What are the sayings that inspire you to live well?
A few days ago, I finally decided to go through my father’s papers. He’s been dead for more than three years, but until now I couldn’t bring myself to decide which of his papers to keep and which to throw away. These were not legal documents or insurance policies. No, these were his personal writings, some of which were neatly printed and clipped into binders, with others jotted down on small, yellowing scraps of paper.
I need not have worried. Most of the pages were filled with business notes about past and future projects, along with lists of contact information for customers and suppliers. However, I was intrigued to find a section in one of his notebooks with a tab labeled in all caps, “GOOD SAYINGS.” As I read his collection of good sayings, I was struck by their paradoxical or ironic aspects. For example, he had written,
“Many hands make light work…BUT…Too many cooks spoil the broth.”
Further down the page, I came across these nuggets:
“The road to success is always under construction.” “Laugh at yourself, or others will do it for you.” “Money talks, but mine is giving me the silent treatment.” “ABCDEF: Always Be Careful. Don’t Ever Forget!”
Yet, despite this dire warning, he also included Wm. Randolph Hearst’s call to action: “Part of winning is not being afraid of losing.”
In my opinion, this last quote best personifies my father’s outlook. When it came to his Catholic faith, my father was “all in.” He was the first member and selfless supporter of the “Rosary Club,” founded in 1949 by Brother Sylvan Mattingly, C.F.X. Now known as Our Lady’s Rosary Makers, the organization’s members make and distribute rosaries to the world’s spiritually needy throughout the world. Back in the 1980’s when Mother Angelica was forming EWTN-TV, my father was so devoted to her project that he chose to mortgage his farm to get more cash for her cause. However, when she found out that he gone to this extreme, Mother was distressed! She made sure that those funds were returned to him, so that he could keep his farm, despite his willingness to make the sacrifice.
I generally go walking in the evening after supper, often strolling through the cemetery near our house. It’s quiet there… a great place to pray the Rosary… and to pray for family and friends who are buried there, including my father. On his gravestone is carved another saying that he held dear: “Do what you should the best you can.” My father was a complicated man. We didn’t always understand each other. But there’s no misunderstanding this last statement of his. In truth, it’s not a bad statement to live by!
“Do what you should the best you can.”
What is your favorite “good saying” that motivates you or makes you laugh?
Last week I was verbally attacked on social media, once in public and once in private. I should have expected this, but for some reason I am always taken by surprise when a reader impugns my character.
The first assailant launched a direct attack against me in the public forum for having posted an invitation to sign a petition with which she did not agree. Understood.
The second accuser contacted me via private Facebook message and basically called me a “hater.” Why? Because he equated speaking the truth about the evil of a particular sin with hating the sinner. “I am in no way condoning homosexual acts or any other sinful act,” he wrote, “However, I’m not going to pass judgment on a person for that sin or any other sin. I just leave those stones on the ground.”
“Jesus left the stones on the ground, too,” I responded, “but He called sin by its true name. Jesus helped sinners to repent and find the joy of living according to the will of God.”
To which he replied, “He is Jesus and I am Scott [not his real name,] so I will leave it to him to call sin by its true name.”
“But you can’t,” I countered. “Read the Great Commission from Jesus before His ascension. It’s our job, too!”
Scott concluded, “I will just disagree. I don’t believe Jesus intended us to hate people based on their skin color, or religion or their sexual preference. I don’t believe he ever intended us to decide when we thought it was appropriate to pick up stones and pass judgment. We will just have to have two different versions of Jesus.”
At that point, I realized that further discussion would go nowhere because Scott did not accept the premises that 1) Christians are called to speak the truth about sin and the need for repentance, and that 2) there is a difference between hating the evil of sin and hating the soul of a sinner. I chose to let it go.
Did I do the right thing? When engaging with others on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media regarding matters of faith, what is a good Catholic supposed to do? How are we to behave? Are we allowed to defend ourselves when attacked? How far do we have to go in our mission to spread the Gospel? When are we allowed to shake the dust from our sandals and move on? Is it really necessary to share our faith? Having recently asked questions such as these in spiritual direction, I’d like to pass along to you…
1. Determine your goals for engaging in social media. Are you there for professional networking and advancement? Do you enjoy keeping in touch with family members, keeping abreast of their achievements, travels, etc.? Do you post articles and quotations that witness to your faith in Christ? Do you scroll through Facebook in order to unwind? Do you find social media entertaining and enriching? Examine yourself for the real reasons you are active on social media in order to decide the “brand” of your presence on social media. Regardless of your overall purpose, every item you post should reflect and uphold the goals and values that you hold dear.
2. Choose your friends wisely. You don’t have to be “Friends” with anyone and everyone! Choose those who help you to maintain your peace, those who will help you in your Christian walk.
3. NEVER argue with family in public. Period. Family matters are not to be aired in the public forum.
4. When entering into a discussion, first state your premise of your position. Ask the other person: Will you accept that this presupposition is true? If the other does not accept the thesis upon which your position is based, you cannot have a productive discussion of the topic. As St. Paul instructed St. Timothy, there is no use in getting into pointless theoretical arguments. “Have nothing to do with godless philosophical discussions–they only lead further and further away from true religion.” (2 Tim 2:16 New Jerusalem Bible)
5. When entering a discussion or debate, ask yourself: Can I come out of this unbruised? Without negative anger? Without sin? If not, it’s better to let it go. We don’t want to build animosity toward people using a medium where we cannot ask questions for precision or where we can’t see the look on someone’s face that would clarify their state of mind. Furthermore, if a particular person continues to attack you or to treat you in a disrespectful, destructive manner such that you cannot maintain your peace, it is better to “block” that person rather than to sin by harboring anger, resentment, or fear in your heart. On the other hand, if you can maintain your peace when all else are losing theirs, you may make some headway!
6. Realize that often people merely want to express their own opinions and do not want feedback of any sort. In that case, if you cannot stomach what that person tends to post, it may again be best to “unfollow” that person’s posts or to “block” him or her.
7. In witnessing to the truth, do your best to build up the Kingdom of God. In his book Christus Vincit, Bishop Athanasius Schneider wrote that the aim of a Catholic blogger should be “to help renew Holy Mother Church in our time,” and “help to elevate the minds of the people and seek to promote the beauty of truth and the glory of God.”
In this mission, we must not compromise the truth! In an address to students at the University of St. Petersburg, Fyódor Dostoyevsky stated, “If one distorts faith in Christ by uniting it with the goals of this world, the whole meaning of Christianity will at once also be destroyed and the mind will necessarily fall prey to unbelief.”
And yes, every now and then, we must expect to be attacked. Our Lord Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” (Matt 5:11-12 The New Jerusalem Bible)
I think it strange that I find a lack of structure to be confining and the imposition of order to be freeing. Yet, as I observe my pets, I see that they, too, thrive on the organization of time, limits of space, and regularity of care.
Take my big, black “kitten,” for example. Now ten months old, Onyx Leo Gato started out life as a stray. He had all the freedom in the world, to go wherever he wanted to go and do whatever he wanted to do. Unfortunately–or fortunately, depending on your viewpoint–he was found wandering in traffic and was brought by two kind ladies to a vet whom the rescuers hoped would take him in. The vet directed the women to drop him off at the local shelter, but I felt sure the scrawny little creature would be put to sleep, and that simply would not do. So, I took him home, bathed him, fed him, and watched him grow into the enormous, burly boy that he is now. The “freedom” of being a stray would have meant hunger and possible death for Onyx, whereas the structure of regular meals, monthly meds for fleas and worms, and neutering mean health and life for him.
My little dachshund, too, has responded beautifully to the regularity of her schedule. Babylove knows that I will take her for a walk right after breakfast. She waits for me, ready to don her harness and leash to set out for her morning constitution. She knows that I will toss her a homemade peanut butter biscuit as soon as we get home, too. She counts on it. At 3:00 p.m., she knows that I will sit cross-legged on the floor to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and she follows me to my place, so that she can cuddle up in my lap while I pray. Before I adopted Babylove, they told me that she would never sit in anyone’s lap, and when I first got her, she would not come that close. My husband suspected that she might have been abused in her younger years. But Babylove has lived with me for almost three years now, and somewhere along the way, she came to understand that I would be constantly loving toward her and never harm her. And one day, she decided that she trusted me and climbed into my lap. The regularity of care and the constancy of my love drew her in.
Of course, limitations of space are a must for my goldfish and my hamster! Without a fish tank to hold the water he swims in, Jack would literally “drown” in air! Similarly, without his wire cage and released to the great outdoors, Chito would quickly become owl chow!
My need for structure parallels that of my pets, yet goes beyond it. Without structure in my day, I didn’t sleep regularly or enough. Without structure, I don’t eat right or exercise adequately. Without structure, I don’t align my day’s activities with my priorities. Without structure, I struggle to accomplish the goals I truly want to achieve.
Today, however, is different! Today I have determined that my writing time will be from 1:45 to 3:00every day, except Sunday…and maybe even on Sunday! As of today, that is the schedule. That is the structure, so that during this hour and a quarter each day, I am free to write!