First, you must be willing to lose it all

August 15, 2011 | 64 comments

I’ve received a lot of feedback in response to my post called Finding God in 5 Steps. Of all the interesting and insightful things that people shared, there was one email that hit me right between the eyes, and made me realize something that I’ve hardly gone a day without thinking about. It was from a young man who fell away from faith for many years and had only recently returned to a close relationship with God. He said that he agreed with what I wrote in that post, but thought that I missed one thing:

There was one thing that was essential to my reversion that you do not mention. One must be willing to give up everything for God…I believe that the biggest problem people have with finding God is that they are not willing to give up earthly desires to find Him. People want the best of both worlds. They want a relationship with God and be able to hang on to worldly desires. I think this is all to often overlooked.

Wow. Yes.

Until I received his email, I don’t think it had ever occurred to me what a key aspect of the conversion process this is; I hadn’t even realized that I went through this step myself. But when I look back, I see that before I could accept the truth, I first had to be in a place of willingness to lose it all.

One of the things that’s different about seeking the truth about God as opposed to, say, seeking the truth about a mathematical equation is that the truth about God is personal and transformative. If you’re seeking the truth about mass-energy equivalence and you discover that e=mc², it doesn’t mean anything for you personally. You don’t need to live your life any differently just because you now know that the mass of a body is a measure of its energy content. But not so with God. Because God is the source of all that is good, to know what God is is to know what Good is. Religion has almost always been understood to be about moral codes because a moral code defines what is good and what is not, therefore it defines what God is and what he’s not.

That’s why the search for the truth about God is always personal. It’s always going to bring in all your insecurities, issues and attachments, because your life will be forever shaped by whatever truth you encounter.

Here’s a rough analogy: Let’s say that a woman was seeking God, and she came across a belief system that taught that it’s morally wrong to own a car; something about car ownership, they said, was contrary to God’s nature, and therefore objectively wrong. Naturally, her first reaction was, “That’s absurd!” But then she found a lot of other reasonable stuff in the belief system, so she took another look at that crazy car teaching. To her surprise, it ended up being not as unreasonable as she’d initially thought; in fact, she had to admit that some of the defenses she read really got her thinking.

But in the back of her mind there was always this voice that said, I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT A CAR! There was no way. She even thought through it a couple of times: She needed it to run errands, her husband needed his car for work. And she couldn’t just take the kids out of all their activities. Nope. The life that she had carefully crafted would completely fall apart if she gave up having a car.

As you can imagine, this line of thinking would bring her investigation into the anti-car belief system to an end. There’s this idea out there we can will ourselves into automaton mode and make evaluations about any kind of subject with perfect objectivity. But it’s not true (except maybe in matters of math or science, and even then I think our biases come into play more than we’d like to admit). To use the example of the woman in the car, there is no way that she is going to accept the belief system that includes the teaching against cars, even if her rational mind believes that it’s true…unless she’s willing to let go of her car, and therefore her entire lifestyle.

Again, the analogy is rough, but I think it conveys the process that many of us experience on the road to conversion. When I was first researching religion, for example, some of the Catholic Church’s teachings sounded just as crazy to me as the idea of not owning a car. At first I dismissed them as absurd. But even when I came to see that the arguments in their defense were incredibly compelling, I was still not that close to admitting that they were true, because, deep down inside, I knew that they would turn my life upside down if they were.

Around that time, everything fell apart: We faced major financial problems, then medical problems which compounded the financial problems. We had to move in with my mom, which meant that I lost touch with many of my friends because I was in a different part of town. With my health, finances, and social life all a big hot mess, I discovered the freedom of having nothing left to lose. Of course I did still have plenty of great stuff like a supportive family and a first-world existence, but I’d lost so much so quickly that I’d received a crash course in detachment. And that’s when I could finally allow myself to see the truth about God.

And so I whole-heartedly agree that that Finding God in 5 Steps post is missing a step, one that is perhaps the most important: First, you must be willing to lose lose it all.


  1. Leila@LittleCatholicBubble

    Jen, this is so providential, as it dovetails exactly with a question I just asked a reader on my blog! Thank you, this is excellent. That young man really hit on the core of what it means to find God.

  2. the Mom

    I love this post because it is absolutely true! Thank you so much for writing it.

  3. JoAnna

    “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” – Luke 17:33


  4. Kimberlie

    I really like the timing of this post as I have been struggling with a decision that my husband and I have been trying to make. He and I have thought for years that God might be wanting us to go to a certain other country to live and teach. However, I don’t want to live in said country because 1) it is not a first-world country and I am a bit used to the squishy-cushy living here in the US, 2) the people of that country do not enjoy the freedom and protections we take for granted here, nor would we as guests living in that country, and 3) it’s really, really, far away from my parish and friends. However, you post reminds me that I let go of everything once before to follow God’s call into the Catholic Church, and the Lord has indeed blessed me beyond my wildest dreams. It’s time to lay it all at the alter and see what the Lord really wants of us.

    I really, really, like this post. Thank you!

  5. Theresa in Alberta

    another side effect of conversion is that it by worldly standards “wrecks your career”! I have been in the same job for over 7 years because I am not willing to unethically climb the corporate ladder…..go figure eh?

  6. Mary

    But this strikes me as a very good way to fall into a cult…or under the hand of a nefarious person within your newly-found religion. In fact, it reminds me of zealotry to some degree.

    • Leila

      Falling into a cult requires brainwashing, I think.

      We are talking about being open to Truth (God), and going where that leads us, no matter the cost. As far as zealotry? Well, I do have a zeal for my Faith, that is true…

      • Christopher

        Mary, you cannot personally receive the truth from a religion or person. This comes directly from the Holy Spirit. Giving up everything earthly for God, allows one to receive the Holy Spirit in their heart. If this is a cult, sign me up baby. In fact, when I personally received the Holy Spirit, I realized I had been in a cult. One called society. Talk about people influencing your every thought and move. Telling you what is cool and what to believe. Willing to give up all earthly desires set me free.
        And as far as falling under the hand of a nefarious person, God does not ask for blind faith. He asks for the complete opposite. As Catholics, we are obligated to study our faith and learn as much as we can about it. This is a life-long endeavor. And a very rewarding one if I do say so myself. Luckily the Catholic Church has a hierarchy. So we don’t fall under the influence of a nefarious person.
        PS the Holy Spirit guides the Church through Papal Infallibility. No, this does not mean the Pope is an infallible human being. Basically means the Pope cannot misguide the Church. If you ever allow the Holy Spirit into your heart, Papal Infallibility will be undeniable to you. Another assurance of not falling under the influence of a nefarious person.

        • tar.gzip

          Thanks for your comment, Christopher. It will probably help me in conversations with my friends who don’t understand how can I believe when I am a very scientific-minded person.

        • Steph

          Great reply Christopher. I totally agree about the cult of society.

  7. Lisa

    Your “rough” analogy did hit the nail on the head in a work related struggle that I face. I feel called to make a rather drastic change in my work life, but I don’t want to financially inconvenience my husband to do so. It is hard to know if this is a true calling, but it is reinforced by your previous post on spiritual direction/considering our vocations. It is so hard to just “Geronimo!” .

    God bless, and keep up the great, inspiring work.

  8. NY Mom

    It’s annoying that Christian beliefs are erroneously painted as being quaint, old-fashioned or outmoded. In reality Christianity demands a radical act of the will that should, actually, leave most of us trembling in anticipation of its transformative power.

    I’m about halfway through St Thomas More’s “The Sadness of Christ”, wherein he meditates how an authentic faith should affect us. That this man could maintain profundity and lucidity in his writing while facing an unfair and barbaric execution makes me feel embarrassingly small, shallowly suburban, and stunted by comparison. I fear I have missed many an opportunity to surrender my comforts and securities, never mind my very life. Thanks for this post, Jen. It’s a wake-up call for my mushy soul.

  9. Cristina

    When I was going through RCIA, the sister that lead the class kept talking about a “dying and a rising”. Christ died and rose for us and that we must do the same. At the time, it didn’t make sense to me. It wasn’t until long after and I met up with some old college friends that I realized my old lifestyle and egocentric way of thinking had died and a God-centered life had arisen instead. Thanks for the post!

  10. Kayla

    This post is great and something that I struggle with a lot. Some would call me a “control freak”…and that sometimes gets in the way of my faith. I take something that should be beautiful (like NFP) and turn it into this rigid thing that does not resemble what God calls us to at all. I don’t let God or my faith shape my thoughts or my actions the way they should. But I’m slowly starting to let go of some things, and though I’m afraid because I no longer have control and don’t know what to expect, I’m more at peace than I was before. It’s such a beautiful thing to let yourself have a full belief.

  11. Barbara C.

    I always define this struggle as “Fear vs. Faith” when you are pretty sure you know what the right thing to do is but you are afraid to do it.

    Jesus, may all that is you flow into me.
    May your Body and Blood be my food and drink.
    May your passion and death be my strength and life.
    Jesus, with you by my side enough has been given.
    May the shelter I seek be the shadow of your cross.
    Let me not run from the love which you offer,
    but hold me safe from the forces of evil.
    On each of my dyings shed your light and your love.
    Keep calling to me until that day comes,
    when, with your saints, I may praise you forever. Amen.

  12. Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith

    Eighteen months ago, I walked away from a great career with healthy annual performance bonuses, to become a full-time Mom for my two adopted daughters. Many people thought I was crazy, but I felt it was what God had called me to do. I lost that lifestyle, but gained so much more. It has not been easy on my family, especially because of my pride. However, it was the best thing to do for my children.

  13. Michelle

    Wow, what a great post. It is so hard to leave the comfortable, yet we are often called to do just that. I love your analogy and it’s given me much to think about.

  14. Young Mom

    This is fascinating, because I don’t think that it applies solely to finding faith, but also to losing it. I grew up buying it all hook line and sinker, conforming every aspect of my life to my religious beliefs, never questioning them. I had no experience to even make me question any of them, I “knew” I was right. In the last year, I’ve realized that the only thin holding me back from embracing an agnostic viewpoint on life, was my fear of losing that assurance that God was OK with me. I wanted to hold onto that effort at pleasing God, but as I have slowly become more OK with letting go of that, I have experienced such incredible relief from stress and sadness, and glimpses of freedom and peace I have never known.

    • tar.gzip

      I can understand that, despite never having been an agnostic. If I had never allowed myself to question my faith I would probably not believe by now. May God grant you peace and some rest (as a young Mom, you probably need it), and may you find true life and happiness. And one day may you find the Lord who loves questioners and (please excuse me for this, I don’t wish to offend)

  15. ramona

    I think what you’ve come up with is a blueprint for anyone wishing to not only be converted to faith, but to also go deeper into faith. A person can be convinced of God and be a ‘good person’… even religious… but it takes all of these six ‘steps’ to be alive in faith.

    As a cradle Catholic, I think I found myself drawn to the conversion process because conversion is on-going. My heart needs to continually respond to God and open myself to be stretched beyond my what I think are my limitations and comfort level… and letting God be in charge has been my most difficult lesson. Yet, what freedom to discover that God wants more and better for me than I could even dream to ask for myself.

    Thanks for a great article.

  16. Endless Mike

    This is where Christianity loses me. There’s some good evidence and some compelling arguments, but at the end of the day no one knows for sure that it’s true. I try to stay open-minded, but giving up my life for something I’m not 100% certain of is simply too much to ask.

    • Magnificat

      I understand you completely. I’m cradle Catholic, always lived accordingly, and still sometimes I think that my faith ruined many of my chances. In that moments only which comforts me is John 6,68. No other way for me, really.
      Jen is right, you must be willing to be a loser for the rest of your life. Nothing glorious in that.
      And it’s relatively easy to swallow some financial or career losses.
      But when you loose a family, you best friend, or a husband … well, that’s something most of us are not very happy to live to see.

      • Young Mom

        I’m losing family and friends byt rejecting faith, but I’d be losing the only one who’s ever really loved me (my husband) by trying to hang onto the faith.

        • Magnificat

          Dear YoungMom,
          your husband is a good and Godfearing man, no chance he’ll leave you. Ever.
          Nor God will.

    • Richard A

      Are you 100% certain of your life as it is now? Can it meet the standard of proof you’re asking of Christ?

      • Endless Mike

        I’m as certain of it as I can be; I’m surrounded by material objects and corporeal people.

  17. Justine

    Ok, and now let us see what catholic encyclopedia has to say on the topic.

    “And just as the light of faith is a gift supernaturally bestowed upon the understanding, so also this Divine grace moving the will is, as its name implies, an equally supernatural and an absolutely gratuitous gift. Neither gift is due to previous study neither of them can be acquired by human efforts, but “Ask and ye shall receive.””

    This is from the section named ‘definition of faith’. It says here it is completely gratuitous gift, the sad consequence of which is that man can not earn it in any way by anything he can do of himself. As for this ‘ask and ye shall receive part’, if you are going to call onto that, I would like to hear something about that, especially in view of this post:

    In the end of that post is said that post on that subject is coming soon, but either I missed it or it didn’t come. Something else came though – the post about gracepoint.

    I must say again that this is outright heresy. It is called pelagianism and it was condemned first in fifth century. There is no such thing as gracepoint. According to catholic teaching EVERY good deed is preceeded by grace, and man can’t do ANYTHING good without grace.

    • tar.gzip

      An honest question: what is the role of human will in both faith and good deeds?

      I mean: was my will involved in any way on the fact that I now have faith, or was it only grace? Is grace sufficient or only necessary?

      And when a person does something good with no hidden bad intentions (as far as this is humanly possible): was his/her will involved in any way or was it only grace?

      The way I see it, grace is necessary but not sufficient, not that God is not omnipotent, but He didn’t make us clams or ants, so our actions and decisions are our responsibility. So everything good comes from grace because grace is the source of all good (just like every action of a man needs that the man exists in the first place), but this doesn’t mean that there isn’t an active role for the human will in that (and in many situations, even a necessity). Let’s explain in a negative way: I believe that no human being is forced to believe. So, however “big” the grace I experience, I must be able to refuse it, to refuse faith, to refuse doing good, or I would be just an ant or a clam. So, if I am able to refuse it, I am also able to open the door to grace. “Here I am at your door knocking, if you open I shall enter and eat with you” or something to that effect.

      If there is no role for human will in belief or good deeds, everything is predestined and we are puppets, as far as I can see. So, I believe there is an important role for human will.

      And as far as I know pelagianism states that one does not _need_ grace to do good or to have faith. (it states that grace is not _necessary_). What I think Jennifer was saying is that both grace and human will are necessary, which is not pelagianism and as far as I know is what the Magisterium teaches.

      • Justine

        Geeez… Opening the door to the grace is ALSO a deed, a good deed, therefore man can not do it of himself. But you say he can do that. So, according to you too, man is able to do good (i.e. to open the door) of himself, and the grace is not necessary. Didn’t you say that was pelagianism?

        That is something that really amazes me. There is a clear teaching that faith can not be obtained through any human effort. What steps can we talk there? What steps, five, six or million, if no human efforts (i.e. steps) cannot obtain faith? Who is crazy here?

        Especially if we take into account the empirical evidence to support church theory. Did st. Paul follow these five steps? No, he certainly didn’t. Yet, he was given faith. Did Andre Frossard follow five steps? No, he didn’t. Yet he was given faith. On the other hand, there are people who testify that they did follow all those steps (and many more), and they were not given faith. The one example is certain Amy mentioned in a post on this very blog which I linked. But there is no comment on that. It is as if people become selectively blind…

        • tar.gzip

          No, I do not say that opening the door to grace is independent of grace. That would be impossible, without grace why would I open the door? To whom would I open?

          What I am saying is that both are always needed to human action that can be called “good”. God does not possess people, does not force people, but also no good can come unless from God’s grace. So, what I say is that both MUST be present.

          An analogy (an imperfect one, I admit): Let’s suppose I am on the bottom of a well and cannot get out by my own means in any way. Let’s suppose the only possible way for me to get out of the well is for a person (let’s call that person Hero) to grab one end of a rope, throw me the other end and pull me out of the well. But I MUST do my part: grab the end of the rope and tie it around me. If I am pulled out of the well, it was Hero, and only Hero, who saved me. I have no glory nor claim to my saving. However, by the nature of the only possible way I could be saved, my participation is needed to grab the rope and tie it around me. Can I say I saved myself? No. Could I have saved myself by my own effort? No, not in any way. Even the part I did depends necessarily on there being someone who throws me the rope, and the rope itself. On the other hand, I could refuse to tie the rope.

          What I say is: there’s a part that depends exclusively of grace, and a part that depends of grace and of my response to it. My response, being a response, would not be able to exist without grace. But it is also an action of mine.

          Two questions for you:

          1) Do you think it is possible for a human to close him/herself to grace? If so, why wouldn’t it be possible for a human to open to grace? If not, are evil actions of humans God’s responsibility, as it would seem He had “forgotten” to send grace?

          2) Why does the Church venerate Mary for her “Fiat”?

          (Disclaimer: I am not a native English speaker, it is possible that what I wrote has mistakes, sounds weird or is hard to understand. I apologize in advance).

          • Christopher

            That analogy is a great one in my opinion. Awesome tar.gzip. You ever have that feeling when people have a disagreement and the person you agree with leaves something out that you just wish they would have mentioned? Not in this case. Nailed it tar.gzip. At least in my humble opinion.

          • Justine

            That with a rope is HERESY! It is called semipelagianism, and it was the last version of pelagianism to be condemned. When st. Augustine nailed pelagianists to the corner, the last recourse for them was that first movement of human will to accept grace. They claimed man do that of themselves. It was CONDEMNED! Not even grabbing the rope can man do of himself. Read in the catechism that grace is necessary to _start_ moving our will, and once our will is started to support it. So, it is needed for everything. In what clearer terms can one say that man can not do ANYTHING good of himself, not grab the rope, not participate, not anything.

            Let me answer to your questions, but not with my opinion, but with church teaching:

            1)Church teaches that it is possible for a man to close him to the grace of himself, but it is NOT possible for him to open to it of himself. Why? You ask that church, not myself. To me, if you cannot open yourself to grace, then you must close, for the simple logical reason that the third is not given. The church on the other hand is aware of that logical problem (look it up under ‘negative reprobation’), but they claim that it is ‘mystery of faith’, or, as Jospeh Ratzinger puts it, paradox for reason that will possibly never be solved and which must be accepted with faith (that is, if you have faith, since this problem involves the very question how to have it, haha). What a beauty, ain’t it?

            2) The short answer to that question is ‘grace on grace’. St. Augustine wrote a lot on that subject, you can look it up. He says that Good first gives man (and that includes Mary) the grace to do a good deed, and once deed is done he gives man the credit for it. He says that is what is meat by that line ‘grace on grace’ from Bible.

            (Disclaimer: I am not native English speaker either, but I believe my English is fine enough for me to say clearly what I intend to say.)

          • Dave

            A book called “Our Father’s Plan” by Fr. William Most (RIP) has the best discussion of grace vs. free will that I have ever seen. I would say that you are extremely close to the answer that Fr. Most gave, but are off on some nuances. I definitely would recommend reading the book.

          • Christopher

            Justine, I see your point. And assuming I understand correctly, I agree completely. Months prior to my reversion back to the Church, I started to notice that I wanted to be a better person. More loyal, more accountable, more honest, etc. This was grace moving my will. When talking to people about my experience, I always say that looking back I can see that God was preparing me for the experience. So yes, I agree that I did not open myself up to the grace. But, in the moment of my experience, I realized that I was willing to let go of all earthly desires. This allowed me to not close the door on the grace. So willing to lose it all is not a way to open the door to the grace, but rather a way of not closing the door. Is that agreeable? Or am I completely misunderstanding your argument ha? Which I sincerely believe could be the case.

          • Christopher

            But since there are some persons who so defend God’s grace as to deny man’s free will, or who suppose that free will is denied when grace is defended, I have determined to write somewhat on this point to your Love, my brother Valentinus, and the rest of you, who are serving God together under the impulse of a mutual love.
            St. Augustine
            Justine, you keep referring to St. Augustine to accuse our argument as heresy. That is an exact quote from the works of St. Augustine that you refer to. As you can see, St. Augustine was proving that free will and grace exist together. One does not deny the other. Which is the contradiction you are trying to prove. We are saying that both have their place. God’s grace is necessary to move us to do good, but it is our free will to cooperate with it or not. Hence, willingness to give up all earthly desires. The conclusions you are coming to with bits and pieces of the truth are heresy.

          • tar.gzip

            @Justine and @Christopher, but all well-thought replies are welcome: The latest reply of Christopher managed to hint at what is in your description of the Church’s teaching on grace and free will that leaves me very uncomfortable:

            – Your description reminds me of the doctrine of predestination.

            I remember, when I first returned to Christianity and wasn’t yet a Catholic again (complex conversion story), that the doctrine of predestination was something I hated (truly, though I did not hate the people who believed in it) because it made God into a horrible being. Explaining: if my salvation, brought by the love of God and the reception of grace, was pre-decided by God, in what way could I accept that there were people who would be in Hell in the afterlife? After all, if God pre-decided someone’s salvation, He had pre-decided other person’s damnation, and this contradicts the loving God that showed Himself to me.

            I know you are not advocating predestination per se, but the fact is that I cannot see the difference between “God pre-decides who is saved and there’s nothing anyone can do to change that” and “No good action whatsoever depends on anything other than grace, not even of my response to grace”. In fact, I believe in the omnipotence and omniscience of God, AND in human free will having a role in one’s salvation or damnation. In a way (and please excuse me for my mathematical analogy, and please understand that this is an analogy in a similar way as Jesus’s parables: nobody says that the Kingdom of God IS a mustard’s seed…), I see it as if we inhabited a 2-D world and God inhabited a 3-D world that contains our 2-D world. Everything (the 2-D and the 3-D world) is full of God’s grace, so every action I do is not independent from God’s grace (either I act against grace’s action or for grace’s action). In God’s 3-D world, He knows all our possible actions and results and so prompts us to the best result possible. But in our 2-D world, our actions are the result of our free-will only (though the range of possible actions is limited by logic, physics, and some actions are dependant of the promptings of the Holy Spirit, directly or via angels and other people open to the Spirit, and maybe some, unfortunately, of the promptings of the evil angels). This is how I see things, because otherwise how could I take responsability for the evil I do? It would be His fault for not prompting me…

            The main point is: I know (at least I hope) you are not advocating predestination, Justine, but it sounded similar to my ears and, in my view, predestination leads to despair and distrust of God.

          • Christopher

            Tar.gzip, I do not currently have time to evaluate your entire reply but I do have a quick thought. I have thought a lot about the exact same thing you are talking about. I have not studied the matter at all but believe I am relying on the understanding given to me from God. Of course I am human so I am sure that my explanation has errors but here you go. Pre-destination does not mean pre-decided. Pre-destination simply means that God knows the decisions you are going to make(omniscience) but He does not make the decision for you. And yes, we need His grace to make the decision of turning to Him, but that does not mean God does it for us like Justine is trying to say. She is defending grace to the point of denying free will. God is omnipotent, and He decided to exercise that by allowing us to have free will. Our free will is a gift from God. Why? Because He wants us to love Him as children not as slaves. Yes, we need his help to love Him as He wants us. It does require grace. And since free will is a gift from God’s grace, its inevitable that it requires grace to use it. So by using our free will, we are acknowledging God’s grace. Which is what Justine is trying to say we are not doing. Sorry some times I go on a rant. Hope this is making sense. In conclusion, pre-destination simply says that God knows how we are going to use His gift of free will before we do. It does not mean that it was His decision on how we use it. Satan is the author of confusion. I hope that my post clarified the confusion and not add to it ha.

          • Christopher

            “Predestinarianism is a heresy not unfrequently met with in the course of the centuries which reduces the eternal salvation of the elect as well as the eternal damnation of the reprobate to one cause alone, namely to the sovereign will of God, and thereby excludes the free co-operation of man as a secondary factor in bringing about a happy or unhappy future in the life to come.”
            Catholic encyclopedia
            Exact words. Justine is claiming to know what the Church teaches but it turns out that she is completely misinformed. In fact one can not find negative reprobation anywhere in the Catholic Encyclopedia. According to the Church there is predestination and reprobation. The only place I found anything on negative reprobation was in a blog that claimed the Church’s teaching was predestinarianism. Funny though cause the Catholic Encyclopedia teaches that it is heresy. Beauty ain’t it? On top of that, the heresy definition of negative reprobation had nothing to do with what Justine claims negative reprobation is. The definition was that it implies God’s will not to grant grace. Far from how Justine defines it.
            Tar.gzip, I suggest you ignore everything Justine has said. She obviously is relying on secondhand misinformation instead of what the Church truly teaches.
            Justine, I suggest before you start acting like you know what the Church teaches, to actually look the information up in Church resources rather than taking the information from wannabe theologians that misinterpret and incorrectly preach Church teachings.
            PS your explanation of pelagianiam and semipelagianism is incorrect also. You think you know what the Church teaches but you are far from the Truth. Sorry if this seems harsh but I am a little upset because you are spreading lies to be the truth. So why don’t you look at official Church resources for your information? Is it because deep down you know it is the truth but you do not want to face it because you would have to give up earthly desires you are not ready to give up? Beauty ain’t it?

          • Justine


            I haven’t read all these comments. But it was enough for me to reed just one sentence from your last comment to loose any desire to do so. You say:

            “In fact one can not find negative reprobation anywhere in the Catholic Encyclopedia.”

            Geez, man, just type ‘negative reprobation’ in the google, and the very first link should direct you to the article on catholic encyclopedia which says:

            The conceptual difference between the two kinds of reprobation lies in this, that negative reprobation merely implies the absolute will not to grant the bliss of heaven while positive reprobation means the absolute will to condemn to hell. In other words, those who are reprobated merely negatively are numbered among the non-predestined from all eternity; those who are reprobated positively are directly predestined to hell from all eternity and have been created for this very purpose.

            ( )

            It goes on to say that Calvin advocated positive reprobation, while the catholic advocate only negative reprobation. The negative reprobation means only you are not granted heaven, and not that you are granted hell. But since you can not earn heaven of yourself, if you are not granted heaven that should imply you must go to hell for the simple logical principle of tertium non datur (i.e. the third is not given). That is, if we are to mind logic, and not introduce ‘mysteries of faith’. But how does a man talk about such things to a man that does not know how to use google.

          • Justine

            @ Christopher: You say:

            “Pre-destination does not mean pre-decided. Pre-destination simply means that God knows the decisions you are going to make(omniscience) but He does not make the decision for you.”

            I must be cynical and say – what a brilliant analysis. If you have studied the matter which you say you haven’t, then you might have found out that there are two different things – predetermination and predestination. This ‘predetermination’ should mean the same thing you call ‘pre-decided’ (talking about rediscovering hot water…). And then if you look at ‘secondhand misinformation’ like a book named ‘Fundamentals of catholic dogma’ by Ludwig Ott which is considered one of the best in the field, and which has imprimatur of the catholic church, you might discover the following statements listed as dogmas:

            # God, by His eternal resolve of Will, has _predetermined_ certain men to eternal blessedness.
            # God, by an eternal resolve of His Will, _predestines_ certain men, on account of their foreseen sins, to eternal rejection.

            ( )

            Note that these that go to heaven are predetermined (i.e. pre-decided as you call it). So, if you are not predetermined to heaven, what other destination do you have but hell? Ey? But catholic theology says that the fact that you are not predetermined to heaven does not mean you are predetermined to hell, which is in direct collision with the basic logical principle that there is no third. But I think there is not much sense talking reason to a man that ‘has not studied the matter but relies on the understanding given to him from God’. Geez…

          • Christopher

            My sincere apologies about negative reprobation. I skimmed to quickly through the page before I replied. As far as predestination and predetermination goes, I do not have time to check your sources currently. But I did email my priest on the matter.
            “Everyone is predestined for salvation which gives them the ability to choose or reject it. There is a difference between predestination and predetermination. In predetermination, an individual has no choice. That’s a Calvinistic belief.”
            Predetermination is a Calvinistic belief! I will look into the dogmas myself, but for the meantime, I am going to trust my priest and not what you say. Funny though, the way he briefly explained it after an entire adult life of studying the faith seems to coincide with what I said.

          • Justine

            @Christopher: You made my point better than I could do it myself! You say:

            But I did email my priest on the matter.
            “Everyone is predestined for salvation which gives them the ability to choose or reject it. There is a difference between predestination and predetermination. In predetermination, an individual has no choice. That’s a Calvinistic belief.”

            And I, on the other hand, have a book with the imprimatur of the catholic church which says that predetermination for heaven is a catholic dogma. Hahaha. It would be funny were it not sad. This is exactly what I have been saying – everybody is singing his own tune, the one that pleases him the most, and it takes a lot of time and effort to sort out that mess. And once you dig to the bottom of it, you find out that the current pope wrote in a most famous book by him (Introduction to Christianity), that it is a paradox for reason (better yet – contradiction :rolleyes: ) that will possibly never be solved, and which must be accepted on faith. That is, if you have the faith, because at the very core of the paradox is the question how to obtain faith.

          • Christopher

            My apologies to everyone. I have made some replies out of ignorance and pride. My apologies especially to Justine. I made some comments that were out of line and I regret them. I am obviously in over my head and have a lot more studying of the faith to do before I can even attempt theological debates. You win Justine. I concede and admit that you obviously studied this more and understand it at a greater depth than I. I am, however, going to continue to believe in the Catholic Church and believe against predetermination. I am also going to believe that we have our part to do in finding God but we can’t do it alone. I hope you don’t mind that I continue to believe this. If it is heresy, then I guess I am a heretic. I also hope you can forgive me for the inappropriate comments I made directed at you.

    • Christopher

      I think tar.gzip has explained very well. I would like to add that the Catechism of the Catholic Church says under Sacraments of Salvation, “Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them.” This is exactly what Jennifer is referring too. An individuals disposition. It most certainly is crucial.

      • Justine

        The problem is not that the Catechism states too little, the problem is that it states too much. You can find statements in both directions. There are statements that man cannot do anything good of himself, and there are statements that he can do something good of himself. That is generally known as contradiction. Except in religious questions, where the corresponding term is ‘mystery of faith’.

        • tar.gzip

          I think that is a false dicotomy. I see it as at least 3 options:

          1) Man cannot do anything good of himself.
          2) Man can do something good of himself.
          3) Man cannot do anything good of himself unless condition X is fulfilled. In that case, man can do something good of himself.

          I believe in option 3.

        • Justine

          It is not that mine is false dichotomy, it is that yours is false ‘trichotomy’ (let me put it that way 🙂 ). Third option actually belongs to second option. Because in the end you claim man can do something good of himself. It doesn’t matter that you can do it if you have blue eyes, long legs, in the night of full moon only, or whatever other condition. What matters is that you can do it (of yourself). Therefore, it is option number 2.

          • tar.gzip

            Interesting, both this and the other reply you gave.

            I am not sure I understood what you wrote in both places completely, though (so, before saying I do not agree because of this or that, I really need to read more and pray about it). Do you think you could point me to the place in the Catechism where all this is discussed, and also do you (general you, not only Justine) know of an authoritative and orthodox (in a Catholic way, you know what I mean) source for me to read about heresies and why they are heresies?

            Thanks in advance.

          • Justine

            As for the catechism, you might want to read this part:


            Special accent might go on articles 2001 and 2007/2008. This article 2001 concerns what I have been talking about how both our acceptance of God and our perseverance come from God. Articles 2007/2008 concern that I have been mentioning that even merits are gifts of God, since the merit of man consists in the fact that God decided to give him merit by prompting him to do a good deed.

            As for further reading, there is no more orthodox stuff then documents from different church councils, the most important of which can be found in the book generally known as ‘Denzinger’ after one of its authors.

  18. Christine Maentz

    Awesome post! Strangely, I was working on something very similar!

  19. Rachel

    I truly believe that you have to come to the Lord with a broken heart and a contrite spirit to be truly converted. Great post!

  20. Amanda

    A few people’s comments have me uneasy. I, too, experienced financial hardships, health problems requiring serious surgery, and an almost complete breakdown of my marriage and family during my conversion (cradle Catholic but at this point in my life my faith became my own).

    The commenters I disagree with are the ones saying that you have to agree to be a loser in order to embrace your faith. That’s so wrong! You have to trust God above yourself: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.- Jeremiah 29:11

    You have to quit trying to control everything yourself and “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

    What God has in store for us is better than anything we could have ever imagined for ourselves, if only we will give up our own ideas to His will.

    Because of trust and perseverance through the difficult times of my conversion, the opportunities provided such as job promotions, new babies, and a wonderful marriage have become the remaining result. God wants all of us, but He also rewards our faith and does not want us to remain “losers in life”. We are the real winners because we have been brought to the point of humility and dependance and we know what’s important. We can see life from a grander perspective and life is beautiful.

    Great article, as usual, Jen.

  21. tar.gzip

    My personal experience is that you must be willing to analyze if the things/experiences/etc. you are attached to are closing doors of thought they shouldn’t be closing. (clumsy phrase, but bear with patience the non-English native speaker, please 🙂 )

    An example: someone is single. that person is seeking a spouse, and finds someone who could be a good prospect. He/she must be willing to lose a lot: lose the chance of getting romantically involved with others, losing the possibility of not having to compromise when deciding jobs, home, etc. If he or she decided that it would be impossible to let go of the possibility of, say, having other romantic relationships, it would never be possible to decide for marriage.

    In a smaller way, this happens when looking for a job, and in several other situations. You can only decide freely after examining which of your attachments are more important than the option you are deciding on, and which are not so important and can and should be discarded. (I just got unemployed from a job I loved, so this is in the front of my mind now).

  22. Ruth


    Thank you for writing this, as it helps to put my own situation into perspective, especially since we just became a one car family due to finances and a broken shifter.



  23. magdalene

    And being willing to ‘lose all’, one just might gain all!

  24. JonDWhite

    “There’s this idea out there we can will ourselves into automaton mode and make evaluations about any kind of subject with perfect objectivity. But it’s not true (except maybe in matters of math or science, and even then I think our biases come into play more than we’d like to admit).” This is very true, as the following example shows. In the 1920’s, astronomy produced significant evidence that our material universe (stars, planets, etc.) were brought into existence at the first moment in time long, long ago. Einstein refused to even entertain this idea because it contradicted HIS personal belief that the material universe had always existed from eternity, and because a universe that had a beginning at a specific point in time was repulsive to him because of its BIBLICAL SIMILARITY. But a Belgian astronomer, Georges Lemaitre , who also was a priest, had no such hang-ups and was the first person to posit the now-accepted “Big-Bang” theory of cosmology. To his credit, about 10 years after initially deriding the Big Bang theory to the priest’s face, Einstein publicly praised LeMaitre’s theory, again to the priest’s face, as the most beautiful of all.

  25. Trisha Niermeyer Potter

    I enjoyed your “Finding God in Five Steps” article and believe it is wonderful that so many commented on it, those who are still searching for God as well as those who have found him and are eager to help others open their hearts to Him.

    I wholeheartedly agree with the addendum article that we need to be willing to lose everything. I’ve found in my life that I’ve had to always be willing to losing whomever and whatever God has put in my life if He deems such loss is necessary in order to carry out His will.

    I have been challenged time and time again to hand over complete control, care, and concern of and about each of the people I love most. Every situation that I start to hold on to with a bordering-on-obsessive grip, in one way or another, I’ve been brought to my knees and have ended up at a point when I am ready and willing to submit completely to God’s will. Sometimes that’s meant losing it all and other times it’s meant being willing to lose it all, so God can adjust my relationship to a person, my job, a situation, or material possessions so that it will glorify Him.

    My favorite prayer to remind me to do this is: Lord, You are ALL that I have, and You give me ALL I need. My future is in Your Hands. Lord, I pray for Your will.

  26. Carie

    The notion of being willing to lose all perhaps means that we finally come to the place where we realize we have nothing to lose anyway; that in reality, any sort of actual control over our lives, wealth, belongings, situations, destinies or loved ones is an illusion. Only when we accept this and entrust ourselves to One who is in control, and (the scary part) LOVES us, maybe only then do we even begin to truly find God. I’m thinking of the “rich young ruler” who rejected Jesus rather than be willing to “lose” everything — and Jesus looked on him and loved him anyway. The young man never realized how much he lost by holding on to what he thought he owned.

  27. wendy

    Today’s Magnificat Reflection:

    Giving Up All and Following Jesus

    May God make you holy … becoming ever more your companion, your living light, and a guide that you may always hear and follow. Let us go where He leads us, in darkness or light, to the splendor of Tabor or the foot of the cross. It makes no difference as long as He is with us, and we will always be able to hear Him when He speaks to us. There is great peace in this sort of total abandonment, and in the gradual detachment from all consolation and self-seeking that little by little God allows to take place. I am far from that point, but God is working in His poor little servant and will lead her there, since she surrenders all to Him.

    How reassuring it is to feel surrounded and wrapped in His diving love, realizing that our all-loving Father is bringing us to the eternal shores, letting us occasionally breathe in from afar their life-giving scents . And then, if the path becomes more difficult and our guide less visible, we surrender ourselves blindly to His gentle direction, waiting in self-forgetfulness until God’s presence can be felt once more. Earth is not heaven after all, and were we always surrounded by spiritual consolation, we might find it difficult to understand the difference. We have been given the grace we need to help us reach the joys of our much-desired heaven.

    Elisabeth Leseur

  28. Nicole

    This post really hit home for me. Even though I was raised in the Catholic church and attended 12 years of Catholic schools I married my high school “sweetheart” who was a Jehovah Witness, although not a practicing one (his extended family was). After spending 13 long years w/ him and his let’s say shananagins I had grown distant to my religious practices. It was not until I decided to divorce that I realized how spiritually depleted I had become. In my darkest hours I remember feeling like only an act of God could save me and bring me from this abyss. I felt so much shame and guilt for having ignored my faith for so long just to “compromise” that it was in shear desperation that I finally turned to God in prayer. I so vividly remember praying telling God that I have nothing left of myself, I want none of my possesions, I just wanted peace in my life. Just peace and God’s guidance. I literally was willing to walk away with absolutely nothing, and I did just that. One morning the holy spirit woke me out of a dead sleep, I grabbed a pen and paper and a complete plan came to me that included quitting my job, packing my apartment and relocating to a place unknown at the time. Everyone thought I was crazy but withing 3 weeks I left my lifelong New England home town…long story short, ended up settling in New Orleans, renewed my faith and dedication to God and the rest is history. I am now happily remarried (to a practicing Catholic)2 beautiful children and God has not stopped blessing me since. I feel like the prodigal son.

  29. Matt

    Right on! Some of us have to be forced to give up everything, unfortunately, but it is true. My faith life did not really begin to mature until my first son was stillborn. Something that was “everything” to me was suddenly no more (at least on this earth). For the first time, I really had to lean on Jesus Christ and trust in Him, because at that moment I had nothing else. My wife and I were both emotional wrecks, and it seemed like no one else out there understood what we were going through. I had to support myself and my wife emotionally by the power of God, since my own power was insufficient (or non-existent). While it was sad that I lost my son, I am now living Romans 8:28, because my own eternal salvation may have hinged on that loss. My son gave up his life to save mine, and in the process he saved both of our lives. (Mt 10:39)

  30. Kara

    The car example reminds me so much of my personal battle with coming to the realization that “the pill” was wrong. When I first started reading about it, I was FURIOUS. I didn’t want to have an open mind about it, because I knew the church was right. I knew it would change my life. Turns out it changed it for the better.

  31. Christina

    This is so absolutely true! Since coming back to the faith, I’ve had to give up a lot of things I never foresaw having to do without. It’s been hard, for sure, but I know that God and the Church are more than worth the sacrifices I’ve made.

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