The Value of Suffering

“Oh, if only the suffering soul knew how it is loved by God, it would die of joy and excess of happiness! Some day, we will know the value of suffering, but then we will no longer be able to suffer. The present moment is ours.”
-St. Faustina

Have you ever wondered why suffering exists, why we can’t just have constant joy in our lives? The truth is that we can have constant joy, as joy is not a fleeting emotion but rather something that is rooted in our love for God and trusting in His providence. Even amongst the worst times of our lives, we can find joy. This still does not answer the question of why suffering exists, and I would like to try to answer this based on today’s readings.

In the first reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans we hear the following passage:

“Just as you once disobeyed God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now disobeyed in order that, by virtue of the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all. Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!” (Romans 11:30-33)

When we experience suffering, a few things are happening. First of all, it is an opportunity to lean more upon God. If things were perfect all the time we would not draw close to Him because we would feel an ability to take care of ourselves – we need God above all, and suffering reminds us of His Almighty power. Secondly, suffering allows for mercy to work in our lives and serves as a witness to God’s love.  

Ultimately, finding joy in suffering is very counter-cultural. This concept is radical to the outside world, but isn’t the love of God, sending His only Son very radical in itself? God’s love for us is a crazy and radical love, therefore it only makes sense that we live in a way that reflects this love – trusting in God’s providence, enduring the suffering, and finding a constant joy amidst the storms of life. Not only will we be witnesses of God’s love but we will be further grateful for the happy times of life and more resilient to endure the tough times by continually relying upon God for everything. 

St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us!
St. Faustina, pray for us!
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us!
St. John Paul II, pray for us!
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!
Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

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Nathalie Shultz is a joyful convert to the Catholic faith and a competitive swimmer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  She loves to share her passion for Catholicism with others, including her conversion story and how God continues to work miracles in her life through her OCD. She is the Director of Religious Education for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative of parishes. Nathalie is married to her best friend, Tommy Shultz. Her favorite saints include St. Peter the Apostle, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II.  She is also a huge fan of C.S. Lewis. If you have any questions for Nathalie, or just want her to pray for you, you can email her at rodzinkaministry@gmail.com.

Totus Tuus

“From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in all things. From Mary we learn to trust when all hope is gone.” – St. John Paul II

Today we celebrate one of the great saints of our modern times, Pope St. John Paul II. JPII is one of my all time favorite saints for many reasons. First of all, my husband has a great love for him and his teachings on Theology of the Body – this was the first time I was truly exposed to the great writings of this saint. Another reason I love JPII is because he had such a great love for all the people he encountered, traveling on 104 trips across the world at a total of 725,000 miles of travel (this is the most of any previous popes combined!). This humble man from Poland truly desired to unite the Church throughout the world, and his devotion to understanding those individuals from different backgrounds and cultures shows his desire to love everyone he met.

This saint faced tremendous hardship in his life – loss of his mother and brother at a young age, entering the underground seminary during World War II and risking his life to protect individuals that were persecuted during the Nazi occupation, battling communism and ultimately tearing down the Berlin Wall, and facing an attempted assassination on his own life. While many of these happenings may seem extreme in comparison with moments of our own lives today we can learn a great deal from all that JPII went through on earth. He carried great crosses, but he is famously quoted as living by a specific motto: Totus Tuus (totally yours). He gave his life to Christ through consecration to Our Lady.

This past month I have been praying to grow closer to Our Lady.  Jesus gave her to us, and He desires that we grow closer to Our Mother. When life gets tough and it all seems to much say one Hail Mary. It can be hard to start getting to know Mary, but even one Hail Mary will start a relationship with her. Even reading through the mysteries of the rosary can be a great start. If you haven’t done a consecration to Mary yet, prayerfully consider doing so. Maximilian Kolbe is another polish saint that had a great devotion to Mary. He at one point wrote that Mary is a great advocate as she can take anything we offer to God, no matter how imperfect, and she can make it ready to be received by God. She is a wonderful source of comfort and love, and she has the perfect motherly love for each and every one of us.  

I challenge you to start your relationship with Mary today, if you haven’t yet, and have a conversation with her. Ask for her intercession and ask Christ to help you to get to know her better, and in turn ask Mary to help you to love Jesus more. As you grow in love of Our Lady, as this is inevitable, don’t be afraid. As St. Maximilian Kolbe famously says, “Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.” Follow the life example of great love and trust that JPII had in Mary, and do not be afraid to completely give your life over to her and ultimately draw closer to Christ.

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Nathalie Shultz is a joyful convert to the Catholic faith and a competitive swimmer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  She loves to share her passion for Catholicism with others, including her conversion story and how God continues to work miracles in her life through her OCD. She is the Director of Religious Education for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative of parishes. Nathalie is married to her best friend, Tommy Shultz. Her favorite saints include St. Peter the Apostle, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II.  She is also a huge fan of C.S. Lewis. If you have any questions for Nathalie, or just want her to pray for you, you can email her at rodzinkaministry@gmail.com.

The Power of a Name

“The seventy-two disciples returned rejoicing and said to Jesus, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.’ Jesus said, ‘I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.’”
– Luke 10:17-20

We all have doubts, worries, and fears. Going through the daily motions of life, these specific waves of anxiety can take over with it being hard to see the light in all situations, that light being Christ. God is a constant, whether we feel His presence or not. I know I have gone through dark times where it is hard to find God, falling into despair and hopelessness. Today I offer a reminder of the power one name has to conquer all of these trials we face, and that is the name of Jesus.

On this day, we honor a saint that truly lived out a charism of faith, of radical trust in God even when the going got tough. St. Faustina Kowalska lived in Poland in the early 1900s and wrote a diary depicting her interactions with Jesus, one most famously resulting in the painting of the image of Divine Mercy. When we see this image today, there are four words that are written underneath this beautiful image of our Lord – “Jesus, I trust in You.”

This phrase can become the most beautiful prayer if we offer it to God, even in our weakest moments, and when it is hardest to proclaim trust. I believe God truly sees the intention of our hearts when we proclaim this belief in dark times. Jesus’ name has great power, and this phrase will allow us to call upon His great power in order to calm the storms in our hearts. For example, when my compulsions (checking locks, the oven, etc. repeatedly before leaving the house) flare up due to stress, I will say the phrase “Jesus, I trust in You” each time I check something. This has reduced my compulsions because I know Jesus loves me and will protect me, so proclaiming His name in these events of doubt allows me to give all of my OCD to God.

Never underestimate the power of Jesus’ name. There is no greater name, and we are blessed to have Him to call upon as our Advocate, Teacher, and Shepherd when we need to find our way home. The next time you face anxiety, doubt, or darkness, say, “Jesus, I trust in You.” Let His peace wash over you.

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Nathalie Shultz is a joyful convert to the Catholic faith and a competitive swimmer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  She loves to share her passion for Catholicism with others, including her conversion story and how God continues to work miracles in her life through her OCD. She is the Director of Religious Education for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative of parishes. Nathalie is married to her best friend, Tommy Shultz. Her favorite saints include St. Peter the Apostle, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II.  She is also a huge fan of C.S. Lewis. If you have any questions for Nathalie, or just want her to pray for you, you can email her at rodzinkaministry@gmail.com.

Uniting our Sorrows to the Cross

My heart has been deeply compelled to draw closer to Our Lady as of lately. As a convert to the Catholic faith, it has taken me a long time to get to this point, but I finally feel a strong devotion to her that I am excited to see grow ultimately into a deeper relationship with Christ.

Why do we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows on September 15? We celebrate it today because yesterday, September 14, is the feast of the Holy Cross. Mother and Son share feast days next to each other as a way of demonstrating the devotion that Our Lady had to Jesus throughout His life and even at the foot of the Cross. She stayed with Him and never left His side, enduring the sorrows of His passion that pierced her heart.

What can we draw from Our Lady as she weeps for Jesus? We can learn to pray for a heart that is sorrowful for the things that hurt Our Lord looking down from heaven. We can offer to quench Christ’s thirst for souls through prayer and use of our spiritual charisms in the service of others. Ultimately, we can sit at the foot of the cross and gaze upon Jesus, sharing the greatest love story with anyone we encounter as we go back out into the world.

Facing the sorrows and trials of this life draw strength from Our Lady. Christ gave her to us and gave us to her. Ask for her intercession in your joys and trials – she wants to know us deeply and will lead us into greater communion with Jesus. Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

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Nathalie Shultz is a joyful convert to the Catholic faith and a competitive swimmer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  She loves to share her passion for Catholicism with others, including her conversion story and how God continues to work miracles in her life through her OCD. She is the Director of Religious Education for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative of parishes. Nathalie is married to her best friend, Tommy Shultz. Her favorite saints include St. Peter the Apostle, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II.  She is also a huge fan of C.S. Lewis. If you have any questions for Nathalie, or just want her to pray for you, you can email her at rodzinkaministry@gmail.com.

A Drop in the Ocean

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”
St. Teresa of Calcutta

Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Teresa of Calcutta, the dear saint that offered her life for those individuals that went unnoticed by society, cast out by those around them, and fighting for their lives every moment of the day and night. When we look at the impact of the work of Mother Teresa, we ultimately see Jesus. Amidst darkness, rejection, and fear, she continued to pursue serving the poorest of the poor and loving them in a way that honored their dignity.  

I look at my life today, and I find myself greatly desiring to be like St. Teresa of Calcutta. I want to serve those in great need, be the hands and feet of Jesus to those individuals that go unnoticed, and I want to live a life of love for others with no reservations. I desire to be bold, meek, and to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth. When I look at my own life in comparison with this great saint I often find myself feeling as though what I do does not matter and that I will never be able to be like Mother Teresa – I focus upon my failure. These thoughts of negativity are not from God, but rather sprout from my doubt in God’s plans for my life.  

Ultimately I will never be able to be like Mother Teresa because God has called me to a unique mission that is different from anyone else. While my story may end up sharing similarities to Mother Teresa’s mission it will never be exactly the same, and I will be most filled with joy when I answer God’s call for my individual life. When I live in the present and stop comparing the value of what I do to others around me, I will be most fully alive.  

Please remember one thing: you matter. No matter your state in life, no matter what you are doing or not doing right now, God loves you perfectly. He calls us to continually take up our cross and follow Him, for then we will become more of the saint that we are supposed to be, and we will never be the same. The quote at the top of this reflection is a powerful line of meditation when you face doubt about your worth – you are a drop in the ocean that is desperately needed in order to fill the ocean of God’s love. I pray you remember your value and how loved you are – be in the present and trust God’s plan for your life.

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Nathalie Shultz is a joyful convert to the Catholic faith and a competitive swimmer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  She loves to share her passion for Catholicism with others, including her conversion story and how God continues to work miracles in her life through her OCD. She is the Director of Religious Education for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative of parishes. Nathalie is married to her best friend, Tommy Shultz. Her favorite saints include St. Peter the Apostle, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II.  She is also a huge fan of C.S. Lewis. If you have any questions for Nathalie, or just want her to pray for you, you can email her at rodzinkaministry@gmail.com.

Transformed for Good

Today is the birthday of my best friend, my love, my husband. I picked this day to write a reflection for a few reasons – one of the reasons being to dedicate this to my husband, but also to share the beauty of experiencing constant conversion even though it can be scary.

Since marrying Tommy on October 13, 2018, God has left no stone unturned in our adventures of marriage so far – buying a house, adopting a puppy a month into marriage, multiple job changes, and the opportunity to enter into ministry work. All of these events have been significant changes in our lives, and to be honest; they have all been terrifying. While all of these events are significant blessings from God, and I am beyond thankful for the gifts, it has been difficult for me to embrace change in my life.

My OCD has a significant impact on how I process change, and it truly is a process for me to grow in faith through these events. Change can lead to fear because God asks us to leave what is comfortable to pursue holiness, and it is difficult to be uncomfortable. With these transitions, I have been left with feelings of fear and inadequacy. While my confidence and trust may not be constant, God is always constant in His love for me. I continue to doubt at various times throughout these situations, just like Peter doubted, but Christ stays by my side anyways.

All of these changes in my life have been a blessing, and they all have led me to where God wants me at this moment. I am thankful for my husband, our puppy, our home, and my ministry position. Amidst the chaos God reminds me that He has me right where He wants me and that I need not look back at things of the past – I have been changed so as to help me live as a saint right where He has me and to lead my husband to the same destiny of sainthood.

As I close this writing I want to thank my husband: he meets me where I am at, loves me the way I am, makes me laugh when I would rather stay sad, and supports me in my endeavors. While I often don’t love myself, he reminds me of my worth, of my identity in Christ. When in my darkest moments of anxiety, he holds me close and continues to lead me to Heaven. Thank you for all you do for our family, Tommy. You are a true gift, and I wish you the happiest birthday.

To all of our readers, I pray God blesses you with trust in His plans, with courage amidst change, and the endurance to embrace any anxiety that you may face amidst all of life’s transitions. Remember that every day that you choose to embrace God’s plan is another day that you will be transformed into more of a saint than the day before.

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Nathalie Shultz is a joyful convert to the Catholic faith and a competitive swimmer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  She loves to share her passion for Catholicism with others, including her conversion story and how God continues to work miracles in her life through her OCD. She is the Director of Religious Education for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative of parishes. Nathalie is married to her best friend, Tommy Shultz. Her favorite saints include St. Peter the Apostle, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II.  She is also a huge fan of C.S. Lewis. If you have any questions for Nathalie, or just want her to pray for you, you can email her at rodzinkaministry@gmail.com.

A Saint for our Times

“The most deadly poison of our time is indifference.”
-St. Maximilian Kolbe

In this beautiful creation, there is much to be grateful for – community, nature, and wonders of the world that we can contemplate. Amongst all the things we have to be thankful for, we must acknowledge the injustice and hurt that exists in our time. When we watch the news, we can’t help but be torn apart by the devastation we see, the disrespect of human dignity, and ultimately a message of hate. The news makes me so anxious – it makes me sad to ponder all of the hurt other brothers and sisters are experiencing – murder, genocide, persecution.

While I do not like to ponder these issues, I become part of the problem if I live under a rock and do not stand for what is right. How do we learn from history if we don’t know history? How do we know if individuals in our world need an advocate if we are not aware of the current persecution they are facing? Christ calls us to stand by our brothers and sisters. When I am unsure what to do, I think back to the acronym WWJD (What would Jesus do?) to guide my actions. If Christ saw individuals being tortured, persecuted and looked down upon what would He do? We can read throughout Scripture that Christ was not afraid to speak the truth, to stand up for the dignity of others.

Christ is love, and He loves the entire human race. His love has no bounds, all He asks is the conversion of heart and for all of us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Every human being is our neighbor – no matter their background, beliefs, sexual orientation, race, etc. We are called to love all, for love is what will conquer any evil in this world. As Catholics, we must be beacons of love amidst these times of dispute and trial; we must be united to stand for the dignity of human life from the moment of conception to natural death. We must meet our neighbor where they are and teach the truth of Christ through our actions, through our love.

An essential saint of our times, whose feast day we celebrate today, has shown us exactly what this love of Christ looks like, in the love that he shared with a stranger. St. Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish priest that gave His life for a fellow prisoner in Auschwitz. A prisoner from his barracks had escaped, and so the SS Guards lined up the remaining men for selection to death by starvation. As Fr. Kolbe watched the selection, one of them began to cry because he was a father and husband. Fr. Kolbe knew that this was the time he had prepared for, the time that he would share the lasting impact and meaning of loving our neighbor. He stood up to the guards and said he would take the man’s place – without protest the guards let Fr. Kolbe replace the man in the line of people to die by starvation. It took weeks before St. Maximilian Kolbe passed away, and as he died he is said to have great love and joy upon his face, singing praises until his last moments before dying by lethal injection. Looking back to the early times of St. Maximilian Kolbe’s life he had a vision of Our Lady holding two crowns – one white (purity of the priesthood) and one red (martyrdom). When given a choice, he took both crowns and accepted his life’s mission, living the love of Christ in all he did and sharing this with everyone he encountered.

St. Maximilian Kolbe’s story of martyrdom may seem extreme to many in their daily lives today – how can we all live out this radical love? While we may not all be called to martyrdom for the faith, we can live with a love on fire like Fr. Kolbe by not being indifferent when we see injustices in our world. When it comes to global and national human rights issues in our world, we must not be lukewarm but stand for the love that the Church is built upon – love for every human life, no matter where they are in the spectrum of life or what background they come from. As we grow to love others, they will learn the true teachings of Christ, for Christ is the ultimate teacher and the ultimate lover. When this task seems daunting, we may ask for the intercession of our Blessed Mother, someone that St. Maximilian Kolbe had a great devotion to – she will hear our prayers and stand with us, alongside Christ, as we live out the lives of Catholic discipleship in Jesus Christ. God bless you as you face times of speaking out, as you face times of injustice in your own life, and may the Holy Spirit give you the wisdom you need as you stand for all human life.

“For Jesus Christ, I am prepared to suffer still more.”
-St. Maximilian Kolbe

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Nathalie Shultz is a joyful convert to the Catholic faith and a competitive swimmer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  She loves to share her passion for Catholicism with others, including her conversion story and how God continues to work miracles in her life through her OCD. She is the Director of Religious Education for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative of parishes. Nathalie is married to her best friend, Tommy Shultz. Her favorite saints include St. Peter the Apostle, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II.  She is also a huge fan of C.S. Lewis. If you have any questions for Nathalie, or just want her to pray for you, you can email her at rodzinkaministry@gmail.com.

Be Transformed

While sitting down to write the reflection for today’s Gospel I was stuck on what to say. I have felt lukewarm in my faith lately, struggling to find the passion and fire that I typically have since converting to the Catholic faith. Life has been so crazy, but good, and I tend to lose track of all the things I need to be grateful for when I hit a slump in faith.

After reading the Gospel a few times I started to think about the word transfiguration. When I think of this word I think of being changed or transformed, and ultimately becoming the saints we are destined to become. We are called to be dazzling and pure with the Lord, and Christ has purchased for us the rewards that we may gain in eternal life. How can I not think of this and automatically be on my knees in thanksgiving?

If I am being honest, I think it is easier to live a life of lukewarm faith, going through the motions. It is harder to stand up for what is right, to live a life full of joy, and to trust God in all the ways He is transforming us. While struggling with depression and anxiety, it is easier for me to feel sorry for myself rather than reflect upon all of the blessings in my life. Anxiety is very debilitating and I pray for all those that carry this cross on a daily basis – be encouraged that with continual prayer and pursuit of Christ He will help us carry this cross on a daily basis, even when we don’t realize it. No matter your cross, ask yourself one question: how is God using this cross to make you more like Christ?

I believe that ultimately this is what God was speaking to me through today’s Gospel: we are all called to be transformed, and we have to go through the highs and lows of spiritual life in order to reach this transformation. We must experience all of these facets of the human experience so that we may more fully realize our call to live according to our original state in Creation and our identity in the Lord.  

Look to St. Teresa of Calcutta for inspiration: she experienced silence while praying to God for decades of her life, but she consistently chose joy and pursued Christ. She exercised virtue and good will in choosing the road that wasn’t easy, a road that was narrow, a road full of trials – ultimately this road led to sainthood and deep relationship with Christ.

Be strong, be brave, and be persistent. No matter how many times you are knocked down ask Christ to help you back up. He is always there and will always be there – all He desires is that we ask great things of Him and trust. Please know of my prayers for you as we all endure the daily struggle and grow in virtue as we choose Love over comfort.

“Joy is prayer; joy is strength; joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.” –St. Teresa of Calcutta

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Nathalie Shultz is a joyful convert to the Catholic faith and a competitive swimmer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  She loves to share her passion for Catholicism with others, including her conversion story and how God continues to work miracles in her life through her OCD. She is the Director of Religious Education for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative of parishes. Nathalie is married to her best friend, Tommy Shultz. Her favorite saints include St. Peter the Apostle, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II.  She is also a huge fan of C.S. Lewis. If you have any questions for Nathalie, or just want her to pray for you, you can email her at ignitedinchristnacc@gmail.com.

Where You Lead

“If we wish to follow Christ closely, we cannot choose an easy, quiet life.  It will be a demanding life, but full of joy.” –Pope Francis

Today’s Gospel reading quotes Christ saying, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39). Over the past few years I have had times of feeling like I am right where I belong, and other times I have felt completely out of sorts. There have been joys and their have been trials in life. Navigating the ups and downs of having an anxiety disorder, moving away from my hometown, and changing jobs multiple times have caused me great distress and ultimately increased my desire to follow Christ.

When we face the struggles of life it can be debilitating. Time and time again I have difficulty taking the trials that come my way in stride – I prefer to feel sorry for myself, be depressed, and ultimately feel hopeless. I don’t prefer this approach to trials because it feels good, but rather because it is easier. It is easier to feel bad for myself and feel as though I am being persecuted, and it is much harder to focus upon the positives in life and how God has blessed me along the journey of life thus far.

The road to Heaven is narrow. With the call to carry our cross and follow Christ we are automatically embracing the suffering that will come our way, because we will always face suffering in this life.  When we maintain our peace and trust in God’s promises we grow in relationship with Him through leaning on Him more and more. When we give up control, lose our life for the Kingdom, embrace the suffering, and go wherever Christ calls without reservation He will bless our endeavors beyond our wildest dreams – we belong to Him and we find our lives in Him.

“Pain and suffering have come into your life, but remember pain, sorrow, suffering are but the kiss of Jesus – a sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you.” –St. Teresa of Calcutta

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Nathalie Shultz is a joyful convert to the Catholic faith and a competitive swimmer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  She loves to share her passion for Catholicism with others, including her conversion story and how God continues to work miracles in her life through her OCD.  Nathalie is married to her best friend, Tommy Shultz. Her favorite saints include St. Peter the Apostle, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II. She is also a huge fan of C.S. Lewis. If you have any questions for Nathalie, or just want her to pray for you, you can email her at ignitedinchristnacc@gmail.com.

Belief in the Son

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. –C.S. Lewis

I often think about what it would be like to walk alongside Christ. What if he knocked on my door and asked to go for a walk, or what if He came into the house and sat on our couch? I wish that I could experience Him in the way that the apostles did while they spent time with Him before His ascension into Heaven, the way that the individuals encountered Him on the Road to Emmaus.

While I often imagine what these happenings would be like I am simultaneously wondering if I would truly believe Christ was physically present with me, would my heart be on fire due to His presence, or would I need proof of His presence by touching His side and wounds like St. Thomas the Apostle did?

St. Thomas said he would not believe Christ had appeared to the rest of the apostles unless he could see Christ’s wounds and put his hand into Christ’s side. How often do we doubt God’s presence and power in our own lives, wanting physical signs of God?  I tend to pray for signs, even though I know God does not want me to test Him – rather He wants me to trust with an open heart all of His promises. How do we let our soul ascent to the Heavens rather than let our hearts get stuck in the mud? The answer lies in the Sacraments that God has given us in the Church.

God knows that as humans we need our senses to be engaged so that we can be further drawn into the mysteries of our faith.  When you have trouble believing in God’s presence look to the sacraments. God gives us a physical sign of His love through the graces He provides in the sacraments instituted by Christ. While it takes a great leap of faith to believe in the sacraments, who God is, and all that the Church teaches we must remember that the road to Heaven is narrow and will ask great things of us. God sent His only Son to help us walk this narrow path with an open heart and faith in Christ’s promises. If we look to the life of Christ on earth we can be more assured than ever of the truth of who God really is: Shepherd, Bread of Life, the Lamb, and the Light.

No matter the trials we face in believing in God and all of His promises He walks gently beside us through our times of disbelief and doubt, desiring for us to reach out and ask for help when we have trouble trusting in His goodness.  The trials we face of unbelief help us to rely more upon our Lord, and ultimately the times we stumble make the triumphs in faith so much sweeter, increasing our strength on our faith journey towards sainthood.

“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe. –St. Augustine

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Nathalie Shultz is a joyful convert to the Catholic faith and a competitive swimmer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  She loves to share her passion for Catholicism with others, including her conversion story and how God continues to work miracles in her life through her OCD.  Nathalie is married to her best friend, Tommy Shultz. Her favorite saints include St. Peter the Apostle, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II. She is also a huge fan of C.S. Lewis. If you have any questions for Nathalie, or just want her to pray for you, you can email her at ignitedinchristnacc@gmail.com.

The Heart of Baptism

“What have I done with my baptism and confirmation? Is Christ really at the center of my life? Do I have time for prayer in my life? Do I live my life as a vocation and mission?”

– Pope St. John Paul II

I have always found water to be beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. One minute water can be still as glass and other times it chops and crashes against the shore. Some individuals will not step into open water, while others go swimming with sharks. I believe that water demands respect – you have to understand the elements and how they work together to impact the terrain ahead.

My great trust in the water started when I was 4, the point in time where I started to take swim lessons. I was that kid that would jump into the deep end with no fear, and so my parents wanted me to start lessons as soon as possible so that I developed an understanding of water. From these lessons, I grew stronger in the water and began swimming competitively. By the time I was 5, I started to compete in meets, and this continued for 14 years of my life. After a 9 year break from swimming, I am finally training again and competing in meets this weekend.

While I have a pretty strong comfort level in the water I still know not to underestimate its power (whether in a pool or open water). When it comes to open water settings the current and tides are major factors of how safe the water is. The weather also determines a good day for embarking on an open water journey.

Why do I keep going on about water? Well, today is the day in history that Pope St. John Paul II was baptized in Wadowice, Poland. One of the greatest saints of all time began his journey in Christ at this key moment in history, and his story is all of our stories.

When we receive God’s grace through baptism it may seem incidental to some. While we receive three drops of water in the name of the Trinity, so much is happening beyond what we can see at the moment. Our baptism signifies our joining the body of Christ, and when we join Christ on this adventure we welcome the calm and stormy seas of life – we say yes to all He wants to give us. More often than not we will be walking towards Christ upon the stormy sea, but the grace of our baptism demands that we follow Him no matter where He leads.

Our Lord is the ultimate Navigator of the waters, so much so that He can cast out demons, calm the storm, and heal the blind. He can move mountains, part the seas, and change water into wine. When we receive our baptism we embark on the seas of life that will test our faith to limits that we are unaware of in the present moment.  Do we call upon our baptismal graces in our times of doubt, fear, and hopelessness? Do we ask great things of God because He is God, and in turn expect great things to happen according to His will?

I remember being baptized when I was 21 – I was fully submerged three times in the name of the Trinity. This was a beautiful moment in my faith journey, and I admit that I didn’t understand everything that was happening within me at that moment. Looking back in time I can see the moments I called upon my baptismal promises so that I could navigate the seas of life through the various calls that God gave me – becoming Catholic, saying yes to marrying my amazing husband, and even moving to another city within the same week of getting married.

Times of consistency and times of conversion will continue to ebb and flow like a river in and out of our lives. How do we respond to these seasons? My desire is to give God my yes with all that He brings my way, trusting in the graces of my baptism and all of the sacraments. I challenge you to meditate upon the rivers of life that God has brought you through up to this point, including all of the turbulence and smooth currents. How have you responded to these times in your life – with fear, doubt, hope, or trust? How can you see your baptism and the promises God has made to you through these times in your life?

Now that I am swimming again in the pool I am learning to listen to my body and know my limits, while not being afraid to try new things. I pray that you learn from the past experiences God has brought you through and that you ultimately learn to trust Him when He asks you to stay away or enter into various waters – this is the Heart of Baptism. He is the ultimate Navigator – He will keep you safe wherever the waters may take you on your journey to Heaven and Sainthood.

“You cannot be half a saint. You must be a whole saint or no saint at all.” -St. Therese of Lisieux

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Nathalie Shultz is a joyful convert to the Catholic faith and a competitive swimmer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  She loves to share her passion for Catholicism with others, including her conversion story and how God continues to work miracles in her life through her OCD.  Nathalie is married to her best friend, Tommy Shultz. Her favorite saints include St. Peter the Apostle, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II. She is also a huge fan of C.S. Lewis. If you have any questions for Nathalie, or just want her to pray for you, you can email her at nshultz@diocesan.com.

The Joy of a Pup

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.’” – Luke 1:41-44

While reading this passage and praying through what God wanted me to receive from the verses the words above popped off the page at me. It is fascinating to imagine being in this scene with Mary and Elizabeth, witnessing baby John the Baptist leaping inside of Elizabeth’s womb. Mary walks into the house and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit.

Both of these events, that is, Elizabeth and John the Baptist’s reactions to Jesus in Mary’s womb, seem so miraculous and so out of touch in our times. The truth is that these happenings shouldn’t be at all abnormal, but rather these should be the norm for our lives in how we rejoice in the Lord – whenever we approach Jesus in the Eucharist and receive Him we should be filled with the Holy Spirit and leap for joy.

One thing that comes to mind when I think of being joyful is the excitement that our puppy shows when we come home from a day of work or errands. His name is Gizmo, and he has the sweetest little face, and he loves to lick as a way of showing affection. He will make a high squealing noise and jump for joy at the noise of his people turning the key in the back door. The joy and excitement that he exuberates, while animalistic in nature, ultimately demonstrates an innocence and love so strong that we can compare to our own lives and relationship with God. Do we praise Him joyfully, no matter the circumstances in our lives? Do our hearts leap for joy at the beauty and mystery of receiving our Lord in the Eucharist, or does this become a mundane routine that we participate in because it is what we have always done? Do we hold onto our joy in anticipation of the time when we will be fully united with Jesus?

In The Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux she often talks about Jesus’s thirst for souls, and how all He wants is to be with us no matter what. What if we approached each and every breath we are given in life with thanksgiving and joy to God? How many souls would be drawn to our joy as a beacon in this dark world? Putting aside all of the misfortune and hurt that we experience in our lives we can be comforted by one thing – our God is the same and always will be. He is Love, the Good Shepherd, and the Living Bread.

The peace of knowing God is constant is enough reason for us to leap for joy and be filled with the Holy Spirit, and He desires that we participate in His goodness with every heartbeat. Jesus gives us all of Himself in the Eucharist – I dare you to approach Him with a leaping heart of joy and be at peace with the Spirit He gives you as you receive Him. While we may not always be happy, as this is a fleeting emotion, joy is and can be a constant in our lives if we keep our eyes on Jesus, the source and summit of our Faith. I pray that we all live with a joyful heart of anticipation just like Elizabeth, John the Baptist, and even little Gizmo.

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Nathalie Shultz is a joyful convert to the Catholic faith and a competitive swimmer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  She loves to share her passion for Catholicism with others, including her conversion story and how God continues to work miracles in her life through her OCD.  Nathalie is married to her best friend, Tommy Shultz. Her favorite saints include St. Peter the Apostle, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II. She is also a huge fan of C.S. Lewis. If you have any questions for Nathalie, or just want her to pray for you, you can email her at nshultz@diocesan.com.