Tag Archives: prayer

Everyone Worships Something

As you may have noticed, a lot of people dismiss faith in, and ritual worship of, any sort of deity as something for the simple-minded.  A common mindset holds that the truly educated and evolved “liberate” themselves from the shackles of religious devotion and place their trust in things more concrete and absolute (i.e. material), OR, more likely, these people reason that nothing is absolute, and so they resolve to have faith in the one thing they know is certain: that nothing is certain (it’s supposed to be ironic and deep, I guess).

But truthfully, when it comes right down to it:

Everyone.  Worships.  Something.

There’s no escaping this fact.  Even self-professed atheists make gods of something (if not many things) in their lives.  And it’s almost inevitable that a sort of religious system or habit develops around whatever it is that we make a “god” within the structure of our life.  Whether it’s our physical fitness, our job, a relationship (or the idea of a relationship), or anything else that we become devoted to throughout life.  It’s human nature.  We like structure, and our structure tends towards what it is that we value most.

Of course, it’s not just people without a professed religion or faith who make “gods” of things other than the God of the Bible.  Certainly even us Christians can be guilty this.  What’s the first thing on our mind when we wake up in the morning and the last thing we think of before falling asleep?  To what (or Whom) does our heart truly belong?  These things are what we worship, despite what it may say on our Facebook profile.

The bottom line is that it’s an inescapable part of our nature: this yearning for something beyond ourselves, a yearning—ultimately— for the divine.  This is why it’s so tragic when we, as human beings—not simply as Christians, settle for worship of lesser goods, especially in the name of “liberation”.

“Any liberation of man which does not enable him to become divine betrays man, betrays his boundless yearning.” –Pope Benedict XVI*

We’re created for something beyond ourselves.  We’re created for the divine. Don’t settle for anything less.

(*no, this does not mean we’ll all become gods who are worshiped as God the Father, but that we will become sharers in the divinity of Christ: the “Son of God [who] became man so that the sons of men could become sons of God – Saint Athanasius)

Ask Mary: Speed Dating Edition

Oh wait…is speed dating not what you mean by “dating fast”?  🙂

Question:

Hi Mary!

I was wondering if you could address dating fasts to grow in your
relationship with God and prepare for future relationships. I have a
few friends who are on them and recently God has put it on my heart to
go one, but there are not many resources out there that talk about
dating fasts. (when I googled it, it brought me to online dating
websites- not helpful lol).
Thanks, and I love your blog!

Answer: 

Thank you for this question!  It’s a good one, and I think it’s very relevant to a lot of young Catholics today.

To be completely honest, this whole idea of a “dating fast” has always sort of rubbed me the wrong way.  It could be that I don’t fully grasp the reason for these “fasts”—but then again, that may be precisely why this trend in dating (er—I mean, not dating) amongst young Catholics bothers me so much: I’m not sure that the majority of people embarking on these “fasts” fully understand what or why they are doing what they are doing in the first place.  Usually, the terms are not clearly defined.  What exactly is meant by, “dating” here?  And at what point are you “breaking the fast”?

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with not dating.  God most certainly wants to draw us to Himself, and often times dating makes it hard for us to let Him do that.  And if what you’re trying to avoid by beginning a “dating fast” is dating for sport, dating simply to pass the time, or dating to make yourself feel better about yourself, then absolutely.  God is calling all of us to be rid of that sort of dating—forever.

But often times, I don’t think a “dating fast” gets to the real heart of the problem.

Dating is not the same thing as eating, and I’m positive it shouldn’t be treated as such.  I find it somewhat odd to place spending time getting to know a fellow human being on the same level as eating a Double-Double at In-n-Out.  And I think that perhaps placing the two on the same level is what has led so many young people to feel they need to “fast” from dating in the first place.

Unfortunately, what most of us didn’t realize until it was too late is that dating is not supposed to be a given (whereas eating, is).  The purpose of dating is supposed to be marriage (as we learned after the first two or three breakups).  So it would make the most sense if you didn’t date at all until you were at least somewhat close to being ready to get married.  In actuality, most of us started dating in high school—or before!  You can see how, with this background, dating became exactly what we don’t want it to be: a game, something to pass the time, or simply something to make us feel better about ourselves.  So now we feel the need to “fast” from what, like that Double-Double (as good as it may have been), has failed to lead us to lasting happiness.

However, unlike that Double-Double, dating does have the potential to lead many of us to happiness, because dating often leads to our vocation! (for those of us called to marriage, of course)  Denying yourself the passing pleasure of a meal is an act of piety that can strengthen your prayer and devotion to God.  Denying yourself true happiness (i.e. your vocation)?  That’s not piety; it’s insanity.

So how do we solve the problem?  I think the answer is that we return to viewing dating how we should have from the beginning.  For many of us, that may mean we have to break bad habits, and thus some sort of a “break” (or “fast”) from dating may be in order, so that God can teach us how to do date as He intends for us to date (if He intends for us to date).

What we want to be careful we do not do is to treat dating as if it is something that unequivocally leads us away from God.  It’s true that it can do this if we are not using it for its rightful purpose, or if in our dating relationships we are acting contrary to God’s law—but this is not always the case.  In fact, if carried out to its rightful end, dating is meant to lead us ultimately to God, through the vocation of marriage.

That being said, in marriage, God calls us to a specific person—not the abstract idea of the vocation of marriage.  So if you haven’t met anyone yet, then of course you’re still discerning, and should use this time to grow closer to God.  I just personally do not feel that declaring an all-out fast is necessary when it comes to dating.  My thoughts: date when and who you feel God is calling you to date, and not a moment before, and you’ll be fine.  No “Catholic guilt” for having a good time at dinner with a good guy who treats you right just because you said you were “fasting” from dating.

That’s my two cents, anyway.  I’m sure there are many reasons to disagree.  Feel free to [charitably] leave them in the comment box.

Now, fasting from meals as an act of prayer every so often as a way to discern/prepare for your vocation?  I think that is a great idea! 🙂

Ask Mary: Discernment (And other stuff…)

Happy Fat Tuesday!

Couple things:

First, if you haven’t read the “Diving Into Lent” post from Thursday, go ahead and check that out now.  (And remember: contrary to popular belief, binging today will not make the sacrifices you begin tomorrow any easier.  In fact, the reverse is probably true.  Just something to keep in mind 🙂 )

Also, big thanks to Tara over at Impacting Culture for awarding Young And Catholic with the Versatile Blogger award!  To pay it forward, I’m supposed to come up with 15 links to other blogs I’d like to nominate—but I don’t have a list that long quite yet.  So just check out Impacting Culture for now!

Finally, a great question from a reader on discernment.  (And I’m linking to an even better answer from Peter Kreeft)

Question:

Hi Mary!
Lately, I have been struggling to understand what God expects of me. I have been praying a lot,and I know I need to be patient. However, the matter of discerning really confuses me. I am somewhat of an analytical person, so I tend to question every decision and thought.  This may not make sense, but I honestly struggle daily with separating what God is telling me from other thoughts. I feel hopeless and as if I will never understand exactly what he wants from me. Being in this struggle makes me feel as if I am disappointing God. I really just want to be at peace and know that I am serving him the way He has planned. I know that discernment is a personal relationship with myself and God, and that there is no magic formula, but I guess I am just asking for some advice.

Answer:

As a fellow analytical person, this question makes total sense to me.  I know God should be in control of everything (and I want Him to be!)—but at what point can my free will step in and make the decision already?  By far the best answer I have heard on this struggle you describe comes from Peter Kreeft:

Does God have one right choice for me in each decision I make?

When we pray for wisdom to discern God’s will when it comes to choosing a mate, a career, a job change, a move, a home, a school, a friend, a vacation, how to spend money, or any other choice, big or little, whenever there are two or more different paths opening up before us and we have to choose, does God always will one of those paths for us? If so, how do we discern it?

Many Christians who struggle with this question today are unaware that Christians of the past can help them from their own experience. Christian wisdom embodied in the lives and teachings of the saints tells us two things that are relevant to this question.

First, they tell us that God not only knows and loves us in general but that he cares about every detail of our lives, and we are to seek to walk in his will in all things, big and little. Second, they tell us that he has given us free will and reason because he wants us to use it to make decisions. This tradition is exemplified in Saint Augustine’s famous motto “Love God and [then] do what you will.” In other words, if you truly love God and his will, then doing what you will, will, in fact, be doing what God wills.

Do these two pieces of advice pull us in opposite directions, or do they only seem to? Since there is obviously a great truth embodied in both of them, which do we emphasize the most to resolve our question of whether God has one right way for us?

Read More…

Diving Into Lent

Lent is less than a week away!  Have you made your Lenten resolutions yet?

A while ago I bought into what I am now deeming not-so-good advice about Lent.  I can’t remember where it came from, all I know is that I somehow got into my head the idea that it was best to make one or two resolutions that you know you can really stick to as opposed to a bunch of life-altering changes that might result in miserable failure on day three.

Well, forget that.

This is a blog for young adults, and we’re not particularly well known for being overly cautious.  Why should that change when it comes to one of the few cases in which caution is actually NOT desirable—in growing in relationship with Jesus?

We’ve got six days, people.  Let’s ask Jesus what things in our lives are keeping us from loving Him as we ought to and—whether it’s a list of three or three hundred things—cut. them. out. 

Is sleeping-in keeping you from prayer?  Set seven alarms and sleep on the floor for Lent (it’s much harder to sleep in when what you’re sleeping on is uncomfortable).  Wasting time on Facebook?  Block it.  Deactivate.  Whatever it takes.  Also, fast.  Fast a lot.

A lot of people ask how giving up something like chocolate or soda can help your relationship with Jesus.  It’s simple, really.  We are supposed to love Jesus above all else; and as Christians, we want to love Jesus above all else.  So we practice.  We practice by refusing ourselves some lesser good—not because enjoying that lesser good is wrong, but because by refusing that lesser good, we are showing and increasing our love for He that is the greatest good.  If we don’t practice saying no to ourselves and to lesser goods, then our prayer becomes empty.  I can’t truly say that I love God more than anything if I’m unable to do something as simple as giving up dessert as an act of love for Him.

There’s a catch, though.  The thing about the advice I took a few years back was that it was safe.  If you’re just giving up chocolate for Lent, it’s not so difficult to just get into the habit of not having chocolate.  It’s a simple recipe for a “successful” Lent.

The non-cautious route to Lent isn’t safe.  And you may not be “successful” in the same way as you used to be on the safe route.  But Lent is all about renewing your total reliance on God, and sometimes we learn that best after falling a few times trying to do it on our own.  The sooner you learn that you will fail when you try to do it alone, the better.  The battle was never yours to begin with.

“Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works”

Heb 10:24

In Progress

So, remember a few weeks ago when I posted the 7 Steps to Being Young & Catholic?

Yeah, well just so you know, I’ve been doing terribly at them.  I could list my excuses here for you as to why I have not “been able” to make it to daily mass at least once a week apart from Sunday, or why I haven’t spent the time in silent prayer or the time in the chapel that I know I should, but they would just look pathetic.  As far as spiritual reading: if I wasn’t a student of Biblical Theology, then that would probably look pretty meager, too.

It’s not that I’m getting down on myself for just slacking off on some checklist, but at the same time, I’m totally getting down on myself for slacking off on some checklist.

Let me explain: No one is eager to wake up on January 1st to kick-off a six-month diet and workout regimen.  They may like the idea of it in their head; they may be eager for the results and know deep down that they’re craving discipline in their life, but by the middle of day two, all that person really wants is a brownie.

We’re human.  As good as our intentions may be, a plan helps keep us on track.

Similarly, I may like the idea of getting up every morning at 6:30 to go mass, and of spending my free time reading my Bible.  I may know deep down that is what will bring me truer joy than watching my Facebook newsfeed update, but a lot of times that doesn’t make it much easier to get into the spiritual shape I feel God is calling me to.

I know that faith isn’t supposed to just be some divine checklist—that it all comes down to falling in love with God, and that I just need to rely on Him and He will give me the grace of faith.  But sometimes I’m not super awesome at doing even that.

So it turns out I’m not the perfect poster-child for the Young & Catholic lifestyle.  Oh well.  Good thing I believe in a God who meets me where I am, and never tires of reminding me where I need to be.

Lent is coming up soon!  Let’s all get spiritually buff.

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; 27 but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:25-27