Braden Hogue Son of the living God, SERVANT of Christ, & believer in community.
We create our own demons. Who said that? What does that even mean? It doesn’t matter; I said it because he said it. - Tony Stark.
This reflection is a representation of my faith life, and that means it’s going to be a reflection of me, so expect it to be more of a non-formal conversation with myself (with little bits of sarcasm added in here and there).
With that being said, three things have built me to the person that I am today: movies, music, and (most importantly) my faith. These three things will be the running themes of my reflection, with a little bit of my charm thrown in. So without further ado, lets jump in.
I’m Braden Hogue, an English education major, who wants to one day become a principal. I have lived in West Terre Haute my whole life, and now I am at ISU. Either I love Terre Haute so much that I decided to stay, or it was the path of least resistance. My parents raised me Catholic, and they tried their hardest to get me to have a stable faith life. Me being me, though, I resisted. I didn’t like that faith was being pushed on me, without any of my thoughts being taken into account. At the age of 16, I “left” the Catholic Church. I separated myself from any form of faith you can imagine. Looking back now, this was a time when I created a demon. Have you ever attempted to go on a diet? You cut out all of a particular type of food because at the time you think it will make you happier being healthy. Then the diet most likely will end, and you can go back to eating normally, that’s what this separation was for me. The difference, though, is that this situation is flipped. My diet was cutting out God and corresponding prayer life. The diet wouldn’t cause me to be healthier; it just made everything worse.
"After my choice to separate from faith, I went down a path of nothing but demons..."
I have always been a confident person. I could get A’s and B’s throughout my education without having to apply myself. I never really cared a lot about what others thought of me, and I typically never let life get me down. I allowed my life experiences, my own decisions, and my personally chosen goals guide me to whatever path I went down. That’s where my noticeable flaw was. This cockiness and self-confidence brought me to a life of momentary happiness. After my choice to separate from faith, I went down a path of nothing but demons. A few of these demons still work against me to this day. My life was like a hallway with no end. The hallway featured small rooms to go into along the way. I would stop and spend some time in each room, and then inevitably leave the room and travel on to the next. Each of the rooms would take something or add more baggage to the person I was, and very rarely would the rooms add goodness, peace, or relief. Drinking, lies, parties, and ultimately depression would be the greatest of these rooms and the hardest for me to step away from. This was my life, and it was really a sad way for someone to spend their time on Earth.
"You see, to really love anything, and for it to be a beneficial, mutual, self-giving love, God MUST be included, and in my scenario, He was not..."
Finally, a door would present itself as an opportunity for Grace. The door of Love. I had thought that it was my escape from the hallway, and it eventually would be but not at the point that it initially presented itself. You see, to really love anything, and for it to be a beneficial, mutual, self-giving love, God MUST be included, and in my scenario, He was not. I walked into a room that I would stay in for about a year, and I did something I had never done before: I loved someone outside of the family. This person meant the world to me, and I loved her with all my heart. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out, and she never loved me. The relationship ended, and I fell back into a hallway of depression, and this hallway was darker than the last one.
This room brought me to depression and anxiety. Anxiety, being the worst of the demons which I encountered. For those of you that have never experienced anxiety-attacks, it feels like darkness and fear engulf your whole body. You cannot breathe, you are scared, and you feel all alone. It’s like the quote above, you become closed off, and you cannot love anything, let alone yourself. One of my favorite films of all time is Iron Man 3. In this movie, the overconfident Tony Stark suffers from anxiety attacks from past events, and demons from his past haunt him. You may have noticed that this reflection began with a quote from Tony Stark. He suffered from the same demons that I did. He was the most confident person I could think of, and then all of a sudden, he realized that he had to battle himself. Tony was my idle growing up, and when I first watched this movie I thought it ruined the character for me, but in reality, it set him up to be one of the biggest inspirations for where I’m at now in my faith. My primary take away from the film was always to remember to love yourself. Tony found faith in a different form than God, but ultimately his faith was in humanity through Love and service, and I like to think that in this fictional world of superheroes that God guided him to that conclusion. The only way you can love yourself is through God in order to become an instrument of God’s Grace. If we do not love ourselves, as God made us, how can we be of any use to him?
I found the path to loving myself, was only achievable by cooperating with God and by loving God. I went to church again and was heavily inspired by those around me. The dark hallway did end, and at the end of the hall was a door. I went through the door, and I found a community of people that would embrace me with arms wide open. I started by going to St. Joseph University Parish and began attending their outreach called Maximize Your Faith. This ministry to university students has helped me to find God in many different ways. These college students helped me to become a person who loves not only himself but who lives for others, and this was only possible with God as the center of my life. I found friendship, inspiration, and real happiness, just by going through the door and embracing God. These people who helped build my foundation are easily the most inspirational, and I am eternally grateful for each of them. It was a small step for me to agree to go to Maximize, but it brought so many new opportunities to grow my relationship with Christ.
These people would encourage me to go on retreats, spending time with Christ in Eucharistic Adoration, embrace an active prayer life, volunteer to service others while they retreat, go to a weekly bible breakfast, and further involvement in my parish community. All of these opportunities for Grace would bring me to occasions to increase my Love for God, my parish community, and myself. Without these encounters, I wouldn’t be writing this reflection or know half of the people that have brought me closer to the source of all happiness, Christ Jesus.
In closing, I would like to thank the community that helped bring me to this point in my faith journey:
First, Saint Joseph University Parish: thank you all so much for helping me to love myself and helping me through the rough times. The University Ministry has always been there for me, and I appreciate each of the members and each parishioner who supports this ministry.
Next, Franciscan Young Adult Ministry (FRAYAM): thank you for this opportunity to reflect and write about my faith journey in hopes that it will help others on their way. College does not last forever, and I look forward to transitioning into this Young Adult Ministry.
I have grown so close to this parish community, and it will always have a special place in my heart; My Love for you continues to grow.
To the people I met on the University Ministry, Awakening retreats: You guys helped me to understand more fully my demons and how as a community, we can help each other. None of us knew each other before the retreat, and after joining this community of believers, I know I can go to any one of you if I require help fighting off my demons. If any member of this parish community needs anything in the future, I’m here to serve. To all of my mentors: you have all been the best guides for me to help try to figure out where I am going with my life and ways to embrace prayer. I hope to be just as inspirational to younger people as you have been to me. Finally, to God: thank you for guiding me down this path and leading me to all of these people, this parish community, and this faith, that I can now say, I love.