Is joy at the heart of your life in Christ? Many Catholics feel beleaguered as they struggle to stand up for the truth in an increasingly hostile environment. Of course, it is easy to become so busy addressing serious moral and religious issues that our spirituality is relegated to Sunday Mass and a few Hail Marys rattled off on the run. However, if we are determined to be effective agents of change in society, we must make time to learn how to live in, with, and through Christ. Only when we are filled with the power of Holy Spirit, we will witness effectively with joy, with a dance in our step.
Man cannot transform himself into a holy being. As my Irish grandmother would say,“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”In other words, only Christ can transform us into His image and draw us into the heart of His Father.
Atendance at Mass, regular confession, spiritual exercises, fasting, and prayer are wonderful vehicles of grace but if we think pious activities will sanctify us, we will only appear to be holy on the outside like the Pharisees:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.(Matthew 23:27)
A song by Garth Brooks, “Standing Outside the Fire”, always brings me to tears because it triggers my own yearning for the fire of God hidden deep in my soul. It is easy to lose touch with this longing, focusing on the business of each day as I function efficiently, approved of by society. On the other hand, whenever someone surrenders to the power of the fire, the ensuing process of transformation usually looks messy.
The question we had struggled with for years was, “How could we remain faithful to Church teaching when Natural Family Planning did not seem to work for us?” Intuitively, I already knew a call to trust in God could not just be an intellectual assent but included entrusting my fertility to God. Catholic teaching stated couples should space their children with abstinence but we slowly discovered I was one of those rare people who could conceive long before ovulation.
I was stunned when I first discovered this quote by St. Ignatius because I associated the soldier-saint, who founded the intellectual Jesuit order, with the serious, arduous Spiritual Exercises. I could hardly imagine St. Iggy spouting a phrase which appears at first glance to be flippant. Yet, this quote illustrates that Ignatius grasped a deep, spiritual truth which many Catholics do not understand: joy is a gift from God. The average Catholic does not associate joy with holiness, but believes holiness is synonymous with Christ-like suffering. However, the truth is even redemptive suffering is not miserable when we are suffused with the love of God and filled with His Spirit. Joy is at the core of our spirit when we live in, with, and through Christ. This holy joy is the source of a Christian’s strength.
“God Made Us For Joy”- continue reading
As all couples know, marriage is hard. However, our marital struggles become easier when we realize our growing pains are simply part of the normal process all couples must go through as they move from infatuation to a deep, mature, sacramental love. Mercy in marriage is the only way to not only survive marriage but to thrive as a couple and become unified and one in Christ. Listening to another Catholic couple explain this process from a faith perspective, as well as share their own struggle, encourages other couples.
I really do not think my heart is in things. Since I was a little girl, I have felt content with what I have materially. Even now, when my adult kids ask me what I want for Christmas, I pause for a moment, with a blank mind. I have to search to come up with a list.
Rather a strange state to be in because this is not the result of spiritual striving, fasting or prayer, it is just how I am. Living with little people has only strengthened an innate tendency to enjoy the little things, to be grateful to be alive and in communion with the Spirit. In addition, as a large family with barely enough cash but many blessings, we have experienced many incidents of God’s providence.
Throughout history, and even now in agricultural, third-world cultures, extended families are the norm. Secondary attachments in such families enrich the lives of children. As the African proverb reminds first-world countries, “It takes a community to raise a child.”
continue reading ………..link to Tender Tidings, a free Catholic parenting magazine
The Gift of Suffering
Surprisingly, one of the keys to the longevity of our marriage is suffering.
Suffering was a gift which unified us because it stripped away false pride and forced us to our knees in prayer. Honest prayer led both of us to self-knowledge, humility and compassion for each other.
When I asked a priest what my life would have been like if I had not suffered, if I had married a well-off dentist, had 1.25 kids and lived in an efficient, modern house, he put on a phony, pious face, put his hands together in prayer, and said in a high, mocking voice,
”Oh, you would be a nice Christian lady, praising the Lord.”
What he meant by that amusing bit of acting was I would be shallow, without depth and strength. Well, when I see the results of a bit of suffering in our marriage, I say bring it on.