Catholic Exchange: Made for the Happiness Found in the Beatitudes

We are made for happiness. At the deepest level of our existence, God has made us to be happy. This happiness, we must remember, comes from God alone. He created us to find our total and complete joy within the Blessed Trinity. Everything else we experience in our daily lives is a shadow of the love and joy we will be filled with when we stand before the Beatific Vision. The mistake we can make is in thinking that happiness is something material, that it is something we can grasp. Rather, it is a letting go and a relinquishment of self to God’s Divine plan. It is to conform our will to God’s will and to love God completely and love our neighbor as God loves.

Happiness is not one more car, another promotion, prestige, the perfect body, more money, or any other material comfort we can find in this life. To quote C.S. Lewis, those things may bring us the occasional “pleasant inn”, but they can never in principle fill us up. We are body and soul. We are not just body; we are not just meat. We are not angels, so we are not pure spirit. We are the unification of body and soul; the great bridge between the material and immaterial. This means that purely material things cannot bring us ultimate happiness. In order to find happiness our souls and our bodies must be rightly ordered to God. How do we properly order our entire being to God?

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Catholic Exchange: Avoiding the Temptation to Over-Sentimentalize the Faith

There is a growing tendency in certain church circles—both Protestant and Catholic—to over-emphasize sentimentality. Sentimentality allows us to focus predominantly on our feelings. This can also come from a false sense of piety and an over-emphasis on personal devotions, which inevitably leave us spiritually dry. Our faith is true regardless of how we feel in a given situation. If we reduce everything to our feelings, we very often become indifferent to actual truth and wholly dependent on how we feel in a given situation. In this case, we worship ourselves and not the Living God.

Being Catholic is demanding. It requires our whole selves, not a small section of ourselves that we carve out for Christ. In relying on sentimentality, we become overly concerned with how we feel in our prayer lives, at Mass, or in working with other people. We also discard the true depth of our Catholic Tradition for clichés and dumb-downed slogans. There can be an abandonment of doctrine–such as Purgatory–in place of the heresy of moral therapeutic deism. We only have to be a “good” person. This means feeling “good” about ourselves. This idea is not grounded in anything outside of ourselves and it is a brainchild of relativism. We are called to be holy. We are called to be saints, not merely a subjective form of “good” which is defined by the feelings, thoughts, and ideas of each person.

As Catholics, we believe in concrete and objective truths that are grounded in the very person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man. We profess these truths each Sunday and at every Solemnity when we recite the Nicene Creed. Jesus calls each one of us to follow Him to the very end. That end is the Cross. The Resurrection does not happen before the Cross. Why should we think that our lives will be any different from Our Savior’s? Christ shows us the way by His example, and His example, is the laying down of His life for us all. He gives everything back to the Father. We are called to do the same. Any cursory reading of Scripture will quickly dispel a sentimental understanding of the Christian life.

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Catholic Exchange: When Life Feels Like a Raging Storm

There are periods in our lives that feel like a raging storm. The winds swirl up at high speeds, the clouds darken to a night sky mid-day, and rain pours down. The torrential downpour comes in unrelenting waves and we feel like St. Peter standing in the boat staring in fear and awe at Our Lord walking on the waves.

Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately he spoke to them, saying, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Matthew 14:22-36

During periods of trial, it can be easy to stand paralyzed by the storm. We can begin to focus on the crashing waves, the wind blowing so hard we can barely stand, or to shake violently in the freezing rain. In this passage from St. Matthew, the boat was beaten by the waves from the wind, but often the storms in our lives can feel like a hurricane. Suffering, pain, anguish, affliction, and struggles in this life are meant to strengthen us, but most of us battle immense weakness in the face hardships. These are periods that can be marked by doubt, fear, anger, anxiety, mistrust, and a deep desire to flee. So, what are we to do?

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