The Ordinary Way

I am always astonished when I come across something beautiful or exciting in Catholicism, not because I’m surprised to find something more than a list of rules, but rather how is this not more widely known? Why are these beautiful teachings and beliefs kept hidden? The more I learn, the more I realize that we have a treasure trove of everything that the human heart could ask for, and yet, many Catholics are unaware this treasure even exists, let alone where to find it. I remember when I was reading all these relationship books and then came across Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Suddenly, I was blown away and could not even finish my latest book that someone had suggested because it just fell so short of what Catholicism offered on the topic.

Now, another discovery  was recommended by a blogger – Little Catholic Bubble – that I have been following for several years. The Ordinary Path to Holiness by R. Thomas Richard. Here I was made aware of my many misunderstandings of sainthood and ways to Heaven. For instance, I grew up reading about the saints and learning to draw inspiration from them, but felt like that was an ideal I was never going to achieve, and that it was reserved for a select few special souls.  Going to Church, taking part in the sacraments and praying somewhat regularly was good enough. This was especially true when I knew most of my classmates weren’t even bothering with the basics, but still fully expected to get to Heaven because they were good people. This book, however, opened my eyes to realize that I wasn’t doing enough and that the path to holiness is expected of all of us and not just a select few.

One of the things that amazed me the most was how many saints talk about the stages of holiness. The book mentions many of their writings on the topic of spiritual development, including the stages of progression:  The Beginner, The Illuminative and the Proficient. Each stage is a different level of spiritual maturity, much like how we grow from infancy, to adolescents, to adulthood.  It is also interesting to note that both St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Avila asserted that most people never progress out of the beginning stage, but remaining there their entire lives and having purgatory finish what was left unfinished here on earth.


Photo from Wikicommons

A good example of the stages in action and how merciful God is to us along the way is when we look to the Apostles. In the first stage –the Beginner– the Apostles believe in Jesus and follow him, but when things get tough they denied Him, Peter even denying Christ three times. Later, the Apostles see the risen Christ and believe, but are still afraid to proclaim him openly and they hide away privately believing in Him with other believers–The Illuminative stage– . Lastly, we see the last stage in spiritual development at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descends on the Apostles and they are no longer afraid to go out and and preach publicly the word of God. In the last stage we see the Apostles have grown out of their fear of the world, they long for Heaven and are not afraid to even die for their faith.

While not a perfect analogy of the three stages, nor enough detail on each one, it is nevertheless an eye opening revelation. We know that many of the Apostles were insignificant people by societies standards with few talents, but the New Testament shows how one can do great things for God if we have the courage to pursue holiness.  And while it is not easy we can see, through the Apostles example, that God does not expect us to be perfect right at the moment of our conversion, rather he allows us to mature and progress towards that goal of sainthood. As long as we cooperate with that Grace and always seek to progress in the spiritual life we can achieve sainthood here on earth as well.



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Restless Hearts

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend who is about to go on maternity leave. I was excited for her because we had identical pre-kid lives, where we worked and went to school and then once school was done worked a tonne more. I hadn’t realized what a busy, distracted life I had been living until I didn’t have to go to work and was spending my days at home. Especially with a new baby who mostly slept and ate for those first few months and allowed me to have ample time to think and reflect. But, when I shared how excited I was for her to experience this joyful, peaceful time she said something that gave me pause. “I’m not really looking forward to it,  I’m worried I’ll feel restless because I love my work and it is such a distraction.” Distraction from what? I wanted to ask but didn’t. See, this friend is a fallen away Catholic and I wondered if perhaps she dreaded the leave because she knew it meant facing the question of God, and her faith.

It reminded me of C.S. Lewis’  book “Screwtape Letters” where the devil advises his minion to distract the human–or the patient– from his thoughts, to keep him busy with everyday life and if this was done then the human would most surely end up in their Father’s house.

One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. The Enemy, of course, was at his elbow in a moment. Before I knew where I was I saw my twenty years’ work beginning to totter. If I had lost my head and begun to attempt adefence by argument I should have been undone. But I was not such a fool. I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch. The Enemy presumably made the counter-suggestion (you know how one can never quite overhear What He says to them?) that this was more important than lunch. At least I think that must have been His line for when I said “Quite. In fact much too important to tackle it the end of a morning”, the patient brightened up considerably; and by the time I had added “Much better come back after lunch and go into it with a fresh mind”, he was already half way to the door. Once he was in the street the battle was won. 

This is the way of the enemy. Keep us distracted. Keep us busy. When we have no silence in our lives, then it becomes nearly impossible for us to have an encounter with God. I remember asking my students, back when I was teaching high school, how often they spent time in silence, away from others and with no music to distract them. Not even a handful of thirty students could recall a time where something wasn’t buzzing in their ears. It has become even more difficult today where you have access to an endless stream of superficial stories and cute cat videos posted on your newsfeed. Those moments of waiting for someone in the car, or for a doctor’s appointment where you were forced to be still and quiet–to contemplate life– are gone now with the emergence of the smart phone.

For taking time to be still and meditate a nice view like this can't hurt

For taking time to be still and meditate a nice view like this can’t hurt

But despite all these distractions in the world today there is hope. If we believe as Catholics that God is always after our hearts, that he will leave the entire ninety-nine sheep and go in search of the one lost, we must be hopeful that our loved ones can return to the faith.  When we hear them saying they are restless and afraid of the silence then we can be assured that God is working in them, that perhaps they are on the verge of a reconversion. St Augustine said famously that “Our hearts are restless until they rest on you Lord.” When I reflect on these things it gives me great hope that my family and friends are still being pursued by God, that they may not be willing to accept God quite yet, but at least they are aware that something is missing, that they can’t seem to fill their restless hearts by their own power and that to me sounds like a crack in their door is opening and that’s all God needs.







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Defending the Trinity

Albrect Durer 1511 - from Wikipedia Commons

Albrect Durer 1511 – from Wikipedia Commons

Up until a month ago I had never really contemplated the Holy Trinity. It was one of those things all Christians believed and even though it was a mystery I didn’t doubt it was true. Then I found myself reading the comment section of someone I follow on Instagram–I know, I thought it was only about posting pictures of your cute baby or dog too– on this very topic. It made me really think about my beliefs regarding the Trinity and how I didn’t really have a deep understanding of it, other than the somewhat childish explanation using a clover that is so often used to describe it.

Some of the main points people were arguing included things like;

“The word trinity isn’t in the Bible!”

“The trinity was made up in the 5th century by Constantine to unite the pagans.”

“Scripture a, b & c are proof that the trinity is false.”

To the first point yes, the word Trinity isn’t in the Bible, but either is the word Bible. In fact, we don’t even see Jesus once talk about how Christians need to follow the Bible or a verse showing us that he gave instructions to his apostles to write everything down and adhere to it alone. Instead, we find this verse from Paul on the topic,

“stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thess. 2:15).

But, I get why the Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses and Oneness Pentecostals used it here, because there are many Christians who believe in the Bible alone and thus it can be easy to persuade them that this fundamental Christian belief is wrong. I never got a response when I pointed out that neither the words Bible or Trinity can be found in Scripture, or where we were instructed to only follow the Bible alone, instead I was met with a confused response saying that they did not understand how it was a contradiction to believe in the Bible but deny the Trinity and use the argument “the word Trinity isn’t even in the Bible!”…

The second main point that I saw repeatedly being made in the comment section was how it was invented by Constantine in the 4th century. Again, this to someone historically illiterate and unfortunately is many in this day and age, would seem impressive and persuasive, except it isn’t the whole truth.  They of course are referencing the Council of Nicea in the 4th century and Constantine was there and helped unify the Christian Church. This council is not where the word Trinity was made up, however, no we see it appear in written form much earlier in 181 AD by Theophilus of Antioch–this predates the council of Nicea by a couple hundred years–. Yet, this isn’t crucial to the debate at hand rather the most important point is that the council was DEFENDING the Trinity and not creating it. The Arians had been dividing Christianity with their heresy for years and the Church seeked to come up with an agreed upon definition so that they could educate the faithful and stay truthful to the gospel. That is why we say the Nicene creed to this day at Mass on Sundays. So that all Christians can memorize and take to heart the fundamental beliefs of the Christian.

Lastly, while there are many examples in Scripture that support the Trinity, it can become nearly impossible to get anywhere slinging Scripture verses back and forth, largely because many people believe that they can interpret the Bible for themselves. I found myself in this situation and we were getting nowhere. However, through attempting the process of showing the Trinity in the Scriptures I became better educated and even more convinced than I already was. The exercise was worth the effort, at least for me and perhaps lurkers who were reading the discussion as well.

But, I think we can get somewhere if we resort back to the history. What did the early Christians believe? Shouldn’t we interpret the Scriptures in the same way as those who actually walked and talked with Jesus? The early Christians believed in the Trinity. We know this because they were killed for it.

Acts 7:54-60 The Stoning of Stephen

54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Martyrdom of St Stephen by  Giorgio Vasari - 1560. From Wikiart

Martyrdom of St Stephen by Giorgio Vasari – 1560. From Wikiart

Why was Stephen stoned to death? He was killed because he believed Jesus was literally God. And, since Christians are monotheistic we can’t mean that Stephen died for the belief in multiple gods, because that would go against the first commandment. The only logical explanation is to believe in the Trinity and I think the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains it so well:

The dogma of the Holy Trinity

253 The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity”.83 The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: “The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i.e. by nature one God.”84 In the words of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), “Each of the persons is that supreme reality, viz., the divine substance, essence or nature.”85

254 The divine persons are really distinct from one another. “God is one but not solitary.”86 “Father”, “Son”, “Holy Spirit” are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: “He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son.”87 They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: “It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds.”88 The divine Unity is Triune.

255 The divine persons are relative to one another. Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another: “In the relational names of the persons the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both. While they are called three persons in view of their relations, we believe in one nature or substance.”89 Indeed “everything (in them) is one where there is no opposition of relationship.”90 “Because of that unity the Father is wholly in the Son and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Son is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Son.”91

It is hard to believe or to wrap our heads around the Trinity, but it is the only logical explanation for the Christian to profess. To deny it would be to deny being Christian. One last thing, and I think this attests to the power of God working in our lives when we seek to know, is that this debate came about the same time in the Liturgical calendar as Trinity Sunday. Just last Sunday when we were listening to the readings and it was so abundantly clear that the Trinity is truth. I was so very appreciative to see and hear the Trinity coming through the readings at Mass in a way I had never really appreciated before.  I was very thankful for this discussion on Instagram and for God guiding me towards, not just the truth, but for really educating me on that truth.


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Pray For Myriam & All Those In The Middle East

I have spent a lot of time teaching and discussing the martyrdom of the early Christians over the years, but never expected to live during a time where we see it happening again. Seeing this video made me finally understand the Roman historian, Tertullian’s famous quote, “The blood of the martyrs are the seeds of the Church”.  Our Christian faith articulated so well by this little girl, despite much suffering, is truly an inspiration! What a beautiful little soul she is!

I pray that Myriam and all people in the Middle East may find peace and love very soon.

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Catholicism in 120 Characters or Less

When I began teaching a few years ago they told us that our students attention span was no more than twenty minutes. Today, those same experts are now telling us that the attention span of a teenager is maybe fifteen minutes, if you’re lucky and really exciting. But, I would argue that our society today has the attention span of only a 120 character tweet, or at least it feels like it most of the time.  I see evidence for this everyday where someone will post a headline with a link and then people will comment “Well aren’t you going to tell us which country is the happiest?” and I think to myself, did you not click on the link? That’s where the journalist goes into more depth! But no, I guess not. I’ve seen people write something on Facebook and if it is longer than two sentences someone will comment, “you know if it’s longer than a sentence no one will read it right?”

We also see it a lot with Pope Francis when he gives a whole talk, but only one sentence gets tweeted and suddenly social media is ablaze with Pope Francis said this! The best one I saw posted had to be this, “Pope Francis warns that any personal relationship with Jesus Christ is Dangerous” Sorry, come again? It was starting to get me down, all this commenting without even reading the entire article and people believing anything that gets posted online. I also wondered if was even possible anymore to explain a faith that is so deep that it really needs a whole book to give it justice. Is there even a point in trying or should I just keep my mouth closed and stay out of it.

Then I somehow found myself embedded into a defence of Catholicism on Instagram– of all places– and I was shocked to learn that yes, you could defend Catholicism, in short spurts, and even get into details without completely losing your audience. It has greatly encouraged me to believe that there is still hope for this modern era.


I haven’t been blogging in a while because after having my baby I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about anymore. Did I want to continue talking about teaching Catholicism? Did I want to get away from sometimes the never ending head desk banging activity of apologetics on the internet? Or did I want to write more about the adventures of motherhood? But, after this weekends debate on Instagram, I feel energized again and realized that I do have a passion for defending my faith. Now, I just need to work on shrinking all that information down into 120 characters or less.




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Synod on the Family 2014

There is a lot of media attention on the Family Synod most of it terribly wrong.  To get away from the misinformation I have been trying to get through the actual synod document provided on the Vatican website.  I haven’t gotten through it all, but already I am left wondering what exactly the media is even reading or not reading.

I found this paragraph in the first section of the document particularly significant as an educator, and even as a new parent:

“The search for pastoral responses takes place in the cultural context of the present moment. Many people today have difficulty in thinking in a logical manner and reading lengthy documents. We live in an audio-visual culture, a culture of feelings, emotional experiences and symbols. Places of pilgrimage, in many countries — even in highly secularized ones — are increasingly popular.”

This statement is so true–though the thought of a society without thinking logically makes me cringe. I see it not only in my discussions with people in general, but in my classroom as well. Many students are not interested in the faith as it is currently presented, let alone in studying a lengthy Church document.  Yet, the Church isn’t the world’s longest standing institution for nothing! She has always adapted to the culture in which she finds herself. Never bending on faith and morals of course, but addressing the heart first before the mind.  I think that is what Pope Francis is largely trying to get across.  People have lost the heart of the Gospel and without the heart there is no use beating them over the head with Church doctrine. For all truth lovers out there this has been a difficult reality to accept.

Just like at other times throughout the Church’s long history we are in a moment where she is not popular, where the culture has increasingly turned secular and even people who profess to be Christian are only lukewarm in their faith.  It is not uncommon to show a picture of Jesus to a youngster and they look at you with a blank face.  In early times when most people were illiterate and very few Bibles existed we see Churches with stain glass windows and statues.  A picture says a thousand words and this was how the Church educated the illiterate masses.  It worked. So, whatever direction the Church goes today will work as well.  I have full confidence.

 Photo from Wikimedia commons:

Photo from Wikimedia commons:

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Pride, Prejudice & God

While out walking contemplating whether or not to blog,  musing about why I chose the name “Seeking Pemberley” and whether I should venture into a new blog completely I started thinking about the story of Pride and Prejudice.  It then dawned on me that the story itself is so similar to many people’s experience with faith.

Of course its a stretch with Austen’s work of art, but I can’t help to see the parallels–of course if you’re not the type that gives a sigh of delight when you, along with Ms. Bennett, get the first glance of Pemberley then this will be even more of a stretch for you, but bear with me and my obsession with Austen’s work.


You have unattached, penniless Elizabeth Bennett who is introduced to unattached, rich Mr Darcy. Their first encounter is not a positive one and she immediately turns her nose up because of it. Then her dislike is perpetuated by the opinions of others and she flat out refuses his proposal.  Later, she visits his vast estate–that greatly enhances her impression of Darcy– and runs into the man himself where they have a very pleasant afternoon that further encourages the growing positive feelings Elizabeth is feeling towards him. Finally, Darcy makes a selfless move to save Elizabeth from ruin and her entire opinion of Darcy moves from one of disdain to one of admiration and love.

I see the above scenario played out so much in our secular world today, where the individual has a negative first encounter with Christianity and prejudice sets in. This could have been caused by any number of reasons, often though, it’s through a family member, maybe the parish priest or even a teacher.  Then that negativity is passed on whenever the topic of “religion” comes up, along with misconceptions and flat out lies. Then, at a certain point in their lives, these same negative people hopefully have a “Pemberley” moment, where they find themselves rounding the bend to find a thing of beauty and peacefulness, where they expected to see something cold and decrepit and their negative perspective is forever changed.  Suddenly, their closed and hardened hearts have been softened and they allow themselves to re-look at why they despised this person and that perhaps they were prejudiced in their assumptions.

Personally, this is what I see most often.  Most of the people I know ‘were’ Catholic, but have fallen away, sometimes out of laziness and apathy, but largely because of some negative encounter they had in their youth that turned them off God and the Church all together.

So, what can we do as a Church to help create these Pemberley moments?

Honestly, for the most part I think God does the job of providing the Pemberley moments, but we as a Church can do our part to help build on those positive feelings.  To help encourage that little spark, until it is a self sustaining fire.  But, God is using the new evangelization to inspire, in particular, Father Robert Barron and his Catholicism series that came out a couple of years ago.  In every episode of the series, there is beauty, wonder, history, truth and love, the very things that can give someone whose heart has been hardened a second look.  A spark to make them aware that maybe their past attitude has been prejudiced towards God and the Church.


But, even with this first spark of positivity, there needs to be something after that. In the same way that Elizabeth ran into Darcy, soon after her first glance of Pemberley, we as members of the Church need to always be ready with patience and love to help build on that initial spark.  For example, what if someone had just had their Pemberley moment that day, and then in a busy parking lot had their parking spot stolen by a car with a Rosary beed hanging from the mirror? An event that shouldn’t, but probably would put that person right back into the prejudice they had before.

It is not easy of course, because Christians are sinners and we are often–as unfair as that may be– put on these grand pedestals.  But, if we are not striving on a daily basis to be better people than we were the day before than we will not influence people to give Christianity a serious look.

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