Thursday, February 14, 2013

Let Jesus steal your heart

St. Valentine’s Day is upon us. What was once a day dedicated to the love and sacrifice of a Roman martyr has now become little more than another excuse for every imaginable retailer to sell you heart shaped crap at an inflated price. 

 If that weren’t bad enough, anyone who is without a significant other will be reminded of that fact with every glance at a television screen, web browser or store window.

Sounds like fun, right?

As an un-married twenty-something Catholic woman, I have to say I’ve been there (somewhat). I’ve lived just almost 24 years of my life without a man to buy me roses, chocolate or (thankfully) Jane Seymour’s Open Heart.

You know I love you, Dr. Quinn, but your necklace makes me ill.
Now for the first time in my life I have a boyfriend to celebrate Valentine’s day with. Peachy keen, right? As in, all the longings of my soul and questions of my worth and existence are fulfilled in this one man because that’s what the commercials on TV tell me. Right?


So wrong.

I recently had to face this twisted idea head on when I was feeling particularly worthless and giving into all kinds of Satanic lies about the value of my existence. I’d like to blame my weakened defenses on the emotional instability I was experiencing thanks to the fact that I’m a female, but in reality I just wasn’t turning to God enough with these questions.

Instead, I turned to a man who, although he is kind, compassionate, virtuous, courageous and charming (among other things), is not God. So as I sat in the car weeping and asking him why he was dating me, I became frustrated that no matter what he told me it wasn’t enough.

(In fact, he even told me that very same thing -very kindly- himself, but I was too busy falling into the depths of my despair to hear what he was trying to say.)

A Skype call to my sisters in Rome, lots of prayer, (another) good cry and a jarring conversation with a no-nonsense roommate later, I could see the trap that had been set for me.

It was the same one that had been set when I started a new job, whenever I tried to make new friends,  when I went off to college and countless other times; that this thing will give you worth. How well you perform in this will tell you how good you are. These people will tell you how much you are loved.

Lies. Straight from the pit of hell.

No matter how amazing one’s boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/friend/job/house/bank account/ whatever is, it will never fully satisfy our soul’s longing for intimacy and affirmation. There’s only One who can do that. And all He asks is that we love Him with our whole heart. 

So, no matter what state of vocational, marital or employment status you find yourself in this Valentine’s Day, remember that nothing can satisfy our hearts like God can. Take this day to pray for the grace to turn to Him with the same zeal that caused that Roman to forsake his own life for Christ so many centuries ago.

Monday, February 11, 2013

My (earthly, Holy & Heavenly) Father

“Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” -Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est 

Pope Benedict XVI. (CNA file photo)
Last week I had a terrible dream that my dad was terminally ill. I chalked it up to nothing more than my occasional anxiety about such things and the fact that my siblings and I are no longer children and my parents are therefore no longer young adults.

It wasn’t so much the dream itself – the only thing I really remembered was the knowledge that, “Dad is sick.” The thing that bothered me the most was the fear of what my life would be like when my earthly father does pass away. 

I called him just to hear his voice while I looked at a picture on my nightstand of him cradling me in his arms at my baptism. He reassured me that he was fine and that we’ll get together for lunch this week.

It scared me because I realized that I will be shaken to the core when my parents are gone. My family is my rock and foundation that I can return to when the outside world bears down too hard. They are the ones who share in my joys just as much as my sorrows. They are the ones who made me who I am.

Understandably, the thought of losing one’s parents would be saddening to anyone. But what struck me even more deeply after telling God about this was how much I relied on others, even my family, more than Him. 

Of course, as children of God, we are the hands and feet of Christ while on earth. This means we are called to love and serve others as representatives of Christ, allowing Him to work through us so that “it is not I who lives, but Christ.”  But how often, do we give our praise, admiration and attention to the “hands and feet” rather than to Whom they belong?

So now, with the news of the retirement of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, many Catholics are left with shock and sadness – I know that was my own impression upon hearing the news this morning.

But let us remember that although we love and revere our dear Papa Benedict, he is simply the Vicar of Christ. Any reverence or affection that we have for the Pope is a result of his resemblance to the One he serves.

I think it’s fitting that Pope Benedict is stepping down during this Year of Faith and just as Lent begins. The act of humbly admitting (and drawing attention to) one’s own human frailty speaks volumes not only to Benedict’s God-given virtue, but also to his total and complete reliance on Our Heavenly Father – a beautiful example that all of us should pray to have the grace to follow.

 Pope St. Celestine, pray for us!