Growing Up

Today is my birthday and I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to wish for when I blow out my candles. I began to run through the list of things I wanted but realized that there’s not much on that list that couldn’t be bought on my next grocery store trip. I try to run through the list of things I need but I already have a family that loves me, a job at which I feel fulfilled, and more physical possessions than I can shove into the closet when guests come over. God has blessed me with all of this and so much more.

This year, instead of trying to come up with which physical possessions I want or what basic and psychological needs I have, I began making a list of things I want out of life over the next year, goals for myself. Things I want to achieve, hobbies I want to explore, and how I want to see myself grow. 

As I turn the ripe, old age of 25 (ha!), I am understanding that material wants aren’t going to satisfy me. Nope. Instead, my satisfaction and joy will come from meaningful relationships, personal growth and spiritual growth. 

My relationship with my boyfriend gives me the support and encouragement I need to take new risks and know that it’s okay to be scared. My deepening relationship with my parents has proven that it’s okay to make mistakes and there is always forgiveness to be given. My ever-growing, ever-changing relationship with my siblings and friends remind me of the person I am and reflect the kind of person I want to become. My relationship with my Heavenly Father will help me to better understand this crazy world that we live in and reminds me of what my ultimate goal is. 

Catholic speaker Mary Bielski said that we must define ourselves by our relationship to God, not by our jobs and possessions. The world tells us that since we do a certain job and have certain possessions, then we can figure out who we are and where our place is in the world. What we should be telling ourselves is that we are God’s, which means that we have already been given not just this life, but the next, and we can do anything through God.

This shift in thinking has reminded me that today, my birthday, is a reminder of the life that I have been given by God. Knowing that my heart belongs to God means that I can appreciate the people in my life rather than being upset about the excess and the nonsense. I can see who I am through the eyes of God rather than through the lens of society. My flaws are loved, my sins are forgiven, my heart is nurtured, and my love is guided. 

I could ask you to examine your relationship with God and others, but as I celebrate my birthday, I just feel so happy and blessed. I want to share this encompassing joy with you through our short Gospel reading of today:

I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
(Matthew 11:25-26)

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Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.

He Desires Mercy

A couple of weeks ago, I shared my story of a homeless man asking for change and how I was embarrassed for wanting to give him less than a dollar. I thought I was golden for having realized that I need to be more generous. Apparently, I thought I had learned my lesson in generosity and was ready to move onto the next fruit of the Spirit. 

Today’s Gospel reminds me that just because I sacrificed my money, that does not mean that I am done. I am not 100 percent generous and holy and ready to move on. Instead, he is asking me to take a step deeper into true stewardship and community. 

Being generous is not quite the same thing as doing God’s work. There is more to helping people around you than just words and physical gifts. My friend in college used to say that “Anyone can give money, but not everyone actually gives a hoot.”

Jesus says something similar when he tells us, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” We are to look at the people around us, the lost, the poor, the weak, the people we call “other,” and see them as the children of God that they are.  Maybe I’m on Facebook more often or maybe I am becoming more socially aware, but I see such a lack of mercy in our culture, in the nation that I truly love and celebrated yesterday. 

I see animosity on social media rather than two sides learning from one another. I see people selfishly fighting each other instead of selflessly fighting for change. What’s worse is that I see people’s blatant disregard for human life just because they are born in another country, born into a different culture, born in another time period, or just simply unborn. 

I want to know where the mercy is because, for a great nation that came into existence by immigration, all I see is a self-serving sacrifice. Our God does not want a flippant sacrifice. He expects something much more complex and often more difficult for us. He desires mercy

The Lord wants, deeply desires, for us to be compassionate and practice forgiveness. He desires for us to let go of our anger and forgive people for being different than us, even though they may not know American customs, do not acknowledge the sanctity of life, and even if they do not know or believe in God. Our Father wants us to come from a place of wanting better for the people you disagree with, wanting for them to know the truth with love, not vindictively.

Today, I ask you to consider the things you read in the media and try to understand the people in the stories,  rather than only seeing the political issues. Focus on the people and what they must be going through. Consider the risks they are taking and the pain that they are in. See that the trouble that they find themselves in were never their first choice. 

In your heart, you’ll know that the choices they’ve made, right or wrong, good or bad, were not easy. 

Gracious and Loving God,
Help us in this time of great suffering,
That we may look upon those suffering with the love you have shown us.
Grant us your patience to be silent and listen when we think we are right.
Grant us your love to pour forth on those that do not know you.
Grant us your strength to have mercy for those that need it the most.
We are not done learning from each other and we are never done learning from You, O Lord.
May the Holy Spirit, our guide, lead us toward compassion.
May Jesus Christ, who forgave his murderers, teach us forgiveness.

Amen.

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Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.

Called Out

Y’all, after going over today’s readings, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more called out in my life.

Yesterday, I was backing out of a parking space of my church when a homeless man approached me. He offered to wash my windshield or tire rims for “whatever change [I] have lying around.” This man didn’t ask for dollars, just my loose change. I said that I didn’t need anything cleaned since it had just rained and was going to rain again later, but I could give him some money anyway. I looked at my change container and literally thought, I have probably three dollars in change here. I don’t want to give away my quarters. I think I have a one dollar bill in my wallet, so I’ll do that instead.

I know, I know. That’s awful. I didn’t even want to share this story with anyone because even as I type this, I feel so embarrassed and ashamed of myself for even thinking that.

How ungrateful am I that I don’t want to part with my precious quarters even though this man asked for enough to just buy a burger from McDonald’s? Instead of wanting to give him more than he asked, I wanted to round out his 87 cents so he could just barely get himself a single burger off the dollar menu.  

Well, the joke was on me. I looked in my wallet and all I had was a ten dollar bill.

When I handed it over to the man, his eyes lit up and he almost started crying. He even asked if I came to this church often because he wanted to wash my windshield for me anytime he saw my car to repay me. Of course, once I saw his face, I was glad I gave him more than a dollar or two.

Still, though, this morning, I was sad that I couldn’t buy breakfast because I didn’t have that ten dollar bill. I even called my boyfriend to complain because I didn’t have the cash to buy food. So imagine how I feel when the first reading says, “God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.” Not only does it say that, but it even says that “he gives to the poor.” Oh, you know, like I reluctantly did last night?

As my friend said, it was a 2×4 from God whacking me on the head. As if God saw me regretting being generous and wanted to let me know with very pointed scripture that He’s “not mad, just disappointed” in me. And we all know that is WAY worse.

So I hope y’all are able to learn from my selfish mistake. Remember that not only is God always watching, but he knows your thoughts and intentions. He does not bless us so that we can be selfish and see the poor as a burden or annoyance. Yes, God wants us to live well and succeed, but he provides so that we can share our gifts, monetary or spiritual, with others without feeling like we’re obligated to. It’s the difference between having a generous attitude and a “holier than thou” attitude.

If you find yourself struggling with this, read this prayer by St. Ignatius, these prayers, or even this one, if you’ve got the time. 

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Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.

Losing Control

Last weekend, I was driving on the highway when a single line of a random, shuffled playlist song caught my attention. The female voice sang, “Yes, I know I’ve lost what you call control, but control isn’t real and you never had it.” As a recovering control freak and a chronic overthinker, I found this concept very interesting.

Growing up, I often struggled with the idea that I was in control of everything in my life. So, when things went wrong, I was the only one I would blame. While it gave me an aptitude for creating pretty intense spreadsheets and impressive lists, it was also incredibly frustrating and disheartening.

A couple of years ago, I was finally able to realize that everything that I am given and am able to give to others comes from God. I needed to “let go and let God.”

So there I am, driving to see my boyfriend because I need to decompress, and I realize exactly why I have been so stressed out. I’m trying to control everything again! I need to remember that the concept of having complete control is a terrible joke that I’m using to abuse myself. Yes, I can control my own actions, but even then, there is not a 100% guarantee that everything will work out according to my plan.

Through the voice of a female vocalist of a pop-punk band, God was reminding me that I should be following Him, wherever He should lead me. Today, we are all reminded of this. The Gospel reading today finds Jesus asking Simon Peter three times if Simon Peter loves Him. Each time, he says yes. Finally, Jesus tells him that when Simon Peter was younger, he did what he wanted and made his own decisions. As he grows older, things will change. He won’t always be in control and he needed to know that by loving Jesus he was agreeing to surrender.

Still, it wasn’t a trap. It was Jesus asking Simon Peter if he was willing to relinquish his control, something we pretend is real and never really had, and give it to God.

In my life, Jesus has asked me repeatedly and I’m so glad he does. I said, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you,” the first time I released my white-knuckled grip on my attempt at controlling everything. This last weekend was another time Jesus has asked, “Do you love me,” in a way that really means, “Do you trust me?” I’m saying yes, again.

So while I’ve lost what you call control, I remember that control isn’t real, God’s plan is. I never had control, so I let it go. Now I have faith.

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Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.


Joy

When I was in elementary school, I was a part of a Catholic small group called K4J, otherwise known as Kids for Jesus. Each meeting, we would go through a specific virtue or spiritual gift’s presence in our lives, with an activity to go along with a discussion. Although I struggled to remember exactly what we did in those meetings, I distinctly remember the day we discussed how to find joy.

Our leader, Mrs. Pelletier, read us the same lines that we read in today’s Gospel. Then, we went on to discuss the difference between having joy and being happy. Even as fourth graders, we determined that happiness is caused by an outside stimulus and is temporary, while joy is something that you carry in your heart and could always respond with.

She told us that the key to joy, was to always think about people in the following order:

Jesus
Others
Yourself

If you are honestly and truly putting Jesus first then putting others before yourself will come naturally. When you put yourself last, you are able to understand that you are not the center of the world. You can suddenly see that although things may not be going according to your plan, God’s plan is being accomplished.

It’s been over 15 years and anytime someone talks about being happy, I always think, It’s not about being happy, it’s about living joyfully. We have all been happy before. It puts us in a good mood and we tend to act nicer to those around us. We have all experienced joy, as well. It lasts longer than momentary happiness, but can also fade if we do not internalize it.

Internalizing joy means that we allow the joys of life, of love, and of God, to permeate our lives. It’s living life with a brighter, selfless perspective. Living out joyful lives does not mean that everything is always perfect, but instead knowing that although our situations are not the best, although we are flawed, we are God’s creation and each moment, good or bad, is a blessing.

Today, I challenge you to take a look at your intentions. Do you need to unscramble JOY?

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Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.


Foundations

As humans, we like to categorize everything we can, right down to our life stages. There are the categories of childhood and adulthood, but even within these two categories, we break them down even further. For adults, there’s young adulthood, B.C. (before children), parenthood, A.C. (after children), retirement, etc. We prefer to have clear-cut lines of when things start and end, and how to differentiate between them.

Quite often, we forget that each “part” of our lives is not a separate book that we close after graduations or milestones, but rather a chapter in our book. Each second of our future builds upon the present, which becomes our past. It is nearly impossible to look at our current situations and not be able to trace the chain of events of how we got there. Be it by gifts from God or decisions we carefully thought out, our past is always with us. It is the foundation that we build ourselves upon, yet we often find ourselves trying to forget the past.

In today’s first reading, we read of the synagogue officials in Antioch asking if anyone has any announcements. Paul stands up and begins speaking to them of God’s mighty hand in their past and goes on to tell them about Jesus, the savior.

Sometimes we can blow our past way out of proportion and tell ourselves that we must forget about our previous experiences to be able to move forward. Instead, I think we should remember that our past has built us up. It is not the mistakes that we’ve made in the past that defines us, but rather what we do after that.

I understand that we might have moments in our past that we aren’t proud of, things that may be hard to revisit, but typically those mistakes and struggles have changed who we presently are. The more mistakes we make, the more we learn so that we don’t make the same mistakes in the future. Even if we do make those same mistakes, that’s okay. We’re learning. As children, we don’t fall off a bike and say, “Well that was a mistake. I’ll never try that again,” but instead try once more.

When you fall, what do you do? Are you ashamed of your past or do you use it as the foundation for better choices?

Dear Lord,
Thank you for the struggles that you have placed in my life.
Help me remember that each mistake I made was for a reason.
Thank you for giving me these moments to learn from.
Help me use these experiences to better serve You and Your people.
Thank you for showing mercy towards my sins.
Help me forgive myself and remove the burden of sin.

Amen.

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Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.


It’s Never Enough

Nearly three years ago, I was preparing to go to my first World Youth Day pilgrimage. I was excited but saw it more as a vacation than anything. At that point, I had begun losing faith and was bargaining with God. My hope was that while I was in Krakow, Poland, I would feel God’s presence and that would mean that He existed. While packing, I remember thinking that if I didn’t feel it, then that was that; I wouldn’t believe anymore.

Once I got to Poland, I was surrounded by Catholics and people that wanted nothing more than to share the love of God with me. Sure, we had to stand in lines everywhere we went, but it gave us the chance to talk to people about their lives, culture, and faith. At each event, there was always the comforting wave of people singing Ave Maria in multiple languages, their voices rising in unison. The Holy Spirit was all around me, affecting the hearts and minds of us all.

Still…I hadn’t heard the voice of God directly, so I was upset. At every church and every chapel, I found myself praying and begging for a sign until I was in tears. I just wanted to know that He existed, to know that He loved me, but I wanted to physically hear or see it.

It’s so crazy because I look back at that 10-day pilgrimage and wonder how I could have been so blind. I mean if three million Catholics traveling from all over the world, all believing in a God that we cannot see, touch, or hear, wasn’t enough for me to validate God, nothing would ever be enough. How could I ask the world of God when He had already given it to me?

While reading today’s Gospel, Jesus’ words made me think of that summer. “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26). The disciples were searching for Jesus because of the huge, physical miracle that He had just done, not because of everything else that they had witnessed or heard him say.

Similarly, at World Youth Day, I was ignoring all of the signs and waiting for an earth-shattering miracle. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks after World Youth Day that I was finally open to seeing the ordinary things around me as signs from God. It was at that point that I had the hindsight to realize that I was given a hundred signs in Krakow, I simply chose to disregard them.

Too often, we are given glorious signs, but they just aren’t enough. We feel the tug in our hearts, but we tell ourselves it’s just a feeling. We see the tiny miracles changing lives every day, yet do not believe.

While we may pray to God all the time, we often forget to listen to his response. Allow yourself to believe in the miracles that God does in our daily lives. Believe in the little signs that are sprinkled throughout your life. Recognize the tug in your heart as the Holy Spirit trying to show you the right path.

Click here for tips on how to hear God’s voice in your life.

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Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.


Be Better

We are in the middle of Holy Week, people! Less than a week until Easter! Less than a week until we commemorate the greatest gift of all! Is your soul refreshed? Are your hopes and desires getting you a step closer to heaven? Can you feel the deep waves of forgiveness pulling you into God’s great ocean of peace?  

If your answer is without a doubt yes, then please, do tell me your secrets. I feel like I have done my best to be prepared for the memorial of Jesus’ resurrection, but I wouldn’t say that I’m 100 percent heaven-ready. Luckily, God understands that we are not perfect by default and has given us the Bible as a tool to use.

As I read over today’s first reading, it sounds like just the kind of quick guide that I need. I have a tongue, so I should speak to the weary. I have ears, so I should listen to the true word of Christ. My body, though beaten by people that make fun of me and scoff at my beliefs, has the Lord God at my side to hold me up. Going into the responsorial Psalm, we ask, “Lord, in your great love, answer me,” as we admit to being weak, picked on, an outcast, insulted. We praise him because we are thankful, but our thanks must go further than just words. It should be evident in our actions.

As Catholics, we must understand that we will always have more to strive for. Our God challenges us in everyday situations to step up and live out our faith, whether it is with the people around us or in our own hearts. Instead of seeing our faith as a burden or as an annoyance (because sometimes we do), we should instead see it as an opportunity to become a better person. Instead of trying to please our critics, society, or our parents, we should try to become someone our heavenly Father would be proud of.

So if your Lent didn’t go as planned, know that it’s okay because it is a journey. As you attend each Mass this Holy Week, ask God for what you need. Ask Him to bless your body with the skills and strengths you need. He wants you to succeed and is willing to give you the tools because He wants nothing more than to be in communion with Him in heaven. It is a simple matter of who you want to be and if you are willing to work on it. Do you want to be better? Will you allow your Lenten sacrifice to carry on after Sunday and continue to bring you closer to God? Or will you allow Jesus’ Lenten sacrifice be for nothing?

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Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.


Be Strong and Vulnerable

This past week, I received some emails from readers that thanked me for sharing with y’all. I thanked them kindly and kind of brushed it off at first, but as I got a couple more, I realized just how powerful sharing our own stories can be. It’s one thing to read about something in a book that was written thousands of years ago, and something entirely different to hear your friends, your colleagues, your children, share their little miracle. Still, as powerful as our own stories can be, we can be reluctant to share them with others.

A year ago, I wrote a blog post that was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever written. I shared with you all the fact that I’ve been diagnosed with depression and anxiety, something that I had only shared with a handful of family members and friends. I ended up sharing it, knowing full well that my coworkers and family would read it after having a conversation with my friend, Susie.

I talked to Susie about my reservations. I didn’t want to be seen as “that person,” especially since I’d only been at Diocesan for a few months. I wasn’t sure I wanted my aunts and uncles to know this about me. How would my parents feel, knowing others knew? Would my siblings be ashamed of me?

Susie told me that my embarrassment and fear was just the devil’s tools to keep me down. He was playing on my pride and my anxieties, making me feel unloved and unworthy. My coworkers would understand. My aunts and uncles would be happy to hear that I’m doing better and working on it. My parents would love me and know my pains. My siblings would support me. More importantly, she reminded me of why I write for the blog: to bring people to God.

I was still nervous, but I knew that God had given me the gift of writing and the gift of being able to rest in Him. I submitted the blog post.

Once the blog post was published, I realized how true her words were. It didn’t hurt my relationships or even my ego. Just like Susie said, everyone was supportive of me. My coworkers and readers appreciate my honesty. You all either sympathize or empathize with me. My parents and siblings were proud of my strength and faith in God’s plan.

The times where I find myself the most anxious occur when I consider just being vulnerable with people. Allowing them to see your struggles and weaknesses. On my journey, I was depressed and wanted to die, and it’s hard to admit that I had even gotten there. Yet, that dark place is one that so many share, thinking that they are all alone.

It was that same dark place that gave me the opportunity to see God’s glorious light and ask how I could serve Him, rather than myself.

That’s why I share this, and all of my struggles, with you.

How is the devil keeping us down and subservient to our pride? How are we letting our ego get in the way of helping others? Is it keeping us from being honest with even our loved ones? Pray with me, for yourself and others:

Oh, heavenly Father,
You have watched us grow and know the true contents of our hearts.
Help us to resist Satan’s quiet temptations.
Remind us to experience your love and acceptance.
Guide us towards honesty and gift of self.
Lend us your strength to rise above our pride.
Grant us the peace to share your saving grace with others.
Amen.

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Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.


Do You Want to be Well?

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus asks a man who has been ill for 38 years if he wants to be well. Your initial reaction to this might be, “Well, obviously. Who doesn’t want to be healed?” And you’re right. It does sound obvious. Still, when it comes to illnesses that are of the mind rather than the body, it can be a more difficult decision.

I tell myself that if Jesus came up to me right now and asked if I wanted to be well, I would say, “Yes, Lord, take away my worries.” It sounds so easy. To just sigh a sigh of relief and say, “God, Jesus, Holy Ghost, take my troubles away so that I may feel at peace with any issues that I may have now and forever. I’ve waited for so long for you to ask me. Just take it all away.”

The funny thing is… He’s already doing that. Jesus has already offered us the gift of peace and hope, we just choose not to take it. Or, at least, I choose not to take it. Why? Why am I fighting so hard against the love that He is trying to give me? Why am I fighting against the peace that he is so ready and willing to give me?

In my Lenten small group last week, we discussed some reasons that we may be so hard on ourselves and forgo God’s peace. Are we skeptical that God could do it?  Is it because we think we need to do everything by ourselves? Is our upbringing or society at fault? It sure isn’t God holding us back, because He knows our hearts and wants nothing more than for us to place our trust in Him.

I know that accepting Our Father’s love can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean that he stops offering it. Instead, he is patiently waiting for us to come to Him. He can wait. He knows when we are ready and want to be well, that we can come to Him.

So, today I want to remind you to be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself. Be sympathetic towards your own situation. Remember that God’s peace is always offered.

Breathe in.
Breathe out.
“Yes, Lord, I want to be well.”

 

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Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.


Faith Bubble

I was brought up in a typical Catholic home. My grandparents were Catholic, all my cousins were Catholic, my mother has been a catechist for 12 years, my father is a Grand Knight in the Knights of Columbus, and my siblings and I were always very involved in our Faith Formation program. Even now, as I work at a Catholic company there are plenty of times that I took my knowledge and faith for granted.

When you’re surrounded by your faith, it’s hard to remember that there are people with no sense of true peace in their lives. You get comfortable and don’t think about the people that don’t know God or don’t like the God that society has portrayed.

It’s easy to tell yourself that someone else has told them about God and believe that they’ve already decided that it’s not for them. We don’t know their background and we don’t want to be rejected or made fun of, so we say it is someone else’s problem.

It wasn’t until I was talking to my boyfriend last year that I realized that he didn’t know what Easter was even about. He shyly asked me what Easter was all about and I laughed. He was so confused as to why Catholics chose to celebrate the death of Jesus. It wasn’t until I explained that we didn’t celebrate his death, but his resurrection, that he learned that Jesus rose from the dead.

This was after a year and a half of us dating.

I felt terrible! How could I call myself a Catholic, say that I proclaim the glory of God, and yet my boyfriend had no idea what my whole religion was founded on? How many times had I just assumed that he knew? How many times had I assumed that everyone around me knew?

As embarrassed as I am, I’m glad I had this experience. It reminded me that living in a bubble is too easy to dismiss. You can surround yourself by Catholics and tell yourself that everyone else’s faith isn’t your problem, but that’s false. It is our responsibility as the people of God to do just that: Evangelize.

Lent is the perfect time to ease into it. With ashes on our foreheads, fasting, and abstaining from meat, the conversation has already been started for us. It now becomes a matter of us choosing to say, “Oh, I’m Catholic,” or doing our research so we can tell people our reasons for fasting. Tell them why we get ashes. Tell them the story of Jesus Christ’s resurrection.

As silly as it may seem to you, they may not know. Don’t get too comfortable in your faith bubble, because that is not what we are asked to do. Paraphrasing Pope Francis, we were not made for comfort. We were made for greatness.

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Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.


Community

Last week, I joined a Lenten small group. There’s only five of us and we’re reading “Give Up Worry for Lent! 40 Days to Finding Peace in Christ” by Gary Zimak. As someone with anxiety, this small group was simultaneously calling out to me and scaring me away. What better time than Lent to work on my faithful solution to my anxiety?

At the same time, the thought of a small group was uncomfortable enough without having to talk about our struggles. I couldn’t be alone. I mean, a small group where worriers have to talk about their worries? Hilariously, I just imagined a group of us, sitting there, too much in our heads to actually talk out loud.

The reality of the small group was actually extremely comforting. I was finally surrounded by people that understood what I was going through. I know I am not alone, but sometimes it can feel that way. My loved ones try to understand what I am going through, but they can’t always put themselves in my shoes. You can’t fully understand the illogical feelings of depression and anxiety if you don’t have it.

But these people, these four others that also had the courage to say yes to a small group? They understood.

One of the questions we discussed was what we do when we’re worrying and how we cope with worrying. Personally, when I feel worried about something, I just focus on something else. Sounds great in theory, but in reality, it just means that we find ourselves focusing on anything but the actual issues in our lives, both big and small.

However, this group wasn’t all about agreeing with each other on how to avoid life. It’s about living a spiritually worry-free life through Christ. This meant that we shared how we coped with our worries and how our faith helps us. For example, in college, I found that talking to myself helped me put things into perspective and work through things. Now I talk to God in an out-loud conversation. I know that he is listening and is planting small seeds of confidence and trust while I talk to myself.

One of my peers also told me about how they talk with the people that they are close to. I find it hard to do so in fear of being judged and rejected, but she went on to say that the conversations with loved ones have been the most calming and fulfilling. This weekend, I tried having that conversation with a loved one and she was right. The people that surround me are there because God handpicked them as my family and friends. They have the same beliefs as me and only want the best for me.

This experience made me realize that although I have found a way to use God’s strength instead of my own, I still have trouble asking others (humans) for help. But God did not put me in a bubble. He put me in a community. As Catholics, we are a part of a community of faith, meant to help each other through the hard times that we cannot handle ourselves. Do you rely on your community of faith? Do you help others?

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Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.