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In the wake of the publication of Pope Francis’ most recent encyclical letter Fratelli Tutti, there was a great deal of negative commentary regarding the pope’s attitude toward capitalism and private property. Many readers interpreted Francis to mean that the capitalist system is, in itself, exploitative and that the holding of private property is morally problematic. Like most who write in a prophetic mode, Pope Francis is indeed given to strong and challenging language, and therefore, it is easy enough to understand how he excites opposition. But it is most important to read what he says with care and to interpret it within the context of the long tradition of Catholic social teaching.
First, in regard to capitalism, or what the Church prefers to call the “market economy,” the Pope has this to say: “Business activity is essentially ‘a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving our world’” (Fratelli Tutti, 123). He thereby distances himself from any ideology that would simply demonize capitalism, and clearly affirms that a morally praiseworthy economic arrangement is one that not only distributes wealth but creates it through entrepreneurship. Moreover, he argues, a certain selfinterest, including the taking of profit, is not repugnant to the moral purpose of economic activity: “In God’s plan, each individual is called to promote his or her own development, and this includes finding the best economic and technological means of multiplying goods and increasing wealth” (123). In making these observations, Francis stands firmly in the tradition of St. John Paul II, who saw the market economy as an arena for the exercise of human creativity, ingenuity, and courage, and who endeavored to draw ever more people into its dynamism. He also reiterates the teaching of the founder of the modern Catholic social tradition, the great Leo XIII, who, in Rerum Novarum, strenuously defended private property and, using a number of arguments, repudiated socialist economic arrangements. So I hope we can put to rest the silly canard that Pope Francis is an enemy of capitalism and a cheerleader for global socialism.
Now, without gainsaying any of this, we must, at the same time, point out that, like all of his papal predecessors in the social teaching tradition, without exception, Francis also recommends limits, both legal and moral, to the market economy. And in this context, he insists upon what classical Catholic theology refers to as the “universal destination of goods.” Here is how Francis states the idea in Fratelli Tutti: “The right to private property is always accompanied by the primary and prior principle of the subordination of all private property to the universal destination of the earth’s goods, and thus the right of all to their use” (123). In making the distinction between ownership and use, Pope Francis is hearkening back to St. Thomas Aquinas, who made the relevant distinction in question 66 of the secunda secundae of the Summa theologiae. For a variety of reasons, St. Thomas argues, people have the right to “procure and dispense” the goods of the world and hence to hold them as “property.” But in regard to the use of what they legitimately own, they must always keep the general welfare first in mind: “In this respect man ought to possess external things, not as his own, but as common, so that, to wit, he is ready to communicate them to others in their need.”
Now, in regard to this distinction, Thomas himself was the inheritor of an older tradition, stretching back to the Church Fathers. Pope Francis quotes St. John Chrysostom as follows: “Not to share our wealth with the poor is to rob them and take away their livelihood. The riches we possess are not our own, but theirs as well.” And he cites St. Gregory the Great in the same vein: “When we provide the needy with their basic needs, we are giving them what belongs to them, not to us.” The simplest way to grasp the distinction between ownership and use is to imagine the scenario of a starving man coming to the door of your house late at night and asking for sustenance. Though you are in your own home, which you legitimately own, and behind a door that you have understandably locked against intruders, you would nevertheless be morally obligated to give away some of your property to the beggar in such desperate need. In short, private property is a right, but not an “inviolable” right—if by that we mean without qualification or conditions—and saying so is not tantamount to advocating socialism.
What we might characterize as something of a novelty in Pope Francis’ encyclical is the application of this distinction to the relations between nations and not simply individuals. A nation-state indeed has a right to its own wealth, garnered through the energy and creativity of its people, and it may legitimately maintain and defend its borders; however, these prerogatives are not morally absolute. In Francis’ words, “We can then say that each country also belongs to the foreigner, inasmuch as a territory’s goods must not be denied to a needy person coming from elsewhere” (124). This is not “globalism” or a denial of national integrity; it is simply Thomas Aquinas’ distinction between ownership and use, extrapolated to the international level.
Once more, lest we see Pope Francis’ teaching here as egregious, I would like to give the last word to Leo XIII, ardent defender of private property and equally ardent opponent of socialism: “When what necessity demands has been supplied, and one’s standing fairly taken thought for, it becomes a duty to give to the indigent out of what remains over” (Rerum Novarum, 22).'
Feeling lonely can be detrimental. Here’s 5 ways to overcome loneliness.
The Covid19 Pandemic that surged throughout 2020 took everyone out of their comfort zone—rich or poor, young or old, healthy or non-healthy, well-educated or less-educated from every race, culture and religion. The pandemic made people feel isolated—from the outside world, from their loved ones, from their kids, from their spouses, from their houses of worship, from their priests, pastors and rabbis, from their counselors and therapists, from their friends and co-workers, from their parents and grandparents and from building human connections. The pandemic has increased the feeling of loneliness in many people, leading some to desperate measures.
Feeling lonely creates a void in our hearts; we long to find someone to help us, to hug us, to care for us and pay attention to us. No one wants to feel lonely! But people can feel lonely even when in a relationship or among friends. Loneliness can come at any moment in our lives and at any age.
Loneliness can be triggered by a major event like a break-up or divorce and by lesser events like feeling overwhelmed or feeling out of place. Thinking of a particular event or tragedy can also trigger feelings of loneliness. But with every struggle, God can provide hope, comfort, and strength to anyone who seeks him.
Overcoming loneliness is not easy. It is a process that requires constant practice. The best way I have found to overcome loneliness is to place my trust in God. But we know that grace builds on nature and so we must also seek out the many practical strategies that also can help.
Here are five positive steps I believe can help you cope with and overcome loneliness.
1.Ask for help when feeling lonely and feeling overwhelmed! Reach out to people who are reliable and trustworthy.
2.Identify and engage in activities that bring you joy, that make you smile and keep you positive mentally, emotionally, and physically.
3.Fill your soul with spirituality—read the Bible, enroll in a Bible study or social weekly fellowship, pray privately or in groups and with family, pray online or on the phone.
4.Practice almsgiving by giving to a cause dear to your heart. Make a positive difference in other people’s lives by volunteering your time and talents. Giving yourself to others will lessen your feelings of loneliness.
5.Distance yourself from negative social media platforms and negative followers. Create a positive public forum to promote healthy spiritual conversations. See a Pastor or Counselor if your loneliness persists despite your efforts to deal with it.
Try these steps to deal with your loneliness. Taking action will almost always result in a better mood. But remember that in challenging and uncertain times, trust in God is our best strategy.'
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In connection with an academic project of mine, I’ve recently been poring over the book of Exodus and numerous commentaries on it. The second most famous book of the Old Testament is concerned primarily with the manner in which God shapes His people, so that they might become a radiant beacon, a city set on a hill. On the biblical reading, Israel is indeed chosen, but it is never chosen for its own sake, but rather for all the nations of the world.
I would say that this formation takes place in three principal stages: first, God teaches Israel to trust in His power; secondly, He gives Israel a moral law; and thirdly, He instructs his people in holiness through right praise. The lesson in trust happens, of course, through God’s great act of liberation. Utterly powerless slaves find freedom, not by relying on their own resources, but rather upon the gracious intervention of God. The moral instruction takes place through the Ten Commandments and their attendant legislation. Finally, the formation in holiness happens through a submission to an elaborate set of liturgical and ceremonial laws. It is this last move that perhaps strikes us today as most peculiar, but that has, I will argue, particular resonance in our strange COVID period.
That education in religion involves moral instruction probably seems self-evident to most of us. And this is because we are, willy-nilly, Kantians. In the eighteenth century, the philosopher Immanuel Kant contended that all of religion is reducible to ethics. What the religious thing is finally all about, Kant argued, is making us more just, loving, kind, and compassionate. In contemporary language, Kantianism in religion sounds like this: “As long as you’re a good person, it doesn’t really matter what you believe or how you worship.”
Now, there is no question that the book of Exodus and the Bible in general agree that morality is essential to the proper formation of the people of God. Those who would seek to follow the Lord, who is justice and love, must be conformed to justice and love. And this is precisely why we find, in the great Sinai covenant, injunctions not to steal, not to commit adultery, not to covet, not to kill, etc. So far, so Kantian.
But what probably surprises most contemporary readers of the book of Exodus is that, immediately following the laying out of the moral commandments, the author spends practically the rest of the text, chapters 25 through 40, delineating the liturgical prescriptions that the people are to follow. So for example, we find a lengthy section on the construction of the ark of the covenant: “They shall make an ark of acacia wood; it shall be two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside you shall overlay it.” And as an ornament on the top of the ark, “You shall make two cherubim of gold. . . . Make one cherub at the one end, and one cherub at the other. . . . The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat.” Next, we find instructions regarding the elaborate furnishings inside of the tabernacle, including a lampstand, a table for the so-called “bread of the presence,” pillars and various hangings. Finally, an enormous amount of space is given over to the description of the vestments to be worn by the priests of Israel. Here is just a sampling: “These are the vestments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a checkered tunic, a turban, and a sash. When they make these sacred vestments. . . . They shall use gold, blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and fine linen.”
No indication whatsoever is given that the moral prescriptions are somehow more important than the liturgical prescriptions. If anything, the contrary seems to be the case, since Exodus is followed immediately by the book of Leviticus, which consists of twenty-eight chapters of dietary and liturgical law. So what are we post-Kantians to make of this? First, we should observe that the biblical authors do not think for a moment that God somehow requires liturgical rectitude, as though the correctness of our worship adds anything to his perfection or satisfies some psychological need of His. If you harbor any doubt on this score, I would recommend a careful reading of the first chapter of the prophet Isaiah and of the fiftieth psalm. God doesn’t need the Ark and the Tabernacle and priestly vestments and regular worship, but we do. Through the gestures and symbols of its liturgical praise, Israel is brought on line with God, ordered to him. The moral law directs our wills to the divine goodness, but the liturgical law directs our minds, our hearts, our emotions, and yes even our bodies to the divine splendor. Notice how thoroughly the ceremonial instructions of Exodus involve color, sound, and smell (there is an awful lot about incense), and how they conduce toward the production of beauty.
I said above that Exodus’ stress on the liturgical and ceremonial has a profound relevance to our time, and here’s why. For very good reasons, we abstained completely from public worship, and even now our ability to worship together is very limited. In most dioceses in our country, the obligation to attend Sunday Mass is, again for valid reasons, suspended. My fear is that when the propitious moment arrives, when we are again able to return to Mass, many Catholics will stay away, since they’ve grown accustomed to absenting themselves from worship. And my concern takes a more specifically Kantian form: Will many Catholics say to themselves, “You know, as long as I’m basically a good person, what’s the point of all of this formal worship of God?”
Could I recommend that you take out your Bible, open to the book of Exodus, especially chapters 25 through 40, and consider just how crucially important to God is the correct worship offered by his holy people? Liturgy has always mattered. The Mass— involving vestments, ritual gesture, smells and bells, song and silence—still matters, big time. Isn’t it enough that you’re a good person? Not to put too fine a point on it: no.'
What’s the greatest antidote to loneliness?
It was an ordinary Sunday evening at the students’ boarding house where I was staying. Most of my friends had gone home for the weekend. After finishing my chores and studies for the day, I got ready to attend evening Mass at the small convent Chapel nearby. By the time I headed towards the Chapel, a heavy feeling of loneliness was overwhelming me. Besides the fact that I was miles away from family, something else was burdening me, but I could not quite place my finger on it. Loneliness was nothing new to me. I had already spent more than 6 years in college/university boarding, only able to visit my parents, who were working in another country, during semester breaks.
When I reached the chapel, I was surprised to see it full of people, which was unusual. However, I managed to find a spot in the front pew and settled down, still engrossed in my thoughts. The Mass progressed, but I was unable to concentrate on the prayers. As the time for Communion approached, the ache inside had grown. I joined the Communion line and on receiving Jesus, came back to kneel down in thanksgiving.
The next moment, I realized that the intense feeling of loneliness and sadness had vanished! It was as though a heavy weight was lifted off my shoulders in an instant. I was totally taken by surprise at this transformation because I had neither prayed anything much during the Mass, nor said anything to Jesus about what I was feeling. But the Lord was looking down on me from the altar. He knew I was struggling and needed help.
The small incident etched a deep mark in my memory. Even after several years, I remember how the Lord showed his tender care. The Eucharistic Lord has been my refuge during all the difficult moments of my life. Not once has He failed to help me with His grace and mercy. When we feel battered by the storms of life, uncertain how to find the right direction, all we have to do is run to Him. Some of us spend a lot of money to speak with a clinical psychologist, but we often do not realize that the greatest Counsellor is always ready to hear our problems at any time, without an appointment!
There is no greater antidote to loneliness than the presence of God. If you ever feel that no one really understands you or cares about you, go confidently before the Blessed Sacrament. Our Lord Jesus is waiting for you to experience His comfort, strength and overwhelming love!
“The time you spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the best time you will spend on earth.” – Saint Teresa of Calcutta.
My Jesus, who is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, help me to confide in You all my worries about the future. I trust in You and firmly believe that there is nothing impossible for You. Let me be comforted and strengthened by Your overwhelming love. Amen'
Does God really care about what’s happening in your life? This story, fictional or not, is sure to change your perspective. During the Second World War, a soldier got separated from his unit. The fighting had been intense, and in the smoke and crossfire he had lost touch with his comrades. Alone in the jungle, he heard enemy soldiers approaching. In his desperate search for cover, he scrambled up a high ridge and found some small caves. Quickly he crawled inside one of them.
Although safe for the moment, he realized that if they followed him up the ridge and searched the caves, they would find his hiding place. As he waited anxiously, he prayed, “Lord, please spare my life. Whatever happens, I love you and trust you. Amen”. The heavy tread of enemy boots drew closer and closer.
“Well, I guess the Lord isn’t going to help me out of this one”, he thought dejectedly. Morosely, he watched a spider building a web in front of his cave. “Hah”, he fretted, “What I need is a brick wall and the Lord sends me a spider web. God does have a sense of humour”. As they neared his cave, the soldier prepared to make his last stand, but then he heard someone say: “There’s no point looking in this cave…he couldn’t have entered without breaking that web!”
To his utter amazement, after a cursory glance, they moved on. The fragile spider web had saved him after all. “Lord, forgive me” he prayed. “I had forgotten that You can make a spider web stronger than a brick wall.
“God chose what is foolish in the world to confound the wise! God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:27)'
Wondering how to respond to those comments about your witness to life? Here are 3 best comebacks just for you!
Just last week, I parked our large van out the front of the local shop. After quickly grabbing a few grocery items, I returned to find my children conversing with the occupants of the vehicle parked next to us—a father and his young son.
In a small town such as ours, there are always tenuous links to other people. In this case, the young boy in the utility had attended preschool with our fourth child and wanted to say hello.
The door to our van was opened to accommodate such a greeting.
I could see the father’s mind boggling as he took in the number of children in my vehicle—six—and then noticed the now unmistakable bump announcing the expectation of number seven.
His comment was one of those common ones large families encounter with annoying regularity: “You should get a TV.”
He added an, “or something”, to his comment and an awkward laugh that only proved that he had recognised the rudeness of his comment. But it was too late to take it back.
Smiling a very forced smile, we made our goodbyes and headed home. This was not the first time I had encountered such comments, and it would not be the last. The truth of the matter is that the size of my family is somehow confronting to a large proportion of society.
“They just can’t understand,” says a friend, and mum of six, “what joy we experience in being blessed with a large family.”
She is right. Being blessed with a large family is something very different to adhering to the 2.1 children per family and, from the outside, appears very counter cultural.
Of course, it is counter cultural, but it should not be. Not all of us are called to have a ‘large’ family but we are called to be open to life. For some, this does mean a large family, but for others it means a small family, dealing with and encountering pregnancy and infant loss, struggles with fertility, fostering, or adoption.
Regardless of the size or make-up of our family, we can all witness to the profound blessing of being open to life.
1. Radiate Joy
The news of a new pregnancy should be a time of great joy. There are some times and some situations, when this news might be more subdued.
Regardless, a new life should always be celebrated.
When you encounter others, whether they share your open-tolife outlook or not, let them see the joy that this announcement carries with it for you.
Joy is infectious—and something often sadly lacking in our world today.
Maybe they still cannot understand why you would want to have your fourth, sixth, seventh or eleventh child, but they should still be able to leave their encounter with you knowing that you are delighted to be expecting another bundle of joy.
2. Respond with humor, not anger
There are any number of rejoinders one could give to those clichéd phrases: “Don’t you have a TV?” or, “Don’t you have your hands full?” and so on. But some are probably not charitable.
We are not going to change hearts with our angry response. Or, let us be honest, with whatever response we give. But, perhaps we can sow a seed.
A mother within my acquaintance likes to tell the following story of one mother’s response to the following questions: “Why do you have so many children? Or, you’re having another one?”
The cheeky response: “We’ll keep going until we get one we like!” Or, alternatively: “We’re just making sure we have plenty of children to look after us in our old age.”
Maybe these quips are not for everyone. But humor can be a great tool in responding to the more puzzled queries of the more secular among us.
Saint John Cantius encourages us to: “Fight all error, but do it with good humour, patience, kindness, and love. Harshness will damage your own soul and spoil the best cause.”
Maybe adding a dose of humor will be just the thing.
3. Witness without words
Although I have been on the receiving end of less than ideal comments about our family size, I have also been on the receiving end of the most beautiful ones too.
One older lady in particular began with the clichéd: “Haven’t you got your hands full?” and added, “and aren’t you blessed?”
Of course she is right. We are incredibly blessed and those who know us, know that our openness to life extends much further than our own home.
We have had people come to us for help, guidance and support in the face of unplanned pregnancies, difficult post-birth periods, undertaking fostering or adoption, and the general ups and downs of parenting. Often acquaintances who are not Catholic seek our counsel. By the virtue of our family size, we somehow broadcast our sincere belief that all lives are precious.
This has been an unintended consequence of having a large brood. In and of itself, it has been an immense blessing for us to support others.
Without deliberately intending to, we are following the advice of Saint Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”
So, although you can expect impertinent comments, that does not mean that you should tone down your own enthusiasm when sharing the news of a pregnancy—whether it’s yours or anyone else’s.
Respond with joy and humor, continuing to witness to the preciousness and dignity of all human life.'
When I look into the future, I am frightened,
But why plunge into the future?
Only the present moment is precious to me.
As the future may never enter my soul at all.
It is no longer in my power,
To change, correct, or add to the past;
For neither sages nor prophets could do that.
And so, what the past has embraced I must entrust to God.
O present moment you belong to me, whole and entire.
I desire to use you as best as I can
Although I am weak and small,
You grant me the grace of Your omnipotence.
And so, trusting n Your mercy,
I walk through life like a little child,
Offering you each day this heart
Burning with love for your greater glory.'
When it is hot and humid, cold and windy, or during an epidemic, people often resort to expressions like: How unbearable the heat! How piercing the cold! What a tragedy!
Is this the right way to deal with situations that are beyond our control?
Saint Alphonsus Ligouri in his book, “Uniformity with God’s Will”, narrates an incident that happened in the life of Saint Francis Borgia:
Late one night Father Francis Borgia arrived unexpectedly at a Jesuit house during a snow storm. He knocked several times on the door but to no avail. They were all asleep. In the morning all in the community were greatly distressed and embarrassed to know that he had to spend the whole night in the open. Father Francis comforted them saying that he enjoyed the greatest consolation during those long hours of the night by imagining that the Lord was showering snowflakes upon Him from Heaven.
Saints are full of imagination!
How often have we lamented over natural weaknesses of body or mind? If only I had a brilliant mind, or a more robust body, I would have done wonders. But perhaps if I were more talented, athletic or attractive, I may have lost my soul! Great talent and knowledge have caused many to be puffed up with the idea of their own importance and, in their pride, they have despised others. How easily those who have these gifts may fall into sin and gravely endanger their salvation! On the contrary, how many who suffer poverty, infirmity or physical deformity have become saints! Let us be content with what God has given us. Only one thing is necessary and it is not beauty, not strength, not talent. It is the salvation of the immortal soul.'
Answer: Loneliness is a painful, but common, part of life. A recent study published by pharmaceutical giant Cigna found that 46% of Americans feel “sometimes or always” lonely, and the highest rate of loneliness is in young people (ages 18-22). So, if you are lonely, know that you are not alone! (Pun intended).
All of us, at times, feel loneliness. As a priest, there are certainly times when I feel the ache. For me, Sunday afternoon is when I feel loneliest. The Sunday morning Masses are always imbued with such joyful encounters with devout, lively parishioners, but when they all go home to be with their families, I return to an empty rectory.
But when that happens, I try to turn my loneliness into solitude. What’s the difference? Loneliness is the pain of lacking connection with other human beings. Solitude is the peace of being intimately connected to the Lord. As painful as it may be, loneliness can be an invitation into a deeper intimacy with the Lord. When we feel that ache, that longing for human contact, we can readily invite the Lord in to fill that emptiness. He is our closest Friend; He is the Lover of our souls.
And He knows what it is like to be lonely! During His Passion, almost all of His friends abandoned Him, causing immense pain to His Sacred Heart. We can share our loneliness with Him.
But, at the same time, “it is not good for man to be alone!” (Genesis 2:18). Thankfully, we are part of a larger community: the Body of Christ, the Church. We are surrounded by our Church family at all times—not just the earthly community of believers, but the angels and Saints (“The Church Triumphant”). Their lives can inspire and comfort us. There are many Saints who I feel personal connected to: St. John Bosco, St. Pancras, Mother Teresa. They are my friends, although at this time our friendship is on the level of “pen pals”. When I petition their intercession, they reciprocate with insights as they pray for me! But some day, I hope to meet them face-to-face and enjoy their company forever.
When we pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory (“The Church Suffering”), we also connect to our loved ones who have gone before us, and those who have no-one to remember and pray for them because they suffered loneliness on earth. By offering up the pain of our loneliness for them and entreating their prayers in return, we transform our misery into merit.
In addition to our heavenly friends, “The Church Militant” (members of the Church here on earth) should also provide a community for us. Get involved in your church and you will meet inspiring, friendly people. Perhaps there is a Bible study to join. You could participate in a group for people in your stage of life (or start a group if there isn’t one). Maybe you could find friends by helping others with the Knights of Columbus, St. Vincent de Paul, Care and Concern or another service-oriented group. Sometimes we have to look outside our own parish.
Are there other Catholic churches in your town with vibrant activities and a community more relatable to you? I have been in some parishes where the community atmosphere is warm and loving, and other places where it was lacking. One particular parish, where I was assigned, was a place of very little community. Parishioners would come to Mass and leave immediately. So, in search of a community, I began to volunteer at a local Catholic school where I met some wonderful families who are still my friends today. I guarantee the community is “out there”, if we only have the courage to look!
For those who are homebound, connections can be forged in other ways. Perhaps begin writing letters to Catholic prisoners who need support and encouragement. We could always pick up the phone and initiate the contact with family members or old friends. Sometimes just sending an unexpected thank-you card can re-establish or deepen a friendship.
Although loneliness can be the catalyst which activates a deeper relationship with God, He also desires that we live in fellowship with others, supporting each other. We are made to show our love for God by developing a community of family and friends to love and care for. Seek them out—and you will find them.'
Have you ever felt lost, alone, unsure of who you are, why you are here or what God’s plan is for your life? As a well-known model, actress and TV host, it looked like Joelle Maryn had it all, until she hit a spiritual rock bottom during a dream come true trip to Hollywood. Read on to know how she took a drastic return to Christ!
When I was 6 years old, my family was devastated by a terrible tragedy. Just a week before Christmas, somebody forgot to blow out the candles on the Advent wreath and it caught fire. The real Christmas tree next to it went up in flames, followed by the whole house. I barely made it out while my father tried to save my 11 year old sister, Maria. Unfortunately, he could not get to her in time.
Lifeline Cut Off
As we all grieved her death and the loss of everything we owned, people generously gave us things to help us. I was thrilled to receive many beautiful dolls, but my prized possession was a doll belonging to my sister that had somehow survived the inferno with burn marks and a curious smell. I was a prayerful little girl and knew that the Bible said Jesus could raise the dead. So, l laid all these dolls on my bed, in the shape of my sister, and prayed, “God, I will give you everything I have, if you can just give me back my sister”. I waited for God to respond but nothing happened. Still hopeful and firmly believing that God could bring her back to me, I prayed again without result. I persisted in prayer, with the addition of a couple of magic words, but when nothing happened, doubt entered my heart. “Maybe God doesn’t love me”. If He truly knew the trauma my entire family was feeling, He would bring her back. I think that’s the moment I decided to cut my phone line to God and stopped praying.
Glittering in the Limelight
Since my mother had a theatre company, I started acting so I could be with her. When I took on a role, I would get so involved in the character that I would completely forget who I was. Sometimes, I would hide myself in this ideal, perfect life where I could pretend that everything was okay.
As I grew up, it seemed like the illusion was becoming a reality. I was modelling across the nation for Jergens and Target; on a billboard in Times Square; acting in independent films; featuring on book covers and hosting a TV show. I started a cosmetic company which was popular with celebrities and featured in magazines. I owned three houses. It looked like I had it all. But no matter what I achieved, or how much I possessed, nothing seemed to satisfy me. I was always reaching for the one more thing I needed to be happy.
High on a Hollywood rooftop for a glamorous photo shoot, I seemed to have reached the pinnacle of my life as I posed in my $4000 dress, with the sun hitting me just right but all I felt inside was so much emptiness. I had no idea who I was or why I was here. I had completely lost my own identity. I was certainly far from Christ.
Column of Love
I spent that night weeping on the shower floor of the fancy hotel room, praying for the first time in many years. “Lord, I need you. I don’t have this anymore”. That fervent prayer for help opened my heart for grace to rush in. My whole life flashed before my eyes, highlighting every sin I had ever committed. It was excruciating to see the effects of my bad example—for those who followed me, who followed them and so on.
It hurt to see how much I had failed to love. I was shown two columns. The good column contained all my acts of love—how I had used the gifts and graces that God gave me to build His kingdom. That column was nearly empty, but I saw that column weighed more. Why did the good column weigh more than the worst sin? I did not even know the scripture at that time, “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
If we are filling up our good column, being the person God created us to be and loving one another, then we are not sinning. God did not show me this to condemn me, but as an act of mercy. I did not deserve this grace, God gave it to me because I was so far lost, but it comes with a responsibility— to share His message with others. There is nothing that we have ever done that could ever separate us from the love of God, nothing so bad that He cannot take us back. If God can help and save me, He can help and save anyone.
After this experience, I changed my life. I read the whole Bible in just 2 months. I was so excited to hear the truth. When I reached the part where Jesus gets lost in The Temple, I said, “Lord where this temple is? I want to find your temple”. Then, the Catholic Church came to my mind, so I started going to daily Mass. I felt that I was home. Although I did not realize the necessity for Reconciliation, before receiving Communion, especially if you have committed mortal sin, God started to convict my heart. I had not been to Confession since my grandmother pushed me there when I was in College. That was a great act of love. We need strong people in our lives to encourage us—to tell us, it is time.
After confessing, I felt a lot better but the priest warned me, “If the enemy whispers that you are not forgiven, ignore him and just believe that you are.” He was right. I was attacked. “That seemed too easy. How could Jesus forgive my sin just like that?” I still felt this darkness covering me, but I made an act of faith that I was forgiven. So I decided to confess again the next week after fasting and praying. When I related all this in Confession, Father recommended prayer in the Adoration Chapel. I did not know what it was, but I researched it at home. When I discovered that the Blessed Sacrament was the true presence of Jesus and sought Him in the chapel, I felt like the whole room stood still.
I wanted to rebuild who I was and discover my purpose. Persistently in Adoration I would ask, “Lord who do you say I am? Who am I in your eyes? What do you see when you look at me? Why am I here?” A big, booming voice did not come out of the sky, but thoughts started coming. “You are loved. You are mine. You are my child”. If we spend time in silence, we will be surprised by how God constantly communicates with us.
In Adoration one day, I asked Jesus to reveal all the lies in my heart which stood in the way of knowing myself as a loved child of God. When I started writing, I could not believe how many there were—nearly 80! I also realized that the only way to Joy was doing God’s will. Surrender was so difficult at first. God wants us to constantly let go of things that do not lead to him. It felt like my life was burned down to the ground again, but there is something so healing, when darkness is brought into the light of Christ.
I want to shine like the star that led the wise ones to Christ. I may be a different kind of star now, but I have no regrets. I am a daughter of the king. There is a purpose for my life that I am burning to share with others. We are all called to be stars that draw others along the right path guided by the fire burning within us. Now is not the time to be lukewarm. We are called to be on fire with our faith, not hiding our lamps, but letting them shine brightly with His Light through the darkness.
We are called to be Eucharistic, called to be bread for others. The sense of community when I came back to the Catholic Church was huge for me. We do not need to suffer alone. How do we become His Light in this dark world? We are created for communion with each other, united by our love for Christ. The love of Christ makes us Eucharistic. Jesus became bread for us. He is the living bread which comes down from Heaven.
With all that is going on in the world, it can seem that the fires we are fighting are too big for us to survive, but if we share His living water these flames cannot destroy us, He will carry us through the flames. If we are living in misery it is because we are not connected to God. We need to get vulnerable. We need to get down on our knees and tell God, “I don’t have this”. That’s what humility is.
One fire nearly took my life, but another fire saved it. It felt impossible to start again, but with God all things are possible. He welcomed me home and gave me a new identity, rooted in His eternal love. Today, I teach the certification classes on the ‘Catechesis of Human love’ for the diocese of Austin. I find it redemptive in so many ways because I have finally learned what love is. Now, I know that God loves me. I know how to bring that love to other people, so that they can share the Good News. I have given up unhealthy relationships that led me away from Christ and now I have joy in my heart that does not depend on what I look like, or what I possess.'