Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sin, Shame and Repentance

I majored in religious studies in college. As a part of my major, I took a class called Living Religions of the East. I wasn't looking forward to the class, as my specialization was in Judaism and Early Christian traditions, but it turned out to be my favorite class in college.

One of the topics that we discussed was the concept of shame in Asian cultures. The first thing the professor told us was that shame in Asia was traditionally viewed in a very different way than shame is viewed in the West. Shame in Asia has played a pivotal role in maintaining family respect. Shame in the United States is a very personal thing.

I found this lecture to be very interesting, partially because we discussed the apparent lack of shame in our modern Western culture. It's not always that we don't feel shame, but we shy away from expressing it, even to ourselves.

Shame can be a good thing, however. It's a way to remind ourselves that we are humans, and thus, sinners. We need God to help us break free from our sins, and shame is one of the tools He uses to remind us of this fact. Because the truth is we can't do it alone. We can't achieve greatness on our own. We can't master sin on our own. When we confess our sins to God and seek his forgiveness, we aren't just confessing the sins we have committed, we are also asking God for his help in the future, that we can overcome the temptation to sin again. That's part of the beauty of the Act of Contrition. Below are three different versions of the Act of Contrition, but include one of the same points: We need help. We can't do it on our own.

Three Versions of the Act of Contrition (emphasis mine)

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.


My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy.


O my God, I am sorry for my sins because I have offended you. I know I should love you above all things. Help me to do penance, to do better, and to avoid anything that might lead me to sin. Amen.

Prayers from

If shame leads us to repentance, and reconciliation with God, I think we should value it more. If we always feel good about everything we do, we probably aren't doing a good job of examining our lives, or striving to improve. 

Confessing isn't a path to punishment- it's a path to peace. It allows us to offer to God our shortcomings and failures in exchange for His grace and forgiveness. 

Then I declared my sin to you; my guilt I did not hide. I said, "I confess my faults to the LORD," and you took away the guilt of my sin.              -Psalm 32:10

I don't know about you, but that seems like a pretty good trade to me.

~Have a blessed day!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Book Review- Unplanned by Abby Johnson

I've been reading a lot this summer. One of the best parts of teaching is that, while I am ridiculously busy during the school year, I have time in the summer to gear up for the next school year. I haven't gotten much actual school work done yet, but the summer is giving me time to think about issues I've been ignoring for awhile. In an effort to grow this summer, I'm trying to read at least one serious book every week. I have a number of books I want to post about, but this first one has had a profound impact on the way I am think about abortion. I didn't agree with everything the author wrote, but the book made me stop and think.

First, a little back story on my journey to becoming pro-life. I wasn't pro-life until I really started to do some research. It always made a lot of sense to me that a woman should be able to choose what to do with her body. But I forgot that, baring rape, the woman did make a choice- a choice to have sex when she wasn't ready to be a mother.

Over the last fifty years, we've decided as a culture that babies are not a consequence of sex. That's not something we get to choose. Pregnancy is a consequence of sex. That doesn't mean that every woman who gets pregnant should be a mother, which is why adoption is a wonderful choice, for the woman who recognizes that she is not in a good position to raise a child, the adoptive parents and, most importantly, the child. All children deserve to have parents who can love them without resentment. I've always thought this, which is part of the reason abortion, on some level, made sense to me. Not for myself, but that it should be available. I know that we care so much for the life of the baby that we don't want him or her to suffer in life.

Where my heart changed, however, is when I realized that abortion is far too late to be making that decision. The struggle over whether or not allow late term abortion and sex selective abortion point to the problems we have created for ourselves by deciding that the life growing inside the mother is a fetus rather than a child. When does it cease being a fetus? When it is born? (fullterm) When the pregnancy is viable? (24 weeks) When it can grip things? (21 weeks) When it has fingers? (9 weeks) When it has a heartbeat? (5-6 weeks) These questions are where we struggle. Where do we draw the lines. The only answer, for me, was to go back to the original understanding that the child's life begins at conception.

Unplanned was written by Abby Johnson. Johnson volunteered at, then worked at, and eventually directed a Planned Parenthood in Texas for eight years prior to witnessing an ultrasound-guided abortion. Watching this  horrified her and launched a deep conversion in her heart. She left Planned Parenthood and over the course of the next few months joined the Coalition for Life, a pro-life group.

What struck me most about Johnson's story is that she seemed a lot like me. She was "pro-choice" because the rhetoric of the abortion industry made sense. It's not fair that children are born to parents that don't want them and abortion can "fix" this problem. It's not really a baby until it's born. Abortion can help woman who has been sexually abused or raped move on and recover. What the abortion industry neglects to tell us is that abortion doesn't fix any of these problems. It does nothing to help unwanted children, rather it silences these children before they can cry out for help. It doesn't help an abused woman to heal and recover, instead many of these women miss out on the healing that can come from an adoption and are instead left depressed, with physical pain and emotional scars.

Johnson's story of conversion is powerful and offers hope that we can change the future, if we can open our eyes to the damage caused by the abortion industry. The book contains a very graphic scene when describing the abortion Johnson witnessed. This event changed her life- and her account certainly has helped me to examine mine. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants the inside story or the human story of the Planned Parenthood operation. Johnson emphasizes that there are kind and caring people on both sides of the argument and that we can never lose faith that God is always working in people's hearts. Conversion is a radical experience- are you ready to dive in?

~Have a blessed day!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

I'm Diving In

"Dive" by Stephen Curtis Chapman has been a favorite song of mine for awhile. The message of the song is, quite simply, that we have to take a leap of faith in order to truly have a relationship with our Savior. As my friends and family have pointed out for years, I am a deeply rational person. I am also a person who, when I accept something to be true, know it to be entirely true. This led me to a crisis of faith several years ago when my father died suddenly in November of 2009.

I had been struggling with some faith issues prior to his passing, but when he died I chose to ignore, rather than pursue my faith life. I didn't deny that God was there, but I could not rationalize the idea that the Creator who I loved had chosen to take my dad away from me. I still prayed, but never about the problems I was experiencing in my own life. I put my life on autopilot for the next several years, as I graduated from college, moved back home and began my career. I believed it was better not to care than to risk being hurt again. Fast forward until this March. I was struggling at work and afraid that the path I had chosen for myself years ago might not be the right path for me. Something had to change. 

I did something I never thought that I would do. I joined a Catholic dating website. I never thought that this would help me to grow in my faith, but I had become one of the lukewarm Catholics that high school me would have scoffed at, attending mass every week, but not truly participating. Suddenly, I was being exposed to a group of young Catholics who had very strong relationships with God. I wanted that again. 

As I perused the forums on the site, I came across the Theology of the Body. While I may have heard the phrase in college, I had never studied the topic. I found it fascinating. I had never realized before how much the Catholic Church respected women. We are valued in the Church not because we are "equal to men", but because we are inherently different. We see the world differently, and we bring our own strengths to the world.

At this point, I still had yet to do the obvious thing- pray to God about the emotional struggle I had been dealing with over the past few years. After a celebration of the Seder meal during the religious education class I was teaching, God answered my prayers before I was even ready to ask for help. As I came out to my car, I felt a sense of peace wash over me. I knew that everything would be alright. At that moment I thanked God for the gift he had given me and asked Him to help me stay beside Him. I went to see one of my friends and told her I truly believed again. 

I began reading Catholic blogs and books by Catholic authors. I am uncovering new things about my faith everyday. But I'm finally taking a leap of faith and diving in. I plan on using my blog to reflect on the amazing things God is teaching me about Him, His grace and salvation.

~Have a blessed day!