Archive for the ‘Fear’ Tag

the great pep talk

The Great Pep Talk

“When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say.  For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” –Matthew 10 : 19-20

Today’s Gospel is a great pep-talk for any apologists out there.

I am a Catholic. I love everything about the Catholic faith–the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the smells and bells of liturgy, Pope Francis. I love my faith and I try to follow Christ in all that I do.

Yet Christ calls us to more than “simply” following Him in our individual lives. In fact every single Catholic is anointed priest, prophet, and king at their Baptism. Part of the indelible mark of Baptism is the prophetic call.

Most of us don’t want to be prophets. Most of the Biblical prophets didn’t want to be prophets! Moses came up with an array of excuses when he was called: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” (Ex. 3:11), then “Suppose they do not believe me or listen to me?” (Ex. 4:1), then, “I am slow of speech and slow of tongue,” (Ex. 4:10), “and then the final straw (my personal favorite), “O my Lord please send someone else!” (Ex. 4:13).

Jonah famously tried to dodge his prophetic call and wound up spending three days in the belly of a giant fish.

Jeremiah, too, had his doubts. He cried out, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy!” (Jeremiah 1:6)

The hardest part of the prophetic call is necessarily speaking an unpopular message.  The prophets were virtually never well-received. It is difficult to speak out about something that is counter-cultural or radical. I’ve written about this before—I would much rather blend in and mind my own business than spark a controversy.

Fortunately for us, God doesn’t accept our excuses: God calls us to move beyond our fear. God promises to be with us and to give us the words to speak.  In today’s Gospel Jesus says, “it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”  This has been God’s message to the prophets from the beginning.  In Jeremiah 1:9, the Hebrew is beautifully expressive—God tells Jeremiah, “Now I have put my words in your mouth.” (Admittedly, Jeremiah had the “easy route”—Ezekiel had to eat a scroll! See Ezekiel 3 for that awesome story).

The only choice we have is to move forward, trusting that God will give us the words that we need to continue to joyfully teach and to live Christ’s message of love in the world, as we draw ever closer to the one who knows what it is like to be persecuted.

This post also appears on the Catholic Voices USA Blog  http://catholicvoicesusa.org/entry/jesus-gives-us-a-pep-talk.html

His message is love

There was a time in my life when I couldn’t relate to Good Friday.  I just did not understand how it fit in with the rest of the events of Holy Week.  On Palm Sunday, Jesus arrives in Jerusalem and is greeted by the people with much fanfare and celebration.  He is welcomed as the man who had healed the blind, cured the sick, helped the lame to walk.  Yet, mere days later, this same man is arrested on charges of blasphemy.  He is accused of speaking words of hate, when truly his message is love.  On Good Friday he is crucified, and though he is wrongly accused, he does not fight back.  He completely empties himself and dies for all of our sins.  He rises from the dead on Sunday, his glorious Resurrection conquers death.  It all turns out beautifully in the end.

Yet for the first time in my life I think I am finally starting to understand Good Friday, or at the very least, I am beginning to see it in a new light.

This week I have been struggling each and every day with my fear of speaking out.  I am a people pleaser.  I love to be loved, I love to be liked.  I don’t like confrontation, I don’t like to stir things up.  I would rather that people just think that I am really nice while I silently disagree with everything they are saying. I can’t for the life of me figure out when I started to be this way, but I can tell you that I haven’t always felt like this. But somewhere along the way, fear took over, and I am deeply afraid of sharing my true beliefs with others, even close friends.  But this Good Friday morning, as I meditate on my Lord and Savior dying on the cross for my sins and for the sins of the world, wrongly accused even though his message is love, I find courage and suddenly it is time to speak.

Today, my alma mater, Boston College, is under fire for disciplining students who are handing out condoms on campus.  People are outraged—how could a university punish students for promoting “safety” and “sexual health?”   In one article, an ACLU attorney, Sarah Wunsch, stated, “Boston College has the right to express its views and try to persuade students of the rightness of their opposition to contraception, but I don’t think they get to impose that view on what students in this case are doing.”

But Boston College is a Jesuit, CATHOLIC institution. The Church’s position on birth control is clear.  The Church’s teachings on contraception are, in a word, beautiful.  The Church teaches that sex is unitive and procreative, and the Church emphasizes that married couples are called to be co-creators with God.  We are given this gift to co-create with the Master Creator, if that is God’s will for us.  For this reason, the Church views contraception as immoral, because contraception is a conscious decision to leave the Creator out of the creating process.

To say that this message is unpopular is an understatement. But that doesn’t change what is objectively true, what is objectively right.  I understand that many people disagree with the Church’s teachings on contraception, and I understand why.  But a Catholic institution that is necessarily grounded in the beliefs of the Catholic Church can and must be true to that identity. I am proud that BC is standing up for her identity, even though it is an unpopular position.  I would expect nothing less from a Catholic university.

John 18: 19-23

“The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his doctrine.  

Jesus answered him, “I have spoken publicly to the world. I have always taught in a synagogue or in the temple area where all the Jews gather, and in secret I have said nothing.Why ask me? Ask those who heard me what I said to them. They know what I said.”

When he had said this, one of the temple guards standing there struck Jesus and said, “Is this the way you answer the high priest?”

Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”

the barefoot contessa

My family and only the closest of friends know this about me: I love the Barefoot Contessa. My love for Ina, and her show, began during this past year of my graduate studies. I’d often come home from classes and work too tired to cook for anyone, let alone for myself. So I’d make some eggs or some simple meal and plop in front of the Food Network so I wouldn’t have to eat dinner in silence, alone. “The Barefoot Contessa” happened to be on during dinnertime, and gradually, I realized how much I truly enjoyed the show. Ina has such a warmth about her, and is always serving up delicious recipes for all of her friends.  I view her show as a ministry of sorts–she seems to always be cooking for a friend who is too busy, or moving, or something of the sort. Who doesn’t love a nice homecooked meal, after all?

But, I just learned something new about Ina. She did not have any formal culinary training. This will come as a total shock to anyone who has ever seen the woman cook–her technique, know-how, etc. screams formal training. Yet, she learned what she knows from cookbooks and from experimenting with recipes.

Even more interesting, she left a busy career as a White House nuclear policy analyst to buy a gourmet store in New York. That’s right, Ina earned an MBA in Business from GW and worked in the White House, but she wasn’t happy. She realized that the job she was doing wasn’t “her,” so she left in pursuit of something she really, deeply enjoyed–cooking and entertaining.

Now, this blog post may seem completely random and the information in it is almost entirely from the wikipedia article on the Barefoot Contessa, but I will say this–in this time of uncertainty and discernment in my life, I find her story truly inspiring. How many people go through their lives, simply because they are on a particular path, and do not stop to question what they are doing. I myself feel this way right now, and that is why I am in this discernment process. As documented on this blog, I have spent the past two years working to gain acceptance into a PhD program. And now that I’m in, I am quite confident that this path is not at all what I had envisioned for myself.

So, I am quieting the voices in my head and the ones all around me, in hopes that my true feelings will emerge. Here’s to hoping that I have the courage to follow my dreams, even if it is a departure from what I had planned.

help me believe

A dear friend and mentor from Boston College gave me a beautiful painting as a graduation present a few years ago. The painting is called “The Annunciation” by Henry O. Tanner.

I have had this painting hanging in my room since I began graduate school. I love this painting, and, like many great works of art, it means something different to me all the time. Sometimes I relate easily to its message, other times I don’t know what its message is.

The Annunciation is one of my favorite stories from the Bible.  I love that Mary said yes to God, even though she had absolutely no idea what exactly she was saying yes to. She was young, unmarried, and filled with God’s grace. And she said yes.

I love this painting for many reasons, but lately, I have found this painting very inspirational and comforting. I love the way Mary is looking timidly into this bright light–I love that we can’t see what exactly the light is, or where the light is coming from. Nevertheless, she is looking intently at the light, in such a humble fashion. “Me? Are you looking at me?”

I am currently filled with an indescribable, overwhelming feeling of anxiety and uncertainty. I have no idea what is happening in my life, I have no control over anything, and I am not even sure what I want. I feel a little bit like I am staring into this light, into this unknown space, and asking not only “Are you looking at me?” but “What exactly would you like me to do?” and “Do I have the strength to do this?”

I pray that I can, like Mary, find somewhere the strength to say yes to God’s will in my life, even though I have no idea what that means, or what it looks like. Here’s to trying.

the first day of school

I have always loved the first day of school. Something about the smell of new books, a new set of pens and pencils, binders freshly stuffed with bright white looseleaf paper.  And of course, the thrill of possibility that a new school year brings.  The night before the first day of school has always felt like the night before Christmas! I know, I know…nerd alert.

Tomorrow is my first day of school, but this first day seems different in so many ways. For one, I am alone. This is the first first day of school that I’m ushering in a new year by myself.  Even last year, when I first moved to New Haven, my boyfriend was here on that first day. So this year, I’m alone. And thats ok.

Whats more difficult to wrap my mind around is that this very well could be my “last” first day of school. If I don’t get accepted to a PhD program, this is it for me. Thats all I have to say about that, because I am not beginning this year with a defeatist attitude. Au contraire.

I am walking into this year armed with nothing but passion and the sheer determination to do the best that I can in each of my classes, tests, and applications. This semester is what I have been waiting for: the chance to finally piece together all of my work into hope-filled applications, to be sent off to all corners of the country (and maybe even abroad). I have been chasing this call of mine for years, and here I am, mere months away from some big moments.

I’m going to leave you with this beautiful scripture quote that I found yesterday while prepping for Greek class. I’d never heard this before yesterday, but it is truly something. Enjoy!

“You must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ…therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble.” 2 Peter 1:5-10

big fat failure

There is this great line from the movie “You’ve Got Mail.”  Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) is experiencing one of the greatest setbacks of her professional life, and she is sharing her thoughts with her friend, Bertie.  Bertie exclaims, “Oh, I’m sure you feel like a big fat failure now!”  Really a great moment in the movie.

Yesterday, I had my “big fat failure” moment. I came out of a really terrible meeting, and was ready to just give up. Despite my hard work and efforts to get ahead, it always seems that something pops up that is holding me back. I can’t even express the frustration that accompanied this meeting. I came home, flopped down on my bed, called my Mom, and cried.  Since we are constantly quoting You’ve Got Mail to each other, she knew exactly what I was talking about when I cried “I feel like a big fat failure.” She talked me down from my distraught state and helped me to see the big picture.  I soon felt a little better.

Then, I turned to another coping mechanism: a manicure and pedicure. Few things can pull me out of a funk sometimes, but this is definitely one of them. As I sat in the salon, I kept replaying the meeting over and over in my head. What I realized was this: the reason I felt so awful after that meeting was because my advisor had, point-blank, illuminated every last one of my fears regarding PhD applications.  Literally, one-by-one, he called out any gaps he saw in my work, and pointed out all of my deficiencies.  It felt awful to be so exposed.  So what did I do?  Did I take all of this in stride, and vow to keep working?  Nope.  I got frustrated and upset and went home miserable, contemplating not even applying for programs. 

I’ve noticed that each time I think about giving up, it is accompanied by some sort of trying situation like this.  I never want to give up when I am writing a paper on a topic I’m obsessed with, or when I’ve done well on an exam, or when I’ve received a glowing compliment from a Professor.  No, I decide that its over when I hit a road bump.  I’m working to change this attitude.

So, here’s to facing all my inadequacies and insecurities head-on.  This may not all work out in the end, but I am not going down without a fight.   And lucky for me, I’m not the one in charge of my future. I’ll leave that one up to the big guy.

i was running

Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite movie in the entire world is Forrest Gump. Yes, it is a cinematic masterpiece–the drama, the romance, the comedy, the history–its all there. Love it. I, of course, love the famous “Run Forrest Run!” scene.

What I do not love, however, is running itself. Maybe I’m scarred from my childhood memories of always being the last kid to finish running the mile during PE, but I really do not like running. Some of my closest friends are avid runners and I badly want to love it. But I think running is so difficult, and I am so very bad at it.

This morning’s workout consisted of two miles of running.  For many people, two miles is a joke and can be accomplished quickly.  But this morning I saw the workout posted on the board and I thought about leaving. But I stuck it out, and it was indeed a terrible workout.  During the entire run, I felt sluggish and heavy and tired. I finished last in the class, which I guess doesn’t matter, because at least I finished.

But the coolest thing happened during the workout–unbeknownst to me, one of our coaches was filming all of the athletes running…after class, he sat each of us down, showed us the video of ourselves running, and talked us through technique and what we were doing wrong/right.  He pointed out some things that I never even realized before, and showed me how my technique was really slowing me down and wasting energy. I guess sometimes you just need someone to point things out to you.

So, armed with my new knowledge, I will hopefully overcome this mental block/hatred of running! Stay tuned to find out =)

On Doubt

Tonight, I had the pleasure of attending the end of year party for my department, Hebrew Bible. I had been excited about this event for weeks, but by the time this afternoon rolled around, it was the last thing I wanted to do. A rainy afternoon, preceded by a ridiculously fun and relaxing weekend, did nothing to enhance my enthusiasm. But alas, I mustered up my best attitude and I went.

These sorts of parties are hopelessly awkward, but if you embrace the awkwardness, it goes a little better. So for awhile I was fine with my glass of wine, listening to/cracking jokes about footnotes, the New Testament, and source criticism…but after about an hour, I started to feel really depressed. As fellow graduate students began to share their stories about applying to PhD programs, getting in, not getting in, etc… I felt my familiar enemy, doubt, beginning to creep in. After all, being in a room with like-minded colleagues and professors alike is quite an intimidating situation.

I have found, though, that God always has a way of jumping in when I need God the most.  Tonight, a source of encouragment came from the most unlikely of places–one of my teachers from this semester, who I never really had a chance to get to know.  Randomly, he walked up to me and asked what I thought of the program so far.  Before I even had a chance to answer, he said “You know, it is often said of graduate programs, that ‘the cream rises to the top.’  And while that is often true, and the ‘best’ students always get the best placements, more often than not, it is the most dedicated students who are the most successful.” 

I was completely blown away. Those words were exactly what I needed to here in that exact moment.  He then went on to encourage me, and told me to keep working as hard as I possible can–to apply to as many programs as possible, to really seek out who I want to work with. All wonderful advice.

Because, really, doubting myself gets me nowhere. If I could channel every moment I spend worrying about whether or not I am good enough into something productive, I would be a much better student. And if I know anything about myself, I know that I am dedicated. So here’s to dedication and hard work. Someday, hopefully, it will all pay off.

Do you have doubts about yourself? How do you overcome doubt?

what are you afraid of?

A few months ago, my Mom came up for a visit. It had been a rough few months and I was so grateful for her loving presence. On Sunday morning, we went to Mass at a nearby church and afterwards, decided to browse their bookstore (sidenote: there are few things in life that my Mom loves more than a good Catholic bookstore!)

She stumbled upon this book called “God, I have Issues” by a Jesuit, Mark. E. Thibodeaux.  She LOVED the title and we laughed hysterically at its truthfulness. Who among us doesn’t have “issues” after all? This book has little entries to help you pray through any mood, and it is a fantastic resource, I highly recommend it! 

To say that I had an important meeting today would be an understatement. Arguably one of the most important meetings of my academic career loomed before me this afternoon, with merely 20 minutes to spare. So I grabbed this book and read the entry called “God, I’m Afraid” which seemed most fitting in this moment.

This entry focused on allowing prayer to let you get to the root of your fear. I was definitely not in a praying mood–after all, I was panicking and pacing back and forth through my apartment. In typical Ignatian style, Fr. Mark asks “What are you afraid of?” Once you’ve answered that, he asks again. and again. Until finally, maybe you get to the real root of your fear.

Today when I did this exercise, I got to the bottom of my fear: failure. I am afraid of failure. So much of my future is out of my control, and this frightens me.  But I felt so much better just naming the fear. So I gave it up to God, asked for God to sit in that meeting with me, and went to my meeting.

And you know what? It turned out to be one of the greatest meetings in recent memory, and I now have the opportunity of a lifetime in front of me.  To sum it up, “Mama always said that miracles happen every day. Some people don’t think so, but they do!” (Forrest Gump)

So I ask you, what are you afraid of?

Bob Rice

Catholic speaker, musician, author, teacher

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