When my first child was born, I was working full-time for our local church. I regularly taught other people how to pray. But do you want to know the irony of my chosen profession? About four months after my son … Continue reading
A few months back, I went out to dinner with a few friends and friends-of-friends. It was a mixed group of both Catholics and non-Catholic Christians, and at some point we got onto the topic of prayer. We began comparing different forms of prayer, but as our conversation continued, one of the mothers present began to appear visibly more agitated. Finally, she just burst out, “Prayer is personal, and we should all just keep it to ourselves. You’re all just being very judge-y towards those of us who aren’t as holy as you!” We were all immediately brought to silence and quickly changed the subject.
The mom’s comment continued to bother me for the rest of the night. Had I been judging her? Definitely not consciously. I didn’t really know that much about her prayer life. I had shared a bit about my spiritual life, but I’d never intended to compare it to others. The conversation had always seemed very positive to me, and I had enjoyed learning about the different approaches to prayer embraced by the different moms.
Once I felt confident that I had never attempted to judge the other moms, I began to consider the other comments. Was prayer just personal? Well, in one sense, of course it was. It was my prayer after all. The prayers I prayed alone were personal, but that didn’t mean that I couldn’t share them. I regularly shared insights I had gained while meditating on the Scriptures. On occasion, I talked with my friends about how my prayer life was improving based on new or altered prayer forms. I shared the books I read, and the reflections I made. My personal prayer was mine, but it was also mine to share.
At the core of this other mom’s argument was the idea that our prayer was meant to be private. It was supposed to be done behind closed doors, and that’s where it was supposed to stay. Prayer was not a public matter. It was not supposed to be shared. It was not meant to be imposed on others.
But I had never intended to impose my faith on the other moms. I was not trying to convert the non-Catholics, or accusing the other Catholics of not being as holy as me. Yes, I want to be holy, but I still think I have a lot of work to do. I didn’t see this dinner as primarily an evangelization opportunity; it had been a socialization event. I had gone to enjoy myself, to share stories, to enjoy communion with other moms. But that still left me wondering: Is faith really meant to be private? Am I not supposed to evangelize?
I have had well-meaning Catholics argue that evangelization is just for the priests. That’s why they give homilies. They are meant to be the great evangelizers, not us. We’re just supposed to practice our faith in private, or inside the church walls at the most. The priests are the ones who are supposed to be spreading the Gospel.
But that’s just not the Gospel truth. That idea is just not biblical. Sure, the Apostles were all priests, but there were also plenty of non-priests who were missionaries and evangelists in their own neighborhoods. There was Stephen, a deacon (and therefore not a priest) who was martyred for proclaiming the faith in the public square and in the synagogue. There was Lydia, a female entrepreneur who also opened her home to the early Church. There were Priscilla and Aquila, a married couple who served as missionaries under St. Paul. Even the male missionaries, who were most likely priests and bishops, were not preaching in churches as you think of them today. They preached in the synagogues, yes, but they were also preaching on the street corners, in peoples’ homes, in the public square. Clearly, no one thought that the faith was meant to be a private matter.
And why should it be? Think about the Gospel message. Jesus Christ came to die and rise again to new life so that we might enjoy eternal life with God in Heaven after we die. This is good news for all people. This is a promise that speaks of eternity. No wonder people wanted to share it. Everyone needs to hear it. And deep in the human heart, everyone wants to hear it. The promise of eternal life and love speaks to the deepest longings of the human heart, something we cannot do on our own, but only through the power of God. So no, preaching the Gospel message is not just for priests at the pulpit. It’s for every Christian who truly believes. Because if you believe in the Good News- the fact that Jesus Christ came, died, and rose so that we might have eternal life- why wouldn’t you want to share it with the world? It’s the best news anyone will ever get.
A few month’s ago, I was reading my Bible on the living room couch when my son approached me and asked, “What are you doing?” I told him I was praying. His response? Aren’t we supposed to pray in church? … Continue reading
When I was a senior in college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was six months from graduation, and I had two awesome opportunities ahead of me- I had been accepted to a fantastic graduate program and a domestic volunteering program. Both had so much promise, so how could I possibly pick one?
As I agonized over my decision, a mentor of mine helped guide me through the process of discernment. He provided me with a step-by-step process for making decisions based on the writings of Ignatius of Loyola, who wrote extensively on the topic. By the time I announced my decision to get my Master’s degree, I was feeling confident with the direction I had chosen for my life. Since then, I’ve used the same process countless times. So do you need to make a hard decision? This guide will make it feel easy.
1. Identify the decision that you are attempting to make, along with any and all potential outcomes.
This is the time to use your imagination. Go wild, and consider all the possible outcomes for the decision you need to make. Obviously, there are always factors that will remain unaccounted for, but it’s always best to make your decision after spending some time in prayer and reflection, considering how this decision might affect you in the future.
2. Take note of your gut feelings, intuition, and emotions.
If you are peacefully approaching the decision-making process and trust the Lord to guide you, then you can feel free to trust your gut. If you’re anxious and stressed while contemplating your choices, your emotions could lead you in the wrong direction. But if you’re at peace, your intuition can really help you know where God wants you. Even if you don’t choose to listen to your gut in the end, it’s always worth taking into consideration. Oftentimes, God places emotions and desires in our hearts because He really wants us to pursue them.
3. Create a pros and cons list.
I am a huge fan of the classic pros and cons list. The Ignatian discernment process uses a nuanced version of the classic list when making decisions. Begin by listing all the pros and cons regarding your decision. If you’re choosing between two options, create pros and cons lists for both options. Be exhaustive, and be honest with yourself. When I was debating between volunteering and continuing my education, the flexibility to return home frequently was a huge pro for getting my Master’s degree. That might be minor for some people, but it was extremely important to me.
4. Eliminate the lesser pros and cons. When I was discerning between volunteering and getting my Master’s degree, the fact that he volunteering program came with housing was a terrific pro. However, I also knew that if I chose to continue my education, I would have plenty of housing options (and another choice to make). The housing situation for the volunteer program was a convenient pro, but it wasn’t really an important one. Consider your priorities, and eliminate any lesser pros and cons.
5. Circle a maximum of the three most significant pros and cons surrounding your choice.
This is where my desires and gut feelings really came to the fore. As I reviewed what remained of my pros and cons lists, I could feel my heartstrings being pulled toward specific pros and cons that I was just not willing to part with. Identify those most important pros and cons on your list, and circle them.
6. Consider the number of circled pros and cons in general, as well as the nature of each pro and con specifically.
Once you’ve narrowed down your pros and cons list and highlighted those pros and cons that are most important to you, spend some time in prayer reflecting on what you’ve discovered so far in the discernment process. Weigh each pro and con individually, and reflect on how the discernment process might have changed how you feel about each of the options in front of you.
7. Take your altered list to prayer, spend some time reflecting on what your list has revealed, and then make your decision in peace and confidence.
Oftentimes, your choice will become clear during the process of eliminating lesser pros and cons and identifying the most important ones. If it doesn’t, spend some time in prayer and then choose the option that seems best. At this point in the discernment process, you can feel confident that you have prayerfully weighed your options and can trust the decision you’ve reached.
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I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist. I was a straight-A student, and I cried the first time I got a B+ in a class. My notebooks and folders were all pristine, my locker always perfectly organized, my bedroom … Continue reading