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Is It a Reason or An Excuse?

This is the Holy Bible that belonged to Diana’s parents. They received this as a wedding gift from the Maid of Honor, Miss Catherine Chimzar, who was the bride’s sister. Many bookmarks were left in place by Diana’s mother.

by Diana Mavetz Petrich

When you have a conversation with a child, I find it so sweet and delightful at their complete and total honesty. They have no one to impress because they haven’t been subjected to any stigmas or expectations of society.

Ask a child what they are good at doing and they will rattle off a list longer than their forearms. When they learn how to do something, they consider themselves masters of whatever it is they have learned.

Adults, on the other hand, are so tainted by stigmas and expectations that they forgot how free it is to be a child. We are incredibly hard on ourselves and compare what we do with others around us. Enter in all of the ways we adults steer through life each day in order to fit in, be accepted or understood.

I was inspired by a question I was asked a few years ago. We were talking about choices we have made in our lives, and my friend asked me a question that I quickly answered. He looked me in the eyes and asked me, “Is that a reason or an excuse?”

This question almost knocked me off my feet, as this was one of those questions that had me reeling. It made me look truly into myself and think deeply. After about a five second pause, I admitted I had offered up an excuse.

The definition of an excuse is it is an attempt to lessen the blame attached to a fault or offense and also to seek to defend or justify. An excuse is something we offer up to deflect blame, or it is used to avoid responsibility.

The definition of a reason is it is a cause, an explanation or justification for an action or event. A reason implies that fault is very much recognized and accepted. A reason truly lets you step up and take accountability for your actions.

We have all encountered people giving us excuses of why they can’t attend this or that because of one thing or another. I know from experience, when someone says, “I’ll try to attend,” there isn’t a snowball chance in hell they will show up. I have done this, too, admittedly knowing I had no plans to go.

Excuses halt productivity. They waste time and end any possible potential. I laughed when I read that excuses are weapons of mass destruction that undermine credibility and reputations. It’s true you have excuses or reasons, but not both.

I am a person that has lived in the excuse arena, but just like anything else in life, once you realize you are doing something, only then can you begin to work on changing that behavior. Rather than say no to an invite and risk someone will be disappointed in me, I will come up with an excuse. How destructive has this behavior been for me? Answer? A ton.

About 18 months ago, I started working at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Ely. I hadn’t attended Mass for quite some time, but decided I needed to truly play the part of the church secretary.

I started to go to Mass every weekend and even caught a few weekday Masses. As I sat there religiously (ha), I was wondering when would this “stuff” start to make sense to me? I didn’t need to wait a long time as it only took about six months for the pieces to start to fall into place.

Growing up Catholic, we attended Mass every weekend and holy days of obligation. We also attended Catechism every week during the school day, which was called, “Release Time Catechism.” We would walk the four blocks from the school to St. Anthony’s in all kinds of weather and temperatures.

I don’t remember ever reading the Bible during the years of religious instruction. We always had a Bible in the house and my mother attended Bible studies with some of the ladies from church. I have this same Bible and only recently have unpacked it from one of the many boxes I still have in my basement.

The Bible is filled with many memory cards from funerals of friends, coworkers, and relatives. My mother wrote many notes and placed them throughout the Bible as place holders or reminders of an important verse or chapter that must have resonated with her.

When I was much younger, I didn’t understand what the Bible was all about. In one of my excuse laden moments, when asked if I read the Bible, I would say, I didn’t read it because I didn’t understand it. I also came up with the excuse that the Bible reminded me of the telephone game we played as children.

If you aren’t familiar with the game, “Telephone,” it started with a group of kids all in a circle. The more bodies in the circle, the better the game worked.  Someone would start the game by whispering a story in the first person’s ear. That person would quietly whisper the story just told to them to the person next to them. The next person would repeat this until the last person in the circle heard the whispered story.

The last person would then tell out loud the story they just heard. In true human form, the story took on all kinds of twists and turns and was quite a bit different from the story told to the first person in the circle.

My excuse for not reading the Bible is that I thought that the Bible, that was thousands of years old, had been deciphered from several languages was possibly not reliable and I equated its validity to the game of telephone.

Not understanding how important the Bible is to Christianity, I have recently taken an interest in reading and more importantly understanding this thick book that otherwise would be used as a large dust collector on my bookshelf.

When I started working at the church, I told myself I would be open to anything when it came to broadening my faith journey. In other words, if opportunities arose to try something new, I would accept them. This commitment was difficult because I didn’t want to give up what little free time I had, but I knew this was an important step in growing in my faith.

Since I started down this new path, so much has become clear to me. To start with, I was asked to become a lector (reader) in church. I said Yes. I was asked to attend a series on the Mysteries of the Rosary during Lent earlier this year and I said ‘Yes’ to that, too.

These two experiences have opened my eyes to so much. I never understood how to pray a rosary, even though my mother, aunt and grandmother always had their rosaries nearby. I would sarcastically make a joke about them constantly “rattling their beads.” I never realized how much disrespect my comments held.

Going to church has opened up an entire world for me and I want to share what I have discovered with everyone. The love our Lord has for us has become so clear to me.

My mother always told us to never talk about religion or politics and I have to admit I have now done both. I can’t help it when I am with old friends that have stopped attending Mass.

I will gently ask them if they go to church. Many will respond they are “recovering Catholics,” as if it was a horrible disease. Others will say, “I used to be Catholic.” I will simply remind them once you are baptized Catholic, you are always Catholic. I have received sneers and laughs back.

I also ask many in conversation, “What do you think comes after this life?” With some, the sneers or laughs have disappeared, and a questioning look will appear on their face. This is a very serious question and one we all need to ponder.

My subject choice for this column is not to preach to others about what they should do. That’s not it at all. Sharing one’s life experiences can be powerful. We can find a hundred excuses for not doing things – especially going to church or doing things that we can push off into the future.

We can say we are too busy, don’t have enough time, distance stops you, had plans already set, have to work, too tired, didn’t sleep well and the list goes on and on. I can’t, I won’t, I might, I’ll try, maybe later, tomorrow, next week are all intertwined in an excuse.

Everything in this life needs to be tended to. Whether it’s family, children, a house, garden, or career, one must tend to it. Same goes for your faith. Jesus loves us and gave his life for us and our salvation. We need to spend time with him every day to thank him for the graces he has bestowed upon us.

The world is falling apart around us. What used to be right is now wrong and what was wrong is now right, but only with those who fall for the reverie around us. What we many times forget is that God is the one in control here.

Keeping your eye on the prize of heaven is so important in this life. If you think living on this planet is where it’s at, you will be disappointed when you die. There is a large billboard on I-35 between Cloquet and Forest Lake that reads, “When you die, you WILL meet God.” I haven’t called the phone number that is posted on the billboard. The statement on its own was all that I needed to read.

I have wasted valuable time in my life not realizing how important God truly is. I have always heard about the power of prayer. I was doing it wrong and that’s why I wasn’t very successful in the past. Father Charlie Friebohle recently wrote a column for St. Anthony’s bulletin about how to pray. I didn’t realize what you needed to do when you prayed. Now I know why I never won the lottery – it wasn’t the right thing for me. God answers prayers for the right reasons.

Personally, I believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I will continue to work every day to become closer to Him and follow his teachings. If you have gotten to the end of this column, thank you for reading something that I feel is one of the most important things I have ever written.

I will end with one question….why do we make excuses for coming closer to God, if what we truly want is to spend eternity with Him?

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