Category Archives: From the Editor

Christ is Always on the Side of Suffering

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We’ve been bombarded with mixed messages about what it means to be Catholic. We’ve had conversations that are uncomfortable and wondered if we are actually doing this whole thing right, given we have so many differing opinions within our own Church. It has become very complicated. It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.

But if I had to explain to someone in one sentence or less on what it means to be Catholic, I would tell them simply, “Being Catholic is being with those who suffer.”

I wouldn’t tell them about this saint or that saint or this doctrine or that one. I wouldn’t tell them about fasting on Fridays or Lent or Confession. Because without solidarity in suffering, none of that means a thing. If you lose the love, all you have left is a club.

Jesus was always on the side of the suffering. Jesus always rooted for the oppressed, the beaten down, the underdog. We fight for the ones who can’t fight for themselves. We fight for the ones who are ignored, beaten, and chastised.

We all take turns being the underdog. Sometimes the Catholic is the underdog in a world that persecutes those who seek truth. Sometimes the underdog is the person rejected by  people within the Church, looking for truth, but ostracized because they don’t look or act like what we believe a Christian should.

The ones society has tossed aside, forgotten, or pushed away – standing in solidarity with them is what it means to be Catholic. You can say all the rosaries you want, you can listen to all the Christian music you want, but when it really counts, when someone needs your help, and you have the opportunity to either stand up or stand aside, that’s when you decide if you’re truly Catholic or not.

So if you’re confused, and you don’t know where you stand or the Church stands on an issue socially or politically, of where we need to direct our focus, direct to the ones who suffer. No matter the statements or opinions of those in authority, nor the politics of it all, nothing changes your ability to love. Your mission is unaffected. The mission to love and heal is unchanged.

Our Church is our home. It is our resource for our community and a tool to carry out Christ’s message to the world. She is our home base – our community we go back to for guidance and camaraderie. But it is not the only community we are responsible for.

The Seven Corporal Works of Mercy give us a tool to discern our mission:

   1. Feed the Hungry

   2. Give Drink to the Thirsty

   3. Shelter the Homeless

   4. Visit the Sick

   5. Visit the Prisoners 

   6. Bury the Dead 

   7. Give Alms to the Poor 

Just like the Ten Commandments, these instructions go far beyond volunteering at the local soup kitchen or visiting your friend in the hospital. (You should still do those things, but being Catholic, we always take things a step further.)

Ask yourself: Do I provide a source of  spiritual nourishment for my neighbors? When they are having a difficult time, do I offer to have them over for a cup of coffee  and give them my undivided attention? Or do I tell them “Sorry, I’m busy, but I’ll pray for you!” Prayers are great, but a listening ear is better.

Do I offer myself to be a safe haven for those who feel “homeless”? Feeling rejected or ostracized or without a place to call home? Do I ignore the social biases and sit with those that society rejects? Or do I wave them away, thinking, “I’ll just pray for ‘em”?

Do I check in on those who are sick and hurting? Do I offer a hand when they are going through a difficult time? Do I offer to drive them to an appointment or help them cook dinner when they’re too tired to move? Or do I stay away because I don’t want to feel like I’m bothering them? (Note: No one feels bothered when you drop off a casserole.

Do I reach out to those who have been abandoned, even when society tells me they’re a lost cause? Or do I reason, “They did it to themselves. It’s not my responsibility to solve other people’s problems”?

Do I bury the past? Do I let go of grudges and live in light of the future? Or do I hold on to the past, blinded to the hope of tomorrow?

Do I offer to pay for the meal, even when I’m not expected to? Do I throw a little extra in the collection basket? Do I offer my old clothes to charity instead of selling them on Facebook?

Do I consider these things daily? Or do I go to Mass on Sunday and call it a week?

Being Catholic is a daily commitment. It’s not a social club or a fraternity or something you do because you feel you’re expected to. It’s a challenge you say yes to every day. It’s the commitment to deny and humble yourself, no matter how uncomfortable it is. Because we only grow when our cages are rattled.

Suffering goes beyond what we see on a UNICEF commercial. The people we choose not to associate with for the sake of our reputation are also our brothers and sisters we’re called to serve – the people we socially exclude.

These are the people we forget or ignore because we don’t know how to love them if they aren’t living the way we believe is right. We are afraid to be the “judgy Catholic friend.”

We are here to sit and suffer with the suffering. Sitting with the suffering doesn’t mean fighting for their choices, it means fighting for their human dignity. It means fighting for their worthiness of love and their worthiness to be empathized with. Jesus taught this radical idea that each individual person, no matter their choices, their lifestyle, or affiliations, was utterly and undeniably loveable. No matter where they came from, they are a child of God.

The Catholic Church is where we learn to love, learn to heal, and learn to listen. It is paramount to our beliefs to love our neighbors, love our enemies, and love those who are different. The Church is such a powerful institution, but her power also lies in her humility. Her power is in her submission. Christ is not a king on a throne with a scepter. Christ is in the lowliest of the low, the humble, the meek, the suffering. He teaches us that we are undeniably loveable, despite our choices, despite our circumstances, and despite who we associate with. We are loved. And as an extension, we are called to imitate Christ. So, therefore, we are called to lower our heads and to love the unlikely without reservations.

As Catholics, we are called to be healers and listeners.  As hands and feet of Christ, we are called to be an embodiment of peace, mercy, and gentleness. We are here to foster and cultivate relationships regardless of background, status, or opinions.

We aren’t here to be right about everything – we’re here to be holy. We’re here to sit in the brokenness. We’re here to hold the hands of the people that are hurting.

So when you’re overwhelmed with the politics of the Church and the world and the need to be right, just remember where we came from and why we’re here. Remember what it means to be Catholic in the first place.

To be Catholic is to suffer. It’s to stand in solidarity with those who are abandoned and fall to our knees in humility. We are called to be humble, and if you need a little help with that (we all do), look to the right for Mother Teresa’s Humility List. No one said it would be easy. No one said you’d be recognized. No one said you’d be applauded. But we’re not here for that. We don’t just do it because we’re Catholic. We do it because we’re human.

A Return to Normalcy

A Return to Normalcy

By: Kierstin Richter, Editor

For nine long months, we’ve carried a weight that’s become heavier and heavier. We’ve waited in anticipation of when everything goes back to “normal.” Like Mary, as she carried her child, we’ve carried the weight of anticipation within us, unsure of what the next year would look like. For her, I’m sure she had her doubts. Honestly, I’m sure she was so scared. An unexpected pregnancy in a time without modern medical care when many women died in childbirth? In a time when you would be stoned for adultery, and you’re carrying a child who isn’t the biological son of the man you’re married to?

In addition to the thought of actual childbirth, Mary also had the thought of the new journey of motherhood in the next year, something she had never experienced, nor had she expected to come so quickly, I’m sure. What was her future going to look like?

Even when God tells you everything is going to be okay, we still have moments of fear – of apprehension and skepticism of the unknown. Even when we truly feel God has told us everything is going to be okay, and it’s all in His plan, we’re still human. We still have moments of doubt. But the dynamic nature of our faith is what makes it worth living.

Being scared doesn’t mean you don’t have faith. Being frightened of the future is a very human response. But the problem doesn’t come when you feel scared, it comes when you make rash decisions because of that fear. That’s not having faith.  The opposite of faith isn’t fear. It’s the need to be in control. Mary could have said no. Mary could have told God she wasn’t up for it, and she wanted a normal life for a normal girl. But if she wouldn’t have taken on this challenge, we wouldn’t have much of a nativity story, would we?

So what do we do in this anticipation of a new year? We take a deep breath, and we trust that this year has truly prepared us for anything. Whether things get easier or harder, it won’t matter, because regardless, we’ve built a faith that can carry us through anything. On the advent of this new liturgical year, we have a moment to rest. Anticipation can be exciting, but it can also be exhausting.

A lot has changed this year. We’ve found new ways of coping and new ways of living. We’ve lived in anticipation of a time where the world goes back to normal. But even for Mary, her long pregnancy may have been over, but that doesn’t mean things went back to normal. Her life changed substantially with this new baby, this new life.

But things didn’t go back to normal for Mary, did they? Her next year looked a whole lot different. And yeah, it was definitely harder, but wow, didn’t it make a heck of a story?

 

What’s Your “Fiat”?

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By: Kierstin Richter, Editor

What’s your fiat?  No, not the little Italian car.  The word “fiat” comes from the Latin “let it be done.”  Mary’s “fiat” was saying yes to God, or “let it be done to me” as it is written in Luke 1:38. To know your “fiat” is to know your “yes.” What are you saying yes to? What are you letting God do in your life?

We say no to things from fears of inadequacy, failure, or even other people’s opinions. Despite what God puts on our hearts, we still try to take control. Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, whom this issue is dedicated to, said yes to a heck of a lot. Who would say yes to bear a child as an unmarried woman in a time you could be stoned for such a situation? Who would say yes to watch your own child be tortured and crucified? Who would say yes to hold the lifeless body of your only child in your arms after you’ve seen him executed like a common criminal?

Your fiat won’t always be easy. Your fiat may be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done. But I can say it’s worth it. It’s worth every bit of pain because pain is what transforms us.  All good theology is what we do with our pain.

Being a Catholic can be painful. Our faith asks a lot of us. It asks us to trust, to give up control, to jump into the unknown with the knowing that even where we fall, we are still enveloped in the goodness of God’s grace – the grace that keeps us at peace even when our world is falling apart.

2020 is no doubt a year of growth. It’s been a year of waiting, uncertainty, unpredictability and immense animosity between a whole lot of people. But these are the times when our faith is tested. These are the days that build our hearts for something greater. Learning to wait. Learning to let go. Even learning to love the people who are sometimes very hard to love.

“To live without a faith,” Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati once said, “without a heritage to defend, without battling constantly for truth, is not to live, but to ‘get along.’ We must never just get along.”

To answer your “fiat” is to step into uncertainty with a sense of peace. It is what it means to be Catholic. It’s not to do everything right. It’s not to know all the answers. It’s to tread into unknown waters with the faith that you will not sink. And if you do, God’s hand is there to pull you up again.