Charity & Service Ever feel stretched thin? Like you want to stop giving and just take care of your own needs? Charity and service will do that to you. They will draw your selfishness up to the surface. Temptation to put your own needs above those of others arises. This week, I really felt like bailing on some of my charity & service commitments. After spending the day at work, the last thing I wanted to do was to extend my time for others, but I’m glad I shut that little selfish voice inside of me and followed up on my commitments. This is what love is all about. Willing the good of the other. Putting their needs above our own. I know God will keep challenging me to grow in virtue, but that is because He loves me. He also wants me to grow in holiness. How can I ever do so if I don’t extend a hand to my neighbour and love him as much as I love myself? The Gospel today was a bit of a slap in the face (see what I did there? I like to think I’m clever…or good at making terrible jokes, you choose). To be noted, I always come out of my charity and service time feeling like I get more than I give. That’s how He works.
Gentle & kind This week, in my virtue challenge, I gave a friend some tough love. As women, we often associate kindness as the act of pleasing others. Our love of self can trump our love of others. We crave their approval so we don’t always want to tell them they’re wrong. Thankfully, God’s grace precedes us and when we correspond to it, He can do great things through us! Strive to please the Lord, not others.
Warning: I’m not a trained theologian or doctor of the Church. If something here seems to contradict teachings of the Church, note that I do not speak on behalf of the Magisterium.
This past week I focused on the virtue of purity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that: “Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person” (CCC 2521). Modesty is something I struggle with. I could blame it on our culture and the media, but let’s be frank, I’m a product of my choices.
I’m someone who craves clear guidelines. It’s part of my scrupulous nature. However, I didn’t want to just focus on rules this week. I want my choice of modesty to come from a place of love. Here are a few of the following questions I’ve been asking myself this past week:
-Would I wear this if I were going to Mass?
-Would I act like this if I had a husband and he were right beside me?
-Would I want my future husband doing this?
and most importantly:
-Am I reflecting Christ?
-Am I growing in holiness?
Glancing down at my purity ring and asking these questions this past week really helped me in choices that I made. I’m going to keep working on this. Something I want to do in the near future is a second overhaul of my closet. This summer I did a purity purge (I donated some clothing items I deemed immodest). The closer I grow to Christ, the higher my standards become and that includes standards for myself and the way I dress. In moments of vanity, I like to remind myself of this: “Modesty is always beautiful” (G.K. Chesterton). Please keep me in your prayers!
Warning:I’m not a trained theologian or doctor of the Church. If something here seems to contradict teachings of the Church, note that I do not speak on behalf of the Magisterium.
Note on last week’s challenge: Oooof, the Lord has been answering my Litany of Humility, a little too well if you know what I mean. He keeps drawing my sins to the surface and extracting them like venom from a snake bite. It’s painful, but the Lord is purifying me by having me deal with all this pride I possess. So bring on the pain Lord, if it’s what is needed in order for me to be a Saint!
Joyful & Fun Now, let’s examine this week’s virtue challenge. I focused on being joyful and fun. I’m going to talk about how I’ve experienced temptation to despair, to let go of being joyful and fun this week. I think it might be the understatement of the year when I say I have a tendency to be scrupulous. I’m a perfectionist. I will start things over until it’s JUST right. I’m learning to let go of this need for perfection, but rather, focus on sainthood.
At times, when I do my examination of conscience, I can find myself reflecting and obsessing on venial sins that happened nearly a decade ago. It’s so important to understand the difference between venial and mortal sins in understanding our transgressions against our Father. I was born with the original sin. I suffer from a fallen human will.
When I focus on these venial sins from my past, that I had forgotten and haven’t had a chance to bring up in Reconciliation, I fear I’m not receiving our Lord in a perfect state of grace during Communion. These thoughts come from the enemy. The devil would have me believe that my sin is greater than the ocean of mercy our Lord has for me. He uses scruples to draw me away from God’s love and tempts me with despair.
I tend to cope with scruples by spending time in personal prayer and fasting to repent from these venial sins. Our Lord knows we are weak and fallen creatures, but He loves us and has so much mercy and justice. If He didn’t, we would never be worthy of receiving the Eucharist. Without His mercy, only Mother Mary would be worthy of Communion, in her immaculate conception.
Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed
Saint Josemaria put it best when he wrote: “Get rid of those scruples that deprive you of peace. What robs you of your peace of soul cannot come from God. When God comes to you, you will realize the truth of those greetings: My peace I give to you… My peace I leave with you… My peace be with you… And this peace you will feel even in the midst of tribulation”.
N.B. Do NOT purposefully omit to confess venial sins in the sacrament of Reconciliation. Do know, that any sins that you honestly forget to confess are forgiven when you receive absolution, but bring them up at your next Confession when you do remember them. It is good to confess these sins in prayer, but why deny yourself the amazing grace our Lord grants you through Reconciliation? The enemy will try to fool you into thinking that your venial sins have a stronger hold on you than God’s grace. Jesus diedfor your sins. Keep these verses in mind:
John 3:22-24 For there is no distinction; all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.
2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weaknesses.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, -in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
This week I worked on not creating drama or being involved in it. For the sake of keeping this up, I can’t really write much about how I lived this virtue this week. Let me just say this: praying the Litany of Humility is not easy, but I know it helped me with this week’s virtue challenge. Go and pray it now (until you mean it… I know, it hurts!).
Prudent This past week in my virtue challenge I focused on the virtue of prudence. Prudence is a “pivotal virtue that disposes us to discern what is good in a real-life situation and to choose the best means for obtaining it. Prudence empowers us to make sound, practical decisions that help us achieve our goals.” (Dear Prudence). Well, in my quest to grow virtue, life has been kind enough to give me a challenge in the last seven days that would test me in prudence. I was asked by a certain young man to go visit him at Madonna House in Combermere. For you Catholics out there reading this, you might think, ohhhh, that’s nice. A young lad wants to get to know you better in a wholesome Catholic environment. Wrong. I’m quoting my spiritual director here: “It’s not immoral to go, but is it the best thing?” Bless him. He’s so full of wisdom. He never quite tells me what to do, but has a way of making me realize what it is I ought to do (I guess what I’m saying is that my spiritual director directs me spiritually, bingo). Also, my spiritual director used to live with Saint Josémaria. How cool is that? We often forget that the saints are much closer to us than we realize (go check out 263 of Evangelii Gaudium and then come back here). Breakdown of the elements of a prudent act according to Leon J. Suprenant: (1) deliberation—taking account of all the relevant principles, facts, alternatives, etc. (2) judgment—coming to a sound decision (3) execution—implementing the decision Here’s why it’s not the best thing for me to go: 1) The facts: This young man has told me he feels called to seminary. He’s also told me he’s attracted to me. I’m attracted to him as well. 2) Judgment: Although Combermere is a safe place to potentially start a courtship, would my going there be of any help in this young man’s discernment? No. A longing for human affection is normal, but God does not call us to be governed by our emotions/feelings. If this young man is truly being called to seminary, spending time with a girl for which he feels attraction is going to make that call harder to accept. I really do not want to be responsible for making someone disobey God’s call. If not only for that reason, I need to guard my heart. I can honestly say that I would be unable to spend a week with this young man and not grow attached and give him part of my heart. 3) I told the Registrar at Madonna House that I wouldn’t be visiting after all. I’m writing a letter to send to the young man explaining why I won’t be visiting (it’ll be quite similar to this post). Bam. Week 3 of my virtue challenge completed.
This past week I worked on the virtue of courage. When it comes to courage, I often feel like Edmund in The Chronicles of Narnia. I am so filled with pride, I have selfish tendencies. I can be very far from courageous. This lack of courage in my life comes from being prideful. I want to do it on my own so often, I neglect asking God for His grace. Without Him, I can do nothing. For me to be more brave, I need a miracle. What better miracle than transubstantiation? So this week I made sure to attend mass daily. If I was to challenge myself to grow in this virtue, I was going to need to let some serious grace do it’s work. God has rewarded me. I have a coworker with whom I’ve been having beautiful discussions about God for the last three months. She’s never been in a Catholic Church. She’s a devout Christian, but not Catholic. I’ve just been asking the Holy Spirit to give me the courage every day to broach touchy topics and share the truth about the Church. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen said: “There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church – which is, of course, a different thing”. On Wednesday of this past week, I confronted my coworker and asked her to join me for daily mass and you know what? She totally came! It was soooooo beautiful to be able to witness her first time at a Catholic mass. She spoke afterwards about how she just felt the Holy Spirit talking to her loud and clear in the mass. Isn’t that lovely? She’s got a heart of gold and I’m glad God gives me the graces needed to be courageous and share my faith, even though I often fear rejection. If you yourself feel like you would like to be a little more courageous, why not ponder on these words from God? Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
Puts others first, before herself We always have good intentions at the beginning of a New Year, don’t we? Well, one of my good intentions is to continue to seek to grow in virtue. This is why I’ve embarked on Sarah Swafford’s Emotional Virtue Challenge. You can check out her website and what it’s all about here. This past week I focused on putting others first, before myself. I’m human. I am flawed. I’m selfish. I like to think I’m a nice person, but the truth is, a lot of the things I do are self-motivated. This past week, I really strove to practice putting others before myself. One of the specific ways I wanted to live out this virtue was by being a good hostess. I’m blessed to not have any roommates. I was hosting a friend for a few days over the holidays and I know that during her visit, I definitely had my shortcomings. Us humans are such creatures of habit and comfort! I am guilty of being a hermit and introvert, but God is so good! He never gives us more than we can handle. My guest was the sweetest guest anyone could ask for. She’s also an introvert, soft spoken and a heart of gold. I pray that I was a good hostess and that she felt welcomed in my home. I sometimes wonder if spiritually it’s wiser to have roommates… Any thoughts? The second way I tried to put others first was by loving the person more than loving the evangelizing. Let me clarify that. I love my brothers so much, but I’m guilty of feeling responsible for their conversion. I constantly need to check myself at the door and tell myself that that’s the Holy Spirit’s job, not mine. I may or may not have an ego problem. Really Pome, you think YOU could convert someone? Woahhhhhh. You can share the Gospel, you can love others, but conversion, that’s between God and the individual. Not up to me. The devil is sneaky. Real sneaky. He can easily trick us into believing we are acting with good intentions, when in reality we are trying to play God. Last, but not least, the third specific way I wanted to embrace putting others before myself was by appreciating their likes and dislikes. I wanted to show a true appreciation, not just listen kindly and wait to rebuke with why my likes and dislikes are superior. This one played out so well. I won’t elaborate too much because I don’t want any friends reading this feeling judged. After all, their privacy should be placed before my liking of my blog 😉 Next week I’ll update you on how I face the task of practicing the virtue of courage. Please keep this wimp in your prayers!