In the weeks before Ash Wednesday, there were many moments when I got drawn into some kind of indulgence (food, internet, music, &c), and had the burning thought, "I need Lent!" It surprised me how much my soul longed for fasting.

There's a yearning again A thirst for discipline A hunger for things that are deeper (Cry in My Heart - Starfield)
When I depend too much on material things, my orientation turns back into myself, my image, my desires. The selfish soul is a miserable soul. Fasting is so powerful because it purges out the selfishness and turns the soul's orientation outside of itself--up toward God, and around toward men. I love that fasting is such a physical discipline. As corporeal humans, we need that. We can't forget that Christ is human as well, and He has physically sacrificed Himself for us in every way. Can't we be a little hungry for Him? Can't we endure a little silence for Him? A passage from St. Augustine's Confessions helped me think of it this way: if we can't have the physical discipline to get out of our comfortable beds in the morning, how can we have the spiritual discipline to get out of our comfortable sins? Getting up early is a denial of self-pleasure, but once you do it you really begin to live. Getting out of our sins is a denial of our flesh, but we can't truly begin to live until we wake up. Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God. The discipline of Lent helps us to lose our dependence on material things and become more dependent on the Word of God. This scripture has always meant a lot to me, but as a Catholic it totally blows me away, and here's why: Christ is the Word spoken by the Father, and He is the Bread that gives us eternal life. He is our literal nourishment. During Lent, my goal is to lose some of my attachments to worldly comforts and start really living on Christ.

Our bodies are designed to eat. Our mouths, teeth, salivary glands, tongue, esophagus, stomach...they all serve the purpose of nourishing us. When we don't eat, our bodies clearly communicate to us that something's wrong. They ache from pain and they yearn for food.

People everywhere are aching and yearning in pain from a different kind of malnourishment. They aren't doing what they are designed for, and they die.

Man has always asked what his purpose is. The question has existed for as long as man has existed. Why are we here?! What are we for, if anything? It's clear that we're designed for something larger than this life. Why else would we ache and yearn so much? We have so much desire inside of us that is almost always unsatisfied. Why? What do we desire?

We find comfort in relationships, in feeling wanted, and in feeling needed. We desire companionship, and most of all we NEED love. We find purpose and joy when we have love. It's the selfish, the lonely, and the closed souls who are miserable. To love is to have a healthy soul. To go without love is against our design, just like going without food goes against our design; it will make us sick and eventually kill us.

It's kind of like a love-shaped hole, but I wouldn't even call it a hole. I'd call it an existence. We're nothing without it.

We are nothing without the Creator. The Creator designed us in His image. Did you ever wonder what that means? It probably doesn't mean that he made us look physically like Him. I think that when He designed us, He designed us to love. That's His mark on us, because HE IS LOVE. And He didn't just put it in our souls, He did put it on our bodies as well. Sex is supposed to be a physical manifestation of love. That's why, when it's misused, it causes us so much pain.

If there is a heaven, then it must be made of love.

[Again, this series of Significant Books isn't necessarily my favorite books, but rather, books that have influenced me in my life or shaped my philosophy in some significant way.]

Nearly 6 years ago, I was sitting in my Baptist Sunday School class as the teacher was handing out blank cards to everyone. "We want to make this class interesting and relevant to you," he said, "so write down anything you might want to learn more about, and we'll try to answer your questions in the coming classes." I wrote down the weightiest question on mind--"What is the difference between Catholics & Protestants, and why are Protestants right?"

At that point, Catholicism was a large question mark in my mind--grown larger from my parents obvious interest in it. I knew it was controversial, but I had never heard a clear explanation as to what it was or why it was supposedly teaching a "different gospel."

I was probably more attentive during our next Sunday School class than I had ever been before. Afterward, I was unconvinced. I knew the arguments didn't hold water, and I was dying to know how to answer them. Catholicism and Fundamentalism by Karl Keating was the first book Dad gave me to help answer my many questions. I ate this thing like candy. It solidified all that I knew was right, but couldn't explain till that point. It pointed out the Scriptures and gave a true representation of what the Church taught. For the first year of our conversion, as I searched the Scriptures with new openness, I used this book as a tool to understand what the Church taught about it and why.

This book really didn't change a thing about what I believed. I knew that I was a Christian and I wanted to follow God. But the Church gave me a fuller and deeper understanding of Christianity and the tools to follow God in even more radical ways. It made my Christian faith more of a reality.

The first half of this book exposes the holes in prominent anti-Catholic literature. The second half answers the common accusations against the Church. As I said, it was the first book of its kind I had ever read. It opened the door to MANY other books, and "Catholic apologetics" became one of my biggest passions. Catholicism and Fundamentalism will always be significant to me because it was a gateway for such a huge change in my life.

I am still very passionate about defending and building up the Church; in fact, it is one of the main reasons why I've gotten involved in blogging. After 5 years of being Catholic, I've received so many spiritual (and intellectual) gifts of God through the Church, and few things give me more joy than sharing that with others.

But really, the biggest thing that this book spurred on was not a desire to teach or explain Catholicism to others (though that goes along with it). The most amazing thing I've learned is that I can never stop learning! God is infinite, so we can go on learning about Him and growing closer to Him forever. I want to keep a hunger for the truth and an eagerness to share it.

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