Leaving Bitterness Behind

 

final-cover

In the bitter cold winter, the trees seem dead and bare. While we can still find glimpses of beauty on a cold winter day, we are easily caught up in the negative aspects of winter, the cold, the limited sun light, the difficult labor of shoveling snow. When we embrace bitterness, our souls look like the trees in the middle of winter. We too can focus only on the negative and lose sight of the sun shining overhead, the snow glistening and the children playing.

The image for my book, was drawn by Paola Lecanda and depicts a woman who is walking away from the dead, barren trees. The shadow behind her shows that she is walking towards the sunlight. The symbolism of the eye in the background is her ability to self-reflect. To look deep within herself and root out the bitterness. This work of leaving bitterness behind, does not have to be done alone. Christ wants to help us if we just let him.  Our Catholic faith is so rich and the opportunities for healing through the sacraments alone are a treasure many of us take for granted. This book I have written is meant to be a tool for those prepared to do the work and enlist divine help in doing so.

Have you ever met someone who seems constantly discontent? Maybe you know someone, who is always complaining and you can’t remember the last time you saw them smile. Imagine that is the person you see in the mirror every day.

There was a time in my life, when I no longer recognized the person in the mirror. The person I did see, I no longer liked. She was flustered, angry and overwhelmed most of the time. Most days, this was hidden behind busyness of caring for family, apostolate and a semi-superficial prayer life. Unfortunately, my family was usually at the receiving end of my anger and complaints. I enjoyed my prayer time, but refused to do any deep self-reflecting. Apostolate and writing became the perfect escape.

One day while examining my conscience in preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, there was this one habitual sin that didn’t get much thought, I just knew I committed it and was sure to do it again. This time, a question popped into my mind, “Do you want to just keep bringing that up in confession or do you want to change it?”

I knew full well, the Holy Spirit was poking at my conscience and I knew the right answer was to want to change it. I went into the confessional that day with the conviction that I was not going to confess that one sin again.

From that point on, Christ was very generous with his grace to allow me to move into the direction of making this change. However, he was also very gentle and patient with me. Rooting out this one sin was not an easy process. This is when my trip to leave bitterness behind, began. The next few years, were not easy but it was a grace-filled time. While I was still in the healing process, the inspiration came to write down what I had learned and to share it.

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Purchase the book here “Leaving Bitterness Behind: A Catholic Approach to Healing Past Hurts”

 

 

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Building a Strong Marriage: PRAYER

couple prayingWe have come to final letter in our acronym which is for Prayer. When we address this subject with engaged couples we usually share a bit of our own prayer journey.

My husband and I met through our parish youth group. Many people hear this and believe this means we were always a faithfully devout couple. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In the first few years of our marriage we were living like “cafeteria” Catholics. Picking and choosing what to believe and what to follow. We thought we knew our faith, and what we didn’t know, we just made up as we went along. Justifying our action and inaction by taking God’s love and mercy for granted. We created God in our image, instead of accepting that He is the creator.

We turned to prayer individually in times of struggle. We did not pray together. We attended Mass together most Sundays, because it was a nice thing to do together. We had no appreciation for the Eucharist, the graces of the sacrament of marriage, nor did we have a personal relationship with Christ.

Only when our first son was born, through the preparation for Baptism did we realize the importance and value of attending Mass. Only then did we shoulder the responsibility that came with being parents who wanted to give our son the same opportunities we had to believe in a loving, forgiving, heavenly Father. The first time we prayed together was a few days after our son was born. You can read the story of his birth here.

We have found that taking the time to pray together is a major source of strength.  Through prayer we face our fears; doubts and worries together. There have been times when we did not know what else to do, but pray. Praying together didn’t always come easy. We started by just saying, “Grace Before Meals” and attending Mass together.

We compare our relationship to a triangle. The further away we are from each other, the further away we are from God. The work it takes to climb and get closer to God adds to spiritual intimacy in the marriage. The line across the bottom could be seen as a shortcut, meeting each other half way across the bottom and eliminating God, you will still have a physical and emotional connection. But we are also spiritual beings. We need to nurture that element of our being and our relationship as well.

Marriage triangle

We have found it so beneficial in our marriage to maintain openness to Church teachings on marriage and family. There is are a lot of resources from Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, or other encyclicals written through the years by other popes. We also have ministries available specifically for couples. Various books written by well-formed Christians that helps to strengthen marriage.

Recommended Reading

We are all on different stages of our spiritual journey, but acknowledging that we are on a journey means that we should be moving forward in that journey. For us our journey started with a simple prayer, attending mass, learning about the sacraments, especially through our children’s sacraments, Baptism, Reconciliation, First Communion. The most beneficial help in our spiritual journey is being involved in our parish community. We have built friendships with other couples who share the same values. They have been a great source of support and encouragement for us.

Perhaps the most important message we try to relay to the engaged couples, and to all married couples we work with is that being happily married is not something that just happens. Being happily married is a choice we make through the work we put into our marriage every day. We want them to be assured that the church community cares about their marriage. That we as a couple care about their marriages, and we know difficult times lie ahead, but support is available.

Marriage is a sacrament, and there are supernatural graces available to us if we tap into them. Prayer really helps us build a strong marriage by helping maintain Primacy, Empowerment and Protection.

Building a Strong Marriage

PEPP

Working in the Marriage Preparation Ministry for the last seven years has proven to be enlightening and sometimes challenging. It enables my husband and me to check some important aspects of our own marriage. While helping the engaged couples discern their readiness for marriage we are strengthened in our own commitment to continue building a stronger marriage.

My favorite presentation is the PEPP talk we give them early in the course. PEPP is an acronym to help us remember the four key elements to building a strong marriage. The acronym stands for: Primacy, Empowerment, Protection and Prayer. We explain to the couples that much of what we share is counter cultural. Building a strong marriage involves going against the current culture. Since it is a Catholic course we include elements of our faith and what we believe is God’s plan for married couples.

I am going to share this information with you over a four-part series on my blog. When speaking on this topic we usually cover a lot of information in a short time. In Primacy, we cover the importance of making the bond between you and your spouse your first priority. Empowerment involves practical tips on how to strengthen marriage in little ways which can make a huge impact on the marriage bond. Protection is one of the most extensive and important aspects of building a strong marriage. What are we protecting our marriages from? It can be summed up in a three-letter word. Sin. This leads us to the final letter in our acronym, Prayer. We need Prayer and the Sacraments to Build a Strong Marriage. Here I will share a bit of our own spiritual journey as a couple, and how prayer made a difference for us.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on Primacy.

Armed for Battle

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As I sent of my eldest son to an overnight school camp and my husband off to work early this morning, I had this overwhelming sense that I was sending them off to battle. Every time they leave for school and work they are in a battle, a spiritual battle.

My men face temptations, attractions and allurements that promise them pleasure, enjoyment, distraction and temporary happiness. We know there is more to the world then what we physically see with our eyes. Knowing that the devil and other evil spirits are prowling the earth seeking the destruction of souls makes me wonder if we are armed for the battle. Even if the devil and the evil spirits cannot persuade us to disown our faith or loyalty to Christ, they can attempt to divert us from doing the will of God by distracting us with ‘good’ things that weigh us down or make us indifferent towards the things of God. The devil will show us a means of escape so we will stop fighting the battle.

Consolation comes in knowing that when we make ourselves lowly, little, like children before God, he sends his angels, our own personal army to watch over us and guard us. The greatest danger we put ourselves in, is thinking we alone possess the strength to ‘refuse evil and choose good.’ Our strength comes from God alone, his angels are his troops whom he sends to battle for us. We must be humble enough to ask for his help. When we approach God as a child approaches their earthly father for help, he will not desert us. He not only sends us an army to fight for us, he equips us with spiritual weapons.  He gives us his shield of faith, the breastplate of righteousness, etc., so we can resist the devil and his lies, and empty promises.

  When I sent my men off this morning it was with a blessing and a prayer. I pray they are like the characters in my book who know how to use their supernatural gifts. My hope is that my men are armed for battle, with prayer, eyes of ‘truth’ and humility before God so that they may turn away from worldly attractions, temptations, distractions and lies.

Today as the Church remembers our Guardian Angels let us not be fools in facing the spiritual battle alone. Let us instead call on our Guardians daily to join us and guard us in battle.

Angel of God, My Guardian Dear

To whom God’s love entrusts me here

Ever this day, be at my side

To rule and guard,

To light and guide.

Amen.

The Truth about Marriage – Written By: Fr. Paul Hrynczszyn

This post was actually a homily written by a good friend of ours, Fr. Paul.  It is being shared on my blog with his permission. He explains the truth about marriage in a compassionate and loving way. A way I could not have explained better myself. I hope you enjoy this read. I was waiting for the right to post it here, in light of the recent attention our Holy Father has received when his comments seem to have been misunderstood, I hope this post provides some clarity.

In Christ,

Tima

In Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41we see that Peter and the other Apostles were ordered to stop preaching about the Risen Christ by the Jewish authorities. They were ordered to stop preaching the Truth. And how do Peter and the Apostles respond? They respond with these very powerful words: We must obey God rather than men”.

The early Christians often faced ridicule and even at times persecution from regular citizens to leaders in society. And yet, because they had met the risen Lord, they were convinced that they could not remain idle, that to be a follower of Jesus meant that you were not ashamed of your faith. You were not ashamed of standing up for God and God’s truth, and you were not afraid to stand up in the face of moral evil, even when everyone was against you. The early Christians took this teaching to heart: We will obey God rather than men.

Our challenges in being Christian and Catholic in today’s secular society are a bit different from early Christianity. The early Christians did not have to face some of the challenges we have today. But we too are called to be bold and proclaim God’s unchanging truth to a world that thinks God’s laws written on the human heart can change with the times. One of the sacred things we have to protect today as Christians is the sacredness of Marriage. Marriage as is written in our human nature by God to exist between one man and one woman.

This is not an easy topic to talk about, and so many people want to silence the issue, but I think we have to have an honest discussion here about same-sex marriage. There is too much confusion about this subject and too many people, instead of trying to open their hearts to the truth, sentimentalized this whole issue. We are all somehow afraid of this topic, and maybe some people are afraid to talk about it because we don’t want to sound hateful or intolerant. But that’s not what it’s about. I want to first say that the Church LOVES all people who are homosexual. If any of you here are homosexual, I want you to know that the Church loves you, God loves you. If we discriminate mock those who have same-sex attractions, than shame on us. Any form of hate is wrong and sinful.

But, and there is always a but…I want you to know that the Church is like a good parent who loves her children, but will not remain silent if her children’s behavior is wrong and even sinful.

We have to understand one thing. Saying that something is wrong does not mean we discriminate against anyone. The Church always calls out the things that are morally unacceptable, without judging the person. You see, the distinction I want to make here at the beginning is between the sexual activity between people of the same-sex, and the homosexual person. We love the person, but we can judge an action. Sexual relationships between people of the same-sex are sinful and wrong because they distort God’s plan and design for sex and marriage.  This is in reference to the sexual relationships between people of the same-sex, and not men and women who have same-sex attractions.

You see, we as human beings have inherited original sin, which means we come into existence into a wounded world, and that means our human nature has been wounded as well and we all come into existence with a tendency to overindulge our sexual appetites, we lust.  Many people today are taught to think that any sexual encounter with whomever I want is okay. Our sexuality has been wounded by this original sin and our sexual desires are often disordered, that is, they miss the mark, they don’t live up to God’s original intention and plan for our human sexuality. That’s right, God has a blueprint for our human sexuality, and we don’t make it up on our own. The question we have to ask if we want to find the truth is: what is God’s original plan for human sexuality?

Well, it’s stamped right in our bodies as being created male and female to live in a communion of life and love. God’s original intention and blueprint for human sexuality is that Man and Woman in their bodies are created for each other. God created sex for marriage.  Of course our world separates the two. Sex speaks the language of wedding vows, that is, Indissolubility, fidelity, and openness to children. Sex is meant to mirror God’s inner life within the Trinity of God’s total, faithful and fruitful love. This is the necessary ingredient for marriage stamped in our bodies as male and female, and we cannot tamper with it.

So now we turn to the question of homosexual unions. Why is the Church against this type of sexual relationship? If two people of the same-sex really love each other, why can’t they get married?  Isn’t love the only ingredient for a valid marriage?

Well, no, it’s not, because remember, even what we call LOVE can be disordered, that is, not in keeping with God’s plan. If you are married and fall in love with another man or woman, does that give you the right to “follow you heart?” Of course it doesn’t. There are some relationships that are not okay. The Church, by reflecting on human nature along with the revealed word of God in the scriptures, says that if the sexual act is meant to image the very life of God, “then we can only image God sexually by expressing the “I do” of wedding vows: the free commitment of indissolubility, fidelity, and openness to children. It’s simply impossible for two people of the same-sex to express this commitment to each other,”[i] because they are missing one very important ingredient, the ability to be open to children. According to God’s designs, when a husband and wife make love to each other, they are saying their wedding vows with their bodies. They are saying: I promise to be faithful to you, to love you until death, and to be open to accepting children lovingly from God. All of these characteristics are necessary and we cannot change these essential traits of marriage and sex. They are part of the blueprint of marriage, a blueprint written by God himself.

Imagine if a couple wanted to get married, and they promised to be open to the possibility of children, but refused to promise to be faithful to each other. This kind of relationship would not be a marriage. Likewise, if a couple promised to be faithful to each other and to be with one another until death, but were incapable of having the kind of sexual relations designed to give life, they too would be incapable of marriage, and the reason is because their bodies cannot express the vows of a married couple.[ii]

This would be a very long post if we were to go deeper into this subject. It’s a tough issue to discuss, but I hope you can see that this topic has nothing to do with the Church discriminating against people with same-sex attractions, but it calls for everyone to treat people with dignity and respect, no matter what their race, religion or sexual orientation may be. At the same time, the Church teaches that we cannot tamper with the natural moral law given to us by God.

I want you to know that even though some of you reading this may be or may know someone who is homosexual that does not mean they are called or you are called to a loveless life. Too often we equate sex with love. We are all called to love, the heterosexual and the homosexual. I as a celibate priest am called to love. But some people are called to love in a sexual relationship in marriage, and some are called to intimacy on a different level, and even homosexuals can have deep intimate relationships with the same-sex person, without them being genital or sexual . In the end, that itself is a cross some have to bear, but with God’s grace, all this is possible.

I want you to see that our very bodies tell us that man and woman are called to make a gift of themselves sexually. A sexual union can only be properly expressed within the context of marriage, because that’s how God designed it. He created sex in marriage to be a complete joining of male and female. God wanted this joining of the two to be the foundation for a family,  the arena through which He would bring new life into the world.[iii] And marriage is ultimately about Children, and every child deserves not only love, but the complementarity of a father and a mother to experience the fullness of human life.

This is a hard truth for our world to understand, but Jesus calls us to be bold and proclaim the truth in and out of season. Let us take the example of the Apostles who were fearless in proclaiming God’s truth, because in the end, we must obey God, rather than men. Amen.

 


[i] West, Christopher. Good News about Sex and Marriage. (Cincinnati, Ohio: Servant Books, 2000) 148.

[ii] Evert, Jason. If you really loved me. (San   Diego: Catholic Answers, 2008) 131.

[iii] Bonacci, Mary Beth. Real Love. 127

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Too Busy for God

Interior of Catholic Church

No matter how you fill your days, I think most of us will agree that we are busy, right? What are we busy doing?  I have pondered this in a previous post. Today I ask, what are we too busy for? What is it that keeps us busy and distracted? Are we occupying our time with activities that draw us closer to God? Or do they draw us away from God?

I believe that Satan wants us to be busy and distracted. If your activities don’t draw you closer to God, well then, they draw you closer to Satan.

Some may dislike the above statement. It’s to bold and too absolute. I propose you read on, to understand my take on this.

While working on my novel I found myself explaining how the futuristic world I have created came to be. It’s a world where all that is noble, virtuous and beautiful has been drowned out and replaced with selfishness, oppression and indifference. I had to ask myself, how did this come to be? In doing so, I realized a truth about the world as it is today.

Many of us live our lives in a conundrum of busyness. We are busy working, studying, updating our status on Facebook or Twitter, and sharing pictures on Instagram. We are keeping up to date on the latest television shows, or catching up with old shows on Netflix, We are watching movies, old and new or even YouTube videos or playing games on our Ipod or phones.

Certainly some of these activities could be intellectually and spiritually informative. Even the activities that are meant to entertain us or provide some relaxing time and are not necessarily bad. However, when they keep us too busy for crucial activities, we have a problem.

Which brings me to the next question, what are we too busy for?  In my novel, the people were so busy being entertained they failed to notice that their fundamental freedoms were being taken away.

In embracing the Catholic faith we come to love spending time with God, our Creator, and loving Father. We acknowledge that if this is the most important relationship in our life, then we must keep him as the primary focus and eternal goal.

However, we readily claim to be too busy to pray, too busy to attend retreat or Bible study, or weekly Mass. Too busy to make time for those in need of our care and attention. At times we even claim to be too busy to give personal attention to our spouse and children.

Certainly, it is a challenge to make good use of time. Satan is persistent in his attempts to distract us. Balancing prayer, work, rest and play time is difficult, but it is worth the struggle.

If we truly believe and accept that God created the world and everything in it, we know he meant everything to be for our good and to be enjoyed by us, in moderation. However, the devil takes God’s creation and distorts beauty. Satan tempts us to seek complete fulfillment in the ‘things’ of this world, drawing our attention away from all things eternal, especially the condition of our souls. If we are too busy and distracted then we won’t take time to contemplate truth and beauty.

What happens while we are busy and distracted? Corrupt governments are voted in, babies are killed in the womb, teenagers commit suicide, spouses are unfaithful, families fall apart, and children go hungry…just to name a few.  While we sit idly by, giving these atrocities barely a passing glance only to blame someone else for all that is wrong with the world. Worse still we even blame God.

A line from yesterday’s Gospel (John 8:31 – 42) tells what we are actually doing when we are too busy for God. Jesus says, “…you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you.”

When we don’t allow the word of God to take root in our hearts and transform us we sentence Jesus to death again. Christ dies to free us from the bondage of sin and give us the chance to get to heaven. By choosing to soak in worldly activities and forsaking truth and beauty, we are refusing to be freed. In a certain sense, we keep Jesus on the cross, claiming we didn’t need him to overcome sin and death through his resurrection.

A prayer that has proven most powerful and fruitful for me is to think about St. Paul and ask the Lord to remove the scales from my eyes and allow me to see what I am not seeing. Be forewarned, in my experience God is as generous in responding to this prayer according to your readiness and humility to accept the truth.

As we prepare to start Holy Week, be assured of my prayers for each of my readers that you may be brought deeper into the divine life.