Category Archives: chastity
“Be the change you want to see in the world”
“Never change who you are”
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, No one thinks of changing himself.”
“You were born this way”
These are all familiar quotes to us. We hear them in music, in movies, and see them on cheesy prints they sell at gift stores. One challenges us to change ourselves for the good of the world, while the other embraces comfort in not changing at all.
Often people assume they can change the world by giving in to who they feel they are. This means embracing all faults and making them excusable by thinking that removing those faults would be dishonest to who they are. For example, I really struggle reaching out to people. I am shy about meeting new people, and often I make excuses for myself because I am too afraid to get out of my comfort zone. I found out there is another new mom not far from me and I was so afraid to reach out to her. I made excuses like “she’s a bit older than me”, “she won’t like me” , “she is a stranger”, and “I’m too shy”. I convinced myself it was okay to just keep to myself because of my introverted nature. It took several weeks for me to just send her an e-mail.
It seems more apparent that people would rather change their surroundings than change who they are internally. We may challenge ourselves to do good deeds, which in turn can make an impact on ourselves, but it is only temporary if it isn’t pursued and ultimately will yield little or no fruit if we do not continue to change ourselves.
We may need to reflect on the little things we do and ask ourselves some hard questions. Am I humble? Am I modest in dress? Do I love selflessly? Do I always expect something in return when I do something kind for someone else? Do I really put God first?
The change we embrace must not be solely fuelled by the desire for what we wish to see happen in the word nor in what the world wants from us. Instead, any change we make must be rooted in Christ, who is truth and love. It is only by Him that we can be made perfect. This conversion is about seeking holiness rather than temporary happiness.
Christianity calls us to change the world by changing ourselves daily by picking up our cross and conforming out lives to Christ. It means turning away from sins that we may have allowed to become habits in our daily lives. It requires repentance. A murderer can become a capuchin, but it requires a change of heart through conversion, not just once, but daily.
As the Christmas season draws near, let us prepare our hearts for the celebration of the Incarnation. Let us change our ways and continue to pursue a real relationship with Christ, one that requires us to change and to grow. Let us change into the people of God, not of the world.
So much of the world, especially western society, promotes a childless lifestyle. In fact, it glorifies it. A life without children is so often seen as the new American Dream, where all you need to do is focus on yourself and perhaps a significant other. People believe that without children, you can do whatever makes you happy in life without needing to worry about something or someone holding you down. Children are seen as a burden to many, and being a parent as a lifetime chore.
Many view children as horrible, crying, screaming, dirty monsters that ultimately make life worse and prevent us from being happy, wealthy, and free. Maybe it is because they have seen families struggle financially, emotionally, or physically after having children. The idea of sacrificing for someone that is dependent, vulnerable, small, and needy is as much of a turn off as running into a burning building soaked in gasoline.
I guess it may be easy to forget that we all were babies, children, teenagers.
I believe that it isn’t that these people hate babies and children, but rather they hate the suffering that may come with having children. Children require time just as any other relationship.They need constant care and attention, and this means we need to sacrifice the time that we would normally spend doing things for ourselves. Children and babies push parents to limits of frustration, sleep deprivation, and so on.
I can say that because I know that my own parents struggled many days because of us kids. I know there were days my parents were exhausted after shifts, and yet they still invested the time into caring for us. I know it meant they had less time to do the things that they wanted to do, but they still found joy in doing what they had to do, which was loving us and making sure we had what we needed on a daily basis. Twenty plus years later, I can confidently say that my parents still loved us even when things were hard.
I am pregnant with our baby girl, Evangeline, and already Mike and I brace ourselves for ‘advice’ from people encouraging us to stop at one child, or to maybe try for one boy and one girl and then avoid more in every possible way. It is especially disheartening when the advice is coming from loved ones, or from people who have children and seem to voice regret from having one or two too many.
Parenthood means loving far beyond yourself, dying to yourself every single day. I may only be 6 months into my pregnancy, but even now, Mike and I have had challenges. We have had to make time for appointments. Mike has had to give up eating certain foods because some things just don’t sit well with me. I don’t sleep the same anymore. I can’t run on the treadmill for an hour every day so I can have a totally in shape, model body. Mike has to endure a woman that wears the baggies clothes most days because her normal clothes just don’t fit the same anymore.
This is only the beginning of changing challenges. The truth is though, I don’t need a perfect body, a perfect sleep schedule, or money to blow on material goods. Those things will not make me or my family holy.
I speak for Mike and myself when I say that we anticipate redemptive suffering which is something that many refuse to even acknowledge exists. We can anticipate sleepless nights. We can anticipate strain on our relationship. We can anticipate temper tantrums, marker drawings on the wall, spilt drinks, and pulled out hair. I do not want to deny us of sacrifices we can give to God out of love for the souls entrusted to us. I do not want to miss the opportunity to try and live as the Holy Family lived on earth and now eternally does in heaven. I do not want to say ‘no’ to God for his gift of life.
We need fathers. We need mothers. The world needs moms and dads who actively demonstrate love for the family that goes beyond wanting to fulfil their own desires. The World needs to see spouses who can’t have children naturally to seek to be parents to children without mothers and fathers or to the community around them. The World needs to see that parenthood is a blessing, not a curse; that children are gifts from God and not simply things we can take for ourselves as a right to have, nor deny when God lays them in our hands to care for them. If your call is to be married, to give yourself to your spouse in fullness and in love, that desire has a natural, God-given purpose: life-giving love, which may bring with it, parenthood.
Let us pray for all those discerning their vocations, that they may discern with willing and open hearts. Let us pray that couples discerning marriage are open to life. Let us pray that God may grant strength to parents struggling with their state of life, spiritually, physically, and emotionally. Finally, let us pray for our world, that parenthood, children, and life may be celebrated and that we may all be thankful for the gift to emulate the love of the Trinity and of the Holy Family.
This beautiful girl fought for her purity, and even after she was assaulted and stabbed, she forgave her attacker.
May we ask for her intercession to learn to forgive.
Saint Maria Goretti, Pray for us!
Read more about her here.
The first recollection I have about meeting God happened when I was about 4 or 5; my grandmother took me to choir practice, and the fellowship amongst the choir is a vivid memory that is easy to recall. I had been to Mass other times, but those moments aren’t as vivid.
I remember very few things about my childhood. Other memories I have include the three abusers who changed my life forever. I can’t even begin to describe how my stomach turns in knots when I think of children being sexually abused, yet those are the rare memories that replay in my mind.
My life has always been a hectic fight from conception, but I wouldn’t know any details until I turned 21. My father was a military man and my mother, his high school sweetheart was 16 years old when they met and 18 when they married. At 22, my mother had my brother, then hit a rough patch in her life. In the middle of that chaos I was conceived. I was born into a family that cherished their first niece, first granddaughter, first little girl. Well, that’s what I thought. I thought I was cherished by all. I had no idea people were campaigning for my death while I was within my mother’s womb or that my grandmother thought I was going to be a bastard, nor that my father might not be my biological father. My mother hid these things away from me in hopes of protecting me; I’m not so sure that it was me she was trying to protect by these secrets. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was that she chose to keep me even with the odds stacked against her. (I don’t care what anyone says about her, she did the right thing.) So, of course, I grew up at my grandparents’ while my dad was away.
When my dad came home, my sister was born and life was rainbows and white picket fences! Yay us! Okay, no. I’d love to tell you that, but I’d be lying. Life was rough. My sister didn’t arrive in the world until I was seven. When she was born I gave myself one job: to stay by her side and protect her. At that point, I was being sexually abused until I was 8 or 9 by my step-uncle. Even though I had no idea that what I was experiencing was sexual abuse, I knew something was wrong, and so I knew that I was not going to let it happen to my sister.
We were a broken family with real issues and a lack of God. When you allow something to happen that hurts you without stopping it, it creates a cycle. I grew up on a rollercoaster. My brother was my best friend; he would have done anything to protect me. But, when we fought, he would knock the air out of me and when I’d run for help he would lock me in the room and make me promise not to tell. I thought they were innocent sibling fights, I wouldn’t learn until I was in my 20s that my aunt would watch my brother get beat by her first husband and then locked in the closet and had to promise not to tell his mommy. I was only receiving the pain and neglect and hurt he felt. I think back now and see what a blessing it was for him to take out all that anger on me so he could get it out of his system as a kid.
So that was my childhood. It consisted of being sexually abused by two of family members, receiving punches from my brother, and my parents’ underlying issue of their past adultery. (The third abuser was a one-time incident by a “close family friend.” In case you are keeping count.)
We moved when I was in the 5th grade, and things changed. Middle school came and went. I fell in love with my first crush, but was still dealing with self-esteem issues. High school hit and so did all of the awkward teenage years. Due to my rough history, I became a loner. I knew everyone, but I didn’t talk to anyone. My mother was already into church and going to a lot of youth rallies and prayer gatherings. I only attended to shut my parents nagging up and to watch all of the “hypocrites.” I saw everyone’s private lives outside of the gatherings, so I was so convinced that I did not want to be a part of that. I knew I wanted God to be a part of my life, but I knew that if I couldn’t invest my whole heart, I would be just like them, and I did not want that.
High school for me was full of very few friends, suicidal issues, self mutilation, and depression. I met my best friend “CL” who was an absolute a gift from God. We went to different schools but we began to hangout a lot and he was my distraction from the issues at home and school. I was continuing to hit rough patches with my mother and when I felt like I couldn’t handle it anymore I would call him and he would take me to adoration, for a bite to eat, and then drive me home. He never asked many questions, but he did once tell me that he hated seeing me cry and he didn’t mind waiting for me to finish. I was grateful. I knew God loved me, but I wasn’t drenched in desire to follow Him. I didn’t know how. I was, however, learning about Jesus in the Eucharist, a precious gift that got me through high school. “CL” finally went off to the service and we kept in touch through letters. God didn’t leave me alone, however. In my Junior year I met Juan. He was a reflection of what a real man was. We became good friends and hung out often. Whenever he wanted to hangout, he would ask my mother permission ,and after we hung out he would thank her for the opportunity. I wish I had let that sink in, because I realize now how much he loved me.
In my Senior year, I forgot all about what real love was. I was out of school during the second semester and hanging out with a girl from the class that had just graduated. Somehow, she convinced me that premarital sex was a good thing and that I would love it if I tried it. Now to put it in context, up until that point I was scared of any relationship involving a boy. I knew how harmful men were during my childhood and I hated almost all of them because of that. I allowed myself, however, to be fooled and fell into the lie that premarital sex was good.
After school finished, I moved away and I was on my own. I began to experiment with sex more and random relationships, yet I was still involved in the Catholic scene, trying to find something to hold on to. I went to World Youth Day in Germany in 2005 shortly after Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was elected. My mother had signed me up, but I definitely wanted to experience seeing another country, and so I didn’t fight it. In my heart, I was longing for God to show me something, anything, to save me. Yet, nothing came. I did not receive any signs (none that I picked up on anyway).
When I got home from Germany, I moved to New Mexico. I struggled with self esteem as certain family members would call me “fat” and “ugly.” They had no trouble reminding me of that whenever we saw each other. Plagued by a lack of self worth, I turned to sex because it falsely reassured me that I was desirable and I desperately wanted that. Though I was still connected with the Church, I was convinced that God did not want me to have anything that would make me happy.
At the age of 21, I moved in with my aunt and her live-in boyfriend in Houston. I got a job at a law firm and the love of money began to eclipse God even more. My aunt wasn’t a huge church-goer. She was living together with a man and had no desire to marry, at least not right away. Though he is not perfect, he is someone that I respect and admire, especially for being so patient with my aunt. While I was there, I eventually found myself in an emotionally and mentally abusive relationship that lasted about 6 months, and when it ended, I was totally lost. The paychecks from the law firm funded my trips to South Texas to visit my brother, his wife and their newborn son. As time went by, however, things went from bad to worse.
When I travelled from Houston to South Texas, I began hanging out with some bad friends and getting introduced to marijuana and pornography. I knew it was wrong, but again, I did not want to be another “hypocrite” in the Church. That was my thinking process. Looking back, I really wish I had kept in touch with Juan. God was trying use him to try to get my attention. Juan was always there for me, but I never gave him the love he deserved. He always made sure I knew he was a friend I could count on.
So the sins dug deeper and when my relationship ended so did everything else. I eventually ended up losing my job and was miserable. In my misery, I turned again to sex. I was angry and hurt and I began to lash out at people. When I had learned about my aunt’s abortion during her second marriage to my abuser, I threw it in her face. In doing so, I found myself living in my car for a few weeks. I would park at any business open 24-7 just in case I was killed or raped, to ensure I would have a witness to vouch for my whereabouts. It was Houston after all.
After some time, I found myself living with a mutual friend of a group of rap artists I knew. I was very much into the hip-hop scene. My parents were living in New Mexico and I didn’t want to move back there. I chose to stick it out in Houston. I continued smoking marijuana and hanging out with some pretty bad people. Sex, money, drugs and pornography were almost an everyday thing at this point. I didn’t want to just be a groupie to men of power, so I started demanding respect from pimps and dealers who I’d meet. My roommate was persistent about my being lady-like and constantly challenging my vast knowledge of worldly subjects. He coached me into being a cold-hearted female. He introduced me to a new world, a world I knew I didn’t want to die in. I was living foul but still whispering small rare prayers for God’s protection. I had money, weed, and I could get “anything I wanted.” Men became sexual objects I would use and toss away with no regard, no emotion, no attachment. I was an addict and sex was a high. I was known to the other dealers and pimps as a “Boss.” They wanted to build me up and make me even bigger in “the game.” They loved that I didn’t put up with anyone’s disrespect and disloyalty. Yet, despite the facade, I was scared for my life. I would have never openly admitted it, however. I asked God to help me, but it was not until my niece was born that I realized my life was nothing.
It was on a visit to see my niece and nephew that it hit me; if I continued my lifestyle I would either end up dead or in prison. I decided to leave. I told my roommate I wanted out and I wanted him to get out with me. While he encouraged my departure, he stayed. A month later, my usual hustle spot was robbed and a woman I knew was murdered and a few months later my roommate was sentenced to 2 years in prison. God had spared me and confirmed my choice was the right one.
I still struggled with my sexual addiction and was still smoking weed, but I moved in with my parents. My mother began dragging me back to church. I didn’t mind, however. I knew God wanted me, but He knew how stubborn I was. He never gave up. My life slowed down but my sex life was still going. As I began to be reconnected with the Church, my conscience began to wake up and I started to feel shame for my sins. I began to learn that if I died, my sins could lead me to Hell. I was scared, but I hoped that the Lord knew my struggle. I prayed all the time even though I was in a state of grave mortal sin. I was still getting into bad relationships and using men for my selfish pleasures. Yet, God was working slowly on my heart.
I started a pen-pal relationship in 2009 with a man named Jay, a man locked up for murder. I moved back to Houston, but I know how bad I needed a healthy long distance relationship so we talked about God. In December 2009, I went to a come and see and I felt God change my heart.
“He is the Ultimate Doctor but we must take the prescription.”
I believed that sex was love and I wanted love really badly, but it wasn’t fixing my problems. Jay became my best friend, I loved him. He supported my journey to God even though at times he didn’t understand it. Jay’s cousin and I grew close and she pushed me to become a better woman. She knew how much I loved her cousin and she wanted me to be the best woman for him, if God permitted that we would be together when he came home. Everything changed. I wanted to give Jay the gift of love from God, but how could I when I was overlooking that gift in my own life. The more we spoke, the more I prayed and asked God for guidance. In May 2010, I chose to become single and to pursue God deeper. In doing so, so I left Houston and moved to New Mexico, again.
Two years had gone by, and in 2012 I asked the Lord to send me on a mission while at church one Sunday. That night I saw Bryan Kemper, a famous pro-life activist, post about Fall Interns with Stand True, which is a Christ-Centred Pro-Life Ministry which he had started. I felt drawn to that and so I applied right away.
I got in! I got there and realized I had a lot of growing up to do, but it didn’t happen until I left. See I knew I wanted to serve God but I wasn’t willing to take the leap of faith to become vulnerable and share my entire story. It took these past two years for me to really pray and muster up the courage. It took pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. When I first told my testimony in full it was to someone I met during my stay at Stand True. I had realized how ugly my sin made me, I hushed it away for fear of rejection, but he was different. See, I didn’t want to admit I was a woman struggling with pornography and sex addictions while exhaustingly searching for God’s Truth. Yet when I begain to openly admit what God had brought me through all of those years, I began to experience my first sense of real relief. I got braver and told someone else, then someone else.
I was finally getting it! I was becoming accountable and confession was becoming my favorite thing to do. By becoming vulnerable, God began to break my pride and showed me how much He loved me through all of my darkest moments. I came to realize that He had pursued me my whole life. Just knowing that He loved me enough to keep pursuing me was more than any man could ever give me.
My renewed faith was tested shortly after I started my own business. I was out celebrating the new business with some friends and I received a call. Juan had died. I can’t even begin to describe how I feel about it and how it tears me up inside to look back on the impression he left on me, only to wish I had seen it sooner. Yet, now that I was growing in my relationship with the Lord, I realized then that death could became a beautiful thing. I had learned about death by the way the Saints talked about it, and Juan’s death was no different. Juan never gave up on me. Reflecting on his life on the way to his funeral, I realized just how tired I was of living a double life. I wanted to have a single-minded devotion to the Lord.
My journey to God has been a life-long one. He has always shown me signs that He is there but He also did not force me to love Him. After all of His pursuing, I can say that I have never loved God so much in my entire life as I do now. He has also blessed me tremendously with loving people. I still have my issues with my family and they still have their own issues. I have learned, however, that whatever you are going through, someone will always have it worse, and before you judge a man you should consider that you know nothing about his life. Life is too short and if we intend on living it to its full potential, it has to start now. I am living proof that God loves you and wants you to be happy even if you think you don’t deserve an ounce of it.