Be an Encourager

Be an Encourager

“Encourage each other daily, while it is still today.” -St. Paul in his letter to the Hebrews.

Listening to Catholic radio on my way into work this morning, radio host Gus Lloyd reminded everyone that an important part of being a Christian is to give encouragement to others.

What does that mean?

When people are struggling, whether they’re just having a bad day or maybe dealing with serious issues, what can we do to be encouraging? How can we help, especially when we might not understand the depth of their struggle?

Pope Francis recently said that sometimes there really isn’t anything you can say to make them feel better. In these cases, he said, it’s best to just be there and cry with them.

Having been on the receiving end of well-wishers who maybe haven’t understood the depth of the problem being faced, I think he’s right.

But here’s the thing. There is one thing that can always be said, no matter the situation.

“You are loved.”

And isn’t that what the pope’s tears of solidarity are really saying, after all?

You are loved.

I’m no expert, but I believe that is what is at the very core of being a Christian. Knowing that we are loved in spite of everything, and spreading that love to everyone, everywhere.

So to everyone, no matter who you are or what you may be going through, take courage and remember that you are loved.

Now let’s get out there and spread this.

“Our Hearts Are Restless”

“Our Hearts Are Restless”

Now that January is almost over, it’s time to assess how I’m doing with my resolutions. I’m happy to report that 2 out of 3 are going remarkably well. I’ve stuck to my Jorge Cruise diet, and I feel great. I’ve even lost about 5 pounds so far. SNAPS!
My second resolution was to enjoy my house more. This one is definitely working out for me. I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing differently. Maybe it was an attitude adjustment. Either way, I’m really enjoying it. Also, my job is becoming more bearable when I think about the reason I have to go to work.

My third resolution was to grow deeper in my Catholic faith. This one has been a little tricky. My participation in the Sacraments is about where it has always been. James and I always go to Sunday Mass together, and that will never change. I’ve been to Confession once this year, and will go again soon.

It’s not this outward participation that is my problem, though. My prayer life is minimal compared to what it used to be in the past. I seem to be experiencing some sort of aversion to long prayers. I think that what I need to do is just force myself into a habit of prayer. Love is an action, not a feeling. Loving God requires commitment, like marriage. You know that you love him, but sometimes you have to remind yourself, and act lovingly even when you don’t feel like it. You have to “put in the time” whether you want to or not. Eventually, it will pay off.

Perhaps this is a little bit like St. John of the Cross and his “Dark Night of the Soul”. I don’t seem to be interested in praying, yet I have a desire to be more interested in praying. I’ll just pray anyway. As St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord.”

2013: The Best is Yet to Come

2012 began with a morning stroll down a quiet Duke of Gloucester Street with James. It was unseasonably warm, and the blue sky and warm sun filled us with hope and excitement. After 12 months of various ups and downs, and learning to adjust to my new identity, the year ended with a crackling fire in the cozy basement of our darling new house.

The holiday season was very good to us this year. We decked our newly purchased halls and had a merry time doing it. We hosted our first holiday party (2 in fact) and hung our first outdoor lights. We each had a birthday, and it seemed the whole month was one long feast of merriment. Most importantly, this Christmas season gave us an opportunity to step away from all the stress and think about all the wonderful things that we have done this year.

Strangely, the night before my 25th birthday, I found myself in a state of panic. “I’ll never be 24 again,” I said to myself. “How is it that my 20s are slipping by? What have I to show for it?” Silly, I know. I’m engaged, I have degree, and I own a single family home. Not to mention the numerous bucket list items I have fulfilled already. Still, that night I felt so much anxiety, like none of that had mattered at all and that I wasn’t good enough. I had spent so much of 2012 worrying about jobs and money that I hadn’t spent near enough time enjoying my life.

So, I have resolved to spend the New Year of 2013 being happy. Actually, I have 3 resolutions this year. First, to enjoy my house more, as that is the only reason I trudge through my job each day. Second, to grow deeper in my Catholic faith and read more spiritual literature, both alone and with James. Third, I’ll be keeping to Jorge Cruise’s eating method the entire year. My dad lost 40 lbs in 2012 by eating like Jorge, so I’ve decided to do the same. My plan is that these three small resolutions will feed off of each other and grow into a better-adjusted, happier me.

So much good is set to happen this year. In less than 5 months, I will finally marry the love of my life, and I will finally get to live in the home we are building together. Following the teachings of our Faith and living apart has not been easy by any stretch, but engagement is almost over now, and we know our sacrifice will make things all the more wonderful when our marriage finally begins. I’m so happy that 2013 is finally here, and that the best is yet to come. I’ll be seeing you.

Wedding Brain

Lately I’ve been having a terrible time trying to concentrate on things. Whenever I go to dinner with people, my brain is in another place and I feel flighty and uncool. This Saturday, I thought my car was stolen in Silver Spring, until I realized that I was in the completely wrong section of the parking lot. My friend who was with me smiled and said, “You have wedding brain!”

Is that what they call it? We’ve been engaged for almost 6 months, and the planning is driving me crazy, probably because we don’t have a date yet and I’m starting to feel very scared and nervous. It was our choice not to set a date until James got a job, and it’s a good choice for us in this economy, but the waiting is driving me crazy. Everyone’s been suggesting that I go ahead and plan as much as possible without a date so that when we’re ready, all we have to do is book everything and go.

So, how much of a wedding can you plan before you have a date?

A lot, actually. You just can’t finalize anything. For example, you can pick your bridal party, but it might be smart not to ask anyone until after you have a date, that way they can decide if they can commit or not. You can design your ceremony (as Catholics, this means we get to pick the readings we want, the music, and the blessings). You can decide what sort of favor you want. You can design centerpieces and table settings. You can even pick your dress. It’s still nerve-racking though. I wonder how many other engaged couples got shafted by the economy?

We’re praying really hard that something works out soon. Hopefully it won’t take too much longer. We’re praying my dad’s miracle St. Jude/Sacred Heart novena, which has never failed. Recently we got the family on board, asking around to see if anyone knows of any openings in our area. And I do think that this experience will be worth it in the end. I can already see how we’ve become stronger because of it. Maybe dealing with snags during engagement helps people prepare for better marriages in the long run. I’ll keep trusting that God knows what he’s doing, and everything happens for a reason.

Newt Gingrich on Hannity

Last night I decided to watch Sean Hannity’s interview of Newt Gingrich. Prior to watching this interview, my opinion of Newt was simply, “Smart guy, AWFUL personality.” I always thought he looked so angry. While I liked some of his responses in the debates, I was turned off by his perpetual frown. Hannity, on the other hand, made me realize something. This guy might actually be the chosen one.

Here’s the thing. While he does always seem to be very serious and unpleasant, the man knows what he’s talking about. He majored in history, after all (wink). And here’s the other thing: this guy could run circles around Obama in a debate. If you put Obama vs. Newt on national television, Obama would be totally exposed. Listening to Newt talk about how he wants to challenge Obama to 7 Lincoln-Douglas style debates, I thought “Wow, it’s genius.” Obama has a catchy personality and he seems like a nice guy, but there’s no way in hell he could beat Newt on substance.

Another interesting fact: When asked about his life post-Speaker, Newt talked about his new-found love of going to Catholic Mass on Sundays and the strength he draws from the Eucharist. What a HUGE contrast that is from Obama and his Jeremiah Wright.

I’m not endorsing Newt just yet. I’m not calling him flawless or perfect. I’m not sure if he is the ultimate best choice for president. But he might be.

Professor Fired for Catholic Beliefs?

The University of Illinois fired adjunct professor Ken Howell over a statement that was declared “hate speech.”

But was it really?

Howell was a professor who taught Introduction to Catholicism and Modern Catholic Thought. His job was to teach students the doctrine of the Catholic Church, which includes a strong opinion about the morality of homosexual acts.

In an email to the class, Howell wrote that “Natural Moral Law says that Morality must be a response to REALITY. In other words, sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same.” A student took offense to this and complained that it was “hate speech.” The University of Illinois agreed and kicked Howell out the door.

 To a public that is not entirely familiar with the finer points of Catholic teaching, this may in fact sound like a bigoted professor. The offended student argued their side writing that “Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing. Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another.”

In truth, this student’s comment shows an unfamiliarity with the concept of “Natural Law” in Catholic thought. In Catholic theology, Natural Law (capitalized) represents a philosophical code of ethics derived from the “natural” order of things in the physical world. In other words, deducing God’s intentions through nature. Natural Law was explored and determined by thousands of years of Catholic theologians including Augustine and Aquinas, and is used (in conjunction with the Scriptures) to determine the rules of morality.

The Catholic Church teaches that, while being homosexual is not a sin, engaging in homosexual acts is contrary to the Natural Law and therefore a sin. This is the official teaching of the Church, and a professor teaching a class on the Catholic religion should not be penalized for explaining this concept. People may not like or agree with the Church’s teaching, but the fact is, it’s what the Church teaches, and you’re not going to change that. The offended student clearly misunderstood the concept of Natural Law as a Catholic concept, and the University also misunderstood.

Every religion has a side that is often misunderstood by those who are not highly familiar with the finer points of the theology. Muslims hold Jihad, or Holy War, as one of the 5 primary tenents of their belief. Judaism disagrees that Jesus was the Messiah. Buhdists believe in reincarnation, a concept with is linked with the hated caste system in India. Some African tribal religions teach the ritual genital mutilation of females. The point is, if you’re going to pay a professor to teach students about the beliefs of a religion or culture, don’t penalize them for doing their job.

Would you rather censor everything so that students never learn about anything that could be confusing, challenging, dark, ugly, scarey, or just different? Do you want your graduates to think the world is absolutely perfect and everyone is the same? People need to know that there are many different types of people in this world. You can’t hide the truth of the world from university students. College kids are naive enough without you sheltering them.

The bottom line is, if you’re going to pay this professor to explain Catholic beliefs, don’t fire him if someone doesn’t agree. You’re doing a disservice to the man, but also to the student, who not only will never understand the definition of Natural Law as relates to Catholicism, but also will never learn that the world won’t always bend over backward to accomodate them.

Where does this lead? What other free academic thoughts are they going to suppress with the line of “hate speech”?

Day 3… making my spirit happy :)

Day 3 of the eating better/exercising more is going well. So far i’ve managed to stay below my calorie goals on my “Lose it!” app (which btw was featured on GMA this morning… or was it The Today Show?).

So…. the spiritual part of this New Year’s Resolution is turning out to be the hardest part. I’ve been a little bit stressed lately, and that never makes me want to pray. Maybe I need to do something I love, like cooking, to ease the stress a little. One thing that is working though… St. Therese. I still pray to her every night, and she still answers me every time. I’d recommend this saint to anyone in need of anything. She’s turning out to be one of the best friends I’ve ever had.