The Trouble with Most of Us 

I have been doing a lot of spiritual reading lately for groups I’m part of and I keep seeing the phrase “most of us.”

Usually, when someone uses the phrase “most of us” in spiritual reading it is not because they are about to give most of us a compliment.

“Most of us” are not holy like the saints were.

“Most of us” do not pray enough.

“Most of us” don’t understand the beauty of the Mass.

“Most of us” don’t take the hard road.

I live in the world just like you. I meet and interact with the very souls intended in the phrase “most of us.” However, I do not see the same phenomenon described by the spiritual authors. I often find that as much as I respect some of these authors and even benefit from their teaching I cannot share the attitude they take toward the nameless masses. Because I know for a fact that to God there are no nameless masses or generalized groups of ordinary people- God calls each of us by name. He knows every hair on our head. He loves us each profoundly, sincerely and uniquely as the work of His own Hands. When God looks at the world He doesn’t see trends or demographics, He does not gaze at “most of us” but into the heart and soul of each and every man. He knows us perfectly and loves us perfectly not in spite of our weaknesses but in the midst of them. And I am convinced that the revelation of His love for each of us will be infinite and without limit, all the more so if we have been seeking Him too.

When I think about my faith I do not think of most of us, the other masses who are not as good and may never be anything of consequence to earth (as if there was a correlation to heavenly glory). I tend to think of all of us and our universal call to be holy. I think of all of us in our searching for a purpose of life that I believe can only be found if you accept the invitation to know God, love God, and serve God as well as your neighbor.

I do not think that holiness is something that will or ought to elude most of us. I think it is something intended for all of us that requires nothing from us but our “yes” to the transformative love that God seeks to give us. We are called to seek, the success of our efforts to grow in holiness is a product of God’s abundant grace, either the graces needed to overcome our own natures or the grace to keep going when we don’t.

Perhaps most of us will be intimidated when we first start to think of this. Most of us will feel like running and hiding. Most of us will fail many times at loving God, self, and neighbor. Most of us will have moments of doubt and temptation, where we feel like quitting the whole endeavor…

But I believe each of us can become the person God calls us to be because He loves us, He will give us every grace we need in His perfect timing (and not a moment before!) but perhaps most especially because He gives us each other.

My walk with God received a unique twist around 2014, I had an interior conversion within my practicing of the Catholic faith and that twist was a burning desire not just to get to Heaven myself but to take absolutely everyone with me. Because I realized that as much as real love can frighten people at the outset by its demands of selflessness, sacrifice, and suffering,  to view love as sheer suffering and misery is to see only half the picture. While it is true that in love another’s suffering can become your own suffering, in love their joy also becomes your joy.

So not only will I be “happy” when I get to Heaven by the mercy of God (I use quotations because any word expressing happiness I know will be an inadequate  understatement) but when you get there and experience this “happiness” for yourself I will feel it as profoundly as I did my own because I love you and pray for you constantly. Each and every one of you.

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What is the Purpose of Life?

I came across this quote today from professed atheist Dan Baker which states, “Asking ‘if there is no God, what is the purpose of life?’ is like asking ‘if there is no master, whose slave will I be?’ If your purpose of life is to submit as a slave, then your meaning of life comes from flattering the ego of a person whom you should detest.”

And all I could think was if that if you’re going to be an atheist then you should at least be a good atheist. When I wrote an article in defense of traditional marriage in light of the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage I had a guy question some of my premises. (In fact here’s the shameless plug of the piece with comments included if you’re curious)

I don’t mind being challenged on my beliefs. Because before I believe in something I have to accept it as truth, and I believe that truth is eternal and will stand regardless of whether anyone agrees with it or not (myself included). So defending the truth doesn’t stress me out because unlike most modern “debates” I’m not constructing some relative narrative I’ve heard from my friends that changes with every capricious whim. Instead, I’m simply stating the pieces of truth that have been revealed to me through various ways as I’ve gone about living life.

But this guy’s argument is not a good defense of atheism or a good argument against Christianity. “If there is no God, what is the purpose of life?” is not comparable to “if there is no master, whose slave will I be?” This is a faulty premise. He draws his conclusion from it and it’s a faulty premise. This never seems to bother people, but it bothers me.

I don’t like the assumption he makes about God and the people who choose to worship Him. It’s full of pride, which is the true religion and driving force behind the new atheism. He’s looking at Christian morality from a distance and claiming that a defiance of God is freedom.  Freedom from the rules. A freedom he believes Christians would pursue if they were as “enlightened” as he is.

And yet I have to wonder, in his vast intellect  do you think he ever stopped to consider for a moment that he is acting precisely as most children act towards their parents? When I was little I would have preferred an all candy diet and staying up past eight-thirty. But my parents would have none of it. Does it make me the slave to their master? If you want to view it that way you certainly could, but could you truly present that picture as the truest interpretation of the events in question?

Because  if you view it through the eyes of humility then you might realize that my parents were wiser than I was. That they had read all the child development books (I was the oldest so they really did their homework) and knew I needed sleep, playtime, and good nutrition in order to experience childhood in full. Candy would have made me sick. Sleep deprivation would have made me cranky. They had my best interests at heart because they love me. They said no to me not because they are evil dictators who deserve to be defied, but because they knew I was just a kid who couldn’t see beyond my immediate needs and desires. I was living so thoroughly in the moment that I wanted what I wanted right when I wanted it and thought my will should be law. I felt that wanting something automatically justified me in getting that something. Mom and Dad saw the bigger picture, they wanted me to become a healthy, happy and well-adjusted adult. And I like to think I did, for the most part!

And parent-child is not a bad lens to view the relationship between God and man, that’s why He calls Himself our Father. We’re short-sighted and can’t see past our immediate gratifications and the pulls of the world. We want our will to reign supreme and sometimes we think we know so much better than our parents.  But the truth is God loves us, has our best interest at heart, and cares for us daily whether we thank Him or not. And to me the purpose of my life is not to mindlessly serve some vague, dictator of a deity. I serve the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. Yahweh, the great I Am, the God who is love Himself. And the notion that my God has any sort of ego is offensive and contrary to everything the Bible reveals about His nature. (His love is so selfless and complete He doesn’t have room for one)

No my purpose in life, and where I find my meaning, is learning to love my Father, myself, and others in the same selfless way that He loves me every moment of every day.

So I’m thinking that asking, “if there is no God, what is the purpose of life?” is instead rather like asking “if learning to love is not the purpose of life, then what is?”

And you can quote me on that.

The Cross

So I will admit that I am a very cranky person on the inside sometimes. I go through phases where my patience runs thin and I am sharp as a knife with all those I encounter, if not in speech then most certainly in thought. Most people who know me put me on the pedestal of being rather like Snow White because they are not subjected to my private internal life. In fact, there are only two people who are constantly subjected to my int.jpgsometimes porcupine interior, myself and God. And with that in mind, I find it absolutely astounding that God loves me. I believe it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t blow my mind a little bit most days. Because I love in a very human way in that my love is subject to being tested, whereas the love of God is constant in that it is and, when God took on the form of a man and was put to the test, remains eternal, sealed by a covenant, and by its nature unchangeable. God’s love doesn’t shift based on whether I am particularly loveable and at my best or particularly unloveable and at my absolute worst, and thinking about that really makes me want to be better, to have that capacity too.

And I know this will require no small amount of grace, because my nature is not predisposed to be kind or humble. I can remember when I was a little girl really admiring two women, my mother and the Blessed Virgin Mary, because they both had a sweetness and an unassuming ladylike quality about them that I recognized was not in me, but that I hoped to have because I loved them both and I too wanted to be a lady.

It’s a battle I still wage today because I certainly have my mother’s capacity to be sweet and innocently kind, but I also have the sharp wit, strong opinions, and limited patience with others that are perhaps more stereotypically Celtic (thanks Dad, lol). But above all, I’m strong willed. And it bothers me how even though I do have the capacity to love and to do good, and maybe even to be a lady, there are a few times on this spiritual walk where I don’t want to do the right thing. For example, choosing to love someone I don’t like. It is a true talent that my mother (and I imagine the Blessed Mary also) possesses, the ability to be gracious to all, patiently trusting that you should love each person because you only know a part of their story and have no right to dole out love as you see fit. It’s founded on the idea that true love is not at all based on worthiness, and I know that’s the truth because of the relationship I just described having with God.

Yet it is so hard to remember to do this, to look past my own vision of what the world should be and into the heavens, and to try to bring a piece of that kingdom back down to earth by authentically loving my neighbor. The enchanting mystery of this endeavor gets lost because it cloaks itself in the mundane and insignificant, Jbecause if you truly paid attention to your surroundings you would notice these opportunities present around you all the time. In traffic, at work, on the phone, in the grocery store, or even when you are just taking a walk. And it is so easy to be so distracted by the worldly idea that glory consists in great things, your enduring mark on the world, that it is easy to forget heavenly glory, the truth that sometimes the best crown you can wear is a crown of thorns. The scars that come from breaking your own heart and your own self will as you learn what it truly means to love.

And it is my ongoing frustrating efforts to do this for a few people in my life that inspired this post in the first place. Because I want to want to love them in the same way that God very generously loves me. But I’m mad at them for the way they treated me and the last thing that makes me feel is generous. Because if I sign on to love them, not only do I have to forgive them and treat them the same as I would people who are easier for me to love, I have to do so without the guarantee that they will change, that I will gain anything by it, or that it will be reciprocated in any way. To love for the sake of love, to love because I love God and it’s His command which, although difficult, is just. It is the tough road of perfection, not the superficial worldly kind that I find so incredibly cheesy, but the path that leads to perfect love and requires the sacrifice of supplanting my will with God’s.

Please just pray for me that I might have the grace not to turn back now.