Author: Lisa Graas
•8/18/2010 11:47:00 AM
Are you fearful? Follow this prescription.

Remember the words Pope John Paul II continually reminded us of during his papacy: "Be Not Afraid".

Sing this song, below, at least once a day, preferably to your children!

Most importantly, believe what the words say. Think of it as a promise, and trust in the promise, because the promise is true. I can testify to that personally, as can many others. There is rest in fearlessness.

Once a day. Try it!



Be Not Afraid, lyrics
(Bob Dufford, S.J., a Catholic Hymn)

You shall cross the barren desert
But you shall not die of thirst
You shall wander far in safety
Though you do not know the way.

You shall speak your words in foreign lands
And all will understand
You shall see the face of God and live.

Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come follow Me
And I shall give you rest.

If you pass through raging waters
In the sea, you shall not drown
If you walk amidst the burning flames
You shall not be harmed.

If you stand before the pow'r of hell
And death is at your side
Know that I am with you, through it all.

Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come follow Me
And I shall give you rest.

Blessed are your poor
For the Kingdom shall be theirs
Blest are you that weep and mourn
for one day you shall laugh.

And if wicked men insult and hate you
All because of Me
Blessed, blessed are you!

Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come follow Me
and I shall give you rest...
Author: Lisa Graas
•7/11/2010 01:19:00 PM
It has always fascinated me that within various faith traditions, just as in politics, there is always a left and a right.  One might say that politics influences religion and vice versa.  Certainly, there is a lot of that going on, but I tend to think that whether or not individual people end up leaning left or right has a lot to do with their own life experiences and how they interpret them.  We choose to go left or right, in other words, based on our subjective interpretation of what is truth and what is not truth.  Naturally, we view those who see things differently as our adversaries and we unite together with like-minded individuals to oppose them, most often in the sphere of public debate.  We hope that if our voices are louder and more reasonable than theirs, we will win others to our proverbial banner and gain power so that we can bring about what we believe "justice" is.  In other words, what we all have in common, no matter where we are on the spectrum, left or right, is that we are all seeking what we believe is 'justice'.  Perhaps if we realized that, we'd all get along a bit better.  Few among us actively and knowingly seek 'injustice'.  Even some murderers think they are justified in some way as they commit injustice.  God calls us, as the adage goes, to "love the sinner and hate the sin".  It's far easier to "love the sinner" when one understands that most people really do have good intentions.

So it is, I'm sure, with South African Bishop Kevin Dowling who was recently very critical of efforts by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI to restore orthodoxy in the Church.  (National Catholic Reporter -- Catholic social teaching finds church leadership lacking) Bishop Dowling means well.  He seeks 'justice', or what he subjectively believes 'justice' to be, but he is quite wrong in his criticisms.  As I read his critical speech, which was before a group sympathetic to his views and was ostensibly not intended to have become public, I couldn't help but see arguments to turn the Church I know and love all topsy-turvy.

Father Z explains why Bishop Dowling is wrong in regard to vestments and ordination of women.
Advent Hope examines what may be Bishop Dowling's fear of orthodoxy.
Defend Us In Battle rightly notes that Bishop Dowling's arguments are "logically bankrupt".

I agree with each of them.  What fascinated (and troubled) me so much about Bishop Dowling's speech, far and above the other problems, is that he cited the doctrine of subsidiarity as reasoning for a democratic church structure wherein the people decide what is doctrine and what is not.  Subsidiarity refers to economic policy, that preference should be made for local solutions to advance social justice.  (Frank Morriss explains here.)  Bishop Dowling has it all backwards,  you see.   He seeks a large civil structure of social justice alongside a Catholic Church whose doctrines and disciplines are determined by the will of the people.

Bishop Dowling's speech offers a very strange example of appealing to the worst of both sides, not the best of both sides.  He gives sort of a "TEA Party" view of the will of the people overruling the Vatican and he gives a socialist view of economic policy.  Such a message, if it were given by an American bishop, would ironically gain some sympathy from TEA Partiers and socialists alike, with the Catholic Faithful left scratching their heads in dismay.

I'm reminded of a conversation I had yesterday after mass with my priest.  I noted that in politics now, the loudest voices are either far left or far right.  Catholics who embrace authentic Catholic teaching seem to be caught in the middle.  We agree with the moderate right on issues like subsidiarity and abortion.  We agree with the moderate left on issues like immigration and civil rights.  He agreed that it is indeed a conundrum for Catholics and, thankfully, he confirmed that as long as I do go to the polls on election day, if there is a particular race where I cannot cast a vote in good conscience, I can leave that box blank and fulfill my duty as a Catholic. This is rightly termed a "protest vote" against both parties.  What a relief this is for me. 

Each of us has the duty to work for justice in the world.  The vast majority of us sincerely do have that intention.  It seems clearer now to me than ever that, though we have come a very long way, we still have countless miles to travel.......and few among us have it right.

Cross-posted at LisaGraas.com
Author: Lisa Graas
•7/08/2010 12:13:00 PM
We Catholics are charged with helping to strengthen the Church, to assist in building a Catholic culture, but what does that mean exactly?  And what can we do to advance the Catholic culture in America?  Let's examine it for a moment.

First, it is helpful to know what a 'Catholic culture' is. It is a culture made up of people who place Jesus first in their lives and who live His message.

In Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II wrote:
To all the members of the Church, the people of life and for life, I make this most urgent appeal, that together we may offer this world of ours new signs of hope, and work to ensure that justice and solidarity will increase and that a new culture of human life will be affirmed, for the building of an authentic civilization of truth and love.
A culture of human life, as Pope John Paul II notes above, is one which is concerned with the advancement of justice, the fostering of solidarity, the propagation of truth and the giving and receiving of love.   It is rare to find anyone these days, even among Catholics, who is able to do all of these things consistently in practice in their own lives, in their families and other relationships and in how they reach out to the world.  We all struggle inwardly against sin and temptations, and we all have disagreements about how to bring about a Catholic culture.  Some have a gift to focus on a particular area and may forget that having a gift in one area does not excuse complete failure in another.  When each of us embraces the call to live out the Gospel in our own lives, we will succeed in building that Catholic culture.  It is not enough to be Catholic on Saturday night or Sunday morning.  We must be Catholic at every moment, to be Christ in the world, and to embrace Him in every thought, word and deed.  I personally struggle greatly with this.  It is not possible to 'be' Christ in the world in all His fullness, but I have learned from experience that Aquinas is right that one can develop a Christian habit and become more Christ-like if one seeks to turn Himself over to the truth we are called to live out by Him, even (and especially) when it hurts to do so. 

Dr. Jeff Mirus writes in his essay How Culture is Done:
Though we are not always consistent, ultimately most of our actions stem from the deep inner beliefs and judgments which we hold to be most important. If we are self-aware, we’ll eventually notice and change what is inconsistent in our behavior. In any case, a certain kind of culture is formed wherever people speak and act consistently. We usually think of culture in terms of the larger society of which we are a part, though the family is most often the first cultural unit. But culture is not restricted to families on the one hand and dominant social trends on the other. Rather, culture is formed within the sphere of influence of each group of persons who are brought together by any conceivable set of circumstances.

And......
The key point is that culture is always formed within a specific sphere of influence based on repeatable actions which are consistent with specific ideas, beliefs or values. This is why culture can be formed deliberately as well as more or less accidentally. In fact, to preserve the values in any existing culture within any sphere, or to extend those values to other spheres, a good deal of self-awareness, analysis and planning is often essential. The one constant is that culture is always born of consistent action properly connected to leading ideas. Therefore, insofar as we act based on the prevailing ideas already operative within a certain sphere, we do nothing to change or improve the culture. But insofar as we act consistently on a different set of ideas, then in each sphere of our own influence—or in each sphere where we can create influence through the building of an effective nucleus—the culture will begin to change.
Do read the whole thing.  It's a wonderful article.

So, we begin as individuals working on ourselves to live the Gospel in all that we do.  This fosters the Catholic culture within our families and then, by extention, throughout the world.  It cannot ever occur, though, if we don't begin in ourselves.

On a personal note, I have found that one of my biggest failures has been in maintaining peace and calm within myself.  God has given me the gift of being one who seeks justice in the world, but with that gift comes responsibilities and, also, temptations.  No one who loves justice is able to be fully at peace in an unjust world.  Neither is one required to be always at peace.  Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers at the temple.  SS Peter and Paul did not have the luxury of remaining silent.  They were called to preach to those who took them to their deaths for doing so.  Having said that, a temptation that I frequently deal with, which pulls me away from Christ, is in not being able to be at peace in the world as it is.........to the point of becoming uncharitable.  I forget that God is in charge and I thereby attribute too much importance to myself at His expense in what otherwise is a noble goal to bring about justice.  I fool myself when I first remember that it is my job to help to bring about justice in the world but then forget that it doesn't mean that I have failed if that justice does not come.  Being uncharitable can be a tool of the proud, a tool that is wielded to oppress others so that one can think himself to be a victor in the struggle for justice and, as such, pleasing to God.

Even with all that SS Peter and Paul did, the world remains a vale of tears.  This does not make them failures.  Each of us has great value to God, whether we fail or whether we succeed, but not one of us is a failure if found to be a winner by God.  When one reaches that understanding, he has found a place of peace wherein he is equipped to practice charity........and charity advances justice in the world. Being uncharitable in an attempt to advance justice, then, is really an exercise in futility.

We all have our struggles, but it is through these individual struggles, moment by moment, that we help to bring about a Catholic culture.
Author: Lisa Graas
•6/20/2010 12:52:00 PM
Writing about the teaching of Jesus on hypocrisy from Matthew 6, Monsignor Charles Pope explains that hypocrisy covers far more than what might initially come to mind: Hypocrisy Is More Than We Usually Think. An analysis of Jesus’ teaching on hypocrisy in Matthew 6

Msgr. Pope defines hypocrisy thusly:
In effect Jesus describes hypocrisy as the sad state of a person who reduces himself to being an actor on a stage because he does not know God the Father. There are many people who live their life in a desperate search for human approval and applause. They discern their dignity and worth not from God (who is in effect a stranger to them) but from what other human beings think of them. They are willing to adapt themselves often in dramatic ways to win approval. They are willing to play many roles and wear many masks to give the audience what they want. They are like actors on a stage who seek applause or perhaps laughter and approval.
There is far more involved than merely this, however.  Msgr Pope writes:
This happens to a person who does not know God the Father. The great tragedy of many lives is that they do not know the Father. They may know ABOUT God, but they do not personally know God or his love for them. God is at best a benevolent stranger who runs the universe but he is in some remote heaven and the interaction that many have with him is vague and abstract. God exists but he is on the periphery of life. In effect he is a stranger.

Those who know me may be surprised to learn that I spent a good part of the beginning of my life in such a 'sad state' as Msgr. Pope describes.  Because I was not close to God and did not really know Him, I allowed others to play the role that God should play in one's life.  My dignity and worth, I wrongly believed, was based on what other human beings deemed it to be.  As a result, I was quite terrified by the idea of saying what I really think and believe about things.  Also, my self-esteem was practically non-existent.  On one level, it may have been good that I did not speak my mind since I was not a particularly enlightened individual, but my reasoning for not speaking out -- fear of disapproval -- was flawed.

It's not that I wanted necessarily to be popular.  Basic approval was enough to get that superficial satisfaction I desired, but if you live in a culture or sub-culture in which most people do not allow God to rule over their lives -- people who will not allow God to shape their judgment of things -- you place yourself in a very dangerous situation indeed when you allow those human beings authority to mold you into their form.  Not only that, it's an exercise in futility as you will never receive the absolutely unconditional love from any of them that is truly found only in God.  He is at the center of your life whether you recognize it or not, and ceding to an unGodly society the authority to form you into the person you are to become is an exercise that leads ultimately to self-destruction.  God has created you to be someone holy and pleasing to Him.  That person is the "real" you and that is the person He intends for you to become as you walk with Him.

Msgr. Pope writes:
Adults too will often compromise core principles in order to fit in and be liked, gain promotions or earn access. Christians will hide their faith, playing the role of a secular modern in order to win approval. Some will act deceitfully to please a boss, others will gossip or engage in any number of sinful behaviors to ingratiate themselves to a group.
As a political blogger, I see many examples of compromising and hiding on a daily basis as politicians strategically align themselves on issues in order to gain the approval of voters, but all people at some time or another, myself included, have experienced the temptation to conform to the views of the majority or, at least, to the views of those people we choose to surround ourselves with. 

Msgr. Pope rightly notes the remedy for hypocrisy:
[T]o the degree that we begin to experience God the Father’s love for us, his providence and his good will toward us, then we become less concerned with what others think. We begin to come down off the stage and be less concerned for the approval of men and more focused on and then satisfied with the approval of God.
Experiencing God's love for me did cause such a transformation in me as Msgr. Pope describes.  When I found God and opened my heart to Him, it was no longer the approval of others that I sought.  The fear of the disapproval of human beings that had possessed me throughout my former life all but vanished, though I still do err in that regard.   Unfortunately, any time that you become closer to God on some level, you also immediately capture the attention of the enemy who deviously tempts you to stray again.  So it has been with me.  Now, though I have no fear whatsoever of speaking what I believe to be the truth, I have a new problem in learning to speak the truth in charity.

An example of my own current personal failure comes in regard to my stand against abortion.  I know that abortion always kills an innocent human being and I have no fears about speaking out against it.  Sometimes I let arrogance get the best of me and I am uncharitable toward those who disagree.  Speaking against abortion is the right thing to do.  Calling those who disagree with you 'idiots' is not charitable and, as such, does not serve to enlighten but rather to alienate.

By being uncharitable in such a way, you appeal to the other person's desire to be approved by others.  You effectively challenge them to give in to a fear of disapproval by another human being.  It challenges them to surrender to pride.  When it all boils down, people shouldn't reject abortion because they fear being called an 'idiot'.  They should reject it because it is objectively a hideous evil that is offensive to God.

Even further, when you insult another human being in such a manner that devalues his dignity, you yourself become a tool of the enemy who rejects the dignity and worth of every human being.  In other words, you embrace the same falsehood which perpetuates abortion in the first place, a falsehood which is the ultimate rejection of God's unconditional love.   You become a part of the very evil you profess to be fighting and thereby engage in hypocrisy.

There is a considerably helpful encyclical from Pope Benedict XVI which sheds even more light on these challenges. Caritas in Veritate explains the important relationship between truth and charity. 
Truth needs to be sought, found and expressed within the “economy” of charity, but charity in its turn needs to be understood, confirmed and practised in the light of truth. In this way, not only do we do a service to charity enlightened by truth, but we also help give credibility to truth, demonstrating its persuasive and authenticating power in the practical setting of social living. This is a matter of no small account today, in a social and cultural context which relativizes truth, often paying little heed to it and showing increasing reluctance to acknowledge its existence.
Truth and charity must go hand in hand at all times, never one without the other.

Blessings.


(Image: La Charite [Charity], painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau)
Author: Lisa Graas
•6/12/2010 12:31:00 PM
This Sunday's readings speak of faith and forgiveness, but also of healing from evil spirits.

In Luke 8:1-3 we read:
Afterward he journeyed from one town and village to another,
preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.
Accompanying him were the Twelve
and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities,
Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza,
Susanna, and many others who provided for them
out of their resources.

All corruption comes from the evil one and only in Jesus is found the power to heal us. The general message of Sunday's readings is the concern that God has for us and the need for us to respond to Him with an obedient faith that welcomes Him fully into our hearts and to reject all that would separate us from Him. We must actively seek His forgiveness and healing which He stands ready to give.  This willingness to open ourselves to God is imperative.  Also important is an understanding of what is truth and what is not truth as we prepare ourselves to meet Him in prayer, to ask Him to meet us where we are, and to help to lift us out of whatever pit we may find ourselves in so that we may have a closer, deep and meaningful relationship with Him.

As I read Sunday's readings, it was the part about Mary Magdalene and her being cured of seven demons that stood out to me. I had only just recently learned of a new book by Human Life International's Fr. Thomas Euteneuer -- Exorcism and the Church Militant.  As one who has dealt with mental illness and delusion, I understand the proclivity some mentally ill people have to attribute symptoms to demonic possession.  In ages past, there has been misunderstanding in the Church, both among the laity and among religious, about whether or not there is a relationship between mental illness and demonic possession.  Often, the mentally ill are not deemed to be in tune with their faith because of a general disregard for, or lack of understanding of, the limitations that mentally ill people sometimes have.

Probably just as often, mentally ill persons who understand that certain behaviors are neither truly their own nor of God may attribute them to a malicious entity, and so it is understandable for them to attribute them to demonic possession.   Because there is still much to learn about mental illness and because there is certainly sometimes confusion on the part of both the afflicted and the healthy who are called to assist them, it's important to have a good understanding of spiritual warfare and all of its known aspects.

Although I have not yet read Fr. Euteneuer's book, I'm going to go ahead and recommend it.  It's been endorsed by Fr. John Corapi as a good resource for priests.  Also, in Fr. Euteneuer's work with Human Life International, I have become convinced of his commitment to defense of the Faith and to the responsible propagation of what is true and beneficial to souls.

I look forward to reading this book as a faithful Catholic who deals with mental illness on a daily basis.  Sometimes, in order to know in fullness what mental illness really is, it is important for one to know in fullness what it is not.  It is my hope that this book will help me to reach a greater understanding of spiritual warfare and become an important part of my journey toward understanding exactly what I am called to deal with in life.

I look forward to reading Exorcism and the Church Militant, by Fr. Thomas Euteneuer.


(Photo: Michael fights rebel angels, by Sebastiano Ricci, c. 1720, public domain)
Author: Lisa Graas
•5/29/2010 01:48:00 PM
Pope Benedict XVI will travel to Cyprus, June 4-6, 2010.  Here are some articles of interest in regard to this trip.

Vatican Radio: Fr. Lombardi Editorial - Why Cyprus?

Reuters: Catholics in Cyprus eagerly await papal visit

DC Art Travel Examiner:  Vatican prepares Pope Benedict’s Cyprus visit in June

Catholic News Service:  Pope to visit Cyprus, present topics for Middle East synod

Catholic News Agency:  Papal trip to Cyprus is 'ideal continuation' of visit to Malta, spokesman explains

Official Website: Papal Visit to Cyprus

May God bless the Pope as he travels on this important mission and particularly the meeting with the Middle Eastern bishops.  God bless also the people of Cyprus, that they may know peace, prosperity and truth.  + Amen.
Author: Lisa Graas
•5/29/2010 12:37:00 PM
There is no such thing as a coincidence.  Everything happens for a reason.  There are supernatural forces currently engaged in a battle for souls.  This battle goes on outside our human perception, but it is still quite real.

Please consider reading: Coincidence? I think NOT!

God is always looking out for your best interest.
Author: Lisa Graas
•4/25/2010 10:36:00 PM
See Scripture references on The Eucharist compiled by Scripture Catholic.


It was my first attendance at a Catholic Mass that I understood the words of Christ in regard to eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood.  I would encourage the curious to consider the Scripture references linked above.  Below is one of the songs sung at that Mass where I found Jesus Christ is the True Son of God at Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Knoxville, TN.  Because "catholic" means "universal", it didn't matter that I was out of state when I was converted.  The Church is the same wherever you go, anywhere in the world.  Christ meets us in The Eucharist at every Catholic Mass.



Related: The Sacrifice of the Mass, the Highest Form of Prayer
Author: Lisa Graas
•4/25/2010 10:47:00 AM
There is redemption in the Cross which we all participate in when we carry our individual crosses. My cross is different from your cross, but it was made especially for me.  It was specifically designed to help me to become the person God wants me to be.

The Scripture "God's strength is made perfect in weakness" was always difficult for me to understand.............until I received a cross. I carried this cross for years in bitterness, thinking myself such a 'trooper' for being able to carry it without complaining too much to others. God sent a friend to me.....a fellow faithful Catholic whom I met online as we were both doing apologetics.....and she was a good enough friend that I could pour out my complaints to her.  In this, my family was spared much anguish. (Read what Aquinas has to say about habits.) I was weaned from complaining.

For years I struggled to patiently bear my cross. Finally, I "received" the cross, which is different from "patiently bearing" it.....in God's time, not mine.....and I can testify that bearing a cross patiently is a good and holy thing.......but when I received my cross with joy, the joy was returned to me, and my cup runneth over.   My friend hardly hears a whimper from me anymore, though the weight of my cross is the same, and it is because I am satisfied with Christ in my whole being, as a bride on her honeymoon. Such weight...but...there is no weight, because the joy uplifts me.

I still struggle with sin and always will. I'm a political blogger and do get into some serious emotional entanglements with that.....but I am, nevertheless, truly a person of joy now. I confess that I fear sharing this there as there would be ridicule from people that would be based on lack of understanding it, God bless them. I know I can share it here and I don't care who reads it here.....but post this on my political blog? Too afraid. I am a thousand times more fearless now than I was before I found the Church in my twenties....but still have fears. I have a long way to go.......but I have a relationship with Jesus that is beyond sustaining. My cup truly runneth over.

Something else that I have learned....... "The cross" you bear.....well, it's easy to get trapped into thinking that this or that *particular* suffering is your "cross". No. All concerns, all sufferings, both minor and large, are your cross. Everything. Christ wants to fill you completely. I have a physical ailment plus bipolar disorder. These are not my "cross", per se.Anything that impedes me from trusting in Jesus is my cross. Anything. And all of those things in total are my 'cross'. One can't have a relationship with Jesus from 2:00pm to 3:00pm and forget Him the rest of the time. When I understood that, it gave me freedom to not be so concerned with things I thought were so big.

If one thinks this or that suffering he bears is 'big and bad', it impedes him from trusting Jesus. Our human intellects can't really measure/quantify justice. Believe me, I've tried........because God gave me a thirst for justice. One will only come up empty if one engages in that exercise of trying to quantify things where it is not clearly defined.  When you come to understand that it's "all" your cross and that you can't truly quantify it, you'll understand that you can't quantify it in others any better than you can in yourself, and this understanding helps one along in the continuous struggle many have nowadays, myself included, to be more accepting of perceived downfall in others.

There are basic guidelines that God has given us to help quantify justice/injustice, though. For example, murder is a sin that "cries to heaven for justice" (sometimes written as crying to heaven for vengeance). This is why I fight so strongly against abortion.

Bottom line?  You must trust Jesus in all things.  This trust can be painful, but it is the path to joy.
Author: Lisa Graas
•1/02/2010 11:42:00 AM
Note: My previous post on sacra*MENTAL* was on August 29, 2008, the day John McCain announced that Sarah Palin would be his Vice-Presidential running mate. Life has changed a great deal for me since then. Palin's candidacy spurred me to political involvement again -- politics has always been an invigorating arena for me. I've also contracted Lyme Disease which is now at chronic status. By far, the biggest event for me, though, has been in offering myself to the Passionist community at St. Joseph's Monastery. I am a Passionist Oblate Associate and all of my sufferings from the cross of the illness that abounds in me are offered for their intentions. This has been the next glorious step in my life's journey toward God. This post is about that step.

In my struggles with depression, mania, anxiety and also now the physical pain that consumes me as a result of chronic Lyme Disease, there is a deep and abiding comfort within me, which defies complete explanation, in knowing that the Passionists are entrusted with my cross in regard to the intentions for which it should be offered. No more do I ask in selfishness 'why me' when I am consumed with mental and physical pain. Now, I know 'why me'. No more do I ask in confusion what is the best use of the graces which will come from this cross that God has presented me with in His love for me. It is no longer my concern.

When my blood boils, when my bones moan, when my mind reels, when my muscles scream and my skin burns, I have peace beyond understanding because, and only because, I give it all to the Passionists as my gift.

A cross is of no use unless it is given to others. A cross is of no avail unless the heart is poured out upon it. Whom do I give it to? Certainly, I must give it, and certainly I must choose the most faithful steward I can find. God has created and revealed to me His faithful stewards, the Passionists.

In my search for peace in a pool of suffering, I have found peace by placing my cross into the hands of the Passionists. I have found peace in entrusting this cross to those whom I have come to understand, without doubt, have placed their total trust in Jesus Christ. They are faithful stewards of His Cross which I now participate in.

This is not something that could be described as merely "important" in my spiritual journey. Rather, it is something that I know I've been called to do. God has been inviting me to walk closer and closer with Him as my life has unfolded, and this joining with the Passionist community was the next step in my journey. It's something that I now know was always meant to be in my life, but it took many years for me to understand it.

Our senses tell us that the Cross is the embrace of death. My senses are no different from yours, in this regard. I sense death's embrace when I am consumed with pain, particularly when it is the pain of depression and confusion. I have come to understand that a response to this pain that is borne from selfishness is the same as embracing the ultimate Death -- hopelessness -- and it thereby becomes a rejection of the ultimate Life in Christ which abounds in Hope. When the response of the heart is to reject all selfishness, where the heart is poured out in a gift to others, then the soul, though embracing the sensation of death, is embracing Life in Christ because of the Gift of Christ's union with us in His Body and on His Cross.

It's difficult not to be selfish on some level when you are suffering, particularly when it is mental suffering. When your mind and your body feel as though they are being terrorized at all times, without respite, the biggest enemy can become selfishness. How can I not be thinking about myself on some level when I am engulfed in pain? I have become pain.

Catholics know that pain is the embrace of the suffering Christ. It is "love beyond all telling" as this college student writes:
In the Heart of Christ are this pain and sorrow totally and completely transformed into love. This love in turn permits us to embrace our pain and delight in our sorrows.
The Heart of Christ is poured out for the Church in His offering of Himself as He embraced the pain of the Cross. Our hearts also must be poured out in order to participate with Him in all. So, too, I must pour myself out. I must pour out my heart. I must give.

Love cannot dwell in a selfish heart. Love springs forth from the act of giving. In the act of giving, love abounds. Further, true love brings perfect delight. And so, by offering my sufferings for the intentions of the Passionists, I have found Delight in the Cross of pain and sorrow. I have found Peace in knowing that the question 'why me' is answered in fullness and that God's purposes for this cross are in the hands of his faithful stewards.

In suffering, I now rejoice.