Category Archives: Ask Mary

Your questions answered by me :)

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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What Does It Mean To Put God First?

“How can we better live our lives in such a way that we can put God first?” 

I received the above question from a reader last week and it has got me reflecting a bit on what it really means to put God first.

The easy answer (that just requires a bit of discipline) is to put into place the regular daily/weekly habits that give you frequent opportunities to grow in relationship with God. Mass every Sunday is [obviously] required. Daily prayer is, as well (preferably with the Scriptures). Regular confession is something we all really need to be in the habit of because we all are in need of God’s Mercy. Personally, I make it a habit to read the day’s mass readings each morning and pray a rosary with my family each night. Regular little practices like these are needed in the life of a Christian who wants to grow in relationship with Jesus.

I said all of that is the easy part. If you are not already in the habit, then getting used to these practices will take some time and some effort, but eventually they will become second nature.

However, I think to really answer the question of how we can put God first, Saint John Paul II said it best:

“One must arrange one’s life so that everything praises God.”

This is really the more challenging part of the answer. Once in the habit, that daily family rosary is actually pretty easy, and if we’re not attentive, it can become little more than a box on a checklist, begrudgingly prayed day after day simply because “we’re supposed to.”

It’s ok to go through times of spiritual dryness, and times like these actually strengthen our faith and deepen our devotions. But from time to time, we owe it to our relationship with Jesus to take stock of our lives and ask ourselves:

Am I living my life in a way that everything praises God?

Do I glorify God in my work—offering my best efforts, my successes and even my struggles to Him as an act of praise? Do my interactions with others reflect the Christian belief that they are created in His image and after His likeness? Do my thoughts and dealings with myself bear in mind that I am a beloved child of God? Do I recognize that everything in my life comes from Him and is ordered in His Providence for me to grow closer to Him?

All of this ought to be the driving force behind our regular devotions and our prayers.  Beyond just a sense of duty, love for the Person of Jesus Christ should drive us to put Him first in everything, to arrange our lives so that every moment and every decision is made with Him in mind.  Putting God first is the work of our whole lives as Christians!  Let’s pray that we continually draw closer to Him, and not just settle for a check list.

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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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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.  

routine_wont_save_you
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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