Tag Archives: living it out

Do Boycotts Work?

Most of us know this story.  Back in January, Starbucks issued a statement that said that a core part of their identity as a corporation is to support the redefinition of marriage into one that would include same-sex unions. In more recent news, tens of thousands of people have voiced their decision to “dump Starbucks” as a result, expressing their disapproval of Starbucks’ most recent business decision.  Unfortunately, if this were a numbers game, those tens of thousands of people didn’t quite make the same point that the hundreds of thousands of people did when they thanked Starbucks for taking this stance as a company.

Ok then.  This post isn’t about why I disagree with what Starbucks is doing…mostly because I think that, despite how we may have each reacted to the news, we probably all agree to disagree with Starbucks for choosing to state that the redefinition of marriage is core to who they are as a company (since this is a blog for young Catholics, who are presumably at least trying to live in accordance with the faith).  This post is rather about what the faithful Catholic is called to do in situations like this, as well as what we should try to avoid doing…

“Boycotts Don’t Work”

I know.  If we boycotted every company or organization that had any sort of questionable tie, then we would probably have to grow our own food, make our own clothes, and stop paying taxes.  I know that we can’t control where every dime of money we spend goes (after all, who is to say that the drive-thru cashier, whose paycheck we help supply by being a customer, is not going to use his or her money to do something terrible?).  And no, I do not perform a thorough background check of every single company I ever happen to give money to in order to make sure they won’t misuse my money.  Apparently from this follows that it would be hypocritical of me to ever intentionally decide to withhold money from a corporation over a moral issue.

Still, while it unfortunately may not be practically possible to boycott every company or organization that contradicts our faith, I personally feel that when a company goes so far as to make a public announcement stating that it is core to who they are to advance the goal of something so contradictory to our faith, we don’t have a choice but to respond—and that going on as if nothing happened is in itself a response.  Going on as if nothing happened says that this specific part of our faith—of the truth that ought to transform every part of our being so profoundly that we cannot help but share it— this part of it just isn’t something worth making a fuss about over.

Ok, so we have to respond in some way.  The question is, “how?”  I want to be clear here: Boycotts can be an effective way to get a message across to a company or organization (Need I remind you of Susan G Komen for the Cure who, merely days after cutting funds to Planned Parenthood, crumbled to the masses that boycotted, and tragically reversed their decision?).  HOWEVER, I think that in the excitement and righteous anger that occurs during these boycotts, we as Christians often have this terrible tendency to forget a crucial part of the story: the ending (you know…what we celebrated two days ago and are still celebrating today?).

Spoiler Alert: Jesus wins.  No matter what the petition counts or the voting booths tell us, Jesus wins in the end.  I say this because as terrible as it is to not say anything when your favorite coffee shop decries your faith, it’s almost just as bad when we work ourselves into a frenzy and allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking that such an act is a legitimate threat to our Church or to God Himself.  Jesus has triumphed over death.  I think He can take this one, too.  So, boycott all you wish and encourage others to do the same, but never make the mistake of thinking the battle is anyone’s but the Lord’s (and remember that He already won).  We’re not fighting with other people to win an argument.  We’re allowing Christ to transform lives to win souls.

Now, that doesn’t excuse us from standing up and being heard.  We have a responsibility as Catholics to profess our faith.  That includes professing our faith when it is unpopular and in the face of opposition.  Personally, I chose to respond to Starbucks’ announcement by making the decision to #dumpstarbucks.  I shared a link on my Twitter account inviting others to do the same, and I am writing this post now.  I’m ok with people thinking I’m silly for doing so.  I realize that Starbucks as a company will probably continue to do just fine, and I’m not condemning those I see on the street with Starbucks cups to Hell.  But I know that my response was heard; and I am proud to stand up for Christ and His Church.

Of course, as with anything in my life, it is a work in progress.  What are your thoughts?

When Taking A Stand Isn’t Easy

Raise your hand if you saw or re-posted the link to Google’s “End Piracy, Not Liberty” landing page (or something of the like) yesterday.

*raises hand*

yay!  Isn’t taking a stand for something you believe in fun??  As young people, we seem to have this natural itch to be involved in some sort of activism.  We do crazy things like participate in protests, participate in awareness campaigns, or join the Peace Corps.   And, usually (though definitely not always), doing such things amounts to a good and productive use of our time.

But let’s get real for a second.

To be clear: I’m glad so many people are against SOPA—it’s a scary bit of legislation.  I’m even glad so many people took a stand against it and (hopefully) called their congressman/congresswoman to make sure SOPA/PIPA don’t get passed (because if all you did was post the link, you missed the entire point of the exercise).  …And if there were no one at all re-posting the links, awareness wouldn’t have gotten around.  I get it.  Re-posting is good.

Is it bad, then, that I’m a little annoyed with the tendency to pat ourselves on the back for “taking a stand” when it seems to amount to nothing more than following the crowd?  If you stand up in a football stadium when your team scores a touchdown, are you really “taking a stand,” or are you just caught up in the moment with everyone else?  …Who doesn’t like a touchdown?  Especially when the other team winning means you essentially lose your right to free speech?

My point?  Good job for taking a stand against SOPA/PIPA.  It was the right thing to do.  But there’s more good to be done.  You just may not get as many “likes” on Facebook for standing up for it.

Example:

39 years ago this weekend, it became legal for a woman to take the life of the baby developing inside of her.  And around the country this weekend, hundreds of thousands of people will participate in peaceful protests against that law—mourning the loss of over 50 million lives taken since 1973.

You probably won’t hear much about these protests in the news.  Unfortunately, standing up for life hasn’t proven quite as popular as standing up for free speech has these past couple of days.  But if you re-posted the anti-SOPA/PIPA links yesterday, why not re-post this?

 

7 Steps to Being Young & Catholic

Ok, so I’ve gotten some questions from readers asking about the specifics of how exactly to do this—that is, how is one to go about being “young and Catholic” in the world today?

Below is a battle plan of sorts…

1.)  Regular Mass and Adoration

The non-denoms have it right when they say that relationship with Christ is what your faith has to be grounded on.  But you won’t get there if you don’t make it a point to schedule time with Him.  For this reason the Church makes it mandatory for all of us to go to mass every Sunday and on Holy Days of Obligation—but mass is offered every day of the week.  Sure, I have friends with whom I only check in for an hour or so a week, but the people closest to me in my life I talk to on a daily basis.  It’s true that we can pray to Christ whenever we want and wherever we are (and we should!).  It’s also true that you’ll never be more united with Christ than in those moments after you receive Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament.  How close of a relationship do you want?

Reality Check: Many of us young people can’t make it to mass on a daily basis (especially if we’re not at a Catholic school or do not have a particularly vibrant Catholic parish nearby).  To those I say first of all to still try.  If you have trouble getting up every morning at 6:30 to make it to 7:30am mass, make it a goal to go to daily mass one day out of the week.  Christ will honor your sacrifice of sleep.  :)  If you can’t make it to mass and receive Christ in the Eucharist, make a spiritual communion insteadAnd find out the hours of your parish’s Blessed Sacrament (or Adoration) Chapel.  Make it a habit to spend at least an hour in there a week.

 

2.)  Regular Confession

We’re talking once every two weeks.  …Seriously?  Yes.  I know the typical rule of thumb nowadays is once a month, but I personally find myself needing to go more often than that.  And for me, it’s much easier to answer the question “Did I go last week” than, “Have I gone yet this month?”  Let’s face it: we all do little things that hurt our relationship with Christ on a daily basis.  What kind of friend would you be if you didn’t say, “I’m sorry”?  And besides, who couldn’t use more grace?

Reality Check: A lot of us are afraid of confession.  It’s not that we can’t do it every two weeks, it’s that we don’t want to.  But I promise you, after the first time you go to confession saying, “It has been two weeks since my last confession,” you will want to come back the next time being able to say the same thing.  Make it a habit and you won’t be sorry.  No one regrets having his or her sins forgiven.

 

3.)  Spiritual Reading

If you’re not reading the Bible, or something written by a saint, or a sound theologian of the Church, you’re going to find it difficult to grow in your faith.  Our love for God grows the more we know about Him.  Plus, reading will make that hour a week you’ve just committed to spend in the chapel go by that much quicker :)

Reality Check:  Where am I to find said books?  The Bible is a good place to start!  The word of God in the very words of God—can’t get much closer than that!  Other books I recommend: Introduction to the Devout Life (St. Francis De Sales), I Believe in Love, True Devotion to Mary, Confessions of Saint Augustine.  Send me an email if you want more suggestions.

 

4.)  Be honest.

If your friends don’t know that you’re Catholic, there’s a problem.  You don’t have to turn into the crazy religious kid who doesn’t talk about anything but church, but do let your friends (religious and non-religious) know that you’re Catholic.  Going to confession on Saturday?  Invite your Catholic friends.  Headed to Mass?  Invite all of your friends (but politely let the non-Catholics know beforehand that communion is only for Catholics living in a state of grace).  Speak up if someone bashes the Church, and maybe skip that frat party on Friday if you know that it will lead to you having to go to confession on Saturday.

Reality Check: It’s a little late for some of us.  We have friends who already know us as someone we no longer want to be.  Time for a heart-to-heart.  Lay it all out on the table.  Write a letter if you don’t think you’ll be able to say it all.  Look, I know I used to do this or I told you I’ve done that, but I’m trying to change.  I’m going to take my faith more seriously and as my friend I just wanted you to know what’s going on with me. But please: Don’t drop your friends for Jesus.  He wouldn’t do that, and it’s not a very good witness to faith if your friends think you dropped them because they’re “not holy enough”. Now, you may find that you can no longer take part in certain activities and as a result some friendships may naturally fade away, but make it a point to be upfront and honest so it’s not perceived as a personal attack.

 

5.)  No really, be honest.

You don’t have to pretend that you’re perfect now that you’ve decided to take your faith seriously.  In fact if you do, no one will take you seriously.  Your Facebook statuses do not all have to be about Jesus or taken from the Bible.  You’re allowed to have a social life outside of church.  You can listen to non-Christian music.  Most importantly, when you mess up, own up.  It’s human to struggle.

 

6.)  Find Catholic friends

Like I said, don’t ditch your non-Catholic friends (so long as they’re not leading you into sin).  But it’s important to have friends within the Church, too.  Why?  Because being a Catholic is difficult, and human beings are not able to survive without friends.  Sometimes you just need the friend next to you in the pew, or someone to call when you don’t understand the Church’s teaching on something.  They don’t need to have the right answer for you, but you need someone who understands the struggle, and who can encourage you in faith.

Reality Check:  That’s nice, but what if the only other Catholics in your town have gray hair?  Two suggestions: 1) Pray, pray, pray that God will send a friend your way.  And keep an open heart—be a friend to everyone.  He could be preparing your non-Catholic friend’s heart to receive His truth through your friendship.  2) Make friends with the old people!  They’re probably awesome and full of stories and great advice.

 

7.)  Do well in school (and/or at work).

Chances are good that God is not calling you to drop out of school and go off into the desert to pray.  It could happen, but it’s more likely that He is calling you to live your life for Him right where you are: in school, at work, at the gym, etc.  You really want to be a good witness of Christ?  You have to strive for excellence in all that you do.  Period.  In other words: Do your homework.  You may not be able to get straight A’s, but you better try your hardest.  Offer your hard work up to Christ as a prayer.  Jesus didn’t cut corners, so neither can we.

Reality Check: When asked, “Is it befitting a cardinal to ski?” Blessed JPII replied, “What is unbefitting a cardinal is to ski badly.”  :)  Seriously.  You cannot be a Christian and settle for mediocrity.

Bottom Line?  Do good, avoid evil.  Easier said than done, of course.  But be encouraged!  You are not alone in the struggle.

Hard Work

“…being a Christian is easy – if you believe in Jesus, you will never be tempted again, and everything will go your way”

-from a thought-provoking post written by the fabulous Tara Stone over at ImpactingCulture.com

But more on that later.

Depending on what time you are reading this today, I am either stressing out about my Greek final, currently taking my Greek final, or incredibly thankful that my Greek final is over.  After my final is over, I have approximately 6 days to finish two 10-page papers before I get to board a plane and officially begin my Christmas break.

Funny thing about school: most of the time, just “being smart” isn’t enough.  There may be those classes that you can skate by on just natural-born intelligence, but the classes that you actually get something out of usually require a little bit more effort.  Or worse: a lot more effort.

There are a lot of things in life like this.  We may be born with a certain knack for something—be it painting, music, closing a deal, etc. but no one in this life is exempt from hard work.  The things that matter most in life rarely just fall into our laps.

The crazy thing is, when it comes to our faith, there is no question that it is a gift freely given by a God who owes us nothing and to whom we owe everything.  We would not know God had He not chosen to reveal Himself to us; and ultimately, everything we have in this life (our faith included) is His gift to us.  In this manner, it can very much be said that our faith has fallen into our lap.  (And of all the things to come without effort, this is by far the best one possible).

But, as any Christian trying to live his or her life for Christ knows, the fact that we did not, and cannot, earn our faith does not mean that we are exempt from hard work.  As much as we may wish that the quote at the top of this post were true (or pretend that it is when others are around), the fact is that truly living life as a Christian is hard.  And like many of the best things in life, it requires discipline and effort.

Fortunately, like the relief I’ll be feeling a week from today when I’m on that plane, the hard work will all be worth it in the end.

Also, today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary! (Holy Day of Obligation).  Don’t forget to go to mass!

(And in the spirit of my Greek final: κεχαριτωμένη , a title for Mary translated as “full of grace” in Luke’s Gospel, is actually a perfect participle, more literally translated as, “one who has been bestowed with grace.”  Could it be that she was “bestowed with grace” at the moment of her conception?)

Animals

 

Man is often said to be the intelligent animal.  But when he decides he wants to be like the rest of the animals, and chooses to pursue selfish and base desires, he becomes the worst animal of all.

Think about it.