3 Reasons Christians need to be Bridge-builders

I love random facts! I find they are great conversation starters and help me to trigger and bridge past and seemingly unconnected memories together. Speaking of the subject of bridges, I recently learned that the world’s longest bridge is over 102 miles! Carrying trains this incredible engineering feat connects the cities of Nanjing and Shanghai.

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Aside from being massive architectural projects and accomplishments, the daily function of a bridge is a little more mundane—it serves as a connection between two points that otherwise could not meet or communicate. All Catholics, and Christians in general, are called to act a bridge between God and humanity. Examining Scripture, Tradition, and evidence from a strictly logical standpoint, I put forth three reasons why all Christians need to be bridge-builders

For the Bible tells Me So

You do not have to look far in the New Testament before you discover examples of Jesus promoting unity and building relationships with traditional 1st century outsider groups. In John 4, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at the ancient water-cooler, the well of Jacob. He reached out to a Samaritan who Jews ostracized during ancient times. Despite this, Jesus provides her an offer of everlasting water.

She readily exclaims, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water” (John 4:15).

The Gospel of St. Luke abounds with examples of Jesus ministering to outcasts and “building bridges” to all of humanity. I will list just a few: shepherds being invited to witness the birth of Christ (Luke 2:15-20), call of Levi the tax collector (Luke 5:27-32), forgiving the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50, and sending out of the seventy-two disciples to minister to others (Luke 10: 1-10).

Finally, I want to share the instance in the Acts of the Apostles where possible discord over whether followers of Christ needed to be circumcised in the custom of Judaism. In Acts 15 the Council of Jerusalem took place and God provided unity in this affair by bestowing authority to Peter through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Follow Francis—Pope is the Bridge from Christ to Us

Continuing on the theme of unity promoted by papal authority, Pope Francis on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall told Christians to, “Build bridges of understanding and dialogue.”

In the pope is a visible sign of the unity of the Catholic Church. Catholics look to the pope with honor and as a leader of the faith not because he tells us but because Jesus gave us the gift of the papacy.

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Like Francis, the late Pope John Paul II promoted ecumenism [fancy word for promoting unity J) The Polish pontiff tells us in his encyclical letter Ut Unum Sint [On Commitment to Ecumenism],

Together with all Christ’s disciples, the Catholic Church bases upon God’s plan her ecumenical commitment to gather all Christians
into unity. Indeed, “the Church is not a reality closed in on herself. Rather, she is permanently open to missionary and ecumenical endeavor, for she is sent to the world to announce and witness, to make present and spread the mystery of communion which is essential to her, and to gather all people and all things into Christ, so as to be for all an ‘inseparable sacrament of unity’…The unity of all divided humanity is the will of God (nos. 5-6).  

Brains, brains, brains

I was binge watching an episode of The Walk Dead [YES I DID JUST TRANSITION FROM THE POPE TO ZOMBIES!!] a couple summers ago and took an important lesson from the show. In dire situations humans will work together to survive despite coming from various backgrounds.

Police officers, farmers, and pizza delivery boys were able to unite for a common objective [avoid being turned into a zombie]. I came away from the show thinking: should all people, in particular Christians unite?

Be a Bridge-Builder

From a strictly logical standpoint people tend to be happier when working together as a team. This is true for me. At work I am more fulfilled when I work to serve the rest of my co-workers and assist throughout the day as opposed to having a self-serving mentality. Moreover, the old adage “two heads are better than one” is true when it comes to uniting and forging improved relationships.

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Please do not interpret my urging for all Christians to be bridge-makers as a full on endorsement of compromising your Christians values completely. There are some non-negotiables I hold as a Catholic-Christian. I will not sell out my faith and I believe in the value of life at all stages.

That being said, when it comes to me interacting people with completely different world outlooks from myself I need to exercise patience, clarity in my thoughts, and charity in my dialogue to help others see the value in my positions. I also need to be humble enough to see things from others’ perspectives as well.

Bridge-building is not an easy process—it is long and toilsome. With the gift of understanding and patience from the Holy Spirit such dialogue is possible!

Related Links

Importance of Unity

Ut Unum Sint

 

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A Letter of Support and Hopefulness to Pope Francis

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Dear Pope Francis,

God bless you and your priesthood, dear Holy Father. For it is in this mysterious gift the papacy rests in your hands, stirs in your heart, and witnesses with your life.

Providence has brought you to us. I am always grateful for Providence. I am a spiritual daughter of St. Mother Theodore Guerin, the foundress of the Sisters of Providence in Terre Haute, Ind. In the 1980s, I was taught by her capable nuns whose one thread of thought was always to focus on God’s Providence.

God’s Plan Revealed Over Time

In God’s Providence, he put a man at the head of his Holy Catholic Church, starting with St. Peter who he asked three very poignant and straightforward questions. They are questions that each pope has answered through every century and ones you must ask yourself every day.

Christ asked Peter if he loved him three times (John 21:15-17) Answering ‘Yes’ each time, Jesus then commanded Peter to “Feed my Sheep,” instituting the role of the pope as the Good Shepherd. How vivid an image that does not change through the centuries of Christ’s Church but grows stronger.

How many times Our Lord spoke of the Good Shepherd protecting his flock, laying down His life for them, and keeping the wolves at bay. What a beautiful role you have been given by God himself.

A Rock to Hold on During the Storm

The times are weary and evil, like many other times the Church has weathered, and yet it finds you at the head of the church during an unprecedented time in history. We are a society entrenched in the greatest technology and the greatest sins that cry to heaven. Abortion rates skyrocket, infanticide in the womb, sodomy without shame, lack of shame in all areas of sexual life, and the pillaging of the poor despite these great technological advances infect our culture.

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There is no cure for cancer and many Christians live like unbelievers forgetting the great grace of the Eucharistic Lord.

The papacy gives hope to world. Other sounds reverberate around the world. Words of Our Holy Father that are questioned, scrutinized, taken out of context, and at times cause alarm. That is for you and your cardinals to decide how to clarify while upholding the dogma of the Catholic Church that has sustained us for more than 2,000 years.

Support Our Holy Father

My job as a faithful lay Catholic is to pray for unity and to meet this culture as the great St. John Paul II told us to back in 1978, “Be Not Afraid.” The pope has many titles but the most endearing is Servant of the Servants of God. The Pope washes our feet, uplifts our hearts, and can never cease to lead us to truth, beauty, and goodness (Philippians 4:8.)

Keep Calm and Love Pope Francis

All this noise and distraction about your papacy—you were elected on my birthday— is the noisy clang of the chain the devil is attached to. He  is straining hard to be unleashed.

Did not the reverent Cardinal Sarah say, “”The truth is that the church is represented on earth by the vicar of Christ, that is by the pope. And whoever is against the pope is, ipso facto, outside the church.” What a holy cardinal you have supporting you in God’s Providence!

In 1978, when St. John Paul II took office there wasn’t the Internet, cellphones, and social media. Communism was alive when John Paul II was elected. A brick wall in Germany reminded us of the stark reality. Pope John Paul II lived through Nazism and a communist rule so what better Lion of Judah to come out roaring on the balcony of St. Peter’s proclaiming “Be Not Afraid.”

That proclamation is relevant today for the papacy and for the people of the Catholic Church. Today, we face new fears, new evils, and new trials but we say “Be Not Afraid.”

Different, Yet the Same

Your entry onto the balcony of St. Peter’s was quite different for quite a different papacy formed in God’s Providence. You came out more as a startled dove, surprised at the support and deep love showered on you from the people below your papal balcony. That love of the people has sustained the papacy through generations.

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Accept that love, dearest Holy Father, for we love you. The sheep of the Good Shepherd follow your voice.

We seek your answer just as Christ sought Peter’s answer. For we are do what Christ did.

We ask you: Do you love us, Holy Father? Do you want to feed us? The faithful will keep asking you this. They will ask every pope that comes after you these same questions posed first by Christ.

Christ’s Promise

You asked us to pray for you that first night and we should honor that request every day. The Gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church that Christ founded. Christ’s promises are true even among the greatest sins. If the world as we know it does change, then the prayer we pray at every Mass, “Thy Kingdom Come,” has been fulfilled in great joy and Providence.

Matthew 16:18

Hell has not triumphed in that instance and never will. Christ has triumphed. God’s laws are always fulfilled even when the mystery of it leaves us in awe.

Dear Holy Father, who follows a long line of popes both good and bad, I say to you as a faithful Catholic: “You are in my prayers” and “Be Not Afraid.” I say to my fellow Catholics hurt by the Church: “Be Not Afraid.” St. John Paul II set the example by teaching us to face the millennium we now live in with hope.

As St. Mother Theodore Guerin said to her nuns and her students that came after her down through the generations, “Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence. Trusting all your affairs to Him and putting them also under the protection of Mary and Joseph, you will see that all will be well

This is my prayer for you and the entire Church. Heaven’s best to you dear Holy Father.

In Providence,

Your humble daughter,

Jennifer


About the author

Jennifer Lindberg is a wife and mother to six children. She is an award-winning journalist with first-place awards from the Associated Press. Jennifer left secular journalism after seeing John Paul II in Split, Croatia. This prompted her to begin a career in the Catholic press and writing for non-profits. She writes at www.thinkingfromhope and has an Instagram account by the same name. Follow her there, as she talks about hope, Catholicism, lifestyle, and the beauty of faith.


Notes:

1.“Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence.” The quote comes from a letter written by Mother Theodore, dated March 27, 1854, to Cecile (Le Fer De La Motte) Choisnet, the younger sister of Sisters Mary Joseph and St. Francis Xavier. It is hoped that the encouragement Mother Theodore offers her “beloved Cecile” will provide inspiration for all who visit her shrine.

“You will not be offended, and you will allow me to say, and repeat, that you ought not to give way to uneasiness about the future. Put yourself gently into the hands of Providence. Trusting all your affairs to Him and putting them also under the protection of Mary and Joseph, you will see that all will be well.” Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

2. The official titles of the Pope are:

The official list of titles of the Pope, in the order in which they are given in the Annuario Pontificio, is: Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God.[1] https://religion.wikia.org/wiki/Pope/Titles

3. https://aleteia.org/2017/04/08/rare-footage-watch-pope-john-paul-iis-first-words-after-his-election/

4. Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, said the people who portray him as an opponent of Pope Francis are being used by the devil to help divide the church.

“The truth is that the church is represented on earth by the vicar of Christ, that is by the pope. And whoever is against the pope is, ipso facto, outside the church,” the cardinal said in an interview published Oct. 7 in Corriere della Sera, an Italian daily.

 

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3 Thoughts on Why Peter and Paul Share the Same Feast Day

Early on the history of the Catholic Church an admiration existed for Peter and Paul. Aside of Jesus Christ himself, these two men are the main characters in the New Testament. In his First Epistle to the Corinthians, church leader Clement of Rome tells of the leadership of Peter and Peter. He wrote,

There was Peter who by reason of unrighteous jealousy endured not one not one but many labors, and thus having borne his testimony went to his appointed place of glory. By reason of jealousy and strife Paul by his example pointed out the prize of patient endurance. After that he had been seven times in bonds, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, had preached in the East and in the West, he won the noble renown which was the reward of his faith, having taught righteousness unto the whole world and having reached the farthest bounds of the West; and when he had borne his testimony before the rulers, so he departed from the world and went unto the holy place, having been found a notable pattern of patient endurance. Unto these men of holy lives was gathered a vast multitude of the elect, who through many indignities and tortures, being the victims of jealousy, set a brave example among ourselves (First Epistle of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians 5:4-6:1).

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Living in the 1st century A.D., Clement’s praise of the first leaders of the Church is evidence that something special changed these men. God selected a simple fisherman and a reformed murderer to head the Catholic Church. I believe the Holy Spirit guided the Church to forever link these two saints lives through having the same feast day on June 29th.

Creativity of Truth [St. Paul]

Having the ability to think outside the box and preach to vastly different audiences is a gift. St. Paul possessed both creativity and the flexibility to frame his thoughts to fit the needs and understanding of his particular audiences. Writer of almost 2/3 of the New Testament, St. Paul represents the creative aspect of the Catholic faith. He brings to the table dynamic, vibrant, creative theology to teach Christians in the early Church and today.

The Apostle of the Gentile used many tangible and relatable examples to teach the faith. One of my personal favorites comes from 1 Corinthians 12. Paul clearly and succinctly communicates the fact that unity is found within diversity. He provides the analogy of the Church consisting of one body with many parts and Jesus Christ as the ultimate head of the body. Another clear and understandable example of the love and teaching of God is St. Paul’s frequent references to Christians as adopted children of God. In Romans 8:14-17 he writes, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.j 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba,* Father!”k 16The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,l 17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”

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Stability of Truth [St. Peter]

Unlike Paul who represents the intellectual, creative, and theological side of truth, Peter is a model for the consistency and enduring nature of

Catholic teaching. Jesus instituted the papacy in Matthew 16:17-19. According to the evangelist the charge to the future pope went as follows,

Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood* has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. 18k And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,* and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 19l I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.* Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

The lead up to this significant institutional passage is Peter’s realization of Jesus’ true identity is the Christ. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Peter led the Catholic Church after Jesus’ ascension to Heaven. He led the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 and displayed the ultimate mark of faith in his martyrdom. The papacy continues to be an office guided by the Holy Spirit by which unites Christianity and acts as the supreme authority on matters related to faith and morality.

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Analogy of Tetherball

Truth is unchanging but our understanding of truth developed over the centuries. The genius of the Catholic Church is apparent in the consolidation of Peter and Paul’s feast on a single day. There is a schoolyard game that comes to mind to describe the relationship between the first pope and the great Apostle to the Gentiles—tetherball! Incidentally, it was not until my early twenties that I discovered the joy and fun this recess game provide despite its simplistic nature. I even purchased a tetherball at my local sporting goods store in hopes to eventually install a tetherball post in my background.

To get back from my tetherball tangent, the post in this game reminds me of the stability that the papacy of St. Peter provides. The ball and rope represent the creative theology of

St. Paul. Both are essential aspects of the game [and the Catholic faith]. Without the stability of the papacy, truth devolves into subjectivity and confusion ensues. Likewise, an absence of dynamic theological thought [represented by Paul] leads to staleness, rigidity, and irrelevancy of Catholic teaching. Remember kids recess is an important subject in school too—you never know when you can apply lessons from leisure to real life!

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I find no more appropriate way of closing my thoughts on these holy individuals than to cite the words of the successor of Peter. Pope Francis on June 29th, 2017 stated, “The Fathers of the Church liked to compare the holy apostles Peter and Paul to two columns, on which the visible building of the Church rests. Both sealed with their own blood their testimony to Christ of preaching and service to the nascent Christian community.”

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3 Reasons Why Christians Need to Always Err on the Side of Mercy

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“Why are you purposefully making errors?” Should we not put the customer first instead of individual metrics? Why does she [my wife] refuse to help around the house? Do my children live to make life difficult?  These questions bombarded my mind over the course of the past few weeks while at work and home. The roots of impatience and capricious thoughts grew in my heart.

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Today, I made time during my breaks and after work to reflect on my anxieties, worries, and fears. Slowing down to ponder the effects of my actions [or inactions] allowed me to realize the message of Psalm 103 is not merely a pious saying, but rather it is essential to incorporate mercy into daily living! According to the Psalmist, “Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger, abounding in mercy” (Psalm 103:8). Rooted in compassion, mercy is what all Christians are compelled to show their fellow neighbors at all times.

Admittedly, I fail at this goal each and every day. I lash out in anger when my children do not listen to my directions, I am quick to judge my co-workers mistakes as failings, and I fail love my wife—each and every day—as Christ loved the Church! Below are three reasons why Christians need to display mercy daily!

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Work Sanctifies

 A turning point in my spiritual journey occurred upon my discovery of the richness of theological wisdom of St. Josemaria Escriva. Founding Opus Dei, the Spanish priest reminded the world that everyone is called to holiness and that ordinary life can sanctify us. An anonymous donor at my parish gifted various families during Christmastime. Serendipitously, my family was chosen to receive gifts. We only needed to complete a form with suggestions for items based on our needs and wants. Under the section marked “wants” I requested the book The Way by Fr. Escriva.

Along with being a treat to read, the saint’s wisdom is quite practical to living amidst the busyness of daily living. According to paragraph number 359 he wrote, “Add a supernatural motive to your ordinary professional work, and you will have sanctified it.”  Working for the sake of breadwinning is an admirable goal. However, only when I begin my workday with the specific mentality that the joys, trials, and anything in between that I encounter in my labors will lead me to becoming the best version of myself do I truly thrive—not merely survive at work!

The Second Vatican Council’s spoke of the value of human work as well. According to the Council Fathers,

Human activity, to be sure, takes its significance from its relationship to man. Just as it proceeds from man, so it is ordered toward man. For when a man works he not only alters things and society, he develops himself as well. He learns much, he cultivates his resources, and he goes outside of himself and beyond himself. Rightly understood this kind of growth is of greater value than any external riches which can be garnered. A man is more precious for what he is than for what he has (Gaudium Et Spes, 35).

The essential message is that personal development occurs through our daily work, it matters not what we are doing as long as we continue to strive for excellence in virtue and develop our love for God and fellow mankind.

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Marriage Matters

G.K. Chesterton reparteed regarding the subject of marriage by saying, “Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honor should decline.” From my experience, the English essayist’s words ring true for my marriage.

This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church number 1641,

This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this grace they “help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children.

Being a parent myself, I learned it is essential to err on the side of mercy when raising children. Repeating commands to my children is a frequent task. Recognizing that my son and daughter do not always intentionally refuse to listen is key to bettering me as a parent. Children learn new things daily, hourly, and sometimes each and every minute. Kid’s excitement of experiencing newness oftentimes gets perceived—at least I fall into this erroneous line of thought— as them acting out or being too rambunctious. Parents need to be slow to anger and rich in mercy like the Divine Father.

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Just Don’t Judge, You are not the Just Judge

 Jesus’ most famous teaching with regards to judging others comes from Matthew 7:1-5. Our Lord informed the crowds during his Sermon on the Mount with the following,

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

This ever relevant message seems always be applicable no matter the age or nation a person is from. Yesterday, I saw a thread on a Catholic-related Facebook group that I am a member where Christ’s words would have been wise to ponder. The original post discussed a recent quote about Pope Francis and his conversation with a man with same-sex attraction. People seemed quick to judge the bishop of Rome’s statements as being out of line with Catholic Church teaching.  Judging from the peanut gallery does not solve the issues the Church faces on a daily basis. statler-waldor-peanut-gallery

Christians need to err on the side of mercy for it is the centerpiece of Jesus’ teaching. While the entirely of Catholic Church tradition emphasized God’s Mercy, the focus of Divine Mercy deepened with the saints of the 20th century. Perhaps the best encapsulation of Divine Mercy is St. Maria Faustina’s mystical experiences with Jesus Christ.  “‘I am love and Mercy Itself.  There is no misery that could be a match for My mercy, neither will misery exhaust it, because as it is being granted – it increases.  The soul that trusts in My mercy is most fortunate, because I Myself take care of it.’” (Diary of a Soul 1273, page 459). Let us reflect God’s mercy in our daily life and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us away from an unhealthy judgmental mindset!

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3 Titles of Mary that Give Me Hope

I have learned that the more a person learns about a particular subject or person there exists a direct correlation in an increased amount of titles or synonyms to describe them. For example, I had a lot of nicknames as an infant and toddler because of my parent’s love toward me. I have inherited that same knack to create multiple appellations for my children as well.

Within the Catholic Church, our honor toward Mary, the Mother of God, lends itself to a burgeoning of titles to reference her too. After I taught a lesson on Mary, I learned that she has over 2,000 titles! I will barely scratch the surface of this topic by reflecting on 3 specific titles of Mary that provide me hope on a daily basis.

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Undoer of Knots

This is a relatively new devotion toward Mary. I became aware of this unique title through my reading of a biography of Pope Francis- shortly after his election to the papacy. Mary as Undoer of Knots is his personal favorite Marian devotion. Below is the prayer associated with this nascent devotional practice:

Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exist in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exists in my life. You know very well how desperate I am, my pain, and how I am bound by these knots. Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life. No one, not even the evil one himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone. Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot.

There is something tangible and raw and this prayer. Life is messy. Sometimes due to my own fallen nature, and occasionally because of the sinfulness of others, my life becomes knotted. My personal struggles develop into a Mobius strip of suffering. Reciting the prayer and asking for Mary as Undoer of Knots to help straighten me out is both a peaceful and confident feeling.

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Star of the Sea

Along with Undoer of Knots, Mary as Star of the Sea is new title I am now assigning personally to our Blessed Mother. Historically speaking though, this title is as ancient as the sea. Early Christians associated Mary with this appellation. Throughout the Holy Scriptures the sea and oceans viewed as dangerous waters to transverse.

During the night, stars helped to guide sailors to safety. In an analogous way, Mary acts as a guide, not our source of salvation [that is reserved for God alone!] toward salvation. Mary as our Mother is a protector of us, her children, against the tumultuous waters of life. According to the great Early Church Father, St. Ephraim, Mary is “the safe harbor of all sailing on the sea the world.” Centuries later, Pope Leo XIII uses similar language to describe Mary. He called her “safe harbor of travelers.”

Traveling is a universal experience among mankind. Mary as Star of the Sea reminds of the importance of reliance on others, to guide in times of strive and tumult.

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Refuge of Sinners

Because the first woman, Eve, is associated as the bringer of suffering into the world through her fall in the Garden of Eden, Mary is traditionally seem as the New Eve. Together with being Star of the Sea and Undoer of Knots, the third Marian designation that fills me with hope is Mary as Refuge of Sinners. The word refuge originates from a French word meaning “to flee”. It makes sense for us to connect this title to the person of the Mother of God. Moms are people who their children flock or flee to in times of suffering or distress. As the most perfect and universal mother, Mary is a sure person to seek refuge from against the prowess of Satan and temptation.

According to St. Louis de Montfort, [Mary] is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus and will surrender themselves to her, body and soul, without reserve in order to belong entirely to Jesus.” The beauty of the Catholic Church is the great diversity that exists within its universal walls.  Marian devotion is a gift to help bring us closer to God. I hope that I have shed some light on the significance of these three titles of Mary. Through the intercession of Our Spiritual Mother we grow closer to the Light of the Son!

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Missing Pieces or Finding Peace—How the Puzzling Brokenness of Human Nature Leads to God

Saint Augustine’s simple and ageless maxim, “Because God has made us for Himself, our hearts are restless until they rest in Him” resonates with mankind regardless of history and time. No amount of material possessions, health, or control over finances will provide lasting and authentic happiness and peace. Humanity is naturally a broken species—greed, pride, anger, lust, gluttony, sloth, envy abound. This truth is evident simply by noticing daily interaction with yourself and others. Perfectibility in the human race—eugenics—was tried and failed many times, arguably most notoriously during the Nazi regime in the mid-20th century. True perfection does not occur through purely human willpower and scientific advancement. Rather authentic perfection—or holiness is achieved through cooperating with the Divine Will.

Possessing all the catechetical knowledge in the world will not ensure that a person has the puzzle of life solved. A relationship with Jesus Christ is absolutely essential to fill that “God-shaped” hole in my soul/complete the puzzle of life. As a perfectionist, I struggle mightily with falling into the heresy of Pelagianism. St. Augustine, himself, battled the false teaching of the monk Pelagius. Heresies rise and fall. Pope Francis warned of the dangers of this heresy in his encyclical letter Gaudete Et Exsultate. He declared,

Those who yield to this pelagian or semi-pelagian mindset, even though they speak warmly of God’s grace, “ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style”.[46] When some of them tell the weak that all things can be accomplished with God’s grace, deep down they tend to give the idea that all things are possible by the human will, as if it were something pure, perfect, all-powerful, to which grace is then added. (no. 49).

Awill lacking humility cannot fix the human condition no matter one’s tenacity and intellectual prowess. As I mentioned before I struggle with relying on my willpower over cooperation with my Creator’s gift of grace He bestowed on me. After a frustrating situation at work, I expressed concerns to my manager, “I did everything right. I provided accurate information, willingness, to help, and empathy to customer situations. Normally, I am able to control/steer nearly all my customer interactions to a positive outcome. I wish I could have this influence for all situations.”

Listening intently to my concerns, my manager acknowledged my frustrations yet added this profoundly simple, but very applicable analogy—that of a jigsaw puzzle. “Imagine you are working on a 500 or 1000 piece puzzle and you completed everything perfectly. When you get to the end you discover there is a piece missing. No matter how perfectly you worked with that piece missing the puzzle is still incomplete. Some customer conversations are like that. You may do everything perfect on your end, but still a piece is missing to prevent your perfect result.”

Now I am not aware of my manager’s theological leanings. His analogy originally meant to be for a practical workplace example, after further reflection I learned that this example of a puzzle missing a piece applies to my faith life as well. Willing myself toward perfection and completion cannot happen because a piece of missing in the puzzle of my life—a God-shaped hole!

C.S. Lewis stated “We have a strange illusion that mere time cancels sin. But mere time does nothing either to the fact or to the guilt of a sin.” Humanity cannot evolve out of the original brokenness of human nature ushered in through the Fall of Adam and Eve. Time and time again my hubris leads to the danger relying solely on my will. However, God’s merciful gift of confession allows me to exercise my free will to cooperate with Divine grace to complete the puzzle of my life and overcome my inclinations for self-centeredness. True peace only happens when we have a relationship with God.


Trying to fill the God-sized hole in our hearts with things other than God is like trying to fill the Grand Canyon with marbles. —Peter Kreeft

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Daring Not Staring: Our Charge to Live Boldly

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Nelson Mandela declared, “Sometimes, I feel like one who is on the sidelines, who has missed life itself.” Do you ever feel like life is go going by without your being engaged with reality? Are you in a stupor or continual state of lethargy? Is it easier to sit on the sidelines and stare in judgment at the characters in your life that wronged you than it is to actively seek opportunities to change your life?

Do you worry if you answered yes to any of these questions—I myself often reflect on these issues and frequently I feel like a static character in the story of my life! Humans desire fulfillment in life. Yet, there is a tension between the ideal we strive for—embracing challenges with resolve— and the reality that life sometimes bogs us down and weariness set in.

C.S. Lewis purported, “Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.” As a perfectionist, an internal struggle exists within my heart and mind over action versus inaction in daily situations. Oftentimes, when I make a great mistake, whether it be at work or home, I freeze—I regulate myself to the sidelines of life. Failure can either sow fruit or decay. Your attitude toward adversity is key as to whether disappointments lead to opportunity to a continued cycle of idleness on the sideline.

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My Catholic faith strongly colors how I approach strife and difficulty in life. However, I continually need to be reminded that transformation occurs through daring to live authentically instead of simply staring, remaining still and being pessimistic when sins of others affect my life. In his general audience on Holy Wednesday, April 16, 2014 Pope Francis urged Catholics [and the entire world],

We expect that God, in his omnipotence, will defeat injustice, evil, sin and suffering with a triumphant divine victory. Instead, God shows us a humble victory that in human terms seems to be a failure. And we can say this: God wins in failure. Indeed, the Son of God on the Cross appears to be a defeated man. He suffers, He is betrayed, He is vilified, and finally dies. But Jesus allows evil to set upon Him, He takes it all upon Him in order to vanquish it. His Passion is not incidental; his death — that death — was ‘foretold.’ It is an unsettling mystery, but we know the secret of this mystery, of this extraordinary humility: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.’ [Emphasis mine]

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I came across a person who questioned the goodness of this life. Rejecting the notion that our earthly existence is a gift, she emphatically declared, “Eternal life is the gift, Earthly life is an insane asylum, and all the patients run free!” A bold claim—this lady was half-right. While the fullness of truth, joy, and beauty is founded in complete relationship with God in Heaven, goodness can still be discovered in the created order. The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 34 contains this truth,

The world, and man, attest that they contain within themselves neither their first principle nor their final end, but rather that they participate in Being itself, which alone is without origin or end. Thus, in different ways, man can come to know that there exists a reality which is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality ‘that everyone calls God’.

Along with the inherent goodness of creation, the Catholic Church clearly teaches the dignity of all life, “Every human life, from the moment of conception until death, is sacred because the human person has been willed for its own sake in the image and likeness of the living and holy God” (CCC 2319). I challenged that individual I encountered to seek the joy within this reality—even in the midst of apparent [and oftentimes real] suffering! Some people may desire to flee from suffering or difficulty.

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Rushing to the sidelines in the middle of the game-of-life is the easy option. Is it truly the best strategy in life? Maybe in the short-term. In the long-run, in the end-game, daring to engage in life—both the high and lows—as opposed to staring from the sidelines is the preferred method.

St. Cyprian of Carthage boldly proclaimed the value of mettle in face of trials, “This, in short, is the difference between us and others who know not God, that in misfortune they complain and murmur, while the adversity does not call us away from the truth of virtue and faith, but strengthens us by its suffering.” Put another way, the hockey legend Wayne Gretzsky succinctly said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

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Do not miss an opportunity to live life to the fullest. Seize the chance to put others before yourself. Be bold in picking up your cross and follow Christ’s command in Mark 12:31, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The joy found in selfless and bold living will be immeasurable. Follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit to better your life. I dare you!

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Thank you for sharing!