One of Many Spiritual Aha Moments

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Hello everyone! I am back in the beautiful town of Blacksburg, ready to start my senior year of college at Virginia Tech (where did the time go?). I am active in the Newman Catholic Community and have started attending some of the events at the Newman House. So I was in night prayer tonight, and the reading really spoke to me. In Ephesians 4: 26-27, Paul says “If you are angry, let it be without sin. The sun must not go down on your wrath; do not give the devil a chance to work on you.”

I was so taken aback by what Paul said here. It really got me thinking about my own spiritual/faith journey. First, I have been angry with my brothers and sisters multiple times and I have let my anger get the best of me. I also realized that I am at my weakest when my mind is idle, i.e. when I give the devil a chance to work on me.

I distinctly remember one time when I was on a run and I was thinking angry thoughts about someone I love very much. This person was frustrating me to no end and I had let myself become so consumed by this frustration, that I was actually forming this horrible and negative image of them in my head. Obviously, that anger and frustration wasn’t being fruitful at all. My anger had become so intense, that I was forming an image of that person in my head that was simply untrue, or at the very least, quite exaggerated. Overall, I think what I, and by extension everybody else, needs to do is take that anger to prayer. What can I do to make my relationship with that person 5068203_orig-300x199better? How can I keep from becoming so angry? Pray for that relationship. Pray for patience and understanding. Now obviously, relationships are not perfect and we can’t fix ourselves instantaneously, but God will always be there to help us in our anger and frustration.

Moving on to the second thing that really stood out to me, the devil working on me. Now I know that the reading specifically mentions the devil working on you when you’re angry, but that last little bit made me think; when else does the devil work on me? I have found that the devil works on me when I am not doing anything productive or when I am away from a faith environment. My great-grandmother always used to say “the idle mind is the devil’s workshop” and I have definitely experienced that in my life.

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Whenever I am aimlessly surfing the web or procrastinating during a night that is supposed to be filled with doing homework, I always feel spiritually empty. Not only am I not getting work done, but I am stressing about the work that is not getting done. The problem is, I don’t want to do it. At these moments, God is pretty much the last thing on my mind, and that is a real problem. God always needs to be the center of my life, and that includes the moments when I am writing an article for my communication classes.

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I also struggle to keep sin at bay when I am not in a fruitful faith environment. What does that mean you may ask? Usually, when I am at mass, in a faith-sharing small group, or at a retreat or talk, I feel so pumped and motivated. “Yeah, I am going to tackle this sin that has taken over my life” or “I can definitely work on this frustration or anxiety.” When a1563986445_10I am at those events, I am a “spiritual Superman” who can get the job done. But then I leave those events and ultimately fall back into the cycle of sin and it is really frustrating. Ultimately, that part of my faith life is still very much a work in progress. How do I keep that “spiritual Superman” mentality when I am in a more secular environment?

Wow, it is crazy what one little moment in night prayer can inspire? I hope my little moment has inspired you in your faith and hopefully, you can find your little moments in life as well!

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Jacob Clore

Contributor

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Fellow Young-Adult Catholics: I Need Your Advice

A lot of us have siblings. Sometimes you love them with all your heart; sometimes you get really frustrated with them and “hate” them.

Siblings arguing

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Sometimes your siblings frustrate you on a much deeper level than the typical sibling conflicts. Sometimes, they don’t share the same religious views as you do. Well, I face that reality with my two older sisters, who currently do not practice the Catholic faith. I am a cradle Catholic; my mom was born and raised Catholic and my dad converted a few years after he married my mom. My family went to mass, my siblings and I went to CCD and junior/senior youth group; heck even my middle sister and I went on a few Catholic Heart Workcamps. However, my sisters ultimately made the decision to stop attending Church.

Long story short, my oldest sister stopped attending church when she went to college and my middle sister disagreed with the Catholic Church on many social teachings, so she left as well.

That leaves me. I still try to practice my faith with great zeal. I am active in my Catholic Campus Ministry where I participate in faith-sharing groups, mass music ministry and service trips. I also attend Mass on a weekly basis and heck, I even have a faith-based internship. On a relational level, I pray with God almost every night and read the daily scriptures to see what God might be trying to tell me on any given day. Needless to say, I try to be the best Catholic and Child of God that I can be.

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However, I often struggle with my faith in one aspect; evangelization. And I mean the talk about your faith evangelization, not the “do good works so everyone sees Christ in you” evangelization.

I am a people pleaser and I absolutely cannot stand the idea of people being frustrated or upset with me. I also tend to get really worked up and nervous when it comes to talking about intense topics like religion and politics, so I tend to remain silent.

Hold your tongue

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So what does all of this have to do with my siblings who no longer practice the Catholic faith? Well I always feel like I am failing in one aspect of my faith and that is somehow convincing my sisters to start practicing the Catholic faith again. Now I know that it is ultimately their choice whether they start practicing again, but I feel that it is my responsibility to at least talk to them about it.

But I can’t. I am so afraid of breaking the status quo and actually letting them know my thoughts. I am afraid of getting nervous while telling them or making them upset with me and creating a divide in our relationship. I know simply being a “Good Catholic” in front of them isn’t working, but I am fearful of actually talking to them about it.

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So I am looking to you, the readers, who have been in a similar predicament. How have you dealt with having siblings who do not practice the Catholic faith? Have you ever tried getting them to come back to the faith? Have you been successful? Because I sure do hope that I can be.

Blog Profile Pic Jacob Clore – Contributor and Editor

Olly Olly Oxen Free! Where in the World is He?

“Come out, come out wherever you are!”

Nowadays, I feel like this is all I am asking of the Holy Spirit cause I can’t seem to figure out where He has gone! Why does becoming an adult mean that I am in a perpetual game of hide-and-seek with our Lord?

Hide and Seek (Megan)

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As a 23-year-old recent college graduate, and nervous first-time teacher, I am also struggling to figure out where in the world my relationship with Christ has gone. Why does it seem that becoming an adult means that God has become more difficult to find?

I was a cradle Catholic, attended parochial school, was actively involved in campus ministry, and now am preparing to teach third grade at Catholic school. Doesn’t any of that magically grant me the secrets to spirituality?

Megan and Bro Aren’t my brother and I cute in our uniforms?

Photo Credit: Megan Jones

Retreat after retreat, whether I attended or teamed, I heard everything there was to hear about who God is, how to pray, and what a relationship with Him ought to look like. However, when I’m in the real world, I lose sight and it becomes extremely difficult to stick to any sort of routine.

Those “small moments” where I do hear God answering a prayer or giving me a polite nudge to let me know He’s there, they feel like cheats… Like I don’t deserve them because I haven’t been dedicated enough.

Here I am, a trained teacher, preparing to teach children about the foundations of our beautiful faith, and I feel like fraud.

Trees (Megan)

Photo Credit: Megan Jones

Now, I realize I may be sensationalizing a tad. Yes, it may often seem like I can’t find Christ because I don’t “feel” anything—because I don’t feel His Spirit. However, as a local priest once preached at Sunday mass…

“Faith is more than a feeling.”

Faith is not measured by how much or what exactly we may inexplicably “feel.” Faith is truly believing in something greater than ourselves… Something that we cannot see, describe or truly understand.

Faith is an on-going learning experience as we ask questions and better discover who God is and what He is doing in our lives. Are we ever going to fully understand Him? No! Of course not. But I find supreme beauty in that.

As a teacher, I am called to encourage my students to inquire, ask questions and seek out knowledge. God is calling us to do the same things. Just like how we are always learning, even after the schoolbooks are away and all of the homework has been submitted…

God never stops revealing Himself to us.

Ok… So where exactly do I find Him?

Now, I never said it was easy, and I am certainly no expert…

As a Newport Newsian/Hampton Roadsian/CNU Captain, I have been able to seek and find the Lord in some of the following ways:

1. Music

Now, I have plenty of stories about profound spiritual experiences with music on a car ride or as a music minister, but I’ll save those for another post.

Music has always been a huge part of my prayer life. Whether at the mass, retreats, or praise and worship, I have found great solace in the beauty of music and the truth of lyrics. Sacred music is so special because of it’s deep connection to personal experiences, and best of all, scripture.

Bible (Megan)

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Ever feel at a loss for a prayer before mass or any other moment? Try reading over the lyrics to one of your favorite hymns. I can’t tell you how many times I perused through the pages of Breaking Bread as a child, fawning over the words of classic tunes like “The Summons,” “Here I Am, Lord,” and “O God You Search Me” (all still favorites of mine to this day).

2. Quiet Prayer 

Now, I admit, I am terrible when it comes to praying on a schedule. Every time I dwell on it, I feel supremely guilty… Prayer is what keeps our relationship with Christ alive! Relationships cannot survive without communication.

In the gospel of Matthew, Christ tells us,

When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. Matthew 6:6 NAB

Quiet prayer is one of the most awkward, but by far the most rewarding things we can do to find and know God. There have been times that I have shut off the radio in my car (which, trust me, is almost impossible for me to do) on a long solitary car trip, and prayed out loud. Starting out, I feel ridiculous as I babble what’s on my mind and in my heart… but then it becomes one of the most freeing and worthwhile moments of my day. Sometimes I wind up in tears! There is something beautiful about that sort of awkward vulnerability.

An easier and less awkward option that I exercise with great frequency is to retreat to a quiet spot in nature; my favorite being the large tree near Lion’s Gate Bridge, a part of Noland Trail.

Lions Bridge (Megan)

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Sigh… Isn’t it beautiful? I love retreating to this spot with my prayer journal, rosary, Shorter Christian Prayer, or guitar. Staring out at the water, I feel an immense amount of peace. My prayers are able to blossom from ones of adoration for God’s creation to those of petition, asking God for assistance and support in my life.

Haven’t been to the tree before? Try it! You won’t be disappointed.

3. Community

One of the biggest things that I have learned from youth ministry and campus ministry is that Christ is more easily found in community.

Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Matthew 18:20 NAB

The friends I have made in these communities of faith have not only kept me sane, but perpetually point me towards Christ and the path that He has laid for me. These friends have encouraged me, stood by my side, and lifted me up when I was down.Grace Bible (Megan)

Photo Credit: Megan Jones

If I ever doubt our Lord, all I need to do is to reach out to any of these friends and they reveal to me His face and love once again.

Have any of these keepers? Rejoice! They are worth holding on to, connecting with, crazy Snapchatting… you name it! And when special events are going on in the area like Praise and Pints or Theology on Tap, grab them and head out to some special spiritual formation!

… and if all else fails?

If all else fails… luckily there’s a solution.

Where can we best find our Lord? Why that would be in the Eucharist of course!

Eucharist (Megan)

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Receive Him with an open heart at the Mass and fall to your knees in His presence. We are so blessed that our Lord has humbled Himself to join us here on this earth. Never take it for granted.

“Where can I go from your spirit?

From your presence, where can I flee?

If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;

If I lie down in Sheol, there you are.

If I take the wings of dawn

And dwell beyond the sea,

Even there your hand guides me,

Your right hand holds me fast.”

Psalms 139:7-10 NAB

VENI SANCTE SPIRITUS!

IMG_1463 Megan Jones – Contributor

Open Letter to Millennials

Multiethnic Group of People Socail Networking at Cafe

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I see you at Starbucks. I see you watching Netflix. I see you at $5 PBR night. I also see you struggling to make it.

I feel you. I feel it. I also wish someone had written this to me.

Dear Millennials,

You (and I) know the times right now are not the best. We are in the wake of terrorism, political elections, finishing school, entering the workforce, leaving our faith, poverty in our communities, environmental problems, opposition to the faith, personal relationships and families. We have student loans, car payments, more bills, young children, emails to send, one last appliance to fix and a house to buy. Not to mention, we face the constant challenges associated with faith.

We get lost.

We also see that our generation of 18-35 year olds has an expectation of being the fixers, the innovators, the outspoken, the leaders, the passionate and even the best generation yet (I may have made that up).

It is interesting, however, that we are not known as the generation who has masculine, confident and committed men or feminine, confident and committed women.

Why are we not seen as these virtuous men and women?

Sarah Swafford states that in order for us to be our best we must use our head in a way that our hearts can follow. Pope John Paul II (JP2 for the win) stated that, “Man must reconcile himself to his natural greatness.”

So, obvious question:

How can we, as the fixers, innovators, outspoken, passionate leaders use our head and hearts to strive for ‘natural greatness?’

Simple answer: We need to ignore society’s expectations of growth.

Saint Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, says it perfectly:

I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received: Ephesians 4:1.

In other words, grow up and live like the grownup God made you to be.

Discern your vocation.

Yeah, you may be the fixer, the innovator, the outspoken, passionate leader, or you might just be the person behind the open letter.  Yes, the times are not the best, but you cannot be the modern Marvel superhero without looking toward our actual superhero–our Savior Jesus Christ.

Millennials, we are in this together with the ultimate cheering squad. You are all awesome, virtuous people. Start living like it.

I am rooting for you.

Taylor Profile Picture Taylor Ferebee – Contributor


What are some of the challenges that you face as a Catholic Millennial? Feel free to comment in the section below!