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.

The Saints and the Cross: Mary’s Hope

Today I look at the next supernatural virtue of hope and how Our Lady shows us how to live in the hope of eternal life regardless of our circumstances. She trusted in God always and united her will fully to His. We are called to do the same during this pandemic and during all of the trials and tribulations of our own lives.

The Saints and the Cross Episode 15: Mary’s Faith

This week I will be focusing on Our Lady and the supernatural virtues of faith, hope, and charity. In this video I focus on Mary’s great faith and trust in Christ even when she didn’t understand everything He was doing. She trusted that it was for some greater good and for our salvation. This is the same faith we are called to during this pandemic and the exile we are experiencing.

I also spend the first part of the video discussing some of the struggles people are facing with the protocols in place in order to attend public Masses. We need to prayerfully discern if we are allowing our own ego or the Enemy to put roadblocks in place that are preventing us from attending Mass when it is available. All dioceses have dispensations in place, but for those who are struggling with going because of protocols, it would be good to prayerfully consider if we are placing things we don’t need to before Christ.

Hour of Our Death: Corona Stories Piece

I sincerely hope people start making peace with the fact that we cannot control the outcome of this pandemic. No SARS vaccines have been viable in the last seventeen years. One may be found for this one, but there’s a good chance it won’t. That means herd immunity is our best shot, which means we have to start making peace now with the effects of the disease.

And that means we must truly see with the eyes of supernatural faith. People have struggled to understand why my husband and I are not freaking out, even though he is immunocompromised with a rare lung disease. We already knew that things would become more dangerous as time goes on.

We Made Peace With God

We made peace with it. God gave us that grace before this pandemic started. We lived the fear and panic the first eighteen months of his illness. It is a soul-sucking waste of time and energy. It comes from the Enemy. Life and death are up to God. That doesn’t mean my husband’s going to take unnecessary risks, but it does mean we are going to live our lives.

Read the rest over at Hour of Our Death.

The Saints and the Cross Episode 14: Mary, Undoer of Knots

In this episode of The Saints and the Cross, I return once more to Our Lady, this time under her title Undoer of Knots. All of us have knots in our lives and this pandemic and exile are creating even more as we try to discern what we are supposed to do. A lot of people are struggling right now. Our Lady is Our Loving Mother who wants to help untie the Knots in our lives.

Mary, Undoer of Knots Novena

The Saints and the Cross Episode 11: St. Padre Pio

Today’s episode is on St. Padre Pio and persevering through this period of exile. He is a saint who achieved high levels of sanctity and was given great blessings and gifts from God, including the stigmata. He suffered tremendously, often at the hands of others because of these extraordinary gifts. During this time as we struggle with being exiled from the Real Presence in Holy Communion and public celebration of the Mass, he is an example to us of how to persevere and endure suffering.

Many feel abandoned by the Church, but the reality is, the hierarchy has failed the flock since the inception of the Church. The battle for the renewal of the priesthood will come and is being fought by some at present, but in this present exile, we need to focus on conversion of heart, deeper prayer, and making reparations–including for the hierarchy–so that Christ can unleash great graces into the world for the salvation of souls. Lord willing, we will come out of this period strengthened in faith, hope, and charity so that we can live the mission He has given to each one of us in order to draw all peoples into conformation with the Most Holy Trinity.

The Saints and the Cross Episode 6: St. John the Apostle

Today I talk about a very real danger of the temptation to despair that I see growing as this exile continues. The answer to this temptation is greater love of God. St. John is an example to us of how to endure agonies, trials, and afflictions at the foot of the Cross completely centered in the love of God. If you know someone who is struggling with despair, please share this video with them. When those moments come, may we all have recourse to greater and deeper prayer in the Word of God and the intercession of St. John, and of course, Our Lady.

The Saints and the Cross Episode 3: Our Lady of Sorrows

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) – Pieta (1876)

A blessed Holy Week to you all! Today I cover Our Lady of Sorrows in the next episode of The Saints and the Cross. Let us turn to Our Lady of Sorrows to help us unite our will fully to Christ’s and to allow ourselves to be pierced with the agony, mystery, and love of the Cross.

The Saints and the Cross Episode 1: St. Charles Borromeo

Today I begin my video series on the saints and the Cross with St. Charles Borromeo. I also provide a lens through which we can view the present pandemic and exile by referencing St. John Paul II’s Salvifici Doloris:

I’m still taking suggestions for saints you’d like to see me cover. Feel free to post them in the comments or email me.

Love is the Cross: The Agony of 9/11

Suffering agony in this life isn’t easy. It doesn’t matter if that agony is our own or our neighbor’s. All of the calls to radical individualism and self-reliance are lies in the face of the ontological reality that we are all bound to one another. God has created us for union with Him and communion with one another.

This truth has unfolded in my life in a variety of ways, but one of the earliest and most visceral was through my experience as a 9/11 relief worker. I didn’t dig in the rubble. Instead– without fully understanding the long term impacts–I walked into the depths of human suffering as a relief worker to the bereaved. At 20-years-old, I felt rather helpless, but I knew that I wanted to do something, so I went

There is nothing that could fully prepare me for that level of suffering in others. I was a nominal Catholic at the time, so I didn’t understand our call to endure the agony of the Cross alongside Our Lady and St. John as much as I do now, but I lived it and embraced it even in my ignorance. The weight of it all nearly broke me because I didn’t yet understand that I could not carry such things without a total reliance on Christ, and it was Our Lady, Our Sorrowful Mother standing at the foot of the Cross who stood by me throughout it all, since like most 9/11 relief workers, the horrors stayed with me–and still do to this day–for years afterwards.

The strongest memory I have of the deep suffering of those grieving the loss of their loved ones through an act of cowardly violence, was during my first visit to the crash site with 400 family members. My friend and I were tasked with setting up a memorial table where the loved ones could place pictures and items in remembrance of their loved ones. We were still in rescue mode at the time, but one look at the crash site and we all knew everyone was dead.

As I stood beside this table in my dress whites, each person would come up to the table to set their item down. Many were sobbing uncontrollably. A woman, probably only 3-4 years older than myself, collapsed on the ground in front of me in agony. Her fiancé had been on flight 77. There was nothing I could do to distance myself from her agony. I was plunged into it with her and began to cry all while trying to be a strong military woman…whatever that even means in these circumstances.

As I stood there trying to keep it together with tears streaming down my face with each new family member’s suffering, the three star general I was directly working for, walked up to me and said: “Are you alright, Sailor?” I told him yes. I’d never seen so many stars on a shoulder, so I was trying to keep my military bearing while also grieving alongside the families. He himself had lost his best friend, had smoke inhalation from trying to save others, and was now tasked with the awesome responsibility of helping all of the grieving families.

The Cross does something to us. It’s supposed to. It cuts us deep. It opens up depths within our souls we didn’t know were there until moments of agony occur. It is through this deep penetration of suffering that we are opened to love. If we avoid it, then we cannot love as we are supposed to. We cannot love expansively. We become closed in, or caved in on ourselves, when we avoid our own suffering or the suffering of others. 

The Apostles, save St. John, fled the Cross. They ran from the agony, but St. John was opened up to the mystical depths of union with God precisely because he stays with Our Lady and the other women at the foot of the Cross. He suffered in love. I didn’t know what I was doing in my desire to run to the foot of the Cross on 9/11, but it forever changed me. It opened me up to the willingness to suffer in love for others and to use my own suffering for the good of others. It paved the way for the path I’m on now.

Love requires fortitude. True love is not easy. It is agonizing at times, but it is what we were made for. The happiness we seek is intermingled with joy and sorrow in this life. We are a selfish lot. Suffering is the single greatest tool that God uses to teach us how to love as we ought to. If we want to see as Christ sees, to love as Christ loves, and to forgive as Christ forgives then we must be willing to embrace the Cross in all of its horror, awe, and joy.

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is this coming Saturday. Through this feast, we lift high the Cross as the answer to all that ails this Fallen world. It is not a sentimental action, far from it. It is a call to love through the sorrow, sin, and suffering of this life, because it is through the Cross that we are transformed. The happiness we seek is found in an ancient instrument of torture, where the Son of God conquered sin and death. It is in self-emptying love that we become who we were created to be. Christ calls us to follow Him to Calvary and to endure its agony, so that we can become radiant in love. This is the very meaning of our lives.