Some days, it’s hard for me to believe that God loves me. I look at my life and see all of my sins and failures, and I think…How in the world can God love ME? On days like this, I see myself as being worse than nothing. My faults are the sum of my identity. Who am I? What a stupid question! My name is Liar. It’s Gossip. It’s Unfaithful. THAT’S who I am.
There are other names.
I know I’m not the only one who has had days like this. I think that teenagers are especially susceptible to this issue, but everyone faces it. Believe it or not, I think these days of difficulty have meaning. They are meant to show us that we have a fundamental question in need of an answer.
WHO AM I?!
That’s what we’re screaming out when we go through these rough days. When we can see nothing but our faults, when all we look at is our shortcomings, we’re begging for a definition of who we are. And our mistakes come readily to mind. We think, “Well, I must be Liar because I lied to my parents the other day” or “I’m Thief because I stole that CD”. This is all too easy to do.
I look at my sins (and they are many), and I can’t accept myself…much less can I understand how God can accept me after all that I’ve done and continue to do and most likely will do in the future. Who in the world am I that He should love ME?! Ever asked yourself that question? Let me answer it for you.
You are His child, His beloved.
We all mess up, you guys. Nobody’s perfect. The problem is that we identify ourselves with our mistakes. We are so focused on what we do wrong that we cannot see what God sees: an image of Himself. Your mistakes are not who you are, and it’s not who I am, either!
Listen to the song below.
Your name isn’t “Regret”.
It isn’t “Thief”.
It isn’t “Gossip”.
It is “Loved”…”Forgiven”…”Child”.
Your identity is in Christ, not in your own shortcomings. Remember that, you guys!
My name is Child of God. What’s yours?
So, a few weeks ago, I went to this diocesan youth retreat called Search. For those of you who don’t know what that is, I’ll give a quick and brief description. Search is, essentially, a three-day retreat for teenagers that is led by teenagers who have attended Search in the past. The weekend is designed to help teens get more in touch with their faith and strengthen their relationship with Christ.
You guys don’t know me…at least, I don’t think I’ve ever met any of you. But for this to make sense, you’re going to have to know a few things about me. Firstly, I’m an introvert. I’m socially awkward, I don’t like playing games, and I really am not fond of being around a lot of people or talking to anyone about anything personal. (You’re probably thinking, “Well, you’ve gotten personal in some of these posts you’ve written…”. True. But like I said…I never see anyone who reads them, so in my introverted mind, that’s cool. ) I had been to some diocesan youth events before Search and absolutely hated them. They usually involved singing (I can’t carry a tune in a bucket) and dancing (“two left feet” doesn’t cover it for me) and awkward small group discussions (I’m not a “sharing” person, in that sense). So when I first heard about Search, I pictured something like this:
Or (even worse) this:
Nevertheless, I was talked into going. So I angrily packed my bag one Friday after school and drove over to the appointed place for the retreat. When I got there, I thought I had found the tenth circle of hell, no joke. People with megaphones were outside screaming and cheering. I had to surrender my car keys and my cell phone. And I had to play games. I knew absolutely none of the other participants and I was developing a darker outlook on the weekend as the seconds ticked by.
By Saturday afternoon, I was totally ready to demand my keys. I couldn’t take it anymore. I felt more awkward than I ever had in my life, I didn’t think I was going to get anything out of the weekend whatsoever, and I just wanted to go home and forget about all of it. One of my table (small group) leaders, though, encouraged me to hang on until Saturday night, saying he had felt the same way I was feeling until then.
Okay, deal. I would wait.
That was a lot of negativity, wasn’t it? You guys are reading this and either thinking, “Wow, this chick needs a chill pill” or “I ain’t going to any youth retreat EVER”. Well, let me just tell you…
I ended up LOVING Search. Stop re-reading that last line. You read it right the first time. My group leader was right: Saturday night was the turning point.
You see, we didn’t know the schedule for the weekend and we weren’t allowed to have watches or anything. We all knew there was a point where we got to go to Confession if we wanted to, and we all figured it was Saturday night. You can figure out that much. So we all went to the chapel when we were told to and we sat down, waiting for the skit that was going to be performed. I was sitting there thinking, “I gotta get out of here. These people are crazy, I shouldn’t have come.” But everything that happened that night changed my point of view completely. I expected all of us to be invited to go to Reconciliation. I expected the witness talk that one of the Team members gave about the sacrament. What I didn’t expect was to be reduced to tears in front of people I barely knew. I didn’t expect to end up loving the people I had met that weekend as much as I do.
So if you’re reading this and thinking, “No way am I going to Search” or even just “I am so not going to that youth event”, I encourage you to give it a shot. Like the Team members told us all weekend at Search, not everyone’s experience will be the same. Heck, I hated Search for most of the weekend! But if you’re open to God’s grace and His plan for you, then you’ll come away with something.
Stepping out of your comfort zone is never an easy thing to do. Trust me, I know. But you also have to trust me when I say that stepping out of your comfort zone can be the most rewarding thing you ever do.
The motto for my Search weekend was “Stand Out, Cry Out, Follow Him!”. After Search, I realize that I’m not alone. There are other teenagers just like me in my diocese who have struggled with the same questions and problems that I have faced. I know that these people will always be there for me and will always support me. That gives me a new strength to live my faith–I’m not alone.
A bit of background for my other readers: The Second Vatican Council is the most controversial Church Council of modern history…and perhaps one of the most controversial councils ever. Since the closing of the Council in the 1960s, there has been a great deal of division within the Church over the changes enacted by Vatican II. Some people assert that the Council was a fluke and, therefore, that the Church should erase any changes made by the Council. Some people assert that the Council didn’t fundamentally change the Church. Still other people assert that the Council changed the Church, but that she remains the same Church as before the Council.
What prompted me to write this post? Click this link: http://www.traditionalcatholicpriest.com/2013/04/18/fruits-of-the-traditional-holy-spirit/
From here on, I think that I can only frame this post as an open letter of sorts. As odd as that might sound to some people, I really don’t think I can do this any other way.
An Open Letter to Traditionalists
My Brothers and Sisters,
May the peace of the Risen Christ be with each of you! I am writing this letter, fully aware that it will perhaps never be read by any of you. At the same time, though, I feel that it is necessary to say what is on my mind and heart. I have no intention of preaching to you or chastising you or accusing you of anything. Please, if you are reading this, continue. This letter will be nothing more than the simple words of a sister to people she dearly loves.
Today, I read an article written by a traditionalist priest, which prompted me to write this letter. In this article, this priest asserted that the Holy Spirit is not found in the Church now, which he said was clearly evidenced by the division, lack of vocations, and loss of Catholics to other faiths that is rampant. The Holy Spirit, he argues, resides with the traditionalists who uphold the Catholic Faith as it was practiced before the Second Vatican Council. At the end of this article, he voiced support for those traditionalists who feel that they are being persecuted for holding on to tradition.
I cannot begin to express how my heart ached after reading this article. My brothers, no one is persecuting you! No one is suppressing you! We want to talk to you! I want to talk to you! The division in the Church over the Second Vatican Council is terrible, but it stands no chance against the reconciling power of the peace and love offered by Jesus Christ. I beg you, my brothers: let us allow this peace and love to mend these wounds that have festered for fifty years. Let us not allow this to build an impenetrable wall between us.
Do you see? I am not persecuting you, and you are not persecuting me. But when we argue with each other and fight over our differences and spread hatred and misunderstanding, then we both become the aggressors–we attack the Body of Christ and we wound the holy Church. When we divide ourselves and use labels like “traditionalist” instead of calling each other brothers and sisters, we only irritate the wounds that are already present and we only further divide the Body of Christ.
I said before that I want to talk to you. I meant it. I want to understand what it is that holds you back from accepting the Second Vatican Council. I want to understand why this division has lasted for almost fifty years. I want you to understand why I agree with the Second Vatican Council. I want to be able to talk to you about all of these problems. But we cannot even hope to do that unless we are both willing to take that first step and open up the conversation. Let this letter serve as an open invitation: I love you, and I want to listen to you.
This division and these words of frustration and anger that come from both sides break my heart. This has to stop, my brothers. So please–let’s talk.
Your sister in Christ,
I LOVE THE EASTER VIGIL. That’s going to be a pretty important point to keep in mind. As I’m typing this, I’m still bursting with excitement and joy…and the Vigil Mass ended a little over an hour ago. So, as a way of venting my uncontrollable joy so as not to annoy everyone around me, I’m just going to post some thoughts/reflections on the Easter Vigil itself. Here we go (imagine my super excited face)!
1) Do you guys not just LOVE the symbolism with the Easter candle?! The church is dark. Everyone is quiet. Then, from the back of the church, there comes this light. The deacon sings out, “The light of Christ!” and, as he processes up the center aisle, the servers light the candles of the faithful and we pass the flame along to each other until the entire church is aglow. Christ was dead! We were a people in darkness! The Church mourned! But now, on this holy night, He breaks the chains of death, as the Exultet says, and He brings His light to us. We, in turn, pass that light–that faith, that love–to one another. It’s so great! You have Christ, the large Easter candle, the light of the world. Then you have us and, alone, we can’t make much of a dent in the darkness that surrounds us. But united together, all of us burning with love and faith in Christ and looking toward Him Who first gave us this light, we can dispel the darkness. LOVE that!
2) The joy at the Easter Vigil is just infectious. We can’t help but be ridiculously joyful, though! Anyone who walked in and didn’t know what was going on would probably seriously wonder what in the world had happened to make everyone present sing out and smile as much as they do. That is the kind of joy we should be carrying with us in our daily lives. This joy of Easter, of the Resurrection of our Savior, should be a constant light in our lives. His love for us and our bond with each other dispel all of the darkness of evil! The hatred and sin of this world stand no chance against such joy–nothing can take Christ from us.
3) I love the readings at the Easter Vigil. I know they’re long, but they’re beautiful. It’s like we’re saying, as the Church, to all of the catechumens present, “You want to join the Church? Here is who we are–listen to the story of salvation history and understand what you’re entering into.”
4) One of the responsorial psalms we sang today said this: “I will sing to my God who delivers me from death, into life, into freedom, through the sea”. At first, I sat there thinking, “The Exodus was such a great act of God’s saving power.” Then I thought, “Wait a minute. Baptism. Baptism is also a great act of God. Yes, I will sing to God, who has delivered me through baptism and even now calls me to share in His life.”
5) The catechumens. The people who, at the Vigil, are baptized and/or received into full communion in the Church. I love that the Church makes them wait, teaches them for a year and prepares them, and then welcomes them with all the faithful gathered to witness.
6) The renewal of our baptismal promises struck me tonight. That, for me, really emphasizes the communal aspect of baptism. While it is a personal calling from God, it is also that which marks me, which unites me in a special way to all of the people standing with me. We have all received the same baptism because we profess faith in the same Lord. We ARE the Church!
7) THE EXULTET. There are not words for how much I LOVE the Easter Exultet. There’s this one part of the old translation of the Exultet that I really love. It goes like this: O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer! That just resonates with me. How utterly weird does that sound?! But it’s so true at the same time! Sin is terrible and it has consequences, but that’s what’s so amazing about God–He can take even the most hideous things that human beings do and turn them into something beautiful. He can take sin and change it. He can take death and make it life. He can take a blight on human history and make it into a shining memorial of His love for us. How great it that?!
8) When we pray the Litany of the Saints for the catechumens…just yes. That, to me, expresses the love of the Church as the Body of Christ. We’re saying to those who about to come into the Church, “Come here with us! Welcome!”. And, as a gift to them, we offer them prayer. That’s what we bring to them–that’s what the Body does. We’re showing them most especially at that point what the Church is really about. She is steeped in prayer and love for the other, and so we lose ourselves in prayer for our brothers and sisters.
9) I’m not sure how to put this, but if you really think about it for a second, it just all seems so absurd. I mean, only yesterday we were all crying as we venerated the Cross–a cross, for goodness’ sake! A shameful instrument of torture and death! And then, tonight, we sing out joyfully…about the One who was crucified, the One who died the most painful and shameful death possible. We go from tears and sorrow to joy and laughter in a matter of hours! How ridiculous does that sound? But THAT’S the power of the Resurrection! THAT’S the power of God’s love for us. The darkness doesn’t last for long–our God does not leave us orphans. He comes back! He rises from the dead and, later, sends His Spirit among us to guide us in His love.
10) The dismissal. The Mass is ended, go in peace! Alleluia! Alleluia! Thanks be to God! Alleluia! Alleluia! We end Mass with that word: “ALLELUIA”! “Praise the Lord”! That’s what we’re saying! Praise the Lord for all He has done for us! Praise Him for His sacrifice! Praise Him for the glory of His Resurrection! Praise Him for His mercy towards us! Praise Him for dispelling the darkness of sin and conquering death! Praise Him for loving us so deeply and so sincerely! In the words of St. Augustine, “We are an Easter people, and ‘alleluia’ is our song“!
Okay…I think I’m done now.
It’s Good Friday. So…notice anything different in the Church’s liturgy today? It was probably pretty somber, right? No covering on the altar, not a lot of singing, no consecration…weird, huh?
We are a liturgical people, and liturgy marks the Church’s year. We have prayers that are said at different times of the day and, every single day, there is a Mass being celebrated. Except on Good Friday. Mass is at the center of the Church–it is the heartbeat of the Church. There’s this nice steady rhythm all throughout the liturgical year with daily Mass and then, all of a sudden, the Church’s heart skips a beat on Good Friday when no Mass is celebrated. Why?
Christ has died. That’s what we remember in a special way on this day. Today, He was beaten, mocked, abused, and tortured. He was scorned and left to die. So today, as the Church remembers the Lord’s Passion, as she walks with Him along the road to Calvary and stands at the foot of the Cross as He breathes His last, her heart stops. It stops at the sight of her Lord being struck for the sins of her people. It stops at the sound of “Hail, King of the Jews!” and the sound of the whip tearing into her Master’s back. It stops as she sees her God fall beneath the weight of the Cross and the burden of sin that He carries with Him on His shoulders–all for love of her. She watches as her Lord gets up after falling on His way and looks straight at her, with unimaginable love and pain in His eyes.
Her heart stops.
And, with this sudden stop, the Church calls us to recognize what has happened here. She says to all of us, “Look, my children. Look at what is happening. Stop! Reflect on this.” Listen to the Church, listen to the liturgy. And stop.
This post probably qualifies as a rant. Forgive me, you guys, but I rarely get this frustrated about anything and most people I know aren’t interested enough in the Church to listen to me go off.
You guys all know, I’m sure, that Pope Francis celebrated Holy Thursday Mass at a juvenile detention center in Rome and that he washed the feet of some of the detainees there. Most of us probably thought this was a good thing. I thought (or rather, hoped) that everyone would see it that way. Found out today that that wasn’t the case. What am I talking about? Look here.
Yes. Those people are seriously spazzing out. Not only are many of them upset that Pope Francis celebrated Holy Thursday Mass at a detention center, but some are equally frustrated by the fact that he washed the feet of women instead of only washing the feet of men. Oh, okay, yeah, that makes perfect sense. That’s a legitimate complaint.
You must be joking! I cannot believe that people are actually upset about this. It is just so unfortunate when people get so lost in the letter of the law that they can no longer understand its spirit, its purpose, and its application. I’ve just realized that I’m not angry at these people; rather, I’m sorry that they feel this way and I’m frustrated with their mentality. I understand that, for many, Pope Francis is rocking the boat…but darn it, maybe the boat needs rockin’, people! What could possibly align more with what Christ taught and with what the celebration of Holy Thursday is all about than visiting people who are desperately in need of Christ and inviting them to encounter Him in this profound way?
Okay, I feel much better now. Have a blessed Good Friday and a Happy Easter, everyone!
THE QUESTION OF THE DAY: JUST WHO IS THIS POPE FRANCIS?
Everyone’s talking now! Who is this new pope? What’s he gonna be like? I think that, if we pay close attention, we already have a pretty good idea of this pope’s character and of the direction in which he will be taking the Church. Let’s examine the evidence.
FIRST CLUE: HIS NAME
Admittedly, there are quite a few saints with the first name Francis, but the one we all automatically think of is St. Francis of Assisi. (If you’re trying to put a name with a face here, think garden statue with a bird.) “Francis, rebuild My Church!” Those were the words of Christ to this beloved saint. St. Francis was of noble birth, but he turned away from his wealth in favor of a humble life of service to God and to the Church. Personally, when I think of St. Francis, I think of peace, love, calm assurance, and complete trust in God, all of which are embodied in the well-known prayer attributed to him.
“The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi”
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
SECOND CLUE: HIS FIRST WORDS AS POPE
After his election, Pope Francis came out onto the balcony of St. Peter’s basilica to give his first papal blessing. Before this blessing, Pope Francis asked all of the people to take a moment to pray for HIM. That, to me, speaks volumes. Not only is that a great act of humility, but I think it also shows that Pope Francis wants to be in touch with the people and that he wants to bring the faithful together as a united Body. Below is the full text of his remarks and the footage of his address.
Address of His Holiness, Pope Francis I, on the Occasion of His Election
“Brothers and sisters, good evening. You know that the task of the conclave was to give Rome a bishop. It seems my brother cardinals went almost to the ends of the earth to find one.
I thank you for your welcome.
The diocesan community of Rome has its bishop. Thank you.
First of all, I would like to offer a prayer for our bishop emeritus, Benedict XVI. Let us all pray together for him that the Lord bless him and that the Mother of God protect him. ‘Our Father who art in heaven. … Hail Mary, full of grace. … Glory be to the Father … .’
Now let’s begin this journey, bishop and people, this journey of the church of Rome, which is the one that presides in charity over all the churches — a journey of brotherhood, love and trust among us. Let us pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there be a great brotherhood. I hope this journey of the church that we begin today — and I will be helped by my cardinal vicar, here present — will be fruitful for the evangelization of this so beautiful city.
Now I would like to give my blessing. But first, I will ask a favor. Before the bishop blesses his people, he asks that you pray to the Lord to bless me, the prayer of the people for the blessing of their bishop. Let’s pray for me in silence.”
(He gave his blessing “urbi et orbi” [to the city and the world]).
“Brothers and sisters, I’ll leave you. Thank you so much for the welcome. Pray for me. We’ll see each other soon. Tomorrow I want to go to pray to Mary so she would watch over all of Rome. Good night. Have a good rest.”
THIRD CLUE: HIS IMMEDIATE ACTION
After his remarks to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis called Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, to inform him that he plans to visit the former Pontiff in the coming days. Talk about coming out full steam!
SO, WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS SAY ABOUT THE NEW POPE?
These three things that we have seen today, in addition to his humility and loving service as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, say that Pope Francis will be working to keep the Church in touch with the Truth of the Catholic Faith while also seeking to reach out to the multitudes who are most in need of our service and the Gospel. He brings with him to the See of Peter a profound amount of humility, faith, and love. I, personally, cannot wait to see where he takes us next.
May God bless His Holiness, Francis I, Bishop of Rome! May he govern the Church for many years to come! May the Father watch over him, the Son protect him, and the Spirit guide him!