January 6, 2012 – It’s Not Easy, But …

I hope you have had a good beginning to the year thus far, and I hope you have remembered to write “2012” instead of “2011” on at least some of your paperwork.  There were several things that caught my eye as I was surfing the web this past week.  Bear with me, as I’ll be directing you to quite a few videos and links (and bringing you deep into the abyss of my world of cyberspace).  Um, anyway…

Congratulations to those whom Pope Benedict XVI announced will be elevated to Cardinal in the Catholic Church, including 2 from the United States: Abp. Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore and Abp. Timothy Dolan of New York.  Readers of this blog know that I greatly admire Abp. Dolan, so this was great news to me.  I admire him for his staunch defense of the policies of the church and also for his zeal for life in general.  He appeared on the Today show to talk about his appointment.  Here is the link to the video of his appearance:

http://video.today.msnbc.msn.com/today/45899000#45899000

Happy Anniversary to our Diocese of Belleville!  On January 7, 1887 the Diocese was officially established.  As you know, as part of our observance of the 125th anniversary, the “Fanning the Flame” program will begin the week of January 15.  Next week I’ll go deeper into what the program is all about, but a good place to start is to go to the website www.ftfdiobelle.org and also to view the following video featuring Bishop Braxton:

Also, on a last note from the year gone by, the website CatholicVote.org put together a nice video called “Top 10 Reasons for Hope -2011”, which highlights events that happened in the past year that give our Catholic Church reasons to be optimistic about the future.  You can watch this video below:

So as you can see there is a lot of good news going on in the Catholic Church.  However, no matter how many “feel good” stories we see and hear about our faith, they still seem to be out-weighed by the negativity and the challenges that we face as a people of faith.  I saw a couple of articles this past week that were subtle reminders of this.  One talks about the fact that even though the number of priests continues to dwindle, the standards to be accepted into the seminary and to eventually be called to Holy Orders are higher than ever.  Here is the link to this article:

http://evangelist.org/main.asp?SectionID=4&SubSectionID=36&ArticleID=23243

The other article is actually kind of a good news, bad news article.  It tells of a young woman who was a faithful Catholic as a child, but then drifted away from the church as a college student.  However, after several years of soul-searching she found her way back to the faith.  Unfortunately, the second part of the article paints a less rosy picture of the participation of young people in religion.  Here is the link to this article:

http://bustedhalo.com/features/pure-sex-pure-love-127-lost-and-found

I don’t have to tell anyone who is Catholic that being who we are can be difficult at times.  The pre-conceived notions about our faith are numerous indeed.  “You are the ones who worship Mary and the saints when you should be worshiping God.”  “You are the ones who don’t pay any attention to the Bible.”  “Priests are more likely to be pedophiles than other groups of people.”  And the list of misconceptions goes on and on.  The media seems to always place its focus on the negative aspects of our faith when there are so many positive things going on.  This in turn gives people an inaccurate portrayal of what our faith is all about, and we find ourselves having to defend our practices and beliefs. 

This is not to say that other religions do not have their share of challenges to face, bu the reality is that at times it’s not easy to be a Catholic.  However, we have to look no further than the Bible to see that being a follower of God is indeed a challenging thing.  Abraham was asked to sacrifice his only son, and was willing to do it until God put a stop to it.  There are of course many martyrs who died in defense of their beliefs. And of course Jesus endured the ultimate challenge in dying on the cross for us.

In all of what the Bible tells us I’m sure there is no verse that says anything to the effect that being a follower of God would be easy (of course I’m a Catholic, so what would I know about the Bible?  ha, ha).  As in life, generally the things that we cherish the most are the things that we worked hard to earn.  Such is the same with our religion.  If we were given a free pass to eternal life in heaven, I’m sure it wouldn’t be as meaningful as having to earn our way into heaven through our faith in God and through the good works we perform. 

And though we cannot avoid the challenges, that doesn’t mean that we cannot rejoice in the good news that our faith provides.  The “Fanning the Flame” program will provide us an opportunity to explore both the opportunities our faith gives us and the obstacles we have to face.  It will also be an opportunity to find answers to some of the questions we may have about our faith, and in turn better prepare us to defend our faith when the situation arises.  I hope you consider participating with us, whether it be individually or with others who are looking to learn more about their faith. 

Finally, I have been considering for some time changing the name of this blog.  Maybe something a little catchier, something a little more eye-popping.  But alas, as I was about to change the name, I discovered that someone already took the name, as I discovered that there is a blog out there called “Journey of a Catholic Nerd Writer.”  Well, back to the drawing board.

Have a great week.  Peace.

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