What do you do when you are at a crossroad facing a decision between the temporary pleasures of this world and the permanent lasting happiness that Christ won for you through the cross?
If you are a Christian, the answer is obvious.
Give up your comfort, give up your power and positions in this world, and run to the foot of the Cross. Well, not literally. Spiritually speaking, give everything you do to Him. Choose the Cross for this world, and in the next you will be fulfilled with the promise of everlasting life.
Unfortunately, even though we know the path that Jesus says is best for us, sometimes choosing it is not the easiest thing to do. Often, there are roadblocks standing between us and the Cross. Because we cannot see beyond them, or perhaps because we cannot even comprehend what the Cross has won for us, we seldom trust that there is anything beyond the earthly pleasures before us. In order to choose the Cross of this world, we have to first remove what is standing in our way.
We must have faith throughout the journey that beyond the roadblocks, beyond the small crosses that Christ bears with us on our journey, and ultimately beyond the Cross that Christ bore for us, is lasting happiness in heaven with Jesus.
Our goal is to get there.
But how do we get there?
The roadblocks that typically stand between us and Christ are everything we’ve ever wanted. They are also visible and physically present to us in this world unlike the promise of everlasting life which we cannot visibly see before us yet.
Perhaps a roadblock is a dream job? Perhaps it is your boyfriend or your girlfriend? Perhaps it is money? Perhaps it is a position of high standing? Perhaps it is fame?
All these things are good, but only if they are ordered towards helping us reach full communion with Christ. If they are holding us back and preventing us from reaching our final destination, the pursuit of them is disordered. If they are leading us to sin, then they are absolutely a roadblock that stands between us and Christ.
Perhaps they are well-intentioned people who tell us that we will be happier with worldly pleasures? Perhaps they are vices or attachments to sins in our life that we don’t want to let go? Perhaps they are pressures from secular media or the world’s idea of perfect?
Needless to say, whatever it is that is standing between us and our faith, it will be perfect, that is, perfect according to the world’s idea of perfect.
As Christians, however, we must reach beyond the world’s standard and grasp for what is truly good. We must strive for what is good for our soul, not just our bodies.
For the human person, this is truly a burden— a cross so to speak— but when united to the ultimate sacrifice that Christ made on the Cross for us, our burden becomes light, our soul is refreshed in the furnace so to speak, and our hearts are made ready to meet the King.
To gain the everlasting joy that Jesus promises us in heaven, we must embrace the Cross, and through this Cross, turn to Christ. Next, we must order our desires and our actions towards what can help us get to heaven.
Everything else that is unnecessary must be removed, especially the roadblocks. Once removed, we will be able to get to know Jesus much better.
At the end of the day, He is the Way. He is the Truth. Everything He teaches us through the Church is for our benefit, and like a Father anxiously awaiting His children, He is there to clear the road for us if we only give Him the opportunity.
Then Jesus said to his disciples “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
The questions of an inquisitive little girl had begun. As a child, my parents would gather at my Nana’s home with a group of others to recite the rosary every Wednesday night. Most of the time, I would tag along, happily taking on the job of passing out papers to ensure that everyone had copies of the prayers to be said throughout the evening. Little did I know how much this role served as a precursor for another special mission that I would take up for a lifetime.
As my Nana’s blue handouts spread throughout the room, my eyes would gaze upon each prayer, long before I could even understand the words. The Saint Gertrude’s prayer was among the many listed. I initially did not know of its significance, since to me, it was simply a routine prayer that I would try to join in saying. One night, I decided to ask Nana what this prayer was all about and what she told me will forever remain in my mind. She explained that Saint Gertrude was a woman who received visions from the Lord. Through her prayers and writings, we can learn about the depth of God’s love for us and for the salvation of all souls. God gave Saint Gertrude this specific prayer for the specific purpose of releasing 1,000 souls from Purgatory each and every time it is prayed with love and devotion.
“1000 souls? One simple prayer? Can I do that?” I asked Nana in return. I was and still am so amazed at how one little prayer can have that much power. Whoa. Talk about mind-blowing! From that day forward, I began to pray this prayer every night, every time I struggled, and honestly, at every moment possible. I can’t explain why I had a sudden love and devotion to this prayer and its mission of saving souls, but something within me held on tight and hasn’t let go since.
Maybe it’s because this prayer charges us with a clear purpose in a world full of confusion and ever changing expectations. Maybe it’s rewarding to know that “help is on the way” for those deceased who can no longer pray for themselves or have anyone to pray for them. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s personal: feeling a humble honor to be able to help the souls of my passed loved ones to enter eternal life. No matter what the reason, prayer changes things, and the Saint Gertrude prayer indeed changes the state of a soul! Best of all, we all have an incredible mission and part to play in helping to expedite their purification, alleviate their suffering and quench the longing these souls have for heaven!
For whatever reason I started praying the Saint Gertrude prayer, I know now that I have a strong desire to help souls. My prayer is that one day I will be able to greet the souls that I have prayed so hard for, face to face, and together, we can glorify and praise our Creator for all eternity! The Saint Gertrude prayer has helped me to realize the truth that it is “a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sin.” (2 Macabees 12:46). In fact, when souls reach their heavenly home, they then pray for those who prayed for them, out of gratitude! It is this reciprocating gift of prayer and intercession that makes the mission of prayer mighty!
Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home, and within my family.
I like being in control. I have high expectations for myself and others, and I don’t see many reasons for things to be less than perfect. Sometimes this is a good thing— it keeps me disciplined, motivated, and organized. At other times, it robs my peace and my ability to be fully present in the moment. It can also prevent my ability to let others take charge or learn from experiences of “failure.” However, mission trips have really helped me to let go of this need to always be in control. They’ve allowed me to build trust in my team members and their ability to do things well, even if it would be different than I would do it.
I’ve been on quite a few mission trips in the past four years. Each one has shaped me and pushed me to grow in my relationship with God, myself, and others. Each one leaves a unique charism behind that shapes how I live my day-to-day life. The day after I graduated college, I co-led a mission trip to Douglas, Arizona. My team and I worked in Loretto Catholic School helping the teachers and ministering to the families of Douglas. I think each of my team members would say we felt like we were served more than we served. The hospitality of the Douglas community was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. I felt like family there.
Most of the trip went so smoothly. My co-lead and I were so blessed with an amazing team and very few hiccups. Something that made this mission so unique was the very clear presence of the Holy Spirit. Any time something went “wrong,” it became clear it was simply the Spirit re-directing us to something better. It was a mission of learning to surrender control and to simply serve and love as well as I could. There was no place and no room for perfectionism because the Holy Spirit never let us falter.
There was a particular moment towards the end of mission where Isaac, my co-lead, and I were driving from one place to another. We were trying to put a lunch order for the whole team through Subway online.
You see, the Subway app did not work. We were struggling to get these orders in. We had to customize each one, and it took forever. When we finally got about seven orders in, the app informed us the cart was full, and we’d have to close out this order and start another. Not a huge deal, but we then learned we had put the wrong pick-up location, and if we changed it, the whole cart would be cleared. Already frustrated as it was, we were at our limit with this. We could have easily let this become a big deal, but we didn’t. We kinda just looked at one another decided it was what it was and put the stupid phone away. As soon as we did this, we started noticing the breathtaking view around us. The Arizonan terrain was absolutely beautiful! We spent the rest of the ride enjoying great conversation, listening to music with the other people in the car, and just being present in the moment. During this time, we thought we were supposed to be putting in a lunch order, but we weren’t, and the Spirit wasn’t afraid to tell us that. And this my friends, is how God works in our lives.
He doesn’t barge in and flip us upside down (most of the time). We have a gentle God. He is constantly and gently inviting us to trust Him more. The Spirit wants to be in our lives. All it takes is our invitation for Him to come in and make life easier. He gives us the gifts, charisms, and perspective we need to be vessels of His good work. We can serve so well when we let the Spirit work. When we submit ourselves to the Spirit, it doesn’t matter what we can or cannot do. God knows our weaknesses and He isn’t afraid of them. The Spirit moves in our lives and He works when we can’t. The best part is He chooses to work through us. God doesn’t need us, but He wants us. On this mission, I learned to not miss out on the goodness God has in store for me because I think I know better. It is a beautiful lesson. “Come Holy Spirit.”
Every seat was taken. I peered through the frosted glass doors once again, hoping I hadn’t seen correctly. But there was no mistaking it: the Adoration chapel was at full capacity.
Crushed, I walked back to my car as the desperate need to be in Christ’s presence enveloped me in a deluge of tears. Taking out my journal, I poured out my heart to Him and waited.
Nearly an hour later, I walked back inside. In my sobbing state, I hadn’t noticed the adorers slowly departing. Now, just one other woman remained. I knelt in front of the monstrance and allowed Christ’s Eucharistic gaze to wash over me. After a while, I heard shuffling as the other woman gathered her things and left.
Suddenly I was faced with a realization: the next scheduled adorer hadn’t shown up. Stunned, I just sat there in front of the Eucharist, not knowing what to say or do. Believe it or not, this was my first time ever being alone with the Blessed Sacrament. Sure, I often had virtual Holy Hours at home by myself, but this was different. Here I was, being handed a face to face, one-on-one encounter with the Word Made Flesh.
Not wanting to waste this precious moment, I asked Him, “Lord, what do You want to say to me? What do you want me to say to you?” The words I heard Christ speak to my heart are only for Him and I (and my spiritual director) to share. But what I can tell you is that His words—and my honest response to them—were the catalyst in a journey toward full healing of which I am still reaping the fruits.
I am telling you all this because I truly believe that Jesus divinely arranged to be alone with me, His beloved daughter, at this particular time and place. He knew what it would take to open my mind and heart to experience a life-changing encounter with Him. The truth is, had I come into the chapel when I originally planned, when it was packed with adorers, I never would have been able to communicate my feelings to Christ in such a personal, intimate way.
Maybe you’ve never been inside an Adoration chapel. Maybe you’re not sure what the purpose of adoration is or why it’s even important.
The answer lies in the prayer of the priest, spoken at every Mass during the consecration: “This is My Body…this is My Blood.”
In the Blessed Sacrament, it is Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity that is really and truly present. As Catholics, we adore and receive Jesus’ Real Presence in communion, and we can continue to adore Him in all the tabernacles around the world.
During Eucharistic Adoration, we pray to Jesus Christ truly present in the Eucharist, typically exposed in a monstrance. If the concept of praying to the God of the Universe under the guise of a tiny white host is hard for you to grasp, ask the Spirit for guidance. And keep showing up! My first time at adoration was super uncomfortable and awkward (almost like a clumsy first date!) but I simply asked Jesus to draw me back to Him, and now there is no other place I’d rather be.
Spending time in Christ’s presence is a deeply transformative practice, and there are no rules when it comes to prayer. You can recite the Rosary, read Scripture, or simply speak to Him about everything that’s on your heart. Use this opportunity to tell Him your own needs, as well as the needs of your family, your friends, and the world. It is also important to just sit in God’s presence and listen.
The Eucharist is the gift of Christ’s very self, perpetually offered out of love. Silent and vulnerable, He subjects Himself to irreverence, ignorance, indifference, and unbelief—all for the sake of remaining with us on the altar.
Through an unexpected grace, Christ cleared the chapel for me that day, and He has set apart a place specifically for you. In the words of St. Maria Goretti, “He loves, He hopes, He waits.”
Jesus is waiting for you, thirsting for a personal relationship with you. So make time with Him a priority. Run to Him. Seek His ever-abiding presence. Allow His all-consuming love to penetrate your soul.
And then sit back as He transforms your prayer and your life.
Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you- for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart.
We live in a very busy world. I’m sure we can all relate to that feeling of a constant “go, go, go!” and not being able to catch our breath. These feelings are valid, and the majority of the time, we are busy with good and important things. But when it gets to the point where our daily prayer life is no longer one of those important things, we need to actively make the choice to change that.
We all serve the Lord in different ways through our everyday lives. For some, that may be through your occupation, by the way you love others, by being a parent and sacrificing for your family, etc. These are all ways of serving the Lord daily and making him a priority. But we need to remember to have that personal relationship with him as well. No matter where we are at in our lives, we can’t wait until we’re “less busy” to have a personal relationship with our Lord.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” These words stuck with me when I was struggling to make personal prayer a priority in my daily life. I wasn’t actively making it a choice, and therefore, kept “putting it off until tomorrow”. I fell into the trap of making the same excuses repeatedly. When I was in college, I always thought “next semester I’ll be less busy, THEN I’ll focus on daily prayer.” “After I get this project done” or “once I catch up on this ” or “once I get into this new routine”. The list could go on and on!!
My volleyball coach used to always tell us that life was about “amping up”. Life continues to get busier, more challenging, and full of new obstacles. These are signs of growth as the Lord continues to challenge us in new ways. My coach’s words echo in my head as I fight against these excuses as to why I am too busy, stressed, or tired for daily prayer. What I realized is that no matter what I may be going through right now, the Lord will meet me where I’m at. Whether my current struggle is something big, or something as small as being tired that day, I can’t wait for it to pass to make time for him. He loves me and he knows my struggles and what is going on in my life better than anyone. Rather than making things in my daily life an excuse, I decided to take those things to prayer. That way, I can meet the Lord where I’m at.
Something that helps me to make prayer a priority is to choose it daily. When I wake up in the morning, I decide when and where I will pray that day. When I don’t do that, prayer ends up happening “when I feel like it” (which I think we all know, actually means never.) Deciding the time and place, and sometimes even setting a timer are ways that help me to fight against the temptation to push prayer off for tomorrow. Maybe this strategy isn’t for you, but I encourage you to find the things that help you to make your relationship with God an active, daily choice.
So my message to you is this: Don’t wait to have a relationship with the Lord. Meet the Lord where you are at, wherever that may be. No matter how busy you are, even if you are busy with good things, it is important to actively put our Lord at the top of that priority list. Choose him everyday rather than “putting it off until tomorrow” just as I did. Don’t wait to have a personal relationship with the Lord. The time is now.
These were some of the things I would tell myself when I became worn out or felt like I had nothing left to give. I always tried to be there for others, whether it was being that shoulder to cry on, the listening ear, or the steady rock when it seemed that everything was falling apart. But when it came to my own feelings, I tended to push them away, thinking that as long as I was taking care of others, I was okay.
This began with my family, as I tried to support my siblings through tough times, and then I took this same mindset into a leadership position I was placed in. As I continued to give, I began feeling more and more empty, but in my stubbornness, I refused to allow others (and our Lord) to care for and support me.
And then I heard a talk on vulnerability and the importance of receiving love. That talk hit me hard, and afterwards, I went to the Adoration chapel and cried for a hot minute (I have no idea how long it actually was). I just sat there in front of the Eucharist reflecting on the times I had rejected our Lord’s love. And then I spoke to Him. I told him I was sorry, and He received me. Jesus broke down my walls of pride and received every part of my broken self and continues to receive me every time I come to Him. I realized that Christ wants us to receive His love, just as much as He wants us to love Him. Christ desires us to give him our hearts, to allow him to hold our hearts in his gentle hands, close to his Sacred Heart.
After this encounter, I entrusted my heart to our Lord to be loved by Him, I gradually began to allow others in as well. I began to share my own emotions and struggles with friends and family and allow them to care for me. When I received love from those around me, I found I was able to love and give of myself more fully.
You see, this is what we are called to: we are called to love others, but we can’t very well do that if we don’t have anything to give. That which we are called to give is ourselves. Let us run to our Father every day, to be filled with His love, a love that never ends, never runs dry, so that we can better serve every person we encounter with His perfect love.
This all sounds pretty simple, right? Looking back now, I wonder why I wasn’t able to see this earlier in my life. But then I see how God’s timing is better than anything I could imagine on my own and the good that God brings out of all my mess is a beautiful thing. Run to the Father—He’s waiting to fill you with a love that will never end, and that is literally Christ himself.
My sophomore year of high school, I joined a group of high school Catholic teens within my diocese called the Diocesan Youth Council for the diocese of Columbus. I was both extremely nervous to meet new people and also embarrassed about where I was in my personal relationship with Jesus.
However, my first weekend with the group was amazing and eye opening in so many ways—I met fantastic life-long friends and had a really fun time. But the weekend also brought something new to light for me: there is a lot about my faith I didn’t know, and there were a lot of people who are much deeper in the faith than I was. I felt ashamed about many things, which I realize in retrospect were were out of my control, such as how I didn’t attend a Catholic school, or how I didn’t know what Lectio Divina was.
This shame within me grew bigger as the year went on and I held it all in. I continued to compare myself to those on the council with me and bashed myself for not being “more Catholic,” for not having ever attended a Christian summer camp, for not having a personal prayer life.
Then, I had the opportunity to attend the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) in November that same year. This time, I entered into the event with a new approach: I tried to stop judging myself about my relationship with Jesus. As a result, my heart and mind were open to experience a very life-changing encounter with Jesus in adoration and to hear and be impacted by the messages of fantastic speakers and witnesses.
I left the conference feeling like I could go through the streets of my hometown screaming about how good Jesus is and how everyone should experience His love and mercy. But, as most young adults know, this feeling after attending a conference is temporary and is often hard to keep ahold of. We tend to be thrown back into reality and crawl back into ourselves and go back to the way we acted before.
So, my battle within myself continued through the rest of my sophomore year. Joyful moments were rare, I could easily fake happiness so no one ever asked questions, and I put the facade of an ever joyful Christian teen girl on my face at all times. Then, the summer of 2018, at the end of my sophomore year, I had finally had enough. I remember looking at my best friend at the beginning of summer and venting to her about all of the sadness, struggles, and insecurities that I had been battling all year.
Soon after, the Holy Spirit lit a fire within me, telling me that God’s plan for me was bigger than this year and the struggles I had been going through, and that God has given us the free will to choose how we react to obstacles in life. I realized I had a choice: I could continue to feel bad for myself and compare myself to those around me and their faith journeys or I could spend this summer to work on myself and choose to be more joyful and spend more time deepening my personal faith journey.
I am not going to sugar-coat it and say that after that summer I became a super charismatic witness or never dealt with moments of shame or insecurity again. That did not happen—I definitely still have struggles and each one comes with different obstacles to overcome and some are a lot harder than others.
But I will say this: each time you turn to Jesus after a hard time, it starts to become a habit and, eventually, you won’t ever want to turn away from Jesus. I also learned that comparing your faith journey with others’ is not realistic or constructive. Jesus views each and every one of us as individuals and doesn’t look at our journeys side-by-side, but one at a time.
In His eyes, there is no judgement, no race to the finish line to see who can get the closest to Him. The true competition is between your past self and your present self— you are called to examine how much you’ve grown, and if you haven’t, to determine what needs to change.
Everything happens for a reason and you can’t grow as a person without going through struggles that will strengthen your faith. David had to face Goliath before he became King, and God was there the whole time, guiding David through his battles. He does the same for us, through the highs and lows in life. Remember this in the struggles and hardships you face, and rejoice in the peace He offers us in His ever-abiding presence.
Late in January of my freshman year at Franciscan University, I was attending the women’s 2016 Beloved Conference, when I was confronted with a truth that was very troubling to me—how little I personally knew God. He seemed out of reach and far away, despite how much more I knew about him than I had a few months back. Where was the awe the others around me seemed to exude? As sensitive as I was (and still am), I felt quite numb about anything having to do with my faith. However, as I was very soon to discover, God, as He is so prone to, was using this numbness to reach me.
Perhaps you identify with where I was at the time— just going through the motions of attending Church every Sunday, praying for those in your life who are suffering, sharing what you believe when asked, trying to gain merits by “living the life of a good person”, depending on accolades and others’ praise to validate that you are a good person, while feeling guilty that you feel nothing other than guilt through it all— why is your sense of wonder missing?After all, you are doing everything commanded of you.
After climbing up flights of stairs to “catch up” with the devout people in your life, you are dismayed when you see the radiant light in their eyes. It’s as if they are gazing at a view from the summit of a mountain, yet as you kneel with them, all you can see is a cross, or words on a page, or a piece of bread. Yes, you know the significance of what you are gazing upon, but you wish you could consider it with the zeal that they seem to possess. What is holding you back?
Those five years ago, I was troubled much of the same concerns mentioned above. But God was soon to show me what my hindrances were. These involved the way I spent my time. What I celebrated in life. More than anything however, they were found in how I was treating my wounds.
Sure, we live in a world that despises weakness. We hear so often that flaws should not be seen. Pain should not be felt. We fight these things as much as possible, for our own benefit and for the sake of everyone else. No human person wants to cope with or see how we are hurting, so why would God?
And yet, no matter where we are, He calls out to each of us in Revelations 3:20, saying:
The truth is that even while He feels out of reach and far away, He continues to knock on the door to your heart. He has still been seeking you, speaking to you, but perhaps the world has become too loud for Him to be heard. Yet, these hurts, this emptiness, are communicating the words to which you have become deaf.
As P!nk says in “Glitter In The Air”, “Have you ever invited a stranger to come inside?”
What is interesting to me is the definition of stranger:
I always assumed that “stranger” always automatically meant that the unfamiliarity was mutual between both persons. However, its true meaning only emphasizes the idea that while God may feel like a stranger to you, He still knows you. Perhaps you feel like you merely are to God what some star-struck fan is to his or her favorite celebrity—no more than a part of a large crowd of unnamed supporters pleading for Him to notice you. Well, He has noticed you. In fact, He has witnessed every part of you—every fear, every hope, every thought, every worry, every flaw, every doubt, every wound— gazing upon you with a love no deed could augment or undermine.
He continues to wait at the door, hoping that you will let Him in, so He can finally share this love with you. However, the choice is entirely up to you. He cannot enter unless you willingly open up, for this is a door that only has a handle from the inside.
About six months later during my time at Franciscan, I noticed a definitive characteristic shared between every single one of the people that Jesus healed— they were not selectively chosen to be healed, but rather they all sought Him. They were all healed because they asked Him for healing, thus taking the first step of letting Him in.
Closeness to God correlates with the extent that He is welcomed throughout each moment of your life. It correlates with the extent that you accept the love He offers you, especially when you feel most unlovable. He wants to be the one to console you when you are feeling your most lonely, your most empty, your most broken. So it is important to consider: where are you in those moments? How do you soothe the pain?
That night, following the 2016 Beloved Conference, I was well aware that the way I spent my time reflected how disordered my priorities were. After a long day of classes, I would goof off and do whatever I wanted first, and then I would cram with my studies with whatever time I had left. I was reminded of this issue when I was talking to my roommate about how I was feeling troubled about God’s seeming distance, and she called me out:
“Why don’t you spend some of all that time you watch YouTube videos praying instead?”
That is when it became clear, I was allowing no time in my schedule for prayer. And I responded with, “You know, Mary, you’re right,” as she reached for a book on her shelf.
Then she handed this tiny book called My Daily Breadto me, and said, “This is a book from my parents. They always told me that whatever page you flip to is God’s personal message for you. I think this would be a good time for you to try that.”
So without much thought, I opened the book to a random page, and to my astonishment, it said:
The grace of devotion is not just a holy feeling, nor is it a religious mood… If I make a firm and persevering effort to abandon my foolish love for unnecessary distractions… I will have a steady loyalty to Christ, and I will no longer depend on feelings and moods, but will follow God’s Will intelligently and faithfully even when I do not feel like doing so.
My Daily Bread, Book Two, Chapter 13
I nearly fell over. What relevance!
Then over the course of the next week, I began to reflect on my “unnecessary distractions.” And I began to notice how I was feeling at those moments when I was tempted to waste my time… Hurt. Bored. Confused. Insecure. Alone. My habitual response to unpleasant feelings had become to distract myself from them. To find an escape. So as a coping mechanism, I would binge watch YouTube or start brainstorming ways to prove myself to the people in my life. Temporarily, it would work. I would forget the hurts for a while. Yet, I still held onto them.
Meanwhile, my relationship with God was not progressing because I was not letting Him in to heal me.
Are you doing the same thing? That could be why God feels so far away. The more you indulge in the distractions of this world, the more you weaken your relationship with God and your ability to see and hear him. It is not a matter of Him ignoring you until you live life His way. Rather, I have found that He has always been talking to me, but until I made an effort to focus solely on Him and limit the distractions that interfere, I was deaf to His voice.
So do not be afraid of Him! Do as is said in Scripture:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7
Spend some of your time every day talking with Him, in the understanding that you are embraced just as you are right where you are, and you will begin to know Him. Ask Him to help you see the circumstances of each day as He does, and you will be amazed about all of the ways He is working in your life! You will begin to, too, have that radiant light you see in others’ eyes as they gaze upon Him in faith.
“How can you be friends with him after he hurt you?” another friend asked me recently.
I could tell she was looking for peace, and so I gently assured her with my smile that it is indeed possible to genuinely enjoy and love someone even with a history of pain between your heart and theirs.
I replied simply saying, “It is just no longer worth it to me to spend even one day not loving.”
I have been reflecting on the story of manna; and in my own desert life, I see the moments when I was busy storing up instead of spending my day simply being grateful for the daily bread God was giving to me. The Lord told Moses,
“Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.”
God wants me to cherish the people in my life just for today. I am not promised any other future except a life with Him, where pure love will be the law, and I will never hesitate to follow its perfect commands. And until I arrive to that eternal home, the purpose for my journey through this world is to prepare me with various tests to see if I can receive each day’s graces and respond with love, gratitude and forgiveness, just as My God has demonstrated for me time and time again after I have hurt Him.
Love also reminds me of the servant who owed a large debt. His Master forgave his offense, even after there was an obvious sever of trust. Who among us has a boss that would let us off the hook for not coming in for a shift, let alone supply us more hours if we continued to fail in following through, especially with matters of money?
Yet here, this Lord removes any guilt, any shame or embarrassment, and allows his servant to take more time preparing what was owed. I imagine this servant to be feeling the most relaxed he has ever been, having basically just escaped imprisonment. Yet, his appreciation bears no fruit: when he in turn is financially slapped by one of his own slaves who had also forgotten that it was payday, he did not show the same Mercy to one whose debt was much smaller than his own offense.
I, too, am posed with the question of my own handling of offenses. How can I not share the great love given to me, day to night, for every stumble and sin, at every stopping point, constantly poured out after I have pierced the Heart of My Beloved? If He continues to overflow with graces of healing for my thirsty soul, then I refuse to be a dam preventing His Mercies from reaching those who are most in need of water.
But on my own, I cannot love anyone. I am merely dust. Only God can love and then use me for His purpose of love. It is my brokenness that nurtures the demand my human heart has for His Love. Without the example of Grace from my Master, my encounters with another’s offenses would bear no fruit of forgiveness.
His Grace is the water. My sins are the seeds, and from their evil, His Goodness is manifested and His Flowers of Mercy are delighted in. These sins and grievances set in motion for my soul’s garden a necessary death, and I return weeping after having rejected His Goodness. In this death, Love raises me out of My Pride to His Selfless Heart—this is where I learn how to be forgiven and forgiving.
His Heart is where I learn how to love with no agenda. His Heart teaches me how to love someone after both of our human hearts have caused damage. In the classroom of His Heart, I come to know where my own choices have made my Savior Sorrowful. But also in this sorrow, I enter His Mercy. And my heart can only pray, “Dear Jesus, teach my heart how to love and forgive like you.”
I feel like there is a huge stigma around the word “confession.” It brings instant fear when mentioned to a lot of people. But for me, when I hear “confession,” I think of the unique and beautiful gift that we, as Catholics, get to experience. In fact, along with the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of my two favorite parts of my faith. I did not always feel this way, though.
For much of my life, I, like many other fearful Catholics, would always try to avoid going to confession. I really disliked it. It was so intimidating to tell someone I saw every Sunday everything that I have ever done wrong and to wait for his response! However, when I was on a retreat in middle school, my youth minister at the time gave a talk about confession that really stuck with me. She told us it is common to experience fear as we approach confession, and she encouraged us to honestly communicate that with the priest. She also shared with us a Bible verse that really spoke to my heart:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9
After hearing this, I sat there for a moment, digesting everything she just said, as I internally gave myself a pep talk. I really didn’t want to go, but I felt compelled to. Everyone else seemed willing to go, so I joined them in line, in spite of my anxieties building up. Have you ever heard the expression, “butterflies flying in your stomach”? Well, I had a whole flock of geese in my stomach at this point! I saw the knob turn and the door open… It was my turn. Tightly gripping a pamphlet with the “Examination of Conscience” and “Steps of Confession” printed on it, I walked right past the kneeler and straight to the priest.
I was beyond relieved when I saw that the man on the other side of the wall was Father Simon. Father Simon had been my favorite priest since he came to my parish years before, and he still is to this day. As I walked in, I blurted out, “Father, I am scared to be here.”
He said, “That’s okay; it is good that you are here. Thank you for being here.” Although I had heard him say that same catchphrase many times before, I knew he was right. It was good that I was there. He then proceeded to ask why I was nervous. I told him I was afraid of telling him my sins because I didn’t want him to view me differently every time I would see him for Mass or at youth group. He told me, “The only thing that has changed and will ever change is how proud I am of you for making the brave choice to be here.”
He then explained that I wasn’t telling “Father Simon” my sins. Rather, I was actually taking the action of apologizing to God “Persona Christi,” which, translated, means, “in the person of Christ.” Father’s words reassured me, and like my sins, my deep-seated dread of confession was soon wiped away, as I mustered the courage to divulge all of my past regrets and neglects. After I was absolved of my sins, I walked out of the confessional with a whole new perspective and a newfound love for the sacrament.
Perhaps you identify with many of these feelings regarding confession that I had prior to this experience. You may find yourself wondering, why do we have confession? Over the years, I have come to understand that God the Father wants to forgive us for all the times we have wronged Him. He longs to heal us of the brokenness we have consequently suffered. He longs to lift our shame off of our shoulders and to knock down the barriers that obstruct us from receiving His love. He longs to hear us apologize, so that He can tenderly say, “I forgive you,” and overflow us with His abundant mercy.
Fast forward: I am now an adult, and I love Reconciliation far more than probably most Catholics you will ever meet. I recently went to confession during Lent of 2021 and there he was— Father Simon. He was sitting there, waiting, and he smiled when he saw me walking in. He said the familiar, “It is good that you are here; thank you for being here.” Some things never change.
Before my confession even “started,” we talked about life and Lent and my family. I laughed, reminiscing about our first confession together, and we both were struck by all that had changed. Still, much like that middle school memory, I left the sacrament feeling overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. It was one of the best confessions of my life. My heart felt so clean from not being able to go for a long time because the pandemic had taken that opportunity away from me. I felt so free.
After all these years, I have developed an eagerness to jump on every chance I am given to be able to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness. I want to be able to grow in my relationship with Christ. I have a better opportunity to do so now that my views on confession have changed, and for that, I will forever be grateful to Father Simon and the works of Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit in my heart.