Thursday, March 20, 2014

Becoming an 'ant of God' By: C.C.

"Emulate the tiny ant; be an ant of God . Listen to the word of God and hide it in your heart. Collect plenty of food during the happy days of your spiritual summers. You will then be able to endure the difficult days of temptations during the winters of your soul." (St. Augustine) 
   The spiritual life is one of patient enduring and steadfast hope in God. It is not an easy journey and for this we are to be grateful. As we continue this Lenten season and meditate further upon the Lord's sacrifice for us, we come to find comfort in the 'winters of our soul' as a means of uniting with our Lord's suffering and ultimately a necessary experience if we long to share  in the joy of His resurrection
    The world challenges us with many contradictory messages and presents apparent 'remedies' for the difficulties that we may face in this life. These false remedies are not solutions for healing, but rather they are prescriptions of disillusionment and numbness. They are an invitation to lose sight of true Goodness and further separate us from our Lord and His plans. Those striving toward living a life in Communion with the Church and the Lord must practice their faith with great fervor and seek to be 'an ant of God'
     To become an ant of God is to recognize our limitations and the tininess of our existence in the face of our Lord's majesty and greatness. We are called to store in our hearts the spiritual food that we gather from listening to the word of God and from our prayer life so that we can endure what comes with virtue. We are called to gather the fruit of this Lenten season and deepen our awareness of our Lord so that we may persevere in our spiritual life.
   'Emulating the tiny ant' is to be made great in our Lord; and by His love we can endure all things. We are provided with true food that sustains our soul and provides a remedy for all ill. The witness of great faith and reliance on our Lord allows for many souls to see the grandeur of God and His works.Our life then serves as an invitation to others. Let us meditate upon the words of St. Augustine and  'collect plenty of food during the happy days of our spiritual summers'. May we persevere in the days of temptation and strive fervently for the Eternal feast and banquet of our Lord. (CC) 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

'Chaste' By God and Thankful. By: C.C.

   Chastity was once a word not only foreign to my ears, but a virtue that I dismissed as belonging only to 'those religious types' the people who had been 'brought up in the Church'. The people who had parents to teach and guide them along a path of sanctity and holiness. I searched for and tried to conjure up every excuse as to why I did not live my life with a regard for purity. I told myself that a life of purity was 'abnormal' and I settled instead for living a lie, I settled for this repeatedly. I settled for living a life that deadened the deepest part within me.I appropriately entitled this sharing today 'Chaste by God and Thankful' because my journey toward purity began when I could not deny the way that our Lord was calling to me, and how fast I tried to run away from Him. I am happy that He has won.
  How poorly I once judged and perceived the pursuit of purity. As I prepare to enter into the Sacrament of Marriage next weekend, I can not help but share the importance of purity and chastity with others. The gift from our Lord that I receive through this Sacrament, in marrying my best friend is reflective of the gift that God gave to me in coming to understand the importance and beauty of purity. Love is not reflected by one who desires only to hold you by touch, love is in the one who desires and strives to uphold your purity and love of God.
   Purity and chastity as a means of understanding and becoming aware of the immeasurable love and unimaginable joys that are attainable; not by a physical touch, but by something Someone much greater and more intimate that anything one could ever imagine. It is the outpouring of God's love, enabling us to recognize human love in the way that He intends for each of His children. 
  Marriage is a witness to the world of 'Divine love', and it is through the witness of a wedding I attended some years ago that God used this blessed couple to spark an awareness of the joy in chastity. 
   I met Nadia and Mike at Church in 2008 they were preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage and were also in charge of the Parish Music Ministry. It was the beginning of my attempt to return and learn how to practice my faith. It was the beginning of being 'Chaste by God'.           
     Prior to meeting them, I met the priest there in a Confessional. I do not think I even remembered how to give a proper Confession at that time. Father introduced me to Nadia. She was everything I critiqued and judged as the 'typical Church girl' but as soon as I introduced myself she embraced me with a hug. This welcome is telling of the love and reality of joy that exists in the Church. 
   I was far from being 'in the Church' I was struggling to accept myself and the life that I knew I was still victim of. A life of struggling with purity and the 'ways of the world'. I never shared much with anyone initially, this was out of my own fear of being judged and my attempt to live the illusion that I was still 'running away from God'. I became part of the choir there, working quite closely with Nadia and Mike throughout their time and preparations for marriage. I sang words that I desperately wished would enter into my heart and soul. 
   They eventually talked me into joining life-teen. I remember well their joy, their laughter, and their love. Primarily I remember their strong faith and witness of living a life centered around our Lord. Every judgement I had made about purity, everything I had perceived was thrown out the window. I could not deny the truth of our Lord's love. I could not deny the way that He too desires us to live this way. 
   Nadia and Mike asked me to sing as lead cantor on their wedding day along with another friend. I was so moved and honored, and looking back, so unworthy of this. On their wedding day they gave me the gift of witnessing a sign of Divine love. It was on their wedding day July 18th, 2009 that I realized the `secret` to their love and joy, the reason for all their laughter was because of their shared and united surrender to our Lord and His plans.
  This day left a mark within me, so deeply that as I left the Church I was in tears. These tears were of joy and also of repentance. For the first time staring me in the face was the fruits of life in Christ and the wounds within caused by my sin. It was following their wedding that the race with God really began.
   It was not easy, and it was not something that happened over night. It took great work and sacrifice to embrace a life of striving for purity. There were more tears and many more falls to come since their wedding day. But in 2010 everything changed for good.
    I committed myself to purity. Finding comfort in the Church and those around me who knew the truth of God`s love. I discovered Jason Evert, Theology of the Body, and the beauty of the Sacrament of Confession. 
   Everything that was once dead inside of me became alive, by discovering the love of our Lord; love that did not leave me despite my shortcomings and my sin. I chose to write about this today because I realize the power of being a witness of purity to others. To those who may be struggling as I once was. And for those who feel that this can not be attainable. 
  When I encounter people who knew me before `God won the race` I am further humbled by God`s majesty and work in my life. I recognize that my past has become a place of grace and encouragement to others. 
   Last year I began giving chastity talks and it is through this how I see the Lord`s hand upon every moment of my journey since Nadia and Mike`s wedding. 
   As I approach the altar with joy in my heart, with immeasurable love for my fiance, and united to him `Chaste` by God I understand the responsibility I have to share the importance and beauty of chastity with others so that they too can experience a love that is worth every sacrifice, worth every `NO` and telling of our true worth and beauty in the Lord. 
   May my wedding day be a sign to others of `Divine Love` in the world. And may all of you struggling with purity allow God to win the race. I am blessed most of all to know that Nadia and Mike will be there to witness my wedding,unaware (until now) of the gift their wedding and marriage has been to me. (CC)