Tag Archives: how-to

How to Avoid Talking About Jesus

“Preach the gospel at all times.  Use words when necessary”.

                   -Saint Francis of Assisi

Is it bad that I almost cringe when I hear this quote?  Ok, probably.  To be fair though, the very first time I ever heard it, I thought it was one of the coolest quotes ever.  And that initial reaction probably has something to do with its effect on me now…

You see, when you tell a shy person that words are unnecessary, we tend to run with it.  And run with it I did.  Hey, so long as I’m living my own life as an example to others, I never really have to put myself on the line, right?

Clearly this is not at all what Saint Francis meant.  He meant that we are to live for Christ in such a profound way that people cannot help but notice something different, and that is bound to lead to some words (and bound to make us shy people a little bit uncomfortable).  But we will always find a way out of actually proclaiming the Gospel if we are looking for one…

Another common go-to for those of us who are often hesitant to actually share our beliefs has to do with parables.  It’s the almighty one-liner that proudly asserts that Jesus himself often taught in parables rather than teaching a traveling Catechism class. Indeed, the power of a compelling story to convey a message is something valuable for anybody to understand, and can be effective for some aspects of evangelization.  However, it is very possible to overstate the power of story when it comes to evangelization.

It would be a mistake for any person, just beginning to discover the power of the parable, to reduce all of evangelization simply to storytelling. Because while it is true that Jesus often taught in parables, he did not teach exclusively in parables.  And it would be silly to argue that Jesus’ teaching was always more effective when he used stories, as the parables often left the disciples scratching their heads (and they at least actually had the opportunity to ask for clarification!).

It seems that Jesus often used stories not to clarify but, at least in a certain sense, to conceal a deeper meaning. In Matthew’s gospel, we see Jesus begin to speak in parables only after the Jewish leaders reject him—something important to take note of. The gospel is for everyone, though not everyone is for the gospel.

In his encyclical on evangelization in the modern world, Pope Paul VI tells us that “The Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the word of life.”

And specifically:

“There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed”

It’s not that we should all be yelling about Jesus from the street corners.  It’s just that we can’t fool ourselves into thinking we’re sharing Christ with others if we’re afraid to speak His name.

5 Arguments That Will Shake Your Faith in Christianity

As young Catholics living in today’s world, if we don’t know our faith, we are in serious trouble.  Many people who enter college as Catholics do not leave as such.  And, to put it bluntly, we as a generation are leaving the Church for some rather dumb reasons.  As sort of a rebuttal, here are 5 of the most common arguments I have witnessed that often result in a young person’s faith being shaken:

1.) “The Bible Says A Lot of Things…”

What happens when the young Catholic discovers that the same Bible containing Romans 1:27 (a classic go-to verse for defending the scriptural basis for the Church’s teaching on homosexual acts) also contains such passages as 1 Corinthians 11:14 (which apparently condemns men having long hair), or Leviticus 11:12 (which prohibits man from eating things like shellfish)?

It would seem that a phone call to the Pope is in order, because clearly the Church has missed some serious issues in Her teaching and needs to be corrected immediately.

Often overlooked by those who make this argument is the fact that the Catholic Church Herself put the books of the Bible together.  Why put together a book that contradicts our own teachings?

By this logic, are we to just completely ignore when the Bible condemns anything on the grounds that it is morally objectionable?  (Sure, the Bible says we shouldn’t steal from other people, but it also says we shouldn’t eat shellfish, so you know…)

Are we really so arrogant to think that our generation is the first to notice these apparent contradictions in Scripture? Any person who spends just 20 minutes reading the Bible can tell you that apparent contradictions abound in both the Old and New Testaments of Scripture, and this issue is as old as Scripture itself.   In Her wisdom, the Catholic Church has provided guidelines for reading and interpreting the Scriptures, and I for one trust the 2,000 year old wisdom of the Church over my 21 years of something hardly resembling wisdom.

  • **For the record, it is often put forward by scholars that Leviticus 11 prohibits the Israelites from eating certain animals because these were associated with pagan worship.  To protect His people from falling into idolatry, God makes this law.
  • And I think that 1 Corinthians 11:14 actually is speaking more to the fact that men are to dress like men and women are to dress like women.  Given the fashion of the times, men having hair the length of a woman’s was a disgrace, but this is clearly not meant to be interpreted in a strictly literal sense for all of the following ages.

Lesson Learned: Given the fact that the Church put the Bible together, I think they have a pretty good handle on things.  Never be afraid to question, but always let the Church be your guide.

2.) Saint Augustine Was Pro-Choice

Know-it-alls of our day will use the fact that Augustine said that life does not begin until the child in the womb is three months to try and prove that the Church’s understanding of and teaching on abortion has changed over the centuries.  Two things to take note of here:

  1. Augustine was not a pope making an ex cathedra statement.  Translation: just because Augustine is a canonized saint does not mean that everything he said is 100% true.
  2. To say that this implies that Augustine, or the Catholic Church was ever okay with abortion is just flat-out dishonest.

Lesson Learned: Saints are people we know are in Heaven.  Though the benefit their lives and writings have provided the Church and the world cannot be overstated, canonization does not mean every word they spoke is law.

3.) Science Can Explain Anything Religion Tries To

This is an easy one that any self-respecting scientist or theologian will tell you point-blank.  Science is concerned with the natural realm.  Faith deals with the supernatural realm and therefore science cannot answer for it, and can certainly never prove nor disprove the existence of any god.

Lesson Learned: Science and Religion are not enemies; they ought to work together.  As Blessed JPII said, “Science can purify religion from error and superstition.  Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes”

4.) But Galileo!

I will refer you all to chapter 10 of Dinesh D’Souza’s book, What’s So Great About Christianity, entitled, “An Atheist Fable: Reopening the Galileo Case” (which can be read in part on Google Books, here).

Aside from the fact that he insulted the pope by referring to him as a “simpleton” throughout his Dialogue which publicly proclaimed his view that the sun was the center of the universe, there were 3 other greater issues with this action:

  1. Galileo, as a practicing Catholic who respected the Church, had previously promised the Church he would not publicly teach his views on the sun being the center of the universe until the evidence was clearer.  Back then, science and religion had a lot more overlap, and this was not such an extreme request for the Church to ask of Galileo.  He went ahead and did it anyway.
  2. His proof was faulty.  We all know now that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around, but Galileo’s Dialogue did not prove this definitively, and even made some false statements about the natural order of things.
  3. Most importantly, rather than sticking to science, Galileo took the opportunity to challenge Church teaching on Scripture, asserting that the Bible was “largely allegorical and required constant interpretation to excavate its true meaning” (p. 108).

While Galileo was found guilty for promoting his heliocentric views, he was never accused of heresy and never tortured or held in a dungeon as is often asserted.  He was forced to recant and was placed on house arrest, which he served for five months in the palace of the archbishop of Siena, and allowed to visit his daughters at the convent of San Matteo.  He died of natural causes in 1642.

Lesson Learned: The Church is not anti-science nor anti-progress.  She is cautious of hastily leading people to following things that lack adequate proof.

5.) There Are Bad People In the Church

Yes, yes there are.  Throughout history, we have even had some pretty horrific popes.  I mean seriously—bad, bad people.

Fortunately for us, The Holy Spirit is not to be vanquished by even the most terrible of evils that mankind can perpetrate.  This is a story to which we already know the ending.  Good wins out in the end.  Though the men and women of the Church will never be perfect, and history will be a story of ups and downs until the end of time, the Teaching of the Church is guaranteed perfect.  How?  Jesus said so, in Matthew 16:18 when He established His Church.  “The powers of death shall not prevail against it”.

Lesson Learned: Don’t let it shake your faith when people point out the corruption in the Church.  Be horrified at it, of course.  Work to prevent it, of course.  But do not place your faith in men, place your faith in Jesus, and remember His words in Matthew 16:18.

Live Fulfilled (4 Easy Steps!)

Sometime around 8:00 last night, while my hand was racing to copy down the letters of the Greek alphabet from the whiteboard and my mind was trying to commit their pronunciation to memory, it hit me.  Summer vacation is definitely over.

And the craziest part: at the end of this quarter (10 weeks), I will officially be a college graduate!  Woo-hoo!

Accordingly, nostalgia is setting in.  Though mine has been far from the typical “college experience” of partying and the like that you may see depicted in movies, it has been nothing short of excellent.  And here’s why:

1.     I learned.  A lot.

My classes were incredible, and I’m thankful for the knowledge they gave me.  More than anything, though, I learned so much about myself and about what it means to be a good person while I have been in college.  My advice to anyone about to go to college (or already in college): Learn from your mistakes…but don’t use that as an excuse to make stupid mistakes than can be avoided.  Throw yourself into your classes and give them your all.  You are there to learn and you will regret a failed class so much more than a missed party.

2.     I fell in love…

…with my faith.  There is a horrible mentality that when you go off to college you somehow become “too intelligent” for your faith.  This is the height of hubris—as if at 17 we think we have more wisdom than the Early Church Fathers.  Many young Catholics stop attending Sunday mass regularly after a few months of being away at school.  Thankfully, my university made it a goal to instill in me, again and again, a desire and a deeper thirst for an understanding of my faith.

Your university may not be like mine in this regard, but don’t let that be an excuse for you to abandon your faith.  You need a relationship with God.  Just trust me on that one.

3.     I drank…twice?

Once while visiting Rome and once on my 21st birthday.  Neither time did I get drunk.  I say this not because I think drinking is bad, but because (contrary to popular belief) it’s not a requirement for a fulfilling college lifestyle.  Don’t let other people pressure you into their definition of fun.  Drink if you want to (and can handle it), don’t if you don’t (or can’t).  In all cases, be mature.  Youth is an age.  Stupidity is a choice.

4.     I partied.

No really, I’m serious.  While I may not have often found myself at the typical college definition of a “party”, I had some dang-good times here (and yeah, I just said “dang-good”).  You want to know the secret to having a really good time?  You don’t need a party full of nameless faces.  Just surround yourself with close friends you can really trust.  Isn’t that where all of the best times begin anyways?

4 Things Cheerleading Taught Me

Today I am making signs for an upcoming flag football game my University is playing in against a rival Catholic University in April.  It’s making me all nostalgic and whatnot for my days as a cheerleader in high school…

Say what you will about cheerleaders, but I learned a lot from my days on the Pep Squad.  I think the lessons I took away from cheer are applicable to all sorts of different situations in life, especially what it means to be a real friend.

1.)  Everybody needs a cheerleader

It’s tough to be the one cheering for a losing team, but this is the job of a cheerleader.  Whether you are cheering for the champion team or the team embarking on game nine of a losing streak, you don’t have the option of despairing.  A cheerleader needs to be there for the team even when it seems like all hope is lost.

2.)  Learn the Rules of the Game

There is nothing more embarrassing than starting an offense cheer when your team is on defense.  You can’t cheer someone on in a game that you don’t understand, just like you can’t be there for someone if you don’t take the time to understand his or her situation.

3.)  Respect the Players

I’ll be honest.  When you are a cheerleader, a lot of the people you have to cheer for may not be the greatest or nicest people in the world.  But this doesn’t mean you have the right to stop cheering them on, or worse, to hope they lose the game.  Even if you don’t like the people you are stuck cheering for, it is your responsibility to do your utmost to help them achieve their best.

4.)  “Just Have Fun!”

My mom used to say this to my sister and me every year in high school during the stressful week that is cheerleading tryouts.  She said it so we wouldn’t stress out too much and so we would remember it was just one week in the grand scheme of a lifetime, but I think it got to the heart of what cheerleading is supposed to be.  It’s about having fun and keeping a positive attitude that is contagious.

Even if you’ve never held a pair of pom-poms, I think we are all supposed to be cheerleaders in one way or another.

4 Rules to Live By

When I first began to truly understand that prayer was a conversation between me and God, it was a pretty exciting thing.  However, the whole “listening” to God thing was difficult, and frankly, I didn’t know how.

My grandfather always taught me that God speaks to us in the same voice that we speak to ourselves.  This is good advice, but I remember it being difficult to discern my voice from God’s (who am I kidding?  Often it still is difficult for me).  My grandpa gave me a few guidelines to help in the discernment process:

1. Without fail, the first thing God will say to you is “I love you”.

The true Father that He is, God never begins a conversation with us without making sure we are as aware as we can be that He loves us.  Don’t rush over this part of prayer.  Let Him shower you with His love for as long as He wishes to.

2. God will never tell you to do anything contrary to His Law and His teachings.

Since a lot of prayers are prayers for direction, this rule is very important.

I recently saw “Eat Pray Love” with Julia Roberts.  There is a scene in the beginning of the movie in which Julia Roberts’ character hears God speak to her in the middle of the night.  She is on the floor crying and calling out to Him, asking for Him to tell her what to do.  She hears Him simply say, “go to bed.”  So she does.  However, she goes to bed and then proceeds to tell her husband she wants a divorce, assuming that this is what God wanted her to do.

We often confuse our warm and fuzzy feelings during prayer for the will of God, but that’s not always the case.  I really do believe that Julia Roberts’ character heard God tell her to go to bed.  After that, though, she was likely listening to her feelings.  This is why we have the teachings of God and the Law of God–so that our feelings don’t become our guide.  Usually, our feelings guide us to do what we want to do, and unless we are perfectly holy, that may not be the same thing as what God knows we should do.

3. God is persistent.

The good news: If you didn’t hear Him, or had your doubts that it was in fact Him, God will keep saying what He is trying to say to you until you hear it.

The bad news: If you didn’t hear Him, or had your doubts that it was in fact Him, God will keep saying what He is trying to say to you until you hear it.

Our own emotions and feelings will eventually pass away.  God’s will for our lives never changes.

4. God will never put you down

Read that again.  That little voice in your head telling you you’re not worth anything because of x, y, or z— some mistake in your past, your situation in life, etc.— that’s not God.  Remember rule #1: God starts with “I love you”.  It would be inconsistent for Him to end with, “you’re worthless”.

However, this does not mean that God won’t push us to be the best version of ourselves.  If God is not challenging you in your prayer, perhaps you need to take more time to listen.  None of us will ever be perfect in this life.  We will always have things we can work on.  God gives us the grace to conquer one sin in our life and then opens our eyes to see another.  This is a good thing!  He is perfecting us so that we can experience a deeper level of happiness.  The voice you hear that says, “You will never amount to anything because of ____,” is your own.  The voice you hear telling you, “I love you so much that I need to tell you that you need to change ____ part of your life,” is the voice of God.