I don't know who Epicurus is but I really needed to hear these words today, and lately actually. This is so true. I'm married, have a baby, and have my own house. These are seriously things that I only hoped for, longed for, and dreamt about. When I was engaged I wanted to be married, when I was married I wanted a baby, and when I was pregnant with my daughter Anna I dreamt of when we would have a real actual house. And now I have all those things and what do I want? Nicer things. A better house. Sorry God this one isn't good enough.
Seriously??? Check yourself girl!!
Today I want to enjoy all of the beautiful gifts that I have received by the sweet grace of God, that are not perfect when held to some worldly standards, but are perfect for me right now.
Gifts that are seriously luxurious when held to the standard of life that some people in other parts of the world are making do with. How can I complain or wish away what I have, when some women are wondering what they are going to feed their kids that night for supper? Or knowing that their child is sick but there isn't a doctor? Or even clean water?
Why do I bite the hand that feeds me? How can I be so blind to my life of abundance?
Today I have a new fire in my heart to be truly grateful for what I have, and am challenged to really reflect on what more I can do for those who have less than I do. This isn't a new thought. These are obvious things that I hear every week in Church, or hear beautiful and holy people talk about all the time. Heck, I even talk about this stuff all the time.
I have realized that my eyes and my heart glaze over when hearing or reading about "being thankful" and "helping the less fortunate" because I think that I know these things.
But I don't. Not to the depths of my heart, I don't. But it's days like today when I am lucky enough that it would reach my heart little by little so that I can begin to see.
I would rather read People magazine than a newspaper. I would rather watch Friends than CSPAN (or whatever the Canadian equivalent is). Finally, I would rather paint my nails than write serious stuff (which I am choosing to do right now INSTEAD of painting my nails).
You can call me shallow, but I have my reasons.
I used to read the news. Sorry that is wrong. I used to devour the news on every tragic subject. But news has become like porn. They want to infiltrate every part of your life until all you do is dig and dig and dig to find more. It has become so bad that they don’t even care if they get their facts straight before reporting. I would do this to comfort my life long companion depression:
Then I got married and had kids. I realized that if I wanted to give my children a fighting chance at a normal happy childhood, I just could not fixate on graphic images of other children wasting away across the globe. I just can’t go down that rabbit hole anymore. I have now adopted the mindset that if it is major news I will find out from someone eager to share. There are A LOT of Debbie Downers out there.
You can argue that I am choosing to ignore major issues that need to be fought against and that if I am ignorant to what is happening in the world how can I change it? Well, I would just say that I can glean what is happening in the world by a paragraph, by a picture, by what I hear, and that’s enough. For the sake of my mental health and that of my family, I cannot scrub the internet clean for the tiniest bit of information on tragic news anymore.
Now for my point. When I was in the Rabbit Hole I was living in a world of constant evil, monsters, death, destruction, despair, and worst of all hopelessness. I was watching the FLASH the other day when I heard this amazing quote: “Where there is life, there is always hope.” GENIUS and DEEP for a superhero show. And yes, now I hang my head slightly embarrassed to have discovered it is actually a Stephen Hawking Quote ... sorry, but I will not be reading the Theory of Everything anytime soon - refer to first paragraph.
Where there is life, there is always hope. Now what has me so irked that I would choose to write instead of doing my nails? Well the other day I saw a headline for an article that intrigued me. I am not going to link to it because I do NOT want to give this woman any more hits than she already has (I am sure you could easily find it though). In this article she compares the life choices of a teenage girl from Duck Dynasty to the life choices of Kylie Jenner. Comparing is a nice term. What this woman does is publicly flog one teenager while lifting high another. Now I am no fan of that family; however, they are still human beings. This young girl is trying to navigate her life much like I did, but in the public eye and with way more money and dysfunction.
Why am I so irked by this? Well this woman wrote this article as somewhat of a public service announcement, while sitting on her Christian soap box of good morals, values, and right judgement. A public shaming that when you strip away the internet, you are left with a scene much like the public stoning of the woman in the bible (we all know how that turned out.) Not only did she call out Kylie for her immodest , borderline pornographic photos she posts, but this woman ACTUALLY REPOSTED THE PHOTOS !
This is a teenage girl! She may one day grow up to regret those choices and you have just helped in making sure that these photos remain out there for the world to see.
Now, I would be the first to admit that I have dubbed people Satan incarnate, Pure Evil, and horrific human beings. However I am slowly getting to the point where I can say,
“Where there is life, there is always hope”.
The people that we drag through the mud, publicly shame with our key stroke whips, and ultimately judge by way of internet mob mentality, are HUMAN. They were created by God, who is love, therefore, there is always hope! There won’t be any hope of them converting to our “HOLIER THAN THOU” side if people keep doing this and giving Christians a bad rap. Is that even the side I want to be on?
What is my answer to this woman’s article? Pray for Kylie. If it is the souls of young girls you are so concerned about, then what about hers?
I struggle, REALLY REALLY struggle, with the love thy enemies and pray for them part of our faith. If I can pray for people who are mass murdering others, you can throw up an Our Father for a teenage girl who is a little confused about life at the moment.
- Sharon Leyne
*Originally Posted by Lance Rosen at PiousPosers.com
You've made it to year 1 of Post-Secondary education!
(or two or three or four or five or six...)
If you're at the beginning of that litany (year 1), you may be super excited. Faith wise, you may be super pumped to live your faith out in the real world and meet others that do the same. You may be chomping at the bit to convert the world and set it on fire for the Lord.
If you're at the latter end of that litany (year 4 or later), you may feel jaded, frustrated, or you may feel like every ounce of your faith has been squeezed out of you by that secular machine you pay thousands of dollars to every year... And no, I'm not talking about the local pub or the pizza joint down the road... well maybe.
Another option could be that you've gotten so far ingrained into a new 'student' lifestyle and friend group, that faith participation is a distant and foggy memory. I want you to know that it's never too late to return to the cross. No matter where you are in your journey, Christ is always at the door of your heart. #Truth
I recently sent out a single poll question to all of the post-secondary communities I could think of. Here's what it asked:
I tabulated the results, made a Wordle (that weird word picture above), and added some supplemental information of my own. Here are my (and your) Top 10 Tips to Beat the Post-Secondary Faith Blues:
*These tips are not in order of importance. They are in order of how many times they were said.
10. Christian Music
Who doesn't love a little worship now and then? Am I right? And it doesn't have to be the slow dusty hymns that haunt the early morning Mass memories of your childhood. There is some awesome Christian music out there that is very high quality. Whatever your genre of choice, there'll be some tunes to tickle your fancy. Check out Billboard's Christian Charts or KLOVE for some inspiration. I get it, we all have our favorite "secular" bands that we have to listen to on a regular basis. But why not mix some Christian tunes up in the shuffle... see what I did there?
Mmm-mmm-mmm. I love me some worship. For those of you who are more auditory, praise & worship might be more up your alley. Speaking from experience, nothing slams my senses and helps me enter into prayer better than a good worship set in Adoration, or anywhere for that matter. Plus, it's worship of our Lord... what's not to love? These can be some of the most intimate moments you can have with the Lord; worshipping him like our biblical predecessors did - except with a guitar instead of a lyre and harp. Not that there's anything wrong with a lyre or a harp... I just think they might be tough to lug around. Guitars can have cases. It's been a while since I've seen a busker lugging around a lyre in a gig bag. Just sayin'...
8. Spiritual Direction
I can only speak for myself, but spiritual direction has been an amazing tool in my faith tool belt. Spiritual directors can be priests, religious brothers & sisters, or even trained lay people. Most of the people I know have priests or religious sisters as spiritual directors.
So why spiritual direction? I like to think of it this way: In any job I have ever had, I have always had a go-to person. Whether you are job-shadowing, apprenticing, or training for replacement, there is always someone around who can help you and guide you. I have also had those types of jobs where it feels like they just throw you to the wolves, but there is usually always someone there to offer some guidance if you need it. This person may be a boss or even a co-worker, but there's usually someone.
So why can't you have this same type of go-to person in the spiritual life?
Why can't you have a trusted guide through your spiritual life? You can! Spiritual direction has really blessed my life. I have an 'old pro' supporting me and guiding me through the ups and downs of my spiritual journey. It's incredible. Now, don't get this confused with confession - there is a difference. There's also a difference between spiritual direction and counselling. For more information on spiritual direction, check out this video.
What do you do to keep your faith strong in College / University?
7. Eucharistic Adoration
Adoring Jesus truly present in the Blessed Sacrament is a tremendous blessing. I could sit here and blab on and on about my love of Eucharistic adoration, but why not let the man tell you about its importance.
There's nothing like going to an event like a retreat, rally, mission, or conference to get the old batteries recharged. Getting together with people who share your faith, listening to dynamic speakers, celebrating the Sacraments, and spending some time away from the hustle of everyday life, can be an amazing refresher. As a student, my wallet winces when I think about going to an event. There's hope! Ask around. Your local parish, Knights of Columbus council, or Catholic Women's League may be able to help you out. After all, you're striving to grow in holiness. Can you think of a better investment?
Having someone holding you accountable is super important. You know that old question: "What kind of person are you when no one is around?" Having some accountability in your life can help form your conscience and give you extra support when you're feeling extra tempted. Having an accountability partner is so valuable. Find someone, ask them to be your accountability partner, and check in every week (or however often you need it). This shouldn't replace good spiritual direction or confession, but it gives you an ally in the battle. You will be able to help them with accountability as well.
Prayer is communication with God. How can you build a relationship with someone without ever talking to them? It's that simple. If we want to build a relationship with Christ, we have to spend some quality time with Him. How do you maintain your relationship with your best friend or significant other? Quality Time! The same quality time strategy can be used with God! The coolest piece of advice I have been given is to make a plan containing appointments with God. You make appointments with a doctor right? Well, you can make an appointment with the Lord too! (Thanks Fr. Clair!) The best part is, you won't be waiting two months for your appointment, there's no waiting room, and you won't have to sit on an awkward bench covered in butcher paper...
As Catholics, the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. We believe that at every Mass we receive Christ's body, blood, soul, and divinity. The Eucharist is the fuel that our souls need to continue. When times get tough and your faith feels battered and bruised by your non-believing peers / school, come to the water! Come to the source! Come to Jesus. Many colleges and universities have a chaplain who is appointed by the local bishop to care for the spiritual needs of the students. How cool is that? If the chaplain is a priest, there is a good chance he says mass on campus at least a couple times per week. He probably even makes himself available to hear your confession too. Check your local parish / diocese for details.
In regard to Reconciliation... oh man, where do I begin? The Church calls it a Sacrament of Healing. We all need healing. Sin distances us from God. Reconciliation repairs our relationship with God and brings us closer to him. When the priest says those words of absolution, our sins are wiped clean. Reconciliation allows us to return to a state of grace, allows us to be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit in our lives, reunites us with the Body of Christ, and allows us to participate more fully in the spiritual life.
Don't think confession is for you? Watch this:
1. Community, Community, Community
As much as I am a fan of the show, it's not what I'm talking about. Who you surround yourself with is who you become. You might not think it's true, but consider this. Why do you think there are all of those articles floating around online that show dog owners looking like their dogs, or spouses who oddly look a lot like one another? Just sayin'... Seriously though, chances are you and your strong faith doesn't have what it takes to convert an entire group.
There is strength in numbers.
This statement is true on both sides of the coin. There is strength in numbers. If you are the only one with some sort of faith life among a large group of non-believers, it won't end well. There is also strength in numbers if you decide to become part of a larger community of other like-minded young adults who share your faith. This scenario has a better ending. Take my word for it.
In many cases, there are Catholic / Christian clubs on campus. As I said earlier, there's probably a chaplain kicking around too. Get involved! There are so many Catholic campus ministries and programs out there. There is always something going on. I'm sure that on any given month, you would find things like Theology on Tap, scripture studies, social nights, and other great things happening in your neck of the woods to help you stay strong. There are even Catholic men's and women's houses popping up more and more if you want to live in community. The world is your oyster... unless you're allergic... then that's just unfortunate. But the choice is yours!
A big thank you to everyone who participated in the survey. I am completely aware that there are way more strategies and resources than the 10 I mentioned. These ten were the ones that were stated the most in the survey, which means that real people just like you and I are using them. Tried, Tested, and True.
- Lance Rosen
I have a confession to make: I still love my ex-girlfriend. To be perfectly honest, I still love all of them- and I am not embarrassed to say this to my wife (she usually edits these posts). Let me tell you why…
Over the ten years that I dated, I couldn’t exactly tell you how many girls I asked out who said no (it was a lot… I was an awkward teenage guy). There were, however, four brave young women who said yes to going out with me a second time, and each of these relationships endured at least a few weeks all the way to nearly a year. Looking back on those four along with other friendships & first dates that never materialized into a relationship: there are two things I am both grateful for and proud of when I look back on those ten years.
First, I loved each one of them then, and I still love them today. The whole reason I entered into a relationship with any one of them began from a superficial attraction, but when I consider the four relationships that had the chance to grow… I was able to move past attraction and hormones to genuinely wanting the good of the other person. In one case, this meant letting her go to pursue a religious vocation (leaving me with a broken heart at the time – although things have certainly worked out for the best!), and in another it meant hearing hard truths about my own brokenness – and being challenged to grow beyond them. Each of these young women was a person of character and quality, for whom I wished the best when we were together, as we broke up, and still today. In a word, I loved them then and I love them now – and I would be proud to introduce them to my wife, because they each played a part in forming me for my own marriage… and I pray I was able to contribute as much to their vocations along the way.
Second, and closely tied to the first point: I essentially regret nothing. Yes, there were a few moments that I would handle a little differently – particularly choosing to make a clean break or draw clearer boundaries when I realized a relationship wasn’t going to work out. My biggest regret from my dating years was that I was guilty on occasion of leading girls on – both by my actions and by the way I spent my time. That being said (and they being the forgiving type) even those experiences were learning experiences for me where I learned a little about where I lacked self-control… a very important virtue to bring into marriage.
Why am I sharing this? I’ve spent the better part of the last seventeen years working with teenagers. One thing a good number of you are concerned about is relationships – and I hear a lot more regrets about from teenagers about what you have compromised and done in relationships than any other aspect of your lives, hands down. On a weekend when we celebrated Valentine’s day – on a Saturday, no less – I’d like to offer you the best two pieces of advice I learned along the way during my decade of dating.
1) Love comes first. I don’t mean the butterflies-in-your-stomach twitterpated feeling, or the lack of control that raging hormones can sometimes bring over us… but rather a genuine care and concern for the person you are dating. Dr. Seuss once expressed a beautiful truth in the book Horton Hears a Who – that a person is a person, no matter how small. We can talk about the value of each human life – particularly the most vulnerable (the unborn, the elderly, the sick, the marginalized…) – but we ought to always recognize that our dates are people, too. They aren’t a prize we have to show off to our friends, gloating that we have someone and they don’t. They aren’t someone to use to make ourselves feel good. St. John Paul II wrote that every person “…is a good towards which the only proper and adequate attitude is love.”
2) Aim for no regrets. This is easier than you think, and starts by thinking through clearly the purpose you have for dating. Mary Beth Bonacci, one of my youth ministry instructors says that: “Dating is for dumping” and that “Real love means never having to say ‘I’m sorry I messed up your life.“ She means that ultimately, you date with the idea that you’re trying to discover (or discern) if this person is the person – or sort of person – you could commit to love for a lifetime. And at the moment that you realize the answer is no, out of genuine love for the other person, you should end it. (Likewise, if you see that right from the start – no matter how attractive the person is, or what it might do for your reputation, you also say no.) This doesn’t even begin to explore those who pressure you for photos or physical gratification… but there’s a huge red flag there, too.
The reality is that to be in a relationship – and to feel loved, no matter how flawed that love might be – is a powerful experience. Every one of us wants to feel loved by someone else, and at times, the desire to feel loved can overwhelm every rational part of who we are. But to feel loved and to actually be loved are not always the same thing. Real love is sacrificial, and looks out for the good of the other person first – not hanging on to the “trophy” of a boyfriend or girlfriend, and not trying to use the other person to make oneself feel better. Surround yourself with people who care about you enough to call into question those moments where you’re tempted to compromise things for that (fleeting) feeling. Studies say that the average romantic obsession lasts two years (often even less time during your high school years) so you need to build a relationship on something much more. What our faith offers us first and foremost is the understanding that we are positively loved by the God who IS love. [One of the things I learned to look for in the girls I dated was someone who loved God more than they loved me, and though this was the reason one young lady left me for religious life, it’s probably the most important advice I was ever given.]
Ultimately, on the day our relationships end – as most of them do – we want to be able to say that we acted towards our boyfriends/girlfriends out of a genuine sense of love: seeing them always as a person first. The hope is that their future boyfriends, girlfriends, and eventually their spouses – can walk up to us and say “thank you for the way you treated him/her.” After all, this person you are dating is a son or daughter of the almighty God – created in His image and likeness, beloved by Him… just like you are. Treat them with love now… and you’ll be able to say years later that you still love them.
Mike Landry serves God first, then he serves others as a husband, father, youth minister, speaker, musician, and most days as the division chaplain for Evergreen Catholic Schools West of Edmonton. You can keep a closer eye on Mike at www.thirdplaceproject.com.
I grew up in Calgary, in the big city. This makes me, technically, a city kid. Even so, I am very pleased to come from farming roots. Happily, I got a chance to visit the family farm of some parishioners, where their son and his young family live. It was a great day. We had a good visit, and I really enjoyed touring the farm, learning about the operation, and getting to know them better.
The farm air triggered in me memories of the many agricultural scenes and references that can be found in the Bible. In lots of places in the Gospels, things like crops, seeds, grain, harvesting, and ploughing are mentioned. After recently standing in fields of triticale, canola, and peas, my mind drifted to a passage in the Gospels that mentions placing our hand on the plough confidently and with trust (Luke 9:62). The image of the plough sparked some reflection.
If we think of our life as a field to care for, moving forward in hopes of a good harvest, then the image of putting our hands to the plough starts to make sense. The plough, as it moves along the contours of the field preparing it for seeds and a future harvest, can represent how we live our life. A plough can either leave uneven and crooked furrows which makes it hard to seed afterwards, or the plough can bite into the earth evenly, straight, and true, leaving the field well prepared for seeding. This success does not depend on us alone, but on a partnership.
A very important detail about a plough is that it cannot be pushed. It must be pulled. Whether it is by a horse, mule, ox, buffalo, or tractor, a plough is pulled.
To take our reflection further then, we can ask this question: Who is pulling our plough? Are we people with enough faith and trust to allow God to pull our plough through life, guiding us along a path that is good and right for us? Is something or someone else in the lead?
If God is in the harness, we can trust that we are headed in the right direction. We can know our furrow will be a good one. We can trust God, knowing that we will not be rushed or pulled off our feet. We will be able to relax and really experience the shape of life as we pass through it. With the security of God pulling our plough, we can glance back to see where we’ve come from, without pining for what we left behind when we grabbed hold of the plough.
Who is at the head of your plough?
- Fr. Matthew
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
-1 Corinthians 13: 1
Without love where you be now?
-‘Long Train Running’, the Doobie Brothers
For my first piece here at The Silversmith Collective I was trying really hard to think of something witty, eloquent, humorous, maybe even mind blowing, to write about. Then I remembered I’m me and realized that probably wasn’t going to happen. Fortunately, as I was coming to this realization, I remembered this is actually the second time this year this has happened to me, and so I can shamelessly borrow from what I wrote before.
For context, I’m a teacher and my school has a ‘Teacher Advisory Program’, aka TAP, which is a fancy way of saying a homeroom, but with a little more purpose. With TAP we have the same group of kids in our homeroom from grade 7 all the way through to grade 12. The idea is that we actively build community with this group of kids, advocate for them throughout their school journey, and then participate in their grad ceremony. By default this meant it was my job to give the toast to the grads this year. Truthfully, I was kind of terrified. I hate platitudes with a passion and I’m not a huge fan of inspirational quotes either. What pithy, charming, inspiring advice could I give these young people after they’d had to sit through classes of me trying my best to drill advanced mathematics and physics into their brains? How could I top ideas like the one that we are literally made of the remnants of dead stars, or that we are the consciousness of the material universe?
In my search for something good to say I was blessed with some guidance during our weekly professional development. I’m blessed enough to work in a school district whose faith theme for the next three years is evangelization, and the week before grad the conversation turned to what the real purpose of our existence was. Namely eternal life.
We were reminded that there are real and important stakes at hand when it comes to sharing God’s love with our students, stakes beyond any on earth. I’m not sure if it was a revelation or a reminder, but I received some serious clarity in that session that my vocation as a teacher was about a lot more than simply teaching the wonders of Math and Science, and kind of being a decent guy to my students. This providential moment lead me to the conclusion that there was no point in giving career advice, reading Dr. Seuss, or trying to be wise in my toast to the grads. Instead, I simply and bluntly told them two truths. The first was that I, and all of my colleagues, loved them. Beyond the grades, beyond the classes, beyond the bands and teams and clubs, we loved them. The second was that if they did everything in their life out of love, with their sights set on eternal life, it didn’t even matter if they reached their dreams or goals because those would pale in comparison to the life they’d live and the eternal reward of living a life of the holy sort of Love (don’t worry, I still told them to strive for their dreams and goals, and that God gave them their passions for a reason).
To put it in the form of advice I’ve received as a teacher, I’m going to paraphrase two of my own leaders and role models in education. First from a presenter in my new teacher orientation. His advice wasn’t practical to the day to day of teaching, but simply the question: “How are you going to show your students you love them each and every day?” Imagine if every educator, Catholic or not, started the day with that reminder. Imagine how much more we’d see of our students’ whole selves. Imagine how much more we’d understand when a student is acting out or misbehaving because they themselves are coming from a place of pain. Imagine how much better we’d coach. Imagine how much more effective the one on one help, the critical feedback, and the sincere praise would be if we constantly held the love for our students at the front of our minds and the top of our hearts. The second bit of wisdom comes from my superintendent, and is this: The love a great teacher has that drives them in their work, is Agape. The love revealed in Jesus, which gives with no expectation of reward or reciprocation. Again, imagine if we let go of our need to be liked or validated by our students, and could simply love them and serve them in whatever way they need most.
So, to echo the challenge laid before me as a new teacher: How are you going to be the channel of God’s love to your students, in whatever context you educate, each and every day?
By: Colm Leyne
In less than 12 hours it will have been a year since my son was born. As I watch our campfire go out at St. Joseph's Island on Lake Huron - I gaze to the stars. Earlier I gave my daughter some lessons about the stars and now I'm pondering the meaning of life (a good camping tradition).
I started my reflection with my family and what they teach me. Here's what I got so far.
Sharon teaches me humility, sacrifice, service, joy, passion and truth in beauty. I married up. Big time (irony aside). There's enough for a lifetime to enjoy ... Funny how that worked out?
Jacinta came to remind me my role from Father to becoming a Dad is as much to nurture as protect and provide. To nurture quiet strength, self confidence, and to have a servant heart. She taught me to fail the right people and love her better than anyone else on this planet could. The best part; she knows it beyond a shadow of a doubt! #daddydaughterday isn't trendy or cute - it is strategically loving my child. Patent pending on that word association bombshell. You're welcome.
Ezra. You're name means "Helper"
Call it the whole #Manventure thing, but you've helped spark my desire again to be fun. For me to live a life worth being told at Christmas dinners over tea and dessert. You've taught me about legacy.
What will be my legacy? Who will come to my funeral? What will my eulogy sound like? If we have grandkids, what of me will they carry on? All good questions to pray about under the stars.
I don't know all those answers. But son, I know that along with your mother and sister - you are already the best of me.
Happy Birthday Buddy,