Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Real Presence


The hormone oxytocin is released during sex, childbirth and breastfeeding. It is a bonding agent. So, during these instances, not only are you bonded physically and spiritually, but chemically too. It makes sense, right?

A small amount of this hormone is also released every time you make eye contact with someone. It is for this reason you come to trust other people (see here and here for more info). Now all you'll be able to think when you make eye contact with someone is "Oxytocin. Oxytocin. OXYTOCIN."
You're welcome.

So, I've been wondering... is oxytocin released during Eucharistic adoration?

Okay, okay I know - Woah! Hold ya horsies, Michaela! Can we at least get a linking sentence?

Let's take a few steps back then, starting with the Eucharist:
"Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me and I in him." (John 6:53-56)

"As a result of transubstantiation, the species of bread and wine undoubtedly take on a new signification and a new finality, for they are no longer ordinary bread and wine but instead a sign of something sacred and a sign of spiritual food... For what now lies beneath the aforementioned species is not what was there before... since once the substance or nature of the bread and wine has been changed into the body and blood of Christ, nothing remains of the bread and the wine except for the species—beneath which Christ is present whole and entire in His physical "reality," corporeally present, although not in the manner in which bodies are in a place." (Pope Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei ¶46)
Though we recognise God in each of us and "where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20), Jesus can be present to us in different levels (hear more about this from Fr Robert Barron here). Through the institution of the Eucharist, Jesus becomes fully present to us.

Therefore, when we place ourselves in Eucharistic adoration, we place ourselves in the true presence of Christ. Like a date with a loved one, there He sits before us.
"During Eucharistic adoration, it is not only we who behold Christ, but it is also He who beholds us. When we adore the Blessed Sacrament, we are not just gazing at a beautiful but inert object. The contemplative mode of prayer that we learn during adoration presupposes that Christ returns our gaze." (Archbishop Aug DiNoia)
So, thus I wonder... as Christ gazes back upon us, does our brain release oxytocin? And if this is the case, then are we not bonded further to Him through each moment spent in His Real Presence? There have not yet been to date any experiments to prove this but what we can look at is the result of Eucharistic adoration on people's lives. I can personally attest to the change that has been made in me by spending an hour a week in adoration.

I call you, Catholics, spend regular time in Eucharistic adoration - only good can be done. And all you other peoples, I dare you: find a local Catholic Church and go to their holy hour. See if your life isn't changed.

For those in Brisbane, here's a good starting point:
God bless,
Michaela

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Mercy

I disgust myself. I’m a hypocrite. A fraud. I’m no better than a Pharisee. 

I was walking briskly out of Toowong Shopping Centre when a man (who was clearly homeless) called out to me. I mumbled something about being in a rush and continued on. I was late and I was on my way to Mass. The irony.

Granted, he caught me off guard, but with every step I took towards that church and away from that man, my self-disgust increased. Just turn back, Michaela. Just turn back. But I didn’t. I continued on my way even though I knew being late for Mass was a pitiful excuse for denying Christ to this man.

I’ve since realised there are two common lies at work in my mind:

1. It’s not safe for a woman to help a stranger
Do you think Blessed Mother Teresa or St Elizabeth or St Gemma allowed these fears to prevent them from loving strangers? Hello! Ever heard the story of The Good Samaritan? The Samaritan could have ended up in the same state as the man that he helped - who knows if robbers were still lurking. Yet he helped him all the same.

2. Don’t give them money, cause they’ll just spend it on booze or drugs or both
I’ve heard of people who will give the homeless (who ask) their lunch or buy them a coffee instead of giving them money.
"God blesses those who come to the aid of the poor and rebukes those who turn away from them: "Give to him who begs from you, do not refuse him who would borrow from you"; "you received without pay, give without pay." (CCC 2443)
I wonder, though, what this says to them. Do they see it as kindness or as a big fat sign saying you are not trustworthy enough to buy your own food with this money?


I’ve heard of another idea – taking them out to lunch. It means holding a conversation with them. It means connecting with them.

And now here’s a really radical thought: Ask them what they actually want. They ask for a dollar, you stop, look them in the eyes and with complete genuineness, ask them what it is they really want and need and be willing to spend a little bit of time or money on getting it for them. After all, the meeting we are going to be late to, the children we were meant to pick up 15 minutes ago, the lunch break that is wearing thin is tiny – absolutely miniscule in relation to the value of the human life you are about to change by being Christ to them. Treat them as a fellow child of God. Treat them as a human being.


"Not uncommonly, the poor and needy are regarded as a "burden", a hindrance to development. At most, they are considered as recipients of aid or compassionate assistance," the communique states, echoing the words of Pope Francis. "They are not seen as brothers and sisters, called to share the gifts of creation, the goods of progress and culture, to be partakers at the same table of the fullness of life, to be protagonists of integral and inclusive development." (Pope Francis July 13, 2013)
These works are called mercy.


"The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead." (CCC 2447)
I cannot imagine the courage or desperation that it would take someone to let go of their pride and ask a complete stranger for help. No wonder they always ask for so little.

Resources:

God bless,
Michaela

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Good Catholic


I attended a protestant friends' youth group recently and when we went inside to hear her preach, everyone hesitated on where to sit. I was about to say, "good Catholics sit at the back". Then I remembered I wasn't surrounded by Catholics.


Why does this negative perception of Catholics exist in my head? I know I'm not the only one. For instance, when I say "good Catholic schoolgirls", I bet this is not what comes to mind:



More importantly, what can be done about these perceptions?


Only by becoming truly Catholic can we begin to change that perception. So what is a "good Catholic" anyway? Dummies guide to Catholicism give the essentials of being a devout Catholic here.

What do you think?

God bless,
Michaela

Friday, 4 October 2013

What’s so bad about suffering anyway?

"If God exists then why is there suffering in the world?"

You’ve probably heard this argument about as many times as I have – too many to count. If you’ve done your research or been 'round the block a few times, you’ll know that the answer lies in free will. That’s not what I want to talk about today, though. What I want to explore is the fact that many cannot see compassion or mercy of a loving God in pain and suffering.

God loves us too much to leave us as we are. Think over your life – how many of those rocky paths that you’ve encountered brought you out on the other side as being stronger, wiser or better equipped to face the world?
"More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5)
 And in this suffering, how many times have you leant on God to get you through? Isn’t it when you are in that deep, dark place that you run into His arms? When you have nothing left and have no choice but to turn to Him?
"Therefore, I will allure her now; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her." (Hosea 2:16)
Pain and suffering is proof of a loving God. Take a bushfire as example:




Granted, suffering is anything but comfortable. I doubt that these people would have openly welcomed it into their life:
But I choose to see hope in the midst: that eventually everything will be okay – whether in this life or the next. To which horizon do you set your eyes?

Further info:
God bless,
Michaela

Thursday, 12 September 2013

I'm too cowardly to say this to your face

Warning: this blog entry contains explicit language.

Every time you do it, I cringe. Yet I stay silent. I feel that saying it here is the only way I would ever be brave enough to call you on.

My dear Christian friend, why do you use the Lord's name in vain? How is it that you overlook His clear commandment:
"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain" (Exodus 20:7)

It makes me shudder every time I hear you say this:

and this:


and this:


Do not fool yourself in thinking that this is okay. Where's your respect?
"'The Lord's name is holy.' For this reason man must not abuse it. He must keep it in mind in silent, loving adoration. He will not introduce it into his own speech except to bless, praise, and glorify it." (CCC 2143)
Just think twice next time you feel inclined to say "OMG".

God bless,
Michaela

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The call of a Christ follower

When I first started working for the Ignite Conference in 2012, we sat down to have our first team meeting and as a little ‘get to know you’ exercise, we went around the table sharing what we had to offer to the Ignite Conference. I remember a cold shiver of panic ran up my back and my heartbeat quickened – I had no idea what to say. Eventually when it came to my turn, I said simply “All I have to offer is my yes”.

I felt like the widow who gave only two coins to the synagogue treasury (Mark 12:41-44). I had so little to offer, but I was willing to offer it all.

Since then I’ve grown and changed and come through (almost) two Ignite Conferences (twenty-one days to go!). Obviously I’ve learnt a lot and now have at least something to offer. It’s the same for all – for everyone has to start somewhere. It’s the catch-22 of any school leaver looking for work: no one will hire them because they have no experience, yet if no one hires them, then how do they ever get any experience?

It’s cliché, but true all the same: God does not call the equipped; He equips the called. He stretches us in ways we never imagined and we come out on the other side bigger, stronger, braver: equipped. And then He calls us again.


So don’t think you’re exempt. Just because you’re studying full time or have four children or are trying to pay off a mortgage, that He doesn’t have a call to service in the Church for you. Perhaps it’s something little, like bringing up the offertory at Mass or serving tea and coffee afterwards. Perhaps someone in your parish needs a lift each Sunday or there are pilgrim billets coming to town. Perhaps it’s something of a larger commitment, like worship or children’s ministry or chaplaincy at your local high school. Though, perhaps your call is subtler like that of St. Therese of Lisieux: in each action to act with love, to quietly serve in the background – in prayer and fasting, in almsgiving, in doing the things that go unnoticed. Like the dishes, the laundry, the letterbox drop for the upcoming election…

For many of these tasks, only God sees. And further, for many of these tasks, only God sees the heart with which you do it.
“Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
 Whatever it is, you have a place in the Church and He has called you to be a part of it.
“The duty of Christians to take part in the life of the Church impels them to act as witnesses of the Gospel and of the obligations that flow from it. This witness is a transmission of the faith in words and deeds. Witness is an act of justice that establishes the truth or makes it known.” (CCC 2472)
So, whether you’re a priest in the pulpit, the worship leader in the band, part of the hospitality team bringing cakes and slices, or a teenager reading out the first reading, God has called you to act as a witness of His love in your situation. For what good is being a Christ follower if we do not act like Christ? Even amidst the anger, the frustration, the impatience, we are called to love.
“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.” (Romans 13:14)
A friend messaged me with some wise words a few days ago:
“Find peace amidst all the busy-ness, that it would not distract you from the One who this is all about.” 
It was a nice little reminder of why I said yes in the first place…


Some info on stewardship of your time, talent and treasure:
God bless,
Michaela

Friday, 30 August 2013

Powerful beyond measure

I don’t think you realise just how powerful you are. Did you know that - that you are powerful? That your life does make a difference? That your actions, your thoughts, your words, your existence counts?


Maybe you’ll be the next Albert Einstein, the next William Wilberforce, the next Mother Teresa. Or maybe not. Perhaps your effect will be by your prayers for your children, like St. Monica for St. Augustine or your support of the mission of those around you, like Fr. Julian Tenison-Woods to St. Mary of the Cross Mackillop? Only God can see the bigger plan for your life – the mark that you will make.

Now, Mother Teresa would not today be Mother Teresa without each individual act of love. You are the sum of your choices, whether intentional or unintentional. Have you ever stopped to consider how even the tiniest of your actions – or lack thereof – has a ripple affect? Your sneeze at work costs a colleague a trip to the doctor. Your unintentionally strong handshake intimidates a visitor to your church. Your lack of having your Go-Card at the ready causes your bus to run late. Have you ever considered just how far the ripples run?


More to the point, have you ever considered the adverse effect your words have on the world? My parents always said, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Whilst I don’t believe it’s a blanket rule, there remains great merit in such a statement.
“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” (James 1:26)
Your words are powerful. They can build up. They can tear down. Gossip is not just the pastime of teenage girls.


Your casual conversation about what she wore, what he said, what they did, whether true or false, has an effect. Like a game of Chinese Whispers, your words take on a life of their own. 
"When we prefer to gossip, gossip about others, criticise others -- these are everyday things that happen to everyone, including me -- these are the temptations of the evil one who does not want the Spirit to come to us and bring about peace and meekness in the Christian community." (Pope Francis, April 2013)
Let us not be a people of tall poppy syndrome. Let us not tear others down to make us feel better about ourselves or have a rant about someone behind their back because we are too afraid to say it to their face.
“Do not judge anyone" because "the only Judge is the Lord." Then "keep quiet" and if you have something to say, say it to the people involved, to those "who can remedy the situation," but "not to the entire neighborhood." (Pope Francis, April 2013)
Ask yourself: Is this true? Is this helpful? Is this life giving? For “The prudent man looks where he is going” (CCC 1806).


Further scriptures on the power of your words:
  • "Let the words of my mouth be acceptable, the thoughts of my heart before you." (Psalm 19:15)
  • "Those who guard their mouths preserve themselves; those who open wide their lips bring ruin."(Proverbs 13:3)
  • "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life]." (Proverbs 18:21)
  • "By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matthew 12:37)
God bless,
Michaela

Thursday, 22 August 2013

I love sex

I really do. I love it so much that I'm saving it for marriage.

Though I've always had this desire to wait, it was Christopher West that truly convinced me that I should. Do yourself (and your future spouse) a favour and listen to his three-part talk from World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney:
Over the past few years I’ve been given a lot of slack for what I wear on my ring finger.
true - love - waits
Countless people have cried out in disapproval saying, "you’ll scare the boys away!" Little do they realise that that’s half the point: to scare the boys away. Why would I want to attract the attention of someone who is not interested in friendship first?

The other half of the point is what the ring means to me. It's a symbol and a reminder of daily living in purity. Not just about the physical action of sex – about a purity of mind, speech and appearance.
So what's so good about purity, about waiting for marriage? Here's what the Church has to say:
"Those who are engaged to marry are called to live chastity in continence. They should see in this time of testing a discovery of mutual respect, an apprenticeship in fidelity, and the hope of receiving one another from God. They should reserve for marriage the expression of affection that belongs to married love. They will help each other grow in chastity." (CCC 2350)
Yeah, okay, we get it... but why?

Because sex effects more than just the body. It's an act of binding to another person: physically, emotionally, spiritually. I want to be bound to only one man. How can I guarantee that my boyfriend or fiancé will be that man until the day he promises it to me - in front of an altar in a church filled with all those that I love and care about?

If any of this is resonating with you, check out these links for more information on why be pure and how. It may be the best thing you ever do for your love life:
Michaela

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Same-sex marriage and Catholic voting obligation

Catholicism is not a buffet - to be fully Catholic means to believe and practice (to the best of our ability) the fullness of the Church's teachings.
"A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law that contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals. The Christian faith is an integral unity, and thus it is incoherent to isolate some particular element to the detriment of the whole of Catholic doctrine.” (CPL 4)
It is for this reason that we need to become informed about the policies on the table in the upcoming election as some of these policies are morally relevant and contradict the fundamental contents of the faith. Spokesperson for the AFA, Luke McCormack, will take you through one of the hotter topics at the moment amongst younger voters.

Guest Blogger: Luke McCormack
State President of the National Civic Council, spokesperson for the Australian Families Association
and father of four
Luke McCormack and son Xavier
It’s election season 2013. In the first leadership debate on Sunday night we saw the leaders of the two largest political parties contest for the approval of Australian voters. The incumbent Prime Minster is the first ever to believe that the institution of marriage in Commonwealth marriage law should be redefined to apply equally, despite the sex of the persons involved in the marriage. PM Kevin Rudd promised that he would table a bill to redefine marriage by amending the Marriage Act 1961 within his first 100 days if the Australian Labor Party was elected to govern the country. 
©SMH
The opposition leader Tony Abbott, who opposes redefining marriage, stated that whether or not the Liberal Parliamentary Party will maintain their policy in favour of current marriage definition will depend on the votes within the Liberal party-room following the election.

Gay couples in Australia are treated in all matters of civic law as equal to a married couple. Among young voters, however, the narrow majority still seem to believe there is some injustice done to homosexual couples by not redefining marriage. Why is this?

Well firstly, most people think the debate centres around whether or not that friendly homosexual couple (representing 0.29% of Australia’s population or 0.58% of Australian couples) they know are allowed to have a wedding down at the beach, photos, cake, party, rings and a happy life thereafter. Of course, that is not what is being debated at all.

The debate is around the law, not the wedding. Any type of sexual arrangement between adults can have a wedding, exchange vows, eat cake, party and exchange rings with no special permission required. After all, romance and consensual sexual relations is a private matter, as long as it does not breach the criminal code. The question is, should the government get involved, and in this case, deem this type of sexual relationship to be so valuable to society that it is elevated to the same high-value as a life-long one man + one woman commitment?

So to debate this properly we need to understand why the state has marriage law in the first place. Primarily, it is for the well-being of any children that come from that sexual coupling. If a man and a woman were not, in principle, fertile, then marriage law would not be in the state’s interest at all. What the law does is create legal protection and security for the child's birth-right (the only thing every naked newborn has) to its biological parents (and the extended biological family). Marriage law means that the legal structure tracks biology very closely (unless there is hidden unfaithfulness). It is a legal presumption therefore, that the father of each baby born is the husband of the mother (unless found in court to be otherwise).

If we change the definition of marriage to “any two persons” the legal presumption (which goes back thousands of years now) that links to biology is broken. With “same-sex marriage” law, social workers, courts and governments can dictate parentage of the child. This is dangerous because it breaks a most fundamental human right to belong to your kin.

Secondly, when you mix “same-sex marriage” law with Australia’s anti-discrimination laws and sex discrimination laws you end up with a massive loss of freedom.

Any politician who supports marriage equality (taking away children’s rights) must be asked these questions:
  • Do you know that SSM would trash the legal right of every Australian child to its biological parents by breaking the link between the law and biology?
  • Do you know that SSM would go against the UN Rights of the Child principles (Article 9)? 
  • Can you be 100% certain that redefining marriage will never result in violation of our freedom of speech, freedom to conscientiously object and freedom to express and follow our religious or philosophical convictions? Will the following never happen?:

There is a long list of such abuses by the state in various places that have redefined marriage including, notably, Massachusetts USA, where a court ruled that a parent had no right to remove his son in second grade from a class that was teaching male-to-male coupling/marriage (Life Site News 2008).

You get the point…

Further reading:
God bless,
Michaela

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

On social justice


I was sitting having some quiet time in a jazz bar on the weekend and the owner and his friend came and joined me. They were a charismatic pair who I, though initially apprehensive, had a great conversation with. We talked about an assortment of things, surprisingly one being social justice. 

It turned out that Robert, the owner of the bar, had spent the first two years of his retirement traveling abroad meeting people and conceptualising the bar to be. He visited places like Cuba and New Orleans and was moved by their sad situation. There are many ways one can react to seeing such a need and these generally tend toward aiding a person's most basic physiological needs: food, water, shelter and warmth. Robert, however, did not want to throw money at their problems but rather give them a purpose. So he commissioned them to make the décor for his bar. 

Ruby's Music Room
The inherent dignity of a person requires that we work. My best friend is an Occupational Therapist and she will tell you in a heartbeat that man must work. It’s in our nature (cf Blessed Pope John Paul II no.287).

I know of some Catholic schools that hold their heads high, trumpeting all the good works that their students do for the poor and needy, whether of this nature of giving the poor a purpose or otherwise. Sometimes I wonder, though, if they are missing the mark. Fr Dan Groody gave a talk a few weeks back at a conference for Catholic school educators on the very topic. He said something to the effect of “we need the poor more than the poor need us”. He went on to explain that while, yes, they are poor and therefore in need of our help, but as Christians, we need someone to help. We cannot call ourselves Christians without faith in action. Helping the poor is one of the ways that we grow in relationship with God and become the men and women He has created us to be.

All this said, I still think we, as Christians, are missing a vital point.
“If ‘migration’ worked itself into the self-definition of all people, we might then realise that before God we all live in the same country, we all live on the same side of the fence. In reality, death is the ultimate border, the journey of faith is the ultimate migration, and God is the ultimate Promised Land.” (Fr Dan Groody 2004)
A person’s inherent dignity is important. You’ll never hear me say otherwise. But do you not think it is just as much, if not more important to give a man a fish, sharing in a meal with him and teaching him of Christ even though he may live a short life on this earth but spend eternity with God? Rather than teaching him to fish that he might go on to become a global exporter of seafood, idolising material gain and never knowing God? Obviously this an extreme analogy, but all the same, should not the very soul of the person take precedence over their bodily needs? Is not our first call as Christians to evangelise?
"They say that we are too poor, but can a heart which possesses the infinite God be truly called poor?" (St. Clare)

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’” (Matt 28:18-20)
Jesus calls us to evangelise, to draw people into communion with Him, however the key to the passage above is in the last line: "and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." The 'everything' that Jesus is referring to has a great deal to do with helping the poor (Matt 25:34-46; Matt 10:8; Luke 3:11). So if we turn to those gone before us like St. Vincent de PaulSt. Martin de Porres and Bl. Teresa of Calcutta we have our proof. We see things like this:




So perhaps it is not a ‘or’ but a ‘and’. As Christians, tending to the body and soul must go hand in hand.
“The Christian community must be attentive to issues of social justice and spiritual hunger in society.” (Blessed Pope John Paul II no.13, emphasis added).
Social justice is just as important as evangelisation.


Further reading:

God bless,
Michaela

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Then she broke down in my arms

I got to witness someone experiencing the loving power of Jesus for the first time
in the middle of a Nandos restaurant.


She's a non-practising Catholic friend of mine who I've been praying for for more than a year now. Each night I lift up my petitions for those near and dear to me. I tell you this, not to elevate myself, but  to bring glory to Him (1 Cor 1:31).

Our meals had just been served and I had that moment of internal battle: should I? or shouldn't I? The should I won - I offered to say grace.

I held my breath, bracing for her reaction.

"Yeah, sure."

My breath slid out quietly and I quit driving my nails into the palms of my hands long enough to sign in.

"Dear Jesus, thank you for this food that you've blessed us with tonight, for the hands that have helped to bring it to our table. I thank you especially for the company - that I get to hang out with this beautiful, loving woman. Thank you that I have her in my life. Ame-"

"-can I add something?" My friend cut in.

I almost fell off my chair but recovered quickly enough to encourage her along.

"Of course, of course."

"I would like to thank you, God, that I have Michaela in my life, because she brings me so much joy and love. Amen."

My heart beat outside of my chest. All I could do was think, She's praying. Oh my goodness, she's praying. Does she even know that SHE'S PRAYING!!! Thank you Jesus. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

We signed out and for her sake as well as my own I was about to continue the conversation we'd been having - but then I heard a sniff coming from her direction. I turned to see her shoulders slumped and shaking up and down. Tears welled in her eyes and ran down her face. She lunged herself into my arms and broke down.

I don't think she knew it, but she had just experienced a moment with Christ.

What an absolute privilege it was to witness such a thing and to be an instrument in bringing it about. I've learnt three things as a result:

Lesson #1: The world can see Jesus in me.
At my last job, my workmates were talking about a new romcom that they wanted to see about sleeping around. One of them turned to me and said, "oh, but you wouldn't like it." At the time, I couldn't figure out why they would say such a thing. Don't get me wrong, it was truthful, but I had never expressed a distaste for such a thing, nor had I told any one of them that I'm Christian. Though I may forget about Him, He is in me. Though I may forget He is in me, the world sees Him all the same.

Lesson #2: God answers prayers when you pray with persistence and with expectancy.
St. Monica is a prime example. She prayed and wept for many, many years for the conversion of her son. He turned out to be one of the greatest theologians in the history of the church - St. Augustine (cf Confessions by St. Augustine).

Lesson #3: God cannot act unless we step out in bold faith.
"When God sends the prophet Jeremiah, He gives Him the power to 'pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant' (1:10). It is the same for you. Bringing the Gospel is bringing God's power to pluck up and break down evil and violence, to destroy and overthrow the barriers of selfishness, intolerance and hatred, so as to build a new world. Jesus is counting on you!" (Pope Francis WYD RIO closing Mass). For He has "no body but yours" (St. Teresa of Avila).


Pope Francis (2013, ¶2) shared with the youth of Argentina at World Youth Day last Thursday that, "The parishes, the schools, the institutions are made for going out." My understanding of what he was saying is that we cannot be for ourselves. We cannot make exclusive little kingdoms of our own. We cannot live in these picture-perfect bubbles. We must be formed in our parishes, schools and institutions to then take Christ out into the world.


Further reading:
God bless,
Michaela

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Abort! Abort!

I was saying goodbye to a friend the other day - a friend who isn't from my Christian circles - and two little words tumbled out of my mouth before I could gather them up again:
"God bless!"
The thoughts that followed in my head went something like this:
"Did I really just say that?"
The look on her face said that I did. I almost died.
"You idiot Michaela - you can't say that around her!"
The microsecond of awkwardness that passed felt like a million years.
"Abort! Abort!"

The thing is, the words came out so nonchalantly. I shouldn't be surprised because it's a part of my everyday language - 90% of the people I interact with are practicing Christians. But it got me thinking: first, why are 90% of the people I interact with practicing Christians - if I'm truly Christian as I claim to be, should it not be more like 50%? And second, why do I alter what I say based on who I am talking to? Why would I censor everything that makes me who I am? Is it fear of offence? Of rejection?

I mean seriously, what's the worst that can happen? She's going to think that I'm looking down my nose at her? She's going to think I'm a little weird and choose to ignore that part of me? She's going to not want to be friends with me anymore? I think the real question is, could I really live with myself if she never came to know Jesus because I hid Him from her?

It's these little interactions that make all the difference. The not being afraid (or rather, choosing through the fear) to say grace before a meal in public. The not avoiding eye contact with the homeless guy at the bus stop. The not convincing myself that the new girl at Mass is fine sitting by herself. The not hushing my voice when I'm talking about God on the phone in the checkout line of the supermarket. The not hiding my rosary in my pocket as I pray on my way home. The not describing my job as working in "youth leadership" or "helping disadvantaged kids" when I work and volunteer in youth ministry for the Catholic Church.

When we omit these parts of ourselves and show the world that Christians are just "nice", we're doing the world a disservice. They see nothing bold, nothing daring, nothing powerful about being Christian. We come across as soft. There's no point wearing a crucifix around our necks and advertising that fact. For why would anyone be attracted to the Catholic Church if we're all just "living a good life" and "being good people". I'm pretty sure they'd much rather be out partying or watching Game of Thrones.

As Pope Francis said during a homily in May, "When the Church loses apostolic courage, she becomes a stalled Church, a tidy Church, a Church that is nice to look at, but that is without fertility."

If I look back over my journey into the faith, those people who stood out along the way were the ones who did not deny who they were. They were the Chris Brown fans during his innocent "No Air" days who prayed the rosary daily. They were the D'n'M instigators at late night Maccas runs. They were the mountain climbers who blared Christian worship out their car speakers all the way to the bush and back. Their willingness to show this part of themselves gave me permission to do so myself. They gave me something to reach for.

So, no. I don't want to be "nice". I don't want to be a good person. I want to be a great person. I want to make a mark. I want my life to count. And I cannot do that by hiding what I practice on Sunday from my Monday through to Saturday. I cannot do that by being Christian around Christians and not around the rest of the world. Yikes. Look out secular friends, you're about to get a rude awakening.

Back to my moment of panic: what happened after our microsecond of awkwardness? The best part - her response.
"Oh. Uhmm - love you too, Michaela."
I think they're more afraid than we are.


Some further reading:

God bless,
Michaela

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Tolerate, as I have tolerated you

Jesus is not nice.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword." (Matt 10:34)
It's no accident that C.S. Lewis used a lion to represent Christ.

"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver; "don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you." (C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

I'm frustrated by how soft the western world (and that's a good portion of the Christian western world, too) has grown to become. Oh I better not say that, otherwise I might hurt their feelings. Oh I better not fail him even though he didn't meet the criteria. Oh I better not tell her she dresses inappropriately because I don't want to embarrass her.

Further, the great fight over equality. Equality of gender. Equality of life stage. Equality of sexuality. There's a great deal of difference between being treated equally and being treated justly. I don't think we want equality to be what we fight for, do you?


What ever happened to telling the truth? What ever happened to accountability? As Nathan explained last week on the meaning of love - is not speaking the truth and accountability the most loving thing - the best thing for them? Would it not be most loving to foster an environment of honesty, to call our brothers and sisters on, to open their eyes to opportunities for growth?

I acknowledge that there are times when our opinions are best kept to ourselves, but I'm talking about the truth here. Tell him that his Maths just does not scrub up and he should think about getting a tutor. Tell her that the way she dresses is leading men astray and speak into her heart that she is a treasure to be discovered. Tell him that the music he is listening to is destroying his soul. Tell her that she needs to pull her finger out and start praying every day again. This means saying the hard stuff.

Jesus was not afraid to show or tell people when they were doing wrong, so why should we?
"He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves He said, 'Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace'." (John 2:14-16)
Jesus was not fighting against them. He was fighting for them. His actions were clearly premeditated ("He made a whip out of chords"). It was not a momentary burst of fury. No, Jesus was calling His brothers and sisters on and His message was loud and clear.


I say goodbye to tolerance, indifference, apathy and being lukewarm and hello to accountability, challenging others and loving the heck out of our brothers and sisters. Will you join me in fighting for them?
God bless,
Michaela

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Love is when Mummy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn't think it's gross

Flowing on from last week's post, one of the comments that many people make when talking about same-sex marriage is that it should become lawful because if two people love each other, they should have the right to marry. This begs the question, what exactly is love anyway? Theology student, Nathan Costin, has a thing or two to say.

Guest Blogger: Nathan Costin

Youth Coordinator of the Brisbane East Deanery
and theology student at Australian Catholic University
Nathan Costin
Flo Rida’s song, “Let it Roll” has been stuck in my head the past few days, particularly the prelude to the chorus, “Love is nice when it’s understood, even nicer when it makes you feel good.” As I was driving and the song popped into my head yet again I asked myself, do I agree with Flo making a catchy beat? Yes. Do I agree with Tramar Dillard using the alias Flo Rida? Yes. Do I agree with Flo’s view of love in this song? No.

“Love”, as Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI stated in Deus Caritas Est, “has become one of the most frequently used and misused words, a word to which we attach quite different meanings”. Love has almost become an excuse to justify a multitude of conflicting decisions and actions - particularly in relationships. Take this example:

I know of a couple who, when they were in high school, after three weeks of dating each other, decided to skip a day of school, book a motel and have sex. “Love”, the guy told me, was the reason they did it. “We love each other and I wanted to take it to the next level.” Love had somehow pushed the couple to skip school, race off to a motel and have sex.

I myself recently got engaged. My fiancée and I have not had sex, nor do we plan to until our wedding night. We identified how love is communicated and shared in a vast variety of different ways. We committed to growing and learning to perfect this language of love before giving it the eternal stamp with our bodies in marriage. How we understand love has called us to save sex.
Nathan & fiancée Jen
So here we have that word ‘love’ used as the reason to have sex, and also used as the reason to not have sex. They can’t both be love. So which is it?

Flo Rida says love is nicest when it makes you feel good. I disagree. I think love is nicest when it’s understood. St Thomas Aquinas and the Catechism of the Catholic Church offer a rarely heard definition of love: “To love is to will the good of another” (CCC 1766).

Huh? I can actually will love? Yes! Love places the good of the other over and above what makes us feel good. It is completely other-centered. Love looks at what is best for someone then does everything in its power to bring about that good. And yes, this often involves renunciation and sacrifice of our own desires especially when they are contrary to what is truly best for our beloved. This way we are in control of love, we are held responsible. What is ‘loving’ can now have a moral value put on it.

Love is not just an emotion. Can something imposed on us actually be love?

The self-sacrificial love of Jesus is often upheld as the ultimate example of love. But how did this love begin? With a free choice. In the garden, Jesus clearly doesn’t feel like being crucified (Mt 26:39), but He flexes His will. He shows us that love is something we can choose above feelings no matter how intense or overwhelming. Love, when understood as an act of the will, empowers us to witness to, and to actively participate in love. Emotions are nice, but understanding that we are not slaves to them and can choose above feelings with intellect and will is even better. We are free to love. And being able to love freely is much more satisfying than being slaves to our feelings.

Rather than feeling good, love is nicest when it’s understood.

Some good sources and books on LOVE:

God bless,

Michaela

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Myth: Catholics hate homosexuals

I don't know where the idea came from that the Catholic Church hates homosexuals. Homosexuality is a sexual orientation - it's a part of a person's identity. The Lord has called us to "Love one another as I have loved you" (John 13:34). We are called to love all who God has created, how God has created them.
"With love for mankind and hatred of sins" - St. Augustine
A person's sexual orientation or same-sex attractions are not sinful. It is the sexual act between two men or two women, just as any sexual act outside of marriage, that is sinful.
"Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2357)
Scriptural references: 


"The term 'objective disorder' may strike some of us with same-sex attractions as being harsh, because we feel that we never asked to have homosexual attractions and we fear that this term is in some way condemnatory or derogatory. It is important to remember that "objective disorder" is a philosophical term which describes a particular inclination - it does not diminish our value and worth in the eyes of God." (Courage 2013)
What does the Cathechism mean by "contrary to the natural law"? The fourfold vow of marriage is that by marriage and in sexual union you give yourself to someone freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully (Lifeteen 2012). Same gender couples are unable to procreate, therefore they cannot fully give themselves to another person.
"Sex is ordered towards two things: bonding the couple and bringing forth life. There is only one context in which this is possible: in the marriage of one man and one woman. If there is no marriage, there is often no sense of true commitment and the bonding of the couple is weak. If both genders are not represented, the possibility of life is thwarted. Anything that directly violates either the bonding or the possibility of life is a disordered use of the sexual act (as well as use of the other person)." (University of Minnesota Duluth 2010)
The Church recognises the sensitivity of this topic and that the correct response is to love unconditionally.
"The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2358)
Further reading:


God bless,

Michaela

Thursday, 27 June 2013

What? You're Christian AND Catholic?!

It was early 2008 and I sat in a room surrounded by Protestants fighting over who would at World Youth Day in Sydney be the one to show (at the time) Pope Benedict XVI the truth and have him invite Jesus to be his Lord and Saviour.

Being the only Catholic in the room, I must admit, it felt a little like this:
©20th Century Fox

It was the second time I'd ever heard of such a statement - the first time I heard it, I laughed unashamedly thinking it was a joke. It seemed like such a ludicrous statement, because in my mind Jesus already was my Lord and Saviour.

Ironic that His Holiness Benedict XVI should say such a thing as this, two years prior to my previously mentioned encounter?:

"Our knowledge of Jesus needs above all a first-hand experience: someone else's testimony is of course important, for normally the whole of our Christian life begins with the proclamation handed down to us by one or more witnesses. However, we ourselves must then be personally involved in a close and deep relationship with Jesus." (General Audience, October 4, 2006)

To be Christian means to believe in and follow Jesus Christ. Most of the people I surround myself with are Catholic and I can assure you that they believe in and follow Jesus Christ. My Protestant peers were clearly misinformed.

Spread the word - to be Catholic means to be Christian.


For further information, hear Douglas Bushman on Catholic Answers.


God bless,

Michaela

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The undesirables


I don't recall it ever saying in the Bible to only love the desirable and popular. Actually, I'm pretty sure Jesus said the exact opposite: the lowly, the poor, those on the outskirts, the unclean, those whose sins everyone knows about...

I'm going to take a leaf out of Pope Francis' book and get a bit annoying here - a bit uncomfortable. If you start to feel hot around the collar, take this as a hint from the Lord to take a long, hard look at yourself.

I hear it being preached about all the time at youth events: love thy neighbour, love the least of these, befriend that loner at school. In fact, I hear it being preached by people who I have personally witnessed doing the exact opposite. People who, in a public setting, have outright badmouthed others and projected their distaste of a person on the rest of the on-listeners.

Words can be poisonous- bad words about another person in particular. I cannot count the amount of times where I have heard someone speak poorly of another and how my perception towards that person has changed. Suddenly I notice that annoying habit, bad breath or their daggy clothes.

I come from a background of being subject to schoolyard bullying. What the experience has taught me, among many things, is how it feels to be an outcast.

Can you imagine, that for a reason unbeknownst to you, you are a reject, a loser, an outcast? That everyone around you has shunned you and you try desperately, oh so desperately to find someone, anyone who can validate your worth and show you love? Every day you face, you face alone. You belong nowhere. You miss out on invites to parties. People fall silent when you enter a conversation. They avoid your eye contact in fear that you will strike a conversation with them and they will be stuck talking to you and someone may see. So, you take advantage of the checkout lady who routinely says "hi, how are you today?" You quickly invite yourself to any Facebook event that was accidently left on "public" before the creator realises and changes it to "private". You cling to anyone who takes pity.


Can you imagine this life?

Now perhaps it is a perception problem - nasty rumours that led people to believe that you're not the type of person they want around them. Perhaps there is something particularly confronting or irritating about your personality that others cannot seem to get past in order to spend enough time with you to appreciate the person that you are. Perhaps you are a bit socially awkward and people just don't know what to say or how to hold a conversation with you.

Whatever the reason, being treated as an outcast is unacceptable. It is contrary to what we have been commissioned by God to do. We go on and on about sharing the love of Jesus, preaching the Gospel message, and evangelising the world. But what about the world we live in? Our local parish community, our youth group, our wider group of friends? Do these people not need the love of Jesus, just because they're already "coming to stuff"?

Why do you think they come in the first place? Because Christians will at the very least give them a friendly smile or humour them by a polite "hey, how are ya?" before quickly wrapping up the conversation and moving on. That sliver of love is more than the rest of society will give them, so of course they keep coming back. Let me ask you this: when was the last time you greeted them with a genuine, "HEY!! You're here! Awesome. So, how are you? What's going on in your life?"

Now think for a moment about those "undesirables" - list them off in your head. Picture their faces. You cannot deny they exist. Take a moment to do so now.

If you are reading this sentence without having done so, this is your second and final chance - if you don't, you may as well not even bother to read the rest of this post because you're not ready to be the person Jesus has called you to be.

Step One: Ask yourself why they are considered (in your eyes) to be undesirable
Step Two: Try to imagine life from their perspective
Step Three: Think of one positive thing about them

It takes 30 days to break a habit. Your challenge is to think about one positive thing about these people every day for 30 days. If you run out of things, it means you don't know them well enough - so go and get to know them! I will admit that as I write this, in my head I am thinking, "dangit, now I have to do it too." I guess it's not called a challenge for nothing.

If everyone started to do this: welcoming and befriending the undesirable, then no one would be undesirable in the first place. True, all would still be different and some easier to get along than others, but all the same, you would be free to love and be Jesus to all without fear of rejection by association. The newbie who didn't know that the person was undesirable would not get "caught" in a conversation for forty-five minutes. There would no longer be hushed voices about the post-Mass Maccas run.

Remember this: there is nothing wrong with the undesirable. There is only something wrong with the person who sees them as undesirable.



God bless,

Michaela