The culture of corruption in the Church is something that we have been talking about for the past month in the SDYA. In light of these recent events, here are four things we can keep in mind:
1) Be Informed:
There are many great resources out there to help nourish our faith in general and get information on the crisis in particular. Since there are so many resources for Catholics, I will only select a handful. In the realm of newspapers, I tend to like the National Catholic Register and the UK Catholic Herald. Great podcasts include the Patrick Coffin Show and Pints with Aquinas hosted by Matt Fradd. I also really like First Things Magazine. All of these places give both a good overview of current events and thoughtful commentary.
2) “Hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you (2 Thessalonians 2: 15) . . .”
I’ve heard members of our group express concern over some of the things that Pope Francis and other clergy have said regarding Church Teaching on a whole range of issues, particularly regarding the nature of marriage, the death penalty, the selection of Bishops, and who can receive the Eucharist. These questions relate to what is outlined in both Scripture and Tradition. These teachings are unchangeable. The Pope’s job is to defend and clarify doctrine. There is always a need to respect the Pope’s Office and his person, but we should not be afraid to ask pertinent questions and offer a well-meaning correction when appropriate.
3) Get Detached:
This may seem incongruous, especially in light of my previous statements. But while it is good to be informed and correct those who are in error, it is also good to take a break from it all. About a year and a half ago, I listened to a talk given by a Byzantine Catholic priest about fasting. It really struck me because many in the Latin Rite of the Church do not fast, despite Jesus encouraging us to do so (Mark 9: 29). I started doing different types of fasting and I have seen some pretty amazing results in my life. Initially, it revolved around having smaller meals and giving up certain foods during the day. When the abuse crisis broke, I started to do things differently. I started giving up looking at websites like Facebook on certain days of the week or news websites on other days. This leads directly into my fourth suggestion.
4) Maintain Peace of Heart:
It can be easy to get obsessed about what is going on and it can actually hurt our relationship with God and other people if we do not strike a good balance. Being detached does not mean that we do not care about the current crisis. Rather, it means that we acknowledge what is going on and trust in God that His plans will be accomplished, no matter what.
In the end, I think that is the most important thing that we as young adults can do: maintaining peace of heart. Once we’ve mastered that peace of heart, all good things will flow from it to make ourselves and others holy. Maintaining that peace of heart will help us follow God faithfully without unnecessary intrusions. That faithfulness will not only change the Church, it will change our world. Amen.
This past month we talked about what it means to be a dynamic Catholic. We heard from our peers and our new parochial vicar about the four signs of a dynamic Catholic: prayer, study, generosity, and evangelization. We took in a lot of information, so below I hope you find these summaries, quick tips and resources helpful for becoming a more dynamic Catholic!
PrayerPrayer is probably the most important sign because prayer is what keeps us spiritually healthy, and “when we are spiritually healthy, nothing bothers us”! Dynamic Catholics across the board begin their day with prayer of some kind, this is the first step!
It’s important to have a prayer routine, a time and place set aside for daily prayer. If you’re new to prayer don’t fret! Start with just ten minutes a day. There are also plenty of ways to pray and lots of resources to get started.
FOCUS has plenty of great resources on prayer, here are a few:
Sister Bethany Madonna of the Sisters of Life Talks Prayer
Common Questions and Answers
How To Pray
Praying with scripture:
The USCCB will email you the daily readings, the Gospel is a great place to start praying lectio divina.
They also have a “how to” on lectio divina
Praying the rosary:
The USCCB has some info on the rosary
There are several places to listen to the rosary. The Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist have a beautiful recording with meditations at the beginning of each decade, you can find it in the iTunes store to purchase or stream.
Students at Steubenville created an app with a recording that reads verses about the mysteries read after each Hail Mary. You can find the app by searching “Scriptural Rosary” in the Apple app store.
StudyWe live in a world that insists there is no absolute truth, that truth is relative. People are desperate for answers and our culture refuses to give satisfying ones.
Having the fullness of the truth we have the joy of getting to learn and share it, but where to start?
The USCCB has tons of resources on big Catholic topics like mass and the sacraments and what we believe and teach.
THIS WEBSITE (SDYA.net) has some great resources too!
Of course, nothing beats reading your Bible or the writings of the Saints. Read the daily mass readings, or see if your favorite Saint has any writings, and if all else fails ask any of your friends at SDYA for recommendations on their favorite things to read and learn more about the faith!
Once you have something to read, make it a point to read five pages a day, just five! You can do it!
GenerosityGod is generous, and generosity is the heart of Christian life. We can be generous with our time, talent, and treasure and we have plenty of opportunities to do that.
SDYA does a monthly work of mercy, follow our Facebook and website for updates on our monthly work of mercy.
The Community of Saint 'Egidio prepares and passes out food to the homeless every Friday
You can sing in the choir
Serve or read at mass
Run for the core team (talk to any of us if you’re interested!)
Give a talk at a Thursday meeting (again, talk to us! We’d love to have you!)
Contribute to the blog (Email me at email@example.com)
You can give to this great parish at the Saint Dominic Faith Direct page
You can support a FOCUS missionary, supporting evangelization on college campuses worldwide
EvangelismEvangelization means investing in others in authentic friendship and loving that person and sharing the truth with them. Through Christian charity, prayer, and constructive dialogue we strive to win people over for Christ, then build them up and support them. Eventually we will send others out to evangelize as well. Evangelization sounds intimidating, but you can do it!
Dynamic Catholic has tons of resources!
St. Paul Street Evangelization reaches out to people on the street
Saint Dominic Church has an Evangelization Team, check it out!
FOCUS also has some great resources, here’s a video on sharing the Gospel!
Now go forth, be dynamic, and set the world on fire!
Core Team Communications Coordinator
“Thank God it’s Friday.” It’s a phrase that we’ve probably heard (or even said ourselves) numerous times. Instead of expressing sincere thankfulness or fostering a healthy mentality of rest, what we usually mean when we say this is: “thank God work is done.” We love to hate work. It this paradox that we face on a daily basis: we desire work, yet very often complain of it. We are unhappy when we can’t find work and yet when we have a job, we regularly express frustration about our daily grind. At times we might even imagine a “perfect” world where we wouldn’t have to work, yet somehow still reap all of the same benefits…a continuous summer vacation, if you will. But we have all experienced the feeling of restlessness when our “summer” lasts a little too long. We are naturally predisposed to work, even despite its day-to-day frustrations.
Why do we experience this contradiction? To answer this question, we must refer back to our origins, to the way God made us, and to the effects of the fall. In both creation accounts we see that even before the fall, we were created with the vocation to work. God settles Adam in the garden to “cultivate and care for it” (Gen 2:15) and gives Adam and Eve dominion over the earth, telling them to “subdue it” (Gen 1:28). Because we are His children, made in His image and likeness, we are made to participate and share in the activity of our Creator. Work was given to us as part of our mission; work is part of our nature and part of God’s plan for us.
Because work is a fundamental dimension of our existence, it was not exempt from the effects of the fall, when sin entered into every aspect of our human reality. The curse that accompanied Adam and Eve’s sin forever links work with “toil.” It is this toil that can characterize work as painful, stressful, exhausting, and fruitless etc.
Thankfully, despite original sin our work can still bring us closer to God and sanctify us. The most fundamental way we can make that happen is to unite the sufferings experienced in work with Christ crucified. In this sense, the curse becomes a kind of gift, a means to our sanctification. We have been given the opportunity to share not only in the activity of our creator but also to unite our sweat and toil to share in Christ’s redemptive work! When we unite our toils with Christ our work has new meaning. Offered to Him in love, every act no matter how small can be transformative. In surrender, our work can be transformed as part of God’s saving mission and used to sanctify others as well as ourselves. Our work can help us grow in virtue and closeness with God, reach others, and contribute to the common good.
As always, Christ offers us the perfect example. Of all possible occupations, He freely chose to labor as a carpenter for the 30 years of His hidden life. Even during His public ministry, He characterized His mission as work when He said “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work” (Jn 5:17). He called His disciples while they were at work (Mt 4 18-22, Lk 5: 1-11, Mk 1:16-20) and sent them to be fishers of men and laborers in the field. Jesus, the model worker, and the apostles after Him, show us that work is fundamental to who the Father created us to be.
The next time we hear the phrase “Thank God it’s Friday” may we be reminded of the intrinsic dignity of our work as part of God’s plan for humanity, pray for those who are without work, and ask God to help us unite ourselves ever more fully with His Son through any sufferings we may experience. Through His grace may we grow in virtue and share God’s love with others through even the smallest acts of our work.
Personal reflection questions:
St. Joseph, Patron of workers, pray for us.
In Jesus and Mary,
“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these…” – Mark, 12:30-32
About 2,300 years ago, a geometrician and logician named Euclid wrote one of the most influential works in the history of mathematics that still guides the study of this subject to the present day. One of his simplest yet most significant deductions became what we refer to today as the “Transitive Property”. The Property states: if a = b, and b=c, then a=c. Although I learned this theory a decade ago, I still remember it today. It is the easiest geometrical property to remember because it is logical. It makes sense. Many things in this world are complex, sometimes too complex for man to fully comprehend. Fortunately, we faithful can turn to God and the Church for answers to the greatest mysteries of the universe. In the same way that the Catholic faith provides the higher Truth, math and logic provide worldly truth – empirical facts. We can see, understand, and prove these concepts and theorems beyond dispute.
You may be asking, what do Euclid and early math have to do with the Church and loving your neighbor? The Euclidean relation should inform our view of immigration, an issue in the United States currently making many headlines. In defending its hardline stance on border security, the Trump Administration has tapped into the underlying fear of “the other” which has plagued the U.S. since its inception. This “other” could mean a person of a different ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or worldview. Today, that “other” comes across our southern border daily in the form of undocumented immigrants and refugees from across Latin America. We tend to look for scapegoats during periods of serious national duress, and today, many Americans point fingers at the immigrants seeking our help in the first place. These new people are different from many of us. They speak another language, hold different cultural values, and practice a faith only some of us share. Most work for less, yet also work industriously, in jobs not seen as “desirable.” We seem to understand these aspects of their lives.
We do not understand the level of gang violence, political turmoil, and poverty that causes thousands of our southern neighbors to leave their homes. Unless they try to find a better future here, they risk their lives at home. We do not understand that while the United States is plentiful in resources and abundant in opportunity, most of our neighbors do not want to come here. Who wants to leave the land of their birth? Who wants to give up the familiar – family, language, and/or culture? The people arriving at our borders come with nothing but the hope that they and their family will survive the next day unharmed and together. Now, with the Trump Administration’s hardline immigration policies, parents coming here do not even have the hope that they may ever see their children again. They do not know why they face prejudice and disdain in the U.S., and they oftentimes do not know anyone outside of immediate family here. They do not understand why a country where 13% of the population speaks Spanish and 24% of the population practices Roman Catholicism would be so opposed to their arrival. Although more than half of the U.S. Catholic Church is comprised of Latin Americans, members of our own community fall prey to anti-immigrant prejudice. In the United States, Latin Americans make up 52%-54% of the Catholic Church, as we learned in a recent discussion led by Bishop Mario Dorsonville. The other 46%-48% of the Church is white, and around 60% have historically and consistently been conservative (based on political affiliation and presidential election voting statistics). It follows then that 25% of the American Catholic Church tend to support more stringent immigration policies, such as the current “zero-tolerance policy” practised by the Trump Administration. But these statistics fail to appropriately characterize the very human issue we face. Immigrants are a people of God - made in his image and likeness. To love them is one of the two most important commandments, according to Jesus (Mark 12:31).
To be sure, there are many problems surrounding immigration. But the issue of undocumented immigration is above all about people, not “illegals” or “criminals” or “rapists”. Although many opinions are consistently voiced on this issue, we must recognize certain fundamentally Catholic teachings. In today’s polarized society, we frequently find ourselves in a divided Church. Unfortunately, the topic of immigration has not escaped the attempted moral
rationalization of un-Christian social policies. According to a recent Reuters poll, 28% of Americans support hard-line immigration policies such as the separation of families. But regardless of our political leanings, Christ tells us to know God and to love him fully, representing the other greatest commandment (Mark 12:29-31). In a similar way, our faith must tie us all together. We must recognize that the solution cannot involve the politicization of a human issue. A truly Christian solution does not include the separation of families, or the turning away of the needy or the neighbor. Jesus Christ and His Church call us to something loftier. We cannot let politics be a scapegoat for apathy or prejudice towards our neediest neighbors.
The answers Jesus gives to the Scribe (Mark 12:28-34) are black and white. They do not leave room for interpretation, nor was Jesus debated or questioned further. Each person proclaiming to be a faithful and practicing Catholic has a personal duty to Christ and his Church to love and revere God, and to love and embrace his or her neighbor. There is no question that each person on Earth, whether we consider them “good” or “bad”, was made in the likeness of God. So now we may return to that basic Euclidean theory established 2,300 years ago: if a = b, and b=c, then a=c. If we are to love the Lord, and if the Lord is found in all of us, then we must love our immigrant neighbors, too.
Core Team Evangelization Coordinator
Is the term “young adult” a contradictory concept? Think about it. Youth is time-marked by energy, desire, exuberance, physical strength and attractiveness, inquisitiveness and exploration, change, creativity, idealism . . . and dependence. Adulthood is a time marked by responsibility, maturity, work, commitment, settling into one’s vocation, stable relationships, realism . . . and independence (as well as interdependence). Despite this, the concept of a “young adult” is not a contradiction. Rather, it’s a transitional phase that involves a mixture of all these elements of youth and adulthood. It’s a unique time with its own unique blessings and challenges.
And the transition doesn’t happen overnight, of course. It also doesn’t happen at the same time or speed for everyone. Hence the confusion and debates over what age range young adulthood includes.
Some look upon this period positively. In our culture, we tend to even idolize youth and think that life only has value insofar as we are young. Others look upon it more negatively. They see it as a time of immaturity and irresponsibility.
How does Scripture see this period though? Scripture tells us that, like any stage in life, young adulthood can be lived in a diligent way, a careless way . . . or in a mediocre way. It also recognizes this stage of life as an incredible opportunity. There are many examples of young adults in the Bible living out their faith maturely and even heroically.
God calls Jeremiah as a young adult (Jer 1:4-8). St. Paul commands Timothy—a young adult—to allow no one to despise his youth (1 Tim 4:12). Daniel and his companions valiantly keep the torah of God in a foreign land and are even willing to die for it (Dan 1). Joseph in the Old Testament remains chaste when tempted (Get 39:6-18) and admirably rations and dispenses grain to famine-struck peoples (Gen 41). Young David relies on the strength of God to overcome Goliath (1 Sam 17). Ruth as a young adult abandons everything she is familiar with in order to worship the true God and join the people of Israel (Ruth 1:15-18). Judith and Esther save their people by courage, prayer, and fasting. Mary, the mother of Jesus, surrenders herself completely to the plan of God as a young adult (Lk 1:38), and sings His praises (Lk 1:46-55).
Scripture also certainly highlights potential pitfalls for young adults. Proverbs warns the youth of falling in with men of violence and prostitutes (Pr 7:6-27). The book of Wisdom and the Psalms praise virtuous youth over unfaithful or lax old men (Wis 4:7-19). At the same time, the book of Kings warns youth of throwing off the wisdom of the elders because of peer pressure (1 Kgs 12:6-11). St. Paul also exhorts Titus to treat older men and women like fathers and mothers (Titus 2:1-6). Proverbs exhorts the youth to learn from their parents (Pr 1:8; 4; 6:20; 15:20;20:20; 23:22; 29:15; 30:11; 31:1). Sirach encourages us to show forbearance toward a parent lacking in understanding (Pr 3:1-16). It’s easy for young adults to fail in all these ways.
And we see these failures of young adults indeed. The rich young man that Jesus invited to follow Him was too attached to his possessions to give them up and follow Christ (Mk 10:22). James and John, the “sons of thunder” (Mk 3:17) wanted to call down fire from heaven on those who rejected Christ (Lk 9:51-56). David fell into adultery as a young adult (2 Sam 11). Many of the youth of various nations in the Old Testament found pleasure in fighting, war, and vying for power. Young adults fall into evil ways because of peer pressure and following the wrong crowd.
We could cite many examples. The point is that Scripture sheds the light of meaning on our own young adulthood. Scripture highlights the unique stage of life with its mixture of elements of youth and adulthood. The Bible highlights this stage as one with its own unique opportunities and challenges. There are many examples of virtue, but the common pitfalls are also abundantly clear. Examples of both abound.
Above all, Scripture points us to Christ who sanctified young adulthood through His own time as a young adult. Part of His time as a young adult was spent hidden in faithful work. Part of it involved His public ministry with its abundant fruitfulness. Part of it involved Jesus laying down His life for the world . . . and rising again. It is above all by looking to Jesus Himself, to Mary, and to the saints who lived young adulthood well, that we learn what it truly means to be a young adult. May He help us to live out our young adulthood in the best possible way, glorifying God, supporting each other in the faith, learning and growing, and serving others in generosity. Indeed, in young adulthood, God is forming us into the disciples He wants us to become.
-Fr. Hyacinth Marie Cordell, OP
Chaplain for St. Dominic’s Young Adults
Over the course of our April meetings, SDYA has learned about different kinds of love. Andrew reviewed philia, the abiding love between friends. Simon covered eros, the deeply passionate, sometimes physical, romantic love. Margaret discussed agape, the Christ-like, sacrificial love demanded by Christian discipleship. A common theme ran through each talk: healthy love, flowing from God’s infinite, life-giving love, yields abundant forms of expression. Yet in our fallen world, afflicted by sin, persons too frequently distort love and intimacy into tools for manipulating, abusing, and dominating others.
In the United States, April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Sadly, the most recent statistics regarding sexual misconduct in the U.S. demonstrate a need for continued education, awareness, and discussion towards a solution for this alarming problem. One in five women, and one in seventy-one men, will experience an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. In eighty percent of reported cases of rape, the survivor knew the perpetrator personally. Sixty-three percent of sexual assaults are not reported to law enforcement or other authorities. Of the reported cases, most studies have found that less than ten percent of these reports are false.
Higher education and secular institutions respond to these startling statistics in a variety of ways. At The Catholic University of America, events such as Denim Day and Take Back the Night educate the campus community about sexual assault statistics, in addition to giving sexual assault survivors an opportunity to share their stories and receive prayerful support. A majority of the universities and a couple of non-profit organizations in the DC-metro area provide group therapy services for survivors of unwanted sexual experiences. Washington Hospital Center is the only hospital in the DC-metro area staffed with forensically-trained nurses who specialize in caring for survivors of sexual assault. This is but a sampling of support services and education efforts that strive to meet survivors’ needs and promote a safer, more respectful culture where assault is unthinkable.
While post-assault resources are absolutely necessary, efforts towards assault prevention and cultural transformation hold equal importance. By his life and teachings, Jesus set a model for Christians to follow in all their moral behavior, including their sexual behavior. In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). Jesus further instructs, “You have heard it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:27). Jesus calls for an interior and exterior transformation of his followers’ behavior: Christian discipleship involves not only outwardly good actions, but an inward disposition to act out of love for God, neighbor, and self. This authentic love, called for by Christ, demands that men and women treat each other as equals, made in God’s image and likeness, and never as objects for pleasure or subjugation. In keeping our minds and bodies pure, especially in our dating practices, Christians can add a significant contribution towards transforming our hyper-sexualized, Western culture into a dignified culture of authentic love and respect.
We Christians, called by Jesus Christ to be “salt of the earth” and “light of the world” (Mt 5:13-14), have a responsibility to witness to Jesus’s love, mercy, and honesty by our behavior, including our behavior towards romantic partners. Ladies, clearly communicate your boundaries to men. Gentlemen, respect a woman unquestioningly if she says no. Ladies, do not accept a man’s offer for a date out of pity, or lead him on unfairly. Gentlemen, plainly state your expectations to ladies. Ladies, trust your instincts and leave a situation immediately if you feel uncomfortable. Gentlemen, stand against disrespectful, objectifying behaviors or attitudes that you may observe towards women. Gentlemen and ladies, be patient and kind towards those who may confide in you about their unwanted sexual experiences. We have a responsibility, by our thoughts, words, and deeds, to build up a Christocentric culture that practices compassion towards survivors and shows mercy towards accused perpetrators.
To survivors of any unwanted sexual experience: it was not your fault. You are a beautiful child of a loving Father who sees you, knows you, and cares for you deeply. You are not defined by this great injustice that happened to you. There is healing in the Church’s sacraments and in therapy. Confidential support is available. Please get the help you need. You are so loved.
To those accused of any sexual misconduct: You do not have to be defined by your behavior. You are a beautiful child of a loving Father who sees you, knows you, and cares for you deeply. There is redemption in the sacrament of confession and healing in therapy. Please get the help you need. Nothing you may have done revokes God’s care for you. You are so loved.
“The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’” Luke 2:33-35
What kind of reaction was Mary supposed to have, being told that the fate of her son was to be a sign that would be opposed? That he was destined for the rising and falling of many, and that a sword would pierce her own soul? A prophecy so dark and foreboding would strike fear into the hearts of most, but not Our Lady, she is faithful.
Instead of being afraid or worried, Mary took these portents and pondered them in her heart. She remained faithful even as she witnessed her son suffer the most excruciating death the Romans could conceive of, and even as the sword of this great sorrow pierced her heart.
Since it is Good Friday, it is important to contemplate our place in the Passion. If we don’t, it will be difficult not to treat this Friday like any other. But the fact of the matter is that today is unlike any other day based on Christ’s own words to us.
One of the last things Christ says from the cross is his entrustment of us to his mother,
“Woman behold your son.” Then to the disciple, “Behold your mother” (John 19:27).
As our mother, Mary wants nothing more than for us to know her son and his great love for us, especially as it is revealed on the cross. What better place is there to look upon the Savior and contemplate the mystery of his love than from the foot of the cross, alongside his own mother?
As Saint John Paul II explains:
"The divine Redeemer wished to penetrate the soul of every sufferer through the heart of His holy Mother, the first and the most exalted of all the redeemed. As though by a continuation of that motherhood which by the power of the Holy Spirit had given him life, the dying Christ conferred upon the ever Virgin Mary a new kind of motherhood- spiritual and universal- toward all human beings, so that every individual, during the pilgrimage of faith, might remain, together with her, closely united to him unto the cross, and so that every form of suffering, given fresh life by the power of this cross, should become no longer the weakness of man but the power of God." (Salvific Doloris, 26)
As the mother of all, Mary is an image of the whole Church. At the Annunciation she opened herself completely to God - receiving the Holy Spirit as her spouse, and Christ into her womb. As a Church we are called to imitate Mary by opening ourselves up completely to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and to receive Christ through Eucharist into our hearts. There can be no question that the cross is the greatest expression of love and mercy ever. As such, we must actively receive that love and that mercy into our hearts. As you pray today, consider kneeling at the foot of the cross, next to Our Lady and meditate upon the paschal mystery with her. Ask her to teach you how to fully give of yourself as she did, and how to fully receive the great gift of the divine mercy of her son, by the cross. Mary’s Immaculate Heart never closes itself to those who believe and petition. If you ask her, she will answer.
Core Team- Communications Coordinator
With the beginning of Lent comes 40 days of waiting. And depending on what you are sacrificing, it may seem more like a lifetime. But in reality, 40 days fly by faster than Peter and John racing to Jesus’ tomb on Easter Sunday. For those who wait, take heart! Lent can be an opportunity to do so much more. Here is a strategy from a fellow sinner, so you can take full advantage of this Lenten season to pursue serious personal and spiritual growth.
As you may have guessed from the title of this blog, the strategy is reflection. I want to briefly explore self-reflection in Lent, proper ordering of self-reflection, and finally, reflection on beauty through art, poetry, nature, and people.
Why is reflection needed during Lent?
Since everyone has access to dictionaries, I will not offer Webster’s definition of self-reflection. Instead, I will offer my own definition of reflection for your consideration. For me, reflection is the careful consideration of one’s actions and reactions, to discern their good, and to be grateful for them. Or, by discerning the bad in those actions, resolve to never commit those errors again.
Living one’s life with no regular reflection and evaluation of one’s actions offers very little opportunity for growth. If we allow ourselves regular opportunities to evaluate our life, we are afforded many opportunities to commit to personal development.
There is much to be said for one such method, called the Daily Examen of Ignatian Spirituality. The Daily Examen is a consistent system used to reflect on one’s day and determine to do better the next day. Perhaps you do not have time for personal reflection at night, or you forget to reflect? I find it helpful to set a point in my daily commute to take out my headphones and just sit in silence for a moment of prayer, considering the day so far.
What is the proper ordering of reflection?
There is a story from Greek myth about Narcissus. Narcissus was a son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. A hunter from Thespiae, he was renowned for his stunning physical beauty. One day, he was lured by Nemesis to a body of water, and in gazing at his own reflection in the water, fell in love with himself. He remained there, unable to leave this perceived beauty, and lost his will to live.
While I am sure there are few reading this blog who would be so lost in their own perceived beauty, the legend offers some wisdom about how we should use reflection in our life. More often than not, when we are reflecting upon ourselves, we are disheartened with the sin we might see. In gazing at our reflection and seeing our many sins of omission and commission, we are in the same danger as Narcissus of losing our will to fight. In short, we may be easily discouraged when confronting our seemingly countless flaws in our human condition.
However, it is important to always see God in our reflections, as we are made in His image and likeness. To appreciate that good, it is important to see our good - not as our own accomplishment, but as a gift from God. In seeing the stains of sin, it is important to still see God - the loving father who is waiting with open arms to welcome back his prodigal child.
A Reflection on Beauty
Narcissus may have reflected on beauty and became lost in it, but it is our responsibility to appreciate and consider how beauty relates to its Creator. Fortunately during Lent, we have ample opportunity to reflect on beauty, since many of us will have more time on our hands after cutting out harmful or unnecessary habits. What better way to use this extra time than to take inspiration from God’s beauty in creation?
We all find beauty in different ways and locations, but here are a few places that I have found beauty that quickly link me to God.
In Art. One of my favorites is a musical masterpiece by Victor Bregeda called Sacrament:
“Twelve Barques surround a table on the water with broken bread and wine. There are spattering’s of blood from those who shared in this Communion. A ladder leads up to the table, representing a difficult climb to our heavenly feast. The wick of the candle almost seems humanoid, and one can see the sacrifice that is the wick, giving life to the Flame, the Light, shining bright and taking prominence in the image.”
In Poetry. The Anima Christi by Saint Ignatius:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Permit me not to be separated from you.
From the wicked foe, defend me.
At the hour of my death, call me
and bid me come to you
That with your saints I may praise you
For ever and ever. Amen.
In Nature. With more time during this Lenten season, please appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds you. See the spectrum of blues in the sky on a stormy day. See the reds and the pinks and oranges in sunrises and sunsets. See the stars …. maybe not in DC, but somewhere. But look up and see what speaks to you of God’s magnificence!!!
In People. Reflect on the beauty of creation and realize that you play a part in it. When others see you, their eyes may be drawn towards God - towards beauty. Behave accordingly. See beauty in others, see Christ in others, and treat them accordingly.
Thomas Paine wrote in The [American] Crisis, “I love the man who can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.”
Grow brave in reflection, and grow closer to God this Lent.
Age Quod Agis,
Core Team- Liturgical Coordinator
The March for Life weekend is kind of like one big Catholic family reunion, when everyone flies to Washington and your old friends meet your new friends, and we all march together in solidarity for the rights of those who cannot speak up for themselves. It’s a fun, exhausting, weekend, and we’re marching for something important. The weekend was thought provoking in many ways, and the end of it we may be left wondering, what now? What will we do the rest of the year to keep speaking up for the rights of the unborn, and the dignity of every human life?
The coincidence of the March for Life and the Women’s March for the second year in a row calls our attention to the great divide in our culture concerning human dignity and what it means to honor that in each human being. Without disregarding the positive goals of the Women’s March (like fighting sexual assault), we must acknowledge that it is an explicitly and unapologetically pro-abortion movement. And this is the perfect example of the contradictory statements our culture likes to make, the kind that support the rights of many to live freely and pursue happiness, while simultaneously denying millions the right to even be born.
As Catholics, we know that each human being was created in the image and likeness of God in every way. Being made in the image of love itself, we were made to love and be loved, in a deeply, intimately trinitarian way. But this is not new information to us, this is the foundation of everything we believe. It’s not a secret either, in fact we make it a point to share this truth with others, we call it evangelization. But members of our society are still so completely unaware of their inherent value, of the great love the Father has for them, that we are called to fight to remind our society of this basic fact.
But how do we do this? The Truth is so obvious, and the logic behind the pro-abortion movement is inherently flawed; but so many people, men and women, subscribe to the belief that abortion is a human right, rather than a violation of the most basic human right to life. To say it is frustrating is an understatement.
Being young and devoutly Catholic surprises many people, maybe we have Hollywood to thank for that. But being young, Catholic, and uncompromisingly pro-life draws more surprise, even hostility, from others. And maybe that’s because the pro-abortion side has done too good a job of selling the idea that pro-life, means anti-woman. And so often we find ourselves explaining that pro-life does not mean anti-woman. In fact, being pro-life means supporting mothers and their children, so no one is abandoned. So no woman feels so trapped and unsupported that she feels her only option is an abortion, because that’s not a choice, that’s a last resort. It’s panic and fear, and no woman deserves that. But we find ourselves trying to explain this reality, and explain the desolation of a culture that separates love, sex, and procreation, and explain the horrific reality of our throw-away culture over and over again.
We’ve been fighting this fight since 1973 when Roe V Wade was decided. We’ve been fighting this since 1965 when married couples in the US were no longer restricted from using contraception under the right to privacy. We have been fighting for the right to life and the respect of every human for two-thousand years, and frankly, it’s exhausting.
So how do we maintain the energy to keep sharing the gospel, to keep telling angry people that they are loved, and to keep fighting for the rights of children to be born?
The first and most obvious answer is prayer. Without a solid prayer life, we can’t really do anything. We can try, but take it from me, evangelization, being Catholic in a secular world, and daily life all become infinitely more manageable when you pray. Take a look at these prayer resources for a place to get started, or to keep growing.
Second, we all need support. If you’re here then you must be involved in Saint Dominic Young Adults to some degree, and that means you already have a loving source of support. We can support each other in friendship and in prayer. And don’t forget, the Core Team is always praying for you. If you have a specific intention, you can share it with us by writing it in the prayer book available at our weekly meetings, or share them with us here.
We can also find support from our brothers and sisters in Heaven. The mystical body of Christ is possibly one of the greatest sources of support available to us in this life. The lives of the Saints give us holy examples to follow, and they support us in their prayers. Saint Gianna Beretta is the patron Saint of unborn children, and Saint Therese of Lisieux is the patron Saint of missionaries. These women and the whole mystical body are ecstatic to pray for us and the pro life movement.
We’ll hear more about Saint Therese in March, but it is worth mentioning here, that her little way is an excellent approach to the exhausting task of sharing the pro-life message. If we can simply be kind, and do every little thing with great love and humility, then we can forge relationships and trust with those who may otherwise brush us off as judgmental. Showing genuine love to those we speak to, and the women we serve in our pro-life ministries is one of the most effective ways to share the Truth of the Gospel and human dignity. It may take a little longer, but it allows us to make a difference by letting others know that they are loved, and make a lasting impact.
Finally, just because the March for Life is over doesn’t mean we should stop participating in ministries and other forms of pro-life activism. We have great support from our friends on Earth and in Heaven and there are plenty of ways to stay involved in the movement. Saint Dominic Church has a few ways to get involved, including P24. If you use Amazon for online shopping, you can use Amazon Smile and have 0.5% of eligible purchases support a charity of your choice. I support Save the Storks, but you can can support National Right to Life, or any other pro-life organization on Amazon Smile. And as always, pray for the movement, the mothers and would be mothers, all those involved in abortions, and the little souls who never got to be born.
With the March behind us, I hope we can all look forward together and work for a world that respects all life.
Core Team- Communications Coordinator
Saint Dominic Young Adults
This is a peer run blog for the Saint Dominic Young Adults in Washington, D.C.