Hildegard of Bingen: Saint, Future Church Doctor, Baller

RomeReports did an awesome little video on the Bright Maidens‘ patron saint, St. Hildegard of Bingen, a future Doctor of the Church. Watch here:

These videos always make me think, what will my legacy be in the world? How can I humbly contribute? We are not all called to be Doctors of the Church, but we’re certainly all called to be saints.

p.s. Have you liked the Bright Maidens’ FB page yet? Do you follow us on Twitter? Join in the conversation! We have some exciting news coming up, so stay tuned!

Rest In Peace! And Keep In Touch

TBM Topic 32: Pray for the Living and the Dead

“Rest In Peace! And Keep In Touch” by Julie Robison
Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion on Facebook and Twitter!


During Lent, we will be discussing the Spiritual Works of Mercy.

Why pray for the living and the dead?

This Lent, we Bright Maidens have been discussing the Spiritual Works of Mercy. This topic is a good one for Lent because

1. The spiritual works of mercy are reminders of our unofficial duties as Christians (verses the precepts of the Church); they’re ways people can attempt to better their spiritual lives through daily graces verses physically abstaining from foods or forms of entertainment, too.
2. The marriage between the spiritual and earthly world can be tangibly shown.
3. The marriage between grace and works can be manifest in writing, as well as in thoughts and actions.

The last point is an important point: some Christians say praying for the dead is useless and unbiblical. If that’s the case, then so is praying for the living. If our fate is so fixed, why ask God for help? Why seek a relationship with Jesus if believing in him is enough?

Praying is how we communicate with God, be it in praise, penitence, thanksgiving or petition. It can be freeing and intimate. It can also be humbling and intimidating. Life is overwhelming, and even starting prayer may be difficult. Luckily, even sitting quietly in the presence of God is praying. Taking time to listen to God is just as important as talking with him. In this way, we can pray without ceasing! (1 Thessalonians 5:17) This is how all relationships work at a human level.

When Blessed John Paul II was asked how the pope prays, he responded, “You would have to ask the Holy Spirit! The Pope prays as the Holy Spirit permits him to pray. I think he has to pray in a way in which, deepening the mystery revealed in Christ, he can better fulfill his ministry. The Holy Spirit certainly guides him in this. But man must not put up obstacles” (Crossing the Threshold of Hope).

At a convent’s cemetery in Salzburg

Praying for others is just as important as your personal relationship with God. As we humans are all interconnected, it is an act of fraternal charity. Moreover, not praying for a person because “they are dead” insinuates that there is not a communion between Heaven and Earth. People departed from this life are not gone; they are at a higher level of communion with God.

This is why Catholics pray to saints; not “to” them, as one would pray to God, but to them like we ask our family and friends to pray for and with us. I pray to St. Anthony (patron of lost things) fairly often. I could pray directly to God, but I like including my saintly friends in my daily tasks. If a person work in a big corporation, would they go to their boss for every little thing? Or do you ask a co-worker to help you out with a minor problem?

This is not to imply that we should not pray to God for the little things: but remember, he already knows all. So he might be sending an angle to watch over you, or a new friend into your life, to help guide and shape you. In the Gospel of John, a story is told in which Jesus gives Peter the power and strength to continue his ministry:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 

He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” [Jesus] said to him, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).

So, we too must continue this ministry, out of love of God. So, too, we must pray for the living and the dead, out of love for self and neighbor. Praying for all people is biblical, as well as being part of a Christian’s core mission.

Prayer is an act (work) of love. Even Billy Joel got that in his scandalous song, “Only the Good Die Young”: You said your mother told you/  All I could give you was a reputation/ Ah she never cared for me/ But did she ever say a prayer for me?”

There is one mediator between God and humans, and that is Christ (1 Timothy 2:5); but there are billions of helpmates to be found on earth and in heaven, continuing the mission of Christ, peacefully and together. This is why we pray for the living and the dead: to partake in this life, an extraordinary one, and rejoice in the hope with encapsulates all of us as members of the body of Christ, the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1).

Church in Munich, Germany

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel thus about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 


For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:3-11)

Itching for Tuesday’s "Feminine Genius: The Dress"

 
 
I just read this quote while researching the feminine genius and can’t wait til Tuesday’s “Feminine Genius: The Dress” topic to post it!  Impatience, thy name is Trista.
 
Without further ado…
 
“In this vast domain of service, the Church’s two-thousand-year history, for all its historical conditioning, has truly experienced the “genius of woman”; from the heart of the Church there have emerged women of the highest calibre who have left an impressive and beneficial mark in history. I think of the great line of woman martyrs, saints and famous mystics. In a particular way I think of Saint Catherine of Siena and of Saint Teresa of Avila, whom Pope Paul VI of happy memory granted the title of Doctors of the Church. 
 
And how can we overlook the many women, inspired by faith, who were responsible for initiatives of extraordinary social importance, especially in serving the poorest of the poor? 
 
The life of the Church in the Third Millennium will certainly not be lacking in new and surprising manifestations of “the feminine genius”.



 Letter of Pope John Paul II to Women, 1995.

There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy, And No Measuring Tape Can Reach

TBM Topic 13: Fr. John Corapi and the importance of Christian witnessing

“There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy, And No Measuring Tape Can Reach” by Julie Robison
“Believe Me If You Like.” by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
“What do John Mayer and the Catholic Church have in common?” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

There is something to be said for, what Graham Greene said in Brighton Rock, the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, has certainly seen its share of sin and scandal in the past 2,000+ years and, most recently, with the latest exposure of John Corapi’s inappropriate escapades, to fuel the opposition’s cackling fire.

In the April 2011 issue of First Things, Gerald McDermott wrote “Evangelicals Divided,” which resulted in many responses, a few of which were published in the June/ July 2011 issue, including from the author himself. Towards the end, he reproached his Papist brethren. “At the same time, I wish the Catholic critics were a bit less triumphalistic,” wrote McDermott. “When the clergy abuse has sent multitudes of Catholics to swim the Tiber away from Rome to either liberal or evangelical Protestantism, and the church is beset with both clergy and parishioners who ignore or defy Rome, one would hope for a bit of ecumenical modesty.” I let out a contented sigh upon reading this- that his protest was but a finger point; in short, our strand of Christendom has its own problems, and gawking is not welcome.

We’re not gawking, we’re taking a break
“Now, it’s perfectly true that in a way this unholiness of Catholics is a compliment to our religion,” wrote Ronald Knox in a lovely volume of lecture apologetics, In Soft Garments. “Because it does mean that a Catholic does not necessarily cease to be a Catholic because he is a rogue. He knows what is right even when he is doing what is wrong. The Protestant as a rule will give up his faith first and his morals afterwards with Catholics it is the other way round. The Protestant only feels his religion to be true as long as he goes on practising it; the Catholic feels the truth of his religion as something independent of himself, which does not cease to be valid when he, personally, fails to live up to its precepts.”

When news first came out about John Corapi, people were wary. This is a sign of mercy, not blind allegiance. He has shown himself to be an amazing defender of the faith; it is a shame to see such a man go wayward.

In Catholic doctrine, the seven spiritual works of mercy are: counsel the doubtful; instruct the ignorant; admonish sinners; comfort the afflicted; forgive offenses; bear wrongs patiently; pray for the living and the dead. How many people remember these when comparing one Christian witness to another? My siblings made a joke in the car yesterday about how ignorant people are “people who know they know everything already.” I thought this an astute observation from a 13 and 15 year old.

As Americans, we should believe that all people are innocent until proven otherwise. As Christians, we know no one can escape final justice. Therefore, as Roman Catholics, all voluntarily professing believers in the same dogma and equal participants in the sacraments, we must especially pray for mercy and grace, for ourselves and each other. Pope Benedict XVI, during his inauguration on April 24, 2005 to become the 265th Bishop of Rome, said, “Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.”

Pray for him! We’re so blessed to have him lead us.

Holy people are not exempt from temptation, though they rise above the occasion. Fr. Joseph Esper, in his excellent book Saintly Solutions to Life’s Common Problems*, opens the chapter on “Temptation” as such:

What is the one thing every human being throughout history who has reached the age of reason has shared in common? It isn’t the reality of sin, either Original Sin or personal sin. Jesus and Mary never sinner, and neither was touched by the sinful inheritance of Adam and Eve. No, the one reality we all share is the experience of being tempted to sin. Even Jesus (and surely Mary, although Scripture doesn’t record it) experienced temptation. Three times the evil one approached Jesus during His forty days of fasting and prayer in the desert… In each case, Jesus rejected the Devil’s suggestions. Not only did He wish to remain true to the will of His Father, but He also desired to provide us with encouragement to face and, with His help, to overcome our own temptations to sin.

Corapi, for all his positive work in the advancement of the faith, has reassured me of something with his moral failings and betrayal of his vows: Truth prevails. The Catholic Church is a vehicle of God, not man. His personal actions were sinful, but the Church’s teachings do not change. I am not Roman Catholic because of one man’s persuasiveness, nor do a thousand-billion people’s personal sins lessen the truths given to us by Jesus Christ, the divine revelation from God the Father or the works of the Holy Spirit.

St. Thomas More would know a thing or two about this
As Pope Benedict XVI told journalist Peter Seewald in Light of the World, “But we must also note that in these matter s [sexual abuse scandals] we are not dealing with something specific to the Catholic priesthood or the Catholic Church. They are, unfortunately, simply rooted in man’s sinful situation, which is also present in the Catholic Church and led to these terrible results.”

After all, as Knox later jokes, “If all Catholics were saints, the truth of our religion would become too glaringly obvious, and there would be no real exercise in making one’s submission to the Church.”

In these times, I pray. Pray for mercy. Pray for help. Pray for hope. Pray for repentance. I also stand my ground. This is what witnessing is; no one is convinced by otherwise. I show mercy. I give help. I tell of my hope, and my reason for it. I repent of my sins, in my heart and in the confessional. To witness, one must believe in the tenants of Christianity, which give cause for virtuous actions, and thus the heart will be sanctified, so that the burning love for God will be kindled and the Holy Spirit’s fire will spread to many more, for the glory of the Kingdom to come.

The one fact of life we must never forget is that all people matter; all people have souls worth saving. Corapi’s life is not over in the Church. The one lost sheep is worth looking for; the Prodigal Son’s return is worth celebrating. There is much to feel blessed about, when one sees good come from bad situations, wrongs rightened, and perseverance through the darkness. In that vein, I particularly like this question and answer from Light of the World:

Seewald asked,

The scandal of sexual abuse could cause us to ask about other cases of abuse of well. For instance, the abuse of power. The abuse of a relationship. The abuse of a commission to educate. The misuse of my gifts. In ancient Greece a tragedy was supposed to cause strong emotions in the spectators, a “cathartic” or cleansing effect that made them think in a new way about their life. Only catharsis makes people ready to change their deeply ingrained behaviors. Couldn’t the current crisis of the Church become a new opportunity also?

Pope Benedict XVI replied,

I think so. Indeed, I have already mentioned that the Year of Priests, which turned out quite differently from what we had expected, had a cathartic effect also. That the laity, too, became grateful again for what the priesthood really is and saw its positive nature in a new way, precisely in the midst of the disturbances and the threats to it. 

This catharsis is for all of us, for all of society, but especially of course for the Church, a call to recognize again our fundamental values and to see the dangers that profoundly threaten not only priests but also society as a whole. Knowledge about this threat and the destruction of the moral framework of out society should be for us a call to purification. We must acknowledge again that we cannot simply live in any way we please. That freedom cannot be arbitrariness. That is imperative to learn to exercise a freedom that is responsibility.

As such, each of have a responsibility in this lifetime to discern and properly seek our purpose, to live according to the Word and Catholic doctrine, and to be a witness for how our relationship with God-in-Three has and continues to profoundly change our hearts and shape our souls. As was proclaimed in the Gospel on Sunday, weeds will grow up beside the harvest, but it is not for us to pick them out before the whole crop comes to fruition. In the sin of scandal, our ruffled feathers help us straighten out our own lives, examine our own actions and thoughts, and more earnestly seek to live more faithfully.

In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. Pope Benedict XVI explained this best in his brilliant Introduction to Christianity, with the reminder to use our fallen natures as the stepping stone upwards to God, for we are not called to a flawless, never-tripping-or-making-mistakes holiness, but perfection through sanctification:

On the contrary, this holiness expressed itself precisely as mingling with the sinners whom Jesus drew into his vicinity; as mingling to the point where he himself was made “to be sin” and bore the curse of the law in execution as a criminal– complete community of fate with the lost (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13). He has drawn sin to himself, made it his lot, and so revealed what true “holiness” is: not separation, but union; not judgment, but redeeming love.

Is the Church not simply a continuation of God’s continual plunge into human wretchedness; is she not simply the continuation of Jesus’ habit of sitting at the table with sinners, of his mingling with the misery of sin to the point where he actually seems to sink under its weight? Is there not revealed in the unholy holiness of the Church, as opposed to man’s expectation of purity, God’s true holiness, which is love, love that does not keep its distance in a sort of aristocratic, untouchable purity but mixes with the dirt of the world, in order to thus overcome it? Can, therefore, the holiness of the Church be anything else but the bearing with one another that comes, of course, from the fact that all of us are bourne up by Christ?

No one escapes temptation’s siren call, but how one responds to it determines the course. We should mourn Corapi’s decisions, pray for him, and hope for him, as we should for all people. No one is outside the realm of God’s mercy and we should witness for Christ accordingly, in our unwholly holy way.

So I find words I never thought to speak/ In streets I never thought I should revisit/ When I left my body on a distant shore./ Since our concern was speech, and speech impelled us/ To purify the dialect of the tribe/ And urge the mind to aftersight and foresight,/ Let me disclose the gifts reserved for age/ To set a crown upon your lifetime’s effort./ First, the cold friction of expiring sense/ Without enchantment, offering no promise/ But bitter tastelessness of shadow fruit/ As body and soul begin to fall asunder./ Second, the conscious impotence of rage/ At human folly, and the laceration/ Of laughter at what ceases to amuse./ And last, the rending pain of re-enactment/ Of all that you have done, and been; the shame/ Of motives late revealed, and the awareness/ Of things ill done and done to others’ harm/ Which once you took for exercise of virtue.
— T.S. Eliot, from “Little Gidding”

*This book is perhaps the borrowed the most from me and then subsequently bought; it is really stupendous, and now there is a second volume. Published by Sophia Institute Press.

Bright Maidens: Believe Me If You Like

 The “Bright Maidens” were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!

Topic: Fr. Corapi and the importance of Christian witnessing

Elizabeth at Startling the Day
Julie at The Corner With A View 
Check out our Facebook page for guest posts!

Believe Me If You Like
 
Q: How do you know that it is Saint Margaret and Saint Catherine who speak to you?

A: I have told you often enough that they are Saint Margaret and Saint Catherine – believe me if you like.
Transcript of the Trial of Joan of Arc.
Joan of Arc by Bastien-Lepage
As a young girl born during the Hundred Years’ War, St. Joan of Arc heard the voices of Saints Michael, Margaret, and Catherine instructing her to dress like a man and save France.  Joan bravely sought the dauphin, the future King of France; predicted French defeats; and in April of 1429, requested to free Orleans, a town which had been English-occupied for months.  She was successful, though wounded, and celebrated as the Maid of Orleans.

Soon after, she was captured by Burgundian troops and sold to the enemy English.  She was then imprisoned for a year and tried by the Catholic Church on charges of witchcraft and heresy.  An inaccurate summary of her statements was drawn and she was convicted.

In a moment of panic, she felt overwhelmed in front of the large crowds, and recanted her position.  Once she reached her rooms, however, she gained confidence and once again professed the truth of her statements. Joan was condemned as a relapsed heretic and burned at the stake.  Her last words were “Jesus, Jesus!”

Asked if she knows she is in God’s grace, she answered: “If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me. I should be the saddest creature in the world if I knew I were not in His grace.” She added, if she were in a state of sin, she did not think that the voice would come to her; and she wished every one could hear the voice as well as she did.

St. Joan of Arc is an example of authentic Christian witnessing.  She properly and humbly defended herself from her interrogators, who happen to be Church clergy! If you read the Transcript of her trial (link above), you will find her to be a devout, simple peasant girl who took on an insurmountable task at the urging of Saints, Angels, and the Lord Himself.

We are all called to witness in the same way, although our tasks may not be as bold as Joan’s, nor as life-threatening.  As the Body of Christ, our actions must mirror Christ’s in all we do, and when we face opposition from even our own Church, we must humble ourselves, trusting that God works in His own time.  The truth will always come out.

In a July 5th statement the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, Fr. John Corapi’s Order, insisted that although Fr. Corapi inspired “thousands of faithful Catholics…he is now misleading these individuals through his false statements and characterizations.”  This is the danger of false witnessing: it misleads others and often damages their trust, their hope, and their courage.  It sows seeds of discord instead of seeds of peace.


If the Body of Christ jeers, mocks, lies, and hurts other…can we really say we’re the Body of Christ?  Will we really move others to want to know Jesus?  Will we shower others with Christ’s love when we don’t act like him?  

Fulton Sheen told a story about an encounter he had with Mother Teresa.  He asked her how she catechized so many men and women.  She replied that as she cared for the Poorest of the Poor, she would ask them if they wanted to know about Jesus.  “Is Jesus like you?” her charges replied.  “No,” Mother Teresa would tell them, “I’m trying to be like him.”  With that statement and Mother Teresa’s love, the hearts of these men and women were opened to Christ.

Again, most of us do not have the same call as Mother Teresa, but we witness in other ways.  When we participate in Sacramental life; when we care for children,the elderly, or the home-bound; when we offer friends encouragement; when we pray for our enemies; when we give to the needy; when we welcome strangers; when we share hope; and when we offer support, we point our friends, family, and others to Christ’s love.  As long as we do this, we authentically witness to Him.


I will never forget one night in college when I did not feel like going to 9 p.m. Mass in the University Chapel.  “I’m tired, I’m cranky, and I don’t want to go!” I complained to God.


I got dressed anyway.


As I put on my shoes, my phone rang.


“Trista, what’s goooood?” 


It was one of my transfer students, a baseball player with a good heart, lots of smarts that he wasn’t using, and a penchant for partying.

“What’s up?” I asked him.


“I’m sending up the bat signal,” he said, an inside joke about how my transfers could send signs, and I’d be there to help.  “You, like, go to St. Vinny’s for Mass right?”

I sighed.  So funny, Lord!  “Yep, I’m actually heading there in a few.”

“Great, cuz I was thinking…I don’t know anyone who goes to Mass…and like, I wanna go tonight, but I don’t wanna sit by myself…so I thought, oh yeah!  Trista goes!  I could sit with her.”  He was silent for a second.  “Right?”


I tried to digest the fact that he was asking me to help him find a place in the Church.  I felt a heavy, but not uncomfortable, weight on my shoulders.  Whether I realized it or not, others were watching my actions and coming to me to better know Christ’s love.


“Yeah, of course!,” I replied.  “Meet you there in five minutes!”


Catholics for Choice!

Week Seven: Our Reversion Stories

“Catholics for Choice!” by Julie Robison
“Young Woman at the Well.” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
“Becoming Myself By Getting Closer to Him” by Trista at Not a Minx

This is the seventh post of a Lenten blog post series called “Bright Maidens.” We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

John Henry Newman says conversion is “nothing more than a deeper discovery of what we already desire.”

It’s easy to look at my religious upbringing and say, Julie, I’m sorry, but you’ve been brainwashed.

I’ve gone through the whole ordeal: infant baptism, First Communion in the second grade, Confirmation in the eighth grade, thirteen years of Catholic schooling and 23 years of (at the very least) weekly Mass.

Where does brainwashing start, however, and formation end? That is, after all, the purpose of religious catechesis: to teach how to carry on the faith; to introduce the child to God in Three, and thus encourage a relationship; to give proper and virtuous character formation; to give order to the soul.

I think many Catholics have been failed in this sense; they have not been introduced to the fullness of the faith in their younger years, given instead a bland version of Christianity, with vague mentions toward the more specific doctrines. No one is inspired by blah, and I am sadly not surprised so many of my friends are not really practicing this life-abundant faith anymore, as well as a few dear family members.

I wasn’t always the kind of Catholic I am today. I wasn’t always itching for more, or even really concerned with truth. My high school religion classes certainly didn’t provide much intellectual stimulation. I went to Mass every week growing up and didn’t think twice about the last time I went to Confession. I didn’t know if I believed that the Eucharist was actually the Body of Christ, and the wine actually became the Blood of Christ. I just knew the faith; I struggled explaining it to people.

But the Mass is where I came back; the Mass, and more specifically the Eucharist, is what caused my reversion. Newman also said, “Catholicism is a deep matter; you cannot take it up in a teacup.”

Catholicism is universal- going to Mass, you know the same Mass with the same readings and liturgy is happening around the world. One sees people of all backgrounds, ages, and both genders in the pews, waiting to go forward to receive Christ or a blessing. For those who disagree with the Church, I say this- it is easy to text-proof. It is a cop-out to Christ, in my opinion, to take one or ten lines from the Bible, and then agree or disagree. Catholics believe in context. We look at the Bible as a whole, just as we look at salvation history as a whole. The mistakes of men happened, and happened frequently; and still, the Catholic Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, persists abundantly.

It was at college where I was set on fire: discussions with my roommate and friends; in preparing to defend Catholicism for my Introduction to Western Religion class (I talked at least 10-20 minutes every class period as the “token Catholic”), as well as reading the Great Books and other great Catholic and non-Catholic writers; being touched by the witness of Christians of all stripes around campus.

The witness was not always positive, which could have weakened my faith if my zeal for truth and understanding had not been awakened so fiercely. When I was younger, I always wanted to fight for a cause: now, older and praying for wisdom, I knew what it was. In true Eliot fashion, I returned to the end, and made it my beginning.

I’m purposefully avoiding discussing any specific details of my reversion, for the very reason that everyone, be it convert or cradle Catholic, comes to Christ in their own way. In the Easter season, and especially as we are in Holy Week, the holiest time of the liturgical calendar, we are re-reminded that everyone is called to conversion. Every adult Catholic in the Church must choose Christ, and their heart is called to conform to his, out of love of him. We are in his Church because we are made for love, and so we love: ourselves, our family, our friends, our enemies, our fellow humans and, above all, our Lord Jesus Christ.

As Pope Benedict XVI said, there is only way to the Father, and that is through the Son, who says, I am the way. But that way is so big, it accounts for all who will come. God does not impose himself, but he always beckons us towards him. By finding new life in Christ, a person loses the worldly restraints and gains completion of who they always were and are meant to be. Not that finding Christ makes anything easier, per se, but it changes everything. The Word becomes reality, and are not just words on a page of a sacred book.

Flannery O’Connor’s 1955 short story “You Can’t Be Any Poorer Than Dead” gives an excellent example of what happens when religion becomes a subjective choice and not a pursuit of objective Truth. The stranger (“his kind friend”) is talking to the main character, Tarwater, as he digs his great-uncle’s grave, the man who rescued and raised him:

“It should be clear to you,” his kind friend said, “how all your life you been tricked by that old man. You could have been a city slicker for the past years. Instead, you been deprived of any company but his, you been living in a two-story barn in the middle of this earth’s bald patch, following behind a mile and plow since you were seven. And how do you know the education he give you is true to the fact? Maybe he taught you a system of figures nobody else uses? How do you know that two added to two makes four? Four added to four makes eight? Maybe other people don’t use that system. How do you know if there was an Adam or if Jesus eased your situation any when He redeemed you? Or how you know if He actually done it? Nothing but that old man’s word and it ought to be obvious to you by now that he was crazy. And as for Judgment Day,” the stranger said, “every day is Judgment Day.”

They used to be smaller.

 My latter half of my sophomore year of college was a particularly difficult semester for me, and I considered not returning to campus. My roommate and I both agreed I was being spiritually attacked by the Devil as prayer was a nearly impossible task; I was taking way too many upper-level classes while minoring in overcommitments; I was dealing with difficult post-romantic relationships. My sanity was saved by the prayers, love and fellowship of my roommate and my academic advisor’s family, whom I became particularly close with that year.

 That would have been a shame if I had left too, since my junior and senior years were really when I blossomed on campus. On a whim, that next fall semester, I began going to on-campus Mass on Thursdays regularly. This would set the stage for me going to Mass daily as a statehouse reporter, post-college, and the new model for how I deal with difficulties. In the past, I would just go for a run if I was upset or angry. There, studying in cold Michigan snowbank, where I was stressed out and freezing, running was not always an immediate option. So I began to re-learn how to pray. My dear friend Julia was an integral part of this, since we would make plans to take a study break around the same time nightly rosary happened.

I felt like I had turned a dark corner in my life, and there was Christ, the light. Even though I am twenty-something, as a cradle Catholic, I sometimes feel like the worker who has found his way to the vineyard at mid-day, receiving my equal wages alongside the early and later day workers. Every day is a constant surrendering of my will to God’s will: I’m impatient, demanding, skeptical, and easily distracted from priorities. By choosing Christ, every day, I am focused and grounded. Choosing Christ is about having a relationship with him; being part of his Church is integral to that, and participating in the sacraments is one way to show my love for him, and to get to know him better. The pay-offs are not always immediate, but I do know they have eternal consequences.

I desire God and so, I desire his will be done in my life. I am not convinced by the argument that one cannot choose God, or that one cannot choose to believe in God. That is exactly what belief is- a choice. Part rationale and part faith, belief is the logical action towards a seemingly risky venture. When you believe a person can do something, you believe this because they have demonstrated the ability, not because they actually did it. But Jesus already proved himself to us, which takes out the risk factor in believing in him.

This is the mystery of our Christian faith: Christ came, Christ died, Christ rose again. And yes, there are still times when I must pray the words of the boy’s father in Mark 9:24 – “I do believe! Help my unbelief!

Non-Christians like to look at Blessed Mother Teresa and say, Look! She struggled with belief and had spiritual dry periods- ergo, God isn’t real. But isn’t the fact that she persisted in the faith and did not lose hope in God and his great mercy despite these doubts mean anything?

The Eucharist, the source and summit of the Christian life, calms all of these conflicts. There is only one Church who has stayed true to the Gospels, despite its occasional sordidness and wrong turns, with the help of God, and alongside billions of saints, angels, lay people, consecrated religious and believers of all shades – the great chain of time and space, faith and reason, intellectuals and the simple minded – all comprehending the same truth: that Christ is King, and came to save us.

And me- little me – who am I to argue? It is through the sanctifying grace and mercy of God that I am Catholic, and that I persist in my Catholicism. Pope Pius XII said, “The Catholic Church herself is an historic fact. Like a great mountain-range, she bestrides the history of the past two thousand years. Whatever may be the attitude toward her, it is impossible to escape her.”

Consider me trapped, then: freely, out of love, and most joyfully. The smallest taste of truth is enough to keep me begging for me, earnestly, and to tell people where I have found such nourishment: in Christ, our Savior; in God, his Father; in the Holy Spirit; in the communion of saints; and in Christ’s bridegroom, the Roman Catholic Church. I choose to believe, and thus hold these truths to be incomparable, and sufficient.

“When we have traveled all ways, we shall come to the End of all ways, who says, ‘I am the Way.'” –St. Ambrose (explanation of Psalm 118)

“After losing those human consolations you have been left with a feeling of loneliness, as if you were hanging by a thin thread over the emptiness of a black abyss. And your cries, your shouts for help, seem to go unheard by anybody. The truth is you deserve to be so forlorn. Be humble; don’t seek yourself; don’t seek your own satisfaction. Love the cross – to bear it is little – and our Lord will hear your prayer. And in time, calm will be restored to your senses. And your heart will heal, and you will have peace.”  — St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way

“Push back again the age as hard as it pushes against you. What people don’t realize it how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when, of course, it is the cross.” –Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being

Have You Filed Your Taxes?

I almost didn’t write one this week but, nonetheless, here is my volume 20:

one

Today is not, I repeat, not Tax Day. Tax Day was moved to Monday, because there is a holiday of some sort happening in Washington, D.C. Or, if you work at a tax law firm like I do, then every day is Tax Day!

two

Something I read for class, by Catholic Moral Theologian David Bohr:

The Christian life is like this. Faith is not usually a sudden inspiration that comes out of nowhere. Faith is a habit built up over time by doing faithful actions. Faith, as it was for the ancient Israelites, is not just a feeling or interior assurance, but is constituted in the real, material world by concrete practices. Faith is skillfully and wisely dealing with strangers, loved ones, money, genitals, and pots and pans. Faith is not usually something that comes in a flash of blinding light, but is built up over time by small actions like saying a prayer for a friend, cutting vegetables at a soup kitchen, putting one’s rear end in a pew every Sunday morning. If faith takes hold, these sort of actions and a thousand others become second nature.

three

Spring is here, finally! Still cold-ish sometimes, but at least I can walk outside with my shoes off again, feet squishing against the grass and cool mud.

More things I like about spring: driving with my windows down again, bare legs, shorts, spring skirts, playing and running outside with the family dog, weekend croquet matches, no more cold weather, birds singing, warm breezes, anything nautical, sunshine.

What are things you like about spring?

four

One of my best friends from college/ Kappa is at culinary school in New York and I miss her a lot. Fortunately, she keeps a blog. Even for a non-foodie like me, I enjoy it. She’s also been tying in Scripture verses to the beginning of her posts lately too, which gives new perspective. Check it out!

Vivy and me running down a hill in Georgia

five

My best friend (Bear-Bear, to those unawares) has an incredibly talented younger sister, whom I call Old Sport. Listen to her beautiful song here:

six

Doesn’t this song just make you happy? This website on St. Augustine makes me happy too– many thanks to Emina at Illumination for posting it! The libertarian allegory from the Mises Institute of Rebecca Black’s song “Friday” is worth a chuckle too; and, as always, are you reading WSJ’s James Taranto?

seven

We Bright Maidens had another lovely response to our post this week: saving sex for marriage. I must admit, I was rawther nervous about posting mine, but the responses, either public or private, were overall so gracious, that it made me feel very happy to share my stories and view point. Many thanks to Tito Edwards for featuring mine on National Catholic Register and The Pulp.It as well! AMDG!

In case you missed it:
“The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same” by Julie Robison
“Cut to the Chaste.” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
“Three Strikes, I’m Out!” by Trista at Not a Minx

This next week’s topic is finally to be revealed…. REVERSION STORIES! How three cradle Catholics “re-discovered” the Church, and why we’ve stayed Catholic. Being friends with Trista and Elizabeth, I can assure the audience that y’all will be in for a treat.

After Lent, we’ll take a one week break, and then resume posts every two weeks. We’d like to invite anyone interested to write alongside us, and post it on our Facebook page! Or e-mail us the link, and we’ll happily post it for you.

Happy Friday, folks! See Conversion Diary for more.