The Call Collective

Exploring God's presence and call within the culture.

Page 3 of 7

By the Sweat of Your Brow: The Indispensable Role of Our Day Jobs

There are certain days when it takes every ounce of willpower to drag myself to work and attempt to render what can rightfully be called a semi-productive day. We all have days when we just can’t see the purpose of our work, or if we do, we still can’t be bothered to do it. The general feeling of malaise might stem from a lack of passion, boredom, restlessness, laziness or any other number of things, including an underlying feeling that our work is a time devouring inconvenience that prevents us from doing the things that would really make our lives more meaningful and rich—nurturing relationships with friends and family, helping others, reading scripture, and of course, spending time in prayer.

I do like my job, and I’ve had other jobs in the past where nearly every day I dreaded punching my timecard. I’m grateful that I’ve found something that I enjoy on most days, but I know there are many who struggle to find value or joy in their work. For some, their work is pure toil and unforgiving labor, while for others, though it may not be awful, it’s not life-giving or fulfilling.

Still, it’s a great misconception to view our work—this mandatory, hefty chunk of our lives—as a means to an end. It’s easy to assume that we work so we can take care of our loved ones and ourselves, and that our jobs are merely something to occupy our time and render us “productive” in the vacant eyes of society. And while work does allow us to provide for others and ourselves, there is something deeply mystical and spiritual about it as well that we must not overlook.

Continue reading

Laying Down the Cross That Leads to Death

The value of suffering can’t be denied. Christ commands us to pick up our cross and follow him to Calvary—to lose our life in order that we may find it. A brief perusal of literature from any Saint or Doctor of the Church—from St. John of the Cross to St. Thérèse of Lisieux to St. Pope John Paul II—will quench any doubt that suffering in this life is inescapable and necessary—an extension of “hard” grace needed for our own sanctification and entrance into heaven. There is a reason we display the corpse of God strung on a crucifix in our churches. We are broken, our bodies at war with our spirits. Or to reference St. Paul’s allusion to concupiscence: “What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.” And so we need to be purified, pruned, shaken out of our stupor of self and reformed in God’s image. This requires—to all of humanity’s grave disappointment—suffering. Whether in the form of sickness, death, disease, financial hardship, addictions, war and so on, suffering clutches its wan grip on all the living.

Suffering can lead to bitterness, a turning even farther away from God. Instead of a catalyst for conversion—sincere repentance—it spawns resentment, hatred, jealousy and, consequently, more suffering. This is obviously never God’s will, and why our response to suffering is of eternal importance. We can be tempted to believe that it’s God’s will to stay mired in our suffering, as if remaining captive to it is a necessary panacea for our soul. And while we know that suffering can be quite medicinal, if we allow it to overtake us and cause greater, unnecessary suffering—and eventually sin—then we have replaced God’s true will with the will of our own twisted ego, harrying neurosis, false understanding of Catholic suffering, or worse, the devil himself. Continue reading

Algorithms That Rob Us of Our Dignity

Has the gift of broadened technology begun to narrow us?

It sounds almost apocalyptic, but as I read an article in The Atlantic titled “What Tinder and Halo Have in Common,” I began reflecting on the dark sides of the modern convenience of being spoon-fed our shopping, news and entertainment choices.

The article explores the surprising similarities between the complex algorithms used by Halo to match a video game player with an online opponent and those used by Tinder to pair a person with a potential date.

The author of the article, Michelle Ehrhardt, voices a distinct wariness to a mechanism used to match individuals based on culled data. But while she questions the overall effectiveness of such a process, the article is suggestive of a potentially larger issue.

Continue reading

Is It Better to Have Loved and Lost?

I recently heard about an app called KillSwitch, which is designed to automatically remove all traces of a person from your Facebook account with the click of a few buttons. Of course, it’s no surprise that its primary reason for existence is to wipe clean one’s ex-girlfriend or boyfriend from all wall posts, status updates, videos, and photos after a cataclysmic breakup. In anywhere from five to twenty minutes—depending on how many photos, posts and heart emojis you have associated with the other person—every painful or infuriating remnant of the person can be evanesced for good. And just like that, you can get on with things. Or at least look like you are to all of your Facebook friends.

When I first heard about it, I was reminded of the film The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which details the quirky and volatile relationship of a couple living in New York (played by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet). After a seemingly irreconcilable and caustic argument, they both participate in a procedure to erase all of their memories of the other person—every miserable and ecstatic moment—in only a night’s sleep. This procedure is conducted through an organization that resembles a dental practice—the relative ease and efficiency of removing the deep, complex emotions and feelings associated with a relationship are placed on the same level as the filling of an aching cavity. The unique and imaginative premise of the film ponders the value of our memories—both the good and painful ones—and the possible danger of washing them away to avoid the pain of emotional loss and heartbreak. It asks the age-old question: is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?

Continue reading

How to Avoid a Fractured Spirituality

If you look at what all successful people have in common—from sports to entertainment to business—it’s that they have a singular devotion to a specific goal. They have concentrated all of their efforts toward some end, harnessing all of their talent, energy, stamina and will into achieving that particular thing—even to the point of sacrifice, suffering. It’s no mystery that in order to be great at something—not just good, but truly exceptional—you have to give it your all, literally.

When it comes to the spiritual life, for some reason that logic doesn’t seem to sway so obviously. Maybe it’s because at a certain level, we know the journey toward spiritual greatness—to sainthood—is tremendously difficult. We may see the gap from where we are to where we have to go as equivalent to a vast ocean running endlessly into the horizon. Instead, it’s easier to throw up our hands and concede how laughably far from sainthood we are. And besides, it’s God’s job, right? His grace? Of course, we can do nothing without the grace of God, but still, we have some skin in the game, so to speak—we have to respond to his gift of grace. And we’re called to respond with the whole of our lives. Not a sliver, not a fraction, not even a good majority. All of it. God doesn’t ask us to be good, very good, or even extremely good. No. He asks us to be perfect, just as he, our Heavenly Father, is perfect. And so if God is asking for perfection, why do so many of us still lack a singular devotion to the life of God?

Continue reading

Giving God Our Full and Undivided Attention

We’ve all been in the middle of a conversation, telling a story, asking for advice, or sharing how we’re doing when we notice the person across from us isn’t paying attention. Maybe they’re eyeing some odd character who just walked through the door behind us, or they’re glancing at their phone in response to a text alert, or they’re simply exhibiting that glazed-over look accompanied with an agreeable, I’m-not-listening-but-am-pretending-to head nod. I’m guilty of this, as I imagine we all are. In many cases, it’s not because we don’t care, are bored, or necessarily have something better to do. Instead, it often has to do with the understandable reality that it’s hard, even at times exceedingly difficult, to give our full attention to something or someone for an extended period of time. And although I think the way we consume information these days, in short, easily-digestible snippets of content at an unending rate, definitely doesn’t make things easier in this department, we can’t blame it only on technology (yes, we’ve all heard a thousand times that the digital age is shortening our attention spans).

The reason it’s hard to pay attention—to give ourselves fully to the moment before us no matter what we’re doing—is because it often requires us to turn away from what we’re naturally conditioned to do. It’s hard to keep our thoughts reined in; it requires an act of the will and a firm commitment to staying focused. And with a weakened ability to focus—to be fully attentive to what’s in front of us—we hinder our relationships with others, the fruitfulness of our prayer, and even our union with God and the knowledge of his will.

Continue reading

Receiving and Sharing a Love that Isn’t Fair

We’ve probably all received an unexpected gift or act of love. Perhaps this past Christmas someone we didn’t know very well—and from whom we didn’t expect anything—brought us a gift, wrote us a nice card. Since we didn’t expect it, we may feel uniquely loved and valued. We’re touched by the act, possibly more so than gifts by our loved ones, which we expect on some level. The urge breaches to do something nice for that person, to offer them something tangible as well—to remit payment for the free, unexpected act of kindness. Since they did something nice for me, surely I must do something similar in return.

There is obviously nothing wrong with showing affection or love to another who has first shown it to us, and in fact, that’s what we are called to do with God who first loved us. However, there can be the subtle temptation to believe that if we don’t respond in kind, if we remain only the receiver of love, then we’ll lose out on this person’s love—and potential gifting—in the future: if I don’t gift them in return, then they’ll love me a little less, or perhaps, not at all. It’s a natural and reasonable feeling because we live in a world ordered by justice. And with other people, that is usually true. If we don’t respond to their love with love, we can lose it.

It’s a great challenge not to let this paradigm of justice sour our relationship with God. We can fall prey to judging the measure of God’s love for us based on our actions or behavior. Now, to be clear, our relationship with God is dependent in some sense on our behavior—clearly a life of grace looks different than a life of sin. We must respond to his love with love, otherwise it’s a one-way relationship, which isn’t a relationship at all. We choose to receive God’s love—and receive it to an infinite number of degrees—or reject it altogether. In this case, any lack of union with God is our fault, as God doesn’t love us any more or less depending on the state of our souls:

Continue reading

“A Very Murray Christmas” Has Heart but Misses the Soul

Earlier this month Netflix began streaming its very own Christmas special, A Very Murray Christmas—a short musical comedy written by Bill Murray, Mitch Glazer and Sofia Coppola. In it, we’re introduced to a rueful Bill Murray playing himself—steeped in an aching loneliness that’s so raw and unadulterated that it’s, well, funny. To a point.

Murray’s character is all set to host a Christmas special in New York City, but an encroaching blizzard has kept all of the show’s other stars from attending. Despite his self-deprecating pleas, the show is scheduled to go on. And it does—kind of—but the power goes out just as Murray and Chris Rock are droning out one of the most unsettling yet disturbingly captivating renditions of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Murray, having nothing else to do on Christmas Eve, does what you would fully expect and saunters to the Carlyle Hotel’s bar. Continue reading

Saving Souls by Being Merry This Christmas

As Christmas draws near, many of us welcome the season with great joy. This festive time affords an outpouring of great mirth—the reuniting with friends and relatives, the pleasant nostalgia of past Christmastimes, the giving and receiving of gifts, baked treats and warm affection. However, such feelings of joy can be dampened by the laundry list of to-dos before the big day, and the unrelenting stress and busyness can snuff out the holiday cheer. We can get caught up in the many distractions of the Yuletide season, and amidst the sound of Christmas carols and the smell of gingerbread, fail to image the joy of the season to the world. Not to mention, there are many others who face the season with dread. It’s well known that the Holidays can be a particularly difficult time for people. Such joyous occasions can point instead to their stark absence in one’s own life. Sadly, this time of year can stir feelings of loneliness and loss as well.

Christmas stories like A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life can fan flames of empathy and goodwill toward all, lest we forget what the season is all about. But as Christians we are called to be a light to others all year round. We are called to be a city on a hilltop, a lamp on a stand. That’s why Charles Dickens’ beloved Christmas tale, a staple this time of year, speaks a great truth about Christianity that can never be lost: Christians are called to be people of unshakable joy in order to draw the lost back to God.

In Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, the selfish, wizened Scrooge is converted through God’s initial act of grace, which manifests in the form of three oneiric spirits. There are two major elements to his conversion, which occur during the course of the night: the first is a witnessing of his inevitable end if he continues to live a life of selfishness. While in the company of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, he foresees his own death devoid of dignity, as his lifeless body is scoured for valuables by the undertaker, laundress and charwoman (implying he is more valuable dead than alive). Additionally, very few care about his passing—his legacy stands frigid, dishonored and meaningless to the rest of the world. In that moment, Scrooge glances the interior of his own soul—a type of heightened examination of conscience—and is jarred by his current fate.

Continue reading

Curing Spiritual Procrastination

An old man rests in bed, coughing, spitting up blood. His children and grandchildren are huddled around him. In the midst of the group, another man stands donned in a Roman collar. The priest urges the old man to make amends with God—to repent for his sins, receive the Eucharist, and make peace with his maker. After a life lived according to his own will—a life that kept God tangentially in the background, if present at all—the old man realizes he won’t ever get up again from his bed. And so, just as he intended in his youth, he opens himself up to God’s love, asks for pardon for his past life of sinfulness, and waits peacefully to be ushered into God’s Kingdom.

This is commonly referred to as a “deathbed conversion”—a situation where someone has put God off for his entire life only to convert right before the lights turn off, the signing of a last-minute eternal insurance policy. That’s not to say there isn’t great joy in heaven over anyone who turns his or her life over to God—even at the last hour—allowing God’s mercy to sweep him or her into eternity with the rest of the blessed. Like with the Good Thief, we can—and must—rejoice in this soul’s turning to God in this life. However, God obviously doesn’t prefer that we live a life of sin and separation from him, harboring only the vague intent of reconciling our souls with him at the very last minute, when it’s convenient, or, just in case.

Such a way of life is often indicative of a muddied understanding of God and his love for us. Not only are we, in effect, telling God we don’t love him now (and might love him eventually on some undefined day in the far-off future), but we are depriving ourselves of a life of grace—one that offers joy, peace and meaning, even through suffering and difficulty. Continue reading

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2017 The Call Collective

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑