Stuff ≠ Joy

EG-blunted conscience

Sometimes it feels like railing against consumerism has become downright cliché. But things become cliché for a reason. Here’s another cliché: when we spend hours picking out a host of presents for a kid, spend a ton of money on it, and what they find most interesting is the box. We all recognize the truth of that one! It’s happened to all of us, right?–your kids are given gifts and they’re like, “Yeah, whatever, what’s next?” As a parent, it makes you writhe with shame. Too bad we aren’t so aware when we do that ourselves….

#joy #evangeliigaudium #intentionalcatholic #realfaithrealworld #faithinaction #catholic


About Joy (or: Is it possible to care TOO much?)

JoyI’ve spent a lot of the last few years feeling angry and unsettled. Reading Evangelii Gaudium last fall really convicted me. I don’t mean that in the sense of “courage of my convictions.” I mean it like judge and jury.

I don’t think I am joyful, you see. I see too much in the world that is not as it should be. Things besides the sound bites that most often preoccupy Christians. Things that most Christians don’t even recognize as out of sync with the Gospel. Things that strike me with particular force because it hasn’t been that long since I didn’t recognize them, either.

I struggle with how resistant we Christians are, collectively, to acknowledge injustice and to dig into the messy, challenging work of fixing it. People can disagree about solutions to problems, but too often, the go-to response is to act as if it’s all an overreaction. That actually, there’s nothing to fix.

For example: how we deal with race. Or the way certain quarters of Christianity have vilified people traveling at great personal cost from Central America, labeling them criminals even though the vast majority are asylum seekers fleeing violence at home. Why are we so resistant to accepting the word of minorities and hopeful immigrants about what they’ve experienced? What does it say about us? How does it reflect a belief that Jesus’ presence is in each human being, and that therefore each one’s human dignity is sacred?

Ignatius-favorable interpretation

Why is it so difficult to recognize when we aren’t following this exhortation from St. Ignatius of Loyola?

I can’t help feeling that by focusing too narrowly on one issue to the exclusion of many, many other things Jesus called out by name in the Gospels, we weaken the Church. We weaken our credibility as representatives of Christ on Earth, and we weaken our ability to evangelize.

This makes me angry. Which weakens my ability to evangelize. Because how does an angry person invite others in? Why would they want anything to do with a Christianity that, on the one hand, applies the value of human dignity unevenly, and on the other, spits fire about it?

Which makes me wonder: is it possible to care too much? Am I too focused on the here and now, when I know full well that the kingdom is never going to be fully realized on earth?

I did not intend to tour two of Pope Francis’ writings in a row. I intended to look backward, to Paul VI or the Council. But this question of passion for the justice of God versus resting in the joy of salvation is really potent in my life right now. I spend far too much of my inner life shadowboxing the Bad Stuff of the world and those who support it.

Rachel Held Evans passed away this weekend. She wasn’t Catholic, but I think it’s safe to say most Catholic bloggers know her work. Stretched thin as I am, I didn’t always click through, but when I did I never failed to be inspired and challenged—even before I understood why her words resonated so deeply. If you aren’t on Facebook with Intentional Catholic, you might have missed this post of hers, which I shared yesterday. What leaps out at me in her writing is that she doesn’t pull punches, yet she doesn’t sound angry.

I long for this gift. It is a gift I intend to pursue, because I’m weary of being angry. Are you? Will you join me in pursuing joy? Might joy itself be the answer to all that ails us in this polarized, toxic time?

Assuming the best

Ignatius-favorable interpretation

Words that should skewer us all in these polarized times…they certainly made me squirm. This quote reminds me of the adage “assume the best of the other.” I believe this passionately, yet so often, I do the opposite.


Living in the moment

LS - serenely present

Another thought from Pope Francis about the underlying mindset that allows us to be better stewards of God’s creation (not to mention everything else).

#intentionalcatholic #realfaithrealworld #faithinaction #theologyofthebody #creation #environmentalstewardship #steward #green #greenliving #gogreen #climatechange #laudatosi #laudatosii #catholic #socialjustice #humandignity #goldenrule #theologyofthebody

Less Is More

LS - cherish each thing

The context of this quote is about the global approach to life. What drives damage to the earth, as much as anything, is an underlying craving for more, new, better, in an unending stream. But does any of that make us happy? No. This is Pope Francis pointing out that we need much less than we think we do. And that the constant craving for more leads to many imbalances, the environment being only one of them.

#intentionalcatholic #realfaithrealworld #faithinaction #theologyofthebody #creation #environmentalstewardship #steward #green #greenliving #gogreen #climatechange #laudatosi #laudatosii #catholic #socialjustice #humandignity #goldenrule #theologyofthebody

Environmental Stewardship is “Not Optional”

LS - not optional

#intentionalcatholic #realfaithrealworld #faithinaction #theologyofthebody #creation #environmentalstewardship #steward #green #greenliving #gogreen #climatechange #laudatosi #laudatosii #catholic #socialjustice #humandignity #goldenrule #theologyofthebody

Wrestling With God (or: What I do and say, and think, I Become)

grayscale photography of wrestler on field
Photo by Mike González on

Confession: I am an over-analyzer.

You have been warned.

I find it interesting to ponder the various influences that converge to shape us into the people we are. For me, one of those influences is the Theology of the Body.

I have to confess that I haven’t yet read the body of work–only a book-length summary, which was enough to spark the realization that TOB isn’t just about sexuality. You know that famous quote that says thoughts become words become actions become habits become destiny? TOB is structured around the reality that we have both souls and bodies, and what we do to one impacts the other, whether we intend it to or not.

So faith that is lived in real, tangible ways through our works and our words–in other words, in the body–will grow. Will bring us into closer alignment with God. Will make us clearer images of God in the world.

Likewise, works and words (and attitudes) that stand at odds with the Gospel weaken our faith and dim our ability to reflect God’s image in the world.

In other words: everything we think, say or do either builds up our faith and brings us closer into alignment with God, or it turns us away from Him. There are no neutral actions, and there is no area of our life which is exempt. Whether we are consciously examining our thoughts, words, and actions for how well they reflect the Gospel doesn’t matter. They’re going to have the impact whether we are aware of them or not. Where the body goes, the soul follows–unless the soul consciously, intentionally takes the lead.

IC Everything We think do say

This is why I started Intentional Catholic–because it’s so easy to drift through days, following trends and emotions (and political ideologies, and personal preferences, etc., etc.) without examining them in depth for their conformity to the Gospel. If we aren’t intentional about our faith, we unconsciously give power to worldly influences, and we end up farther from God without even realizing it. A perfect example is that U.S. bishops’ quote about unintended bias.

I don’t claim to have everything figured out. In fact, as I said in my very first post, delving into this process made a mess of my neat and tidy world view. I now know that I will spend the rest of my life wrestling, as Jacob wrestled with the angel (read that: God).
But that’s okay. You know how you build muscle? Micro tears. When the body repairs those tears, it does so with extra fortification. Faith muscles are the same way.

I wrote this post because going forward, lots of quotes will be tagged #theologyofthebody, even though they have nothing to do with sexuality. I hope you’ll walk with me through this process of self-examination and conversion. I believe that the more of us who do so, the stronger the Church (and the world) will be.

“Ecological Conversion”

LS - ecological conversion

This is a key quote in this document, because it underscores the fact that belief is evidenced by action. Pope Francis is stressing that when we have a living and vibrant faith, it is going to manifest itself in the way we interact with everything. In this case, valuing creation as a gift of God — seeing in it the “caress of God“– should change the way we interact with that gift. We should not be cavalier in the way we use the earth. And here’s where we delve into turning off the vehicles instead of idling for ten or twenty or thirty minutes; to not using plastic straws and plastic bottles; to all the everyday ways we can be better stewards of creation.

#intentionalcatholic #realfaithrealworld #faithinaction #theologyofthebody #creation #environmentalstewardship #steward #green #greenliving #gogreen #climatechange #laudatosi #laudatosii #catholic #socialjustice

“Ridicule expressions of concern”

LS - ridicule

This is the first of two hard-hitting quotes that should cause us to examine our consciences and our biases. It’s easy to make fun of “tree huggers,” isn’t it? To view concerns about environment as secondary (at best) or pagan (at worst). Tune in tomorrow for the second half.

#intentionalcatholic #realfaithrealworld #faithinaction #theologyofthebody #creation #environmentalstewardship #steward #green #greenliving #gogreen #climatechange #laudatosi #laudatosii #catholic #socialjustice