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Love is Hard

Ever since I was a little kid, I've felt the need to pray for others and do whatever I could to help them on their way to heaven. I distinctly remember my mom teaching us a prayer in Portuguese that is similar to the prayer said by many children all over the US:
Portuguese Version
Nesta cama me deito
para dormir e descansar.
Se vier a morte para me levar,
apego-me aos cravos,
abraço-me à cruz
e entrego a minha alma
ao Menino Jesus.

My Translation (not the best I am sure)
In this bed where I lay
To sleep and to rest
If death should come to take me
Clinging to carnations
I will embrace(hug) the cross
And give my soul
To the Boy Jesus (baby Jesus)

I learned this prayer by heart and would repeat it every night. However, one night I realized that I was only praying for myself and got worried that there were others out there with no one to pray for them. I imagined that some forgot to pray or that others, on the verge of death, had been unable to pray. Being a child who believed in God's generosity, I decided to kill two birds with one stone by switching all the singular first person words to the plural version. In essence, I was smart enough to turn my prayer into a prayer for myself as well as a prayer for others....without having to add on any more prayers. Looking back, I know this is a bit lazy...but I had the best intentions in mind. 

Little did I know that this habit would carry into many other parts of my life. I find myself praying for the people in China, North Korea, and other regions of the world who are not yet permitted to know God due to an anti-religious government. I pray for the souls of even the most hardened individuals out there, knowing that my efforts would be scorned if word ever got out that I was praying for them. I pray for the unborn. I pray for the souls in purgatory. I pray for the homeless. I pray for people that I struggle to like, and that includes the annoying tourists that have the tendency to stop in the middle of the sidewalk (as you are trying to rush to the next train) and take pictures of (you guessed it) another tall building.

The way I see it...we need all the help we can get. I was fortunate enough to receive enough grace for an inner conversion. The more I look back, the more I realize that even in my worst moments, I remained open to the possibility of grace. I may have not been the best Catholic back in the day, but I always believed that I could change to better serve and live for God. However, not everyone is like this and the way I see it, God can only work through us if we are open to Him. There are some out there who would turn God away even if He appeared right before their eyes. They would either be unable to recognize Him or unwilling to invite Him into their lives. God is omnipotent, but He does not violate our gift of free will. This gives us a great power over our lives, but it also makes us more able to reject Him if we wished. It makes it easier for us to shut ourselves away from Him. (On the other hand, it gives us the opportunity to love God authentically of our free will, and this is a very beautiful thing.)

God cannot give us His grace if we refuse it. However, I do not believe there are too many people out there who truly want to refuse God's grace. There are some out there who are currently locking themselves up in their room, refusing to deal with God right now. There are some out there who have their fingers in their ears and are trying their hardest to tune Him out. There are even some out there who have decided to run away from home in order to seek a god out of some kind of addiction, infatuation, etc. that gives them instant gratification. However, I am pretty sure that only the souls in hell have truly and irrevocably abandoned God. I have read that our guardian angels do not abandon us in this life and that they will remain with us and speak on our behalf during our judgment. If we are condemned to Hell, they will only leave us as we enter Hell. This is the only point where they ever give up on us.

However, our guardian angels are only part of the story. We are also meant to help each other in our journey to heaven. I think a part of me understood even when I was a child. Mothers and fathers must do all in their power to ensure that their children make it to heaven. Wives must help their husbands make it to heaven and husbands must help their wives make it to heaven. Based on what I have learned since my fiance and I started making serious steps towards marriage, we are to live our married life selflessly and in a manner that will help the other person attain heaven. This, in some ways, is difficult when you factor in chastity (both pre- and post-marriage), imperfections, and all kinds of friction that is bound to occur in a marriage.

When talking to a priest mentor about my oncoming marriage and previous considerations on religious life, I was told that getting married is, in some ways, no different than entering religious life. Women entering religious life are married to Christ because they know him in a certain way. Women who enter the sacrament of marriage are, in a sense, learning to love and know Christ through their husband. I can tell you from experience that love is nothing like you see in the movies or read in a magazine. When you attempt to love as we are meant to love, you quickly realize just how hard it is. True love is not easy and I can honestly say that I have learned a lot about myself and my own imperfections as a result of my relationship with my fiance. He has, in his own way, taught me how to love and know Christ by teaching me patience, selflessness, and humility. At my angriest times, he has helped me see the other side of the story. In my most petty moments, he has enabled me to see the error in my ways. Small things like this have helped shape me into a person that is more prepared to love Christ as fully as I was meant to love him.

God knew exactly what He was doing when He instilled the capacity to love within us. This love will compel us to pray for friends and family as well as complete strangers. I do not know anyone in North Korea right now, but I desire their freedom and well-being out of love for them. I express this love through prayer and hope that God will let me help them attain their freedom. I do not know many of the annoying tourists that tend to get in my way in NYC when I am running late. However, regardless of how cranky I may be...I will always help these tourists when they ask for directions out of concern for their well-being...a concern that begins with love for a fellow human being.

We are called to love one another, but it doesn't stop at simply loving. That would be too easy. No, this call is merely the tip of the iceberg. Our call to love is also a call for action.

Because of the love I have for my fellow neighbor, I will always want the best for everyone out there...even if they're currently covering their ears and trying to tune out God's love. I believe attainment of heaven qualifies as something very great and so I will help steer people there in whatever way I can. I ask God to help me do this and feel that it is my mission to help people get to heaven. For whatever reason, I feel that I can talk to people regardless of where they are on their path to heaven. I get along with just about any religious background and have had some great religious conversations with many people over the years, whether they were family or complete strangers, Catholic or atheist.

For whatever reason, I feel that I am in my element when I talk faith even though I am not the most articulate person out there. When I talk for a prolonged period of time, I will probably laugh at some point in the conversation, use a lot of hand gestures, make strange facial expressions, and forget what I want to say half of the time.

However, when it comes to talking faith....that's another story.

Pax Vobiscum

*Somewhat Relevant Wedding Spoiler*
Below is the image of the Save the Date cards I sent out. The Fiance, Yours Truly, Lord of the Rings and Doctor Who in a stained glass theme. What's not to love?
I'm such a geek.

2 comments:

  1. Anything that reminds me of Big Bang Theory gets two enthusiastic thumbs up! Wear your geeky-ness with pride, and congrats!

    -Pat V

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  2. can you post any more pics!? I would love to see how your Doctor Who/ Lord of the Rings crossover wedding looked!!! Surprised yet not surprised to see that I'm not the first with that idea :P

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