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Make Change

“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.

Fear to change is also an excuse.

Fear to change is also an excuse.

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.




Dignity in the Face of Death

On Sunday night, the world was faced with the heartbreaking news of Brittany Maynard’s death. After being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and told she had a limited number of months to live, she and her husband moved to the State of Oregon where she could legally end her own life and see to it that she “died with dignity.” In reality, what she was really trying to do was avoid the forthcoming pain, under the guise of “dying with dignity”.

As Catholics, we understand that the dignity of the human person is rooted in our being created in the image and likeness of God. Our dignity is fulfilled in our vocation to live in eternal happiness with God (in both this world and the next), and we fully experience what it means to be human when we freely direct ourselves towards our eternal destiny. Because of what Christ did on the Cross, death no longer has the final say. Jesus, the God-man, suffered in our place. He has, therefore, by his own blood, redeemed even our human suffering. Our suffering and death no longer automatically mean our spiritual death. Death and suffering can be used by God for our good and can be redemptive for us and others.

agonyinthegardenIt says in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that “intentional euthanasia, whatever its forms or motives, is murder. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator.” Human life is sacred from conception to natural death because “from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being,” including himself.

Many are calling Brittany’s choice “heroic”, and “not suicide”, because she would have rather lived, but due to the fact that she was expected to die from the disease anyways, it was better for her to die without great pain. I do not propose to know what it is like to suffer in this way, however, the truth is, none of us really want to suffer, to feel pain. Pain, however, is part of the reality of the fallen human condition. Do not be deceived. Euthanasia does not make it truly possible for our loved ones or ourselves to avoid suffering.

Euthanasia or Physician-Assisted Suicide is the intentional act of killing oneself, which is what Brittany did. At its heart, suicide truly lacks heroism and courage. In the case of Brittany, she was not courageous enough to face her pain to come. In committing suicide, we claim our life as our own; our life is ours to do whatever we want with it, whatever the cost, without truly considering anyone else.

The call of the Gospel is the opposite to this current secular worldview. The call of the Gospel is a call to lay down our lives in love and service to God and for others. It is a call to embrace our crosses. It is in responding to that call that we realize what it means to be truly human. St. John Paul II in his Theology of the Body shares that we find what it means to be human by self-donation. It is precisely for this reason that Christ calls us to pick up our Cross, just as He did, and follow him. It is only in doing this that we will enter into communion with Him in this life and the next.

Recently, I was reflecting on the prayer of the “Agnus Dei” (Lamb of God) that we say at every Roman Catholic Mass. I realized in a new way how Christ is both the Priest and Victim. Jesus offered his life in sacrifice for us, and He calls us to imitate Him. In this way, we need to make our lives a living sacrifice. He made the blood sacrifice that was necessary for our salvation. Just like Christ, we can learn to love in the times that are difficult. We can learn to love through our suffering. Our Blessed Lord told St. Faustina, “If the angels were capable of envy, they would envy us for two things; one is the receiving of Holy Communion, and the other is suffering.”

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

palliativecareWith Brittany Maynard’s suicide now made public, this will certainly spark a more widespread debate and push toward giving more people the ability to choose the same outcome for their life, when faced with suffering and pain. William L. Shirer was an American journalist, war correspondent, and historian. He once interviewed a Nazi judge who was condemned to death at Nuremberg. The judge had wept saying, “How could it have come to this?” and Mr. Shirer responded to him, “Herr Judge, it came to this the first time you authorized the killing of an innocent life.”

The more that Euthanasia may be approved and legalized, the worse things will become. It is surely an unavoidable slippery slope. Holland legalized euthanasia in 1984. What began as simply a few extraordinary cases, such as what Brittany Maynard and others are vouching for, has now become a routine practice. Statistics show that approximately “130,000 people die each year in Holland, and up to 20,000 are either killed or helped to die by doctors. As many as half did not ask to be killed.” These numbers now include newborns who are said to have a poor quality of life, depressed adults who are physically well, as well as depressed teenagers. Theo Boer, a European who was once adamantly for euthanasia, is now saying, “don’t do it.”

Pro-euthanasia advocates consistently emphasize the reasons for choosing it because of the expected uncontrollable and agonizing pain. The truth is that physical pain, with some rare exceptions, can certainly be controlled, even in a drug induced coma, if it be necessary. The type of pain which is the primary reason why people seek to be killed, is emotional pain, from despair and hopelessness, to being unloved and alone, being tired of living life, and not wanting to be dependent on others.

saynotoeuthanasiaThere are many reasons why we should be actively fighting euthanasia, and fighting for the bettering of quality health care, particularly end of life care. These reasons to oppose euthanasia include:

  • The fact that doctors are very often wrong in judging when or that a patient will die. Sometimes a patient can make an unexpected recovery.
  • When the only living witnesses are those who want the person dead, who is there to confirm that they actually asked to die?
  • If society approves euthanasia, many will ask for it so that they avoid being a burden to their family.
  • Doctors and family members can easily pressure patients into asking to die.
  • In Holland, advancements in palliative care have practically disappeared. There are now only a small handful of hospices there. In nearby Britain, there are over 300 hospices.
  • Given the increasing numbers of older people and the costs of their health care, good palliative care will quickly become unavailable if euthanasia becomes legal.

We should look to the wisdom of the Church for how to properly care for those who are suffering. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded. Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected. Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.

All of us will face our time to die, whether through tragic accidents, death in our sleep, or terminal illnesses – death is coming for every one of us. St. Therese of Lisieux, in her last words, said “I have reached the point of not being able to suffer any more, because all suffering is sweet to me. My God, I love you.” May we not only pray for the protection of human life from conception to natural death, and for an increase in the betterment of the care that we provide to those who are suffering, but may we fight with every ounce of our being for the true dignity of the human person, which is not found in ease of life, but in attaining union with God.

Are you Hardcore?

Well? Are you hardcore? How can we define a hardcore Catholic? Is there even such a thing?  The term ‘Devout Catholic’ is defined differently for many people. For some, it is just the Catholic that always goes to Sunday Mass. For others, it is the Catholic that seems to have a deep spiritual life, but perhaps doesn’t really follow every little thing that the Church teaches.

Fulfilling our Sunday obligation is only part of being Catholic.  We must also frequent the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist, pray daily, and assent to the teachings of Holy Mother Church.  It is not enough to say “I am a devout Catholic” and think this is a synonym for being a Catholic that attends every Sunday mass.  Attending Sunday Mass is an obligation that every Catholic has. Even the Pope has to attend Sunday Mass. Christmas and Easter are not the bare minimum requirements for being Catholic either.

When we look at the lives of the Saints, we see that their biographies do not only consist in attending Sunday mass.  The Saints lived lives of heroic virtue, at the service of God and others. We can look at the lives of the desert fathers who committed their lives to prayer. We can look at the life of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and see how she devoted her life to charity and love towards those that were in most need of physical and (most importantly) spiritual nourishment. The lives of the Saints demonstrate an interior martyrdom which is a death to self and a desire to know and love Christ above all. To truly love Christ is to show the “least of these” the love of Christ in action.

Being a real Catholic is not about having a “holier than thou” disposition.  Many times, the phrase “holier than thou” is said by those who feel intimidated or are offended when someone tries to help someone out of sin, even when done in charity. Sometimes they are right when they say we are being “holier than thou”. Oftentimes, when people of the world say this to us, it can make us feel like we have failed in evangelizing.  If we are doing our best to love Christ and doing all that we possibly can to lead others closer to Him, then why is it received with such distaste among our family and friends? For many people, there is an internal moral crisis that prevents them from seeing things objectively. For others, however, I believe that they see a disconnect between our words and deeds. For some who do seek to live a life of virtue, they may still be shut down. Although it may not be easy for people to hear the truth, I believe that if our words are formed through prayer and said with humility and charity, our Blessed Lord will bless them in some way. The question is, how do we get through to those who do not wish to listen?

I think what it all comes down to is not to ask ourselves whether or not we are hardcore because this may create some kind of  pride within ourselves. I think the real question we need to ask ourselves is this: Am I truly faithful to Christ, the Church He established, and do I live a life of service to others?  Being Catholic is about loving Christ and devoted to the building of His Kingdom. It is about living life in truth and charity. It means trusting God enough to believe that His Holy Spirit is guiding His One True Church. Adherence to the teachings of the Church (and that means all of them), even if they challenge us, is key if we want to really enter into the fullness of a relationship with God. Being Catholic really comes down to making Christ the center of our lives, and encountering Him on a daily basis by making our entire life a sacrifice for Him and others. Along the way, frequenting the Sacrament of  Confession and Holy Communion will keep us on the path when we stray and give us the strength we need the life the Christian life.

When we look at Mary, we can see the ultimate example of reverence and obedience. From her ‘Fiat’ to being with Christ in the last moments of His life on the Cross, she exemplifies what it means to be faithful. We must be obedient, just like Mary encouraged the servant at the Wedding at Cana and “Do whatever He tells you”. We must take up our crosses and follow Him daily. This Easter, we recognize in a particular way that Christ gave His very life for us. If we truly love Him, we will do the same, by laying down our lives for others.

“Each of you knows that the foundation of our faith is charity. Without it, our religion would crumble. We will never be truly Catholic unless we conform our entire lives to the two commandments that are the essence of the Catholic faith: to love the Lord, our God, with all our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves… With charity, we sow the seeds of that true peace which only our faith in Jesus Christ can give us by making us all brothers and sisters. I know that this way is steep, and difficult, and strewn with thorns, while at first glance the other path seems easier, more pleasant, and more satisfying. But the fact is, if we could look into the hearts of those who follow the perverse paths of this world, we would see that they lack the serenity that comes to those who have faced a thousand difficulties and who have renounced material pleasure to follow God’s law.” –  Blessed Pierre Giorgio Frassati

Catholic Ruki

Series on the Sacraments: Confirmation

The Sacrament of Confirmation

Confirmation is the second sacrament of initiation for Christians, after baptism. Although it can be done after First Communion, it is traditional for it to be done earlier, around the age of seven. Confirmation is the sacrament in which the Christian receives gifts of the Holy Spirit, and is given the grace to live the Christian life. Read the rest of this entry

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