones sins in an effort to provide a succinct list of what’s what and possibly helps the priest focus on some problematic areas for the penitent. And I appreciate that for what it is and respect Father’s time.

When I say sob story *in* confession, what I am really saying is even if you are enumerating your sins, it can also be super helpful for the priest to hear some backstory, especially if this is a regular confessor and has heard your same sins time and again. It helps them give specific advice and support unique to your state in life.

So, what are some solid ways to make a good confession?

  • Go frequently. Or go back. Yes, I know the virus has made things infinitely hard and maybe, just maybe, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we may have rationalized ourselves into a corner where we have not been to Reconciliation or even Mass in a very long time, but understand this. The priest is there to guide you and be that channel for God’s infinite Mercy. Think of and perhaps focus on how you’ve felt walking out of the confessional!
  • Do a thorough Examination of Conscience. This is especially important if it’s been a while since you’ve been to Reconciliation. Make it a good one!
  • Don’t be afraid to make an appointment with the priest. If it’s been a number of months or longer, consider making an appointment with the priest so you can say all you need to without the potential stress of holding up the line.
  • Make a daily examination of conscience a part of your routine going forward. Now that you’ve been to confession, it’s time to see where you can tweak things on the daily. I highly recommend a daily reflection on areas where you’ve improved and need improvement. This will help your next confession tremendously. If you’ve purchase DAYBOOK, there is a place to do a daily Ignatian Examination of Conscience.

Interested in more resources on Confession?


Read previous articles

Download a good Examination of Conscience

Consider purchasing the Pocket Guide to the Sacrament of Reconciliation from Ascension Press and keep it in your purse (ladies) or in your car (ladies and gents)