Guest Post: The Way Back – Finding Faith by Kyle Howatt

I want to send a special thank you to Kyle Howatt, a digital friend who has graciously offered his time and talent to my blog. Please consider subscribing to Quelpart for more posts on Catholicism and daily living.

I’ve spent the better part of my now nearly 30 years in this world largely outside of religion. I was born and baptized into the Catholic Faith, but outside of attending funerals, weddings, and the occasional first communion, my baptism was the only experience of mine in any Church at all. Until now, that is, as I’ve begun a journey to find Faith and build a relationship with the Lord that has been absent in every facet of my life thus far.

I’m apprehensive to admit that in my late teens and early twenties I considered myself what is called an Agnostic Atheist. For those who don’t know what that means, I generally referred to myself as a believer in an unknown power or deity that is not God or a God-like being – essentially, I believed in a higher power that is unbeknownst to us as human beings. I say apprehensive to admit so because I now look back and think that holding such a belief was childish – childish to believe that there isn’t a God.

I used to be one of those people that “needed the proof”. Show me the facts and prove to me logically that God exists and I would change my mind. I fault this largely on the premise that I was not raised religiously. But I’ve since grown. I’ve changed my perspective insofar as that to believe that we as human beings are capable of understanding everything that has existed or ever will have existed is nothing more than arrogant and egotistical thinking. I’m not ruling out that there are still other powers or sciences we have yet to even scrape the very surface of, but to dismiss that there is a God because no hard scientific evidence exists to prove otherwise is absurd.

He is out there – in one way, shape, or form. Perhaps in other ways we haven’t thought possible yet, too. Perhaps he’s even walking among us at this very moment in time. I no longer need any hard proof.

My grandparents on my Mother’s side were devout Catholics. If anything, they serve as a consistent reminder to me of all that it means to embody Faith, Tradition, and a life lived in service to the Lord and to all in good Faith. I recall that in the twelve years they lived in Florida in their retirement, going to Mass was an everyday occurrence for them. I’ll always remember them telling me this on family vacations to Myrtle Beach. If only they were still here so I could talk about my own journey in finding God with them. I can’t do Mass everyday myself just yet, but I can certainly go every Sunday.

They also always dressed their best, too – with no exceptions – for the purpose of not only showing their greatest respect for the Lord and the Church at Mass, but also to show respect and order in all that they did and valued in their lives. I’m sure my Grandfather’s military career and upbringing had a lot to do with their life approach. If there’s one improvement I could suggest people make at this moment, especially Men, it is to dress better for Church. I suppose it’s a respect thing for me. Regardless of the Churches I’ve attended – with the exception of one over the last four months – I always showed up in a suit. We can all do better with this, I think. I’m not picking on a single Christian denominational Church here either, I’m simply speaking for them all. The standard has got to change.

My Mom, raised Catholic, decided to break away from the Church when she was 18. My Dad is non-religious. Nonetheless, my Mom was adamant that my brothers and I were all baptized Catholic. Again, though, my participation in the Church thereafter, and consequently, my brothers’, was very little. No Sunday masses, first communions, confirmations or anything seriously involved with the Church or Faith. My Mom decided that she wanted for my brothers and I to find faith on our own, if we so chose to do so. And that is where I am now.

While my own personal history is rooted back to the Catholic Faith, I didn’t rule out other denominations of Christianity – at first – as a place to call home. I started out attending my local Catholic Church back in early May, and I’ll be honest, I felt right at home. Structure, order, and a beautifully conducted Mass. All of which, I believe, are lost arts by today’s measures. At least the former two of the three things I just mentioned are – people have very chaotic lives and often construe structure and orderliness with unimportant busywork and non-meaningful obligations. I figure with any sense of the word, going to Church time after time will bring more true order and structure to my own life in the Traditional sense. Massive change begins one by one, after all.

I’ve also attended my local Lutheran and Episcopal Churches in addition to a nearby Christian Community Church that a friend of mine goes to – in case you were interested in where else I’ve explored.

After I attended my first Catholic Mass in my local town back in May, I met a kind gentleman by the name of Brian who proceeded to refer his contact information and encouraged me to reach out. He is part of an organization affiliated with this Church and was interested in talking to me more about the Faith and God. I have yet to do this, but the more I progress through the different Church denominations of Christianity, the more and more I am leaning to Catholicism. While yes I was baptized there, it is more the whole concept that all of Western Civilization was founded upon the principles and morals of this Faith. And with the current state of society being where it is, I find I am being drawn back to the roots of where it all began. It’s now probably time to give Brian that call.

Some of you might be wondering what kind of a crazy person would want to join the Catholic Faith now in light of the most recent and currently ongoing sex abuse scandal(s). To that I answer that Faith is much more than corruption. Society, and the Catholic Church, are both in dire need of help, and it’s going to fall on my generation’s heels to correct the course of action – for both. I see it as an opportunity to not only worship on Sundays by attending Mass, praying for those in need, and building my own relationship with the Lord, but also as a means to help a hurting entity. A hurting Father. A hurting Mother. A hurting child. A hurting family. Hurting believers. To help those who want to believe but just can’t find the courage right now. To help restore the very foundations in which a strong civilization and society can stand. I’m taking my own leap of Faith to show that, even in a time that would seem said restoration consequently impossible, there is still hope for a better tomorrow.

As an aspiring Traditionalist, I know that I can not truly live out the capacity of the Traditional lifestyle if I have no relationship with God or have no Faith. I need to find a way to incorporate the religious values a Traditionalist holds near and dear into my own life to meet this goal if I have ever a prayer of living by example. But I have to show the way first before others will follow, and while there are many other ways in which I live out my life Traditionally right now, this is an area I need to fix, build, and expend into daily practice. It’s an area of my life that I need to bring into reality. Once I do this, I can then offer my help and show the way for others. And are we ever in a time now where we need more people to step up, take that leap of Faith (if they haven’t), restore Faith in those who’ve lost it, and show the way – the right way. I want to be an example of this kind of person, and while I do believe that this, too, is what God wants for me, I have to do my part in fulfilling this mission. So long as I’m willing to serve, I know the He will be by my side.

Hebrews 6:10:

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”

Next Sunday I go back to the Catholic Church here in my local town. And this time, I believe, I will be there to stay.

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Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post about my journey to find a relationship with the Lord. And thank you to Sarah for allowing me to write a guest post for her blog. I am grateful to you all.

Please feel free to share insights, tips, and your own practices for living your best Catholic life in the comments below. Much change is still on the way for me, and I wholeheartedly welcome your input as I transition. Thank you.

 

Roamin’ Catholic: USA Edition

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post regarding all of the Catholic places I’d like to visit. Sites included the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in Lourdes, France. All of these places are wonderful, holy sites that can enrich our faith. But, when you live in the United States and hopping a plane to Mexico City or continental Europe on a whim isn’t an option, it’s favorable to check out the holy places in your own backyard.

Below is a list of a few places I would love to visit, especially in the near future when I move to New York City. Certainly, I will miss some worthy places, so drop a comment below and let me know where I should visit.

Roamin’ Catholic: USA Edition

  1. St. John Paul II National Shrine, Washington, D.C.
  2. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C.
  3. Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Hanceville, AL
  4. Shrine of St. Therese, Darien, IL
  5. Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, La Crosse, WI
  6. Lourdes in Litchfield, Litchfield, CT
  7. Our Lady of Good Help, Champion, WI (The only Vatican-approved apparition site in the USA)
  8. St. Kateri National Shrine and Historic Site, Fonda, NY
  9. Shrine and Parish Church of the Holy Innocents, New York, NY
  10. Shrine of Our Lady of La Sallette, Altamont, NY
  11. Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Philadelphia, PA

Where are places you’ve traveled? Drop a note below!

Snow Day Special: Roamin’ Catholic

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First, let’s be real: the “Roamin’ Catholic” phrase is overused and eye-roll inducing, but it’s fun. Second, let’s talk travel.

For many who know me in person, you all know that I’m a frequent traveler. On any school break, you will not find me at home. Rather, I’ve been known to go far and wide, never leaving enough time for grass to grow under my feet. The cool thing about being Catholic and full is wanderlust is that there are no shortages of holy places around the world to visit. Without delay, here are just a few places I’d like to visit before I cross into eternity.

  1. The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City, Mexico: It’s one of the most visited shrines in the world, and luckily, it’s on my continent. Also, the opportunity to see St. Juan Diego’s tilma is once (maybe twice) in a lifetime.
  2. The Holy Land: When I was 16, I was privileged to visit Israel with my mom. At the time, I thought I appreciated it. But in reality, I was 16 years old and my mind wasn’t concerned about ancient history.
  3. National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C.: It’s described as the “nation’s Catholic Church.” Only 8 hours away by car, and faster by plane.
  4. National Shrine of the Twenty-Six Martyrs, Nagasaki, Japan: Nagasaki, in the past and today, has the highest concentration of Catholics in Japan. After reading A Song for Nagasaki by Fr. Paul Glynn, I’d like to revisit Japan, especially this shrine.
  5. The Sheshan Basilica, Shanghai, China: I believe that this basilica is now under the control of the Patriotic Catholic Church (think: state-approved Catholicism). Still, Our Lady of Sheshan and Our Lady of China are two of my favorite depictions of Jesus and Mary. I would love to see where the images found their beginnings.
  6. The Lourdes Shrine, Lourdes, France: Where the alleged apparitions of Mary occurred in 1858 (received by St. Bernadette), Lourdes is home to the miraculous water spring. Also, the story of Our Lady of Lourdes has always touched my heart.
  7. Oratory of St. Joseph Basilica, Montreal, Canada: St. Andre Bessette was known as God’s Doorman. A simple man, he was a porter for the Congregation of the Holy Cross in Montreal, Canada. However, St. Andre became known far and wide for his healing ability, which he credited to the intercession of St. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. St. Andre never took credit for his gift from God. Before he died, St. Andre saw to it that a basilica was built in honor of St. Joseph: a masculine model of love of Christ. There, you can see the crutches of those were, and are still being, healed.

These are just a few of the places I’d like to visit. Have you been to one or more of the places listed above? What other shrines, chapels, and memorials would you recommend? Comment below!

Happy travels!

Dwelling Together: Maturing in Faith

Hello! Thanks for reading today, I’m glad you’re here. Today is a long-winded post, but I think you may relate to it (especially if you’re anything like me). 

Each week, I attempt to publish one to two quality posts about faith, life, books, and anything else happening in my day-to-day life. If you enjoy what you read, please consider sharing on social media and subscribing through email or WordPress.

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How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together as one! // Psalm 133:1 (NAB)

I have this persistent and terrible habit where I believe I am the only one. Foolishly, I think that it’s just me who struggles with anxiety, or it’s just me whose mind wanders during work, Mass, or while on the phone with my mom. I’m the only one who sometimes pushes the Holy Spirit’s nudging out of my heart when the conviction is uncomfortable. For a very long time (and even still some today), I wrestled with these feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and a sense of floating. I knew I could turn to Our Lord in the times of need, but overall, everything felt like a one-woman show. I had to take care of my own issues, it wasn’t the job of anyone else. These problems were solely my problems and no one else could ever understand my thought process. Unfortunately, this is one of lies that the devil tells us: You must depend on yourself to fix anything, all the time, no one can help.

In high school and college, I suffered from a terrible case of superiority complex. When classes were canceled on campus due to snow, I was out in my boots walking to mid-week Bible study while everyone else was cozy in the dorms. In high school, I purposely did not attend social events because, frankly, I was better than everyone else. Only unintelligent, uncultured simpletons attended football games on Friday night instead of staying at home with a good book.

If you couldn’t tell, I was simply a joy to have around.  Insert eye roll.

Because I believed that I was inherently better than everyone around me, I failed to form healthy communal bonds with those around me. While I formed lovely friendships, especially in college, I believed that only I could deal with my issues. I believed that my issues with anxiety or nervousness were so unique that no one could possibly provide a reasonable solution. In many a silly decision, I bypassed what were probably valuable campus meetings, designed specifically for women undertaking the transitions of adult life. I was determined to help myself.

Thankfully, age is the wonderful, gracious teacher.

Obviously, I am older than I was in high school and college. My faith and life is more of my own, my understanding of my need for others has increased (though it’s not perfect). Since my conversion to Catholicism, I’ve absorbed any resource at my fingertips – especially those tailored towards the needs of women. Podcasts, articles, devotions have been my closest friends in my walk of faith. I’ve realized that yes, I do need support in my walk as not only as a Catholic, but also as a teacher, daughter, and community member.

This morning I read this morning’s devotional from Blessed Is She, an online community for Catholic women. Patty Breen, today’s writer, penned words that cut to my core:

“The most difficult prayers I have prayed in my life (and still do) are ones of abandonment and submission to the will of God. For a type-A planner like myself, it is so easy to tell Jesus what I think the best option or plan is. But that is neither how God nor prayer works. We call that manipulation, not worship.”

Like Patty, I am a type-A personality: high-strung, organized, meticulous. I also struggle with turning over every detail of my life over to God and His divine will. My past habits tell the story: Again, I thought I was the only one who struggled with this. I thought I was too stubborn, too selfish, not worthy enough to let God take control in every nook of my existence. But this morning, I was informed in plain English that I’m not the only woman on the planet who struggles with any given issue.

I’m not alone, I’m not isolated, my struggles are common. Thankfully.

This is why community, and dwelling together, is especially important for Christian living. Reflecting on my past, I know I probably would not have subscribed to a daily inbox devotional as a teenager or college student. I didn’t expect anyone to know my needs, especially someone who didn’t know me on a personal level. As I mature in both age and faith, I realize that I do need community and that I do need support. I’ve finally understood that support can come from the most unexpected places through little acts of faith. I find that I am not the brilliant one-woman operation I used to be.

And that is a wonderful, merciful, graceful thing.

O Fount of life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us. // The Chaplet of Divine Mercy

Our Lady of Grace, pray for us.

 

 

 

 

During Dark and Daylight: The Story of a Tokyo Denny’s

Last summer, while barreling over Russia and the Pacific Ocean on a return trip from South Korea, I was engrossed in After Dark by Haruki Murkami. With a clock counting the hours between 1:00 AM and 6:00 AM at the beginning of each chapter and typical Murakami surrealism, I regret that I’ll never be able to read this book for the first time ever again. Like all good things, After Dark begins in a Denny’s, like my own Japanese adventure in the infant days of 2013.

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I don’t know if we were hungry, jet-lagged, eager to get out or a combination of all three. But, in the cold New Year’s Day, Alley and I bundled up and made our way around the corner. In all it’s familiar glow was the blockish-sign with hazy red, suspended in the neon darkness that was Tokyo. After eight hours waiting in the airport, subsisting on thin wheat cookies, I was in relief.

You see, I don’t travel to places to try the food. I just don’t. I like the sights, the sounds, and the culture. But, I don’t particularly care for an authentic culinary experience. I’m the world-traveled American, who at the end of the day, just wants the comfort of Taco Bell. On this New Year’s Day, as per usual, I wasn’t leaning towards a bento box or authentic sushi. I wanted to familiar, and that familiar was a Denny’s.

Our meal began with ordering drinks – rich, savory Coca-Cola. In the States, a soda at a sit-down establishment may cost you up to $3.50, with free refills. In Japan, the world is different. You can order a Coke, but it’s just one Coke. It will cost you around $6. Yes, $6. Or, if you’re a high-roller, you can order unlimited Cokes for $12. What did we do? Order unlimited Cokes. I was thirsty and Coca-Cola in Asia has a magnificent taste.

I scanned the menu, smattered with Japanese characters and pictures. No English. Traditional pancakes faded into spaghetti with raw egg on top, strange salads, and other pastas. I love pasta, and I was ravenous. I didn’t want a burger, but rather the dish with fettuccine noodles and white sauce topped with steamed crab meat caught my eye. We ordered, and I took in the view.

In one corner, a Japanese woman in a mint green kimono sat with her two children. This was not a flimsy, tourist kimono, but an authentic kimono. Her hair was tied up in a bun, and she ate with chopsticks while her children fought over french fries. I tried not to stare, but among the chrome and the neon, there was this traditionally dressed woman with a serene aura eating in a trademark American restaurant.

Even further down the row of booths sat a legitimate sumo wrestler. A group of teenagers bustled in, heads buried in phones and thumbs texting away wildly. I watched the cooks in the kitchen slide french toast and burgers and raw squid in salad into the window, waiting for the servers.

Everything that one would image you’d see in Japan, I saw in the Denny’s. Our food finally came, I savored the thick sauce and chewy crab meat. I drank the most expensive Coke I’ve ever purchased. I struggled to wrap the long noodles around the cheaply made chopsticks.

Unlike Mari, the main character and Denny’s patron in After Dark, my evening did not spiral into a mystical journey across Tokyo’s seedy underworld. It ended with me tucked into my bunk bed at the hostel, only for us to arise and return to the same Denny’s. While I can barely tell you the other meals I ate in Tokyo, I can tell you about going to Denny’s. And I can tell you about the woman in the kimono and the endless stream of Coca-Cola, punctuated with a foreign chatter.

How to Be Happy: Learn a New Language

Note to readers: I know, I haven’t posted anything except a smattering of book reviews since September 1st. My profound apologies.

I love languages: acquisition, history, alphabets, sounds, shapes, grammars, linguistics. I spent 18 months of my life acquiring a master’s degree in English as a Second Language just so I could understand, and it’s all very fun to me. Once upon a time, I owned a book and inside it’s pages were poems written in English and another language. I remember one little poem was translated into German. While in the car with my mother and

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grandmother, I proceeded to read the poem out loud, convincing everyone I could read German. Though I knew little about the different sounds that different letters owned in different alphabets, but in my mind I was reading German. And I liked it. It was fun. I experimented with sign language a bit, though I never reached fluency.

In high school, I took two years of Spanish and loved it. To this day, I can’t understand why I never spent a whole four years in Spanish. Side note: Ms. Zuelly, if you catch this on my Facebook page and read this, I’m kicking myself in the pants for not taking both Spanish 3 and 4.

Surprisingly, learning a new language can be fun and rewarding when approached the right way. Currently, I’m studying Mandarin Chinese with the Yoyo Chinese online platform. Here’s what I’ve learned while learning Chinese.

Pacing. Don’t expect fluency overnight. Because I learned a select few phrases with my boyfriend’s help, I foolishly thought I could jump right into intermediate beginner’s Chinese. Wrong. I, like everyone, else had to start at square one. While I wanted instant fluency, right now I can say “I like cola” and “I have four wives and a younger brother.” Every little bit helps.

Drill. When learning a new language, repetition and drills are key. Flash cards? Yes. Staring at worksheets? Yep. May I suggest using the online tool Anki? This helps me and paces my flash cards so I don’t become overwhelmed. I’m not for sure how it works if you’re not provided the electronic flash cards, but it’s a wonder. Finally, even when it’s most frustrating, you’ll have to press on.

Talk. In both Spanish and Korean, reading is my strong point. I can read most signs in Spanish and sound out most of the phrases in Korean. However, I am terrified of speaking in a foreign language. When I lived in Korea, I would take the bus instead of a taxi. If I took a bus, I didn’t have to speak. I find speaking painfully nerve wracking and I hate failure. If I speak, I want to be flawless. I don’t want to be just another laowai butchering the mother tongue in the Chinese restaurant while ordering chicken lo mien and wontons.

For example, the boyfriend and I went to a Chinese restaurant nestled between a liquidation store and a fruit store. I wanted ice water, but he had ordered hot tea in a kettle. Instead of asking the server for water, boyfriend called the server over and then stared at me.

Are you going to ask her for ice water, or not?

Me: Mute, internal dialogue: why can’t I find contentment with hot green tea?

*Instense stares*

Me: Wo yao bing shui.

Water acquired and very few blushes had. Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?

If you’re looking for happiness, I suggest learning a new language. Learn something typical: Spanish or French. Learn something wild and rare: Esperanto or Latin. Learn the language your grandparents spoke when they came to the country you live in: Maybe Italian, Greek, Korean, Russian, Chinese, or Mixteco. The possibilities are endless, and when you learn a language, the potential for happiness is endless.

Happy learning!

Zai jian!