The Call Collective

Exploring God's presence and call within the culture.

Tag: Faith

Maintaining Inner Peace

A couple times a week I run along a small bay that neighbors my house. In the early mornings, if I’m able to get out at that time, I’m always struck by the stillness of that stretch of mirrored silver. The bay’s anchored tranquility brings me a sense of peace if I only take a moment or two to look at it. It’s an image that in some way soothes my soul.

In Father Jacques Philippe modest little book, Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart, he calls to mind this metaphor for the soul:

“Consider the surface of a lake, above which the sun is shining. If the surface of the lake is peaceful and tranquil, the sun will be reflected in this lake; and the more peaceful the lake, the more perfectly will it be reflected. If, on the contrary, the surface of the lake is agitated, undulating, then the image of the sun can not be reflected in it.”

It’s a deeply simple, yet profound stroke of insight—our souls can only reflect God’s love and grace if they are calm and delicately moored. The peace promised to us by Jesus Christ two millennia ago only flowers in the soil of a serene heart.

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When We Don’t See God Clearly

Once a widowed friend of mine shared with me her experience of witnessing God’s presence in her life. Her eyes gleaned of a vague sadness, though her wizened smile emanated joy. Despite a life of tremendous difficulty and suffering, she maintained a luminous peace. She recounted how when walking once by herself along the beach she prayed for God to make his presence known. She desired ardently for God to make visible what she believed with resolute faith—that he was ever-present. As soon as she finished her modest petition a silver dolphin breached the surface of the ocean exactly where she was gazing. I watched her reclaim the memory with delight. She smiled at me with bright and wide eyes.

It’s easy, though, to be dismissive. I could feel the temptation surfacing just like that marine harbinger she had spotted to shrug it off as a favorable coincidence with smug skepticism. But she knew otherwise with a steadfastness and calm that couldn’t be questioned. The more she spoke of her love of God, the more I knew she had indeed seen his face on the boardwalk that day.

Our ability to choose how we see in this life is a great mystery. We have been given frightening power. We can choose to gaze at the shadow of God and spot his presence “indistinctly as in a mirror”—or turn a blind eye. We can choose to see the intricate and beautiful marks of creation and identify them as God’s fingerprints—or not.

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Does Trauma Help Us Grow?

Can trauma help you grow?

According to an article by that title in The New Yorker, written by David Kushner, the answer is definitely yes.

Kushner’s family endured a horrific event when his 11-year-old brother was kidnapped and murdered in a rural small town in Florida. Although Kushner was only four at the time, he explains that as he grew up, he struggled to understand how his parents were able to carry on — giving both him and his other brother happy and normal lives while they still harbored the aching memory of something so awful. Continue reading

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The Ignored & Quieted Few

The following article was selected as the Essay Contest Winner and first published by Catholic Stand.

Adversity has taken on a different form today in our culture than in times past. A lot in the way of adversity is hurled at the Church—to be sure—and in some ways it looks that things may only get worse. Of course, we also know that in other areas of the world, many are being horribly persecuted and killed for their Christian faith. And although we are called to unite our sufferings with them, for most of us, the hand of adversity is subtler. Ours comes through apathy. Ours comes through neglect.

In my own life, I’ve come across my fair share of anti-Catholic and anti-Christian sentiment—and at times even a blatant disrespect or animosity toward the faith—but mostly, adversity for my faith comes in the form of a shrug, a polite nod of feigned interest, a blank stare. The proclamation of our faith has become dulled, a blunt instrument, which has seemingly lost its power to cut through the noise of the culture. The heralding of the Good News has become old news—mundane and ordinary to blasé and bored ears. Whereas our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ before us endured prison and death, we now endure marginalization and disregard.

It becomes apparent when attending a disappointingly sparse or disengaged Sunday mass, viewing a late night TV personality wrest yet another easy laugh from the audience with an unoriginal and ignorant crack about a Catholic priest, or having to refute the eager assumption that I somehow don’t believe in science or reason (sigh…as if either necessarily negate the need for faith). Catholics are tolerated for the most part as a quaint relic from the old days, back
when people weren’t educated or reflective enough to sustain society without a Divine enforcer, a cosmic watch-keeper to account for all of the mysteries of the universe. Continue reading

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Arian Foster, Atheism and the Lack of Desire for God

ESPN The Magazine recently published an article, The Confession of Arian Foster, that explores the NFL pro bowlers admission to being an atheist, although a term, according to Foster, he shies away from due to his staunch dislike of labels. Regardless of how he chooses to identify himself formally, he remains someone without a belief in God.

It’s a very thought-provoking and interesting article about a man who is rightfully adamant about his identity as someone who is much more than “just a football player.” Foster comes off as empathetic, thoughtful, well-intentioned, and charming. He seems like a nice enough guy, and despite his own personal creed, he harbors a deep respect for those with faith. The article also touches on the difficulty of being a non-Christian in the NFL, a league that has religion woven deeply within the fabric of its core.

It is hardly surprising that the article opens up with the routine pitting of God against the problem of evil. It sounds—at least to some significant degree—that Foster’s own beliefs have been formed by his struggle to accept a god that fits into a world rife with evil and suffering. He takes this further in mildly humorous fashion, wondering why a god of this sort (one without the agency or willingness to rid the world of evil) would empower one football team to win and the other to lose, as if god’s decision to influence the game is based on the team that grovels with the most convincing vehemence: Continue reading

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Giving Up the Faith That Leads to Loss

I had a conversation with a friend once. It was well past midnight and we were sitting outside a bar patio along a sparse, urban street. My friend was talking about what he wanted to do for a living, and specifically, what he hoped to accomplish professionally this next year. He knew he needed a good job and that when it came to plucking one of those the harvest wasn’t particularly abundant. He was worried, unsure of his ability to be successful competing against a swath of qualified prospects just like him.

“Well, at the end of the day, I have to have faith.” He continued, “But not faith in God, or something like that…but faith in myself. I have to trust that things will just work out.”

As human beings, many of us feel compelled to believe in something—anything—in order to secure a remnant of comfort. Even if we believe in nothing, we make a decision to claim that vision of existence for ourselves and then live in it with a vague sense of understanding, expectation. We choose to believe something, igniting a torch that gives light to our reality. If we choose to believe in God, we believe in a world infused with meaning, intentionality, and love, even when it glares back at us. If not, then we have to confer our own sense of meaning in order to get by.

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

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What Are You Selling?

I work in digital marketing, so there is a lot of talk about “brand” and “branding.” For those of you who don’t know what a brand is, in the simplest terms, it’s what someone thinks of when they hear a name. The term is most often used with respect to companies and organizations. When we hear a name like Apple, we think of stylish, innovative products. When we hear Nike, we think of spirited competition and top-of-the-line sports accessories.

Brands like these two don’t elicit these things by accident, they do so intentionally. They are very aware of how they are crafting the image of their company in the minds of consumers. And they are extremely effective. They do this by appealing to something deeper within us. Nike appeals to our sense of competition, accomplishment and athletic heroism. Apple appeals to our affinity for beautiful design and wonder-inducing technology that conjures a sense of play and magic.

Advertisers spend lots of money crafting focused brands that take a specific shape in the mind of the consumer. Such a focus (as well as the time and effort deployed) is often done to an unhealthy extreme, but there is something worth noticing about some of these brands—they have a clarity and consistency of vision. They know what they are about and how to draw and hold captive our imaginations.

There is a scene from the show Mad Men of Don Draper brilliantly pitching a slideshow machine, which he names ‘The Carousel,’ by appealing to that “delicate, but potent…pain from an old wound,” which we know as nostalgia. He allures the jaded group of suits in the room by conveying an idea, something intangible existing beyond that of the product, that speaks to our shared human experience. He calls attention to the longing for an old happiness that can never be realize—one buried deep within our collective hearts. Continue reading

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The God Who Suffers with Us

The name Emmanuel signifies “God with us.” I’ve known this for a while. Even before I took my faith seriously, I knew the meaning of the name because of Christmas. And even though I knew the definition of the term, I didn’t really understand the implications of it. Sure, God came down to earth as Christ and is “with us.” I get it.

However, a couple of years ago I was given a deeper look into what it means to have God dwelling among us. Today when I hear the word Emmanuel, I’m reminded of my dying grandma.

I recall a specific moment that I’ll never forget—a moment that allowed me to glance the divine within the confines of the ordinary. It was shortly after Christmas and my grandma had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. The tumor was growing rapidly, and due to her old age and inability to withstand the necessary treatment, she (as well as all of us) accepted that her body was fading—that she would allow the cancer to act freely, embracing the solemn reality that her life here was coming to an end.

It was an unexpected turn of events because before the onset of this tumor, she was very healthy. Physically she was able to do most things without trouble and her mind was completely intact. She was as sharp as she’d ever been, with no signs of slowing down. So when we received news that she would die—and very soon—it left us shocked and reeling. Continue reading

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