Jesus Crucified

Carry YOUR Cross

Carry your cross. It’s a phrase that’s thrown around a lot in the Catholic sphere. And for good reason. We’re always being called to embrace the sufferings we inevitably face in this world and to unite them to Jesus on His Cross. But recently I’ve been reflecting on this call to action in my own life, in my current situation as well as in an experience I had nearly 2 years ago. Let’s start with 2 years ago.

I was on an annual pilgrimage to Montreal with a group of Catholic young adults- most of whom I knew really well. At one point we were all in the two story Airbnb hanging out. I started talking to a friend who shared with me that a few months ago he’d gotten a concussion. Due to the injury, he actually lost his sense of taste and smell. As he talked about it, he genuinely, boldly, and confidently said something along the lines of “This is my cross to carry so I will do it and offer it up for Jesus’ sufferings.” I remember looking at him but not having my typical thought of admiration for someone who could so boldly embrace their suffering. Instead, I said, “but is this a cross that the Lord is asking you to carry?” I went on to ask if this was perhaps something that God wanted to heal for him and he shouldn’t be afraid to ask for that healing. That maybe every suffering we come face to face with isn’t one for us to bear for an extended period of time. I remember the look of surprise and inquisitiveness wash over his face. I felt the same feelings wash through me- knowing quite well that thought hadn’t come from me but most definitely came from the Holy Spirit. None the less, this was a thought we both needed to ponder.

I ended up seeing this friend a few months later. I asked how he was feeling and unfortunately his smell and taste still hadn’t really returned. But he reminded me of our conversation and how much that had stuck with him. I told him it had really stuck with me as well. So, while it seemed this was in fact his cross to carry, that question remained one that needed to be asked and brought to God.

Fast forward to now and I have been in a yearlong endeavor to actively figure out where my own health issues are stemming from. For the longest time I simply bore them on my shoulders alone. Now, a year into it and I still have no concrete answers and about 100 possibilities crossed off the list. Yet, I ask the question- is this a cross the Lord is asking me to carry? The answer- right now yes, BUT with Him.

That’s the thing about carrying your cross, it’s a necessary thing to take it up and march forward with it but you’ll only ever see goodness come out of it if you allow Christ to bear it alongside you. I’ve recently started with a new doctor and while things haven’t changed physically, I feel a new peace inside. This peace carries over into my faith and trust in God. I noticed the change when I was visiting with a dear priest friend and at the end of catching up he offered to give me the anointing of the sick. I was taken aback and literally said, “I never thought of that for myself” as if my ailments weren’t “big” enough to warrant that sacrament. As he prayed those beautiful prayers over me, accompanied by his own prayers for me, I didn’t feel myself grasping for a miraculous, immediate healing. Instead, I felt peace wash over me, knowing I was fully seen- every single part of me, and I was fully loved- every single part of me.

So, I continue on, carrying this cross, MY cross, but I do so knowing that its weight, its size, its appearance doesn’t factor into whether I can look to Jesus and say, “Is this a cross you are still asking me to carry or have we arrived at the place together where you’d like to take it from me?”.

We should never grasp to carry a cross. When we find ourselves clinging to a cross, which sounds counterintuitive but happens more than we realize, it’s often out of our own woundedness. For me, when I cling it’s often out of pride in thinking I’m able to bear it on my own or I’ll “look strong” carrying it or I even want to be viewed as the victim. But rather, the correct posture is to hold every cross loosely enough that if Christ ever turns to us and says, “It’s My turn to take this from you”, we easily release it and let His mercy, humility, and love bear it alone.

 

    1. So, the moral of the story- carry YOUR cross, but carry it WITH Christ for only as long as He asks you to.

Which crosses are you presently bearing in your life? Are you bearing them alone or with Christ? How can you invite Him into each moment of this journey so that you feel comfortable allowing your hands to only be loosely wrapped around those tough and jagged edges of your sufferings while He holds on tight?

 

I Surrender: A Year In The Making

I have a bunch of scribbled notes in various places with ideas for blog posts but nothing really inspired me enough to sit down and write. Then I realized something- I have been praying the Surrender Novena for a full year now. Let me put that into perspective for you. A novena is a 9 day prayer that you usually pray for a bigger intention. While the specifics of my intention changed and transformed and molded into something new over the year it really all came back to wanting to deeply surrender my entire life (every single aspect of it- every desire, every hurt, every question, every doubt, every joy, every gift- everything) to Jesus and His most Sacred Heart. Now 365+ days later I have prayed that novena over 40 times. I have never prayed for something so consistently before in my entire life.

And let me tell you. It worked.

There is a new perspective, a new lens that I’m viewing this life through, and it is hands down the most freeing feeling I’ve ever felt. I’m no longer afraid to dream and trust that the King of the Universe sees those dreams and knows exactly how to give them to me in a way that will not only fulfill the desires in my heart but also touch the hearts of so many others in His kingdom.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not suddenly able to give every single thing over to God with a big smile, open hands, and a heart full of unbreakable trust. Hardly. But there is one dream that God placed on my heart many years ago that He brought to the surface again in a big way. Over the years I always looked at it as my own random concoction, such a pipe dream and so unattainable. But now, now I look at it as something God planted there knowing full well how HE would deliver on it. “Reason” would tell me what I’m asking for is impossible, too much, or bound to fail. But with this new found freedom in surrendering it God is saying to me- this is possible with Me, keep asking Me big things because I’m the only one who can give them to you, and even if this fails in the eyes of the world if you’re following My will  it will not be a failure. In that knowledge, I have literally never felt more free to surrender something and really  go for it before.

So after a year of praying for, fighting through, and slowly releasing my grip, there are a few things I learned that may inspire you to begin your own surrender journey.

I’m a self-proclaimed perfectionist and have been called controlling by some. So when I began this novena I was well aware that I had a long journey ahead of me. Surrender and release are synonymous. As we think about this it’s important to remember that while God asks us to release everything to Him, doing so can lead to many different outcomes. Here are some lessons learned about surrender and release:

 

  1. Release and surrender = less anxiety, less worry, less confusion, less chains & more freedom.
    We stop clinging and start receiving.
     
  2. He asks us to release it to HIM. Not to anyone else, no matter how well intentioned they may be. Others can help us discern but they cannot decide for God  what you need to release. Ultimately, the stronger your relationship with God the more you’ll be able to recognize what God is asking for and when someone else is asking things of you that God is not.
     
  3. He might not actually take what you release- shocker! He is a generous God and gives us what we have which means He doesn’t want to take it all away. He just wants to make sure we’re rightly ordering our lives and putting Him first before all else that He is giving us.
     
  4. If he does take something, you better keep those hands open and ready to receive whatever it is He’s planning to give you in return. He doesn’t leave us empty handed, and if it seems like He has then He has actually given you an opportunity to hold Him so incredibly close because this is a moment where there is nothing else in between you and Him. So build up your strength and surrendering skills as you wait, and cling so utterly close to His Heart that you feel it beat next to yours.
    “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 
     
  5. Embrace the joy in the uncertainty. A year ago I would have scoffed in your face had you told me that. Uncertainty was quite literally sucking the life out of me. Now, I look at it a little bit differently. I still feel the pains and hurts and wounds, the boredom and monotony and frustrations, the trepidation with excitements and hopes and joys. But even in feeling those things I’m choosing to view God BIG. Big enough to bring beauty out of the ashes of what was, bring miracles out of graves long buried, and bring uncontainable love out of hardened hearts.

It took me a full year to reach this place, and  still this confidence in surrendering only fully surrounds one particular area of my life. It will take me a lifetime to hand over the rest as I’m sure I’ll fall and find myself clinging once again. So my advice to you- start now. Stop waiting. Stop making excuses. All it takes is one small yes. Once small prayer and a determination to keep praying it over and over and over and over and over no matter what obstacles you come up against. You CAN do this. You CAN invite Him in and let that still small seed begin to grow and bloom.

Miracles are waiting, friend. Miracles are waiting.

Practical advice- print out the Surrender Novena or get it in pamphlet form. Use a sticky note to mark your spot and set a reminder in your phone to go off every morning. Before you even get out of bed pray it and let your day begin with this first act of surrender. 

O Jesus, I surrender myself to You, take care of everything.

Mother, I am yours now and forever. Through you and with you I always want to belong completely to Jesus.

 

Welcome to the Present Catholic Blog!

Back in the spring of 2017, as I prepared to graduate with a Master’s degree in theology, I was pulling together the finishing touches of my “Evangelizing the Culture” project requirement. We could choose almost anything we wanted to fulfill this requirement as long as it was evangelizing others in some way. I chose to write and share a daily devotional for Lent and I titled it: Present Catholic.

The purpose of the devotional was to provide a simple way for people to be more present to the movements of the Lord in their lives throughout the season of Lent. I described it in this way, “We all know the anticipation leading up to Easter Sunday and the celebration of Christ’s miraculous Resurrection. However, with that anticipation can also come a disconnect from the present moment. Through this program, you will be given a reflection and an action/challenge for each day. The goal of the reflection is to help bring your attention to that particular moment and to give you something to focus on throughout the day. In addition to the reflection, you will also be given an action/challenge connected to the reflection to help you participate in the present moment.”

It was an incredibly fruitful experience not only for myself but for the nearly 50 people who signed up! (That number alone blew my mind by the way). I had desired to continue writing after the program ended but God had other plans. Any brain power I had left after completing my Master’s program was dwindling, I was involved with a booming young adult ministry, and unbeknownst to me, a few months later, I would be hired as a Campus Minister at a small Catholic college and a year after that I would unexpectedly become the Director. Life was busy and it was clearly not the time. Almost 4 years later and God has taken me for quite a wild ride. Yet all of it has been leading me to this point, a point where the words “be still” are plastered on my heart and up ahead is a future that is only clear to the One who created me. So, with nowhere to go and a vulnerable heart in tow, I venture back into the world of writing!

Since this blog is clearly centered on faith, for those who are curious about my faith background here it is: I seek to abide by the teachings of the Catholic Church in every area of my life which I’m only ever able to do by the grace of God, and when I fail (more often than I care to admit) I embrace the Sacrament of Reconciliation to atone for my shortcomings and seek holy guidance to align myself with the will of God once again. See the Nicene Creed and Catechism of the Catholic Church for a full rundown of beliefs.

In an effort to continue simplifying my life, keeping Christ at the center, and truly having my focus in the present moment, I am aiming to let go of my perfectionist tendencies in regards to this blog. I enjoy being creative through graphic and web design, marketing, and writing, however, when the need to make everything “just right” takes away my peace, I know that I am no longer fully following God’s will. That means, I’m not giving myself any deadlines for posting weekly, monthly, etc. (you’ll have to find your Mindful Mondays elsewhere 😉). I’m also not going to be as strict about sticking to the theme of “being present”, although I’m sure it will still be very prominent as I feel passionate about that particular call to action. And while I have many ideas for making this site more interactive, I’m going to ease into the web design portion and start by simply sharing my reflections. I will offer to send you the reflections directly to your inbox, but don’t expect any fancy looking designs to accompany them. 😀 You can also follow me on Instagram @presentcatholic to see the challenges from the original program and to be notified of new posts.

This blog is a place for me to unpack my relationship with God, my prayers, and my life experiences while embracing the enjoyment I get from writing. I pray that God may use my simple musings to bless anyone who reads them. Feel free to comment or email me with any feedback or reflections of your own! Know that you are in my prayers and that I am entrusting you all to my three favorite examples of pure, holy love- the Chaste Heart of Joseph, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the Most Sacred Heart of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Until my next post (which will be coming soon), I will leave you with a Bible verse and a challenge. There are many I could quote in an effort to sum up my faith but the one that has been with me the longest is this: “I believe, help my unbelief” Mark 9:24

So, what do you believe in and who will you ask to help you go deeper?

For more background on the meaning being the name, Present Catholic, check out the “About” page. And shoutout to my best friend, Dayna, who reworked my original logo to make my intent  of representing the “Chi Rho”  or “XP” symbol for Christ  through the intersection of the P and C look so much like it!