Category Archives: Prayer

Finding Jesus In An Ed Sheeran Song

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“We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing*
Hearts are never broken
Time’s forever frozen still”

Ed Sheeran, Photograph

[*ok, technically our eyes are closed in the picture.  But everything else applies.]

I love that picture.  It was taken while Tyler and I were still dating– long before kids, household chores, and mortgage payments.  Back when we were just a couple of college kids listening to music and taking a goofy (if somewhat mushy) selfie.  It was snapped with an iPhone and stored in a “Pictures” folder, to be looked at countless times in the days, months, and years that followed.

“So you can keep me inside the pocket of your ripped jeans, holdin’ me closer ’til our eyes meet.  You won’t ever be alone.  Wait for me to come home”

Of course, when Ed Sheeran sings that his beloved can “keep him” in the form of a photograph until they meet again, it is only an analogy; and there is a bittersweetness to it. When Tyler and I were separated by a few states after we graduated from college, I probably looked at the above picture over a hundred times.  While it made me happy to see his face in the picture, it didn’t make me miss him any less—in fact it probably made me miss him even more.

At the end of the day we all know that a picture is only a picture.  And the memories a picture brings with it can only go so far.

You Won’t Ever Be Alone

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Well last week I happened to hear Photograph on the radio after leaving the adoration chapel, only this time it wasn’t so bittersweet.

As I listened to the now familiar melody, I reflected on the lyrics and on a lifetime of visits to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel— visiting Jesus present in the Eucharist in times of joy, in times of pain, and even just out of a desire to get out of the house with the kids—and the song suddenly took on a different meaning.

“The greatest love story of all time is contained in a tiny white host.” (Fulton Sheen)

“Loving can hurt.”

All the times I visited the chapel and brought Jesus the pain my heart was feeling: through teenage heartbreaks, feelings of longing, feelings of loneliness.  “You know it can get hard sometimes.”  The Love contained in that tiny white host was there even in the midst of the hurt.

“Loving can heal.”

That tiny white host has brought my life such healing through the years.  I don’t expect to know the full extent I have been healed through Jesus’ Presence in the Eucharist until I behold Him face to face in Heaven, but on this side of things, I know that “Loving can heal,” because in my visits to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament I have truly seen how “loving can mend your soul.”

“Time’s forever frozen still.”

The Eucharist that I visit in the adoration chapel on a weekday with my two small children is the same Jesus who died for me on Calvary.  It is the same Jesus the Church’s greatest saints bowed before throughout history.  He is the same Jesus who was present in the tabernacles of the Churches in the Middle Ages, the same Jesus that faithful soldiers during WWII drew their strength from, and the same Jesus my great-great grandparents received throughout their lifetime.  Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

“You won’t ever be alone.”

Back when Tyler and I had to do the long-distance thing before we got married, the pictures we had from the times we were together were just as the song says: memories frozen in time that we could visit when we missed each other.  But a picture is just a picture.

In the Eucharist, Jesus gives us so much more.  He is able to actually deliver what the song can only dream about.  His Body, His Blood, His Soul, His Divinity–they are all actually contained in the tiny white host.  There we can keep Him closer until our eyes meet in Heaven.  And we won’t ever be alone.

“Good child: see how lovers on earth kiss the flowers, the letters, the mementos of those they love…Then you, how could you ever forget that you have him always at your side–yes, Him?”

– Saint Josemaria Escriva

“Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

-Jesus

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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:

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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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Your Routine Won’t Save You – (What I Learned As A Catholic In College, Part 2)

This week, as an answer to a reader question, I am sharing the 4 things I learned as a Catholic in college.

Yesterday we talked about the importance of developing a routine while at college, and about giving your faith first priority in that routine.  This brings me to the second thing I learned as a Catholic in college:

2. Your routine won’t be what saves you.  

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Once you’re in the habit of your routine when it comes to your faith, the challenge will be to make sure it doesn’t become merely a routine.

A word to students heading off to Catholic schools- 

This may actually be harder for you than it is for those heading to secular universities (To whom much is given, much will be expected).  The good news is your school will offer you more opportunity for things like mass and reconciliation.  The bad news is that it’s easier at a Catholic school to hide behind these things and not let them transform your heart.

It is possible to check all the boxes–to go to mass regularly, to be a part of the Catholic club, and to generally keep up appearances of being a “good” Catholic–all the while being closed off to grace because we are unwilling to let God into the darker corners of our life.

The Lord searches the heart.  A prayer routine, however involved, won’t be enough to sustain a faith within you.  Jesus alone can do that.  If you want your faith to be more than a routine or a facade, you need a real relationship with Jesus.

So keep at the routine.  But never forget that the routine is there to foster a living relationship with a real Person.  Otherwise, it just becomes a silly waste of time.

Check back for tomorrow’s post: “Jesus Is Not OK With Lying”

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4 Things I Learned As A Catholic In College (Part 1)

Last week, I received a question from a reader headed for college this fall.  (Thanks to all who shared their advice on my Facebook page!).

When it came time to write the post, I ended up having more to say than I realized.  So rather than give you one long post, instead I am going to be sharing with you all, over the next few days, some things that helped me grow in my faith while I was in college.

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1. Develop a regular routine, and give your faith first priority in it

When you start college, in a lot of ways it’s like your whole world is resetting. You move to a brand new place, with brand new people, and you have an entirely new set of opportunities to fill your time. It’s exciting, but can also be overwhelming. Developing some semblance of a regular routine will help you feel more like a regular human being, and less like a zombie sustained by Top Ramen and midnight excursions to Taco Bell.

You’re a college student, so your routine doesn’t have to look like that of a monastic. You don’t need to announce to your entire dorm that you’re a Catholic upon arrival.  If you’re being an authentic human being, people will discover your faith is important to you through getting to know you and seeing how you carry yourself.

By routine, I mean eat at the dining hall at regular intervals, join a club, go to the gym regularly. Be a college student! And yes, give your faith first priority in that routine.  For starters:

Mass every Sunday and on every Holy Day ought to be a given. You’re a Catholic—you go to mass on Sundays. It’s simple.  Find one you like and try to stick to that one.  Attending the same mass at the same church every Sunday will help you feel a sense of belonging.  You’ll need that when you’re away from home.

Usually I recommend confession once every other week. I’d actually recommend confession once a week while in college. If you make confession feel as regular to your schedule as dinner, you’ll be less likely to let time get away from you.  If once a week is just impossible, at the bare minimum go once a month.  If you find yourself headed home for Thanksgiving having not gone to confession even once while at school, you may need to reevaluate some things.

Pray Daily—Let prayer be the first thing you do when you open your eyes in the morning, and last thing before bed. Print out the Act of Faith, Act of Hope, and Act of Love and tape them on your mirror. Set a daily alarm on your phone for noon to stop what you are doing and pray The Angelus.  Leave your Bible on your nightstand and read a short passage each night before you go to sleep.  Of course talk with God throughout your day, but also have these concrete moments throughout your day when you turn to prayer.

Having a regular habit of prayer is very important. It will help keep you grounded and focused in your faith.  In college, it will be on you to make room for your faith in your daily life.

Check back for tomorrow’s post: “Your Routine Won’t Save You”

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How I Learned to Read The Bible

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The Bible can be an intimidating book!  I’m willing to bet that, at one point or another in your life, you have made a sweeping declaration to attempt to read it from cover to cover.  We are supposed to know the Bible, after all.  Why not just dive right in?

I think this graphic from The Divine Communion web series may speak to why that sweeping declaration you made in your teens perhaps didn’t pan out as you had hoped:

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“The Scriptures do not surrender their meaning by the bare text; they surrender it to a mind that is living in the conditions of the covenant.” (Yves Congar)

For me, understanding this was the key to understanding the Bible.

Like any other book, it is best to approach the Bible knowing what you’re reading.  If you read a science fiction novel as if it were a newspaper, you would be doing it wrong–plain and simple.  When approaching Scripture, it is important to understand, first and foremost, what kind of book you are reading.

Questions to know the answer to before reading anything:

  • Who wrote it?  
  • To what audience were they writing?  
  • Why were they writing?

Here is what the Church teaches the Bible is (from Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical letter, Providentissimus Deus):

The God of all Providence…has bestowed upon man a splendid gift and safeguard – making known to him, by supernatural means, the hidden mysteries of His Divinity, His wisdom and His mercy…This supernatural revelation, according to the belief of the universal Church, is contained both in unwritten Tradition, and in written Books, which are therefore called sacred and canonical because, “being written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author and as such have been delivered to the Church.”

According to the Catholic Church, The Bible is a book written by God, for the Church, and in order to reveal God to man.

These are your starting points for reading the Bible.  If you are approaching the Bible as a book to convince skeptics of God’s existence, or as a science textbook, then you’re just not reading it the way it was intended to be read.

[This is also why people who try to use “one-liners” from the Bible usually end up looking foolish.  We see this from non-believers (“Ooh the Bible is against gay marriage, huh?  Well it’s also against wearing polyester so you’re going to hell!”), and believers, alike (“God is love, which means you can’t tell people what they are doing is wrong, ever”).  That is just not the way the Bible works.]

Furthermore, the Bible contains within itself a handful of books, written by various human authors, in various genres, for various audiences, throughout history.  So even within the Bible itself, it is helpful to know that the book of Psalms– for example– is a collection of poetic writings, as opposed to a book like Leviticus, which contains instructions for ritual worship.

With so many books, authors, and genres, spanning hundreds of years of human history— is it any surprise that trying to read the Bible as one, cohesive book can be difficult?

One major interpretive key for understanding the Bible, as Congar says, is the covenant.  

Covenants are weaved throughout Sacred Scripture. From Adam, to Abraham, to David, and culminating in the everlasting covenant Jesus established at the Last Supper—covenants are the way God relates to His people, inviting us to unite with Him in a personal way, not merely as servants but as members of His family.

If all of this sounds intimidating, it really isn’t!  I can assure you, understanding the Bible as one, cohesive book is most certainly within your reach.  For a great overview of how the covenants make sense of Scripture, I encourage you to check out Dr. Scott Hahn’s classic,  A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love in Scripture.

(I grew up with this book on my family’s bookshelf.  I’m convinced that it should be on every Catholic’s bookshelf.  If you have never read it, do yourself a favor a get your hands on a copy!)

And keep an eye out for The Divine Communion web series, currently in production.  You can check out their promotional trailer here:

It is so important for us as Christians to be in the habit of regularly reading Scripture.  It is the best way to grow in personal relationship with God.  Be assured of my prayers for your study, and please pray that I will grow in my love for Scripture as well!

God Bless,

 

 

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