Searching for Augustine

Last week, it was the feast of St. Monica. During the day, a family friend posted the link to this video on Facebook. I thought it was nice and everything, and went on with my day.

That night, I went to daily mass on campus, and the chaplain preached about Saint Monica and how her persevering prayer was responsible for the conversion of her son, Augustine.

Sound familiar? It did to me. Especially since I had recently decided to give up praying for a special intention, because nothing seemed to be happening.

In our lives, we all have “Augustines”, people we pray for, but who don’t seem to change, or who God doesn’t seem to answer any prayers about. I know I have. And I know I’ve almost given up on them. Thank God that Monica, because of her maternal love, didn’t give up on Augustine!

We are all called to be like Saint Monica, to pray and trust, even when God seems to be too busy doing something else. Find your Augustine, and pray like a Monica. God prevails.

 

Can ya’ll do me a solid?

Hi friends!

 

My article was published on Yahoo Voices! It was originally written as my final paper for my Theology paper for my Lay Ministry class, and I loved it so much, I decided to submit it for publication. They must have thought it was pretty swell, too, because they published it right here! If you could do me a favor and go check it out, that would mean the world to me! Thank you!

Newsflash! Women don’t suffer from lust!

Just kidding. We do. We really do.

However, it seems to me that the world doesn’t quite understand that yet. Women are the ones held accountable for keeping their brothers out of sin. No one seems to realize that women can face the exact same struggles.

I began looking at porn when I was around twelve years old. I found my grandfather’s stash, and with a mixture of what was disgust and curiosity, I flipped through magazine after magazine every time I visited. I eventually discovered that pornography was easily accessible from the internet. It went from something I looked at on occasion to something I looked at at least once a day, if not multiple times.

When I first realized I had a problem, I looked up resources (Catholic, to be specific) to help me stop what I thought was a simple sin and bad habit. Everything I found was for men. Although I’m sure that many of the methods would have helped me if I had given them a shot, they made me feel like a freak. I felt like the only woman in the world who struggled with lust.

That’s a lie.

Women do struggle with lust, and they struggle with pornography. If you are a woman who struggles with this, I’m writing this for you. You are NOT alone. You are not a freak. You are worthy of love, real, true love, and already beloved by a Father in heaven.

Maybe I’m wrong, but in my experience, it is next to impossible to just stop lusting and looking at porn. I haven’t hit a point where I’ve permanently stopped, but I’m at a point where I realize the gravity of the sins I commit and am working hard to stop. Here are some things I’ve found helpful.

Ask God to help you see your true worth

It is important that you realize how beloved, important and cared for you are. Read scripture, religious writings. Surround yourself with positive people who uplift and love you. If you do not truly, fully believe that you are loved without end, without restrictions or conditions, I’ve discovered that you will continue to treat yourself as a purely sexual object, subjecting yourself to pornography.

“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17

Get all of your extra energy out

I noticed that when I worked out, even for just twenty minutes, it helped me a whole lot in the midst of temptation. Even if you’re super super busy, think of exercising as a way of pampering yourself, and just do it.

Understand Your Triggers

What is it that causes the temptation? Try to understand what situations lead to your temptations. For me, it was late at night when I was restless or bored and my phone was handy. I would put on nature sounds and concentrate on my breathing to help myself fall asleep. I would put my phone under my sheets so it was harder to reach in times when I’d falter. Maybe for you it’s reading romance novels or watching romantic movies that can cause you to feel a longing for connection, but not in a good way.

Jessica Harris of Beggar’s Daughter has a whole series on the importance of identifying triggers, and the different type of triggers here.

Your body craves porn but the moment and your mind justifies it, but the moment you are finished, your heart cries out “How could you!” and your mind says, “Yeah! How could you?” – Jessica Harris

Tell a Friend and ask them to hold you accountable

Being honest about your problem can lead to some surprises, including the understanding that you are not alone. It also gives you the power over the sin. If you are ashamed and humiliated by it, you are letting sin control you, and have power over you. God died so that we might have power over sin. Ask a trustworthy friend to hold you accountable with your struggles.

Jessica Harris also wrote a series on the importance of accountability here.

Bottom line: we have to have people.  Pornography does not draw us toward people.  It draws us into ourselves.  It confines us to hours and days of secrecy, darkness, isolation, and fear, and many of you might be feeling the effects of that.  You feel socially awkward, even paranoid.  You feel depressed or lifeless.  You feel like you’re drifting. – Jessica Harris

Reconciliation. Lots, and lots of reconciliation.

I know the sacrament of Reconciliation can seem scary and intimidating. For years, I could not say the name of my sin in the confessional. I always confessed my involvement with “some impure things”. It wasn’t until I (accidentally) said the name of the sexual sins I struggled with that I realized that they had no power over me. Through His death and resurrection, Christ has freed us from the bondage and shackles of sin.  You are strong. God has given us power over our sin. Don’t let the sin have power over you.

O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? The sting of death is sin; and the power of sin is the law: but thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Take advantage of the Eucharist

Did you know all Catholics have a secret weapon? Seriously.

Go often to Holy Communion. Go very often! This is your one remedy. – St. Therese of Lisieux 

Our one remedy! The Eucharist is our hope! When we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we get so many graces. Did you know that the reception of communion wipes out venial sins, and gives power to stand strong in the face of mortal sin. If you can go to daily mass, go. Maybe it cuts into your Netflix time (guilty), but going to mass, and listening to the word of God, and receiving Christ’s body and blood is worth cutting into that House of Cards marathon. There is nothing like the mass and the reception of the Eucharist. Nothing.

Hold On Hope

Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” “The Holy Spirit . . . he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.”

You may stumble and fall, but know that our God is good, and that He wants to heal you. He wants you to spend eternity with Him.

Persevere

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9

I am praying for you, sisters.

We are More.

So I’m no longer the only person I know who hasn’t read John Green’s best seller The Fault in Our Stars.

The Fault in Our Stars tells the story of two cancer-ridden teenagers, Augustus and Hazel, and their relationship. Something that really stood out to me in the story was the difficulty that some characters had separating themselves from their illness, their flaw. This idea is first brought up in the second chapter when Augustus asks Hazel to tell her “story”

     “So what’s your story?” he asked, sitting down next to me at a safe distance.
     “I already told you my story. I was diagnosed when—”
     “No, not your cancer story. Your story. Interests, hobbies, passions, weird fetishes, etcetera.”
     “Um,” I said.
     “Don’t tell me you’re one of those people who becomes their disease. I know so many people like that. It’s disheartening. Like, cancer is in the growth business, right? The taking-people-over business. But surely you haven’t let it succeed prematurely.”

Whenever someone asks me about myself, I tend to blank, like they’re asking me about a complete stranger. Sure, things come to mind, like my depression, the fact I’m overweight, but I don’t really want to tell a friend, “Hi I’m Katie and I’m a fat and depressed girl. Wanna see a movie on Tuesday?”

We always seem to see the worst in ourselves, our insecurities and flaws become our most prominent features. John Green, through Augustus, makes it clear in The Fault in our Stars that we are so much more than whatever we are at our worst.

What is your story? It’s not your biggest mistake, or your inabilities. It’s not your illness, your loneliness, or low body image. As Christians, our story is the story of Christ’s death and resurrection, the death that He endured so that we may have life, and tell our story.

One of my alltime favorite songs is You Are More by Tenth Avenue North. The chorus says:

“You are more than the choices you have made. You are more than the sum of your past mistakes. You are more than the problems you create. You’ve been remade.”

God sees us as beautiful, beautiful creatures that He made in His image. He sees past our failures and sees into our souls, seeing the potential for the ultimate greatness: sainthood.

How hard is it for us to see ourselves, or our peers, as God sees them?

At times, it can seem impossible. I know it feels like people don’t see us the way that God does, but if we want others to look at us and see Christ, see our real story, we must adopt the ability to see ourselves the way that God sees us: destined for the most beautiful greatness of all.

 

What is Modesty?

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31

This has been a question I’ve been thinking about for a long time: how do you define modesty? Can there be one definition of modesty? 

So, I decided to look at a few sources to get an idea of what different people think modesty is.

According to Wikipedia, modesty is “a mode of dress and deportment intended to avoid encouraging sexual attraction in others…”

Although I guess that if you dress modestly, this can be a side effect, I don’t think this definition covers even a fraction of what modesty really is.

Saint John Paul II said that the problem with pornography wasn’t that it showed too much, but that it showed too little. What does he mean by this? Pornography shows not only the human body, but the person, as a sexual object with a sole purpose of sexual pleasure and instant gratification. Humanity is worth so much more than that, so much more than only being used for pleasure. In this Lifeteen post, the author says that this is the problem with immodesty.

So, with that in mind, we can say that immodesty is an objectification of the human body, and modesty is seeing the body as a vessel of the person within.

I once said that I wasn’t modest. I’m still not sure if I am. Sure, I cover what needs to be covered, but in all honesty, it’s not to reflect the dignity of my personhood, but to cover what I think is ugly.

So, I’m going to define modesty: Modesty is a way of dress which glorifies the Lord and reflects the dignity of the person.

We are called to glorify God in all that we do, not man. That includes modest dress and immodest dress. If we are dressing modestly simply to make sure that no one is sexually aroused by us, we are putting man before God. We are trying to please those around us.

Similarly, if we wear what is “cool” with the knowledge that it is not pleasing to God. We are putting man before God.

When you put something on, don’t think what your grandmother or brother or father or best friend would think: think about what God would think.

 

Roll Away My Stone

As I said in my previous post, my Lent was not as fruitful as I had thought it would be on Ash Wednesday. I failed in all of my sacrifices and additional prayers I had promised to partake in, and I felt like I was moving backwards in my spiritual life instead of forwards. I recently figured out why my Lent had been so difficult.

It all began back in January or February. I was feeling depressed. It wasn’t a big deal, I have major depressive disorder: feeling depressed comes with the package. For the most part, I was able to get over it on my own, so I didn’t really feel a need to talk about it with my therapist or my mom, or anyone. However, I had no idea that the depression had taken a toll on not only on my mental and emotional health, but my spiritual life as well.

Since then, my prayer life has decreased, and I’ve been thinking things along the lines of “I’m fine without God’s help”. I was locked inside a tomb, blocked by a stone and unable to see the light.

But at the Easter Vigil, I felt something. I felt Jesus’ presence so strongly that I wanted to cry. As Jesus’ stone was rolled away and truth was brought to light, it felt like a stone that had been in my own heart was being rolled away.

Lord, I ask to to roll away all stones which are keeping me from being with you. Bring me to the light and let me live in your presence.

Good Friday Confessions.

ImageAll this week, I’ve seen posts about how wonderful an experience this Lent was for people. How they’ve grown closer to God, and learned humility, and their sacrifices all worked out.

And then there’s this girl.

I’m the girl who deleted the facebook and twitter apps from her phone, but didn’t have enough self control to stay off of the sites from Safari. I told myself I wasn’t using the apps so I wasn’t *really* breaking my sacrifice.

I’m the girl who made the promise to go to daily mass every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but in the entirety of Lent, went about five times.

I went to confession on Sunday night. And about two hours later, I sinned again.

And now as Lent’s over, I felt angry at God that I didn’t have some great spiritual experience. But, really, there’s no reason to be angry.

I’m human. I’m gonna fall. I’m gonna get back up again, but chances are, I’ll fall back down.

That’s what Lent was like for me. A whole lot of falling and getting back up.

But: I got up. I didn’t stay on the ground. I got back up.

My friend Christine wrote a great post that really spoke to me as I was struggling after my confession and immediate sinning. Through this weakness, God is giving me grace.

Tomorrow, I will be going to confession again. I’m getting back up, and I’m going to run.