Three truth bombs for today’s Christians

What is the result when Christians stay passive in a society full of sin, confusion and disorder? Well, Father Mariano has some thoughts. 

 Jesus said: If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples; you will come to know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:31-32

 Before my flight today, Sunday, my husband and I worshipped at the early Mass where we had one of the most brutally honest and motivating homilies in a good while. We attended Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Kissimmee, Florida.

(Side note: Catholics don’t go to Mass for preaching or music or entertainment, we go for veneration of Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist. Therefore, I don’t “rate” sermons, but today’s homily spoke profoundly to my soul – more so than usual.)

Father was dropping truth bombs like the mailman delivering gifts during Christmas. 

Here are the pointed phrases that landed on my conscience. (I paraphrase for him in quotations.)

1. The ease of going along with the popular ways of the world is dangerous. “The road to salvation is narrow, steep, and difficult; and the road to damnation is smooth and wide – much easier to take. More people are on the easy road.” This means that while we may have a prideful desire to go along with the times, our faith is calling us to be counter-cultural. We must speak out against the tough but pervasive social issues of our time including abortion, contraception, divorce, and same-sex “marriage.” Staying quiet or neutral is not optional. In fact, the faithful always endure ostracizing, humiliation, pain, and sometimes execution. It’s our call to suffering.


2. Being passive. “Some people would never offend their neighbor so instead they choose to offend God.” Our society is wrapped up in the need to make everyone feel good all the time. This behavior is so prevalent that most people mistake affirmation for love! Instead of agreeing with sinful behavior, we should be charitably pointing it out and calling sin the evil that it is.


3. Noticing the sign you’re on the incorrect path. “If circumstances start to seem easier, you’re probably going downhill.” Father is saying when we avoid suffering from our inconveniences, grief, or personal sins/sins of others, our life may seem “happier” or smooth for our time on Earth. But the easy path is not The Way of Eternal Life! We are called to humbly accept suffering as Christ accepted the sins of the world. Reminder: He did so willing, lovingly, humbly, and selflessly. 
Respect our important call as Christians. As Father says, when you take away “Christ-” you’re left with “-ian”. 


I-Am-Nothing without Christ. 



Go in peace, with faith and courage, to the challenging road of salvation.

A little-known Tennessee treasure becomes a spectacular weekend vacation

Let me show you how much I adore the great state of Tennessee.

Last weekend I was introduced to a gem usually foregone by most tourists.

My husband’s grandmother owns a lake house perched in the Appalachians, nestled between the “cities” of Madisonville (population 4,636) and Tellico Plains (population 941).

 

Madisonville and Tellico Plains, TN
These two small towns neighbor the sprawling Cherokee National Forest along the Appalachian Mountains.

 

Blake and I arrived by airplane into Knoxville, rented a car, and began the trek an hour southwest to Grandma’s lodge. (Meanwhile we enjoyed the cooler, drier air compared to our native, suffocating Florida heat.)

I was stricken by the rolling hills leading to the mountains. Nearly every road (except for major highways) resembled the following photo I snapped:

Roads of Tennessee
No complaints here.

After Grandma and her husband Hank warmly welcomed us into their home, we were provided with a savory, simmering meal of shrimp scampi.

By the way, the view from Grandma’s isn’t too shabby, either.

 

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Table by the lake, please. My compliments to the chef (Grandma).

 

On Saturday, Blake and I enjoyed a lovely breakfast along the lake (fluffy pancakes prepared by Chef Grandma), then we headed out to Tellico Plains to experience a Tennessee cuisine favorite, a loaded foot-long hot dog.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover the majesty of a hot dog when it is topped with chili, coleslaw, and mustard. I normally don’t care for all of these items separately, and I sampled it to appease my husband. Good call, Blake.

Ma’am, I’ll take another.

 

Tellico Beach Drive-In in the Appalachian Mountains

 

 

After lunch we took a dip in the Bald River Falls. Wading through the freezing waters along the breathtaking site was my personal favorite part of the trip. Oh, and it’s absolutely free of charge.

 

Bald River Falls, TN

 

After the Falls, we took an impromptu trip through Confederate-era Coker Creek and a dirt road to the sylvan North Carolina border.

 

Driving on a hidden road through the Appalachians from Tennessee to North Carolina.

 

 

On Sunday we were called to Catholic Mass at a cozy and brilliant church, St. Joseph the Worker in Madisonville. The priest was hilarious and the congregation boisterously canted along with all of the hymns.

 

 

After Mass, we ventured to the Craighead Caverns, an underground hideaway used by Cherokee natives as a meeting place. The caves were later re-discovered by European Americans in the 1820s. The caverns also boast the second-largest underground lake in the world, dubbed the “Lost Sea.”

 

 

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At 6’3″, Blake is a bit too tall for some of the cavern ceilings.

 

The Lost Sea near Sweetwater, TN. An underground lake.

Underground river pouring into the Lost Sea. Sweetwater, TN.

 

Later that night, after an apple pork tenderloin dinner prepared by Grandma, we joined friends at the peak of the mountain for a delicious view of the Appalachians. About a dozen hummingbirds were also gathering at the feeders.

 

 

 

panorama
A panoramic view of the mountain top from North Carolina to Tennessee.

 

hummingbirds
Hummingbirds hover and feed on the mountain top, before heading south for winter.

 

 

Monday morning we headed home to Florida!

 

The weekend was a grand adventure. I simply cannot wait to return and explore the historical sites from the Civil War and prohibition. If you have any places for me to add to my next trip, drop a comment!

 

 

Until next time, Volunteers!

 

 

 

Complaining is holding you back.

Complaining will be your ruin. It’s self-defeating, and I know, because I’ve been there.

I have complained about everything: my head hurts, a family member annoyed me, it’s too hot outside, it’s raining outside, working-out made me sore, church dragged on an extra fifteen minutes…the list goes on.

 

If this sounds familiar, keep reading…

 

I have never observed successful people griping about the weather, or a meeting they begrudge, or the fact that it’s a Monday.

Because they suck it up.

Complaining is different from grief or strife; complaining is a focus on yourself and your own pity. And it usually brings others down.

Why do we do it? Some complainers want to turn all of the focus onto themselves while others are trying to fill the silence with empty chatting, or “making conversation”. Maybe everyone else is complaining, too, so we find out it comes naturally.

If you are a repeat offender, stop now. 

The following are the main reasons why complaining is self-defeating:

  1. Gratitude ceases. Nothing will ever satisfy you if you can find a flaw in even the most gracious gestures and gifts. Life will never be perfect or comfortable enough to quench your needs.
  2. You will think of yourself as life’s central victim. You play the central role in your own drama and are victimized by your circumstances and those around you. This is defeating because the circumstances might not even be personal. Also,  your life isn’t really even about you, it’s about what God is going to do through you. It’s about completing God’s plan, and complaining hinders that.
  3. It isolates you from the suffering of others. We are called to acknowledge and alleviate the suffering of others. Self-pity and self-focus is quite the opposite.
  4. You aren’t resolving the issue. Do you find yourself wishing conditions were better but not working towards their betterment? It’s time to turn your energy elsewhere.
  5. You may even begin to feel entitled and self-important. Um, not attractive.

So, how do we stop complaining?

Cut off the conversation or initiate a change in subject when complaining begins (this strategy is also effective with trying to end gossiping).

Remember that your suffering is minimal to what others are enduring across the globe. You might complain about your job, but you are earning a living. You might complain about a family member, but that family member is alive and you get to love them. You might complain about where you live, but you have a home. Somewhere, someone else is suffering far more gravely than you.

While we are special to God, our suffering is not unique to us. Everything you are experiencing or have experienced, someone else has, too…perhaps without complaining in the least.

Lastly, meditate on the fact that our suffering can bring souls to heaven through redemptive suffering.

Pray.

Dear Jesus, please be with me through my day. Allow me to focus on the positives in my life and help me avoid thinking only of my own suffering and inconveniences. Allow me to be grateful for what I have and to recognize that every good gift comes from You. Help me to recognize the suffering of other people – especially those closest to me. Amen.

Six simple cooking tips for any millennial

 

I loathe daunting household tasks. I fear time-consuming chores and, growing up, I avoided them at any cost (see below). As an adult I am constantly googling ways to simplify chores and then tolerating them with a shot of Jim Beam.


This post may shock those who know me best, because I am not an organized person. I don’t enjoy labels, compartments, travel plans; my days are spontaneous at best. God blessed me with talents other than order and organization.

So if you live in the perpetual unknown and clutter, rest assured that these tips are something even you can accomplish.

One day it just clicked for me! What if I can make my cooking life easier? If meal preparations were simple, I would certainly play chef more often!

Here we go.

  1. Be on the look-out for timely shortcuts. Many grocery stores (my favorite is Publix) will chop or slice meats according to your recipe. They also sell pre-chopped commonly-used, fresh vegetables like onions and peppers. My favorite food shortcut that stays fresh for months, is this minced garlic found in the produce aisle. (No need to make a garlic mess when you can apply it by the spoonful – so simple.)blog garlic
  2. Have an “ingredient runner.” Picture a mechanic under a vehicle ordering tools. That is the cook and the ingredient runner. My husband is a great “ingredient runner” when we are in a hurry (and a school-aged child can help with this as well). My husband stands at the pantry and fridge and quickly passes me necessary items from frozen corn to chicken broth. He will also close up bags and containers and put them back to their appropriate home, limiting my project time and frustration. His time invested is usually five minutes.
  3. Use paper plates for chopping or mixing ingredients.  What a travesty when the chopping board has been soiled by raw chicken and we still have cilantro to chop! Should we pause everything to wash the cutting board at the sink? If you are lazy like me, absolutely not. Just pull out a paper plate, chop the cilantro, and discard. So simple. So easy. (This excellent trick was introduced to me by my husband, honorary ingredient runner.)
  4. Leisurely list your needs – before the store trip. Over the course of the day before my meal(s), I lazily select my desired recipes and review my cupboards. I peruse my Pinterest boards called Healthy Eats and Sinful Eats. I complete these activities at a bathroom break or TV commercial. Later I make a 15-minute trip to my favorite store, clutching my plan and list. I grocery shop the day before the meal so that minimal effort is necessary on the day I cook. Who would go to the grocery store regularly if it was a two-hour browse fest and panicked internet search?! Been there, done that, and I ran home, defeated.
  5. Use the appropriate utensils. This tip is so essential. My favorite is the tongs. The tongs are underrated for the female indoor cook. But they can flip meats or vegetables, gently stir – no need to complicate techniques with flat spoons or spatulas. Find what works for you and stick to it. Tongs complete me.
  6. Utilize the slow cooker or other appliances such as a pressure cooker. Meals become timely when a side dish is added to the slow cooker in the morning and simmers while I’m at work. I make all of my mashed potatoes this way. When I get home, all that I have to do is prepare the meat and maybe another side such as bagged salad! So easy.

That’s all I’ve learned yet. Please add your best tips in the comments below!

Are Catholics called to evangelize?

Evangelize– to preach the Christian Gospel; to convert or seek to convert others.

Are Catholics called to evangelize? Absolutely. Do Catholics usually leave it up to the Protestants? Yup. 

But evangelizing is essential to the Church.

Bishop Robert Barron explains:

“Vatican II couldn’t be clearer on this score, seeing the Church itself as nothing but a vehicle for evangelization. According to Vatican II, it’s not so much the case that the Church has a mission, but rather that a mission has the Church. Bringing people to Christ is not one work among many; rather it is the central work of the Church, that around which everything else that we do revolves.”
…Around which everything else that we do revolves. 

Did you hear that?
To never evangelize is to get the Church all wrong.

Jesus himself calls us to evangelize. 
Just look at today’s Gospel in His words: 

And preach as you go, saying, `The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay. Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it, and stay with him until you depart. As you enter the house, salute it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. 

Matthew 10 : 7 – 15

Clearly, Jesus is instructing his first disciples to go out and bring others to communion with Him. 

In fact, the apostles were sent out as simple witnesses. They were not perfect people. They were not the smartest or the richest or the most talented. Yet, they were sent to form the Church in a world that opposed them in every way. 

They did so because God appointed them, as He appoints you and I. 

So how should Catholics go about evangelizing? 


Well, we shouldn’t leave it up to the Protestants and atheists (yes, I said atheists, but let’s save explaining “evangelical atheist” for another post). 

Pray for guidance and courage. 

Pray for non-believers. 

Ask God to use you for His purpose. 

Follow through.


Let the following words comfort you, from Father Mitch Pacwa:

“We very much have to evangelize *this* culture – where we live. God created each one of our souls so that we would be in this place, at this time, in this culture; you were not made for the Renaissance; you were not created for the Middle Ages; or the Roman Empire, or any other time in history. Now is the time when we exist. And God calls us *now* like he called the apostles, to this task of proclaiming. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” 

A follow-up post will be for a book review of “Search and Rescue” by Patrick Madrid, which details steps every Catholic apologist and evangelist should take in bringing others to the Church. 

Go out, good Catholic, and spread the Good News!

Should wives cook for their husbands?

Should wives cook for their husbands?

I am a millennial and I prepare nearly every meal for my husband. We both work full-time jobs.

Before you gasp (it’s shocking, I know), allow me to explain my “old fashioned” ways.

I began cooking for my husband February 2017 because of Lent. Lent is a Christian preparation for Easter and is the practice of abstinence and fasting. During this time, we are called to humility and reflection while we mourn our sins because our sins put Jesus to death on the cross. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I set out to spend the forty days focusing on my husband. I contemplated the ways I could make the marriage less about myself and more about him.

In His infinite wisdom, God enabled me to express my love for my husband more fully through cooking. Our marital bond strengthened. We became more intentional and gentle with each other.

I learned to enjoy and take delight in serving my husband this way. My husband learned (sometimes still learning) to express his appreciation.

I continue to serve my husband after Easter. Here is why:

1. We are called to love our spouse the way Christ loves His Church. Christ loves His Church so much that even though she rejected Him, He laid down his life for her, so they could spend eternity together forever. Are you willing to die to your spouse?

“Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy – heavier than the Law of Moses. By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, he himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to “receive” the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ. This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life.” (Catholic Catechism, 1615)

2. My dad admires that my mom cooks for him. About a year ago I recall him reflecting with great joy the daily meals my mother had prepared for him. His sincere expression of appreciation for her hard work and act of love was an inspiration for me to become a better wife. I want my husband, after thirty years of marriage, to look back and say, “I was blessed with a faithful wife who loved me more than she loved herself.”

3. Acts of service is one of his love languages. [Discover your love language.] Cooking for my husband is an avenue to warming his heart, in the same way that I desire a hug through my primary love language – affection. If a wife refuses to speak her husband’s love language, her husband will be left feeling rejected. It “goes both ways” – husbands should strive to meet the wife’s needs. Both can positively contribute to marriage without blaming or creating expectations for their counterpart. The general message is that marriage is not about you or your happiness – marriage is about actively loving your spouse, even if it means dying to them.

4. He doesn’t criticize my food. My husband is easygoing and sweet, and I have yet to hear a single complaint despite late dinners and burnt chicken. I have full freedom to experiment as many Pinterest recipes at my whim, and he delights in each. Serving a genial person is smooth and peaceful.

5. I get to post sweet Facebook and Instagram pictures. Who doesn’t like getting the love and encouragement (and recipe sharing) from your network? I’ve been opened to others who share this hobby. We exchange ideas and create community.

If you are nervous or overwhelmed to cook for your husband, do not fret. Have patience with yourself. Start with a small goal of one or two meals a week. Begin your own Pinterest board and start exploring – or follow mine.

Not all husbands have the same needs or love language. Not all husbands take great delight in being loved through food (although I have yet to meet one to complain). If your husband has expressed another desire, appropriate avenue of love, I highly recommend you take great measures to meet his expressed and unmet need.

Still have doubts?

Answer this question for yourself.

Do you want your spouse to feel less than loved and cared for?

Not me. Not today. Not ever.



Can you be virtuous without loving God?

This is part one of a two-part post.

How does one become virtuous?

The dictionary definition of virtuous is to be morally excellent, righteous, and/or chaste.

Can one be a virtuous person without God? 
According to the Catechism, a virtuous person freely practices the good. Virtues allow a person to perform good acts and give the best of himself (1804).

So why believe in God at all if you can be virtuous without Him?
Atheists preach that humans are drawn to virtue because they are looking after their own self-interest. Citing scholars like Plato, atheists propose humans believe all gods teach goodness because humans already know the benefits of doing good. Humans doing good serves the individual through gratification and avoiding bad consequences. Read excerpt below for more:

“The person who practices “enlightened” self-interest is the person whose behavioral strategy simultaneously maximizes both the intensity and duration of personal gratification. An enlightened strategy will be one which, when practiced over a long span of time, will generate ever greater amounts and varieties of pleasures and satisfactions. The task of moral education, then, is not to inculcate by rote great lists of do’s and don’ts, but rather to help people to predict the consequences of actions being considered. What are the long-term as well as immediate rewards and drawbacks of the acts? Will an act increase or decrease one’s chances of experiencing the hedonic triad of love, beauty, and creativity?” (Atheists.org)

Are the atheists correct? 

Well, not exactly
Sacrifice Works Against One’s Self-Interest

Where would children be without the sacrifice of their parents? Over the course of people’s lives, at least one parent made decisions which put the welfare of their children over their own self-interest. 

But what about parents who only want to be seen as good parents and force their children to do things that serve the selfish pride of the parents? Aren’t these parents merely seeking self-gratification?

In some cases, maybe so. But what of a mother, scorned for pregnancy out of wedlock, who selflessly delivers her baby so that he or she may live, and then gives the child to another person to adopt? All the while doing the right thing out of pure goodness…receiving no gratification inwardly or from her peers. Her sacrifice makes her vulnerable. Her actions require inconvenience. 

She doesn’t have self-interest. Because she cares more for the child than for herself. Her sacrifice does not fit into the mold of the atheist self-interest point of view. 

My Deeds Cannot Be Virtuous if My Thoughts Are Not

Am I still virtuous if my thoughts are unholy? 

Let’s say a fictional person named Tommy detests homeless people. Perhaps Tommy presumes all homeless choose to be homeless and Tommy secretly disrespects them. He refuses to love them in spite of their flaws. It is even possible that homeless people have been cruel or acted like jerks towards Tommy in the past. What if Tommy, when accompanied by his girlfriend, sees a homeless man on the street, and despite his own resentful thoughts, Tommy decides to give the man a dollar so that Tommy’s girlfriend finds his actions good? Is Tommy doing good? 

Well, Tommy is acting in self-interest, and it is good to share with the homeless, so an atheist, by definition, would say that Tommy is good. But because Tommy still curses the man and wishes him ill, a Catholic would say that Tommy is not good or virtuous. A Catholic would say Tommy is selfish for only seeking his own gratification, appearing virtuous to his girlfriend, in the donation.

Virtue by Self-Interest Alone is Illogical

To simply care about one’s own self interest is to live a selfish life, not a virtuous one. To pretend otherwise is illogical.

After defining human virtues as seen above, the Catechism goes on to explain the role of faith, hope, and love (theological virtues) when utilizing human virtues. 

We cannot accurately describe the role of a Christian’s virtues without acknowledging the essential three theological virtues. These three virtues take all other virtues and unite them with God. Prudence, temperance, wisdom, etc. are all human virtuous on their own, but misplaced unless utilized with faith, hope, and charity (love) in God.

In the example above, had Tommy used his faith in God to see that the homeless person is made in God’s image and been hopeful of salvation for the homeless man, or had loved the homeless man in spite of the man’s flaws, Tommy would have found it impossible to act only in self-interest. He would be acting in great charity to reach out to the homeless man, not for Tommy’s own interest, but for the homeless man’s interest.

Charity (love) is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God (1822).

Faith helps us because it is not easy for man, wounded by sin, to maintain moral balance. Christ’s gift of salvation offers us the grace necessary to persevere in the pursuit of the virtues. Everyone should always ask for this grace of light and strength, frequent the sacraments, cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and follow his calls to love what is good and shun evil (1811).

Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit (1817).

Part two of this post will discuss virtue signaling and the role of one’s self-interest in appearing virtuous.

We love because He loved us first. 

1 John 4:19