Why I Refuse to Call Myself "Trash"

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I have a love-hate relationship with modern day slang. I had to deal with “swagger” being a thing during my college days, but nowadays, the latest millenial slang is pretty good. I love how “goals” is a thing along with “#squadgoals” and #relationshipgoals.” We all should have goals and aspire to have an awesome life. I also love “slay,” cuz, you know, vampire slayer lover here!

There is one word I refuse to use in reference to myself, though: Trash.

Whenever someone refers to themselves as “trash,” it means that they devote themselves so much to a fandom such as the DC shows, or to a celebrity.

It’s kind of ironic that the generation that gets called “narcissistic” refers to itself as “trash.” As if millenials don’t have enough self-esteem issues!  I get that the people of Tumblr and Twitter don’t actually mean to compare themselves to garbage, but the problem is that they forgotten that the words that we choose to call ourselves have a powerful impact on ourselves.

You know what else gets called trash? Homeless people, prostitutes, and aborted babies. No, you’re not special snowflakes, fellow millenials. You’re not entitled to whatever you want just because you want it. But at the same time, stop calling yourselves trash when you talk about how much you love something. Every single human life, no matter who they are or where they live, has a God-given intrinsic value. It’s like what Peggy Carter said in the Agent Carter season 1 finale: “I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.”

Millenials of all ages, know what you are worth by being humble.

“Wait, what?” you ask. “How does being humble help us understand what we are worth?”

Once again, we come to a seemingly impossible paradox. Humility is not thinking the worst of yourself. It’s knowing that you can always do better. It means not seeking out attention for the sake of stroking your own vanity, but at the same time learning to give credit when credit is due. Be proud of your accomplishments, but don’t rub them into everyone’s face. And most of all, don’t go for a minimalist spirituality by thinking “Oh as long as I don’t do bad things, I won’t go to Hell.” That’s not how it works, honey.

There’s a wonderful prayer called the “Litany of Humility” that spells out what it means to be humble. It’s a prayer I highly recommend you contemplate this Lent. I often pray this during retreats. My favorite part of the prayer is “That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.” It reminds me that we are all called to holiness and that God wants us to love ourselves as much as He loves us. That does not mean referring to ourselves as trash or by becoming narcissists. It simply means knowing our own value. We are worth dying for and as such, we need to live for Him.

Finding Ourselves in the Silence

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It’s hard for me to be quiet for long. Although I don’t like noisy, crowded rooms, I love having my music around so much that my headphones are practically glued to my ears. I hate making small talk, but if the conversation centers on Doctor Who or Buffy, I’m more than likely to talk someone ear off. There’s a calm to the quiet, but it’s still unsettling to my modern mind, which is so used to having some kind of background noise.

Gaining an appreciation for silence is something a lot of religions seek out. Elizabeth Gilbert practiced an intense Buddhist meditation called Vipassana while staying in the ashram as a way of practicing detachment. Vipassana requires just sitting in silence and not shifting the body once you’ve sat down. Practicing this particular meditation helped her gain an appreciation for the idea of being less talkative and neurotic.

Catholicism has its own appreciation for silence and has its own form of silent meditation. Sure we have praise and worship, Liturgy of the Hours, and a million litanies, but the Church also offers Adoration. I love the silence of Adoration. More often than not, though, I tend to use Adoration to dump all my thoughts in the presence of God. I pray a Rosary and then babble on in my thoughts.

Eventually, the calmness of the hour I spend in Adoration finally sinks into my heart. There’s a great freedom in letting go of your thoughts and focusing more on God’s presence. Vipassana doesn’t allow for thoughts of God because some Buddhists consider God to be “the final object of dependency, the ultimate fuzzy security blanket, the last thing to be abandoned on the path to pure detachment.” Liz Gilbert preferred her “Slumber Party Theology.”

Neither of these philosophies hit the mark. There’s a beautiful paradox in the way that Catholics detach themselves from worldly things and surrender themselves to God. It’s not becoming dependent on a warm and fuzzy imaginary friend. God is not safe, after all. The Pharisees and Romans didn’t crucify the Son of God because he was telling everyone what they wanted to hear.

Mother Teresa explains this better:

In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.

When we are silent in the presence of God, we become less of ourselves and more like Him. An interesting thing I observed about Eat, Pray, Love is that although Elizabeth found the happiness she sought from her mid-life crisis, there were times that she came off as a tad pretentious and self-centered. She never liked the idea of Christ being the only path to God. Sorry, lady, but it’s right there in black and white in John 14: 6 “ “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

I understand that some people will probably find that concept of only one way restrictive. But letting God into our lives and allowing us to lose ourselves in Him paradoxically brings out the best version of ourselves. Having a life in Christ doesn’t mean that everyone becomes a cookie-cutter copy of each other. You just have to look at the community of saints to see that in that “one path,” there is diversity. Bishop Robert Barron compares it to light being fractured through a prism into an infinite number of colors. Instead of many paths leading to one way, finding ourselves in God leads to a more beautiful life.

There’s a song by Matt Maher called “Empty and Beautiful” that captures this spiritual journey of God finding us and how emptying ourselves into Him leads us to finding True Beauty.

Catholic Dating Problem Part 1: Waiting and Finding

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Happy Valentine’s Day! As everyone already knows, single people have a hard enough time dealing with their single status every other day of the year, but there’s something about Valentine’s Day that makes being single even more loathsome. When you’re a single Catholic young adult, the dating scene becomes a lot more complicated and being single is about 10x harder. I shared this article on my Facebook and got the following response:

 

Jillian W.:  I have the exact opposite problem. I don’t understand the concept of a single Catholic man, because they don’t exist. Every Catholic guy I know is either dating, married, or a seminarian. And I don’t get it when people say they are going on a dating fast because how do you get so many people to ask you out that you have to “take a break”. Like, I don’t even know how to get a bloody date in the first place (because there are no single Catholic men, much less ones that have ever shown an interest). I’m not single by choice or because it feels safe, in single because there’s no one to ask me out and even when there are, they don’t because no one is ever interested in me.

 

After asking other young Catholics about their POVVs in regards to the dating scene, I decided that this will be the first of a series called “Catholic Dating Problems.” The first major problem that most single Catholics have when it comes to dating: Finding somebody!

 

Like my friend Jillian, I am not single by choice, nor have I met someone who’s going on a “dating fast.” While I have a good group of single male friends, none of them are interested in me as a girlfriend. Nor do I want them to ask me out because I don’t see every guy out there as potential future husbands. I find it hard to believe that you can just look at a person and just know that he or she is the person you’re gonna be with for the rest of your life. It’s hard enough for me to communicate with someone I don’t know given that I have Asperger’s. How am I supposed to know whether or not the next guy I date is going to be “the one?”

 

One problem with finding the right person is knowing where to look.

 

My friend Clint M. said, “I honestly see a heavily pervasive secular culture influence the way Catholics interact and date. Where some embrace that culture wholeheartedly to the detriment of their faith, others reject it so thoroughly that they fail to provide adequate witness to those who have embraced secular approaches to relationships.”

 

There are a million and one ways to meet someone…the real problem is sifting through all the frogs to find that prince or princess. As hard as this is for me to say, I can’t offer any easy answers to this problem. I do hope, though, that this series will help those who are single deal with the longing that we all suffer with.

 

I  struggle with jealousy whenever other friends talk about how they just clicked with their significant others. I don’t mean wishing harm on those who have what I want. It’s more that I simply want the happiness that people in great relationships have. It’s that old Queen song again: Can anybody find me somebody to love?

 

God can. And no, that’s not an easy answer either. God’s time and will does not bend itself to whatever we want, whenever we want it. I often see posts that say that whenever we feel lonely, it’s God’s way of calling us to be close to Him. And while it helps when it comes to building a personal relationship with Christ, it doesn’t help on Valentine’s Day when we’re watching bad romantic comedies and binge-eating chocolate ice cream.

 

So what can we do when we deal with the Valentine’s Day Blues?

 

Check out this poem about Lent by William Arthur Ward:

 

Fasting and Feasting

Lent should be more than a time of fasting.
It should also be a joyous season of feasting.
Lent is a time to fast from certain things and to feast on others.

It is a season to turn to God:

Fast from judging others; feast on the goodness in them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on unity of all life.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent: feast on gratitude. 

Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; feast on divine order.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives: feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.

Fast from hostility; feast on non-resistance.
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal Truth.
Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.

Fast from facts that depress; feasts on truths that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.

Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that supports.

No matter how hard it may seem, hold out hope that God will lead you to whatever you are called to do. Until then, find the light in the darkness. It will at least save you some calories and hours wasted on bad movies.

7 Quick Takes: Pope Francis In Pictures

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Since I talked about Saint John Paul the Great and Pope Benedict yesterday, it’s only fair that I put Pope Francis in the limelight today.

— 1 —

Aleteia shared this wonderful video from Pope Francis’s General Audience a few days ago. One can’t help but recall how Jesus went to visit the daughter of Jairus. I pray that this girl will receive great blessings and healing.

— 2 —

Fellow Pope Francis fangirl Ana Plumlee shared me this article from the BBC about giving the priests from Missionaries of Mercy special license to forgive sins usually reserved to the Holy See. According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis said these priests will be “living signs of the Father’s readiness to welcome those in search of his pardon.”

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From The Catholic Rose:

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Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto thine!

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From Verily Magazine:

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From Catholic News Service:

POPE PLANE CUBA MEXICO

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EWTN shared that on the plane to Cuba, Pope Francis offered a special blessing to Mother Angelica.

— 7 —

And in keeping up with the usual social media #FlashbackFriday tradition, check out The Catholic Apologist’s hilarious reaction to Pope Francis’s election:

How To Say Goodbye: The Wisdom of St. JP2, Pope Benedict, and George Washington

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What the heck does the father of our country have in common with a saint and a pope emeritus? You’d be surprised.

I still remember how I felt when I woke up a few years ago on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and heard the news of Pope Benedict choosing to step down as Pope. As someone who grew up in the JP2 Generation, watching a pope choose to step down instead of waiting until God calls him home was unheard of. I was already in an unstable emotional state at the time and Pope Benedict’s announcement was another rug that got pulled out from under my feet.

When I saw Pope Benedict walk through the Doors of Mercy recently, however, I realized that the decision he made three years ago was not an easy one.

There’s a song from Hamilton called “One Last Time,” which recounts George Washington’s decision to step down after two terms of being president. One particular part of the song stood out to me:

[HAMILTON]
Mr. President, they will say you’re weak

[WASHINGTON]
No, they will see we’re strong

[HAMILTON]
Your position is so unique

[WASHINGTON]
So I’ll use it to move them along

[HAMILTON]
Why do you have to say goodbye?

[WASHINGTON]
If I say goodbye, the nation learns to move on
It outlives me when I’m gone

Back in my college days, I had a history professor who joked that the Vatican is one of the last remaining true monarchies in existence. Benedict’s decision to step down made me realize that the papacy is not a monarchy. Like the pope’s Twitter handle @Pontifex, Benedict became a bridge builder, becoming the bridge between the great saint who changed an entire generation and the pope we now have who is spreading God’s love and mercy throughout the world.

Which brings up the question: Why didn’t Pope John Paul II abdicate?

I might be biased because I was born in the 90s, but whenever I see videos or photos of JP2 as he was suffering with Parkinson’s, I don’t see weakness, but strength and courage. To Saint John Paul the Great, the Church was his family. Showing his Parkinson’s to the world opened up opportunities for compassion towards those who were suffering the way he did. I didn’t see weakness in JP2’s last days. I saw a love for the Church and for the world that was stronger than Parkinson’s.

In contrast, seeing Benedict walk through the Doors of Mercy with a cane and an aid broke my heart almost as much as he did three years ago. He wasn’t sick the way that Pope John Paul II was, but he still looked so fragile, it hurt. This is just a guess, but if the world saw this man growing old and frail, it may have validated the secular belief that the church is getting as old and weak as he is right now. Not that Pope Francis is a younger, better model. But Pope Francis is at least young in heart and has a lively spirit that the Church seriously needs.

A Bible verse that George Washington keeps using in his correspondence is from Micah 4:4: “They shall all sit under their own vines, under their own fig trees, undisturbed; for the Lord of hosts has spoken.” This Bible verse gets mentioned in “One Last Time” as George Washington’s motivation for stepping down. I can’t help but think that maybe Benedict wanted the same.

But again, I don’t know for certain why Pope Benedict chose to abdicate. For now, though, I can respect his decision. It takes just as much wisdom to know when to say goodbye as it does to just hold on until the end. 

I still miss ya, Papa B.

Free Lent Bible Study And Journal!

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This year on Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship, my fellow Bible study writers and I have all collaborated for the awesome Lent Bible Study which focuses on the Stations of the Cross and saints that “give witness” to each particular station. On Saturdays, there will be a meditation on some Catholic hymns.

To quote today’s introduction by Christine Cooney:

Does this sound like a lot to you? Because it’s not. We’re taking it all day by day, and to help you, we’ve put together a downloadable guide to work through right along with us. It’s perfect for private and personal study, but will also provide plenty of contemplation for small group discussions.

Join us as we contemplate the cross. For, as Pope Francis says,

“The Cross of Christ contains all the love of God; there we find his immeasurable mercy. This is a love in which we can place all our trust, in which we can believe…Let us entrust ourselves to Jesus, let us give ourselves over to him.” 

Download the study journal here!

Also, feel free to follow the Spotify playlist!

What You Never Knew About Shrove Tuesday

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Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras is known as the day that many Catholics indulge in a lot of eating before the Ash Wednesday fast tomorrow. My friend Susi, however, shared a little known fact about this particular day. Today is also the Feast of the Holy Face of Jesus.

What is the Holy Face of Jesus, you ask? It’s the image of Jesus that was imprinted on the veil of Saint Veronica. The veil is kept in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

According to The Holy Face Devotion:

It is a devotion that was first heard of through a Carmelite Nun named Sister Mary of St. Peter in France, 1844, who stated Our Lord revealed this devotion to her at Mount Carmel. Sister Mary of St. Peter stated that Our Lord wanted this devotion to be spread throughout the world with the goal of making reparation for the sins which offend God.

It’s a devotion that many popes and saints kept in their hearts as much as praying the Rosary. In fact, St. Therese of Lisieux’s full title is “Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face.”

There are many prayers for the Holy Face of Jesus that you can find on the Holy Face Devotion. My favorite one is the Golden Arrow prayer, which goes like this:

May the most holy, most sacred, most adorable, most incomprehensible and unutterable Name of God be always praised, blessed, loved, adored and glorified, in Heaven, on earth, and under the earth, by all the creatures of God, and by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Amen.

So while we all get ready for Lent, I hope that you can set aside some time to offer up a prayer to the Holy Face of Jesus. His Face is the one that we will see as we enter into the desert.

Walking With Ambiguity During Lent

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I said at the beginning of the year that my word for 2016 is “Love.” My friend Stef Ofhs said “Love encompasses all things.” Sometimes loving God means accepting the ambiguities of life. That’s part of what it means to go out into the desert.

I am really proud of all the emotional growth I’ve done in the past few years. But there are a lot of things in my life that are still left up in the air. There have been no major exterior changes in my life yet. Instead, my progress has consisted of a lot of small things. I keep losing sight of what’s important because I want so many things.

Recently, I celebrated first Friday Mass. But on the way there, I kept hitting a constant stream of red lights. In spite of the constant stops, I was still able to get to Mass on time.

I think Lent is a lot like that. It’s not a chance to go to extremes in the name of holiness. It’s rather a time to slow down and change the process of life for a little while. For me, I feel like God is calling me to walk by faith, like it says in Second Corinthians:

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 So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.

I am so used to working towards a tangible goal. It’s easy to have faith when you’re not sure how to get there but you know that you will. Right now,though, God is calling me to trust Him in spite of this ambiguity, to walk by faith with Him, even though I don’t know where I’m gonna go next. I have some goals that I am working towards, but my vocation? Not clear yet.

Which brings me to the question every Catholic gets:

What am I gonna do this Lent?

  1. Take the Heroic Minute Challenge. Arleen Spenceley and Leah Darrow have challenged their readers to get up at 5:30AM every morning. According to the last time I tweeted Leah Darrow, they haven’t stopped.
  2. Limit my internet time. I installed StayFocusd on my Chrome and limited my time spent on certain websites to only one hour a day. I’m not sure how I can use this time-limit on my mobile devices, but keeping myself from being on the computer all day is at least a start.
  3. Read. A Lot. I plan to use my time offline to read more. I’ll be sharing reflections from the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship’s Lenten Bible Study here. Also keep an eye out for a series on Catholic Dating Problems and the Theology of the Body. There’s more to come!
  4. Mass Journaling: When I attended Mass last Sunday, I really loved the homily I heard. Unfortunately, all I had to write on was the back of a flyer for the upcoming parish fish fry. I want to learn as much as I can this Lent, to be able to listen to God as much as talk to Him.

I hope that you will join me as I walk by faith this Lent.

The Grace of a Happy Death: Tobit Day 14

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From Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship

At the very end of Return of the King, there are two major events that happen for Frodo and Sam. Frodo goes off to Valinor with the Elves because the wound that a ringwraith inflicted upon him hasn’t completely healed, even after the adventure is over. Meanwhile, Sam stays in the Shire and lives out his life there. However, at the end of his life (according to the appendices in the book version of Return of the King), Sam goes to Valinor to be with his lifelong friend. Although Tolkien didn’t intend to have any allegory in his works, the place of Valinor represents the idea of dying peacefully, also known as the grace of a happy death.

Read the rest here!

An Open Letter To NARAL

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Warning: Don’t read if you don’t have a sense of humor. This blog post is loaded with lots and lots snarking.

Dear NARAL,

I hope you enjoyed the Super Bowl last night. I know I had a decent time. But I had a lot more fun looking through social media and watching everyone else’s commentary. While browsing through the interwebs, some friends of mine shared this tweet from your Twitter in regards to the Doritos Ultrasound commercial:

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Did we watch the same commercial?

Because from what I’m seeing, it’s a comical commercial about two parents who chose to have a baby, that the baby is coming “any day now,” and that apparently, the baby has a thing for Doritos.

It kind of makes sense that the mom is kind of “uptight” in this commercial cuz, you know, women who are expecting a baby aren’t exactly pictures of perfect serenity. And the clueless Dorito-eating Dad is just part of the comedy. You really wanna make drama out of this?

How is any of this antichoice? Parents get ultrasounds all the time when they’re expecting babies. I mean, it’s like expecting abortion clinics to actually meet standard health codes that also apply to hospitals. What do you think women give birth to? Puppy monkey babies? (That commercial was awful, btw. Maybe you should complain about that.)

But really, I don’t have time for this. All I really want to do now is just laugh. Because I seriously cannot comprehend what is going on in your twisted minds right now.

Have a nice day!

Photo credit: Nogwater via Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA