10 Ways to Live as a Daughter of God- A Man’s Perspective

What does it mean to be made as women in the image of God? How does this reflect on friendships and relationships? Recently one of my missionary friends asked my teammate and I to talk at a women’s night in order to speak into this from a male perspective, and this is what I shared with them!

10 Ways of living as a Daughter of God

1. God literally died for you. You are a daughter of God and you get your worth from His love for you. You are princess peach and Jesus is Mario, and he’s jumping on mushrooms and flinging turtle shells and defeating Bowser at least EIGHT times before he can save you. And he did it all anyways.

So with that in mind, remember that you’re always loved. Even when things aren’t going well in your day to day, you’ve always got a friend in Jesus.

A daughter of God doesn’t get her worth from what other people, especially men, think of her. She gets her worth from God’s love, and that never changes. So no matter what others think of you don’t let that bring you down. Our ultimate fulfillment could never be in this world, anyways.

2. Women inspire men. Heck yes, Mario wasn’t going to stop at anything until he got to rescue Peach. In the same way, men will pursue you, and you have the opportunity to challenge him in that. Early on when I was coming to Christ, when there was a girl that I liked, and she was spending time in the chapel praying or going to mass and bible study, I wanted to be doing those things too. Somewhat selfish reasons, but hey, it worked, I’m a missionary now! My girlfriend Ryann continues to inspire me to greater holiness in her own personal devotion to God, and even though I’m a missionary and sometimes we’re tempted to think that all missionaries are perfect, I really need extra encouragement sometimes. In addition, your beauty also inspires others, since your beauty is a reflection of the beauty of God. There’s nothing on earth more beautiful than a woman, so cherish that fact! Just in who you are, you reveal to all the world, men and women alike, how good and beautiful God’s creation is.

3. Women are beautiful, and that is great. But your worth goes above and beyond your beauty. Your worth is that you are made in the image and likeness of God. A lot of times men abuse this truth in only talking about your physical beauty, and our culture for sure does this in general, judging women so much more carefully on how they look than they do men. But remember that in being a daughter of God, just because you don’t always look fantastic doesn’t mean that you’re worth anything less. There’s no need to be jealous of other girl’s good looks, you are all loved just as much by God. St. Peter has some great advice about this: “Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes, but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:3-4). The point of this verse is that the beauty that matters the most is your internal beauty, the beauty of your heart. Physical beauty takes a back seat to that.

4. Women have a unique way of witnessing to the tenderness and mercy of God in a way that men never can. I try to be gentle and supportive of people who are in tough situations, but often times I just don’t know what to do or don’t know how to help. On the other hand I often see my teammates Kristin or Kerry jump right forward and they know just the right ways to comfort someone. I think that’s a gift that God has given women, and it’s a gift to treasure. I’m always looking for a “fix” to the problem, while what the person really needs is just someone to be there for them. Another unique feature of femininity is how you are more open to receiving love. Sometimes faith is harder for men because we aren’t as wired to receive God’s love as you are, but you can witness to that for us. See as a guy, when I’m talking about loving someone, I want to do things for them, help them with their work, making sacrifices, giving them gifts, etc. The other part of love is simply being with people through struggles and receiving the affection from someone you love. This is huge in relating to God and to each other in general, and men definitely need to learn from women on this.

5. Don’t lower your standards just to be with a guy. Some girls dress pretty immodestly just to attract the attention of guys. Let’s not deny the facts, though. It works. But what type of guy is an immodest girl attracting? She’s got BOYS all over her. BOYS with no self control and no maturity and class. BOYS who just want her for her body and nothing else. If you want a MAN, you have to dress like a WOMAN. A MAN is attracted to a woman respects herself, who dresses with dignity and class, who isn’t afraid to be herself. A MAN tries to get to know the whole person of the woman that he is interested in, instead of trying to use her for her body. A MAN respects women’s purity and dignity and always treats her with respect. On top of that all, a great way to scare off the BOYS is to dress like a WOMAN. They’ll be able to tell right away that you respect yourself and won’t play any games, so they’ll move on to bother some other girl.

6. A daughter of God should never have to “give in” to a guy physically to secure his affection. Our modern culture has fallen into the error of often reducing women from human beings into “objects of pleasure”, a collection of body parts. You can obviously see this in pornography or strip clubs, but it’s beginning to infiltrate mainstream culture in movies like 50 shades of grey and in most popular music videos. Men see the same things as you and unfortunately it can warp our minds into thinking of women as merely a collection of body parts instead of human beings with dignity. You are not merely a collection of body parts, you are a whole person: body, mind, and soul. A man needs to pay attention to and respect ALL of you.

7. In dating, you need to set boundaries for “how far” you can go. Communicate this clearly, during the day. You need to set the boundaries right away otherwise it’s just too tempting to stop in the heat of the passion. This is especially difficult for guys, we’re aroused so much easier. So with this in mind, remember to honor the lines that you’ve set together, because if you start bending the lines, it’s so much harder to stop. Even though Ryann and I are both devoted Catholics, we made sure to talk clearly about physical boundaries right away and continue to. Usually it’s the guy who kind of leads the relationship in this sense, so as the woman, it’s important for you to make how you feel about this clear to him, otherwise he might assume something else.

8. Being in the image of God, you have a right to be treated like a lady. A guy who is interested in you or dating you should be holding doors for you, paying for stuff on dates, holding their umbrella for you, offering an arm when going up steps, offering you their seat, pulling the chair out for you, etc. Sometimes in our modern culture these things are politicized, and women feel like they are being disrespected when a guy offers to do something gentlemanly. But from my experience, behaving like a gentleman is not at all about disrespecting women but actually for making little sacrifices for a woman to show her your respect. It’s small things like this that go a long way in a relationship, and it’s great practice for marriage, where life together is one small act of sacrifice after another. As women, the best way to respond when a man treats you well like this is to accept his generosity gracefully and thank him. There’s no need to make a big deal about it, but there’s also something nice about having your girl let you know that what you did is appreciated by saying thanks. And honestly, it’s a huge turn off to me if a girl doesn’t let me pay for dinner or something on a date. I guess it makes a girl seem insecure or something? There’s definitely a place for splitting the bill sometimes or helping out with other things, but if it’s a date, and he asked you, then he better pay the bill.

9. Remember that in all things, we will only be satisfied by God. Sometimes it seems like everything is falling down when friendships or a relationship is crumbling, but God alone fulfills our deepest desires. The best thing that you can do to ground yourself for the rest of your life, no matter what your vocation will be, is to have a deep relationship with God. God is our rock, our foundation. With that foundation, he will help transform you into the woman that you’re meant to be, so that you can be the best for everyone in your life. Break ups and falling outs happen, so make sure that you’re always keeping God first and then everyone else.

10. Let the man do the pursuing. It’s in our nature to want to pursue women, and it is a way of showing our dedication. I actually know a pretty good scientific reason why this is: men take forever to make a decision that women can make in seconds. One way that this trait is especially useful is in asking out someone on a date. For a guy, it can take a long time to decide whether or not to ask a girl out. For a girl, you can probably make a pretty good decision right away without needing any extra time to weigh your options. In addition, men pursuing allows women to be treated like they deserve to be as ladies, and weeds out the players from the men who are actually dedicated. Don’t be afraid to play a little hard to get to see if he truly wants to be dedicated to you. Do you really want a boy who you have to baby all the time or do you want a man who will stay with you through thick and thin?

Shout outs to Jason Evert, Mike, Ryann, and Lilly for helping me with some ideas for this!

Update: I wrote a post similar like this for men! Check out 10 Ways of Living as a Son of God.

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What is Chastity and Why is it Important? An Interview with a Youth Chastity Speaker

The following is an interview with Perla, a youth chastity speaker. I have been so privileged to get to know her personally, and I hope that her story and words of wisdom on chastity inspire you as well!

Hi Perla! Thank you for taking the time to meet with me! Could you start by sharing a little about yourself? What was your childhood like?
Thanks Chris! Well, I come from a family of 5 and am the oldest sibling. I have a really close extended family where I grew up in Chihuahua, Mexico. Then my dad worked in the United States, while the rest of us were in Mexico, so we all moved to the United States when I was 10 in order to live together.

What impact did moving to the United States have on your life?
It played a huge impact on my life! It was a whole new world – I had to learn English, the culture was so different, my extended family was so far away, and we didn’t get close to many people outside of our family.

What careers and interests did you have growing up?
I always wanted to become a teacher, I love little kids. I think I even have a special charisma with kids, I loooove kids. And math. So I wanted to become a math teacher. Of course, that changed when I got to college, when my encounter with Christ happened.

What was your encounter with Christ?
I had all the big questions, like what is the meaning of life, what happens after death, etc., but I never looked to the Catholic Church for those answers. I changed my major 5 times, always searching for the answers to life. Psychology gave some answers, but not enough. For a while, I thought that maybe service was the answer, so I did a lot of service. Then next I thought that it was love, so I started dating this guy. But nothing was enough, and I was tired of looking for answers. Then one day one of my friends invited me to join a Catholic bible study. I only joined because I witnessed how much joy my Protestant friends had in their lives, and they did bible study too. So I was willing to give a Catholic one a try. The bible study was run by three middle-aged couples, who hooked my friends and I by offering us a home cooked dinner – it worked for us college kids! In their homes, we went over the scripture readings for the next Sunday mass on Monday nights. I began to learn so much! Once I encountered the truth of the Eucharist and from there the truth of the Catholic faith, I decided to look at Catholic universities to finish college. A son of one of the families that hosted bible study went to Ave Maria University and told me about it. It was the only college that I applied to at that point, and praise God, they ended up offering me a full ride to study there.

What degree did you end up graduating with? And what did you want to do when you graduated?
I majored in Theology with a minor in Philosophy. I had this deep desire to do the same thing for other college students that was done for me: maybe offering a bible study for other college students. Providentially, FOCUS (the Fellowship of Catholic University Students) came to Ave Maria and shared their mission with the students and I, and it lined up perfectly with what I wanted to do after graduation! I applied and got accepted!

You were a missionary with FOCUS for how long, and what was it like?
I was a missionary for three years. It was a great experience, I loved meeting students where they were at and challenging them to take their faith seriously. It was also a great adventure, especially with being open to be placed anywhere in the country. I always thought that it was very humbling to have students open up to me and give me their trust and friendship.

How did you come across your new job?
After my 3rd year with FOCUS, I felt a strong call to come back home and work within my home diocese, San Angelo in Texas. The diocese didn’t have any openings for evangelization or anything like FOCUS, so a close friend invited me to apply for a job as a prevention specialist.

What is a prevention specialist?
We work as a team of 8, most of us are between ages 23-26, and we go to elementary, middle, and high schools in Midland, Odessa, and surrounding cities. Our aim is to prevent them from falling into high-risk behaviors and be fulfilled in their good decisions. So we speak with the students about their self worth, the purpose of their bodies, the purpose of sex, sexual abstinence, the risks of the media, STDs, parenting, and how to build healthy relationships. In addition, we offer assistance for anyone who has suffered from abuse or addiction afterwards.

How long are you at a school?
We are there for three days, Tues-Thurs.

What does a day at a school consist of?
Our presentations last for 45 minutes, but our total pace can vary anywhere from 1 to 7 presentations a day. And we might travel to a few schools per week. So we are aiming to work with around 30,000 students by the end of the school year!

What is your main message to the students?
The thing that I really focus on for them is that they know who they are. We talk about how they have so many important sides to them: physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and sexual. We talk about why we have certain yearnings in our hearts in the first place, so that they can see their natural good desires. A big emphasis is placed on showing what is necessary for sex: commitment, faithfulness, truly loving your spouse. Because the purpose of sex is to bond husband and wife together and for the procreation of children. Bottomline. From this understanding we can show them that sex truly belongs in marriage- fulfilling also the heart and mind because all 6 sides of the person would be truly satisfied.

Was there a moment in your life where you started getting interested in speaking about chastity?
Yes! There were major two instances. Growing up, I had the common girl dream of meeting that perfect guy, falling in love, and getting married. But what my friends were doing, what the world was offering, with hooking up and all that, it never satisfied my heart. It was never going to fulfill me at the end of the day. Even a good relationship in high school was not satisfying for me because we weren’t going to get married soon after. There were plenty of attractive guys in high school that I was attracted to, but dating and hooking up just didn’t click right even though I didn’t know why exactly. The other instance was as a missionary on the college campus, where I was seeing women fall under pressure to have sex before marriage and not live chastely. There seemed to be a missing link between their faith, the meaning of their body, and their yearning for true love. It seemed as if God had to be kicked out because all He offered where restrictions to their desires. So I spent a lot of time with some college women learning and reconciling all of these things with God’s desire for us! So we deeply understood that chastity in fact fulfills our desires. It is way more than just “don’t don’t don’t.”

We hear the world chastity a lot, but are less familiar with what it actually means. How do you define it?
I understand chastity as purity of body, mind (thoughts and imagination), and intentions. Purity meaning no stain of selfishness, lust, slavery to passions, but free to love, to choose the best for the other person with joyful selflessness.

As you grew up, did you ever dream that you’d become both a missionary and chastity speaker?
No, not at all. Haha.

What would you have thought?
I would have thought that I would have been going abroad, India or Africa. I would have never thought that I would do it here, home, with my generation. That would have seemed extremely radical.

How has it been now that you’re living it out?
It’s been a transformative experience: to see the goodness of God in how He cares for me. I’ve learned how to put others before me. I’m convicted of the truths that I’m saying as a chastity speaker, as well. It’s challenged me to live with integrity in all areas of my life and truly love everyone who is around me. I’m asking myself questions like “am I building healthy relationships myself?”

Is our culture to blame for these problems of chastity? Or would you attribute this to their youth or something else?
I think that there are many factors. Yes, I think that society plays a role, especially the media like movies, music, and TV. I think those things have a huge pull on young people. It’s also on the parents, if they are not convicted of the truth and share it. Their children need to see good examples from them so that the message will get to their hearts. A third factor is that boys and girls need to be challenged, challenged to do something better. Such as love requires you to wait, to build your character first. Many times they are told that they don’t have self-control because they are young, but they actually do. They can stand up with courage against the current. I don’t think that they hear that enough, or at all.

What is different for the youth growing up in 2015 from what it was like for you growing up?
The biggest difference is that for today’s children the internet is so available, especially on their phones. It offers them so many extra risks and distractions.

What advice would you give the parents of children nowadays?
I would affirm them that they have a big influence on their kids’ lives. They mold their kids. I would challenge them to look into the truth of all these things, to live them out, and pass them on to their kids through example. I’d also ask them to try to monitor their social media time, monitor their exposure to the internet. I’m thinking especially of the risk of pornography.

What sort of role do you think pornography plays in our culture’s battle with chastity?
It plays a huge role. It is so available, and really young people are exposed to it, even as young as 9 years old. Every heart longs for true love so there is a natural curiosity for what intimacy is, but pornography does not offer an answer it actually begins to warp people’s hearts and minds and scar them for life in a sense. It handicaps them for true love and true sacrifice.

As a college campus missionary, it’s common to hear about students “hooking up.” What would you say to someone who just wants to have some fun for one night?
If I could really talk to them, I would ask them, have you looked at the true desires of your heart? Your heart has a true yearning and desire to be loved. You won’t be satisfied until you are known and loved: hopefully by your family and your spouse in the future. That yearning is in everyone’s hearts. One night stands… there is no way to truly love a person through that or be loved. Then understand that the opposite of love is use. Sure, hooking up offers a thrill but at the end it will not be fulfilling and isn’t love. It is the use of each other- most likely girl using guy for emotional gratification and guy using girl for physical aspect. It’s seeing only the body of the person without revealing who they truly are. You in fact see less of them instead of more.

How can someone struggling with chastity start to change their habits?
If you’re Catholic, make sure go to confession. Confess it clearly, humbly, and sincerely. Ask God for healing, in your heart and mind. Go to the sacraments. Besides that, get an accountability partner/group. Most young people ARE struggling with this, in actuality or in understanding. Be honest, form a small accountability group, and set small goals to grow little by little.

Any final thoughts?
I want to stress this: know and believe that God is interested in your love life. God is not a boring God. Trust and believe that He has something beautiful planned for you, and He will not leave you disappointed.

Thank you Perla! Thank you for your very important work with the youth!

When I Called Out, You Answered

homeless

A couple of weeks ago I was hanging out at Yale in New Haven, CT with a couple of friends. We were walking down one of the main streets and about to go into an ice cream place when a man called out to us.

“Hey, can any of you help me out? Even change will do.”

I just averted my eyes and kept walking. I don’t remember if I had money or not on me, but either way I completely ignored him, saying a quick prayer to try to feel a little better about myself,

“Lord, be with him.”

Then we continued on. I have to give a lot of credit to one of my friends, afterwards he actually went up to the homeless man and asked him his name. Me? I just kept walking, an ice cream cone in hand and fully determined to have a good time with my friends.

I’ve been thinking and praying about this event ever since. What sort of human being am I? Deliberately choosing not to even acknowledge someone who cried out for help. And even more hypocritically, I prayed asking God to be with him. But as a member of the Body of Christ, I am one of His hands and feet! When I don’t show up for people in need, then people think that God doesn’t show up. God gave me that opportunity to reveal His love for that man.

On top of it all, I’m a freaking Catholic missionary! It would absolutely make my day if one day a student cried out asking for help with life’s problems or something and I got to help him or her. I pray for those opportunities every day, but often they don’t present themselves. Now, this time, I had someone who really was in trouble and I did nothing to help. Not even acknowledging them as a person. Am I really helping to bring peace on earth when I act like that, or am I just kindling even greater social tensions?

Jesus told us that we serve Him personally when we serve the poor and needy. This isn’t just a nice suggestion but a matter of eternal consequences.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” – Matthew 25:35-36

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” – Matthew 25:40

I need to foster a greater respect for the dignity of the poor and needy in my own life, especially the homeless.

The good news is that I have had really great experiences as well, for example last winter in Chicago I ran into a man who shared my name, Chris! He was very nice and yes he asked me for some money but I actually talked with him. It turns out that he used to work at O’Hare and was laid off. He is a veteran of the military as well, he showed me his drivers license to prove it because he was so excited about it. I asked him where he stayed and he said that he stays at the shelter that the Franciscans provide in Chicago. That was super crazy and I got all excited when I heard that because one (maybe two soon) of my college friends is a sister with the Franciscans of the Eucharist that helps out the poor in the city. He mentioned Fr. Bob, the CFR priest who helps them out.

If only all of my experiences were like that! Either way, this video inspired me to post my own experience that I’ve been praying about over the past couple of weeks. It really goes to show how much we don’t notice the homeless and how much more love we could potentially give them, instead of ignoring them.

The Third Way: Homosexuality and the Catholic Church

This film is absolutely powerful. I’d encourage everyone to watch it, especially because it conveys the truth about how the Catholic Church views people with same sex attraction, which has been so distorted by popular culture. My personal experiences with my friends who have same sex attraction tend to lead to the same conclusions as this video as well, so that’s a good reality check on it. Enjoy!

 

If I were the Webmaster of Vatican.Va

Pope Francis iPad

If I type in “Mormon” into Google, once I scroll past the Wikipedia pages I come across the Mormon portal online, complete with large colorful pictures, an easy to navigate design, simple links to all of the basic issues that anyone would be wondering about. All on the front page.

In comparison, Vatican.Va obviously hasn’t heard that the drop down menu was invented at least 30 years ago. All of the links (that all have almost the same exact font and color despite being on all different parts of the page) are spread out across the page so as to take up as much space as possible, and 90% of them are irrelevant (I’m a missionary and I still can’t tell the difference between an Apostolic Constitution, Apostolic Exortation, and Apostolic Letter). There are Latin words on the page that practically nobody in the world can translate. Francis is the word that jumps out right away, and the words Catholic, Christian, and Jesus are nowhere to be found. Oh yea, and the background reminds me of ugly yellow crinkled paper, kind of like the 10 commandments or all those laws and rules that the Church seems to be about.. The webpage screams “clerical,” it reads more like an index than a front cover.

If I had any questions, the search button looks helpful, but after clicking it, it brings up a separate Google search. I asked a typical question a seeker might have, “who is God?”, which led to thousands of results, mostly encyclicals and really academic looking papers. Not exactly what I’m looking for… just a couple sentences would do.

If I were a seeker and interested in the Catholic Church, I’d be turned off. Is this a website about Pope Francis or the main page of the Catholic Church? Where can I learn about what the Church teaches? Why should I be Catholic? Who is Jesus? What is the meaning of life? What is the Gospel?

The Vatican is looking to improve their methods of communication, and I’m really excited about it. As a 22 year old Catholic, I’m easily frustrated by the Church’s progress on the technology and media front. The secular media tells everyone the stories in an often anti-Christian bend (especially anti-Catholic – as evidence I can’t even count how many times major news outlets have misinterpreted Pope Francis with major news headlines, and he’s only been pope for 9 months), and the Church never gets its point across to anyone other than weekly mass goers who read what the Pope and bishops (and the occasional priest) say about controversial issues and hot topics.

The Catholic Church can’t just sit back and wait for people to come to it anymore. This should be obvious for practicing Catholics, but sometimes we need that reminder. The Church is for everyone, not just for people who happened to be born to Catholic parents. One of the best ways to do that is to have a simple and welcoming home page online. Nowadays when people don’t know something, they’ll often look it up online before they ask a friend or open up a book. A Google search is second nature for anyone 30 and under.

So what should we do? I’ve got some ideas to help the Vatican website become an active part of the New Evangelization…

Applify. Take notes from other successful marketing campaigns like Apple. The website has to be intuitive, for the people, and in a beautiful manner display the Gospel and Catholic way of life. Apple doesn’t sell music playing devices. They sell iPods: a portal to a life of happiness and excitement with your friends. In the same way, people often think that the Church only offers rules and doctrine. What the Church needs to get across to your average Joe is that the Catholic faith isn’t a set of rules, but a way of life in relationship with God, with Jesus! If companies can sell you THINGS by making you believe that your life will be better with them, shouldn’t the Church be able to market FREE ETERNAL SALVATION and FRIENDSHIP WITH A GOD WHO LOVES YOU even more effectively?

Answer the questions clearly. We need an online version of the Catechism, but the “for dummies” version with pretty pictures and video. Use clips from Fr. Robert Barron‘s Catholicism project and Word On Fire ministry, the quick hit videos by Chris Stefanick and talks by Catholic Lighthouse speakers like Fr. Mike Schmitz. Answer the basic questions like how the Catechism does it: “who are we?”, “who is God?”, “who is Jesus?”, “why Catholic?.” Answer the tough questions and common misconceptions.

The Church is big. That can be a bad thing, but it can also be a beautiful thing. Having different pages for different languages makes sense, and even tailoring it to each language would make a lot of sense – Catholics from different countries and continents have different needs and wants with regard to the Church’s website. Take advantage of the different charisma’s of Catholics around the world to showcase the beauty of the faith, especially in the saints, to people interested in learning more. Share the stories of faith and how it’s inspired people to live their best life like OneBillionStories.

Reach out to people through an active and united social media presence. It’s a great first step that Pope Francis has a personal twitter account (and in different languages!). This was spectacular because now He can get points across directly to the people without being filtered by the media. I’m sure that many people are surprised at how beautifully he puts the faith in his tweets when compared to all the corruption and doctrine that the media portray the Church as. The next steps are for Pope Francis to have his own Facebook  page, and for the Catholic Church itself to have a twitter feed and Facebook page. It’s hard to capture everything about the Church in a single feed, but if one feed can constantly update fans about the Chicago Bulls on Facebook and Twitter, why can’t the Church do a similar thing? On the main webpage, make it easy to see what the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, bishops, leading priests and sisters, and other leading laymen and women are saying on social media.

Make resources available. The best bible online. Church Fathers documents. Ecumenical Council documents. Encyclicals and all that good stuff. Have one giant hub with the documents of our faith. Continue working on putting more of those old books and documents online for the public to see. While you’re at it, make all of these resources available on apps for smart phones, iPads, etc.

Respond to and frame public issues in the light of faith. Take advantage of all the great communicators in the Church and get the Church’s opinion on issues out there! If there was a single hub that provided the best responses of the Church to contemporary issues, then we could really dialogue with the world. Think of all that the Dominican preachers alone could do if given a platform to speak to the entire Church on major issues. Right now, they could have given the best speech in the world, but chances are that nobody heard it outside of the church they were at and the little Dominican/parish website that they are on.

Open the webpage with a welcome video from Pope Francis. Boom baby!

Lessons Learned from a Catholic with Same Sex Attraction

The following is a guest post from my friend Liam. 

Hindsight is 20/20. Let me explain. Growing up, I pictured I would one day live a perfect life: white man, beautiful wife, great kids, and a big house. Like many of our childhood dreams, I realized that’s not exactly going to happen. It doesn’t really help that I’m tan-skinned, gay, and my desired career as a high school history teacher wouldn’t quite pay the bills. Like I said, hindsight is 20/20. Getting to the point I made that probably stood out to you: yes, I’m an 18 year old gay dude writing on my friend’s Catholic blog. I guess you’re wondering how I got here; it’s okay, I sometimes question my sanity, too. Going back to that idea again: hindsight is 20/20. When I was a kid, I never knew what gay was. Besides “don we now our gay apparel”, I had never heard the word in my life. When I did come to the realization that I was gay (OHHH that explains the unnamed attraction I felt towards Jesse McCartney and that guy from Phil of the Future—there’s that darned hindsight), I was totally lost. I had allowed society to shape my mind as a child into not knowing about and then not accepting what it is to be gay. I had no guidance, and so I turned to society again…big mistake.

This time I turned to a different sector of society—one that said, rightfully, that it’s okay to be gay. Great. It is okay to be gay, because it’s not a choice. It’s a cross to bear, just like there are any number of other crosses that people must bear. (It’s also a blessing, but that comes later.) But it didn’t stop there. I fell into the trap that said it is okay to be gay and to make that one small part of me define my entire life. I’m blessed because I had an amazing support base in the form of my loving family and friends. But they really didn’t understand how being gay differs from being straight, especially when it comes to dating. This is where things got ugly. Considering such a small percentage of the population actually is gay, finding a significant other is more like selling yourself than anything else. Grindr, Jack’d, 321, chatzone, I had them all. I always had good intentions when using these tools: I wanted a boyfriend. I wasn’t looking for sex. I was going to save myself for the one I loved! I wanted what everyone else had around me. I wanted to be happy like them. What I didn’t realize at that point is that I was looking for love in all the wrong places. (Again, hindsight is 20/20.)

The more I thought this way, the less I relied on my relationship with God to make me happy. I felt empty. When I realized I couldn’t reach people on these social media outlets with talks of love and romance, I allowed the conversations to be turned into sexual ones. That got their attention. I began making promises, and then I began to fulfill those promises. Albert Einstein (he was a pretty smart guy) said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. With every different guy, I believed that things would be different. If I gave him what he wanted, he would magically fall in love with me. Our relationship would be founded in lust but it would magically become something holy. But you can’t expect sin to beget virtue; whether gay, straight, or bi. Sin begets sin. And with sin comes loneliness, feelings of worthlessness, depression, and even thoughts of suicide. (Now, doesn’t this sound like the side effects for a medication commercial?)

I started fulfilling these promises when I was 17. A year has passed. In one year, I destroyed my relationship with God, family members, and friends—all because I was empty and angry that everyone else wasn’t suffering along with me. I lost so much faith in myself that I didn’t even realize just how low I had sunk until I was awakened. <Enter Chris.> This happened at a retreat about the Holy Spirit. To keep a long story short, it saved my life. I thank God that Chris told me to sign up. Over this retreat I realized that God sees more of my own worth than I do. God trusts me. He loves and adores me and even filled me with His Holy Spirit. I felt my heart on fire, I cried, I even laughed for joy. I was so amazed that God would grace me, a sinner, with such an incredible experience.

When we came back from the retreat, I came out to Chris. And what he did in response amazed me: he prayed for me. He didn’t “pray the gay away” or ask God that in the future I would like women and get married. He prayed for me because he knew I was hurting and because he knew I needed a change in my life. He didn’t pray because I was gay and committing sins, but simply because I was committing sins. He was the first friend that I had come across that removed the gay label and didn’t support me simply because I was gay and confused but because I was human and confused. I don’t think he will really ever understand the impact that he is having on my life, even as he reads this over before he posts it to his blog.

So what’s the point of all this? Why do people (ESPECIALLY young gay people) need to hear my testimony? (Yes—it is because I’m very interesting BUT besides that…) I want people to read this because I want them to know an alternative to what society tells them that they have to do. Gay or straight—you don’t have to advertise yourselves on social media outlets to gain recognition. Especially in the “gay world”, you see that people-shopping is a common thing. Don’t make the same mistakes that I did. Believe me when I tell you that hindsight IS, you guessed it, 20/20. Hear it from someone who went through hell and came out (no pun intended) on the other side scarred but not broken. The path to self-destruction is lined with glittery promises of love and commitment that simply will not come true on places like Grindr. You may be curious—I get it! I really do. But trust me when I tell you that acting on that curiosity killed the metaphorical cat, along with its self-esteem, moral compass, and its friendships.

But then what?? Am I supposed to live a life of chastity? No sex? It’s not fair! Straight people can get married and have sex! Woah… hold up there. We are all called to chastity, even married people. Sorry to break it to you straight folk, but you’re not going to have it easy, either. There are going to be times when you will be tempted, even in a married state. We are called to chastity because God knows how we humans work. When we live a life of promiscuity, we become addicted whether we like it or not. This is because we feed off of these destructive relationships for our happiness. But it simply is not true happiness. Every time we give into desires of the flesh we get our momentary fix, but end up craving more and more like a heroin addict. It’s not the sex we crave—but the illusion of happiness and the false sense of security.

Still, I understand the arguments made for two gay people who are in love. It confuses me sometimes, too. It just doesn’t seem fair that two straight people have the option to live their lives in comfort when we gays don’t. To counter that, however, is the fact that, like I said, straight people don’t have it easy and don’t live in perpetual comfort, either! Marriage is difficult, as is any other state it life. Also, I was recently told by my friend (another missionary at my school), in a totally unrelated conversation, that we are not made for comfort. That one short phrase put so many things into perspective for me. Life is messy. We are dealt cards that seem unfair and burdens that we can barely carry. But we can carry them. And we will carry them. God would never give us a cross that we cannot bear. This becomes clear when we humble ourselves and simply realize that as our Creator, God knows us better than we do. When I came to this realization over the retreat, I surrendered: not to the wounds on my heart from people who left when they said they wouldn’t, not to the doubts in my head that said I could never become anything beautiful, but to the Will of God. My heart gets light as a feather even thinking about this. I feel so free now that I have removed the burden of virtually selling myself to people who just don’t care and never will. God has worked in me in so many incredible ways in the time since the retreat. It’s not because I’m now miraculously healed of “the gay” or because I am no longer tempted, but because I placed my trust 120 bajillion percent in God. God’s Door is always open; it’s up to us to keep ours open as well.

So what am I to do now, then? Should I pursue a life with another man or one dedicated God and chastity? The answer is that I shouldn’t be pursuing anything alone. Each one of us is called to discern what God wants us to do. God would not put us in a place where He knows we would not be happy. It’s simply a matter of trusting God. For now, I am taking things one day at a time. I am focusing on prayer and giving control to God, Who knows me better than I know myself. By living a chaste life at this moment (as all people are called to, not just gays) and opening my heart to whatever God has to offer, I know I will end up happy—even if God puts me on a very unexpected path. So please trust me when I tell you from experience, gay or straight, now is the time to surrender and trust. Everything else has a way of falling into place.

Let me leave you with this: you are beautiful and you deserve so much better than a life of aimless promiscuity and heartbreak. If you are gay, God made you that way because you have a specific role to fulfill in the Divine Plan—a role that God Himself trusts you with. He trusts you. It is when I realized this that I was able to overcome my past and become chaste (as we are ALL called to be—gay or straight, for the reasons explained above). It was at that moment that I realized that I could turn the shame of what I did into knowledge so others could learn from my mistakes. It was at that moment that I realized that informing people, especially my fellow young gay people, was the path I was to take next. It was at that moment that I realized that being gay is not my entire identity, but just a fraction of the person God made me to me. It was at that moment that I realized that being gay is not only a cross, but a blessing.

Growing up, I pictured I would one day live a perfect life—that life may not exist, but by God, I’m sure as heck going to make the best of the beautiful one that I do have.

What is the Relationship Between Faith and Science?

God Universe

For the first few weeks of school, I led a discussion group on faith and science. I decided to summarize my points on this blog for your benefit. This post is on the relationship between faith and science. In future posts I will cover supposed reasons why God has been disproved, and close with reasons to believe in God.

So why faith and science?

As a graduate of the University of Illinois with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering, I come from a prestigious university well known for engineering (EE is #3 in the nation). In this environment, faith in God is often bashed as blind and baseless. Our culture in general in the West often makes fun of people of faith for being “ignorant.” Despite these criticisms, I found my faith while in college and found answers to all of the questions that I had. I hope to explain some of the answers that I found in this post and in the following ones.

Faith

What is faith? What do we mean by faith?

In the strict religious sense, faith could be defined as whether or not you believe revelation from God. But faith is also used in everyday experiences. For example, if I were to tell you that my favorite color is green, there would be no way for you to prove that I’m telling you the truth. In addition, when we start our car in the morning, do we double check that all of the parts and equipment will work? Do we double check our brakes? No, we don’t. These are examples of faith, but they aren’t blind faith.. there is actually reason involved in these decisions.

You probably trust that with sharing a simple thing like my favorite color, I wouldn’t have a reason to lie. In addition, you probably have the idea that I’m at least a pretty decent person and wouldn’t be prone to lying. With regards to the car, we realize that though we haven’t checked all the parts, they were working just fine last night and nothing should have changed over the course of the night. In a similar way, our faith in God isn’t just blind. We have good reasons to believe, reasons that aren’t always 100% verifiable, but they can make a very solid case. I’ll be going through these with you over the next couple of blog posts in this series.

Revelation

How does God reveal Himself to us?

God reveals Himself to us in many different ways: through reason, philosophy, and the sciences, in the world around us, in who we are, and in what He directly reveals to us. God reveals Himself to us through reason as we contemplate how the world came to be and exists. He reveals Himself to us through our own longings like our desire for the infinite, for truth and happiness, for unconditional and infinite love. God reveals himself to us in the human person: in our desire to truth and beauty, our sense of morality, and our own inherent idea of God. God also reveals Himself more directly, as the God of Noah, Abraham, and Moses. As a Christian I believe that God most fully revealed Himself as Jesus. God reveals Himself in the world from its order and beauty.

Science

What is science?

When we think of science, (I hope) we think of the scientific method, which allows us to test and prove things in a quantifiable manner.

The Scientific method:

1. Define a question

2. Gather information and observe

3. Form hypothesis

4. Test the hypothesis, perform an experiment

5. Analyze the data

6. Draw conclusions from data

7. Publish results

8. Retest conclusion

The scientific method is a powerful way to make conclusions about quantifiable phenomena. We can use science to measure data in the physical realm, but even science has its limits. With the scientific method, we can find out what we are made of and how our bodies work, but we can’t find out our purpose and meaning in life.

An interesting point to make is that science isn’t the only rational system of thinking: all of the branches of philosophy require reason. Philosophy is basically the study of being: what exists and why they exist. This is specifically called metaphysics and is the basis of all philosophy. There are other branches of philosophy, like philosophy of man (what is human nature), philosophy of ethics (how should man act), philosophy of politics (how should society be), epistemology (study of knowledge, how does man know what he knows), and finally natural philosophy (study of nature). What we call science is actually only one branch of philosophy, natural philosophy. All the other branches of philosophy still require reason and rational thought, but often the only one that we think of nowadays is science.

Can the scientific method be applied to God? We know that science can only be applied to things that we can quantify, things we can measure and observe. So now we have to see if God matches up to these requirements.

Who/What is God? How would you describe Him?

There are a few traits that we have to become familiar with in order to describe God. The first is that God is omnipotent, which means that God is all powerful. The next is that God is perfect- all good and benevolent. God is also omnipresent, which means that He is continuously and simultaneously present throughout the whole of creation. God is eternal- He always was and always has been. The final important trait of God for now is that He is transcendent, or outside of the universe.

With all of this in mind, we have to realize that God cannot be studied by science. Since God is transcendent, he can’t be measured or observed. God isn’t a material being (besides the part where Jesus walked here on Earth and Jesus in the Eucharist in the Tabernacle of your local Catholic Church).

How does the Catholic Church view faith and science?

Believe it or not, Pope John Paul II wrote an entire encyclical on the topic in 1998, called Fides et Ratio (Latin for Faith and Reason). You can read it in English here. In the encyclical, Pope John Paul II argues that faith and reason are essential together, like two wings of a bird.

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth- in a word, to know himself- so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.” – Pope John Paul II, Fides et Ratio

Can faith and scientific reason ever contradict each other?

Since the Catholic Christian faith is true and reason is true, they should never conflict. Often people have misconceptions of the faith which makes the faith appear to be false, though. I’ll cover that in the next post.

We don’t need necessarily need “blind” faith to believe in God’s existence, God’s existence can be understood through reason, which I’ll cover in the last post. Specific things about God and Jesus, etc. must be taken by faith in God’s revelation, though.

Here are a few more quotes from the Church on the relationship between faith and reason:

“Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace.” – St. Thomas Aquinas

“Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church 159

“Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church 159

In terms of religion, the whole point of this discussion is to show you that believing in God isn’t a “blind” faith based decision but rather an exercise of reason. Believing certain things about God may require faith, but believing in God’s existence does not.

The next post will be about supposed reasons why God has been “disproved” and I’ll debunk them. In the final post I’ll share some reasons to believe in God.