Saints expansion…

Hello all,

I wanted to expand my thoughts a bit on the gift we have in the saints. A point that needs to be very clear is that the saints were not given some divine strength to endure and persevere through their callings, they were human – just as human as you or I. What they did have, that unfortunately, I believe many of us lack (especially in our self-centred culture) is faith in something greater than themselves. They trusted that their lives were meant to serve a greater purpose than self-indulgence and the pursuit of personal happiness and comfort. The saints believed they were contributing to something much more awesome than that, something immeasurably more important. And so they carried on through the hard times, the seemingly impossible times, the physically painful times – not because they had supernatural powers easing the journey but because they trusted in the mission.

We all have the potential to be saints. In fact, the Catholic Church claims that at Baptism, when our original sin is wiped away, we are saints. It’s as we grow up and are influenced by the imperfect nature of this world that we become more selfish and weak-willed. However, this isn’t negative, it’s simply the nature of being free. The change back to sainthood has to be our own personal choice, we have to knowingly turn away from the hedonistic lifestyle sold to us by popular society and accept another way. The paradox lies in realizing that the joy, the reparation of our broken hearts we ultimately seek, is a gift we receive when we choose to follow Christ, the path of selfless love. All of the time we spend trying to fill our aching selves up with earthly pleasures is in vain. I think this is something the saints realized and it is the fuel that kept them going. Once we commit to serving God through loving our neighbour, we are blessed with the interior space through which joy can surface. The space is key because without it there’s no room for true happiness, for inner peace.

So how to de we choose to live as the saints did? Well, initially there very well be a period of “fake it ’til you make it.” The important thing is to start making space for God. Express your longing for inner peace and then sit quietly everyday and listen, it’s as simple as that. Trust that your prayer will be answered and stay the course.

“Express your longing for inner peace and then sit quietly everyday and listen…”

Peace,

Aurelija

Saints!

Where better to begin repairing and reimagining our relationship with the Church than with her people, the saints!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

“The spirit is truly the dwelling of the saints and the saints are for the spirit a place where he dwells as in his own home, since they offer themselves as a dwelling place for God and are called his temple.”

Basically, the saints are people who pray without ceasing by the way they live their lives (1Thessalonians 5: 17). It is not they who live but Christ who lives through them (Galatians 2: 20) and transforms them into the living Love. What inspiration we have access to! Yes, of course, we could spend our time focusing on all the horrible things the Catholic Church has done, or instead, we could celebrate all the incredible souls that it is has formed. The souls that stood up against injustice (Saint Damien the Leper of Molokai, Saint Martin de Porres, or Saint Catherine of Siena), advocated for and provided aid to the poor (Saint Theresa of Calcutta, Saint Francis Xavier, or Saint Clare of Assisi), and those who propelled the development of the intellect (Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, or Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) are just a few examples of the myriad of humans we have to look up to.

The saints are the light that guide our way to Christ and we have a huge number of them, over 10,000! We have so many examples of how to emulate the love Jesus lived; therefore, we have no excuses not to. It doesn’t make any sense to pay so much attention to those doing harm, when we have such a large number of people doing good – those are the ones who will inspire us to act, give us hope for a better world and remind us of the Love that created us and calls us home.

May you realize yourself as the dwelling place of the Spirit and let the divine light illuminate both your path and the path of everyone you encounter along the way.

Peace,

Aurelija

Why I can’t leave the Catholic Church

John Gehring, a journalist for the National Catholic Reporter, eloquently sums up my feelings in a recent article:

The church has always been a flawed, sinful, human institution filled with darkness and light. In part, I go to church these days to grapple with those contradictions, to find healing in the Eucharist and strength standing next to my fellow weary travelers.

The news that broke last week has caused me, along with a most every Catholic, great distress. My initial reaction was to run as fast as I could the other way because how could I possibly remain in a church that allowed such tragedies to occur. And yet, I still found myself at mass this Sunday. In fact, I went more often last week than in previous weeks. But why was I even more drawn to a place that is currently associated with such deep sin? Because deep down I know that the Church has always been associated with sin but it is also the source of great healing. Just as John Gehring points out, Catholics are extremely flawed and there has been corruption in the Church since its inception. Jesus chose Peter, a weak-willed man, to found his universal Church. I believe Jesus was so wise that he knew Peter would fail, he knew the Church he built would be deeply flawed, but it had to be so that it could be saved by love. We only need God if we are broken. That’s the wonderful paradox we live in, without our evilness, our greed, etc… there’s no place for love. We need to have fallen in order to be raised up. At this time our Church is in dire need of healing and it is our calling to be the antidote. We need to do as Jesus taught, we must live out his one commandment so that our joy be complete, “love one another as I love you” (Jn 15:11). Forget the details, forget the kinks. To follow God is to be love, to smile warmly at your children, help a friend in need, give generously of your time, money, space, etc… This is how we will rebuild the Church.

Peace,

Aurelija

The Big Change

The direction of this blog is changing. I often think about writing but don’t because I’m not really sure what it is it I want to say. I know there are great truths deep within me, a creative force seeking to pour out of me but I had yet to align myself properly and let it flow.

With the most recent sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church has come much anger and dialogue regarding what it means to be Catholic. What has become most obvious to myself, and hopefully others, is that the church is not the people who abuse and cover-up, who seek power and self-gratification. The Catholic Church is the people that live everyday seeking to bring Christ into this world, people living the love that God is. And there are lots of those people, so many more than the corrupt ones. Unfortunately, we don’t hear about them often because, in our culture, good news is not what we’ve been trained to see and appreciate. Our culture focuses on the negative, focuses on evoking emotions of anger and intolerance, instead of noticing and celebrating all the wonderful and awesome things of this world, those that reflect the radiance of God.

Over the past 30 years, I have been slowly transitioning away from my attachment to a vague, self-directed spirituality. I have been called to humbly commit myself to a set of guidelines in order to grow closer to the Divine Light. These guidelines happen to fall within the teachings of the Catholic Church.

From here on out, I will use this blog to highlight the many beautiful and inspiring aspects of the Church. My goal is to create a portfolio of what it really means to be Catholic, to illuminate the truth, goodness, and beauty of it all.

I hope you find some joy here, something to draw you away from apathy and into the warm embrace of hope and love.

Peace,

Aurelija

We become that which we dare not see.

What if the way to abolishing the parts of ourselves that take us furthest from the Light (from communion with the Divine, the source of all Being, Love itself, etc…) is to bring them to the light? 

What if the reason these parts of ourselves keep coming back, leading us to make the same mistakes over and over again is because we’re always trying to push them back down instead of letting them pass through and evaporate into the ether? 

By suppressing our imperfections we give them power, and the more we suppress them, the stronger they become. Their potential energy increases each time they start to surface and are prevented from actualizing. Winding up before throwing a baseball is a physical example of this idea. 

I propose an examination of our least favourite parts. I, myself, have been doing this for awhile now and I have observed some incredible results. After my son was born I had trouble accepting how my body had changed. Though I was never thin to begin with, I had grown accustomed to my particular curves and felt pretty good about the way I looked. After he was born, I avoided looking at myself in the mirror and tried to cover up with baggy clothes. The more I did this though, the more I would dislike the way I looked in photographs, and instead of enjoying the process of creating beautiful and fleeting moments with my son, I was focused on myself. One day I decided enough was enough and I looked at myself, I really looked. I saw my size, my shape, my dimples and wrinkles and I decided it was beautiful. I gazed at myself in the way I imagined God was gazing at me. This dramatically changed my perception of my appearance. I stopped covering up, I stopped being ashamed of myself – in essence, I made light of this phase of my life and chose to enjoy it, all of it, and the outcome was, big surprise…joy and lightness! I no longer emphasize what I deem negative, instead I choose to see beauty and peace within myself which allows me to see beauty and peace within you. 

“I gazed at myself in the way I imagined God was gazing at me.”

Change starts with a simple thought, in order to think differently you need to cultivate an awareness of what is. This ability stems from the practice of objectively (without judgment) seeing yourself and learning about how you think and behave.

Awareness = illumination. You’ll be amazed how easily negatives melt away when exposed to light.

Stop judging and start being – this is the key to your flourishing. 

Blessings and peace.

The Paradoxical Nature of Life

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the paradoxical nature of life and how accepting that one fact can facilitate a more peaceful and joyful existence. 

The truth of this began surfacing the more I reflected on my journey out of anxiety and panic disorder. Basically, my treatment consisted of my staying put, both physically and mentally, as my sympathetic nervous system started revving up. I would be feeling the “fight or flight” response running rampant throughout my body and mind and, instead of reacting to those feelings, I would just stay present and accept that this was the experience I happened to find myself in at the time and that that was ok. I had to learn to allow both active and totally peaceful states to coexist.

I started paying more and more attention to what frightened me or made me uncomfortable or upset and I kept finding that the actual problem was that I wasn’t able to allow two seeming opposites to exist together, my experience was consistently unbalanced. Rather, the natural progression of events was disrupted by my inability to let them be. 

Wise teachers and guides have been saying this for centuries, that the way to true joy is to simply be present to what already is. We are both observers and participants – we’ll know how to participate effectively once we learn to observe properly. This is another paradox, in order to know how to act, we must know how to be still. There is no one way, there is only balance, and it looks different for everyone.

“…in order to know how to act, we must know how to be still.”

Where is the imbalance in your life? Do you know when to be still and when to act? Start by paying attention, notice where the kinks are and make some space for them to relax back into the natural flow.

Blessings and peace.

The Antidote to Worry

I dreamt last night that I was visited by a gentleman whose purpose was to help me plan, rather direct my planning of, my funeral. My sister was with me as well as my husband. I was surprised that this man was here, as I was not aware that funeral arrangements were required at this time. I kept asking him why and pointing at my husband and my sister, saying “What about them?”. I was feeling desperate and alone. However, he ignored my questions and kept insisting that I choose the drinks to be served and pick the music. He totally ignored my surprise, confusion, and despair. Interestingly, it didn’t feel like he was being unsympathetic, more that my feelings just weren’t relevant, the outcome was going to be the same. And then I woke up. Reflecting on this dream, I am struck by two points: 1) though we know death is inevitable, we never want it to be us and 2) time keeps passing regardless of how we feel.

In regards to the first point, we know it is common knowledge that we’d prefer to avoid death all the while knowing that is an impossibility. Yet, we spend so much of our lives actively working on avoiding it – we don’t take certain risks, we obsess about our weight and activity levels, we feel guilt for not keeping up with the latest healthy living trend. If we added up all the hours spent on worrying about avoiding the inevitable, I’m sure we’d all feel a bit foolish because ultimately that’s all wasted time. During every minute of worry, we were alive! We could have been spending that time enjoying our lives, giving more attention to whatever task we were partaking in, or better yet, being at peace. How about this as an antidote to pointless moments of stress? Just be. When worrisome thoughts pop into your mind try to focus on the space between them. Eventually, your mind will wander away from the fear-inducing, joy-destroying thoughts and you will be able to move on with what is actually within your control (i.e. how much effort you choose to put into whatever task you were trying to accomplish). All worry does is steal our progression in this life and once we start to stagnate we begin accumulating weight (the weight of fear, dread, self-hatred, etc…) which then makes it that much harder to move forward. If we replace the stagnating thoughts with openness and space within our minds, we will avoid taking on all that extra baggage and instead promote the dissolution of previously acquired gunk.

“When worrisome thoughts pop into your mind try to focus on the space between them.”

As for the second point, we all know the truth, we can’t stop time – it passes as it passes regardless of how we feel. No matter if we are prepared for the future or not, it’s coming and it’s coming for you! (And me, and your neighbour, and everyone else on the entire planet) So, though we are alone in one sense, we are totally connected in another, it’s really a beautifully balanced combination of individuality and community. Instead of focusing on how we feel, let us ponder the fact that we all feel the same emotions; therefore, we can help one another. At the root of all our fears is the one biggest fear -> that we are alone and must walk through life as lonesome creatures. We are the only us and no one will ever have our exact experiences. However, (and this is a big however), we can rest in the fact that this is true for everyone. This truth binds us together. The solution to our angst is community. Once we realize this, the notion that time keeps passing ceases to be of concern because we begin spending that time connecting with each other and those connections are what prepare us to face the reality of what it means to be human, to be born into this world alone and with nothing and to leave it in the same fashion.

“The solution to our angst is community.”

I’ll leave you with one final thought for today. We exist in a web of paradoxes one of which is that we are completely alone at the same time as we are all one. The best self-care is care for another. In this way, we exponentially increase the experience of love.

Blessings and peace.