what binds you?

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity….” —Jeremiah 29:11-14

What binds you?

What holds you down?

What keeps you from being a man or a woman “fully alive”? St. Irenaeus said: “The glory of God is man fully alive.”

Well, God wants to bring YOU back from captivity. He wants to loosen those chains, and to free you from sin. Or from despair. Or from being despondent.

Or from not caring. Or being reckless. Or from thinking “my life means nothing.” Or from thinking “I don’t get this all, I’m just going to do whatever…”.

God wants you to find YOUR meaning and purpose, and to revel in the fact that He has gifted you with life, and life ABUNDANTLY (John 10:10), in order to be exactly who He created you to be!

Someone not bound up, but someone free in grace– free in His life within you!

Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Confession when He told His apostles: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” –John 20:23.

Priests have the power to, in the place of Christ (in “persona Christe”), bestow upon us Christ’s sanctifying grace that frees us from our sin and makes us alive in Him!

Let’s pray to Him. Let’s call out to Him.

God promises that He is listening.

Let’s seek Him with all of our heart.

We will find Him.

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This is Who we are really going to in Confession: Jesus Himself.

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my favorite spot at UCLA…

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(c) Caravaggista

…is the engraving of this Psalm on the Humanities Building.

One day when I was an undergraduate sitting on either the grass or a bench by the building, the words caught my eye… and little did I know it was a Scripture verse!

“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”

Psalm 119:18 (RSV)

I feel like I had a Saint Augustinian like transformation during my college days. OK, minus the crazy past life maybe.

I kept wondering, “Why? Why? Why does the Church teach we have to do x, y, and z?” I challenged the law. I pondered the law. And in my studies… I dwelled in the law, whether I believed it was worth following or not yet.

After immersing myself in texts and tomes, primary and secondary sources… I was truly enamored with how the “rules” of Catholicism were actually beautiful parameters by which the human soul could be set free. Really, the “rules”– or the “law”– were just a structure by which I found the LORD could enter the human soul.

And trust me… the last year of being a teenager, and embarking into the life of young adulthood, the last thing I wanted to be was “bound.” I did not want to be set into any sort of confining “structure” of “law.” And yet, when studying how such “law” actually paved the way for more intimate relationships with Christ, with others, and with self (yes, within!), I saw how the “law” was actually made to bring peace to the human heart, and to set it free. In all of its theology, dogma, and doctrine, Catholicism set me free into a beautiful world of wonder! Truly, I was beholding the Living Body of Christ on earth.

No longer did “Law” mean some sort of cold and calculated weighing of what is right and wrong.

Instead, following the law meant loving the Lord, your God, with all of your heart, with all of your mind, with all of your strength, and with all of your soul (Luke 10:27)!

Following the law meant glorifying God in everything you did– even in your eating and your drinking (1 Corinthians 10:31)!

As a late teen and early twenty-something living on a secular college campus, I saw Light in a world of darkness caused by moral relativism. There was something real, vibrant, and life-giving to this supposed “Truth” that the realm of all other ephemeral “truths” by which everyone else seemed to be living.

I saw this Light first and foremost in the Catholic young adults that I was meeting and asking all of my “why?” questions to. They shined with a light I had never seen before. They contained within them a peace I had never met. (Well, besides perhaps in my grandmother– but that’s for another blog post!)

I met young adults who were standing up for something (rather, Someone) rather than falling for everything. I met young adults who were passionate and fighting for a Cause.

And, O, what a battle to fight in the spiritual warfare I perceived all around!

Yet there was something romantic about that battle in which I began to fight

The God I loved (Luke 10:27) and glorified  (1 Corinthians 10:31)… He brought Light.

Now a late twenty-something (gasp!), I still find myself fighting that fight– that fight for the Light! In ways both the same and different.

And first and foremost, the battle occurs in my own heart. Every moment that I live, I have the freedom to live in Christ if I so desire.

Only Christ makes me fully alive. He came that I might not only have life, but have it more abundantly (John 10:10)! May I always deeply revel in the wonders of the law of the LORD my God. May I always choose Him in every moment!

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live.” –Deuteronomy 30:19

God wants your heart.. AND SO DOES SATAN.

Spiritual warfare exists. Every day, God pursues your heart. And so does Satan.

I swear. I just experienced it very keenly about an hour ago.

Yet I realize… it’s an every day battle. In the little things and the big things. There is always a battle for our heart.

Satan wants to detour you from staying in God’s Kingdom, from forever residing with God. And boy, is Satan deceptively cunning. He attracts. After all, He was one of God’s highest and most beautiful angels.

He wants your soul for all the selfish reasons… because he does not want you to experience happiness– the happiness that he willingly lost.

So ask yourself… and be honest…

Who are you living for? Who will you die for? Who are you fighting for?

God? Or Satan?

If we’re not for God, we’re against Him. Perhaps we’re running away from the Light for which we were made. Perhaps we’re hiding. But it’s not bringing us any closer.

Yet God is pursuing us… Are you listening? Are you watching out for Him?

Oftentimes, I find I am not. But I want this to change. I want to keep getting better and better at these practices. I don’t want my heart to be stolen without my knowing.

Saint Benedict is awesome because he reminds us about our mortality and our consequent propensity to weakness. In fact, Saint Benedict is often known as a “patron of a happy death.” The front of his medal reads: “May we be strengthened by his presence in the hour of our death.”

The back of the medal of Saint Benedict reads: “May the Holy Cross be my Light! May the Dragon never be my guide!” (The “Dragon?” Satan.) And under the word “Peace,” it also reads: “Begone Satan! Never tempt me with your vanities! What you offer me is evil. Drink the poison yourself!

Now what’s “the poison,” you ask?

According to the legend of Saint Benedict, during a Mass in which he was to consecrate bread and wine to become the Body and Blood of Christ, hostile monks attempted to poison him, and poisoned the communion bread and wine. However, when Saint Benedict tried to bless the wine, the cup in which it was contained shattered when he made the sign of the cross over it. This cup is featured on his medal. Supposedly, a raven (also featured on the medal) flew in and carried away the poisoned bread before Saint Benedict consecrated it as well.

Saint Benedict is said to be one of the greatest saints to call upon for deliverance from evil spirits. The Benedictine Crucifix– a crucifix with the medal of Saint Benedict on it– is used in exorcisms.  And with Whose power does Saint Benedict ward off demons? CHRIST’S.

Let us never forget that while we can experience the amazing, wonderful power of GOD, another opposing power equally exists, and it is that of Satan.

We must be keenly aware of spiritual warfare and how Satan wants our heart. More importantly, we must also be confident and vigilant in knowing that, so long as we continue to follow Christ’s Light, God will protect our heart with all that He is!

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(c) SouthernFriedCatholicism. Read more about the medal below!

“Southern Fried Catholicism” Blog

I would be straight up lying…

…If I were tell you that being a saint in the making is easy.

…If I were to tell you that being 20-something, that being young and in a world that screams, “WEALTH! PLEASURE! POWER! HONOR!” (as Fr. Robert Barron says) was easy.

…If I were to tell you that trying to: embrace a life of virtue, work to my full capacity as God’s handmaiden, overcome daily insecurities and anxieties, be chaste with my boyfriend, be patient with my family members, trust the LORD with all my heart, and smile through the trials in life… was a simple walk in the park.

These are all challenges for me. Yet this is why God has given me grace. God’s grace makes us holy; yes, it sanctifies us. But grace comes at a cost. We don’t earn it, but we have to say YES to it. That is the cost. Are we willing to let grace work in us?

Jesus requires change. He requires discipline. He requires sacrifice. And He accomplishes it through grace.

Does grace always simply float into you, like a nice breeze? No. Sometimes, grace cuts into you, strikes you like a bolt of lightning, shakes you up and to the core.

But even in the latter, we have to remember: ALL the time, grace will pulse straight to the heart, and do it Eternal Goodness, not eternal harm.

Living in the world and OF the world– following it, just doing “whatever”: now that harms your soul.

But living in the world and NOT of the world, with Christ within you, with GRACE in your soul– either in a calm way, or in that aforementioned crazy-making way: now THAT leads you to eternal joy.

So why settle for excitement that fades, for the promises from our world that will always be broken?

I am set for a greatness that will last. I am bound to a God who will keep His promises, even after the darkest of hours.

His Light WILL shine! His Kingdom WILL prevail! And how blinding, how radiant, how glorious it is!

I am a twenty-something in this world, and it’s incredibly hard not to listen to it sometimes. It’s incredibly hard not to listen to my own weakened nature sometimes. But I have grace: I have Christ within me!

I am a saint in the making, and I am nothing less.

…Now, THAT is the truth.

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