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Danny Schneible

Danny Schneible

Death creates a tension within us. We know that it is inevitable, yet we also have a strong desire to resist it, to prolong our lives. Dr. Ernest Becker, the father of Terror Management Theory, says that we develop various phobias in order to cope with this tension. If you’re afraid of heights, it’s because you might fall … and die. If you’re afraid of enclosed spaces, it’s because you might not escape … before you die. Fear of flying, fear of spiders, fear of the dark, it’s all a desperate attempt to avoid the unavoidable.

I think there’s some truth to this. My fear goes a little deeper, though. I’m afraid my soul will die. Even though my conversion experience brought me a boatload of grace, truth, and joy in being Catholic, I still wrestle with the fear that God is going to zap me one day when I’m not ready and that’ll be it. I’ll pass through the gate that says, “Banish hope, all ye who enter here,” and that’ll be the end of Nicholas Hardesty.

To be clear, this isn’t the laudable fear of Hell that compels us to repent of our sin. This is the servile and despairing kind of fear. This is the “not good” kind of fear that, unfortunately, many Christians feel today. This is the “fear that leads to bondage” that Jesus came to save us from (see Romans 8:15 and Hebrews 2:14-15).

Where does this fear come from? What can we do about it?

The Source of This Fear

I know God isn’t the issue here. God doesn’t want anyone to go to Hell. “The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Some still go to Hell, by persisting in their rejection of God. But that’s not God’s doing. God doesn’t positively predestine anyone to Hell.

Some say this fear comes from a weakness in Catholic theology. They say that since we believe a Christian can lose his salvation, we necessarily walk around anxious and fearful of Judgment and Hell. But, that’s not the issue either. Catholics have the fullness of grace and truth. We have all seven sacraments. We have a Church that exists to save us, and a Mother and Son who constantly intercede for us. All of this should give us hope that if we keep trying, progressing, and coming back to Jesus, then when our time comes, we’ll be ready.

Well then, if the source of this fear is not God and it’s not the Church, what is it?

To Fear and Not to Fear

Deep-seated and desperate fear of Judgment and Hell is, at least in part, an effect of sin. Sin is what keeps us from God. Sin is what chips away at our free will and our sense of hope until we feel powerless to resist — and then shames and damns us as soon as we relent. Sin is what sends us to Hell and what makes Judgement so terrifying for all the wrong reasons.

At the end of time, the mighty and the proud will be so afraid of Judgment they will prefer being buried in an avalanche to facing Jesus (see Revelation 6:15-17). But, the rest will cry out, “Amen! Come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)

Why are they so unafraid? Why do they actually long for His coming?

Fear No More
St. John gives us a beautiful answer: “For fear has to do with punishment,” but “love casts out fear,” “that we may have confidence for the Day of Judgment.” (1 John 4:16-18) Confidence for the Day of Judgment – wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing!

Love is what makes it happen.

  • Love of God compels us to glorify God and never displease Him.
  • Love of neighbor compels us to serve others and never mistreat them.
  • Love of self compels us to seek what is good for us and avoid what is harmful.

In love, we embrace our good God and our heavenly destiny. In love, we can face death with faith and courage, and welcome the coming of the Lord.

Yes, death and Judgment are unavoidable. But Hell isn’t. Love makes it so that we can avoid that place. Love puts us in a sure and steady place so that when we finally meet Jesus there will be no crippling fear – just peace, joy, and entrance into His Kingdom.

It’s hard to share your faith at school. No one wants to stand out or have unpopular opinions. When I first decided to share my faith, it was in college. Through intense study I became a passionate Catholic – but everyone around me either didn’t care or they strongly disagreed with me. And I was terrible at explaining myself.

I realize now that there were some simple techniques I could have used to share my faith more effectively. Keep these in mind and you can be a positive witness at your school, no matter how old you are or what kind of school it is.

Live Your Faith Simply

You don’t have to make loud displays of your faith. You don’t have to shrink into the background, either. Instead, try to have a subtle influence on people, without drawing too much attention. For example:

  • If people are gossiping, don’t contribute to it.
  • If someone shares a personal problem, quietly pray with them.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Be kind.
  • Help people.
  • Wear Catholic t-shirts.
  • If someone asks about your weekend, don’t be afraid to say you went to Confession.

Eventually you’ll start to make an impact simply by living a faithful, Catholic life, and people will want to know more.

Get to Know People

I went through 12 years of elementary and high school with the same people, and on graduation day there were still classmates I didn’t know very well. It’s always easier to stick with your core group of friends than to risk rejection from a new person. But, if you are intentional about getting to know other people then not only will you make new friends, but you’ll also discover how your faith can speak to their lived experience.

This means investing in others. Be present to the person in front of you. Show an interest in their story. Spend more time listening and asking questions than talking about yourself. You might even challenge yourself to meet one new person a week. If you take this person-centered approach to life, then you’ll find open doors to share your faith with others, and your own life will be enriched.

Pray and Respond

When I first tried sharing my faith in public, it was at a crowded farmer’s market. There were so many people walking by that I didn’t know where to begin. Instinctively, I started judging people: “He is too scary.” “She will probably reject me.” “They are too preoccupied.” My teammate noticed this and reminded me: You don’t have to judge people. You don’t have to wait for the perfect opportunity. If you stay in conversation with Jesus, He will show you the way.

Even at school, we can get so anxious about new social situations that we forget about Jesus. Try not to wait for perfection or expect people to respond a certain way. Instead, ask Jesus to bring you the person He wants you to meet today. When he or she walks by, you’ll know it. You’ll feel the tug at your heart that says, “Talk to that person.” Then the only thing left to do is to respond.

Have a Heart

Maybe the problem is that the eagerness isn’t there. I get that. My intense introversion compels me to talk to no strangers ever. But, I also know that I have been called by my Baptism to share my faith with others. The Christian is constantly asked to choose between his comfort and the salvation of souls.

If your desire to share your faith is weak, then double-down on your relationship with God. Start taking prayer and the sacraments more seriously. Start taking your sin more seriously. Ask Jesus to give you His own heart for His people. When He gives you that heart, ask Him to constantly inflame it.

Zeal for the Lord always leads to zeal for souls. Seize the moment! I’m certain that God is waiting to fill you with His love so that you can share that love with everyone around you.

How did you learn your prayers? Maybe it was from an elementary school teacher, a children’s book, or a pious grandmother. Or, perhaps you learned your prayers from a kindly priest, a Sunday school catechist, or a friend.

I learned mine from my dad.

Childhood Memories

You should know something about my dad: He is the hardest-working and most selfless man I know. He would come home from work every night completely exhausted, yet he still found the energy to put his four sons to bed and pray with them.

Prayer time is one of my fondest memories as a child. I remember getting the giggles and holding my breath to keep from derailing everything. I remember my mind wondering to other places and then being shocked to discover that all the prayers had been said.

What I don’t remember is my dad ever getting impatient with us during prayer time.

Big Shoes to Fill

Now I’m a dad, and I’m trying to live up to my dad’s example. It’s not easy.

I lose my patience when my children avoid getting ready for bed, or when they decide, as I’m tucking them in, that they’re hungry, they need to use the bathroom, they need a drink, they need to find that stuffed animal they haven’t played with in years. Sometimes I’m so exasperated by the whole ordeal that I don’t even want to pray, and I rush through our prayers so I. Can. Just. Be. Done.

I was convinced that this nightly routine of doing what I can – sometimes failing, sometimes not – was having little impact on my children. I would think to myself, “I’m not doing this the way my dad did.”

What Is Enough?

I was especially concerned about my autistic son, who refused to say his prayers out loud with us. I would wonder, “Is he even learning them?”

Then I overheard him playing with his younger sister one day. They were putting their toys to sleep, and he began leading the toys in prayer. Like he was daddy. To my surprise, he said every prayer in the same order we say them in, and he knew every word. It was beautiful.

My son taught me a lesson that day: Sometimes the best you can do is show up. And that’s okay.

The Perfect Parent

We have many pressures and expectations placed on us as parents. We are the child’s first experience of who God is. We are the primary educators of our children. Our homes are supposed to be a Domestic Church. Our marriages are supposed to be an image of Jesus’ own love for the Church, and our families are supposed to be an icon of the Trinity.

That’s a lot.

Then we get on social media and see how “perfect” everyone else’s family is, and it’s enough to make you want to just give up and quit. Icon of the Trinity? I’ll never live up to that ideal.

The Gospel Truth

You’re right, you won’t – not without Jesus. You certainly won’t if you don’t ever try. And at any rate, children don’t need perfect parents. There’s no such thing! Children just need parents who make the effort. Parents who pray when they don’t want to. Parents who love their children enough to even care what they do. Parents who make mistakes, but then apologize and try to do better the next time.

I’m not talking about the bare minimum. I’m talking about seizing the moment, trying your best, and giving yourself a break. If you bring your imperfect self to meet the overwhelming task of parenthood, Jesus can work with that. He can use that. He can gently shape and mold that until you become the kind of parent you were meant to be.

My hope is firmly rooted in that truth. It’s the only way I’ll be like my dad one day.

Before I started working for the Church, I was a counselor. Sometimes I would ask my clients to complete an “I am” statement:

“I am ____.”

It’s amazing how varied the answers can be: I am worthless. I am hopeless. I am unlovable. I am a failure. Each one is a lie that must be overcome before our thoughts can lead to right action. Before we can radiate Christ.

What Does God Say?

Christians often say, “I am a sinner.” I think we say it out of a false sense of humility, or to make ourselves feel better about our sins. But, how does God complete our “I am” statements? Let’s see what Scripture says.

In Genesis, Chapter 1, we see that as God creates He also evaluates His creation. He creates light and says it is good. He creates land, sea, sky, and their inhabitants and says they are good. But, when God creates man and woman He makes a new declaration: “It is very good.” (vs. 31)

Now, we might object and say that all creation lost its goodness once Adam and Eve committed the original sin. But then how do we explain God’s good assessment of creation well after the Fall? For example:

“Yet thou hast made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor” (Psalms 8:5)

“We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10)

And the clincher:

“For everything created by God is good” (1 Timothy 4:4).

Why You Are Good

The fact is: Man is good. Scripture clearly says so. But, how can this be? How can we be good if we sin so much?

I’ve spent a lot of time reading and praying about this. While it hasn’t been easy, it has been fruitful, and I think I’ve found a solution.

Here are least 5 reasons why you are good:

  1. Because God created you, and He is good. Nothing evil comes from perfect goodness.
  2. Because God desires you, and as Aquinas says, “The essence of goodness consists in this, that it is in some way desirable.”
  3. Because God loves you, and as the Catechism says, “Only the good can be loved.” (no. 1766)
  4. Because you are ordered towards goodness. Goodness is your beginning and your end.
  5. Because you are made in the image and likeness of God. You were made to resemble God, and He is good.

Note that when I say, “You are good,” I’m not referring to the quality of your actions. Instead, I’m making an identity statement. I’m talking about who you are at the core of your being. Sin darkens your intellect, weakens your will, and strains your relationships. But, it is not who you are.

Your actions don’t define you. How could they? Does breathing under water make you a fish? Does flapping your arms make you a bird? Do a million pious actions make you a saint? No. Similarly, sinning does not make “sinner” who you are.

Yes, you have the ability to sin, but sinning is still just as unnatural to you as is breathing under water. You weren’t made for sinning, you were made for communion with God!

Be Who You Are

If you’re still struggling with this, ask yourself: Who would want me identifying with my sinfulness? Who would want me always thinking, “I am a thief. I am an adulterer. I am a glutton”? Satan would.

Now, ask Jesus: Who do you say that I am?

I know, we sin every day. But, if we can identify with our “very goodness,” then sin will no longer define us or have the final say. Then the next time we are tempted to sin, we can say, “I am not made for this!” Then we can live in the truth of who we are.

And the truth will set us free.

Last weekend my family and I took a trip to Stonelick State Park in Pleasant Plain, Ohio. It was a beautiful, sunny day with clear skies and bright sunshine. When we made it to the beach we ran into the water as fast as we could. It was so cold we nearly froze to death. It was worth it, though! Afterwards, we bathed in the sun, eating marshmallows and pretzels. It was great.

My children were about to go back into the lake when I exclaimed, “Let’s go on a treasure hunt!” The idea was invigorating. It just came to me suddenly, but once I voiced it, we were off. We packed up our things, grabbed an empty box (aka “treasure chest”), and hit the trail.

We found all sorts of things: pine cones, pink maple seeds, cool looking rocks, even some “gems.” They were fake, but we found them! Of course, we spent the rest of the afternoon picking off ticks. That wasn’t so great. But, we had our treasure!

As all adventurers know, treasure hunting has two joys and two woes. The two joys are the challenge of the hunt and the ecstasy of finding the treasure. The two woes are the dread of not finding the treasure and the longing for more once the prize has been won.

Life is kinda like that. We are all searching for what is precious and meaningful: love, friendship, success, fun, good memories, a sense of home, etc. We are all striving tirelessly to fulfill our deepest desires, despite the danger. This hunt often yields mixed results, moments of joy mingled with moments of despair.

It almost seems cruel at first, that God would make us with desires we can’t fulfill. But, He didn’t do it to torture us. Instead, He created our longings so that He could meet them, and they can only be met in Him.

Whether we know it or not, we are all on a journey to discover God. God is not like the other treasures we have discovered, which leave us longing for more. He is Goodness, Truth, Beauty, and Love itself. He is everything we could ever want and more. He is infinite and inexhaustible. Once He is discovered, we can go on discovering forever. The challenge of the hunt and the ecstasy of discovery — the two joys of every treasure hunt — are perfectly fulfilled in Him.

It’s a wonder we don’t pursue Him more. I think sometimes we would rather have the fake “gems” than the real jewel, the fool’s gold rather than the priceless treasure. After all, it’s shiny enough. It’s worth something. It’s often easier to find, too. But ultimately, as we’ve seen, it will not do.

In our heart of hearts I think we all know: it will not do.

The only solution then is to run towards the imperishable wreath (1 Cor 9:24-25), to the crown of glory that will never fade away (1 Pet 5:4). God is waiting to take you on that adventure. Go! Run! Explore! Find! Search the depths and win the prize: He who longs to be yours forever.


The Apostles were once under a mandated quarantine. It’s true. You can read all about it in the first two chapters of the Book of Acts.

After Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared to the Apostles over a period of 40 days. Then, He ordered them to stay in Jerusalem and await the promise of the Father. And so they did. For nine days the Apostles stayed together in the Upper Room. Then, on the tenth day (the Feast of Pentecost), the Spirit fell upon them and filled them with courage and zeal for the Lord.

We celebrate Pentecost at the end of May, and so I can’t help but think about those nine days the Apostles spent together. Scripture tells us they devoted themselves to prayer “with one accord” (Acts 1:14). That must be true. But, I wonder if they also bickered and complained. I certainly wouldn’t put it past them. After all, the Apostles were far from “perfect Christians,” and the Upper Room was the place of both their greatest acts of faith and some significant failures.

A Complicated Place

The Upper Room is where Jesus washed their feet. It’s where they received the Eucharist. It’s where they became priests. It’s where Jesus gave them the power to forgive sins. It’s where Matthias rose to the rank of Apostle. But, the Upper Room is also where:

  • Peter resisted the foot washing;
  • the Apostles argued over who would be the greatest;
  • Thomas would not believe that Jesus had appeared;
  • the Apostles rejected the women’s report of the Resurrection; and
  • Judas identified himself as Jesus’ betrayer.

There’s a lot of baggage associated with that room, and it’s easy to imagine that the Apostles brought all of it into their nine-day quarantine.

Of course, it could just as easily be that their time cooped up in the Upper Room was every bit as holy as Scripture seems to indicate. After all, it was preceded by 40 days with their resurrected Lord! Jesus broke open the Scriptures for them. He instructed and encouraged them. He ascended into heaven right in front of them. And when it was time for them to spend nine days together, His Blessed Mother was with them. Perhaps those nine days were a time of unparalleled growth, holiness, and praise, as they awaited the promised Advocate and Helper.

Our Upper Rooms

What has your “Upper Room” experience been like so far?

I’m frustrated with mine. There have been some examples of breakthrough: I got to see my daughter sing; I felt the presence of God in prayer with people via Zoom; my youngest son was finally potty trained; my wife and I finished some projects around the house; I reconnected with friends I haven’t seen in a really long time.

But there are also reasons for consternation. The house is usually a wreck. The kids are too loud while I’m trying to work. I’m over-eating because the pantry is, like, right there. I have friends who are sick with the coronavirus, and vulnerable family members that I constantly worry about. Going to the grocery store feels like a video game, trying to strategically make it from the bread aisle to the dairy department without coming within six feet of anyone. It’s nuts.

One Thing Remains

Sometimes I’m just like the Apostles. Other times I’m nothing like them at all. Thankfully, there is always one constant: the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit that fell on the Apostles is the same Spirit that can fall on me. He can fall on you, too – not on some future day when you finally get your act together, but here, now, at this very moment. He can heal you. He can stir up within you a desire to pray. He can give you courage and strength when you have nothing left. He can light your soul on fire so that, when the time comes, you can emerge from your Upper Room just like the Apostles did: invigorated, emboldened, and completely empowered by God.

Seize this moment! Invite the Spirit into your life. Pray to Him. The Spirit moves as He wills, and He wills to move you.