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But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness,

godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. ~ 1 Timothy 6:11

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advent

What is Advent?

Advent is the time of preparation for Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ.

Advent is just over 4 weeks long, beginning four Sundays before Christmas and ending on Christmas Day, when the Christmas Season begins.

Advent is the beginning of the new liturgical year in the Catholic Church. The liturgical year follows the life of Christ so it would, naturally, start with the birth of Christ.

As a result, Advent is also the end of the period known as ordinary time (ordinal time) in the liturgical year.  While ordinary time is spent focusing on the message of Jesus and preparing for His second coming, Advent is a time spent preparing for and celebrating the first coming of Christ 2000 years ago.

It is a time especially focused on Jesus Christ.  It can be looked at as a sort of "spring cleaning," a time to prepare your mind, body, and soul to welcome the Lord of all Creation.


"I Desire Mercy not Sacrifice"

This dedication to renewal and improvement over the course of Advent is customarily viewed as a gift to be given to Jesus on His birthday, Christmas.  This makes advent a time of great joy, celebrating and using the blessings you have been given.

In this way Advent is different from Lent, another period of preparation for a monumental period in history.  During Lent we practice sacrifice and focus on repentance, whereas during Advent you focus more on practicing mercy and grace.

In doing so we give freely of the blessings we have been given in time, talent, and treasure!  Rather than abstaining from a favorite food as a sacrifice, we might share that food with those in need because as we all know, Jesus said:
...Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me ~ Matthew 25:40

The Reason for the Season

Another popular practice that captures the spirit of both, spring cleaning and a birthday gift, is becoming a better Christian by dedicating time each day to prayer and reading the Bible.  However you should know that success in this pursuit should be measured by the fruit it bears.

It should result in you reflecting the graces you have been given to your loved ones, freely granting the mercy you have been granted to those who wrong you, and being an example of Christ's sacrificial love to those around you.

If there is no impact on those around you, what good is it that you became better?  As Jesus said:
You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.  Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. ~ Matthew 5:14-16
The end goal of any endeavor in Advent is to put Jesus in your mind, in your heart, and on your lips.  It is a time to recenter yourself on the only thing that matters.

This is slightly ironic as you could argue it is the hardest time of year to keep Jesus in focus...what with the gifts, the visits, the carols, and parties.

So prepare your heart, share your joys, enjoy the season, but always be sure you don't lose sight of the reason for the season.



Keep Pursuing


Additional Resources for Your Advent Season

Per usual, Bishop Robert Barron has some incredibly insightful things to say on Advent:

Aleteia published a wealth of of informational resources and media about Advent:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit

here is a list of the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit:
  • Wisdom 
  • Understanding 
  • Knowledge 
  • Fortitude 
  • Counsel 
  • Piety 
  • Fear of the Lord

Keep Pursuing



Additional Resources


The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit. ~ CCC 1830

Please note, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit should not be confused with the Fruits of the Holy Spirit.

[The Gifts of the Holy Spirit] belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations. (CCC 1831)

The Church gets the list of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit from the following Bible passage:
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. ~ Isaiah 11:2-3
Here are some additional Bible verses that speak to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit:
Now in regard to spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be unaware. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:1

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:7

To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:8-1

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit

The 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit are:
  • Charity 
  • Joy 
  • Peace 
  • Patience 
  • Kindness 
  • Goodness 
  • Generosity 
  • Gentleness 
  • Fidelity 
  • Modesty 
  • Self-Control 
  • Chastity

Keep Pursuing




Additional Resources

Please note, the Fruits of the Holy Spirit are not the same thing as the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Here is a great Bible verse that speaks to the Fruit of the Holy Spirit:
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  
In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. ~ Galatians 5:19-23

The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. ~ CCC 1832

The Prayer to Saint Michael

The prayer to Saint Michael is one of my favorite prayers.  I cannot help but be moved by its power each time I pray it.

This is how you say the prayer to Saint Michael:
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
And do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God,
cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen
The original version of the prayer was penned by Pope Leo XIII in 1884 and was much longer.  The current version of the prayer was penned by Pope John Paul II in 1994.

Saint Michael is one of the three archangels mentioned in the Bible.  Here are some of the verses about Saint Michael the archangel:
"Fear not, Daniel," he continued; "from the first day you made up your mind to acquire understanding and humble yourself before God, your prayer was heard. Because of it I started out, but the prince of the kingdom of Persia stood in my way for twenty-one days, until finally Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me. I left him there with the prince of the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what shall happen to your people in the days to come; for there is yet a vision concerning those days." ~ Daniel 10:12-14
"At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time. At that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book.  Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace. But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, And those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever. ~ Daniel 12:1-3
"Then war broke out in heaven; Michael 8 and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven." ~ Revelations 12:7-8


Keep Pursuing

Saturday, November 17, 2012

My Favorite Bible Verse

The discovery of my favorite Bible verse was a transformative experience.  It was one of the first times in my life when I could actually feel God's presence.

It was a cold winter morning in the second semester of my freshman year in college.  Sunlight was pouring through the window of my dorm room.  I rolled out of bed, grudgingly, to read my Bible and go running before class.  I started reading John 15 and the following line woke me up:
I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. ~ John 15:5
That was it!  For years I had been searching for a simple way to summarize what I thought my relationship with Christ should be.  And this visual nailed it!  It was like finding a puzzle piece you have been looking for.

That's not my favorite Bible verse...

But it got my attention.  I was now fully awake and invested...no longer grudging.  I kept on reading. Every single verse built on the one before it...I get my power from Jesus...bearing fruit glorifies God...God loves Jesus...Jesus loves me...love one another as Jesus loved us...

And then it all culminated in this:
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. ~ John 15:13
I stopped reading, stunned.  This verse meant infinitely more when taken in the full context of John 15. (Go read it, it all goes together.)

The full meaning of this verse really sank in. The greatest love one can have is to sacrifice one's life for another. And everyone knows Jesus gave his life for us. Jesus died for me...because of me.

I put down the Bible, numbly got dressed, and went running. I ran, not seeing anything, my mind focused on the fact that Jesus, this man I didn't know, had died for me because he loved me. What used to be just words became real to me for the first time. And it didn't compute.

The Bible verse drifted through my head again and I thought of my brother, Garrett. I thought of how much I loved him. Would I give my life so that he might live?  The answer, I was surprised to find, was yes...that was terrifying.

The discovery slowly began to dissolve into understanding. Jesus loved me like I love my brother. That made Jesus' love tangible. I knew what Jesus felt for me. I experienced it in the love I had for my brother. 

That was incredible. The most powerful love I knew and that was how Jesus felt about me...even when I was ignoring Him. And this love led to His death. He sacrificed His life because of the love I felt now.

It made my heart long for Jesus. For the first time in my life, I really loved Jesus back.

I ran until my eyes cleared. Exhausted, I started walking back to my dorm. I started seeing the people around me again. And I was shocked to see the purple backpack in front of me had "John 15:13" stitched into the back of it!

I couldn't believe it. I wanted to tell her, but I was scared.  (Yes, I've always loved talking, but I had never talked about my faith before.) I decided that this couldn't be a coincidence and it warranted overcoming the trepidation I felt.

I tapped her on the shoulder. I bumbled my way through a brief chat about our shared favorite Bible verse and how amazing God was for lining her up in front of me on the day I discovered the verse. It was the first time I shared my faith, something we are all called to do.  And it was rewarding!

And that is the story of how I discovered my favorite Bible verse: John 15:13!


Post Script 

You might be reacting with disbelief. I know that this might be the most famous and widely quoted verse in the Bible, but I was really uninformed about my faith at that time. I really didn't know it.  And, being that uneducated allowed this verse to hit me with all the force of someone discovering it for the first time.

It is so nice being able to have a clear answer (and a great story) when people bring up favorite Bible verses. Do you know your favorite Bible verse? If not, you should go find it.


Keep Pursuing

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Holy Days of Obligation

Here is a list of the 6 Holy Days of Obligation in the dioceses of the Unites States (in addition to Sundays):
  1. The Solemnity of Mary
  2. The Ascension of Christ
  3. The Assumption of the Blessed Mother
  4. All Saints' Day
  5. The Immaculate Conception of Mary
  6. Christmas

Keep Pursuing



Additional Resources

On Holy Days of Obligation, the faithful are required to attend mass.
The precept of the Church specifies the law of the Lord more precisely: "On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass." "The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day." ~ CCC 2180


Monday, October 15, 2012

The Hail Holy Queen

This is how you pray the Hail Holy Queen prayer:
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy!
Our life, our sweetness, and our hope!
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve,
to thee do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn, then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us;
and after this our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb Jesus;
O clement, O loving, O sweet virgin Mary.
Amen

Keep Pursuing

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Precepts of the Church

Here is the list of the 6 precepts of the Church:
  1. You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation. 
  2. You shall confess your sins at least once a year. 
  3. You shall humbly receive your Creator in Holy Communion at least during the Easter season. 
  4. You shall keep holy the holy days of obligation. 
  5. You shall observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence.
  6. And it is your duty to provide for the material needs of the Church, according to your abilities.

Keep Pursuing



Additional Resources


The Precepts of the Catholic Church are like a list of the bare minimum that is required of a practicing member of the Church.  The Church describes them as:
"The precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. the obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the indispensable minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor:" ~ CCC 2041

Again it must be emphasized that these represent the lowest rung, the absolute minimum that is required of all Catholics.  I must admit I haven't always measured up these.  It's pretty humbling.  How do you measure up?

If you don't quite have it yet, make this your goal.  It is a great starting place from which your spiritual life can begin to blossom.

From there, the next step is to ask yourself, if you truly love someone are you really going to be trying to "nickel and dime" them to get away with as little involvement as possible?  NO!  You will grow in love and want to do more.  Keep pushing, keep growing, keep learning, and keep loving.



The Glory Be

The Glory Be is a prayer worshiping God in His three persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It goes:
Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. 
Amen.


Keep Pursuing

The 10 Commandments

Here is a list of the 10 Commandments:
  1. I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me
  2. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain
  3. Remember to keep holy the LORD's day
  4. Honor your father and your mother.
  5. You shall not kill
  6. You shall not commit adultery
  7. You shall not steal
  8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
  9. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor's goods

Keep Pursuing



Additional Resources

The 10 Commandments are covered twice in the Bible.  Once in Exodus 20:2-17 and again in Deuteronomy 5:6-21.

You can also find the 10 Commandments in the traditional catechetical formula of the Catholic Church here: The 10 Commandments

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The 8 Beatitudes

List of the 8 Beatitudes:
  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
  2. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 
  3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 
  4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 
  5. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. 
  6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 
  7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 
  8. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven. 

Keep Pursuing


Additional Resources

The Beatitudes come directly from Jesus in Matthew 5:3-12. Jesus teaches the 8 Beatitudes as the beginning to the sermon on the mount.

The 8 Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus' preaching. They take up the promises made to the chosen people since Abraham. The Beatitudes fulfill the promises by ordering them no longer merely to the possession of a territory, but to the Kingdom of heaven.

The Catechism states that, "the Beatitudes depict the countenance of Jesus Christ and portray his charity. They express the vocation of the faithful associated with the glory of his Passion and Resurrection; they shed light on the actions and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life; they are the paradoxical promises that sustain hope in the midst of tribulations; they proclaim the blessings and rewards already secured, however dimly, for Christ's disciples; they have begun in the lives of the Virgin Mary and all the saints." ~  CCC 1717



Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Chaplet of Divine Mercy

What It Is

The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is a prayer that is near and dear to my heart.  It transformed my life!  And today is the 77th anniversary of the prayer!
"This Chaplet was dictated to Saint Faustina by the Lord Jesus Himself in Vilnius on September 13-14, 1935, as a prayer of atonement and for the appeasement of God's wrath." ~ Introduction to the Diary of Saint Faustina

How to Pray It

The Chaplet can be prayed on rosary beads because it follows the same format as the rosary.  The following quote is taken from the book, "Divine Mercy in My Soul: Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska".  These are the words of Jesus when He gave the prayer to Saint Faustina:
"...First of all, you will say one OUR FATHER and HAIL MARY and the [APOSTLE'S CREED].  Then on the OUR FATHER beads [on the rosary] you will say the following words: 'Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.' On the HAIL MARY beads [on the rosary] you will say the following words: 'For the sake of His sorrowful Passion have mercy on us and on the whole world.' In conclusion, three times you will recite these words: 'Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.'" ~ Diary 474-476
(Just to be safe, I listed the prayer in another format at the bottom of this post.)


Why to Pray It

This is an especially powerful prayer.  The introduction to Saint Faustina's Diary goes on to say:
"By means of this prayer, the petitioners request 'mercy on us and on the whole world,' and by so doing, they perform a work of mercy.  If the faithful add to this the foundation of trust and fulfill the conditions regarding every good prayer (humility, perseverance, matters in conformity with God's will), they can expect the fulfillment of Christ's promises which are particularly related to the hour of death: the grace of conversion and a peaceful death.
Not only will the people who say the Chaplet receive these graces, but also the dying at whose side others will recite this prayer.  The Lord said: 'When this chaplet is said by the bedside of a dying person, God's anger is placated, unfathomable mercy envelops the soul' (Diary, 811).  The general promise says: 'It pleases Me to grant everything they ask of Me by saying the chaplet' (Diary, 1541) '...if what you ask is compatible with My will.' (Diary, 1731)"
It is good to pray this prayer any time / all the time.  However, this prayer is especially powerful at the three o'clock hour, the hour of our Lord's death on the cross.  In the diary it says the following:
"At three o'clock, implore My mercy, especially for sinners; and, if only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in My Passion, particularly in My abandonment for the whole world.  I will allow you to enter into My mortal sorrow.  In this hour, I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of my Passion..." ~ Diary, 1320

Personal Experience

I can attest to the power of this prayer in my own personal experience.  This prayer has transformed my life.  Once my wife taught me this prayer, it was just too powerful and too easy (10 minutes) to not say at 3 pm every day.  (Normally we'll pray along with Relevant Radio when they say it at 3 pm.)  And the results have been staggering...my prayer life has improved, people have been healed, friends have been converted...heck I have a friend who made it rain during a drought (no joke).

So I pass this prayer along to you.  It is a gift straight from Jesus Himself.  Please try using it for a week at 3 pm...see if it doesn't change your life.

[Divine Mercy Image]

Keep Pursuing



Additional Material

Just in case it wasn't clear, this is how you pray the chaplet on rosary beads:
  • The Opening 
  • The Five Decades 
    • (pray this prayer once at the beginning of each decade) 
      • Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, the Soul and Divinity, of Your dearly beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. 
    • (pray this prayer ten times in each decade) 
      • For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world 
    • (repeat the above set of prayers five times for a total of 55 prayers) 
  • The Closing 
    • (repeat the below prayer three times) 
      • Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world 

Lastly, here is a website with loads of materials and information on the Divine Mercy Chaplet:
www.thedivinemercy.org

The Apostle's Creed

The Apostle's Creed is a "professions of faith" since it summarizes the faith that Christians profess.

This is how you pray the Apostle's Creed:
I believe in God the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son,
our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell; the third day
He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven, and sits at
the right hand of God the Father
almighty, from thence He shall come
to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body
and life everlasting.
Amen.
It is listed in the Compendium of the CCC here alongside the Nicene Creed.

CCC 187 says "they are called 'creeds' on account of what is usually their first word in Latin: credo ('I believe'). They are also called 'symbols of faith'."

Keep Pursuing

The Hail Mary

The Hail Mary is a wonderful prayer asking for Mary's intercession upon our behalf.

It goes:
Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. 
Amen

Why We Pray the Hail Mary

When we pray this prayer, we ask for intercession of our Holy Mother on our behalf (we are asking her to pray for us).  She is our mother because as members of the Church we are the brothers and sisters of Christ.

Fun fact: It is not possible for you to love Mary more than her son, Jesus, loves her.


Where the Hail Mary Comes From

The Hail Mary prayer actually comes from sacred scripture: Luke 1:28, 1:42.  

  • Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.
    • "And coming to her, he [the angel] said, 'Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.'" ~ Luke 1:28
  • Blessed art though amongst women and blessed in the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
    • "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, 'Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.'" ~ Luke 1:41-42
  • Holy Mary, mother of God.
    • "'And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?'" ~ Luke 1:43
  • Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.


Additional Resources

The Catechism covers the reasons for and the source of the Hail Mary prayer in CCC 2673-2679.

Keep Pursuing

The Our Father

We are starting out the Prayers series with what is considered the fundamental Christian prayer: The Our Father.  It came directly from Jesus' mouth when a disciple asked him how we should pray.

This is the Our Father prayer:
"Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
This prayer as given to us by Jesus.  It is recorded in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.

One commonly asked question is whether or not to include the doxology at the end of the prayer.  The doxology is: "For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever".  The Catholic Church does not include the doxology in the Our Father and explains why in CCC 2760.

Keep Pursuing

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Why I Believe in God


I was lucky to have started with a good foundation.  I believed in God when I was little because my family believed in God.  I saw their example and followed it.  However, there a came a day as a child when I decided that, for something this important, I needed to decide for myself what was right and what was wrong, and not just blindly follow.  (Because the Catholic Church does not call us to blind faith.)

I remember it vividly, sitting there in church in the alcove of a stained glass window and really thinking about it for the first time.  Did God exist?  I wasn’t sure; I had no interaction with Him except my one-way prayers.  Was the Catholic Church right?  They said they were, but then again… they would.  Was the Bible true?  There was a lot in the Bible. 

I tried going through everything in the Bible and a theme began to emerge.  The stories in the Old Testament prophesied about Jesus.  The Gospels told the story of the life of Jesus.  The rest of the New Testament taught the teachings of Jesus.  It all came down to Jesus.  He was the crux.  If He was real, then the rest followed…and if He was fake, then it all fell apart.

How could I prove if Jesus was real?!  And then I remembered that others already had!  Historians have documented the existence of Jesus.  Even other religions, such as Islam and Judaism, acknowledge He existed.  This proved that Jesus was real.  And if Jesus was real then the Bible was true.  And if I accepted the Bible as the Word of God, then it all had to be true…there was no being “Lucky Charms Catholic”, only picking out the pieces I liked. 

I was exhilarated!  I felt accomplished!  It reignited my passion for Jesus!

Looking back, I may have made one or two leaps in logic that day, but it transformed the way I approached my faith.  I no longer ignored my doubts, rather I tackled them.  I investigated things that didn’t seem right.  You want to know what I learned?  The Catholic faith is not fragile…it is robust!  Time and again, I not only found answers.  I found answers that reinforced the rest of the teachings.  It all hangs together beautifully. 

So over the years I found more proofs for existence of God and the truth of the Bible.  For example, living the lessons taught by the Bible does lead to a more meaningful, more fulfilled life.  Or how about the fact that the Bible is incredibly accurate in a historical context.  And most importantly, I started building the right relationship with God…and He started speaking back.  Once you reach that point, there is no longer any doubt that God is real. 

But this is why the Catholic Church urges all people (regardless of whether they be Catholic, Baptist, Non-Denominational, Muslim, Jew, or Atheist) to have a critical mind.  Ask questions and get real answers.  Too often we rely on rumors or the first result on a web search.  You need to go to the source, talk to the experts, and read original documents to get the truth for yourself.  Everyone should be examining what they believe, trying to poke holes, pull at strings, and pursue doubts because the church is confident that you will get answers…and that those answers will lead you to Jesus.


Keep Pursuing,

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Story of How I Came to God

It’s important to be able to tell the story of your relationship with God, so this is as much for my sake as it is for anyone else’s.

Chapter 1

I was born into a Catholic family and grew up going through “the routine” every Sunday.  Mom taught me that church was important, God was great, and I needed to be good.  But to be honest, I didn’t always understand the lessons and I never paid attention for the full service.

To me God was great, but he was distant.

Chapter 2

I didn’t take my first step with God until my freshman year of high school.  At Young Life Camp I went on a walk with “Young Steve” (we had three counselors and they were all named Steve).  He shared a bit about his relationship with God which, to me, was like revealing your soul.  It made me want to listen to him. 

He said I should do more than pray for “big things” in my before-bed prayers.  He encouraged me to talk to God throughout the day about the little things I saw and the little things I did.  He shared how, on a walk that morning, he had seen a pretty bird and stopped to pray, “Wow God, that’s pretty cool.”

It resonated with me and I started praying throughout the day.  It transformed my relationship God.  He was no longer distant.  He felt close.  God became a parent with whom I shared what I did every day.

Chapter 3

Wouldn’t it be great if we always walked forwards and never went backwards?  Well I took steps backwards in my faith as I progressed in high school.  As I became more self-absorbed church held less importance.  And then all hell broke loose when I met my first girlfriend.

It was the most selfish time of my life.  We were both completely self-absorbed and did our best to tear each other apart by pushing each other further into sin.  And we had the gall to say “I love you”!  This type of relationship is the furthest thing from love possible…worse than hatred, it was apathy towards each other while we fulfilled our basest desires.  It was a dark time in my life.

God became a parent with whom I shared only the good things and tried to hide the rest.  (Looking back, I bet this is how Adam felt hiding from God in Eden.)

Chapter 4

But things changed when I went to college.  You see my greatest source of strength and comfort had always been my family.  The other, lesser sources were friends and church.  I went away to college and didn’t have my family or friends.  Church quickly grew in importance as my sole source of strength and comfort.  I looked forward to my Sunday morning walk to church! 

This increased importance led to increased listening, which led to prayers, which led to me questioning the way I was living my life.  It wasn’t long before I broke up with the girlfriend and committed myself to a eudaimon way of life.  I found new friends who were into what I was into and I formed edifying relationships that have lasted to this day.  I was taking steps forward in my walk with Christ again!

God was a parent again, but he also became a teacher, someone I looked to for guidance.

Chapter 5

In my last year at college I went to Longhorn Awakening and…it woke me up.  (Working as advertised!!)

It made Christ real.  And when Jesus is real, knowledge of His sacrifice is vivid.  It brings painful recollection of your sins but it also brings joyful understanding of the scope of a love powerful enough to forgive and forget anything.

And if that wasn’t enough, this retreat was also my first time to experience the power of prayer...the transforming, supernatural, miraculous power of prayer.

God became my savior for the first time in my life!

Chapter 6

I was on fire when I graduated!  Ready to take on the world for Jesus!

But then nothing happened.  All suited up in my armor, sword drawn…no (visible) enemy to do battle with.

Sure I had the sexy, international consultant gig, but it wasn’t meaningful work, I wasn’t helping people.  The sights I saw quickly lost their glamour without someone to share them with.  I began to question my life.  Where was I supposed to be?  What was I supposed to be doing? 

Luckily, I knew the place to turn for answers. 

I prayed and prayed to God.  For years I asked for meaning and guidance…and God spoke to me.   There were times lost in prayer where I would be overcome by His presence.  Other times, He would answer a prayer immediately in a miraculous way.  He let me know He was bearing this burden of uncertainty with me.

God became a companion on my journey.

Chapter 7

But what was I supposed to be doing?!

Looking back, God was guiding me slowly, step by step.  One of these steps was to bring me back to Margaret, the girl of my dreams.  We fell in love.  Real love.  And I started thinking about marriage.  

I wanted a Catholic family, but Margaret was skeptical and had lots of questions…and I couldn’t answer any of them!  I couldn’t speak to the history of the church, I couldn’t defend its teachings…how could I ask her to be Catholic when I didn’t know anything about it?!

Then a miracle happened.  God reached out to Margaret’s mother through Relevant Radio and she became interested in the Catholic faith.  While my flimsy arguments did nothing but anger Margaret, she raced into the RCIA classes to support her mother’s curiosity in the faith.  You want to talk about humbling?!

Through the nudge from Relevant Radio, Margaret’s mother converted, Margaret converted, Margaret’s father converted…and I learned tons about the teachings of the Catholic Church.

I had been asking God to put me where I needed to be and hadn’t known the first thing about my faith.  I was asking him to do all the work.  But it’s not about what He can do for me; it’s about what I can do for Him.  That is a life in service.  That is what we are called to do.  That is the answer I have been praying for. 

God is what matters.

Chapter 8

The next chapter is currently being written. 

Margaret and I got married one week after her conversion.  She is a catalyst for deepening my faith, and I try to be the same for her.  Also, I finally got a new job that will allow me to stay home and be more involved...an answer to five years of prayers.

More to come…


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