“Real life faith”—What does that mean? What does that look like? I want to provide my personal and raw testimony on this topic. Nothing but honesty and complete transparency.Read more
Growing up, I didn’t feel like I belonged in the Catholic Church. Since I experienced physical attractions towards other men, I felt far too broken and “dirty” to ever find myself sitting in the pews at Sunday Mass. I despised God. I despised His Church and its “restrictive” teachings on homosexuality. And yet, even amidst the deep distance that I drilled between the Lord and I, Jesus patiently waited for me to return home to Him.Read more
Trigger warning! Not necessarily, but let’s take a look at the meaning of “being triggered.” The concept actually originated in the field of mental health with the intention of aiding victims of trauma or disorders such as PTSD. For instance, a “trigger warning” may be placed on content involving suicide to prevent those who have struggled with suicidal thoughts or have experienced loss as a result of suicide from reentering into an unhealthy state.
Now, most of us who are familiar with popular culture know that this is not how the concept of being “triggered” is often used. In fact, the popular usage diminishes the real purpose of what it truly means to become triggered. Just scroll through the comments of any Instagram post—it does not even need to be politically controversial—and it is very likely that you will find someone who has been “triggered.” It is almost impossible for anyone to share their thoughts online without allegedly offending others. This may not be news to anyone, but this offense I am speaking of is more nuanced than your old friend from high school unfollowing you because you tweeted about your support for a particular candidate. As this habit of being triggered occurs most often on the political left, it often involves an accusation and questioning of the other’s morality merely because of their religious or traditional viewpoints.
I attended a liberal Catholic Jesuit high school. I met many wonderful people and, most importantly, received a stellar education. I could not, however, simply speak my mind or think out loud in any of my classes. It was not for the fear of others disagreeing with my viewpoints, but the worry that I would be deemed as a less-than-charitable Catholic. Yet, this is precisely what happened. In a very social justice focused Catholic school, I could not speak openly about how birth control distorted the theology of the woman’s body because classmates and teachers claimed that my privilege kept me from understanding why birth control is supposedly so necessary. Furthermore, students would stand up claiming to be triggered because of their personal experience with birth control. Now, contraception is another topic, but I assure you that the Church’s stance is one of the utmost charity and beauty. Like other topics that people become “triggered” by, it must be taught, discussed, and understood properly—which is rarely done.
Another distinction between finding offense and being “triggered” is when one is supposedly triggered and shuns the other person because of the apparent infraction. The response to the offending statement is no longer, “I am offended so I shall have polite discourse or leave the conversation until this blows over,” but rather, “I am offended so I shall create a permanent rift between this person and I.” Many of us have seen this when our long-time friends unfollow us or start social media arguments because we shared our thoughts on a controversial topic, and it is a sad reality.
Let us make one thing clear, when people become triggered, it is most likely because they have a personal tie to the topic at hand. This is vital to recognize, and it is one’s Christian duty to be present to simply listen to someone’s testimony of hardship. Our responsibility, however, does not end when we listen.
Additionally, social media is hardly ever a place for productive dialogue. Therefore, we cannot sit back passively as we watch the morals of our world crumble down and the souls of our brothers and sisters be lost. We must continue to speak for Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Furthermore, as social media is a realm that seems to emit a great amount of darkness into our world, we ought to be the light source. If all Catholics were to delete their social media because they believed it to be a source for evil, it would only be because they let it become one. Thus, all the lost souls left on Instagram, Twitter, and the like would be left with no illuminating presence.
Ultimately, it is paramount that our prayer lives fuel our words. It is useless to babble on about God, the Church, and politics on our social media timeline if the Holy Spirit does not have time to fill us with His words. Then, if we feel passionate about and called to highlight a particular truth, we can feel confident that we are doing so out of Spirit-filled inspiration and charity, rather than arrogance. If people are “triggered” by our words, we can discern the true intention behind their meaning and act accordingly with kindness. As Christians, it is a grace, for we cannot go astray if we remain in the Lord and speak boldly and in love.
July 3rd of 2019, Catholic Youth Summer Camp: I walked into a room filled with worship music, and before me stood Jesus in the monstrance. This was very new to me given that I’d never had an encounter with Him. I’d heard about Him, and I didn’t really think I needed Him. But I knew I wasn’t happy where I was at, and something needed to change. So I knelt down and held out my hands. I started to let the words of the song take meaning in my heart, and as I did, tears came—tears of repentance, tears because I wanted to change, tears because Jesus was real, tears because Jesus’ love for me was stronger than I could ever comprehend. I felt so close to Him at that moment, so loved, known, and held.
Let me say before all this took place, I was in a bad place. Long story short, I would make bad decisions that felt good at the moment, but once that moment wore off, I was left feeling more empty, lonely, and hopeless. I felt a longing in my heart for something more that I tried to cover up with things of this world. This longing was left unsatisfied until I started a relationship with Christ.
We can all have an encounter with God. But it is up to us whether or not we are going to let it change us. To have a relationship with someone is not just a one-time thing: it takes time, effort, and persistence. An encounter is only the start, just like meeting a person for the first time. If you want to start a relationship with a person, you have to take the time to get to know them. Here are things that have helped build my relationship with Christ:
Prayer is turning the heart toward God. When a person prays, he enters into a living relationship with God.CCC 2558-2565
You can’t get to know a person until you talk with them. Take time every day to talk with Him, being open to Him and everything He has to offer. It’s all free for us to receive. It’s just our choice whether or not to take that step to come to Him to receive it. He is here right now, patiently waiting for you to turn to Him so that He can shower you with His gifts and flood you with His grace.
Above all, the Gospels sustain me during my hours of prayer; in them, I find everything that my poor little soul needs.St. Therese of Lisieux
By reflecting on the Gospels, we understand how Jesus lived and how we are called to live and treat others as He did—not just by reading the words, but by praying them. This is called Lectio Divina. It involves reading attentively, reflecting on what phrases speak to your heart, resting in the silence of His loving embrace, and responding to what He is calling you to do.
The Blessed Virgin Mary
To love Mary is not to take love away from Jesus. It is to multiply, amplify, and grow in love with Jesus.Fr. Mike Schmitz
If you are looking to build a relationship with Christ, Mary is the one to turn to for help. She was given to us to be our Mother and will point you right to her Son. Much like how the moon reflects the light of the sun, Mary reflects the love of her Son. Pray the Rosary, and meditate on the mysteries of Christ.
The soul hungers for God and nothing but God can satiate it. Therefore He came to dwell on earth and assumed a Body in order that this Body might become the Food of our souls.St. John Vianney
Eucharistic adoration will bring you into an intimate relationship with Jesus. You can come to experience this intimacy just by sitting in His presence, truly believing in your own heart that before you stands your Savior, the One who bled and died for you, the One who knows you more than you know yourself, the One who has a love for you that is greater than anything you have ever experienced before. Just resting with Him in the silence of your heart will allow intimacy with Christ to flourish. Take the time to listen to what He is speaking to your heart.
I pray this helps you to start a relationship with Jesus—to experience a love, peace, joy, and freedom that exceeds everything this world has to offer. There is a hole in everyone’s heart that only God can fill. He created us to be in a relationship with Him, so why would we want to do anything other than what He created us for?
Do you ever miss the simplicity of being a child? Those carefree, candy-licking, nap-taking, running barefoot in the backyard kinds of days? Most people have reminisced over these moments at one point or another. What is it about these moments that keeps drawing us back? I believe the part of those memories that is so attractive to us is the simplicity of them. And if we could remain this simple as we grew older, our love for Christ would increase remarkably.Read more
The topic of this content can be triggering to some readers. That is completely understandable. I’m not going to go into detail and will focus on the healing more than the trauma itself, but if you need to stop reading here, that’s okay. Also, if you have been in a similar situation, please remember to surround yourself with people that you can talk to—other brothers and sisters in Christ, family, priests or religious, or even counselors. There is nothing to be ashamed about, and there are people here for you.
I went through a few years of sexual abuse between age 7 and 11. I knew the person quite well, and they were very much a part of my everyday life. I think that when someone so close to you hurts you in this specific way, it really messes with you. A priest once told me sexual abuse can be one of the worst things to happen to a person because it will affect them physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually. However, I am blessed to say that where I stand now, I am healed in ways I didn’t think I could be. Being healed from something doesn’t mean that you’ve forgotten it, though, or that it doesn’t still affect certain areas of your life. It might not be an open wound anymore, but the scars are still there, and that’s okay. Unfortunately for me, the healing process didn’t begin until I was about 16, because the way I coped with it beforehand was hiding it and never talking about it or dealing with it. And trust me, if that’s where you are right now, that isn’t going to help you and it will only make it worse in the long run.
The first step that I took was acknowledging it to myself and being brave enough to bring it out into the open. It was hard to talk about it and bring myself back to that place. At first, the best way for me to work through it was with someone else who was either trained to handle it or someone who related to the situation in some way. I tried to do it this way for a while, and it definitely helped a lot, but ultimately, the Lord was the one who really helped me heal. It was once I let the Lord into that part of my life that I began to experience peace and acceptance within myself. I had to learn that Jesus wanted to sit in those wounds with me—and as with every wound or cut, when you need to clean it, it hurts. Pouring on that hydrogen peroxide or using an alcohol pad is going to sting like crazy, but it’s cleaning it and getting it prepped to begin to heal itself.
I know that without the ways that He worked in me and spoke to me, I would still be in a very wounded place in my life. I had to let the Lord into some very dark places, and let others into those places with me too. One thing that I didn’t realize was how long it would take to get to the point of freedom and peace. I would say that for me it took at least four to five years, and it is still something to this day that I need to fight for. Because the evil one wants to use this type of situation to unravel you and separate you from God. There were so many times I had to forgive over and over again, but I would honestly go through the whole process over again to be where I am today.
Let the Lord heal you. Let others into your life to love you and be with you. Talk it out with trusted people. Don’t get discouraged or lose hope and think that you have to stay in a wounded place forever. That’s not what I want for you, and that’s definitely not what the Lord wants for you.
I have struggled with whether I’m “good enough” all throughout my teens and into adulthood. Like me, you may often ask yourself: “Am I good enough yet?” And yet, when reflecting on this question, we must dig deeper and ask ourselves: Who exactly are we questioning we are good enough for?
For me, it was my family, my friends, the boys I dated, and myself. Whenever someone disappointed me or walked out of my life, I questioned my self-worth. With every heartbreak, I questioned whether I was good enough. Every friend that was no longer my friend, every F on a test, every failure, every disappointment made me question my worth: “Am I not smart enough? Am I not pretty enough? Am I not skinny enough?”
And yet, are we not more than our accomplishments and failures? Are we not more than the numbers on the scale? Are we not more than the way we think people perceive us? Wouldn’t it be nice if every time we had this thought of not being enough, someone would be there to say that we are—If every time we met ourselves with doubt, someone would assure us that we were created for more than this?
Jesus does. He says that He made us; we are made in His image. Jesus reminds us every day that we are enough—in fact, we are to die for. To question our worth is to question His sacrifice. He says not only that we are worthy, but that we have purpose. You are here for a reason, you are blessed, you are beautiful, and you are enough.
One of my favorite lyrics comes from “He Has Time” by Common Hymnal and Jamie MacDonald. It reminds us that “Jesus runs after the broken ones, weeping with those who weep,” and “crowns them with purity.” The great thing about Jesus is that we don’t have to look too far to find him. He see us in our darkest places, in our doubt, in our sadness, and in our failures, and still says we are worthy. He meets us where we are in life and heals us. Once we realize this, we stop putting our worth in other people; we stop looking for our worth in other people. We become set free, we become made new—the only person we put our worth in is Jesus. The only person we question if we are “good enough” for is Jesus, and even then, we know the answer because He answered it when He died on the cross for us.
The answer is, yes, we are enough. If we put our worth in worldly things, we will surely be disappointed. Nothing on this earth is perfect, but if we put our worth in the one thing—the one person—who is perfect, then we will not be disappointed.
Jesus has all the time in the world to remind you every day: You are more than the scale, more than the A’s or F’s you get on a test, more than what people say about you. You are not made of this world, you are made of Him. You are worth dying for, and He did—because you are worth it.
When I was a little girl, my mom would drag my little brother and I to adoration. The chapel was dark, lit only by the candles that framed the tabernacle. While we didn’t fully understand yet what we were experiencing, we knew there was something different about this space. My mom would go before the Lord praying for my dad’s conversion. For eighteen years I watched her fast and do penance so that our family would be unified in the Church. The diligence and manner in which she prayed showed my brother and I that what she was praying for was real. Our Catholic faith was and still is the most important thing to her, and my dad knew that. Before they married, he agreed to raise us in the Catholic Church. I have never been so thankful for a promise kept. We knew he had questions and hesitations about the Church, but he made sure we were there every Sunday as a family, because that’s what he promised my mom. Every day I prayed for my family to someday sit in Mass together.
The summer before junior year of high school I went on an adventurous trip to Colorado with my youth group. I was not one that liked to spend time away from my family, so I dreaded this trip. After about eight hours in the car, we stopped at a little convent in the middle of nowhere in Kansas. The sisters were having adoration before Mass, and we had the opportunity to celebrate with them. We filed into the humble chapel where they were praying before the Blessed Sacrament. From the moment I crossed the threshold of the door I could feel the Holy Spirit drawing my soul in. I believe that time spent in adoration that day is the closest thing to ecstasy I will experience this side of Heaven. Tears overwhelmingly filled my eyes—I was truly in the presence of Christ. It was that day that my love for adoration began, and I understood why my mom had spent so many hours there. After mass we were able to mingle with the sisters. I was introduced to one in particular, and I couldn’t even look her in the eyes. She was the most holy woman I had ever seen, radiant and beautiful. I quickly went out the door and climbed into the van. She followed me all the way to the back seat to speak to me. Knowing that I was moved by our experience, she grabbed my face and said to me: “Sometimes Jesus squeezes the heart.” And He was. I was so humbled. I felt so unworthy to be loved so much.
Junior year of college, I met a boy. Not just any boy, but the one I knew I wanted to marry. He was handsome and charming—everything I had ever prayed for. He was not Catholic, but I was okay with that. I had seen it work with my parents (and seven other couples in my family who married non-Catholics that are now converted and in full communion with the Church). I was working for our football department and he was playing at a school a few hours away. He knew he wanted to go pro and spent lots of time training, so this made seeing each other difficult sometimes. When I missed him, or when we were going through challenges in our relationship, I would go sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament and tell Jesus everything. My hurts, my wants, my fears, my frustrations. Sometimes I would go and sob, sometimes I would just sit and feel His embrace.
After college, he moved to California to start training camp. We got engaged outside of the Cathedral in my hometown where we planned to be married—the same church I have dreamed of being married in since I was a little girl. It was the most beautiful day full of blessings and family, and we could not wait to start our future together. We went through our marriage prep, I bought a dress, and I prepared to make the move to California after the wedding. A few months into our engagement, he decided he was unsure about the Catholic Church and raising our family in this way. While I never expected to marry a Catholic, I knew I would never force my faith on anyone either. But I do feel a sense of responsibility to make sure my future children experience every part of our faith—and not be pulled in two different directions. We decided to call off the wedding.
Heartbroken and confused, I ran to the only place I knew to go—the same place I had been hundreds of times. The only place that could heal my very broken heart. I was so angry with God (and I let him know that too). I told him—“If it wasn’t for You and Your Church, I would be marrying the man I love.” How could he give me everything I had asked for and then take it away? Looking back, maybe this was the point. I was stripped of everything I thought I could ever want and was left with no one else to turn to but Him. And I did. Humbly, desperately, daily, I would find my strength in the Eucharist. There were days it was the only thing that got me up in the morning.
Friends, there is power and healing in the Eucharist. As Catholics we have the opportunity to experience Christ in the most intimate way that no one else can! He has made himself present to us through the Eucharist, and there is nothing else like it on this earth. He eagerly waits for us to come be with Him–to share our hopes and our struggles, to weep and rejoice. He is always there and always waiting. Run to Him–He alone will heal you.