Focus on Christ

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Being a Catholic in our present age is deeply difficult. The fact of the matter is that being Catholic in any age has been difficult. Our time seems worse because the world is capable of more widespread evil thanks to advances in technology. Don’t get me wrong, technology is a great blessing, however, sinful human beings do not know how to use it well.

Anyone who has their attention tuned into world events both within and outside of the Church can see that the world is completely and totally upside down. We do not know which way is up or down. We call what is evil good and what is good evil. Very aggressive forces are knocking at the doors of the Church demanding that we change or face the consequences. This, of course, is nothing new, and after much pain, the Church will be here while the forces of evil of our day will have died off. Things are going to get hard, and much of it will be self inflicted, but the Church will emerge stronger.

For the faithful, it can be difficult to follow our leaders. Some Bishops and priests boldly proclaim the counter-culture Gospel of Jesus Christ, while others seem to enable our secular society. It confuses many, while the faithful shake their heads in frustration. I myself have moments of asking God where the St. Padre Pios and St. Pauls of our day are in this time of distress. I see a very deep hatred, yes hatred, of the Church emerging in the West. Largely because of lies and ignorance perpetuated by academics and politicians, but being believed by scores of people. These same lies have been ingested by vast numbers of Catholics who choose to ignore Church teaching and who in turn will persecute their own Church. It is not just something in headlines, it is in our own parishes.

So what can we do? I know that when I start focusing too much on the storm Christ tells me to focus on Him. Stop watching the disaster unfold and focus on Him. We must pray and pray hard. We need to attend Eucharistic Adoration and Mass as much as our vocations allow. Pray Rosaries and Divine Mercy. Serve others and be an example of what Christ calls each one of us to. Continue teaching our families the Faith, authentic Faith. Keep following Christ. That is what we must do. I am telling myself this as much as I write to you. We must pray that we will pass the test.

As Catholics, we must also trust in Christ’s promise to St. Peter that the powers of Hell will never prevail over the Church. That means taking secular reporting on the Church with a grain of salt. Our Holy Father has not changed Church teaching. All social teaching is the same: abortion and homosexual acts are still gravely sinful. All our Holy Father is trying to teach is that in following Christ we will want to abandon our sinful ways and that includes the hard stuff, which for our culture are the sexual sins.

So let’s pray hard and trust in Christ. I know it is hard. My husband has to take my hand sometimes and tell me to trust. I can get righteously angry easily. I love Christ and His Church and my fighting personality stands at the ready to take up in battle. But, right now, Christ wants me to trust and pray. To give all to Him, so that when the time comes I am ready, and so are you.

Our Improper Use of the Word Love

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There is a phenomenon that is largely prevalent in my generation and the generations younger than me.  It is the overuse and incorrect use of the word love.  I think that mass advertising has had a huge impact on this trend.  Have you ever stopped to really listen to the garbage coming out of your speakers?  Have you ever been appalled by an ad on the radio or TV?  You’re not alone.  Last Christmas, the ads were so bad that I finally started shutting off the radio.  We are constantly told that we will “love” products and services.  Think about it.  McDonald’s has a slogan that says “I’m Lovin’ It”.

 
The problem is that this has slipped into my consciousness and vocabulary.  I will tell people that I “love” pumpkin spice lattes, or a particular show, or song.  But do I really “love” these things?  Am I professing my deep devotion to inanimate objects.  Do I will their good?  Do I want what is best for that pumpkin cake donut from Dunkin’ Donuts?  No.  I want to enjoy that donut.  It’s light fluffy pumpkin infused with spices sweetness makes my taste buds do a happy dance, but I am not going to give my life for that donut.
 
The issue is that words matter.  How we express ourselves comes from what we believe about the world around us.  It also shows us how much the world has been absorbed by our psyches.  In telling someone that I “love” some food or product, I am saying that I have in fact taken in our materialist culture.  I do equate love to food.  I have crossed into the land of gluttony and idolatry.
 
The overuse of the word “love” also points to a culture that has truly lost the definition of that word.  In saying that I love some inanimate object, I am saying that “love” is purely how something makes me feel.  Pumpkin spice lattes make me feel warm, happy, and snuggly.  That’s similar to how I feel about my husband, right?  Wrong!  It also shows why people are discarded as easily as things.  They are objects for my mere enjoyment and amusement; that is the new definition of love.
 
The first time I realized the error I was making in my speech as a couple winters ago.  Our parish priest had come over for dinner for the first time.  He was there to bless our rental home.  I had made cous cous and proceeded to tell him that I “loved” it.  He said that he “liked” it to.  That really struck me.  Not just as a generational difference, he is 12 years older than me.  It stuck out to me because it revealed an error that I had stated.  I enjoy cous cous.  It is mighty tasty, but I am not in love with cous cous.
 
I have had to catch myself numerous times since then.  There is a reason that languages all have different verbs for “to love”, “to enjoy”, and “to like”.  They are different in profound ways.  I can enjoy a walk in the woods, but I don’t love it.  I can like a chocolate cake, but once again I do not love it.  I am not going to give up my life for that cake if need be. 
 
Our society has lost a true grasp on what love truly means.  The Cross is what love means.  A total self-emptying for the good of another.  St. Thomas Aquinas defined love, “as willing the good of the other, as other”.  It means wanting another’s good even if that means we ourselves must give something up.  It means wanting what is best for a person, even if it is unpopular.
 
As the Christmas season rolls out here in the next few weeks, pay attention to the ads you hear on the radio or see on TV.  You will begin to see a trend where jewelry, electronics, clothes, food, etc. are all portrayed as things to love, things to fulfill you.  Thankfully, I am fully in the season of Advent and do not begin celebrating Christmas until Gaudete Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Advent. My family and I then celebrate Christmas throughout January, as it is celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church.  That means that I am largely ignoring ads and superficial Christmas songs about “Santa Baby”.
 
Do you struggle with the improper use of “love” like I do.  I would hazard a guess that if you are under 35, you have used the verb in the wrong manner at least once or twice.  Think about it the next time it comes out of your mouth.  Do you really love what is front of you, or is just a gift to enjoy for a moment?