Categories
Current Events Matrimony Same Sex Attraction Victoria K

Seven Things Catholics Can Learn from Pride

Note: This is not an article about what the Church teaches about homosexuality or gay marriage.  I’m just focusing on take-aways Catholics can have from the month of June as “Pride Month.”  I believe very strongly that Catholics are called to acknowledge and affirm the Truth wherever it may be found.  I stand by the Church’s teaching on traditional marriage.  Full stop.  But I believe that there are ways that we can better love and serve the LGBTQIA+ community.

If you’re looking for posts about the Church’s teachings on gay marriage, Jason Evert has an AMAZING video on this topic.

Seven Things Catholics Can Learn from Pride

 

  1. LGBTQIA+ suicide and self harm is a pro-life issue.  As a youth minister, I believe strongly that priests, youth ministers, young adult ministers, DREs, and a variety of lay people should be equipped with knowledge of how to help struggling LGBTQIA+ persons.  At the very least, we should know how to help people get the help they need.
  2. We should raise our kids to stand against bullying.  This includes standing up for LGBTQIA+ peers and reporting bullying to trusted adults.  Bullying is not OK.  It is never OK.
  3. Watch your speech. If we want to show the LGBTQIA+ community that we love and care about them, we need to remove “gay,” “fag,” etc as derogatories from out speech and remind others to do so as well.  And it doesn’t stop there.  When we talk about LGBTQIA+ topics, do our words shine with love and the truth?  If not, don’t say anything at all.
  4. Understand where many are coming from.  One thing I’ve seen so strong from people posting about Pride is that many members of the LGBTQIA+ community have been hurt by (or know someone that has been hurt by) someone who supports traditional marriage.  This hurt could have been in many forms: emotional, physical, etc.  You may not have been the aggressor, but they now associate those who espouse traditional marriage with aggression.
  5. Ask loving questions.  One way that we can approach with charity is by listening first.  Not too long ago I reviewed Everyday Evangelism by Cathy Duffy.  She made the phenomenal point that:“…while an understanding of doctrine and worldviews is helpful, more often than not, the most valuable skill you bring to the table for an evangelistic conversation is the ability to listen.” We are called to become active listeners, because through listening we show that we truly care about the person as an individual.  Duff continues later to say: “Most people recognize that if we really care about someone, we should want to listen to them.  And, conversely, if we don’t care about someone, we convey that message by not listening to them.  The challenge for us is to improve our listening skills…” Before we do anything, we should listen.
  6. Be so careful as to what you post on social media.  I love social media.  But proceed with caution.  What you say is a public pronouncement to everyone and can be so warped out of context.  Fellow inkslinger Maurisa Mayerle wrote an incredible guide to interacting over social media which you can find here.
  7. Stop talking about “straight pride parade.”  This is a specific thing but it’s cropped up this particular pride month.  It feels like we’re drawing battle lines as opposed to forming relationships.   This is not how we show love, or start open, loving conversations.

 

At the core of all of this, sisters, is Love.  During this Pride month, a story went viral.  It was about a man wearing a  “Free Dad Hugs” t-shirt (you can read it here).   He shares about people who would come up to him, crying, desperate for that “dad hug.”  So desperate for that love.  It’s heartbreaking to think of someone who feels so hated.  Especially when we all have a Father in heaven who longs to give them the Love that they seek.

Sisters, many of those who participate in Pride truly feel like Catholics hate them, look down on them, refuse to love them.  We are called to re-write that script.  We are called to be the Love.  

Categories
Anni Confession Ink Slingers

An Uncomfortable Truth

During a homily a couple years ago, the chaplain at the time shared a quote based on Pope Saint John XXIII’s Coat of Arms. The quote said, “See everything, overlook a great deal, correct a little.” At the time, this quote gave me the gentle reminder that it was okay to observe, and just as okay to hold my tongue. It was a powerful reminder that, while a spiritual work of mercy is to Instruct the Ignorant, instruction may not even require words and instead could take the form of modeling by our actions.

However, seeing everything, overlooking a great deal, and correcting little does not give us a green light to overlook our own thoughts, actions and words. As St. Teresa of Avila is credited with saying, “Be gentle to all and stern with yourself.”

In today’s culture, there seems to be an emphasis on pointing out another person’s faults, and finger pointing, instead of taking some thought to account for individual actions. The tendency to blame others, and the ease of getting away with blaming others, has led to a culture in which introspection is on the decline. Add in a lack of catechesis, we are seeing Catholics struggle with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, choosing to stand adamantly against the notion of confessing “to a man.”

Combine those with an attitude of only serious crimes (i.e. murder or robbery) being sins, there appears to be a serious lack of accountability…

…and, lack of the recognition of the severity of our sins.

Sins simply aren’t considered polite conversation. However, at times in our lives, we should be challenged to squirm in our seats.

We should be willing to face our own reflection in the mirror, and thoroughly examine what we have done in our days…

… and even more uncomfortably, what we may have failed to do.

Sin, no matter how small, separates us from God. They start small, with a nudge to perhaps sleep in a little bit one week, then the next, then the next – until it becomes an exception to the rule to actually go to church.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 states, “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers – none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the spirit of our God.

The small sins snowball – starting from a single flake, compounding to an avalanche if we are not careful. We begin to be dismissive of the little things, placating ourselves with a mantra, “At least I haven’t done…”

With that seemingly small statement builds the roots of one of the deadly sins – pride.

Fr. Juan Jose Gallego, an exorcist from the Archdiocese of Barcelona once explained the devil’s favorite sin is pride. When we try to justify our thoughts, actions, or behavior, instead of simply holding ourselves accountable, we are weakening our connection with God. We are telling God we are disinterested in being transformed by His grace, mercy, and love.

Sin is an uncomfortable subject.

Based on human nature, sin is an uncomfortable truth.

Yet, if we are truly being nourished by God’s word, and allowing the Church to guide us into a deeper relationship with our Creator, we will begin to be able to look sin in the face. While we won’t be perfect, we will have the grace to seek forgiveness for the times we slip, with a truly contrite heart, intent on strengthening our bond with God.

While we should continue to observe everything, overlook a great deal, and correct little in others, we will be able to be gentle toward them, but stern with ourselves.

If we focus on our actions, our behavior, our thoughts, and are truly introspective, we will be able to dig out the roots of pride and emulate the tax collector in Luke 18:13, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

Therefore, let us take some time to stop pointing fingers. Let us stop justifying our actions. Instead, let us spend some time truly sitting and reflecting on our individual relationship with God, celebrating our successes, but more importantly, acknowledging the moments we have created tension in that most loving and sacred relationship in our lives – with God.

And, let us seek God’s forgiveness – allowing our souls the reward of knowing they are forgiven through the Sacrament of Confession, and allowing our human nature to be transformed through the sage wisdom of our priests, as they are guided by Christ Himself in the confessional.

Perhaps the most uncomfortable truth is, we can’t save ourselves on our own – we must be willing to reach out, run to embrace the outstretched arms of our Savior, and allow Him to transform our lives. Allow Him to save us – today, and every day.

Categories
Domestic Church Ink Slingers Kasey Motherhood Parenting Spiritual Growth Vocations

Perfection or Perdition

We were sitting at the dining room table when it happened.

I was reading one of our homeschool books aloud while my older son was fumbling around with a pair of scissors- awkwardly trying to cut out puzzle pieces to glue to a frame.

Predictably, he was doing an inexact job.

In a sudden fit of frustration he threw down his project, crumpled it up in his tiny fingers, and screamed, “If I can’t do right then I don’t want to do it at all.”

I was shocked.

First of all, this is a child who spilled an entire bag of flour over my kitchen table and added spoonfuls of water to make pancakes. When it didn’t work, he simply sprinkled sugar all over the mess and licked it.

“Tastes the same, Mama.”

::insert eyeroll::

But more importantly I was shocked because, only the night before, I had said this exact phrase to my husband.

“If I can’t do it right then I don’t want to do it at all.”

Perfect.

Or nothing.

It was particularly memorable because I was soaking wet at the time. I know, sounds thrilling. Truly, it was just because my baby puts me in chokehold any time water runs out of the bathroom faucet.  

The phrase would have been lost to time.

Except it wasn’t.

It was sitting on the lips of my five year old.

Perfect.

Or nothing.  

I called “time out” and decided that we needed to regroup. Something about my son had changed- I was sure of it. I decided to spend the rest of the week carefully watching him. And what did I conclude?

Well, my son is a sponge. His mood is immediately lifted when we are laughing. He is concerned when his brother cries. He has memorized several well-worn books on his bookshelf. He pouts when he doesn’t get his way. In short, he currently (and accurately) reflects the world around him.

He hadn’t changed.

I had changed.

And he was reflecting that back to me.

Perfect.

Or nothing.

I can’t speak for everyone but, in my life, personality changes tend to take the scenic route. It’s only after years of journaling and reflection that I can see the boulders that moved my boat into different, and sometimes difficult, waters. But in this particular case, it was glaringly obvious.

My increased need for perfection started the moment my husband and I made the decision to homeschool our children during their early years. I can remember the immediate sense of duty and weight that accompanied our decision. I had a new hat.

Teacher.

And I wanted to wear it with pride.

I was excited.

But with that excitement came a tinge of uneasiness.

I have worked in public schools.

I have worked in private schools.

I have worked outdoors with children, in camps, at libraries, and in museums.

I know what the general population thinks about homeschoolers.

Homeschoolers are unsocialized.

::beats dead horse with another dead horse::

Homeschoolers are weird.

Yeah, probably. But weird kids are weird- no matter what four walls you drop them into.

Homeschoolers are behind.

You know, except for all the stupidly evident examples of homeschoolers who excel at the same rate as their peers.

The funny thing is- people don’t seem to often question your decisions and motives when you take the “traditional” education route.

They don’t assume that you are anti- “whatever the other person is doing.”  

SPOILER ALERT- we’re not.

They don’t assume your house must be a wreck.

They don’t assume that your children are being socialized improperly.

They don’t hold your life up under this tiny little microscope and say, “Oh that weird behavior- IT MUST BE THE HOMESCHOOLING.”

Unfortunately- even people I generally adore in every other realm of my life have not always been accepting concerning this particular choice.

And instead of letting that go, I decided to show them up.

I know, how gracious and Catholic of me.

Homeschoolers are dumb.

Fine- then my kid is going to read classics ONLY. We are going to have a rigorous curriculum, never mind that he is in kindergarten!

Perfect.

Or nothing.

Homeschoolers have messy, unorganized lives.

Fine- then my house is going to be immaculate!

Perfect.

Or nothing.

Homeschoolers aren’t socialized.

Fine- then we are going out every day and I will show you just how motherlovin’ friendly my kids are!

Perfect.

Or nothing.

Clearly- this had become a little demon foothold. It was not only perfectionism but pride. I now carried the weight of everyone else’s opinion on my shoulders. I had fooled myself into believing that I could be a perfect Catholic and a perfect mother and a perfect teacher and a perfect homemaker…

Clearly I forgot- perfection is not a part of the human condition.

It’s a part of God’s condition.

I need supernatural grace.

I cannot get to heaven by myself.

I need the church.

Moreso, I was robbing my children of a parent who was pushes down into the grittiness of life so that I can grow, confess, and be changed by the gospel. Who needs confession this week? I have this life handled!

I was robbing my friends of true intimacy that is built on a foundation of understanding and service. Instead, I built up walls of judgement and resentment. You don’t like what I am doing? Well, look at how more put together and calm I am? You wish you were like me!

I was robbing my spouse of opportunities to serve our family. He will just mess this up anyway! I need to do it!

I wasn’t just setting a bad example for my son- I was slowly curling my fingers around the fruits of original sin.

Perfect people don’t need God.

They don’t need the sacraments.

They have this life thing handled.

Perfect.

Or nothing.

I wish I could have some incredible conclusion to this cautionary tale. I wish I could say I “figured it out.”

I don’t have very many lightning in the sky moments.

The people who thought we were crazy- still think we are crazy.

But should I be seeking their approval? Should I be worried about debunking their stereotypes? Or should I be concerned about the particular stewardship that God has given to me and be seeking His approval?

For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men? if I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.” -Galatians 1:10

I don’t have it figured out.

Maybe all my critics will be right and next year we will be putting our kid on a bus to public school.

Maybe all my critics will be wrong and my family will homeschool everyone until they are brooding, smelly high schoolers.

Maybe, as a Catholic and a homeschooler, I just need to focus on my particular children and ask myself every day, “What’s God’s story for us? What does He want our particular situation to look like? What will bring Him glory?”

This week- it meant something real simple.

I sat down next to my son and I took out the coloring book. I grabbed the markers and I scribbled outside the lines.

Donald looks fabulous.

And when my son freaked out and told me I was doing it wrong I simply said, “It’s okay, it doesn’t have to be perfect to be something beautiful.”

Categories
Alessandra Confession Ink Slingers Parenting Sacraments Testimonials You Did It To Me

You Did it to Me: Forgive All Injuries

Welcome to the series “YOU DID IT TO ME” where we will be discussing the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. This will be a twice a month series from March to September 2015. We hope you enjoy!

11200601_10206780705976508_134343866477417407_nTo Forgive All Injuries is the Third Spiritual Work of Mercy. Forgiveness.  Forgiveness is not easy, it is something that has to be authentic, come from the heart, and we have to make up our minds about it.  It is something that allows us to move on and it offers us freedom from past transgressions.  It is fair to say that all Christians should be forgiving people, though we know from time and experience, this is not always the case. Why should forgiveness be a “Christian thing?,” simple enough that through Our Lord’s three short years of Ministry, He practiced forgiveness time and time again.  Even at His last moments, He begged God the Father to forgive us, “for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

Forgiveness has many faces, it is not a simple task.  Though it really can be.  There could be forgiveness that you do but that is not reciprocated from the other person who erred you, they might be stuck in thinking they were right and not offer the same charity back towards you.  Many times the weak human soul just gets upset at this and goes back into being upset and then truly does not forgive the other person.  But it must be clear that forgiveness does require the two people to talk calmly and offer each other those words, “I forgive you.”  When my children hurt each other either through words or hands, they are required to apologize for their transgressions and ask at the end, “do you accept my apology?” In other words, “do you forgive me.” It is important, as parents that we teach our children from very young to realize that we need to cool down, talk things through and then ask for forgiveness.  Accepting that apology is always the hardest point, we are hurt, upset, and do not even feel like talking to the person.  Time heals this at times, in other times it just causes a bigger wedge between two people.

As Catholics, as Christians, we are required to follow in the footsteps of Our Lord Jesus Christ and forgive all those who injure us.  I know, I know….this is not an easy task but we know that being Catholic is not an easy task but it is task worth doing.  The main point of a Catholic’s life should always be to strive to be in a state of grace, a heart who is heavy with anger, pride, or revenge cannot have a soul that is clear of sin.  So forgiveness not only helps relationships, helps others, but also helps your own soul.  How many times in our lives have we forgiven someone but that person never asked for forgiveness?  Many.

In my life this has been more of a frequent pattern than not.  The stepfather who abused me as a child is one prime example, you can read my testimony about this in this article entitled, “Broken Childhood, Healed by Christ.”  He never asked for forgiveness from me.  I never saw him again after telling the courts what he had done to me, he fled the country.  But my anger built up against him was not good for MY soul.  Did he hurt me? OF COURSE!  More than he will ever know, deep seeded scars that will remain with me forever. Scars that attached themselves to me and affect my marriage, my children, my interaction with other adults and my children around them, it left me in constant fear, and doubt about others.  But I came to a crossroad in my life where I realized that I was going about upset and angry about what had happened to me as a child.  It was not my fault though at times I blamed myself, so why did I continue to carry this anger with me? Until the point that I realized that this anger and resentment was holding me back from being a happy person, a Christian person, I was not FREE.  My forgiving a man who hurt me so bad was something I needed to do for my soul, my salvation.  This was the moment when I realized also, that God was with me the whole time this was happening, He had not abandoned me.  God sent the right people in my life at different moments to help my healing process from this horrible situation this sick man put me through. So, if God allowed me to heal, if He wanted me to move on with life and be free, how could I continue to store up hate for someone, anyone?  It was time. Since that moment that I nailed my cross to Our Lord’s, the healing process began.  Many hours in the Confessional and many hours with a therapist brought me out of the slavery of a being a victim of child abuse to being a free Christian woman!  It was liberating!  Forgiving him did not excuse his behavior, not at all.  Forgiveness prevented his horrid behavior from further destroying my heart. Forgiveness made me stronger.

Many times saying, “forgive all injuries” is a difficult request, I know, Our Lord knew this too. He does not expect us to walk this path to forgiveness alone.  He wants to lead us by the hand and help us learn how to forgive all injuries as He did.  Forgiveness requires charity, it requires mercy, it also requires justice.  When Our Lord said, “forgive your enemies” He was asking us something so difficult that alone we cannot do it, it is not even possible!  Only with His help, His words, His counsel, His Church, His Sacraments, can we do this.  Only through our staying in a state of grace, receiving the sacraments and staying close to them can we really life FREE Christian lives.  Pride, anger, and vengeance are sins that hold back our souls, they enslave us and keep us from that beautiful grace which will allow us an inch closer to Heaven. As Alexander Pope once said, “To err is human; to forgive is divine.”

Do you have anyone that has hurt you that you need to forgive? Make a list, write a letter, pick up the phone, and start that healing process. You have the power to take away someone’s happiness by holding on to anger.  That person is you!

forgive

Categories
Ink Slingers Michelle Motherhood Spiritual Growth Vocations

Get Over Yourself!

A few weeks ago while I was in Kansas City I visited my sister’s church for the sacrament of Confession. There the priest handed out little rubbery bracelets to those of us waiting. My niece and I sat together in the pew wondering if he would hand us one. There were white ones and purple ones. He looked at me, smiled, and then handed me a white one. I read it. I smiled to myself.  A tear formed in the corner of my eye and knew that God was indeed talking to me. The words inscribed said, “Stay Strong”. It was definitely a message I needed to hear after a very long and heart-wrenching week. I put the bracelet on and ran my fingers over the words many times through the day.

The following morning my children and I attended Mass with my sister and her family. At the end of Mass we noticed the priest had put both white and purple bracelets beside the doors in baskets. I decided I wanted to see what the purple bracelet said too. As we walked out the door at the end of Mass I stopped and picked up a bracelet. Upon reading the inscription I knew I needed one of them as well… maybe even more so than the white bracelet that encouraged me to stay strong.

get-over-yourself“Get Over Yourself” it read. Get. over. yourself. Actually it screamed at me- GET OVER YOURSELF! I put the bracelet on my wrist and ran my fingers over the words. Throughout the day I would glance down at my hands, see the purple ring slung around my wrist and whisper the words under my breath… get over yourself. I knew it needed to become my personal motto.

It seems lately that I have been giving into the notion that perhaps my needs are more important than others. I’ve been lazy. I’ve been whiny. I’ve been not the mother, wife, and friend I don't want toI should be. I was feeling run down and broken. I would question, “Why should I have to take on so much?” “ Why do I have to do this again?” “Why me, Lord? It’s always me!” It was affecting everything I was doing (or not doing really). I knew something needed to change but I was stuck in a rut and couldn’t figure how to get out of it. And then I saw those words- Get Over Yourself. A light came on and I felt immediately ashamed. Yes, I needed to get over myself.

But how do we do this? How do we get over putting ourselves above others? Simple, we begin to put others first. We become servants of the Lord and servants of those He puts in our lives. I’m not talking about servitude in the sense of waiting on others hand and foot, responding to a ringing bell, and saying “Why yes mam.” No, I mean looking at our everyday duties and responsibilities and doing them to the best of our ability. I mean serving our little ones with a love in our heart that is reflected in how we speak to them; it’s in how we cuddle them; it’s in how we give them a bath or feed them dinner; it’s patience in answering the same question 13 times in an hour. It’s serving our spouses with an open heart and a smile on our faces. It’s listening with understanding and being there in the moment- not being distracted by the computer, phone, or television. It’s relieving them of worries and taking our time to make sure they are happy. It’s asking our friends if they need help, do they need a shoulder to cry on, or what can we do to make their life a little easier. It’s sharing in their happiness and crying in sorrow with them. It’s making time in spite of our busy lives just to reconnect with them.

Ultimately, getting over yourself means becoming a servant of the Lord. It is opening your life to His will. It’s answering His call and saying to Him, “As you wish, my Lord.” We need to remember that God is in control and when we give ourselves over to Him He will transform us. He will soften our hardened hearts and He will give us strength to get through each day. As servants of God we are often called to do the hard work, the dirty work. It will challenge us and there will be times we feel defeated. But there will also be times when it will uplift us and inspire us. However, it is only through complete trust in Him that we are able to complete this work.

In Matthew 20: 26-28 we read, “It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” If Christ came to serve others shouldn’t that be our clue that we are called to serve as well? When we begin to serve God and serve others, especially with an open and happy heart, we soon find that there is no more room for worrying about “me”.

what about meBut you may be asking yourself, “But what about me? What about my needs? Aren’t I important too?” The answer is yes, you are important as are your needs. However, the paradox of putting God and others before yourself is that when we do this others begin to put us first in their lives. But how can this be? Christ tells us in Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure- pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” Christ tells us that when we care for others our needs will in turn be taken care of as well!

It’s hard to give up ourselves for others. We worry that in the process we will lose ourselves. In fact, the opposite is true. When we give up ourselves we in turn find our true selves. We allow God to transform us into better people. We see His light reflected in our words and actions. We see His love in all we do. When we live for God and for others we experience a love like no other.

Get over yourself- three little words that can transform your life. I am trying my best to live these words. I am trying my best to remember that when I serve God and others my life is infinitely better than when I try to serve my own needs and wants. Still, it can be a struggle when I feel like no one notices or appreciates my gift of self. But despite the struggle it is so worth the effort. If we remain dedicated to serving God and serving others we stand to reap what we sow- that is a love that knows no bounds and that will sustain us through the best and worst days of our lives.

gandhi