Our Worth Is Determined By God

The struggle with my calling from God and my own will came to a head in recent weeks. I’ve found myself increasingly more ill from chronic bile reflux disease, which is causing me very painful gastritis and esophagitis. Over the course of the last few months, what previously would be an occasional painful flare up, has turned into a normal way of life for me. My medications are now largely useless and I have had to turn to extreme measures by severely limiting my diet in order to help bring about some sort of healing. Meanwhile I have to undergo a few rather unpleasant tests to see if I need surgery on my esophagus.

I was able to function while in pain for quite some time without anyone knowing how miserable I was until recently. I’ve lost 10 lbs in the last week and my husband has asked me to give up driving until I can return to a normal caloric intake. I wish that I could say that I simply raised my eyes to heaven and said: “Your will, not mine.” Instead, I cried a lot and a torrent of pain I had been internalizing came rushing out on our way to daily Mass today. He’s driving me to daily Mass when he can this week.

Then, as has happened before, my priest gave a homily that matched verbatim everything I had been crying in agony about. The Holy Spirit sought to bring comfort and conviction to me through his preaching. I have felt utterly useless. It is a struggle to make dinner and keep my house clean some days. I’ve been in bed more in the last few months than I have in my entire life. There are times I lay staring at the ceiling in pain trying to pray, but I can’t focus and so I pray seemingly mindless prayers through the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, and Stations of the Cross for priests.

I have fallen into the temptation that strikes all of us in times of illness. I watched it with my husband when he was debilitated by his chronic illness that is now quiet for the time being so he can take care of me. I have watched it for years with my chronically ill father. It is the false belief that our worth comes from what we are able to do, when it reality, our worth comes from the fact that we are made in the image and likeness of God. We are loved by Him. Our being is enough.

It is hard to see this truth in a society fully entrenched in the culture of death. We are inundated with messages on a daily basis that our only worth to others is based on what we can do for them or give to them. The unborn, elderly, handicapped, the poor, and the sick are a burden that needs to be hidden away or done away with. Whether we mean to or not, the rampant utilitarianism within our society has crept into our own understanding. I know I have ingested that lie. The belief that it is our use that determines our worth comes to the forefront when we find ourselves not quite so “useful” at different periods in our lives.

Much like my husband did for 2.5 years, I had to finally tell my family, friends, priests, editor, and ministries that I need to take a step back for a little while until I am well enough to function properly. I will do what I can, but it will depend on how I’m feeling on a given day. I can’t be driving around town if I haven’t been able to eat enough calories to keep me from blacking out. My husband rightly pointed out to me that passing out at the ambo during Mass while I’m lectoring would be irresponsible of me. Part of being sick is Our Lord pruning away the parts of our ego that still want to cling to a false sense of power and control.

The reality is, our true worth and our progress in holiness is not solely dependent on what we can accomplish in a physical sense. It is in times of sickness when we are united to Christ Crucified that He often does His most beautiful work and we advance spiritually in ways never previously possible. Even though I may not “feel” like my prayers accomplish much since I lack focus, it doesn’t change that God is at work through them.

My suffering is not meaningless, even though the Enemy is always there in the background telling me otherwise with his lies and accusations. Suffering brings about graces we won’t fully know about until the next life. Illness is a time of growing radically in faith, hope, and charity since it is a time of strengthening the will and a time when consolations may seem in shorter supply.

No, I can’t go where I want to go right now. I can only focus on trying to serve my family as I’m able to and pray and sacrifice for priests. I can only go where He wants me to go, and for right now, a good deal of my time is spent sitting or lying in my bed trying by His grace to raise my eyes to heaven. I will accomplish more in these months of suffering than I have in all of my healthy years. I trust God is at work, even when I can’t see Him.

Your worth is not determined by what you can do. It is determined by God and His great love for you. Don’t let anyone–the world, the Enemy, yourself–tell you otherwise.

Catholic Exchange: Women Deserve Better Than the False Promises of Contraceptive Culture

One of the Great Injustices Against Women

One day history will show that one of the great injustices against women in our time is birth control. There are a plethora of reasons why this is the case. But there is another dimension that is often overlooked. Birth control has led to a woefully inadequate focus in the medical field on women’s health. Ask any woman who deals with debilitating hormone issues that exacerbate other health issues and you will find countless stories of women who were told the Pill was the only answer.

I am one of those women.

I’ve written in the past about my four miscarriages and low hormones that have been a chronic problem for me. Natural Procreative Technologies (NaPro) helped for a while, but eventually I developed severe side effects from my hormone treatments. This led me to have to end the shots that were helping treat my low estrogen and progesterone. The only solution left to me by my doctor was to go on the Pill.

I briefly considered it for medical reasons, which the Church allows, but discovered, after doing research, that I possess a genetic mutation that makes me much more likely to get a life-threatening blood clot if I were to take birth control. I decided to bear with the difficult symptoms and unite them to Christ on the Cross for His greater glory and for those He has specifically asked me to suffer for. That doesn’t mean this path has been easy. The Cross is never easy, but it is the path to love and joy.

As I’ve gotten older, my hormone issues have gotten worse and aggravated other chronic health issues that developed after my gallbladder removal. I am getting sicker as I get older. I currently can’t eat most foods, especially when my hormones drop and inflammation rises precipitously, rendering me ill for a week or two each month.

This is not to complain about my plight. Suffering is redemptive, and a means of sanctification that must be embraced, despite the moments of affliction. This is to point out that the medical community has failed women like me.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Radio Interview on Praying for Priests

Here is a link to a radio interview I had with a priest in the Cincinnati area about my recent blog post on responding to the clergy sex abuse scandals spiritually through prayer and sacrifice. I already know our priests deal with a lot, but this interview was the most honest discussion I’ve had with a priest publicly. I hope through listening to it, the Holy Spirit increases within you a desire to pray and sacrifice for priests. They need our prayers no matter how holy you think a priest may be or how much you dislike a priest. Forgive the priesthood. Pray for holy priests.

My interview starts at 6:48.

There Must Be a Spiritual Response to the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandals

Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Wiki Commons

People frequently ask me about my thoughts on the clergy sex abuse scandals and the priesthood. When the news first broke in 2018, I spent a lot of time horrified and angry. I’ve studied enough Church history to know this is not something new and members of the priesthood very often fall into worldliness, corruption, lust, and perversion, but I was still unbelievably angry. I learned a very important lesson during that time about how I am supposed to respond because it was going to pave the way for the path Christ has set me on now.

Early on in the 2018 scandals, I went to Confession and expressed my intense anger at the hierarchy. I talked about how much I was struggling with it. Our Lord, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, had the priest assign me one of the hardest penances I have ever been given. Wait, what? You may be wondering. Christ needed me to answer His calling and the only way He could do that was by getting in the way of my anger and channeling it for His purposes. So, I was assigned praying some or all of the Stations of the Cross for priests as my penance. Over two years later, I now pray the Stations of the Cross for the priesthood nearly every single day except on Sundays.

Staying angry at the state of the hierarchy was doing me no good. I have no control over the state of the Roman Curia or when the McCarrick report will be issued. I don’t even have any control over what happens in my own bishop’s chancery. Our Lord was showing me how we are supposed to respond to situations outside of our control. We are called to pray, fast, and offer reparations.

This answer seems painfully inadequate to us in our Fallen state since we often see material forms of justice and tangible actions as superior to the spiritual weapons we have been given that transform the material order. Whenever I tell someone who is struggling with the state of the priesthood to begin fervent daily prayer for the priesthood and to begin offering sacrifices for priests I am often met with rebuke or incredulity. This betrays a great lack of faith and understanding on our part if we do not understand that prayer must be the grounding force of everything. We cannot act in accordance with God’s will if we are not people of prayer and firm faith that tells us God will work through our prayers and sacrifices.

I cannot spend all of my time expending wasted energy on worrying about things outside of my control. If I focus too much on what one bishop does over another or even the disgusting diabolical sacrilege of certain priests, then I will become exhausted and demoralized. I will stop praying for priests and get stuck in a cycle of anger, which then leads to a desire for vengeance, not justice. I see this cycle running non-stop in the Catholic blogosphere day in and day out.

Being righteously angry about evil is a good thing. It leads us to take action, but it must lead us to take the right action. The starting place for discerning where we are to help in response to evil must come from prayer. It must come from God Himself. If we do not act in accordance with His will, then we will more often than not create a bigger mess or our calls will fall on deaf ears because we sound like a clamoring gong.

Ranting and raving at your parish priest incessantly about the state of the hierarchy accomplishes very little except to demoralize an already wounded priesthood. Pray for him. Pray for all of them. Fight the spiritual battles necessary for your spiritual fathers, but do not constantly throw in their faces what they already live and experience each day.

Forgive the priesthood. Seek to be a part of the solution. Raise holy sons who will answer Christ’s call to become priests. Seek holiness yourself so that you can help draw the priesthood back to its rightful place in the Church. Pray for them without ceasing.

Our Lord, in His mercy, once more reminded me of this fact when I went to Confession recently and expressed my anger and deep frustration about what transpired with a priest recently in Louisiana. The answer I was given was the same one in a slightly different form. I was told to pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet for the priesthood. Once more, I was told to go to the Cross for priests and pray for His mercy on them and for the conversion of those priests who fall into egregious sins. Christ commands us to pray for those who persecute us. The same is true of those who betray us, especially priests.

We as a people can stay angry at the state of the priesthood whenever a new scandal arises or we can respond with prayer and beg God to renew His priesthood. All of the hand-wringing, venting, gossip, calumny, and wrath we express each day in social media about the hierarchy isn’t doing any of us any good. In an age of instant global communication, we can fall for the lie that we are able to change things on a grand scale. That we must fight every injustice even though it reduces us to an empty shell of anger, resentment, and fatigue.

Christ asks us to work where He calls us to work. We are meant to primarily influence and transform those around us within our families and our local communities. We accomplish this by dedicating our lives to growing in holiness and seeking God’s will over our own. In relation to the priesthood, it means Catholics should be praying daily for your own parish priests, bishop, our Holy Father, the priesthood as a whole, and for an increase in vocations. They need those prayers more than you realize. It doesn’t matter how holy you think your priest is. He needs your daily prayers.

It’s time to step away from the cycle of outrage and anger and into the silence of the Most Holy Trinity. Christ and Our Lady want a holy priesthood that is raised to the dignity it is meant to be placed at after such tremendous damage has been done. We help in that mission when we seek to pray and sacrifice for priests and believe that prayer transforms the world. We don’t know how much one Rosary can change a priest’s life in the course of day or if it could provide the graces to keep him from serious sin. Real change begins when we start to pray. I hear Stations of the Cross are a good place to start.

The Spiritual Life: Are We All In?

Are we all in? This is the question that is posed to us repeatedly in the spiritual life whether we are consciously aware of it or not. Do we truly mean to be disciples of Jesus Christ? Do we really want to be saints? On one level we answer this question with a yes, but we still hold back from God. We still believe that we won’t have to give Him everything. Everything. Deep down we still believe that we get to choose the path and the process to holiness. I know that I am asked this question daily, even hourly. With each new test and task, Our Lord is seeing if I am truly willing to do all that He is asking of me.

There’s an episode in the life of St. Faustina that illustrates this point quite well. Our Lord asked St. Faustina to go to her Mother Superior to request to be able to begin wearing a hair shirt as a penance. She is rebuked and told she will not take on any such penances. St. Faustina leaves, confused by what has transpired. Our Lord meets her on the way and explains to her that He is not looking for her mortifications, but ultimately her obedience. Why is this so important?

Obedience is how we show Christ that we are willing to do what He asks of us no matter what, even if it means rejection or ridicule in the process. Rejection and difficulties are guaranteed if we truly seek to follow the path to sanctity. We will be asked to do things we do not understand. They may confuse us or even cause anxiety, but Christ is leading us where He wants us to go. If we refuse Him, then we cannot fulfill the mission He has for each one of us. He cannot entrust greater tasks to us if we are unwilling to be obedient.

What’s even more, if we refuse to do what He asks of us, our souls begin to turn into a chaotic storm. This is because we are living against our very nature when we refuse to walk the path Christ is calling each one of us to walk. A path that will differ very much from our neighbor, even at times, our spouse. We then let in the Enemy who attacks all of our weaknesses with his lies, accusations, and seductions because we are not resting in the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. We can only be happy if we are living God’s will for our lives.

I was pondering this truth earlier today when I realized once again how much it costs to be all in. Unfortunately, the saints discovered that a lot of people have no interest in surrendering everything to God. They are content with mediocrity or even doing nothing. This was a source of endless frustration for many of the saints who learned that all they could do was rely on God alone. They learned that it doesn’t matter if the people around them are as dedicated to following God’s will. That is true for all of us. What matters ultimately is that we are trying to do His will and hopefully by His grace that will lead others to do the same thing.

What matters each day is that we keep our gaze firmly fixed on Christ and try to walk where He is asking us to go. There will be many times He will lead us where we don’t want to go, but we must follow Him. We must follow Him into spiritual battles, dryness, doubts, fears, and the difficulties of this life so He can strengthen us. Without these battles, we will never grow spiritually. It is in trial, testing, and trust that we grow in holiness. When we come to realize that we must surrender everything to Him, it is then that we can truly begin.

Why I Deleted My Social Media Accounts

My husband and I made the decision to leave social media. I went through and deleted all of my social media accounts, except for Instagram. I don’t post anything to it anymore. I only use it to pray the Rosary with a friend of mine who is leading virtual prayer. The decision has been a long time coming and those who have followed my writing for years know that I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. I deactivated for a year and still have no idea how I ended up back on it for a few years.

The volume on social media is such a cacophonous din of rancor and over-politicization of everything that it was robbing me of much needed prayer time and peace. I watched as both sides of the political spectrum sought to demonize the other in the name of the dignity of the human person. An irony lost on many, I’m afraid.

My Catholic friends spend hours arguing about everything and anything in the Church and politically to the point that I realized anyone on the outside watching the dumpster fire of Catholic social media would have no interest in joining our ranks and would rightly head for the hills. I knew more about my friends’ political beliefs than I did about their lives or their Catholic faith. Either that or I could see how people would mistake Catholicism with an allegiance to a particular political party and not an encounter with Jesus Christ.

We are not called to evangelize primarily through a political or moral message. Many Catholics berate Bishop Robert Barron’s approach, but he understands that the radicality of the Gospel message does not come from the law. Christ is the fulfillment of the law, but our Faith is not purely the law. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said the same thing in Deus Caritas Est: “We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” We are Christian because we have encountered the Risen Lord and chosen to answer His call to follow Him.

The problem today–as it has been in other ages–is we often want to put the cart before the horse. We think we can tear into the virtual world of competing ideas and ideologies and declare the moral law–usually through a political driven lens–in order to convert souls. This is not how we convert the culture. When we do this we forget that our own conversion was first an encounter with Jesus Christ. Once we came to love Him, we were able to choose to surrender ourselves to the moral law and all of the requirements of Christian discipleship. We have to lead people to Christ first and then the moral demands of following Him.

The reason that Catholics are unable to radically impact the culture is because we look exactly like the culture. We fight, demonize, and divide. We are just as much a part of the problem as those we criticize on the other side, whatever side that may be. The truth is necessarily divisive, but we must offer it in love and not primarily through an ideological lens that is influenced more by our political beliefs than by our identity in Christ.

We cannot change hearts and minds when we are uncharitable and aggressive in our response to those who oppose us. We cannot force others to convert. There’s a reason Christ commands us to pray for our enemies. It is not only for their sake and conversion, it is for our own conversion of heart. It stops the Enemy from fomenting animosity, division, and hatred in our own hearts.

Oftentimes we falsely believe that we must constantly berate others with the moral law. This is impossible in an age marked by nihilism, relativism, utilitarianism, materialism, hedonism, and a growing hostility to religion. In an age of “me” it is very difficult to lead with morality since people will take it as an attack on their autonomy. Leading with morality in an age when morality is set by the individual will only lead to further entrenchment.

Instead, we have to lead people to Christ through our own example first. If we are committed to holiness, then we can be a light in the darkness to our lost culture. Once that light begins to shine in the hearts of others, we can begin to lead them down the path to Christ where ultimate conversion takes place. It is this light that reveals to our culture how lost in darkness it truly is. As I scrolled through my Facebook feed, I wondered where this light is because it is in short supply.

For decades we as Catholics have been taught that our role is primarily social justice related. This has infected the priesthood and the laity. We are constantly called to action. We must achieve justice. We must always be doing something. Usually how this is accomplished is vague and in purely humanistic terms, even if not intended. The de-emphasis on prayer and the Sacraments is indicative of this mentality in the Church today.

We no longer see holiness as the primary means by which we evangelize and transform a culture. Instead we see it as primarily accomplished politically or socially. It is prayer and intimate union with the Father that is the source of Christ’s ministry, not the other way around. We cannot grow in holiness and become saints if we are not grounded in prayer and the Sacraments above all else. We cannot transform the culture and win souls to Christ if we are not immersed in prayer and the Sacraments first. It is from prayer that we can go out into the world to do God’s will.

The saints are the example to us of how to evangelize and transform a culture. We are never going to do away with all injustice in the world. That will only be accomplished at Our Lord’s glorious and triumphant return. What we are called to do is transform the community around us. If every Catholic was truly dedicated to a life of prayer, the Sacraments, and the pursuit of holiness, then our culture and the world would transform overnight. Ranting endlessly about politics online is not leading anyone to holiness, including the person who is doing it. An over-emphasis on the political life runs the risk of turning our political beliefs into a false idol and leads us to build our house on sandy ground rather than the solid rock of Christ.

Interestingly, I lost more friends in social media over the years because of my over-emphasis on divisive political beliefs–which have evolved considerably–than I ever did when I stopped those posts and began sharing my Catholic faith publicly. I would post on moral issues at times, including my involvement in 40 Days for Life, but most of the time I shared a lot about the spiritual life, the Cross, and the demands of Christian discipleship through my own experiences and the saints. I had friends email me who were of different faiths to tell me that they appreciated my willingness to share my faith. The issue is not our Catholic Faith as it is in reality. It is ideologically driven or weaponized counterfeits to our Faith that turn people off right now.

This is why I also see it as disastrous for Catholics to endlessly fight over cultural Catholic issues. The bickering about the Liturgy, reception of Holy Communion, and the in-fighting in the Church does nothing except push people on the outside away from our vitriolic battles against one another. Ideology in all of its forms is a counterfeit that leads to division. We know the spirit of something by its fruits and that which rancorously divides is not from Christ, but from the Enemy. We can disagree, but we are called to do so in love and respect so that the world knows we are brothers and sisters, rather than in the Pharisaical and judgmental way we do it today in social media.

We also should have the humility to be open to correction if our beliefs are counter to the Church’s. My own understanding changed dramatically when I took graduate Moral Theology and Catholic Social Teaching. I realized how many of my beliefs were from my political ideology and not Christ and His Church. I got a stern talking to in Confession from a good and holy priest when I talked to him about it. It was necessary for Christ to lead me to a fuller conversion of heart. He continues this process within us throughout our lives.

We also need to grow in enough self-awareness to know that If we feel the need to hunt people down to correct them, then it is our own pride that has blinded us. It is a temptation for all of us to want to get the last word in. I battle it myself. But it is also one of the reasons so many relationships are destroyed in social media. Pride. A very heavy and deadly sin we all battle that social media enables. One of the clearest signs we are dealing with pride is when we must be the last to speak and/or correct.

Are we truly interested in converting souls to Christ and His Church? If so, then that should be priority number one instead of constant fighting and bickering. We cannot lead people to the beauty and truth of Catholicism if we ourselves do not cast light. I believe the division in the Church and the world today greatly wounds Our Lord’s Most Sacred Heart and Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart. How could it not? We are called to communion, but we have ignored or forgotten this call.

I finally made the decision to leave the hurricane of anger and division because I realized that I could do more to help in the long run through more time dedicated in prayer than I could ever do trying to call people away from blind ideology towards a less divisive way of seeing things. I also realized that my call for people on all sides to demand greater moral character from our leaders fell on deaf ears. I wasn’t going to be able to accomplish anything in social media as it stands today.

All of the time we spend arguing could be better utilized in prayer and serving our families and communities. We should be building up authentic forms of communion rather than reducing ourselves to a false form of communion that works for a Cartesian world, but not for the body-soul reality espoused by the Catholic Church. We need to be truly present to one another in body and soul in order to love as we are supposed to and to dwell in communion together with the Most Holy Trinity. Social media should never take the place of the community that is truly present in the world around us. We are needed in the city we live in at this moment in history in order to lead souls to Christ.

We should not disengage with social media altogether if we are able to handle it in a way that keeps us from sin. I’m still a writer. There are some Catholics doing good and evangelizing through social media. I think we need to seriously discern in prayer, however, whether or not it is leading us to holiness. We should at least pray for true conversion of heart and a clear conscience to show us where and when we fail to live as Christian disciples in social media. I do believe he is calling some of us away from it and others to be a light on it. We have to discern what He is calling us to as His disciples.

Funnily enough, because that’s how the Holy Spirit works, I just discovered this is today’s first reading for daily Mass today from Galatians 5:1-6:

Brothers and sisters:
For freedom Christ set us free;
so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

It is I, Paul, who am telling you
that if you have yourselves circumcised,
Christ will be of no benefit to you.
Once again I declare to every man who has himself circumcised
that he is bound to observe the entire law.
You are separated from Christ,
you who are trying to be justified by law;
you have fallen from grace.
For through the Spirit, by faith, we await the hope of righteousness.
For in Christ Jesus,
neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything,
but only faith working through love.

Leading People to Christ in an Overly Political Age

Tintoretto – Christ and the Adulteress, around 1546 – 1547

Holiness is contagious. Human beings are attracted to those souls who radiate the love of Christ. They may not understand why it attracts them. That light may also induce fear and shame, but there is nothing more contagious in this life than holiness. Holiness does not, however, come about through an idea or philosophical system. We do not become radiant in love through our intellectual pursuits or our politics. Holiness begins with a radical encounter with the Living God.

The Church’s primary mission is to bring all nations into conformation (communion) with the Most Holy Trinity. To lead people on the path to sanctity, which answers the longing deep within every human heart to be loved and to experience joy. Holiness is communion with the Most Holy Trinity. It is to be a close friend of God’s. He wants all people to come to Him; to find their rest and blessedness (beatitudo). The Church does not primarily transform the City of Man through natural means, although she is called to do so through the missions and vocations of her disciples. She transforms the world through this call to holiness, through discipleship. 

The world today, especially in the West, poses unique challenges to our evangelical mission in a way the Church hasn’t encountered in previous ages. We are no longer primarily evangelizing polytheistic people who sought to worship transcendent gods outside of themselves. Instead, we are faced with the task of evangelizing peoples who have predominately caved in on themselves and been fed the philosophical lie that truth is set by the individual, thus rendering each individual their own god. Leading people from the darkness of relativism and nihilism—which dominates through the will to power—is extremely difficult.

The answer to how we evangelize always has the first starting point in every age: Jesus Christ. We must seek to bring Christ to all people. This cannot be accomplished through an over- reliance on political posturing or even moralism. This is not because the moral law doesn’t matter. It is because we cannot expect those around us who have not been given the supernatural gift of faith to see the truth clearly as we do. We must lead them to an encounter with Jesus Christ first.

The reason for our faith is not the moral law. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI repeatedly pointed out that Catholicism is not a philosophical or moral system. It is a lived encounter and relationship with Christ. The mistake many of us make is in thinking that the moral law is everything. We forget that our own conversion and our own daily conversion is difficult and it is only possible through our relationship with Christ. We love Him and we want to serve Him, so we beg Him for the grace to persevere in order to grow in sanctity.

One of the dangers in the Church today—as well as in previous ages— is to foolishly attempt to lead people to the moral law before Christ. It is nearly impossible to evangelize people without leading them to Christ Crucified and Risen first. People cannot know the truth until they come to love Jesus who is the Truth. They will not submit to what seems to be an arbitrary set of rules until they know God. A man and a woman come together in marriage because they love one another and they choose to sacrifice everything for the other. The same is true in the Christian life.

This same method is used when a primarily political understanding is placed above our evangelical mission. Political systems are simply another type of philosophical system. Politics aid us in bringing about the common good, but our political convictions are not the center of our lives. In our current divisive and vitriolic political climate, it is very easy to turn politics into a false idol. It is also impossible to evangelize through political means because it will automatically alienate the other side. The Church transcends politics even as she transforms society.

The reality is, we very rarely are able to convert souls to the truth in Christ Jesus through our political posturing. Instead, we often aid in the hardening of hearts because we forget that the truth is not primarily political and we forget that those who cannot see the evils of abortion, contraception, euthanasia, etc. do not have the full light of faith and truth to guide them. We expect from them what it is not in our power to give. We are guides, not the distributors of grace.

St. Paul tells us the Cross is folly to the wise. Why? The Cross we are called to is a total relinquishment of self in love to God and for our neighbor. Given that it is natural for human beings to protect ourselves from suffering, the Cross looks like pure insanity to those who do not have the supernatural vision of faith. How can suffering redeem? Why should I give up my contraception, premarital sex, and other pleasures of the world for a philosophical system?

Until someone has had an encounter with Christ, they will fight back against this relinquishment. They will not see that the Church says “yes” far more often than she says “no.” As Christ’s disciples, we must seek to lead people to Jesus Christ who is made present on our altars. This is accomplished through a life dedicated to holiness and the mission that Christ gives to each one of us through our baptism. Holiness is the starting place for transforming the world around us, not endless debates about politics or our vote.

St. Teresa of Calcutta did not stop to ask the political beliefs of the poorest of the poor. She sought to love and to serve united to Christ on the Cross. St. John Paul II boldly proclaimed the truth, but in a manner that was centered on the person of Jesus Christ. Both of these saints were radiant in their person. This radiance drew people towards the Living God who is Light Itself. We are called to be this light.

The divisions of our day cannot be solved through deeper entrenchment in our political ideologies. We must seek to heal the ruptured communion that exists within the human family. Christ seeks out the lost, and our culture is lost. He admonishes the Pharisees most of all because they had been given the law and yet they failed to lead the nations to God. We run the risk of falling into this trap when we mistakenly believe that it is only the law that can save us. We run this risk when we place political ideologies above Christ. The Jews of Jesus’ day fell into this temptation repeatedly.

Christ issues invitations to sinners. He only flips tables once, but He repeatedly seeks the lost sheep of Israel and the world. The woman caught in adultery is an example of how we must approach the wounded and lost in our own culture. Jesus is not standing over her admonishing and chastising her. Rather, he is crouched down in the dirt. He admonishes those who want to stone this woman through his questions about their own sins. Each person present drops their stone and walks away aware of their own sinfulness. Jesus then looks up with His gaze of love and frees this woman from her sins. She is then transformed by His love. He is below her and looks up at her. His love reveals her sinfulness and she accepts His invitation of love. How often do we instead stand over our political or moral opponents Lording over them?

A few years ago, weeks after my fourth miscarriage, I was asked to help a woman who was considering an abortion. I was in the throes of intense grief at having lost another child, a son, after seeing his heartbeat twice on the ultrasound monitor. It was then that Christ showed me a woman in greater need than myself who was scared, unsure, and being pressured to get an abortion. Our lifestyles were very different. She had a past of petty crimes. Our moral understanding was polar opposite. She did not know Christ other than in the fact that she had heard His name, but didn’t know Him personally.

It would have been impossible for me to help her avoid killing her own child if I had used a philosophical or moral worldview rather than seeing her with the eyes of Christ. Instead, I had to walk with her and help her in whatever way I could. I had to be a radiant light in the darkness to her. I had to emptying myself completely out in love for her.

She chose life for her son and I was blessed to hold him in my arms shortly after he was born. Afterwards, she chose to end our relationship even after I tried to check in on her. I did not change her moral view. She didn’t have a radical conversion. Instead, I planted seeds and then had to leave them to God to tend. Her conversion isn’t up to me. It is up to God and His timing.

Screaming at one another on social media or around the family dinner table accomplishes very little in an age of division. As a mother and a spiritual mother, I’ve had to learn the hard way how often the only thing I can do is seek to be constant, loving, and patient with others. We can’t ram the truth down anyone’s throat. We can share it boldly in love, but we cannot force anyone. That isn’t love. God doesn’t force us to love Him and we can’t force others to love Him either. We can’t make people see what we see. We must pray for the gift of faith for others and for ourselves. More than anything, we must live the truth in such a way that any light within us leads people to Christ.

This is why I am against the over-emphasis on politics by so many Catholics today. Not because politics don’t matter. They do matter in the measure with which our political system can be directed towards the common good. Politics do not make up most of our lives, however. You couldn’t tell based on social media threads.

We cannot evangelize through a political lens, nor is being Catholic primarily political. We are Catholic because we have encountered Christ and fallen in love with Him. We want to serve Him. We want to dwell forever with Him in eternity and to lead all souls to Him. We see the truth because we have been given that gift from the Holy Spirit. We didn’t earn it. We accepted the invitation He has given to us. The same invitation we need to help others accept in the measure we are able to in accordance with God’s will and timing.

Meditations for the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary for Priests

Bartolome Esteban Murillo, The Crucifixion, ca 1675

I’ve gone back and forth on this, but in an effort to encourage people to pray for priests, I wanted to share some meditations that I wrote to go with the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. I wrote them for a holy hour for priests we had at our parish on the Memorial of St. John Vianney. These are for personal use. If you are going to use them in prayer ministry or parish events please contact me directly first at constance.t.hull81@gmail.com . Pax.

 1.  The Agony in the Garden
While in fervent and agonized prayer, Our Lord seeks to unite His human will perfectly to the will of the Father. He accepts the chalice of the Cross in loving obedience for the glory of the Father and in order to bring about our redemption.

Let us pray,
Eternal High Priest, we pray that Your priests will constantly seek to submit in obedience to the will of the Father in all things and to align their vision to Your supernatural vision. May they unite themselves fully to You in prayer in the Garden as they endure the sufferings they are called to embrace as Your priests. Lead them to willingly accept the agonies and desolations that come from a complete surrender to You, so that by their great love for You, they may glorify the Most Holy Trinity and be perfected in charity through their promise of obedience.


2.  The Scourging at the Pillar
Through the desolation of the scourging at the pillar, Christ heals us by His stripes. He endures the sufferings of the flesh so that we too may overcome the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil by uniting ourselves to Him at the pillar.

Eternal High Priest, we pray that Your priests will accept all of the lashings they must endure in their priestly ministry as the means by which they are configured more closely to You. Fill them with great fortitude and patience. Give them the strength to overcome the temptations of the flesh, the devil, and the world and anything that may lead them away from perfect union with You. Give them the strength they need to persevere in their priestly ministry and to find joy in their afflictions and periods of loneliness united to You at the pillar. 

3. The Crowning with Thorns

Our Lord is crowned with thorns as an inversion of His Divine Kingship. He is derided, persecuted, mocked, and beaten. He calls us to unite our own persecutions and humiliations to Him, which we are promised in this life as His disciples.

Eternal High Priest, we pray that your priests may unite their humiliations, criticisms, calumnies, spiritual warfare, misunderstandings, and persecutions to You. Remind them that they wear a crown of thorns in this life, so that they may bring many souls to you in eternity. Strengthen them in the knowledge that they will exchange their crown of thorns for a crown of glory in the next life. May they keep their eyes fixed on You their “thorn-crowned captain” despite the hatred and spiritual warfare they encounter living their sacred office.

4. The Carrying of the Cross
Christ carries the Cross burdened with the weight of our sins. He does so in love and in order to show us the way to eternal life. We must follow Him on the Way of the Cross in order to become the saints we are called to be.

Eternal High Priest, we pray that Your priests will lovingly embrace the heavy cross placed upon their shoulders at ordination. Keep them from abandoning their cross despite how many times they fall and how heavy it becomes along the way. Lead them into the depths of Your love, which can only be found in the desolation of the Cross. Help them to see Our Heavenly Mother walking beside them guiding them deeper into Your Most Sacred Heart. Show Your priests that she is united to each one of them in their burdens and how she daily ministers to each one of them through the tender love of her Immaculate Heart.

5. The Crucifixion of Our Lord
Our Lord dies on the Cross in expiation for our sins. He pours out every ounce of His blood for the salvation of souls in kenotic love to the Father united to the Spirit. It is on the Cross that He calls each one of us to die-to-self and to love as He loves.

Eternal High Priest, we pray that Your priests will seek to be crucified with you on the Cross in every moment of their priestly ministry. May this crucifixion lead them into deeper union with Your Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist, which is the source of their priestly identity. Give all priests the courage to abandon themselves completely in love to the Father, united to You in the Spirit on the Cross, so that they may be transfigured into the priest-saints they are called to be. By Your grace, may their dying-to-self every day lead to the salvation of countless souls and an outpouring of Your radiant love throughout the world.

9/11, the Cross, and Redemptive Suffering


People would sometimes ask me, and I would sometimes ask myself, if all of the suffering and darkness I endured after my 9/11 relief work was worth it. Like so many who lived through that day and the following weeks, I spent about three years in the abyss of PTSD. I do believe that I would have navigated it a bit better had my faith been stronger at the time, but I know that God used this agony for good and to strengthen me for all of the other sufferings He will ask of me along the way to my eternal home.


The strongest presence in that darkness was Our Heavenly Mother. She was there when I found myself alone in England in the middle of the night tormented by nightmares, night terrors (awful awful!), and sleep paralysis. Our Lady understands the Cross since she endured it united in an interior sacrifice with Her Son. Given my path now, I completely understand why Our Lord sent Her to me in one of my darkest hours.


She was with me when I finally had to concede that I was in rough shape and needed to check myself into a private mental health clinic in London for treatment that lasted about a month. I will still never understand how the U.S. military got a contract with this amazing center, but I am thankful to God for it.


I went running towards the Cross following the initial attack at the Pentagon. I began my relief work on Friday, September 14, 2001 which is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (my NAM citation dates are wrong…leave it to the Navy..LOL). But, as is always the case with the Cross, I didn’t fully grasp what would be asked of me and what it would cost me. The same is true for all of the firefighters, EMTs, police officers, military, and civilians who ran into burning towers never to return.


The Cross is what saves, however. It leads us to the depths of God’s love and mercy. It is what ultimately transfigures us. My suffering has shaped me in ways I never could have been shaped without it. Funnily enough, in God’s divine plan, I would hold three holy relics of the True Cross 13 years later when I had just turned 33. It is the finding of the True Cross by St. Helena that we celebrate in the Church every September 14. Not to mention I was born in Helena, MT.


It was only this morning that I was able to grasp what my own suffering was meant for besides to help those who were in the throes of unbelievable grief and agony. God is eternal, so our sacrifices and sufferings are not offered in a linear fashion in my view. They don’t have to be given to God at the exact time when they are happening. He already knows we will offer them to Him when the Holy Spirit prompts us to do so.


I told my husband this morning that Christ knew while I was dealing with the difficult task of serving the bereaved as a relief worker, followed by the throes of my own darkness of PTSD, that 19 years later I would offer it all up to him on the Cross for his priests. It is from his perspective that suffering becomes a gift to be offer to Christ for others.


Suffering often makes little sense at the time, but our participation in redemptive suffering transforms our suffering into something radiant and beautiful united to Christ Crucified. Oftentimes we don’t see until years later, even decades later, what He is asking of us, but we can trust that regardless of how dark the night gets, He is bringing about His good and shedding light in the abyss. We only have to unite our agony to His in love for the salvation of others.

Please remember to pray for the dead, the loved ones of those killed, relief workers, our nation, and our enemies. Pray for the hijackers’ souls as well. it took me over a decade to be able do that latter, but it changes everything.

Catholic Exchange: The Cross Leads to the Greatness We Are Made For

There is a quote by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI that frequently makes the rounds in social media: “The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” On the surface it is a summons to rise above the things of this world in order to achieve the greatness we are made for by God. The question is: How do we achieve this greatness? The answer is through the Cross.

In the West, we live in an age of comfort. This comfort is plaguing the Church at pandemic levels. It has eroded away her evangelical witness and it has led far too many Catholics to abandon the call of Christian discipleship for the things of this world. It has also led far too many in the ministerial priesthood to fail to teach, to govern, and to sanctify the People of God. Comfort acts as a cancer within the Mystical Body destroying everything it touches in the process.

The path to holiness is not an easy one. It is deeply difficult and it is impossible for us to achieve on our own. It is only through a radical surrender of our entire being to Christ that we can be transfigured into who we are meant to be for the salvation of souls and our own salvation. The means by which Christ transforms us into great saints is through the Cross. It is the only way because it is the same path He walked.

I will freely admit that I did not come to understand this central aspect of the Christian life until a few years ago after many years of intense suffering and after Our Lord quite literally placed three pieces of His True Cross in my hands when he entrusted them to me as their temporary guardian when I was 33-years-old. God was not subtle about it when He made it clear to me that I was to pick up my Cross and follow Him.

This should not have been difficult for me to understand. I’m a cradle Catholic, after all. The fact of the mater is, I never heard a passionate call from the priests of my childhood and young adulthood telling me to die-to-self united with Christ on the Cross. In fact, the love of God was frequently preached, but in a manner that was divorced from the Cross. “God loves us” is all I heard for decades. That’s well and good, but that statement lacks any depth without the full force of the Cross with it.

When I hear “God loves us” in a homily my immediate first thought is: “Yes, Father, but what does that mean? What does that love look like in our daily lives? What is Christ calling us to?” Through His love for us, Christ issues each one of us an invitation to walk the Way of the Cross and to be crucified on the Cross with Him because that is what love looks like. That is the love we are called to; a complete abandonment of self to God and in the service of others. It is the call to put others first, not ourselves, which is completely counter-cultural in an age of me and my wants and needs.

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have been working my way through Servant of God Catherine Doherty’s writings and biographies written about her. In many ways she is a woman after my own heart and a true spiritual sister. The most prevalent theme in her writing is the Cross. Multiple times throughout her life, holy men and  women prophesied to her about the role of the Cross in her life. From her infancy, her own mother said that she was born under the sign of the Cross.

Read the rest at Catholic Exchange.