From the beginning of human history, we have struggled with putting God first. Adam and Eve gave into temptation and that has set the stage. Life ever since has been a constant cycle of us being presented with opportunities to choose God or anything else. Whether we fall into actually worshiping an idol or we obsess over a celebrity or grip tightly onto money and power, we all have our “idols” that we bend to and conform our lives to. This is why the most important thing to remember is the opening to the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:2).
In our latest chat, we go head on with this ever-present reality of the idols in our life. Explore deeply with our chatters the various (and surprising) ways that idols can take shape in our lives, especially how they can come into our lives abruptly and gradually, making them hard to recognize at first. And just like last time, we will learn why we need to be more attached to heaven than earth.
How do we find the balance of loving those around us and venerating the saints we admire without allowing them to take the place that God is supposed to have in our lives? Do we need to stop our favorite pastime in order to properly love God? Continue to the chat to find out!
If you like the chat below, check out the Living Jesus Chat Room of the Visitation Sisters' website. Join us at 7:30 p.m. ET each Sunday! We read a passage of St. Francis de Sales and then gather great insights and sharing!
Why do we so easily “divinize” (idolize) other human beings? How can we end up idolizing someone/something through our actions, even if we claim to be keeping it in its place as a created thing? St. Francis says the kind of expression described in this letter could be acceptable if it was not expressed in worldly terms. How is this so? What is an example? In John 19:11, Jesus says to Pontius Pilate: “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above.” How can we think of this verse, too, in regard to the praise we give to humans and other created things? Do you think that if a celebrity or someone famous had more humility this would change or mitigate how people idolize them? Are we guilty of setting up our own idols, such as our children, celebrities, or even Church leaders? How can we avoid falling into this trap?
Idolizing Those Whom We Love
Caroline: Interesting perspective about idolizing others; I am sure I did that when young but not after meeting the Lord.
Ben: I think it helps to really know we have all sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God!!!
Caroline: I have read some biographies of saints that came very close.
Visitation Sister: Caroline, the saints came close to idolizing someone, is that what you meant?
Caroline: No, actually, in some stories, the Saint was extolled for having visions and so must have been more extraordinary than the rest of us. It was a very old one.
Ben: Without Faith in God, we can really do nothing!!!!
Visitation Sister: I imagine that we idolize people because we love them, and the love of the Lord is not too strong yet.
Sherry: That is an interesting observation. I also have the feeling that people idolize others because they want to be “part of something great” – so if they attach their adoration, they are sort of linked with the “greatness” of the other. But I really like what you said Sister: “because we do not love the LORD enough yet.” Yes, that’s it. We make an idol of something because we are made to worship.
But as with the golden Calf – we do not wait long enough – we give in to worship something lesser than GOD – because we want to get the “feel good fruit” of worship.
Caroline: I remember questioning that as being a little over the top and was told hagiography at the time did not mention flaws but emphasized gifts. Or if we imitate the person, we will receive their gifts.
Sherry: Caroline, I do not understand the context — can you explain please?
Caroline: Sorry, I had mentioned an older Saint biography that I read that made the person too good to be true.
Sherry: Oh. I see.
Ben: I think that when we make idols it destroys the unity that Jesus wants us to have to be One!!!! Like in Sports when too much attention goes to star players it can break a team apart, but if they remain close to each other and united as a team it can make a team better!!!
Caroline: That is true.
Sherry: Yes, good point.
Question: How can we end up idolizing someone/something through our actions, even if we claim to be keeping it in its place as a created thing?
Sherry: I was recently going for a walk, and my thoughts were wandering, and I thought, “do I idolize St. Francis de Sales?” – do I speak more about him than Jesus?
Caroline: I think you’re onto something there. The same for us in the Community: less Francis, more Jesus.
Sherry: I remember when I studied Logotherapy, every second sentence started with “Victor Frankl this, and Victor Frankl that.” I had to stop the training there – because I thought that I was being formed as a disciple of Victor Frankl (founder of Logotherapy) rather than of Jesus, but I have to be careful not to do the same with St. Francis de Sales.
Sherry: Interesting, Caroline.
Caroline: But always remember the example of both Francis and St. Jane.
Sherry: It is not a secret that I truly love the writings of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane, but I have to check in from time to time to make sure that I am still seeking Jesus THROUGH them – and not seeking their writings only.
Ben: I think that when that person or thing gets in the way of our relationship with God, starts to control our actions and prevents us from being in touch with God’s Will, what God truly wants us to do, can happen overtime!!!
Caroline: Because we are following in Francis’s footsteps it is easy sometimes, you overlook whose footsteps he’s in.
Visitation Sister: Our students say this often too, we concentrate on the saint rather than Jesus.
Sherry: I also did some “checking in” recently, if I idolize information and interesting thoughts, which is of course made visible in books. How I fear that one day God would ask me to depart from my books. It would be a “young rich ruler” dilemma for me. I hope I know how to choose.
I also wonder if that tendency was why St. Jane and St. Francis decided to separate in a way.
Visitation Sister: There was an attachment of some sort there. St. Jane’s 1616 retreat was a turning point.
Sherry: Yes, and I am so, so glad to see that their love for Jesus was bigger than the attachment. Now. Right here. I am tempted to ask, “where can I read up on this”? The 1616 retreat.
Visitation Sister: Yes, I am thinking.
Caroline: I would be interested too.
Visitation Sister: Might be in one of their bios.
Sherry: Ok. Just a quick question. Which bio from St. Francis de Sales do you like best? Question is for all on the chat.
Visitation Sister: Our scholarly sisters would have a lot to say on it: Sr Paula from MN and Sr Mary Grace from St Louis. Shall I ask them if I cannot find the resource?
Sherry: Oh, please, Sr. Susan.
Visitation Sister: Check this out: "The Spiritual Language of Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal."
Be Available to God
Ben: We must be available to God!!! Idols prevent us from being available to serve God when He calls!!!
Sherry: Yes, Ben, again, right on. Idols prevent us from serving GOD because we can only serve ONE master, and every idol is a master in some way.
I just read recently – was it in our readings maybe? Not sure now – that the sacrificial offerings through the Levite priests started after the Golden Calf and was meant to help Israel to stay away from idols; they were now invited to offer up cows and calves to the ONE GOD – instead of worshiping them.
Caroline: Sherry, I thought it was because blood is needed to atone for sin?
Sherry: Caroline, I know what you mean, and it is NOT either or, definitely a foreshadowing of Jesus, setting the context of His atonement.
Caroline: Okay, it is both!
All We Have Is Given by God
Question: In John 19:11, Jesus says to Pontius Pilate: “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above.” How can we think of this verse, too, in regard to the praise we give to humans and other created things?
Ben: Good Teachers always keep us looking for God’s Will, Available to God with our Gifts, Talents, and Abilities!!!
Visitation Sister: It is also true that Divine Providence is over everything even those God permits us to meet.
Ben: People can be placed by God in a Special Position that can be used to help others come closer to God!!!
Sherry: I honestly do not know what to say to the last question. I mean, people were “idolizing’ power, and in reality Jesus had the biggest power, but not visible in that very situation.
Caroline: Yes, they and we have a very limited sense of power.
Sherry: Who is “they” Caroline? People around the passion?
Caroline: The Pharisees. I seem to be speaking in incomplete thoughts tonight.
Sherry: All good, Caroline. I just really like to understand your thoughts. I value them (not idolizing you though).
Persecution Is the Best Faith Fertilizer
Ben: Even in situations where there is terrible leadership present, I have seen people work together helping each other and Faith in God Grow in the midst of terrible persecution!!!
Sherry: I think persecution is the best fertilizer for faith.
Caroline: Oh, I hope not! Lol.
Visitation Sister: Probably we will see faith grow in Ukraine.
Caroline: Yes, faith grows with the seeds of martyrdom.
Sherry: That’s what I am hoping too. I really, really hope that this is the fruit. It would be so much easier to reconcile with the horror of war if the end would be bent knees and a new way of worshiping God.
Ben: God always guides us to find new and creative ways of loving and serving others even in the midst of deep persecution or in the midst of prosperity, if we stay close to Him!!!
Caroline: They said on the news this morning that Putin believes he is doing God’s will, and so does Kirill the Metropolitan.
Sherry: Wait, what? Putin believes he is doing God’s will? WOW! Can we see the deceiver fully at work here!?
Caroline: Yes. Many live in the same area I do. They are modest and generous and rarely in the news. Yes, I have seen a news video of him praying before Mary with the Metropolitan.
Ben: It is an example of how distorted our view can become when we idolize anything! We can talk ourselves into believing we are doing God’s Will when we could not be living farther from the Truth!!!
Visitation Sister: Not sure former communists really believe.
Caroline: The report went on to say uncharitable things about the Church under communism.
Rebecca: Sister, that observation is what has helped me to cope with more than fifteen people who entered my life and my house since the flood and, it seems, did more harm than good. I trusted one whom I should not have, but since he would have had no power had he not (falsely but probably without ill intent) convinced me (verbally) of his competence, I realize that I would not have these problems I’ve been dealing with for months now, had God not at least allowed it.
Ben: I believe Sister Susan that many are locked into a mindset of kill or be killed very poisonous to an entire culture erosion of freedom.
Sherry: Oh Rebecca – that’s the last thing you needed. Is your house still not back to normal?
Feasting on Idols
Question: Are we guilty of setting up our own idols, such as our children, celebrities, or even Church leaders? How can we avoid falling into this trap?
Caroline: We are all vulnerable. We must never take our eyes off Jesus even as we listen to those who are teaching us how to do that.
Ben: We live in a culture that feasts on idols!!!! We have to really be checking ourselves and have Faithful Friends who will be checking us for a shift towards idols!!! Can happen quickly and easily, or even gradually over time!!!
I think when we stop Resting in the Lord and start to crave some idol we need to STOP and run back to God!!!
Sherry: As for celebrities, they are often just a “product.” Product of the companies with whom they signed the contracts. But I think giving your YES to live a life like a celebrity is like signing away your soul.
I have never had a “celebrity crush” – well, maybe one. When I became Catholic, I think I was idolizing some things and people, but that has fallen into place now, I think.
Caroline: Because, you know, the West is pretty degenerate.
Sherry: Caroline. You are living amongst celebrities? How cool, probably a lovely area.
Caroline: It is a nice seaside with a mountain backdrop.
Sherry: Hmm. Do want to do a get together, Caroline.
Caroline: Oh, yes, Sherry!
Sherry: On my way, Caroline. First, we all go to Sr. Susan for a retreat – I so would love that.
Idolizing Our Own Children
You know, I feel really convicted about “idolizing my daughter.” I really do. How can I change this? Today she sang for the first time at church, it was so beautiful, and I recorded a short passage, and sent it to her aunts (who love to be in her life). Still, I know it was a subtle way of bragging. How can I step out of idolizing my daughter? Practical ideas are very welcome.
Ben: Soo easy to put our Loved ones before God! That temptation is so dangerous.
Caroline: Continue to love her so intensely but remember she is God’s first?
Sherry: I am not sure. How can I know? I mean, I do not worship her, but she means A LOT to me.
Visitation Sister: If your deepest will is for God then you are not, and if you are, God will take care of it in His own way because you do put Him first.
Sherry: But even if parental pride is not idolizing, I still do not like parental pride. There is something wrong about it. It is kind of the subtlest of pride, it looks like it is about someone else – your child – but in reality, you just want to shine the light on yourself – your genes – or your parenting skills or whatever – praising your child is never really detached from self-praise, I think.
Rebecca: Sherry, it was a good thing you did. A person fully alive, singing God‘s praises gives glory to God. Go on bragging about her! As long as you don’t put her in God‘s place.
Sherry: Thank you, all of you, it really helps. When I am thinking about this, I check in. Am I putting GOD over her? I hope the answer will always be no. Good thing I am scheduled for confession on Wednesday.
Ben: When we put God First, we now have the ability to truly Love God and Others!!!
Sherry: I see this picture of me holding my daughter on my open hand, being visible for everyone. Let her light shine, but also not holding her back so God always has access to her more than I do.
Caroline: What a wonderful image.
Sherry: Thanks, ladies, your words of wisdom lead me there.
Visitation Sister: That poetic touch!
Rebecca: You want her to belong to God, to give God glory, and to share her gifts with others. That is your gift to the world and to her aunts.
Sherry: Yes, Rebecca, that’s exactly what I want.
Ben: I have made the mistake of trying to fix everything for my kids instead of just being there to listen and love and to allow God to guide them through!!!
Sherry: Does anyone remember the singer Billy Idol? What a name to choose, eh? He should be on the chat today.
Caroline: I remember him.
Rebecca: Careful about scrupulously.
Sherry: What about church leaders? I had seen the biography of Tammy Fay the other day on Netflix – speak about idolizing. Phew.
Caroline: They were a pretty extreme example; I think all TV ministers are particularly vulnerable.
Sherry: Tammy Fay – and her husband – idolized money and fame – all in the name of the LORD. I think they meant well but were so misled in their faith – and then they invited a whole nation to idolize them, and that created quite a downfall.
Rebecca: Thanks for filling me in; I didn’t know what it was about.
Sherry: Of course, we Catholics are also vulnerable to idolize in our own ranks, but it really helps that genuflecting to the LORD is so naturally built into our practice of faith, it somehow sets it right – on a daily (or weekly) basis.
Ben: Good examples of how we can start wanting to serve God and others and it can get all twisted up along the way. Easy to drift off the narrow path with Jesus and end up on the Broad way to destruction!! We can’t do anything without Jesus!!!!!
Rebecca: I know a woman whose conversion to the Catholic Faith was triggered by her seeing an old man, with great difficulty, genuflect to the Blessed Sacrament.
Sherry: Oh, my goodness. I just realized. “BROADWAY” – and broad way. We should have a catholic theater called “the NARROW WAY.”
Visitation Sister: You are inspired!
Caroline: Oh, let’s, Sherry. I can write the plays.
Visitation Sister: Yes!!
Sherry: Do you know that there is a German musical about St. Jane de Chantal? I have written the Salesian Oblate in Austria.
Visitation Sister: Yes, I have the CD of it.
Sherry: But in German I guess, Sister?
Rebecca: She was in the church because of the music.
Visitation Sister: When you come here, we can watch it. And you can interpret.
Sherry: Really, keep that, Sister – maybe we’ll need this one day.
If you liked the chat above, check out the Living Jesus Chat Room of the Visitation Sisters' website. Join us at 7:30 p.m. ET each Sunday! We read a passage of St. Francis de Sales and then gather great insights and sharing!