Although we frame the word 'hipster' and stick it on the wall to admire as the most coveted of 'coolness' levels, I believe it is far to easy, at least for myself, to often forget about the day to day life of Catholic living.
So while it's easy to wear Pinterest worth outfits and sip a latte while reading the newest Life Teen article, what does it look like to put that into practice?
To be honest, it's kind of scary.
It means having to put yourself out there, trust God totally, and having to realize that some people may not agree with you. Or, perhaps even realistically in today's culture, most people won't agree with you. It means having to be informed about not only what you as a Catholic believe, but why you even profess that to be true.
It means having to be in love with God.
There is a growing trend to glamourize the Catholic life by making it appealing to the masses. Pun slightly intended. We amp up teen ministry as to make the Catholic faith seem appealing, trendy and worthy of cutting time out of our busy schedule for. Value is placed on emotions and charismatic feelings so that people will 'feel' right about the Church.
Rebecca Harding Davis, an American writer from the late 1800s wrote, "We don't often look into these unpleasant details of our great struggle. We all prefer to think that every man who wore the blue or gray was a Philip Sidney at heart." We shy away from openly talking about our temptations, the word accountability can seem like a crazy concept to us, and we dance around solid truths so as not to offend anyone.
It's time to rub our face in the dirt of the earth and face the facts. There is so much need for authentic faith in our world. The reality is that over 80% of Catholics no longer identify themselves as Catholic by the time they hit their 23rd birthday. That's huge.
If you put statistics like that into any other situation, it's alarming. If you're traveling and your airline has a 20% chance of landing safety, what are the chances that you aren't going to fly on that airline? If you have a university with a 20% retention rate, things aren't going to well for them. If you have a 20% chance of passing a class, things aren't looking up.
So why are we content and living with this statistic? We watch each year as Catholic students walk onto a campus Catholic and four years later walk of the stage with a diploma and their faith far behind them.
The subject of objective truth is so controversial you would have thought we were talking a crazy conspiracy - but that's how the concept of absolute truth is taught.
Making Catholicism 'cool' isn't going to solve the problem. We have to make Catholicism real and, even more importantly, a blatant presence in our daily lives.
What does that look like in 2014? First, living our faith. And not just the parts that we're comfortable in. It means putting yourself completely in God's hands and letting Him write your story...without you editing as you go along.
It means lovingly guiding those who are in a state of confusion concerning the teachings of the Church. Saint Josemaria Escriva once said "Don't you long to shout to those youths who are bustling around you: Fools! Leave those worldly things that shackle the heart - and very often degrade it - leave all that and come with us in search of Love!"
The Church has incredibly beauty to her teachings. All of them. And most of them aren't discussed. Why does the Church believe what She believes about contraception, homosexual marriage, social justice, morality, truth and authentic love? There is a reason for each belief, and none are culturally accepted.
Yet Saint Toribio said, "Christ said, “I am the Truth”; he did not say “I am the custom."
Are haters going to hate? Heck yes.
In fact, Christ gave us ample warning about what we are going to face. John 15:18-21 says, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me."
What do we do about this all this hatred? Shake it off?
I vote rejoice in it. With the situations in the common culture today, what an incredible opportunity in which to reach out and show the true Catholic life. Is it always a conversation? No - your life could be the only Bible people read. Yet that doesn't offer us an out or cop out excuse for not talking about our faith. Is someone talking about how behind the times the Catholic Church is? Lovingly have an authentic conversation with them. Don't shirk away from a tough conversation. Use those conversations to fall even more in love with a God who wants to see you find the easiest way to Heaven.
And the way that is the sturdiest bridge between here and the next world? The Catholic Church.
Well, typical Chloe, it's been a crazy couple of days, but I'm back on track. For now at least.
Day five. There were so many blessings today, I just was overwhelmed. So, to make up for the days inbetween, here are five reasons for gratitude on this belated day five of my thankful challenge.
) My little three year old sister who came running in last night during prayers because "tomorrow is Taco Tuesday!" We may or may not have viewed the Lego movie too much lately.
2) My favorite Matt Maher song played on my way to class this morning. Commence Catholic fan girl mode.
3) My little sister Emma let me borrow her warm jacket, so I was able to walk back and forth to classes today feeling ice and toasty.
4) The little girl who I give guitar lessons to tonight said Monday nights were not so bad anymore because of our lessons.
5) I got to have a great chat with an elderly lady who came into work last night who said she just needed someone to listen and talk to. We were able to talk about her holiday traditions now that her family has passed away.
GOD IS SO GOOD. And He constantly finds ways to meet you exactly where you are and make you better...sometimes we just have to open our eyes.
On my ride home tonight, I was flipping through car radio stations and happened upon Ed Sheeran's "Don't" - a new song of his. I don't highly recommend the song...there is a lot of not-so-favorable messages and language mixed in with a funky beat (which seems to be the go to in today's music.)
But while I was delving into the words of the song instead of just the sound, I found it. There, hidden in the bass line and mixed around with the techno beat is a desperate plea.
A call for forever.
Because we were made for more.
For those of you haven't heard the song, the premises is that the singer met a gorgeous girl more than a year ago, but she jumped out of his life as soon as she came in. Then, just last week, she's back.
Why is she back all of the sudden? He thinks it's because this lovely lady was "looking for a lover to burn."
So, instead of realizing the temporary lust she is enticing him to, he "gave her my time for two or three nights." Then he does what she did to him....walks out for a couple of months until it's convenient for him to return.
You know humans were made for more than that, right? More than a one night stand. More than temporary lust.
Sheeran's chorus (the radio version, sans expletives) revolves around the fact that he doesn't want to know "that." He doesn't want to know that this isn't going to last. That this girl and him are only as temporary as the lust burns...and after those feelings are gone, they're both out of each other's lives, looking for another quick flame.
Verse two continues the destruction of both parties and the objectification of the human being, created in the image of God.
Sheeran's infatuation continues. He "only wanna see her" for a couple of weeks after they've gotten back together. She moves in, they bond over their hectic schedules and things look to be going quite smashingly.
Until it happens.
The next guy comes in the picture. He's cute. She likes him. They kiss. Sheeran is confused. How could she do that when "she knows" that it hurts him? Her new man and her go all the way, and only a short time later, there she is, at Sheeran's hotel door.
She wants love. She wants authentic, will-the-good-of-the-other-as-other love. And he can't give it to her.
Why? His heart has been taken over by lust and selfishness. He claims "Trust and respect is what we do this for" but at the same time, he uses this young woman's body for his own pleasure, without regard to the immortal soul that dwells within it.
He says that he never saw this other guy as a threat..."Until you disappeared with him to have sex of course." Yet he fails to see the irony in the fact that, just a couple of weeks ago, he was doing the same thing with her that he is now irritated at this second guy for.
" And I wasn't looking for a promise or commitment, but it was never just fun and I thought you were different."
It was never just fun.
We can tell ourselves quite good lies, can't we?
"Everyone's doing it." "It's okay...we love each other." "It's nothing serious. Really."
Really? Your body is making a commitment that your heart and mind can't keep without the commitment of marriage.
So, in a sense Ed Sheeran is right - Don't. Don't throw your body right after your heart in the battle against lust. Don't reject the beautiful plan God has for you in favor for a temporary satisfaction.
Maybe I'm just rambling. Maybe this sounds like "Ah lahmlahlah" to you. But you, regardless of your gender or age, religious affiliation or education level, were made for greatness.
The creator of the universe created you.
If you ever question your worth...just don't. See what I did there?
Day two has passed and with it has come another realization of a loving God.
Today I am thankful for the listening ear of my Heavenly Father.
I was at a religion class tonight, and we were reading through Mark 10. Tonight's focus was on Bartimaeus the blind beggar. He sat every day outside the gates and waited for
Christ to pass by simply for the chance to call out to the Lord.
Then finally, the day came. Christ is heard to be passing by and Bartimaeus
seizes the chance, calling out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
How does Christ respond?
"What do you want me to do for you?"
The Bible and tradition say amazing things. Jeremiah 29:11 says,
"For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord. Plans to prosper
and not harm you, plans to give you a future full of hope."
Christ doesn't tell Bartimaeus to just get up, you're healed, go along your own path.
He asks Bartimaeus what he wants.
And even then, Christ doesn't end there. He cures Bartimaeus's blindness.
Then challenges him.
"'Go your way; your faith has made you well.' And immediately he received
his sight and followed Jesus on the road.'"
There is no coincidence that when Bartimaeus can see, he
follows Christ on the path.
Have you ever noticed how much the Bible talks about thanksgiving? Neither had I...until I started looking and was pleasantly surprised.
The story of thanksgiving can be traced through the entirety of the Bible, culminating in the resurrection of Christ, and continuing in our daily lives as Christians.
Christ gave thanks in good and bad times. When he saw the doubt of the unbelievers, he gave thanks to the Father, saying, "I thank you Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children" (Matthew 11:25).
Even Christ is noted in his act of thanksgiving: "And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, giving it to them..." (Luke 22:19).
It isn't simply a quick thank you when something good happens in your life, instead it is constant despite circumstances and evident in the life of a believer. The psalmist writes of this in psalm 105, "Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name. Make known His deeds among the peoples!"
Make known His deeds among the people - sharing your joy and thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving can even be an aid in prayer - and more than an aid, perhaps even a necessity.
Colossians 4:2 says, "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving."
Watching the world with thankful eyes gives us the ability to see things that otherwise would have slid under the radar. Drives to work, time with family, school work, quiet evenings, busy times, meetings with friends can all be environments for the development of a thankful spirit with the right outlook.
To constantly wish you had something else, something better, is a direct waste of the chance to rejoice in what you are given and the situation that God has placed you in now.
Tony Gaskins, a motivational speaker, once said, "To be content doesn't mean you don't desire more, it means you're thankful for what you have and patient for what is to come." This sums up the thanksgiving outlook exceptionally. This attitude doesn't mean that you're going to happy all the time...but it does open up opportunities for contentment.
So, for the next thirty days, I'm going to work on being thankful...and being content. I have a feeling that one is going to quickly lead to the other. If you're interested in this little journey, and maybe are feeling like you could use a little more contentedness or thanksgiving (or maybe a little bit of both) in your life, you are more than welcome to follow along this month! My (lofty and perhaps unreachable) goal is to post every day for the next thirty days.
I'm reminded of the classic literature story of Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter. In the book, the main character, Pollyanna is a glad spirit with a very thankful heart. She plays the "glad game," where she always looks at each situation she is placed in and attempts to find something to be glad about. She plays the game no matter how happy or angering the situation is...and learns to be content even in the most uncomfortable and undesirable situations.
A fellow blogger once wrote, "The character of Pollyanna did not strive to ignore reality or avoid the truth of what was happening in her life. Instead, she chose to face the negative situations head-on and look for the good in them, as any positive thinking person would. She chooses the path in life that so few people walk down - a path on which positive thinking blooms and inspiration can be found even in the darkest of places."
Thankfulness precedes miracles. Thankfulness precedes contentment....and joy in the work that God can do in the lives of His children. si vis amari ama