The Grace of Joy is Waiting for You! Do You Want it?

Yesterday, while picking up a prescription for one of my boys, I overheard an exchange between a Pharmacist and a Pharmacy Tech.

As the Pharmacy Tech was looking up the prescription I needed, she turned to the pharmacist next to her and said, “So what are you doing for your birthday tomorrow? I know your husband isn’t going to do anything for you,” she chuckled, “but how about your mom or your kids are they doing anything?”

“Well, tomorrow is my kids’ end of the year baseball party, so that’s what I’m doing.” She said with a smile, “When you have kids, that’s how you spend your birthday some times.”

With a snarky snort the Pharmacy Tech said, “Yeah! When you have kids, you have no life!”

The Pharmacist paused for a moment and then replied, “I have a life! My kids are my life but I have a life”

“Yeah, your kids are your life.” said the Pharmacy Tech as she moved to the shelf to grab my prescription.

Joy Filled Catholic

Parenting is SO Much More Joyful than You Think it Is!

That’s what I wanted to say to her when she brought my prescription…but I didn’t. The exchange has been running through my mind since yesterday afternoon. I wanted to tell that tech that kids are a HUGE joy! That when we say our kids are our life, that doesn’t mean we don’t exist anymore – our existence is transformed into something much greater.

My children are also my life! If not for them, I believe that my world would look quite different! I know I would be much more selfish and self-centered. I know, because that’s how I lived for many years. My children and my husband are helping me to become a better person.

I think about those many times when I was so tired, and one of my boys would wake in the middle of the night. I would shuffle into their room, praying as I went, for him to fall asleep quickly, so I could go back to bed. I remember so vividly rocking each of my babies back and forth, while humming a song to get them to sleep. I was forced to slow down, to be patient, and to do something for another person who was completely dependent on me.

It was amazing how the frustration and exhaustion would transform. It was still there but as soon as I looked at that sweet face in the glow of the nightlight and kiss those plump soft cheeks, I could feel myself changing! As I gazed down at my child, you might find tears streaming down my face from the mix of exhaustion and JOY.  If not for my children, I would never experience the juxtaposition of these emotions during such a precious moment.

Joy Filled Catholic

Why do We Sometimes Assume the Worst About People’s Lives?

As my mind begins to marinate on these things, I imagine that the lady (without kids, I am assuming) has a picture in her mind of how life sucking having children must be. She probably envisions kids running around wild, breaking vases, the mother screaming, all while the kids are shooting each other with silly string.

Meanwhile, I am picturing how lonely her life must be. Sitting in a darkened room that is bouncing with shadows and flashes of light created by the glow of the television. Each night, I imagine, she nestles in her recliner with a TV tray in front of her, while stroking one of her 15 cats and eating Chinese take-out straight from the box.

The truth is, when we don’t know someone’s life, we can only assume what we do not know, until we do – and even then we still don’t really know. What I mean is, that woman can’t possibly know the joy of parenting and all of the precious moments and love it provides and what it means when a parent says that their children are their life – and in turn, I don’t know how fulfilling all the activities and events she experiences without children truly are. After all, not everyone is called to marriage and family, and there can be extraordinary joy and great satisfaction in those vocations as well! I know, because I have seen it happen for people I know and love.

Joy Filled Catholic

Non-Catholics Cannot Understand the JOY of Being Catholic!

I began to relate this experience to how someone who has no belief in God at all, or someone who does believe but isn’t Catholic, might view religion in general – or Catholicism specifically.

Just like I pointed out above, it is hard to explain the joys of marriage and family or the joys of being single to someone who isn’t living it. In turn, it is difficult for me to explain all the grace and mercy that has been poured out on me – and filled me with more peace and joy than I have EVER experienced in my life, to someone who has not lived that for themselves.

My non-believer friends might think that religion is a waste of time, that I believe in fairy tales, or my freedom to do whatever I like, whenever I like, is being stifled by the “rules and regulations” they think that the church puts forth.

This isn’t just the thinking of atheists or agnostics, other Christians and former Catholics, too, have told me that they wouldn’t want to be part of the Catholic Church because of all the “rules”. At one time, I also scoffed at what I thought were rules that were put in place to make me feel guilty about all my sins, which kept me on the outskirts of the Catholic faith for many years. I felt like an Outcast in God’s Family.

Some might wonder why I wouldn’t want to be part of a church who “entertains me” from start to finish! I used to think I wanted that too until I experienced it and begin to long for the sacredness of the Mass.

I cannot explain what a gift and JOY that it is to receive our Lord- body, blood, soul , and divinity in the Eucharist.

I cannot explain the JOY that I feel when I hear stories from converts, explaining what made them come home to the Catholic Church — to hear some of these check out the Coming Home Network.

I cannot explain the Joy that comes from reading the scriptures and knowing that the Catholic Church doesn’t just make up rules to take away freedom – but instead to help us focus on Jesus and give us the wisdom to live in the world but not of it!

I cannot explain why I get teary as my heart swells with JOY every time I witness a baptism.

You know what steals freedom? Sin. Shame. Anger. Addiction. Activism without truth. I know because I have felt like a prisoner to all of these things.

You know what sets us free? Or more accurately Who?

JESUS!!!

I have never felt more joy, and peace, and freedom in my life. I have tried many things to feel happy, to make my way, and to figure out who I am. When I stopped doing what I wanted, when I wanted, for whatever reason I wanted – and began to ask God,

“What is it YOU want from me? What shall YOU have me do? Why have you put me here and why do you keep saving me, when I don’t think I really have much to offer this world?”

My entire life changed!

I cannot explain the JOY I feel when I say my children are my life and I cannot explain the JOY I feel when I say I live for the Lord!

You just have to take the leap and experience that for yourself.

 

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Feeling Like an Outcast in God’s Family

www.joyfilledcatholic.com

You know that feeling you get, whether it is a big event, a meeting, or even just a conversation within a small group, when you suddenly think:

“What am I doing here? I don’t really belong. I don’t quite fit it.”

When I find myself in those situations, it feels a little awkward and uncomfortable. It is an unsettling feeling, which usually leads me to excuse myself and head for the door.

Now, let me ask you, have you ever felt that way as a member of God’s family? I know that I have! There are many times I observed other Christians living out their faith or attended church services, and though I desired to have that peace and blessed assurance, I never thought I would ever find it.

I would attend Mass with my mom infrequently. I would say all the things I had been taught to say, I would kneel, make the sign of the cross, and participate – but I felt like an outcast. I mean, I was there, but I didn’t feel like I really belonged – or that I was worthy to belong.

I even tried going to other churches to see how that “felt” but something was always a little (sometimes a lot) off for me. However, I did keep trying to find my place in God’s family. I admit that I didn’t try too hard, but I was seeking.

Once I finally realized that God wanted me back in the Catholic Church, there was no where else to go. Suddenly, I had an insatiable desire to know all about His Church, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Blessed Mother, the saints, and the Bible. It is a fire that continues to burn inside of me today and I pray it will continue for the rest of my life!

What brought me back?

Not what, it was who! It was Jesus pursuing me with His mercy! He was relentless, compassionate, and loving. Every time I said,

Lord Jesus, I am not worthy. I have committed sins too terrible to truly be forgiven. I ignored every blessing you put before me to pursue what I wanted. I chased after all the things I thought would make me happy, complete, and adored. Instead, this pursuit has left me broken, anxious, and despising the person I have become. I can no longer live this way but I am still not worthy to be in your family. Lord, you see me. You know my sins. You know my heart. I think we can now both agree that I am not worthy.

But he did not agree! He did not agree with me at all.

I had a lot of work to do. But when I finally stopped running from him, because I was too ashamed to face him, I ran to Him and my life has never been the same. Once I realized and accepted that I had not ruined God’s plans for my life, everything changed. Yes, I chose a path that was a lot bumpier, and far more perilous, than it could have been if I had made better choices. However, the Lord showered me with graces that have made me the person I am today.

He has used those trials and suffering to bring about so much good in my life and he will surely do the same for you. If you are feeling like an outcast in God’s family, take heart! You are so loved by a Heavenly Father who knit you together in your mother’s womb and He knows you inside and out. He wants to shower you with His grace and mercy.

 

Journal idea: Are there times in your life when you felt like an outcast in God’s family? What changed that feeling for you? Who did God place in your life to plant seeds? How did He guide you back and show you how forgiving and merciful He truly is?

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“God Doesn’t Call the Qualified, He Qualifies the Called!”

My husband gets up early in the morning, so he is usually in bed by 9:30pm. I can’t quite get myself to go to sleep that early, but going up to bed at the same time each night is something that is important to both of us. So while he sleeps, I watch TV or try to get work done from my phone. I should probably be reading instead…I need to start doing that a lot more, actually.

Anyway, I usually turn on Food Network or HGTV. Sometimes I have shows recorded like EWTN’s The Journey Home or At Home with Jim and Joy. However, the other night I decided to turn on the Protestant television channel and up popped a familiar face. I was sure I would only watch for a few moments but the way the woman on the show spoke, really drew me in. Probably because she reminded me a lot of my husband’s Grandma, who I love. No nonsense, kind of serious but throws in some humor every now and again. Her message for the day grabbed me right away and one phrase she repeated a few times, stuck with me:

“God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.”

I have heard this saying before, but last night it stuck with me and I started to meditate on what this means for me and my life. The woman’s message resonated with me. The topic was that we may feel very unqualified to do the work that God is calling us to do. We may be filled with the urging of the Holy Spirit, but perhaps we don’t know where to start and what we are even doing.

I feel that way a lot, which is probably why my blog gets so neglected. On one hand I feel like I don’t really have the credentials to speak about what the Church teaches and why someone should be Catholic. So I lose my confidence and just don’t write.

On the other hand, I spend a lot of time reading, doing research, listening to Catholic apologetic podcasts, etc. and I know that this desire to know and learn is building up to something. I think all the time, “I should do a post about that!” and then I don’t – but I usually write the idea down for a later date.

I mean, I know why I am Catholic. I know why I am raising my children in the faith. I have had a lot of life experience, which propels me forward and qualifies me to speak to others who are going through, or have gone through similar situations. These are the things I can be writing about. Even though it is hard for me to share those experiences, I have to remember that it could help encourage others.

For example, I am a child of divorce. While I cannot speak for every child of divorce I can share my experience and why that makes me an avid defender of life and the family. I had a father who’s battle with substance abuse finally overtook him. I also happen to be a recovering alcoholic, who just celebrated 20 years of sobriety this year. While I cannot speak for every child of a drug addict – or every recovering or active alcoholic – I can share my story of struggle and hope with others. So they can say, “Well, if she did it, through the grace of God, so can I!”

I have felt hopeless a lot in my life. I used to wonder “why” about a lot of things. Why can’t anything just be easy for me? Why can’t things go my way just for once? Why is everything such a struggle? I pray, I beg, I cry out in desperation and nothing…nothing…nothing. Does God even care what I want? Is he even listening?

Perhaps, if I had heard the stories of others like me, and how God delivered them, then maybe I wouldn’t have felt so defeated. Maybe I am supposed to be that person for someone else.

Joy Filled Catholic

Those unanswered prayers really did lead me to greater things. My mistakes have helped shape who I am and what I value and believe today. God really can bring so much beauty from the ashes. During all those dark times people came and went from my life to serve a purpose and seeds were being planted. While I sat there feeling like a 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle, completely pulled apart and mixed up, God was working to connect those pieces — and he still is.

I am thankful to now live the life I always dreamed of. Actually, it is even better than I ever dared to imagine. I feel so unworthy of these blessings but I know that I am now called to share my story and experience with others and do as Jesus instructed the Gerasene:

‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you’”
– Luke 8:39

God delivered me from my “demons”, from all the things that were keeping me from hearing his call for my life. I now realize that God has qualified me to do the work he has set before me. He will continue to qualify me as I travel the path of life, so that I may do his will.

Joy Filled Catholic

Journal idea: Are there things in your life that you felt quite unqualified for, but during your journey you gained the experience necessary to qualify you? You could also make a list of the crosses you have had to carry in your life, or mistakes you have made. How has God worked through you, to turn those experiences into something that could help others?

 

 

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{{YOU}} Can be a Joy Filled Catholic!

www.joyfilledcatholic.com

I don’t always enthusiastically jump into the air, while walking through a flowery meadow – but when I do, it’s because I am a Joy Filled Catholic!

Actually, that’s not even me, but that is how I feel inside when I think of the awesomeness that is the Catholic Church. It really truly is – but how did I get here?

Today, I am going to share with you 10 things that have helped me grow closer to God and multiply my joy! If you follow these steps, I’m sure you’ll soon find yourself becoming a Joy Filled Catholic!

Joy Filled Catholic

Step 1: Choose Joy Daily

It is as simple and as complicated as that. Happiness fades but true joy that comes from turning your life over to God and seeking to do His will daily, will endure even through hard times. When you wake in the morning, shut out those negative thoughts and instead count all of your blessings – no matter how great, or how small.

Choosing joy provides a sense of peace that no one can steal. The evil one will try everything to take it from you. He will tell you that you are not good enough — that you aren’t attractive enough, smart enough, funny enough, faithful enough. He will tell you that you are not enough until you start to believe it and repeat it to yourself over and over again.  Your anxiety will rise. Worry might over take you.

Do NOT believe those thoughts! Not for even one second.

YOU are a child of God. He made YOU! He loves YOU! He has amazing things in store for YOU – if you will only let him work in you. He wants to use YOU to spread His word and touch people’s lives. He has a purpose for YOUR life!

‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ Jeremiah 29:11

This verse doesn’t mean that we won’t have trials, we will. It doesn’t mean there won’t be suffering, because there will be. BUT if we take up our crosses and abide in Christ like he said (MT 16:24-25, LK 9:23-24, JN 8:31, JN 15:4-5, JN 15:10 2 John 1:9 – just to note a few) He will give us the grace, peace, and joy to endure and thrive!

So, when you wake up in the morning, don’t instantly turn on the news, or reach for your phone. Take a moment and make a morning offering to God. Dedicate your day to Him. Say whatever you like; it is your morning conversation with God.

Listen, I know that it might feel a little awkward at first, but I promise — the more you pray and converse with the Lord, the more natural it will become.

Here’s an example of something I like say in the morning:

Dear Lord, today I choose to be a joyful witness of your love! Guide my hands, my feet, my thoughts, and my actions to build up your kingdom here on earth. Allow your most Holy Spirit to inspire my words to glorify you, and you alone. Please help me to notice those who are hurting, so that I may be a vessel of your love – to bring hope, comfort, and light to them. Thank you for all of the graces, blessings, and mercy you pour out on me each day. I am not worthy of any of it, which makes it all the more precious to me. Today I choose joy! In Jesus’ name, Amen

If you want something a little more formal, or you would like to have a variety of morning offerings to choose from, I invite you to visit the website OurCatholicPrayers.com. The link I provided is for their morning offering page, but they are an excellent resource for Catholic prayers of all kinds.

Also, on the Relevant Radio app, in the audio prayers section, there is a beautiful Morning Offering there that you can pray along with as well.

 

Step 2: Dive into God’s Word

The Joy Filled Catholic

 

I always struggled with this. I am not an avid reader (though I would like to be) and thinking about reading the Bible seemed to be quite the daunting task.

However, when I was invited to be part of a (Protestant led, but mostly Catholic attended) Bible study, I reluctantly agreed. I had a strong desire to know, read, and understand the Word of God – but I was worried that my lack of Biblical knowledge would be very evident and I wouldn’t have much to say. Was I ever wrong. I had a lot to say and I learned a lot too. I would find myself reading, taking notes, and looking things up for hours after the study was over.

My thirst to know the scriptures and know Jesus more, grew – and it continues to grow all of the time. I now own several bibles but my favorite is my Didache Bible that offers commentaries based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Not sure what the Didache is? Check out this video “What is the Didache?” from Catholic Answers Apologist, Jimmy Akin, who briefly explains it.

One of my favorite things to do recently, is to listen to an audio bible (I purchased the new testament from my EWTN app) with my family in the evenings. We all pull out our bibles and follow along. My children actually look forward to it and seem to retain much of what they are hearing/reading. I make notes and underline as I follow along because that helps me understand and remember things better.

Bible Journaling is also something that I very much enjoy. While I do take notes in my Bible, I typically write verses out in another journal that I have. Check out my post on Catholic Bible Journaling to see what I am talking about.

The other thing that reading the bible has done, is to confirm the Church’s teachings. I’m sure I learned most of this growing up but there was some sort of disconnect where I either didn’t remember – or didn’t want to remember what I had been taught.

Step 3: Partake in the Sacraments

I cannot imagine anything greater than participating in the sacraments that Christ gave to us. In recent years I have grown more and more in love with the sacrament of reconciliation. I was even more delighted when (through my bible reading) I knew that this wasn’t just something the Church made up, but Jesus told the apostles to do it and gave them the authority to do so.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”  John 20:22-23

My husband and I were not married in the Catholic Church (or in any church for that matter) but we had our marriage Convalidated when my husband went through RCIA. Convalidation is the process of making our marriage sacramental. I cannot even begin to tell you about all the graces that were poured out on us and on our family after that happened. It has been a magnificent blessing our our marriage, family, and our faith lives.

Also, having the ability to receive Jesus – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, each week at Mass (and more if we like) is also something that I appreciate. It all really changed for me when I read John 6. I have a LOT more to write on this topic but will save it for a future post. It is just too special to try to cram into a paragraph or two.

Step 4: Tune Out Noise of the World

Ah, yes! Tune out the noise of the world. The more time I take for quiet prayer and reflection, and the more I seek to know and do God’s will – the quieter the voice of the world becomes. I used to be so fearful of saying, or doing the wrong thing. I was afraid of the backlash and that the world would not love me. This produced a lot of anxiety and insecurities.

However, since coming back to the faith, I have taken some very deliberate actions to help retain my sense of peace, keep my joy, and shut out quite a bit of the negativity and hate that was causing me so much worry and anxiety. I am very selective about the music I listen to, the programs I watch, and I have cut WAY back on my personal social media time. In fact, have made several modifications so that what I see in my news feed, for the most part, is uplifting, educational, and helps me grow closer to the Lord.

In making these changes, I find much more peace — but in those moments when I lift my gaze away from the Lord and doubt Him, I am like Peter, falling helplessly into the sea. The anxiety builds, fear, hopelessness, doubt, and anger rise within me. When I finally turn to Jesus for help. I imagine a warm loving smile on His face as he says affectionately,

“Christie, I got this silly girl! I’ve got YOU, if you will only learn to trust me. Why do you doubt?”

Of course, we can’t tune out everything and unless we are called to a life of solitude and prayer (which if I’m being honest, some days, that just sounds amazing!), we still have to be in the world. We also need to know what is going on so we know where God needs us and how we can help glorify Him and also bring His Word and love to those who need it the most.

Step 5: Attend Eucharistic Adoration

Speaking of tuning out the world, I just have to tell you that going to Eucharistic Adoration has been something I have learned to love and look forward to. Even though I am a lifelong Catholic, went to CCD and Catholic school – I did not know what Adoration was. It wasn’t until my children started kindergarten at a Catholic school that I heard about it. I asked them, “Is it just a prayer service?” and they said “yes”. However, I discovered that it is much more than that.

It came unexpectedly when I watched a reality show on Lifetime called, The Sisterhood. The show followed the discernment process of about 6 young women. One of the things that stuck with me, was when the women would attend Adoration. For some it wasn’t the easiest thing, for others it was something that they would “thirst” for. One young woman would get very emotional and in at least one episode prostrated herself in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I thought, “Wow! I really need to check out Adoration.”

It took me a little while to work up the courage to go, but I did. At first it was awkward and I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do or say. Sometimes, I still don’t – but I can tell you that I find a great sense of peace when I go.

Is it the same for everyone? No, but if you you open yourself up to having a real conversation with Jesus, He will make His presence known and lay things on your heart. These may be good and enlightening things, or hard things that perhaps you have been running from – but have courage. He is with you! You will be filled with peace and joy!

Step 6: Rediscover the Beauty of the Catholic Faith

Knowing my faith has certainly increased my joy a thousand fold. Finding tons of Catholic resources to help me along that journey has been SUCH a blessing. I was always worried that if I learned too much I would find out something that would lead me away from what little faith I had. However, I have experienced just the opposite! The more I know, the more I absolutely LOVE being Catholic! The more I LOVE my faith, the easier it is to spread the truth.

I have mentioned many times about how sheepish I was about standing up for the Church and Her teachings. Mainly, because I didn’t understand them myself and I wasn’t prepared to defend them. However, the more I know, the easier it is to share and defend the faith.

The most eye-opening thing I have learned through my journey, is that Jesus wanted all Christians to be one. The thing that was leading me away from Jesus, is all the division among Christians. I often wondered, what makes them so sure that they are right?

Once I started to realize that Jesus came to establish a Church, one Church, His Church – the more I realized that I need to know more and share that information with others! The truth is Jesus wants us to be united through Him, with God the Father. He even prayed for that very thing right before His Passion and death! He prayed for His Apostles and then He prays for His Church:

I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be within us, so that the world may believe that y ou have sent me. The glory which you have given me, I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.    – John 17:20-23

The more I learn about the Catholic faith, the more “on fire” and Joy Filled I become.

Step 7: Get to Know the Saints

I thought learning about the saints would make me feel terrible about myself. I mean they are the holiest of holy, right? I thought that their lives, would make me feel like the biggest failure on earth. While there are plenty of saints that led very holy virtuous lives, throughout their entire lives – there are also plenty of saints that did not start out so holy! I mean, if Saint Augustine of Hippo could turn things around, surely there is hope for me.

Want to start learning about saints? Try this fun Saint Name Generator, a project by Jennifer Fulwiler, to randomly discover new saints. I love using this tool and have learned about many different saints!

Step 8: Pray! Pray! Pray!

Why should we pray? The short answer is because God wants us to. It is how we communicate with Him and discern His will for our lives. In the Gospels we see Jesus praying often – having conversations with God the Father. Jesus teaches us to pray and even gave us the Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.

Matthew 7:9-13

Imagine knowing there is someone who loves you more than you could ever comprehend, that they want to lavish graces upon you, grant your requests, give you wisdom and peace to get through troubling times. Would you just ignore that person? Never talk to them – not even to send a text?

Of course not! If we are to be Joy Filled Catholics, we must converse with God. He wants to hear from His children – and not just on Sunday. The more you pray, the easier it is to pray.

Can’t find time? I used to think that too but I remember hearing Donna Marie Cooper O’Boyle say on a program, that mothers “pray as they go.” I just absolutely LOVED that and I think of it all the time. When I am doing laundry, cooking dinner, sitting in line – I try to do it prayerfully. There are times that I am better at this, than others but it is something that becomes a part of all you do, the more you do it.

Step 9: Serve Others & Get Involved

Serving others brings joy because when we do it, are doing God’s will. It is a beautiful way of thanking God for all he has blessed us with.

As each has received a gift, employ it for one another,
as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

1 Peter 4:10

Getting involved in your parish community is very important too. When I came back to the Catholic Church, I had an intense desire to know the people in my parish community and to allow them to get to know us. I didn’t just want my family and I to show up Sunday after Sunday without really feeling like we were part of the community.

I participated in a few vibrant Protestant communities and I really wanted that, but I wanted to find it in a Catholic parish. I wasn’t even sure that these types of ministries even existed – but they do. I know that ministries vary from parish to parish – but we found our place in ours.

My family and I started by staying after Mass for coffee and donuts and we participated in other parish events. Our pastor, would take time to talk to us whenever he saw our family, and we also starting meeting other families in our parish. I became a Lector and over the years we have all become very active members in our parish and parish school.

Being around other Catholics who are happy to be Catholic and are active in living out their faith, has been a HUGE blessing to us and has enriched our faith lives tremendously.

Step 10: Evangelize

Once you are a Joy Filled Catholic, you just can’t help but want to share what you know with others. My main focus has always been on evangelizing myself and my family – but I have a growing desire to reach others as well! That’s why I started this blog.

For my family though, I really want them to know and understand why we are Catholic. I also want to prepare them to answer objects that they will get from non-Catholics and non-believers. I want them to have the courage to stand up for what they believe in and not back down, just to “fit in”.

Evangelizing doesn’t always mean having heated debates. Sometimes your best witness as a Catholic is being a good example, and joyfully living out your faith.

 Joy Filled Catholic

I have so much more that I could write on each of these steps and I have so many other tips to share as well — but I will leave that for future posts. Please check back soon!

 

May Christ’s Peace be with you always!

 

 

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When I Met Mary at the Foot of the Cross

The LEnt I met Mary at the Foot of the Cross
Photo Credit: The Joy Filled Catholic ♦ The Grotto – National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother

I have a blog post in the works that I will post after we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord — and I think it will be a great post to kick off the Easter season!

Today is Holy Thursday. This evening will mark the end of Lent and the beginning of the Pascal Triduum. It is during this time that we should pause to reflect on all of those moments leading up to the crucifixion. All the actions, words, betrayals, tears, and the brutal sacrifice of our Lord Jesus.

Even though I grew up Catholic, Holy Week wasn’t really something we took time to pause and reflect on. All of that changed for me several years back.

My husband and I were struggling to conceive, my step-dad, and also a very dear friend and co-worker of mine, were both battling colon cancer. It was through my sadness, disappointment, and grief that I was starting to cling to my Catholic faith – which a few year before, I nearly abandoned. I was praying for the intercession of Saints, praying the Rosary, I went to confession which didn’t turn out as I had hoped (my fault – but that is a story for another day), visited my favorite sanctuary, and started going to Mass more often than I ever had in years.

So, that year, I decided that I would go to Mass on Holy Thursday. I had never been before and I really didn’t understand what was going on. It was long, and there was just a lot happening, and yet sometimes, nothing was happening. It’s even hard to explain that now. I felt like a stranger, somewhere that I typically felt (for the most part) like I knew what was happening and what to expect next. It left me wanting to know more. This was the year I dipped my toe into Holy Week.

Fast forward several years, our twins were almost 6 years old and we were expecting our third son. Two years before, my husband had gone through RCIA, we had our marriage Convalidated, and we became regular Mass attenders. Lent became more and more special each year. However, this Lent was different than any other for me and one which I will always remember. It was the Lent when I met Mary at the foot of the Cross.

I know that may sound a bit strange. Especially, since Holy Week and the Triduum are focused on Jesus, of course. But when I took a moment to look at Mary, I discovered something about Jesus that I hadn’t really thought of before – He is not only our Lord, Son of God. He is not only fully divine — but fully man as well. He is Lord – but he is also Mary’s son.

How often have I seen photographs, painting, or statues of the infant Jesus cradled in His mother’s arms. A tender embrace of love. She fed him, snuggled him, and taught him how to do all those things that faithful, Jewish mothers of her day, taught their sons. There is very little information about Jesus’ childhood – but I can imagine all those moments that they shared together. Many of those things I even share with my own sons.

But Mary had to witness the Passion and death of her only Son. She watched in gut-wrenching, heart-crushing, soul-piercing, horror as her precious baby was dragged through the streets. He was beaten, spit on, ridiculed, and died — all as His mother watched; helpless to save Him.

I don’t know what Mary knew – but I do know she had an unwavering faith. She trusted the Lord with all her heart, soul, and mind. However, that doesn’t make having to witness the brutality against her Son any easier to watch.

That day, I believe that a sword did pierce through her own soul…just as Simeon had foretold. (Luke 2:35) I believe it because if I even let myself think for a second, about how I would feel having to watch that happen to one of my boys – it brings me instantly to tears.

When I think of that moment in Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, where she and Mary Magdalene are taking rags and soaking up Jesus’ blood that was spilled out on the streets, that also brings me to tears.

I can’t begin to imagine what that was like for her. I can only look at her with my mother’s heart and meditate on what transpired that day. When I do I just want to hug her and hold her. I want to put my arms around her and cry with her…at the foot of the cross.

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.    John 16:20


God’s Peace be with you!

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A Reason for the Hope Within Me

The Grotto Portland

 

But even if you do suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them or be troubled, but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God’s will, than for doing wrong.

1 Peter 3:14-17

For so many years I was afraid of being open about my faith. I was also timid to admit I was Catholic.

Would my beliefs be challenged?

Would I be confronted and have no answers, only to concede that I did not know the faith I professed?

Would one of unbelief have the words to convince me that my faith is in vain?

Would I be ridiculed for the Church’s teachings, many of which seemed to me at the time, to be so out of touch with today’s reality?

I think what I was most afraid of, if I am being completely honest, is that I would not fit in. What I didn’t realize, is that I am not supposed to. I didn’t understand that following Jesus is not supposed to be easy. We are called to seek the narrow gate, even though the way is hard. While others are seeking the easy route; blissfully filing through the wide gate, which unfortunately can lead to destruction. (MT 7:13-14)

I was a coward! I was conforming MYSELF to the world so that the world would love me. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be who the world said I should be and believe what the world professes to be true. I didn’t realize that as Christians, we are set apart. We are called to holiness. We aren’t supposed to do what “they” do, or say what “they” say.

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

John 15:18

Being a Christian doesn’t mean I will ever be perfect. It doesn’t mean that I have not sinned in big ways – I have! But the Lord is merciful indeed and I am so thankful that I now have eyes to see and ears to hear.

The more I reject the ideals of this world, and instead put my trust and hope in the Lord – the greater my sense of peace and joy.

So, where does my hope come from?

It comes from the LORD and it gives me the peace and blessed assurance that I need to confidentially proclaim His truth. This is something I am working on doing more and more – but fear still creeps in sometimes.

Through my deep desire to know my faith and understand what it means to be a Catholic, I made a remarkable discovery. The Church is so wise. Thanks to solid Catholic resources, along with reading and studying the Bible, I now understand the “whys” behind many of Her teachings. Teachings which I only rejected before, because I didn’t understand them. I love, honor and respect Holy Mother Church.

Joy Filled Catholic

What or who has helped me on this exciting faith journey? All glory goes to God and the work of the Holy Spirit. Through a burning desire to know more, I have discovered some magnificent Catholic resources that I highly encourage you to explore:

EWTN TV and Radio

The Journey Home

Catholic Answers Radio

Tim Staples

Trent Horn

Jimmy Akin

Patrick Madrid

Catholic Answers Website

Relevant Radio (I use the App and listen to so many programs)

Go Ask Your Father

The Coming Home Network

Catholics Come Home

Ascension Presents

Blessed is She

These are just a few of the dynamic resources that I found to help me understand my faith! There are a ton of others. Don’t be overwhelmed by the list, just pick one or two to explore. You’ll soon find yourself looking for others though, so keep this list handy!

Let me just leave you with this:

God desires us all to be part of His one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. He desires us to lead others to Him and build up His Kingdom on earth and He gives us the grace to do this. He desires us to be holy and dwell with Him forever in Heaven. He desires us to be filled with peace and joy.

Brothers and sisters, we are called to much more than what this broken world can offer us, but while we are here, we must be beacons of light and love for others.

 

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

― Saint Teresa of Ávila

 

God’s Peace Be with You!

 

Why I LOVE Being Catholic ~ Intro

Why I LOVE Being Catholic

So, after having this blog for a year, posting a few things, and writing several things that didn’t seem right, so they didn’t get posted – I have FINALLY been inspired! Praise be to God!

Seriously, if I didn’t know that it was God’s will for me to put this blog out there for His Glory and for the good of the Kingdom, I would have shut it down months ago. Even through my discouragement and dryness, as it related to writing posts, I knew that I needed to keep praying for clarity, and discern what He wanted me to do.

Joy Filled Catholic

Initially, I think I knew why I wanted to start this blog all along. Or I guess I should say, I had some understanding of why the Lord put it on my heart to start this blog. It is because I LOVE being Catholic! I absolutely love it and I want to share that with others.

In sharing what I adore about our magnificent Catholic Church, I hope to help others – and also spread joy! That is why I named this blog The Joy Filled Catholic. Because that is what I am! In the midst of all the negativity, hate, hurting, and sin that exists in our perishing world – through my faith, the Word of God, Holy Mother Church, and the Holy Spirit working within me, I have an unshakable sense of peace and joy. Something that I NEVER had in my life before I started trying to understand why I am a Catholic.

People have asked me why I am Catholic – and I never really had a good grasp on the why. I would say things like:

“It’s just what I know.”

“I was baptized Catholic.”

“Does it really matter as long as I am a Christian?”

“I like the tradition of the Mass.”

…and on and on. I never had a clear answer though. So I went searching. I decided that if my husband and I are going to raise our kids Catholic and invest in Catholic education, I should probably know the WHY. Why choose Catholicism over being Lutheran, Presbyterian, Jewish, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Scientologist, etc. It seems like all religious denominations believe they have the answers, or they have the truth. Even non-denominational churches feel like they have it right.

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.”

Matthew 16:18-19

The truth is, there is only one true church – and that is the Catholic Church. Jesus says so himself. Don’t get me wrong, I adore our separated brethren and have a lot of respect for the good that they do in the world. Why do I love them? Because they love Jesus and they are seeking to do right in the eyes of the Lord. They are sheep that are still close to the Shepard but have veered off to a nearby path. They have some of the truth, some more than others, but they are not in full communion with Christ’s church. They have been led astray by false teachings or desire to find a church where they can decide which teachings to believe and which ones seem a little too hard.

Jesus never said being a disciple of His would be easy. On the contrary He says:

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Matthew 7:13-14

He also said:

Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided. Three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law  against her mother-in law.

Luke 12:51-53

No, my friends, it is not easy to be a Catholic – but it is right. It is true. The Catholic Church is the only church that can be traced back all the way to Christ Himself. In the years following Christ’s death and resurrection, Christianity spread like wildfire. This was at a time when travel was difficult and perilous. There was no social media, television, or radio. Against ALL odds Christianity thrived! The Catholic Church has seen the rise and fall of many an empire and yet She still holds firm.

Joy Filled Catholic

My brother’s and sisters, I have so many things to share with you! I invite you to journey with me as we explore all the beauty and truth of Catholic Church.

My hope and my prayer is that I can provide some information that will peek someone’s interest to go on their own exploration of faith to learn about the Catholic Church – even if they are just wanting to do so to prove the Church wrong. I know that anyone who fervently and earnestly seeks to understand the Church’s teachings, will, at the very least gain a new respect for the faith.

Christ’s peace be with you,

 

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Hush World, Just Hush for a Moment

www.joyfilledcatholic.com

 

I have not been great about keeping up with this blog. I could say that it is because I am focused on my children (a good thing of course), that the world is noisy and full of distractions, or that writing for my clients zaps every ounce of creative energy that I have – but the truth is, I can make the time. It is just scary for me to be vulnerable. In fact, I haven’t even told any of my friends or family about this blog. Well, I mentioned it to my mom the other day but I didn’t give her any details.

Why is that? What am I so afraid of?

I think I am afraid to speak out. To state my truth – or more importantly THE truth that Jesus and the Catholic Church teaches. Through my studies, I have learned things that make everything the Church teaches crystal clear – but it is hard for me to articulate it when questioned. Not that anyone HAS questioned me yet, but putting myself out here will definitely open those floods gates.

I’m always the person who comes up with the BEST comebacks about a half an hour too late. The thing that I am learning with apologetics though (not that I consider myself a Catholic apologist – yet), is that I don’t have to know all the answers, or have the “best comeback” at that very moment. It’s actually, as I have learned from amazing apologists like Trent Horn and Tim Staples, a lot about listening, asking the right questions, finding where we agree, and then giving my defense. When I think of it in those terms, it doesn’t seem quite so daunting.

I want to be able to share God’s truth! I so want to, but I have trouble discerning where I should start and how my perspective and life experiences can help lead people to Him and encourage them in their faith journey. So, the other day I decided I needed a little retreat to clear my mind. I needed to shush the world, meditate on His will, and get back on track, and I went to my most favorite spot in the world — The Grotto in Portland, OR

It is my happy place. It is where I go when I need to feel like I am wrapped in the arms of our Lord and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Where I can sit with Jesus and have a real heart to heart. Where the Blessed Mother is there to encourage and guide me along the way. Sure, I can do this anywhere, but The Grotto is where I can really connect to Him and disconnect from the world. Where I can truly be still and listen. While there, I did my best to shut out the world, the fears, the distractions, and to be like Samuel saying;

“Speak,  for your servant hears.”  1 Samuel 3:10

I prayed, I wrote, I meditated, I cried, and I snapped a few pictures that are beautiful – but could never do justice to the magnificence actually being there. Since that retreat I have been flooded with ideas for this little blog and I’m looking forward to sharing them with you.

 

Have a blessed day!

 

 

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“Do not be discouraged. Be Not Afraid!”

John 15 18 19

 

Sometimes I just cannot hide the frustration I feel when it comes to the world view on things like; abortion, euthanasia, gender neutral bathroom and locker room faculties, and other hot button issues. Our culture is so misguided and I often wonder, why can’t they wake up and see how incredibly wrong they are?

The thing is, these people passionately feel that they are right and that I, and people who agree with me, are wrong — but I wonder, if I was still part of that world, would I think they way they do? There is a good chance that, at some degree, the answer would be yes.

When faced with my thoughts on these issues, compared to popular culture, I realize how much I have changed – and that many of my views have changed as well. It is also difficult to keep quiet about my views – and that is a very good thing! None of us should keep quiet. We need to shout the Lord’s truth from the roofs tops, in a charitable and loving way.

So, as much as I know in the very depths of my soul, how wrong and confused the mainstream culture is, I can also see quite clearly how everything in the world has fostered a rich environment for these types of ideas and opinions.

When I was away from the church, living a life contrary to God’s plan, and wrapped tightly up in the culture, I was unaware that I was being brainwashed by what I was seeing and hearing. This was not just happening by watching the news, but also my regular television shows, commercials, song lyrics, etc. As I began to step back from that, it has become so clear and I see things in a way that I never did before.

Have you found this to be true for you?

The verse above perfectly explains what is happening. The more I disengage from the things that our culture holds dear and focus my attention toward Jesus and seek to discern the Lord’s purpose for my life — I belong less to the world and more to Him.

When I live my life in an effort to serve others and focus less on myself, I become happier. The more I learn about the Lord, nurture that relationship, live my vocation and seek Him in all things – the more JOY and fullness I feel.

So, let us all strive for holiness. Let us keep evangelizing. Let us live holy and the seek the Lord with all our heart, soul, and might. Let us be rebels and not go with what society tells us how — we should be, do, want, have, and think.

People are being lead by false prophets and fake ideas. They are willing to indulge people’s fantasies instead of facing the real problems of this world. They are jumping on and off whatever the most popular bandwagons is at the time.

http://www.joyfilledcatholic.com

Brothers and sisters, we must remain steadfast and not get discouraged by everything we hear and see. As St. John Paul II said — Be not afraid. We must be the voice of reason bringing the truth in this very confused and misguided world. In any way and every way we can — starting of course, with our own families.

God bless!