Human Suffering

            You may have read the story of a blameless and upright married man that existed numerous centuries ago. This righteous man was, as some would say, a blessed person. A believer in the Almighty and a pursuer of truth, he was also pleasing to God and just in God’s eyes. Nevertheless – and contrary to the notion that only good events happen to good people – he began to experience tremendous misery and hardship. His name was Job.

            His life is detailed in the biblical book bearing his name and addresses the mysterious human reality of suffering. In addition to raising the query of why people suffer unjustly in this world, the book of Job attempts to expound the fact that all people experience suffering – indeed, neither the innocent nor the just are exempt from it. Certainly, to be human is to be susceptible to periods of adversity in this life.

Our Faith and Trust In God Will Never Be In Vain

            However, we attain a comforting instruction when we attentively read Job’s story. Even though he suffered from terrible anguish, the Omnipotent God of all creation never abandoned him. Moreover, the book impugns the notion that suffering serves no purpose. As we reflect on Job’s struggle and relationship with the Lord, we begin to understand that even though God does not desire to see us in agony, He mysteriously permits these experiences for our own well-being. This is certainly difficult to accept and comprehend when we are presently going through physical or emotional pain and distress.

            However, the final vindication that Job received when God defended Job’s innocence gives us hope. This teaches us that placing our faith and trust in God, no matter what is occurring, will never be in vain. Certainly, the book of Job demonstrates what Psalm 22:25 states, that we “are not spurned or disdained by God in [our] suffering.”

Continue reading “What To Do With Our Human Suffering”

            “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) Though the enemy of God, the devil, detests us and desires our ruin, we ought to not be afraid, for “the Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?” (Psalm 27) Today, Christians need to remind each other of this truth. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but with this spiritual enemy par excellence that analyzes us to discover our weaknesses and to cause us to abandon the Faith.   

Fight the Good Fight of the Faith

            In his first letter to Timothy, Saint Paul impelled him to “fight the good fight of the Faith.” (1 Tim 6:12) Living the Faith is a strife that Saint Paul was extremely familiar with given the persecutions he endured throughout his apostolic ministry. Therefore, he earnestly cautioned Timothy on this reality because of the struggle to live faithfully the Christian life. We, too, are well-acquainted with this spiritual combat, particularly when we undergo temptations, our patience and charity are put to the test, and others insult, persecute, and falsely utter every kind of evil against us. (Mt. 5:11) Indeed, living the Faith can truly be a noble battle.

Continue reading “The Noble Confession”

            Countless are the number of friends and servant leaders that have disclosed to me their spiritual discouragement after a major conversion event. They have divulged stories about experiencing more adversities and tribulations after attending a powerful spiritual retreat or decisively following the Lord than before returning to God. These narratives are often saturated with situations where they were being accused, rejected, or ridiculed by their own family members on account of their new life in Christ. Stories like these do not astonish me given that the Word of God evidently warns us, saying, “My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials.” (Sirach 2:!)  

Continue reading “Following Christ Amid Family Conflicts”

“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens,” says the third chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes. We can state that just as there is “a time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant,” there is also a season to be healthy and another to be ill. Certainly, a considerable portion of our human nature consists of being wounded and lacerated by the struggles we face, the imperfections of our interpersonal relationships, and the numerous opponents to our physical and spiritual health and well-being. Fortunately, God has bestowed upon humanity the gifts of faith and medicine for our general health. The gift of faith fosters health and motivates us to surrender to God Almighty. In addition, faith constantly reminds us that the Lord not only desires our health and well-being, but also knows how to give us what we need, and can give it to us.

A reassuring example of how faith fosters health is present in the Gospel of Luke (Chapter 18, verses 35-43). “Now as [Jesus] approached Jericho a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging, and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening. They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’ He shouted, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!’

The people walking in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more, ‘Son of David, have pity on me!’ Then Jesus stopped and ordered that he be brought to him; and when he came near, Jesus asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ He replied, ‘Lord, please let me see.’ Jesus told him, ‘Have sight; your faith has saved you.'” This blind man’s faith in Christ healed him of his blindness.

Analogously, a good friend of mine that had been struggling for years with depression was healed because of her faith in Jesus. She commenced going to Church three years ago when it seemed that her “life [had] become totally meaningless.” I remember engaging in a conversation with her about her adversities and encouraging her to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament. She agreed and developed a prayer schedule to visit our Eucharistic Lord regularly during the weekdays. In addition, she approached the sacrament of reconciliation after years of not receiving absolution for her sins. She fervently prayed to God that He would have mercy on her and heal her. Today, she is one of the most joyful and peaceful people I know.

Continue reading “Christ Desires Our Health”

How can we minister more effectively…

…to young Latino Catholics and help them increase their participation in the Church? These are key questions that are frequently raised and that must be acknowledged and studied carefully as we consider the future of the Catholic Church as well as her numerical growth. If we bear in mind that 44% of all Catholics under the age of thirty in the U.S. are Hispanics (according to the 2013 Pew Research Center survey of Hispanic adults) it would certainly seem that increasing Hispanic teenagers’ participation in the Church would be beneficial not just for Hispanic families and communities, but also for the future Church in general. Therefore, it is crucial that we comprehend what is happening in their lives to effectively minister to Hispanic teenagers. Indeed, family plays a big part, but what we often neglect is how significantly culture impacts the life of an adolescent. 

Latino Catholics are currently the largest youth segment under eighteen.

The available statistics suggest that many of these young U.S. Latino Catholics are children born to foreign-born parents, while some Latino teenagers are themselves foreign-born. Hence, these adolescents are constantly exposed to two differing cultures, requiring them to discover how to adequately navigate life while interacting with their culture of origin as well as U.S. mainstream culture. Certainly, this presents a major challenge for most teenagers given that these two cultures are dissimilar in their customs, dress, social norms, values, and views of life…

Continue reading “Ministering to Young Latino Catholics”

The Need to Reflect as We Serve

            Our ministerial life and “work” do not necessarily begin or end during the hours we have designated for active service: we are always ministers of God. The calling we have received from Him is an invitation to be present for the Lord and for others at all times. Therefore, true ministering demands sacrifice, generosity, and commitment. Sacrificial service requires us to renounce our self-interests and to attend to the interests of God and His people. Generosity puts sacrificial service into motion with great liberality, and commitment encourages us to do so continuously with dedication and perseverance.

            These three characteristics serve to remind us that an indispensable part of our ministry is when we are not actively ministering. Indeed, it is at those moments when we process more fully what happened and what did not. This processing is not simply an intellectual exercise—God is at work, speaking to us and revealing once again how He is always present in our lives. Therefore, it is a period of reflection that is guided by the Spirit to help us comprehend what God is doing and what He wants from us. He brings to light His loving, active plan of salvation, and His desire through our willing sacrifice, generosity, and commitment.

            Because we are called to serve and want to do so well, it is necessary to create time for reflection outside of our active service because this helps us grow as ministers. However, theological reflection’s effectiveness depends upon putting God at the center and not putting our desire to acquire knowledge and insight above God’s glory—for its ultimate purpose is to praise, love and follow Him more. Once we put God at the center of theological reflection, we realize how God makes Himself—and His thoughts—accessible to us to lovingly guide us. Over time, a willing service that precedes and succeeds theological reflection will convince us of the truth that we are always ministers of Jesus Christ, called to reflect and to serve with sacrifice, generosity, and commitment to God’s glory and our salvation.

An Experience Full of Reflection

            As ministers, we will occasionally have moments of epiphany in which we encounter a person whose situation would bring us to deeper theological reflection. For many years now, I have known this person named “Mary.” She is an older parishioner that, for a long time, has struggled with a host of health issues. The ability to consistently and effectively cope with her numerous physical illnesses has been a grinding battle for her due to the inner combat she confronts on a daily basis because of her depression. Sadly, her physical illnesses and depression have created in her life a vicious cycle of unhealthiness. There have been many occasions in which I have sat with her to pray with and for her. Very often it would be after her return to the church following an extended period of absence in which she sought to isolate herself. Sometimes, it would be during her self-exclusion.

            One Friday long ago, Mary left me a voicemail informing me that she was not going to church that day because she was at the hospital. She stated that she had gotten severely burned with hot cooking oil that previous Wednesday and was currently being treated at the hospital’s Burn Center. Though she left me a telephone number where she could be reached, I kept getting a busy signal every time I called. I was not only frustrated that I could not speak with her but also concerned that she would probably think that no one cared for her. For six days I prayed and thought about how she was doing—physically, mentally, and spiritually—while I was unable to speak with her until I was finally able to visit her at the hospital a week later…

Continue reading “Called to Serve Always”

            Going to confession can be intimidating. The sacramental process of entering a confessional; of disclosing our sinful thoughts, words, and actions; as well as disclosing the good deeds that we failed to do, can potentially provoke anxiety and fear in some people. Perhaps this is why some of us do not go to the sacrament of reconciliation today. Fear can certainly be powerful and influential. However, comprehension of and faith in the significance and value of this sacrament have apparently proven to be more compelling and overpowering in the lives of those that go to individual confession regularly. These Catholics cherish the liberating and healing experience of living the sacrament of reconciliation, as they are forgiven of their past sins and made whole again as children of God in the image of Christ. They also enjoy the inner strength and peace they obtain as their relationship with Christ is restored and they are empowered once again by His Spirit. For these Catholics, individual, one-to-one private confession is a profound experience of immense grace and renewal.

Individual Confession Has Been Declining

            Individual confession was a frequent practice up until the early 1960s. Unfortunately, it seems that it is not today. Many have wondered why individual confession has gone down over the years. Some have erroneously stated that the new communal rite of reconciliation with general absolution has made individual confession obsolete for them. Others say its reduction is due to a loss of an awareness of sin. And some others have suggested that certain personal moral issues, such as the use of birth control, have resulted in fewer people seeing the need to go to confession.

            Certainly, Catholics on birth control may have decided to stop going to confession because the Church views its use as sinful and they are unwilling to stop using them. However, many are unclear as to why using artificial contraception is immoral. This highlights part of an underlying cause for the decrease in confession. A significant number of contemporary theologians have disagreed over the years with the ecclesiastical hierarchy’s decision to call the use of the contraceptive pill and other forms of artificial birth control a sin. Consequently, this dissent and other disagreements have negatively contributed to the confusion and misunderstanding among many Catholics about what is sinful and what is not. 

Poor Preaching and Availability

            Is there a single reason why individual confession has declined dramatically? I do not think so. But the reasons mentioned above have certainly added to this issue. However, there are some other reasons that merit significant attention. St. Paul said to Timothy: “Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.” (2 Tim 4) Today, too few preachers are responding adequately to this call. Not enough ordained and lay preachers are preaching firmly about sin, the real existence of the devil, the need to repent and to live a life of prayer. Much less have been courageous enough to preach on personal moral issues by proclaiming what sacred Scripture, sacred Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium have to say about them. Sadly, few are preaching prophetically so the truths of the Faith are proclaimed unequivocally at all times. Therefore, the faithful are not gaining a clearer understanding of why the Church believes what it believes, does what it does, and on what it means to be a true follower of Christ and of God’s commandments. True prophetic preaching serves to convince the faithful in the Faith, mercifully reprimands personal and not just social sin, and encourages them to live a holy and virtuous life. Eventually, this leads the faithful to repent, confess, and amend their lives, while acknowledging this sacrament’s value…

Continue reading “What is Happening with Confession”

Everyone confronts difficult moments at some point during his or her life. Perhaps you have already experienced distressing and trying seasons filled with events that seem worse than the previous ones, thereby encountering one tribulation after the next. Hence, these become episodes in which you do not see the improvement and positive change you’re hoping for. As a result, you may become worried, apprehensive, and filled with anxiety. Your thoughts may begin to center on a particularly troublesome situation without end. Understandably, it is during these moments that you may feel uncertain as to whether these circumstances will ever get better. But, there is reason to hope…

Continue reading “No Reason to Lose Hope”

Theology can be a complicated matter.

While a purpose of theology is to assist the ministry of the Church in making the Faith accessible to her members, some have experienced confusion at times, rather than greater understanding, because of how a belief or an article of faith was explained at a particular moment. Hence, some people are not attracted to or have little interest in theology.

This is unfortunate. Theology is a critical reflection on what the Church teaches that allows us to appreciate and comprehend better what we believe and why we believe it. Therefore, it is very profitable to consider and develop those qualities that facilitate an effective engagement in theology.

There is a fundamental question

that the English Dominican theologian Rev. Aidan Nichols raised in one of his books on theology. He asked, “What sort of person must I be in order to become a theologian?” (Aidan Nichols, The Shape of Catholic Theology, 13). This question invites those in theology to consider what qualities are required of them to engage in it. In other words, what makes a person a theologian? What personal or spiritual characteristics must this person possess to be one? These questions seem to indicate that to do theology there are certain preconditions that are essential…

Continue reading “To Engage In Theology Effectively”

How This Site Was Born…

Catholicism FELT is a result of years of prayer, discernment, study, and ministering, which in turn serve to inform the content presented here. Catholicism FELT endeavors to examine the relationships between Catholicism and faith, evangelization, life, and theology. This site hopes to share insights and experiences that relate to the invitation to be faithful, well-informed Catholics. It seeks to make sense of what we believe and sense of the challenges we experience daily as we attempt to follow Christ. For this, we turn to 4 important words for us as Catholics…

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