Joy and Suffering in the Christian Life

The other day I was driving with my little sister, and I was in kind of a down mood, made all the worse thinking about how ridiculous it is that I should feel even slightly unhappy despite all of the wonderful gifts the Lord has given me, which therefore sent my slightly down mood into a plummeting spiral of unhappiness because now I feel bad for feeling bad when so much in my life is good. Catholic Guilt is real, ya’ll.

However, as I was struggling with this spider web of guilt I realized something- joy comes from God, not circumstances… if this sounds obvious to you, be patient with me, I’m a type A who subconsciously believes that if I can control everything I will be happy. However as we get older we realize that this is not true NOR do we want it to be true. If I controlled everything my life would be a catastrophe. It is definitely best left up to the Lord.

We are all searching for something that can only be found at the feet of Jesus. There are times in our lives when joy is administered to us in doses that are slightly less than we would appreciate, for whatever reason. In Christian circles this is often called the “dark night of the soul” or “a spiritual desert”. Either way, it stinks and we don’t like it. And, if you are like me, you spend a greater portion of your energy trying to wrestle away from it.

However, the Holy Spirit led me in a different direction that day, he brought me to the awareness that perhaps this is just a time of growth for me. Perhaps the Lord wants me to lean in to the struggle, instead of trying to get out. Or perhaps he wants me to lean back and let the God of the Universe control my motions… as if I were floating in the sea of his love. Perhaps I really don’t know what is best for me.

I remember back when I was rowing for UCF, and at the end of my physical therapy sessions after practice I had to get in the ice baths for ten minutes. Oh how I HATED the ice baths! I begged for my trainers to shorten the time, I begged to go into the hot tub instead, I’m pretty sure I would have been willing to barter my firstborn if only time would just please, please tick along faster! However, my lovely trainer Craig would just shoot me a not so patient, “Get in there and stop whining” and walk away to leave me in my misery. Of course, it was exactly what I needed, my muscles did heal and during those months I accomplished goals I never thought my body was capable of.

Healing and growth are never easy. In fact, they are usually painful, but always necessary. These dark hours are also reminders that we are nothing without Christ. We, in many ways must accept the lot that we are given. (Oooh does that make red blooded Americans cringe!) Not that we should be contented to a life of misery- certainly not, but once a person has done what is in their power to live a happy and healthy life, the rest is up to the Lord. This realization and acceptance has brought me incredible joy, because it has helped me to realize that I am like a preborn infant with an umbilical chord to Christ. Without him, I shrivel away. The only thing I have control over is the choice to follow Jesus each day. Aside from that, I have nothing to worry about, because I belong to him. And there is so much joy in that.

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Why I Chose Love: Journey of a Catholic with Same Sex Attraction

A friend of mine, who has chosen the pseudonym Jake Stanwood, asked me if he could write about his journey with Same Sex Attraction as a Catholic for my blog.  My response was an unequivocal yes.  After reading this amazing story, I am blown away by Jake’s love for God and trust in his plan.  This story is truly inspirational.

 

“We love you no matter what sexual orientation you choose to live out.” These are the words of a father to me, his 15 year old son, 10 years ago. Um…  Awkward? Up until that point my dad had never talked to me about sex, and the topic was never mentioned again. I remember every little detail about the conversation: The sweaty palms, cold freezing office space, and the awkwardness created by the long wooden desk separating us from talking like normal people. How did I respond? I said nothing. Absolutely nothing. I stared at him with a blank face and ran back into my room crying and thinking about how the heck I ever got into this mess.
“Great….even my parents think I’m gay” “That person at school thinks I’m gay too, maybe it’s because of the way I talk” “Wait…maybe I should change the way I talk?  That will make me look manlier” “Crap that person is totally staring at me and thinks I’m gay” These are just a few of the crazy thoughts that constantly ruminated in my head. Talk about feeling paranoid. It always felt as if I was split in between two worlds. One side was telling me “Just come out of the closet, hook up with someone, embrace the fact you’re gay!”  The other side, (far less appealing) said, “If anyone ever finds out! You’re dead!! Don’t ever talk about this to anyone.”

Praise God, He created a Church that has given me a third option, that doesn’t seem like it’s going to drown me in lust or turn me into a stoic that’s being internally destroyed by his desires. I have chosen the path to Chastity. I have chosen the path toward authentic love and sexual self-control.

Is this easy? NO.
The sexual temptations have always been there for me, and I suppose will always be. I am not afraid to admit that until the day I die I will probably always be attracted to men. However, I don’t think this aspect of my cross has been the greatest struggle. The greatest struggle has been my interior life. Having same sex attraction and being Catholic is hard (well, being Catholic is hard).  It is a unique/heavy cross to carry, and a very painful one. It comes with its share of anxiety, heartache, tears and boogers. Us folks, who have SSA, we struggle with a lot. Among those things are body image, father wounds, bouts of depression, feeling less masculine, and a lot of us aren’t good at sports (which makes it harder for us to bond with other men). Growing up I always felt different and uncomfortable around other men, as if I was unworthy to even be called a man. However, I think it’s especially difficult to carry out this chaste lifestyle in the midst of today’s hyper sexual culture.

 The culture today has become increasingly pro-gay. Just take a look at shows like Glee, Modern Family, or anything Lady Gaga… this stuff didn’t build up overnight.  While this DOMA thing was taking place my Facebook newsfeed exploded with red equal sings. The younger generation has become largely accepting of the gay community.  I’m glad that people are starting to become less homophobic and are speaking against gay bullying. However, this doesn’t mean that I’m for gay marriage or I think people should pursue same sex relationships.

It just doesn’t fit human sexuality or natural law.  Just because I have an inclination to do something doesn’t mean that I should follow it. When we pursue sexuality outside of the way God designed for it to be we can find ourselves in messy situations. Hence the high promiscuity, infidelity, and STD rates associated with the gay community. But of course the media will never portray it this way, living a gay lifestyle is portrayed as glamorous and fulfilling.  I am not saying that every gay person is living a promiscuous life and is carrying an STD on them. I have many friends who identify as gay who are hard workers and are doing awesome things with their lives. However, I will not deny that amongst the “gay scene” multiple partners and infidelity rates are pretty high. Homosexuality has to be identified more with behavior, than with identity.  That’s how the gay movement has progressed so much they’ve turned it into its own culture. The minute we reduce ourselves to our sexual orientation, we lose sight of who we really are.
I’ve chosen to never engage in a sexual relationship with another guy and remain celibate, despite the fact there are times I feel the ache of this desire. This may seem like a total fail in the eyes of the world, but am I really missing out on much? Chastity gives me so much more. It gives me the ability to live out healthy and loving relationships with both men and women. It is giving me the opportunity to bring healing to areas of my masculinity that have been gravely wounded. It respects me for who I am, allows me to appreciate beauty, and recognize the dignity in every person. This has involved a lot of wrestling with God. Many people think wresting with God is a bad thing. FALSE. You can only wrestle with someone who is close to you, so in a way wrestling with these attractions has drawn me closer to God. It is a cross, but with every cross the Lord is always right beside us.
Yes, I realize that I will not always get what I want. I can’t tell you about the hundreds of days I felt I just wanted someone to hold and be intimate with. Sometimes I look at happy couples and wonder if I am missing out!  But, I understand that fulfillment goes much deeper than wanting someone around. I find fulfillment by being in relationship with the God who created me to be fulfilled by Him, and in community.

The truth is, I love being Catholic.

The Church loves me. It desires what is best for me, and sometimes this kind of love hurts, because it doesn’t always feel good. However in the long run it guides me to a much more fulfilling life and a more adventurous one. No, the Church is NOT a bigoted institution that hates gays. Quite the opposite. I have never met as many loving and understanding people as I have in the Catholic Church. I am incredibly fortunate! I have many friends in the Church that know about my struggle and are there to support and encourage me along the way. I have a choir of saints and angels who are constantly interceding for me, a mother in heaven that deeply loves me, and a God who bears his very self in the Eucharist each and everyday.   If you ask me… I’ve hit the jackpot.

Why Your Kids Leave the Church

We have an epidemic of children leaving the Church as soon as they are 18, despite coming from seemingly normal, happy, Christian homes. Why is this the case?

Go to any Church, any. Go to the people who are the absolute most involved. Go find the members of the Women’s Guild, or the sacristans, or the secretary. Go find the bible studies and the people who seem to always be at Church. There you will find parents of children who no longer go to Church.  We’ve all heard of the Catholic Grandmother who mourns daily for the children and grandchildren who have fallen away from the Church. The grandmother who has ten different altars in her home, she prays rosaries and Divine Mercy Chaplets and Novenas galore. Now, please note that there is absolutely nothing wrong with prayer and sacred places within your home. But, do the children understand why? Did she talk to them? Did she teach them about the gift the Lord has given us in the Holy Roman Catholic Church? Do they know, do they understand? Do they get it?

No. And that is why they leave.

Fortunately, some of them come back. Right off the top of my head I can think of five different people who I personally know who left the Church when they left home, a few came back, a few didn’t.  However, all of the people who returned did so because at some point they were convicted to investigate for themselves why their families believe what they believe, and they did this despite receiving zero answers from their families.

I am all for investigating what you believe, I am all for checking the science and the philosophy and the morality to ensure that you are following the true path instead of just being blindly lead. What I am not for is children being blindly raised in an institution where the parents don’t understand what they are teaching their children.

If you are Roman Catholic, whether you are a parent or a child, answer the following questions for me.

  1. What is the Eucharist?
  2. How do we know the Eucharist is what it is? (Specifically, what verses in the Bible tell us so?)
  3. Who is Jesus Christ, and what type of relationship should we have with him? What specific Church councils clarified who he is amidst much controversy?
  4. Why are the books that are in the Bible in the Bible? At what council were these books chosen? By whom? By what authority?
  5. What does the Church believe about how the Universe was created?
  6. What are the Church’s teachings on Human Sexuality? On marriage? Why do they teach these things?
  7. Why do we have a Pope? What verses in the Bible establish the papacy as a succeeding office? What gives him Authority over the Church?
  8. Why do we go to confession? Specifically, what verses in the Bible establish the sacrament of confession?
  9. Why are the teachings of the Church Absolute Truth? Why is doctrine unchanging? What specific verses of the Bible establish them as such?
  10.  Why do we revere Mary, Jesus’ mother, as the Mother of God? What specific verses in the Bible establish her as such? What Church teachings? At what Council was this determined?
  11.  Why do we regard the Bible as accurate and reliable?

I’ll stop there. If you don’t know the answers to most of these questions, or at least where to find the answers, you are blindly following a faith that you do not understand. If you are a parent, you are doing your children a huge disservice.

Please, I beg you. Go, tonight, tomorrow, this week. Research the answers to these questions. It should only take you an hour. Google them, Go to Catholic Answers, buy a copy of the Catechism, open a Bible.  Figure it out. Then, once you do, call a family meeting. Get your kids off the computer, turn off the TV, ask your spouse to support you in this. Then, share what you learned with them. Sit around the kitchen table and talk about what you believe and why you believe it. Show them that you are a leader they can follow, someone whose word they can believe in. Answer their questions. Tell them if you don’t know an answer, encourage them to research their questions, even research it with them.

Please, do this. Help us to stop the epidemic of people leaving a Church they do not understand, at risk of their salvation. Raise up a generation of people faithful to and able to defend the Holy Roman Catholic Church. We need you.