Category Archives: Friendship

A Reader Asks: Sharing Newfound Faith With Friends

I’ve grown up in a Catholic faith, mass every Sunday and since
kindergarten, have been attending a Catholic school. For all of my
life, Catholicism can be found all around, whether at school or at
home, but for the longest time, I haven’t fully welcomed it in my
heart. It is currently my eighth grade year, and with a new religion
teacher, we are learning a new curriculum, Theology of the Body. I’ve
fell in deep interest with the topic and for the first time, I’ve felt
connected with my religion in all aspects of my life. Since learning
the curriculum I have truly grown closer to God. This new leaf has
lasted for close to a year now, it’s been just me and God.
 Today, as I grow in my faith and as I thrive for purity, I am dying
to share my somewhat newfound perspective with close friends. After
all, my friends are influential on me and I’d love for them to
understand where I’m at with my faith. Turns out, expressing those
feelings of religion to my friends is harder than I thought. Even
though they have gone to or do currently attend the same Catholic
school as I do, when I communicate my new perspective, it feels as if
I’m speaking a different language. I want to be able to express my
religion with my friends without feeling hurt about their passive
aggressive opinions. When I talk to them it sometimes feels as if I’m
apologizing for my beliefs, knowing that my opinion is contradicting
or annoying them. How do I maintain healthy relationships with my
friends if at times they draw me towards sin? How do I express how
I’ve “opened my eyes” to my religion as not just a phase, but
something that I want to make a part of my lifestyle and hopefully the
lifestyle of others?

Thank you for any advice you can offer!

 

Isn’t the Theology of the Body amazing? Praise God for this new leaf in your journey of faith!!

Reading your email, two Scripture verses came to mind that I’d like to share with you. The first is from the prophecy of Simeon regarding Jesus. Do you remember the story? You’ll find it in Luke, chapter 2. Jesus’ parents bring him to the temple shortly after his birth. There is a man there named Simeon, who the Bible tells us was righteous and devout, and that “the Holy Spirit was upon him.” Simeon was told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before seeing the Messiah. And here come Mary and Joseph with their child, Jesus, and Simeon knows–through revelation of the Holy Spirit–that this is the Messiah he has been waiting for. He takes Jesus in his arms and says:

Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.

Cool! But why am I telling you this? Because of what he says next, to Mary:

and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Reading your words about how you feel like your opinion is “annoying or contradicting” to your friends  I immediately thought of Simeon.

You see, Jesus was a sign of contradiction. As His followers, we are also going to be little “signs of contradiction.” In Acts 28 we actually find this same phrase used to describe the early Christians:

…with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against. (Acts 28:22)

(contra-against, dicere– to speak; i.e. “contradicted”)

In fact, St. John Paul II (who wrote the Theology of the Body!) actually wrote a book entitled, Sign of Contradiction, in which he argued that being a sign of contradiction is “a distinctive definition of Christ and His Church.”

All this to say- from a Christian perspective, feeling like “a sign of contradiction” means you are actually doing something right! So be encouraged!

The other Scripture that came to mind was actually recently read at Sunday mass:

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna, And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

I thought of this as I read that your friendships sometimes draw you towards sin. Now, people are not lifeless members to be chopped off and cast aside. Your friends are fellow daughters and sons of God who are created in His Image, and you are called to love them as Jesus does–regardless of their beliefs or behavior. However, it sounds like there might be elements of your relationship with them that need to be “plucked out,” so to speak. Gossip…Impure or scandalous talk/ behavior… I don’t know. Whatever it is, things that lead us to sin are not conducive to real friendship anyway, so for the good of the relationship, these things need to be “chopped off.”

My advice: Continue to be that “sign of contradiction” among those you meet, while making an effort to “pluck out” those elements of your friendship which pull all of you away from God. It doesn’t necessarily have to be one big conversation, but if something in your religion class spoke to your heart, share with your friends why you liked it and what it meant to you! If they laugh at you for it (because laughing at religion class was perhaps a fun pastime of your relationship), politely but firmly let them know that it hurts your feelings and that you’re starting to take this stuff more seriously. If the conversation turns to gossip, gently change the subject to something positive. You’re changing the rules of your friendship a little bit, so don’t be surprised when they’re, well, surprised. But don’t be wishy-washy, either.

This is exactly how evangelization happens. This is what the apostles did in the early Church. It’s what everyone who met Jesus and came to believe in Him did. They met a man who changed their lives, and He impacted them so much that they wanted to introduce Him to everyone they met–person to person, most often in casual conversations just like you have with your friends.

It is of course possible that these friends will not accept your newfound faith in Jesus, and that’s unfortunate. Sometimes when this happens, people may feel that you’re judging them because of your faith. Most often this is because they are doing things that they know in their heart are not what Jesus wants for them, and so since you’re now a follower of Jesus, they assume you will judge them as they fear Jesus has. This is all the more reason to really be Christ to these people. Be uncompromising when it comes to standing against sin, but unwavering in your love. If they draw back for a time, it’s ok. Don’t reject your friends for Jesus’ sake (He doesn’t need or want you to), but do take consolation in the fact that Jesus Himself was rejected for ours.

I hope this has helped in some small way. I will certainly be praying for you.

Jesus is so happy you have come to know Him! Cling to Him, and trust Him to guide your path and lead you to be the person He is calling you to be. And be that person! As St. Catherine of Sienna said, “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire!”

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The Best Way To Keep Your Faith Is To Give It Away – (What I Learned As A Catholic In College)

This week we have been talking about the 4 things I learned as a Catholic in college.  So far we have talked about why:

  1. Having a regular routine is important.
  2. A routine alone is not enough.
  3. Jesus is not OK with lying.

Today:

keep_faith_college
The best way to keep your faith is to give it away

This last point comes from Chris Mueller:

Faith in Christ is not about holding ground.  If you go to college thinking, ‘How do I hold onto my faith?’ you will lose it.  The Christian question is, ‘How do I share my faith?’

Before I left for college, one of my brothers shared with me a verse from Matthew’s Gospel,

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:14)

More than just a hymn sung at the end of mass, this is what it means to be a Christian.  If you aren’t sharing your faith, then you are not living your faith.  And if your faith isn’t living, it’s dead.

Sharing your faith doesn’t have to mean preaching in the student center.  It means that when you go to mass, invite your friends to come along.  It means if people ask why you go to confession on the weekends, you let them know that it’s important to you to keep your heart open to God’s grace.

In short, it means being a genuine person who isn’t afraid to talk about their love for Jesus.  (If that sounds weird to you, maybe your faith isn’t as deep as you think it is!)

The Christian is excited to share his or her faith, because the good news is truly good news!

So that’s it! The 4 things I learned as a Catholic in college.  Be assured of my prayers for all of you headed to college this fall!

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Jesus Is Not OK With Lying – (What I Learned As A Catholic In College, Part 3)

This week I am sharing with you the 4 things I learned as a Catholic in college.

So far we’ve covered why:

  1. Having a regular routine is important
  2. Your faith needs more than just routine

If you haven’t caught on yet, growing in faith really boils down to having a living relationship with Jesus.  This is why, especially in college, it is important to keep in mind: Jesus is not OK with lying.

lying_college
(OK, technically, I knew this before college.  But hear me out.)

Underage drinking and recreational marijuana will basically be expected of you as a college student.

As a Christian, however, you are called to more.

The act of drinking alcohol isn’t wrong or sinful; and we can debate the morality of recreational marijuana another time. Where both of these activities will threaten your soul is in the lifestyle that necessarily comes along with them in college. As an 18-20 year old drinking or smoking pot, you have to lie. You have to sneak around. Sure, “everybody” may be doing it, but the fact is that if your college dean found you with beer on your breath, or a blunt in your hand, you’d be in trouble—And you know this.

Making a habit of choosing to lie or sneak around in order to have fun will have damaging effects on your soul and your relationship with Jesus, I promise.  It sends a message to yourself that you’re someone who doesn’t always do the right thing, and Satan will so delight in reminding you of this when you find yourself facing temptation in other settings.

Choose instead to be a person of integrity.  Let your “yes,” mean yes, and your “no,” mean no. And always, always, always bring it to confession when you slip up.

Check back for tomorrow’s post: “The best way to keep your faith is to give it away”

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Love & Pity: A Reflection

Nobody likes being pitied.  It feels beneath our dignity somehow.  We’re human beings—glorious creatures capable of greatness.  Pity seems to deny this and, instead of recognizing our capacity, feels sorry for us instead.

Pity.  Ugh.

Yet I’ve been realizing something in my own life lately.  It’s not all that uncommon for me to mistake genuine care and loving concern for pity

Love is not pity.  Yet my tendency towards pride will often try to convince me that it’s not out of love that others act.  It’s out of pity.

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I’m realizing lately that life is a lot more joyful when we assume the best of people in all cases—and especially with regard to how others treat us.  See, my pride often leads me to draw negative conclusions about the motives of others based on absolutely nothing.

Examples:

That guy looked over at me when Baby Ty made a noise during mass.  He probably thinks I’m a terrible mother.

(or, you know, maybe he just turned his head because he heard a loud noise)

Jane didn’t come over and say hi to me at [insert social event here].  She’s probably mad at me for something.

(oh wait…that means I didn’t go over and say hi to her, either.  And I’m not mad at her, soo…)

Ohmygosh SoAndSo just said something that slightly disagreed with that one blog post I wrote three years ago.  They’ve probably been mad at me ever since. 

(or it’s possible that they are just having a conversation with you.  Have they been acting mad at all?  No?  Ok then)

It’s easy to play the victim to imaginary scenarios and pretend like I’m the one being wronged, but in truth, it’s not at all loving of me to assume the worst of people based on pure conjecture.  Love seeks the good.  Love doesn’t assume the worst.  It’s time to stop feeling pitied and start loving instead!

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Overcoming Gossip

A while ago, I wrote about being happy for other people, and specifically about how it’s sometimes hard for me to do, especially when things aren’t looking so bright on my end. 

Today I want to focus on something that sort of goes hand-in-hand with that.  Because usually when we’re envious of something that is happening to another person, or when we are unhappy with ourselves for whatever reason, one of the first things we can turn to is gossip.

When people hear “gossip,” I think we automatically think of 13-year-old girls making up rumors about other 13-year-old girls.  That’s certainly awful, but what I’m talking about encompasses a lot more than just that.  I’m talking about any sort of uncharitable speech that serves no other real purpose than tearing another person down— whether it’s true or not.

It’s ugly, people.  And it has no place in our lives.  It’s against reason and all that is good and beautiful.

So, if you’re struggling with gossip, the first thing to do is to pray that God will help you overcome it.  Then, do what you can to take away the root of your desire to gossip.  Translation: Be genuinely happy for others (check out that other post to get my tips on how).

But it goes further.  Because if our brother or sister is being torn down in any way, we can’t just stand idly by and let it happen.  So, three things to help you evangelize by stopping gossip:

1. Speak Up

It’s ok to tell people they’re wrong when they’re doing something wrong (most especially if you know them well and it’s clear to them that it’s coming from a place of love).  If the conversation turns sour, speak up and defend whoever they’re mocking.  Tell them flat out that you don’t appreciate them speaking that way.  It may be scary, but it’s effective.

2. Be Cheerful

This one’s a little bit more subtle than the first.  Perhaps you don’t know the whole situation, but you still know your friends shouldn’t be speaking so harshly.  Now is the time to be positive.  Misery loves company; it hates cheerfulness.  You know your friends don’t truly want to wallow in misery so logically the most loving thing to do in this moment is to be cheerful and not indulge in the misery.  They may get annoyed with you, and you’ll be exhausted from trying to be so positive, but it will help everyone involved.

 

3. Shut Up

Like we were all taught in Kindergarten: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  It still applies.  Sometimes the most powerful witness is a silent one.  Even if people don’t take notice right away, eventually they will realize that there’s something different about you: you don’t take part in the tearing down of others.