Nuns

The question you tire of hearing.

“Have you considered a religious vocation?”

It takes a lot of self control to keep my composure. Blank face, pleasant smile.

“Yes, I have, but my vocation is marriage.”

It’s their turn to give me the smooth face, and pleasant smile. I am certain I can hear what’s going on in their head: suspicions that I haven’t discerned, that I just don’t want to be a celibate.

The truth is, I have discerned my vocation, three times, and God has given me a very clear answer. Marriage it is.

I am frustrated by my non-Christian friends who think that since I’m an ‘actual’ Christian, I should be a nun.
I am frustrated by the guys who push sisterhood at me as some kind of seemingly warped revenge for my suggesting priesthood to them.
I am frustrated by the friends who I’ve told about how I discerned my vocation, who still suggest religious life as if they don’t believe my relationship with God is legitimate.

All in all, I guess you could say I get very impatient when religious vocations are brought up. And yet, I have come to realize that none of the above reasons are the real reason for why I hate being asked that question.

I don’t like my plans being disrupted.

I’m a control freak, and even though God ‘knows the plans He has for me’ I like having my own plans. When it seems as though being a nun is a possibility, I get grumpy because I’m back at the beginning.
But, inevitably, I don’t want to ignore the people who are suddenly dreaming about and suggesting I be a nun in case it is God trying to speak, so I go through this process.

God: “Maybe you should be a nun?”
Me: “No way.”
God: “Be a nun?”
Me: “No! We already discussed this!”
God: “Be a nun.”
Me: “Maybe.”
God: “Be a nun, look how awesome it’d be!”
Me: “Okay okay, I’ll be a nun.”
God: “Thank you for your obedience, but you’re meant to be married.”

I am sure He laughs at me every time.

This isn’t a blog telling you what your vocation will be, or even how to figure it out. Instead I want to tell you – do not be afraid. God knows what will make your soul the most peaceful and happy. And, even if  you think you know what your vocation is, don’t be stubborn. Always stay open to the Lord.

Discernment is falling in love with God’s voice, and longing to follow.

God bless you,

praisethroughthestorm +

A Relationship that Sanctifies

I have spent a little part of today thinking about Sainthood, inspired by the Confirmation programme happening in my local Parish.

When talking about my faith with others I have often encountered the misconception that you have to be ‘good’ or ‘holy’ to be counted as a Christian. As if we have to sit an entrance test to have a relationship with God.

The contrary is the reality – Holiness and Sainthood are what we are all called to, and a relationship with God is how we get there.

“Holiness is not the luxury of a few people, but a simple duty for you and me”
-Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Holiness isn’t about being a goody-two-shoes but rather choosing to love God, and others in the same way.

mother-teresa-india

We are not made Holy by our own merits but by being in Communion with God – the Holy of Holies. It is this relationship that sanctifies us.

“Instead, as he who has called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16)

The bottom line is that we are all called to be saints and to be as a light to the world – the holiness of our endeavours comes through God. Which I think is beautiful!

Shine on,

City on a Hill

Reading Together

bookclub tshirt - moustache

Are you looking for some help in your spiritual life – whether it be with prayer, formation or community? Then why not try starting a reading group, or book club, that gets together to read good, spiritual books? John Crotts speaks on how this can help:

God’s most spectacular natural creations are best admired from multiple perspectives.

Reading their books or hearing the sermons of godly men can provide wonderful encouragement and instruction for growing Christians. Creating opportunities to multiply the perspectives about those books or sermons can multiply the benefits of the material. A great way to grow as a Christian is to begin a reading group in your church.

Reading good books offers Christians the chance to think carefully about a subject.

Read the full article by John Crotts.

Happiness is truth

Every time I hear Pharrell Williams’ earworm ‘Happy’ (above is my favourite version!), I get struck by the line:

Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.

What Pharrell is quite possibly trying to say is that “My feeling of happiness is what judges what is true.” He doesn’t care what you say about his life, what he’s doing or not doing, because he’s happy. But I like to take it a different way, in one sense I think he’s spot-on.

Happiness is something that, undeniably and obviously, we are all searching for. Even if we are doing things that make us unhappy we are still doing them because we think, or are fooling ourselves, that they will make us happy. I always find this when I decide to be lazy and have Maccas for dinner – I’m doing it because the Quarter Pounder looks amazing in the picture, and not having to whip something when I get home sounds like bliss. I conveniently forget that every time McD’s leaves me unsatisfied! (Although their sundaes are fantastic…).

What we are seeking isn’t a just a surface level of happiness. I know that I might be happy living in Greece and having Jamie Oliver as my personal chef (insert personal tastes here!). But instinctively I can’t help but think this life would be less than one where I’m struggling and succeeding, one where I’m using all the skills and talents in me to their fullest, and for people I care about. This sort of life is beautiful; it is like a note reverberating off cathedral ceilings. It seems fitting – and is happy in a way different to just a moment of satisfaction. This is what the ancient Greek philosophers called μακάριος – Makarios. Makarios can be translated happiness or blessedness – and it infers a sort of objective happiness, a state of a flourishing soul rather than a feeling in a soul that leaves nothing lasting. It’s the difference between a falcon swooping on its prey in the wild and one being fed in a cage. The first is fully alive, using all its capabilities. Deep down, we want to use our human capacities to the full: we want to know, we want to love. This is the sort of happiness I think we are all after.

Happiness is truth. To unpack that a little: when we follow our deepest desire for happiness, we find out the truth about ourselves and the truth about what is good. Also the truth helps us get to that happiness – it helps us to avoid things which only give a semblance of happiness, and to give priority to the things that will bring the deepest happiness. It’s not just me saying that either – the Church has been unafraid to proclaim that the search for happiness leads to truth. St Thomas Aquinas says:

The chief good and final end of man is happiness: the higher good for him then is that which comes nearer to this end. (Summa contra gentiles. Book III, Chap. 142, 13th Century)

This is the bottom line in all of the truths which the Church proposes – they are truths which lead us to our full flourishing, the happiness of the Children of God.

I have to admit I often forget that my own happiness (and others happiness!) is what is behind the truths of the Church – the lines in the sand it gives me. I don’t always live as though getting up to say my prayers in the morning is a joy. I’m not always full of fluffy feelings when going to Mass. I’m not overjoyed when my conscience, informed by my faith, doesn’t let me get away with turning my back on someone in need. But I know when I’ve cooperated with God’s grace in these things, I am somehow more fully alive. I feel, sometimes buried beneath layers of sluggish self, but often clearly and distinctly, that peace and blessedness of soul: μακάριος. I know that God wants me to be happy – and He is my happiness:

This is the joy which we experience daily, amid the little things of life, as a response to the loving invitation of God our Father: “My child, treat yourself well, according to your means… Do not deprive yourself of the day’s enjoyment” (Sir 14:11, 14). What tender paternal love echoes in these words! Evangelii Gaudium 4

If you see a guy rocking red headphones and clapping his way down the street, sorry, it’s probably me. I’m clapping along, because I know what happiness is to me. It’s having the rollercoaster of my life imbued with the love of God – my true happiness.

Chapel-Monstrance

Adoration Prayer

My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love Thee! I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love Thee.

Most Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit- I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifferences whereby He is offended. And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners.

 

These prayers were taught to the children of Fatima (Lucia, Fransisco and Jacinta) by the angel who appeared to them before Our Lady did. One thing emphasized by the angel and Our Lady was that our adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is important for making reparation for the sins of the world. What wonderful grace to be able to pray these prayers during adoration!

Jacinta_Francisco_Lucia_Fatima85ph

Let’s start talking

Let’s be real, life gets pretty dark sometimes and this darkness is something that is often pushed down and not talked about in society. This is also true of the Church at times, and I think many people who suffer mental illnesses or who go through tough times feel like they can’t speak out about this or that it shouldn’t happen to them, that it’s their fault for some kind of lack of faith. When a tragedy such as the death of Robin Williams occurs, issues of suicide and depression come under the spotlight and get a chance to be spoken about (despite the constant presence of these issues in society, with a total of 478 people dying by suicide in New Zealand in 2011).

depression

I wanted to have a bit of a chat about these issues in the context of our faith, because it is not only one that is close to my heart, but one that is so important to talk about. There are so many misconceptions and so much stigma surrounding mental illness and although I don’t claim to be an expert it’s important to start the discussion somewhere.

So let’s first talk about what depression actually is, because it’s a word you hear a bit. For example someone might say “Oh my goodness they’ve run out of skittles at the supermarket, I’m so depressed” but they are not actually suffering a mental illness, or “I’d rather kill myself than go to maths this afternoon” and not actually be suicidal. We all feel sad sometimes, and for those that haven’t experienced a mental illness themselves it can be hard to understand. Depression can be separated from this ‘normal’ sadness by its duration and severity, it can take over a person’s entire life, change the way they think and act, while lasting longer than any trigger that may have caused it. There is a lot of study going into this area to figure out the exact causes, and like so many illnesses it is not fully understood, but it is known that somewhere along the line there are changes to the brain with the amounts of chemical messengers and the receptors they attach to. This means that the brain of someone who is suffering from a mental illness such as depression is actually acting differently to how a healthy brain would, through absolutely no fault of the person.  In this way it is often a good idea to compare depression to other more organic diseases such as diabetes or cancer.

So, if a Christian had diabetes you wouldn’t expect them to be just get better on their own. You wouldn’t blame them for their illness. They – or others around them- would not feel like it was a problem in their faith or relationship with God that caused them to get ill (although any illness or hardship can cause people to think ‘why me?’). This is the way we need to start approaching mental illness, as a medical condition like any other, one that can require medications and one that the person suffering cannot control themselves. Depression can happen to anybody, because it is an illness of the body which affects the mind. Although our Christian faith is amazing and our God is great, it is our souls which are saved. We still live in this world with these bodies in a fallen world, and like any other form of suffering people struggling with a mental illness need our understanding, love and support.

Some well-known biblical figures were no strangers to depression, here are a few examples;

‘Elijah walked a whole day into the wilderness. He stopped and sat down in the shade of a tree and wished he would die. “It’s too much, Lord,” he prayed. “Take away my life; I might as well be dead!”’ 1 Kings 19:4

“I cannot eat for sighing; my groans pour out like water. What I always feared has happened to me. What I dreaded has come to be. I have no peace, no quietness. I have no rest; instead, only trouble comes …. I will never again experience pleasure … I would rather die of strangulation than go on and on like this. I hate my life” Job 3:23-26, 7:11, 15-16

How much longer will you forget me, Lord? Forever? How much longer will you hide yourself from me? How long must I endure trouble?How long will sorrow fill my heart day and night? How long will my enemies triumph over me? Psalm 13:1-2

So where does that leave us? How do we as Christian respond to those suffering or if we ourselves suffer depression? As I said earlier, I am certainly no expert, but from my experience I would say to reach out.

Reach out to those who are struggling, to someone who seems a bit down. I know that it can seem scary if you don’t know what to say or how to help, but that isn’t what is expected of you. Generally someone will just want someone to listen, to have somebody to be with them and acknowledge their suffering.

 Some questions are scary

Reach out for help. If you are having a tough time and if you struggle with depression it can be so hard to do anything let alone let someone in to help, but please try. Talk to a trusted friend or family member, they can help from there. It can seem awful right now but things can get better.

Reach out to God. Prayer can seem like the last thing you want to do if you are depressed. God can seem so distant, and you may feel like He isn’t even there. But as we are told in the scriptures

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

God is with you, always. He is not only God to us when we feel close to Him and compelled to worship but is also God of the deepest valley where we cannot seem to find the energy to turn towards Him. If all you can manage is to silently say “God I need you”, then just say that. If you can say nothing, let someone else say the words. Got to the scriptures, the Psalms are full of wonderful words for all kinds of struggles.

This topic is too big and complex to fully explore in one blog post, and I understand that my experience may be different to what yours may have been. I welcome you to join in the discussion on this topic, don’t be afraid, let’s start talking about mental health.

If this has raised any issues for you or you want some more info or resources, check out these websites:

www.thelowdown.co.nz

http://www.depression.org.nz

Free call Youthline on 0800 376 633 or free text 234

Remember that God is with you, in every season of your life. Although we face trials and struggles in this life, our faith in a God who has conquered brings meaning to this suffering. Let us walk forward together, caring for and loving others to build up the body of Christ we are all a part of.

May Christ’s light shine in your life.

-sleeperarise-

“Saints Are Intensely Themselves”

Intensely Themselves

Men are in their essential personality irreducibly diverse: but sin blots out the distinctions and reduces the diversity: sin drains out the color of the man (which is his own and inimitable) and replaces it with the color of sin which is common property: all sinners look less like themselves and more like one another. Saints are intensely themselves. …

Sin, being a following of the line of least resistance, inevitable lessens vitality: it takes no more vitality to go with the stream of inclination than with any other stream: but to go against, as the saint does, demands immense vitality.

- Frank Sheed, from his ‘Assembler’s Note’ in the book Saints are Not Dead