In today’s episode I talk about Our Heavenly Mother and supernatural charity, especially in relation to the Holy Eucharist. Our Lady shows us how to open up to the Divine Love and to live in intimate union with Him. This union is most especially realized in our reception of the Holy Eucharist. Even if we are still exiled from the Mass, we can grow in a deeper love of Our Lord’s Real Presence through Our Lady.
It is during these dark days of uncertainty that we must raise our eyes to heaven. It is through Christ’s Ascension and return to the Father that we learn to follow Christ to our ultimate end. He shows us that our true home is not to be found in this world. We are made for eternal life. It is this message of hope that we must cling to and boldly proclaim as we continue through this pandemic and the separation from the Sacraments that continues in so many dioceses around the world.
In the days and weeks following His Resurrection, Christ sought to prepare the Apostles for His return to the Father, but they could not bear the news. They were filled with grief, so Christ gently, over time, revealed His plan to them that would result in the coming of the Holy Spirit, Who is our Advocate and Comforter. Nevertheless, His return to the Father was necessary because we are called to follow Him wherever He goes.
Through the Ascension, Christ completes His earthly pilgrimage and leads us to our ultimate home and union with Him. We cannot attain eternal life fully until He ascends back to the Father. The Ascension raises our eyes towards heaven.
The Ascension is, then, a feast of hope, a sweet foretaste of heaven. By going before us, Jesus our Head has given us the right to follow Him there some day, and we can even say with St. Leo, “In the person of Christ, we have penetrated the heights of heaven.” As in Christ Crucified we die to sin, as in the risen Christ we rise to the life of grace, so too, we are raised up to heaven in the Ascension of Christ. This vital participation in Christ’s mysteries is the essential consequence of our incorporation in Him. He is our Head; we, as His members, are totally dependent upon Him and intimately bound to His destiny.
Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, Divine Intimacy, #179.
Through baptism we have been incorporated into the life of Christ, which means we live in the hope of our own resurrection and sharing in His glory. We too will follow Him to the Father at the end of our earthly lives. The Ascension is the event that most clearly reflects our hope in eternal life.
Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.
Today I look at the next supernatural virtue of hope and how Our Lady shows us how to live in the hope of eternal life regardless of our circumstances. She trusted in God always and united her will fully to His. We are called to do the same during this pandemic and during all of the trials and tribulations of our own lives.
**Today’s guest post is from fellow Catholic Exchange contributor Matthew Chicoine.
American founding father Benjamin Franklin said, “Diligence overcomes difficulties; sloth makes them.” Laziness not only creates problems, but also worsens them. Procrastination, a cousin of laziness, is the particular type of sloth that haunts me. I make excuses to explain and justify my laziness. “I am too tired.” or “The kids drove me crazy. I just need to de-stress by watching T.V.” or “I exercised yesterday so I can take the day off today!” The list goes on and on.
Fatigue definitely leads to sloth. Another cause is pride. My hubris leads me to believe I don’t need to take action as promptly as possible. Oftentimes, this is the case when my wife asks me to accomplish a task or schedule an important appointment. Connected closely with physical laziness is spiritual sloth. After the intensity of Lent and the joy of the Easter season wears off, I always seem to be lagging behind my prayer life around the feast of Pentecost. This article will focus on three strategies to overcome spiritual sloth and renew your prayer life.
According to Proverbs 12:24, “Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and become a slave.” Exercise helps bring me out of a sluggish slump. Simply, holding myself accountable by going for a 3 mile run or bike ride provides me energy. The same is true with our spiritual life.
A simple way to break out of your spiritual slump is to pray. Prayer is just a two-way conservation with God. If you don’t know how to start don’t worry! Communication with God need not be complicated. Just ask for strength. Tell Him your struggles. If you are still need direction on how to start praying look to St. Josemaria Esciva. The Spanish priest wrote, “The holy Rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence and you’ll be amazed at the results.” Another creative method to pray would be to pray while exercising! Ask the Holy Spirit for the mettle to make it that next mile or rep.
Another tactic to dispel spiritual sloth is seeking guidance from the saints and/or a spiritual director. Because of the busyness of my schedule, I personally don’t have time for a formal spiritual director. I enjoy reading the Bible or spiritual writing of a saint. St. Vincent de Paul puts it plainly, “Read some chapter of a devout book….It is very easy and most necessary, for just as you speak to God when at prayer, God speaks to you when you read.” Reading only a few pages a day will definitely prove fruitful—the key is consistency. Digest this guidance daily bit by bit.
Frequent the Sacraments
A third way to defeat spiritual sloth is something Catholic already are supposed to partake in—the sacraments. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1210,
Christ instituted the sacraments of the new law. There are seven: Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrismation), the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. The seven sacraments touch all the stages and all the important moments of Christian life:1 they give birth and increase, healing and mission to the Christian’s life of faith. There is thus a certain resemblance between the stages of natural life and the stages of the spiritual life.
At a bare minimum Catholics attend Mass weekly. There the faithful receives the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ as nourishment to sustain them for the week. During our journey on earth we fall into sin—marring our soul. Both physical and spiritual damage requires proper healing in order to avoid future decay. The sacrament of Confession restores us back into communion with God and our neighbors.
St. John Paul II declares in his Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliation and Penance, “To acknowledge one’s sin, indeed-penetrating still more deeply into the consideration of one’s own personhood-to recognize oneself as being a sinner, capable of sin and inclined to commit sin, is the essential first step in returning to God” (no. 13). Being forgiven from your sins elicits a freedom. We become freer to choose God’s will over our selfish desires after receiving the sacramental graces of Penance.
If you are struggling with spiritual sloth do not despair. Ask God for help and aid will be given to you. Frequent prayer leads to greater stamina during the dry times of our spiritual journey. Look to the writing of the saints for guidance and receive the sacraments, especially Eucharist and Confession. These three tactics are simple ways to defend against and defeat spiritual sloth. The most difficult part of any exercise is to start. Take that first step and begin renew your spiritual journey today!
There is an adage in our culture that is prevalent in movies, books, even daily conversations. It is: “People never change.” It is even quite common for Catholics to make this statement. If this is true, then we are all in trouble. Scripture and our Faith tell us otherwise. People deeply attached to sin and disorder are made new in Christ. Individuals who have been discarded, abused, hurt, sick, lost, and committed great evils do indeed change. We underestimate how much seasons of illness impact a person. We also forget that people carry very deep wounds that only the Divine Physician can heal. It is much easier to live in our assumptions and presumptions about people and constantly compare them to their failures or weaknesses, but this is wholly unjust and is a sin against charity. Authentic love is constant regardless of these failings. It does not accept them, but love is not revoked in the face of failures either.
Anyone who makes frequent use of the Sacrament of Penance (Confession/Reconciliation) comes to realize how weak they truly are and how much they need Christ. It is true that we tend to fail in the same ways over and over again until God provides the grace and we need to develop the habit of the virtue necessary to overcome a certain vice or character flaw. This means that change is slow and on-going. Very few of us have radical conversion stories. Even St. Augustine’s Confessions demonstrates the struggle each person has with particular sins. It is easy to forget that our progression in holiness is dependent on God’s working within us on His timeline, not our own.
There are indeed times when changes must happen rapidly. This takes place when tragedy strikes or an unexpected and life-altering diagnosis occurs. In those moments we are faced with monumental decisions about ourselves, our loved ones, the people around us, and the future. These times tend to reveal the best and the worst in us and we have to fight for the best to win. Our self-centered Fallen nature will rear its ugly head when what we wanted is either impossible or irrelevant. We must pray for the strength to persevere when we would like to give up and to embrace God’s will over our own. Very few people go through their entire lives without wanting to give up in the face of tremendous adversity at least once or twice or a hundred times.
Change is actually inevitable. I am not the same person I was even three years ago. There are aspects of my personality that do not change, but a fog I walked in for 3 years lifted and I could finally see myself again. I came out of that fog higher up on the path and stronger for it despite the misery I endured. We walk in valleys and up to, and on, mountain tops in this life. We become different depending on what we face, but the deepest reality of who we are as created imago Dei does not change. Our unique incommunicable and unique personhood is not lost in the face of tragedy, illness, mental illness, abandonment, and suffering; rather, we are refined and the unique person we are is made more beautiful in God’s furnace of love.
This refinement only works if we desire joy and if we learn to embrace the hardships and sufferings that will come our way. It is a process and we will fail to accomplish at times and struggle with self-pity, anger, and frustration. We must fix our eyes on Heaven and remember that this is temporary. Each moment of every single day we are moving towards Heaven or hell. We know intuitively when we have made the wrong choice, unless we have completely deadened our conscience. Every step in either direction changes us into the person we will be in the next life. If we choose not to change in either direction that is also a choice and the wrong one.
Our purpose in this life is to be a saint. We are made for goodness, truth, beauty, and happiness, but we can only attain those gifts from God if we relinquish ourselves and allow Him to dwell within us. We must choose each day to change for the better. When we fail–which is inevitable–then we ask God to pick us back up and march ourselves back to the Confessional. Change only occurs if we never give up. The Enemy wants us to stay face down in the mud sobbing about our failures or our lost dreams. We have to say “no” and get back up. Thankfully, God gave me a rather stubborn personality. This is good and bad, but I am thankful that it makes me less likely to stay down for long.
I love to hike and I love mountains. I grew up in Montana so the Rockies are deeply embedded in my psyche. I love living in the Appalachians, but there is a rugged, strange, dangerous, awe-inspiring, and compelling quality to the Rockies. The idea of the holy mountain we are climbing in this life is an old image. It’s found in the Old Testament since God was understood in relation to specific mountains i.e. Moses. Purgatory has also been called a holy mountain. Anyone who has hiked on granite peaks like the Rockies knows that there are long ascents, slippery shale crossings, snow, run off, mud, sudden afternoon thunderstorms, not-so-friendly wildlife, random summer snow storms, and winds. The views are phenomenal and they provide strength to continue onward when the climb becomes steep. Those who climb mountains like Mount Everest know that as you go higher the more treacherous the trip becomes.
The spiritual life seems to be similar to these treacherous climbs. The attacks, temptations, and reality of our weaknesses come to the forefront the more we climb. The Enemy changes tactics on us and at times we can mistake light that is really darkness (St. Ignatius of Loyola). The hidden places of darkness within us that we didn’t know about or never wanted to confront come out into the light. They have to so that God may shed His healing light and wipe away every darkness within us. Many of the saints experienced greater attacks from the Devil and struggled mightily with interior darkness as they continued the ascent. They relied solely on God amidst profound desolation.
The higher we climb, the more God reveals to us that we must give our entire selves to Him alone. The path becomes more difficult as we are asked to detach from more and more in this life, so that it is Christ who dwells fully within us. This takes a lifetime to accomplish since we are attached to much, some of which we don’t realize until we are faced with it at certain points on the journey. In our sinfulness, we do not realize that this detachment is the path to joy.
To be Catholic is to change. To be human is to change. There are relationships that may never fully heal and some people may choose the wrong path, but they are changing as they age. It is impossible not to. The deep changes, the necessary changes require God’s grace in our lives. The pruning away at the dead branches weighing us down becomes greater and greater as time goes on. In the end we may feel like a rose bush cut to the root, but any gardener knows the rose will come back in greater glory after an intense pruning. The same is true of us. With each new pruning, we change for either good or bad. It is up to us to rely on God in leading us to the good as we battle our selfishness and our own plans that are not united to His will for our lives.
We must also remember that people are not required to change in the manner we desire. We cannot force our will upon other people and make them into something in our own image. We must pray for others who have hurt us or who we may not agree with at times, but we cannot turn them into something they are not. God has plans for each individual based on the gifts and personality that He has bestowed upon us. Not everyone in the world is meant to be like us. Thank God for that! The last thing we need are carbon copies of me all over the world. In humility, we should recognize why people are meant to be different from one another. Oftentimes people will be upset when we make changes for the better, when we progress in holiness. Christ promised this too! Not everyone will understand, but we must continue on the path that He has laid out for us.
A very blessed last week of Advent to you as we wait in hope for the celebration of the coming of Our Savior at Christmas and while we wait ever watchful for the day He returns at the end of time.
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. St. Elizabeth was born on July 7, 1207 as the daughter of Hungarian King Andrew II and Gertrude of Merania. While still a young child, Elizabeth was betrothed to marry Ludwig IV of Thuringia, who was a German nobleman. She was sent to the court of Landgrave of Thuringia to receive her education at 4 years of age. During that time her mother was murdered and Elizabeth turned to ardent prayer in order to find peace and hope.
Elizabeth married Ludwig IV in 1221. She deeply loved her husband and the couple had three children. Two became members of the nobility while the third entered into religious life and became the abbess of a German convent. Throughout her married life, Elizabeth was deeply dedicated to prayer and charity towards the poor. Her husband supported her religious work. She lived a simple life of penance in devotion to works of charity. She used the abundant blessings God had given her as royalty to serve others in charity.
St. Elizabeth was greatly influenced by the Franciscan friars who arrived in her kingdom around 1223. She took up their austere practices in dressing simply and feeding hundreds of the poor bread daily. Both she and her husband were known for their great dedication to the poor in their kingdom. Elizabeth also treated the sick when illness ravaged the kingdom. Her husband was struck with an illness and died in 1227. After her husband’s death, Elizabeth devoted her life to celibacy and lived a life mirrored after a nun. She spent the rest of her days in ardent love and service of God and neighbor. She died at the age of 24 on November 17, 1231.
St. Elizabeth is one of many saints who was a member of royalty. Most parents of daughters discover very quickly the female fascination with princesses and queens. Disney has spent decades marketing off of this interest among young girls. Beauty, gowns, crowns, princes, and castles dazzle young girls as they twirl around their homes decked out in their finest. I remember being quite astonished at how quickly my daughter became enamored with Disney princesses at 2 years of age and she still is to some extent at 5 years old.
A Trump victory, if anything, only slowed down the speeding train of our secular culture. Lord willing, Catholics and other like-minded people will be given a reprieve after the last 8 years of open attacks and vilification by the Obama Administration and his fellow ideologues. Christian businesses have been destroyed, sisters working to help the poor elderly in our nation have been demonized and persecuted, and the rhetoric based on emotion and labels such as “bigot” and “hate-filled” have reached an all time high. Reality matters little to these people blinded by their own ideology.
It is clear that the blindness runs on both sides of the political spectrum and I have been critical of liberal and conservative alike in approach, mentality, and ideology. Many view Trump’s victory as a reprieve granted through our prayers. I am not ready to jump on that wagon since Trump is soft on his pro-life and marriage stances. While open persecution of the Church may soften during his tenure, there are plenty waiting in the wings to take up his place should he not be re-elected in four years. Quite frankly, we have no idea what to expect from the man.
The mission for Catholics has always been the same: holiness. It is fine to view Trump’s win as a victory, but it is unacceptable to continue with the status quo. The status quo–nominal Catholic living–led us to a Clinton-Trump election. Far too many Catholics have succumbed to the secular division of Church and state, and while the Church does not support a state religion, she is certainly opposed to a separation of public and private life. We are not Catholic on Sunday and secular during the week.
The appeal often made to «the rightful autonomy of the participation of lay Catholics» in politics needs to be clarified. Promoting the common good of society, according to one’s conscience, has nothing to do with «confessionalism» or religious intolerance. For Catholic moral doctrine, the rightful autonomy of the political or civil sphere from that of religion and the Church – but not from that of morality – is a value that has been attained and recognized by the Catholic Church and belongs to inheritance of contemporary civilization. John Paul II has warned many times of the dangers which follow from confusion between the religious and political spheres. «Extremely sensitive situations arise when a specifically religious norm becomes or tends to become the law of a state without due consideration for the distinction between the domains proper to religion and to political society. In practice, the identification of religious law with civil law can stifle religious freedom, even going so far as to restrict or deny other inalienable human rights». All the faithful are well aware that specifically religious activities (such as the profession of faith, worship, administration of sacraments, theological doctrines, interchange between religious authorities and the members of religions) are outside the state’s responsibility. The state must not interfere, nor in any way require or prohibit these activities, except when it is a question of public order. The recognition of civil and political rights, as well as the allocation of public services may not be made dependent upon citizens’ religious convictions or activities.
The right and duty of Catholics and all citizens to seek the truth with sincerity and to promote and defend, by legitimate means, moral truths concerning society, justice, freedom, respect for human life and the other rights of the person, is something quite different. The fact that some of these truths may also be taught by the Church does not lessen the political legitimacy or the rightful «autonomy» of the contribution of those citizens who are committed to them, irrespective of the role that reasoned inquiry or confirmation by the Christian faith may have played in recognizing such truths. Such «autonomy» refers first of all to the attitude of the person who respects the truths that derive from natural knowledge regarding man’s life in society, even if such truths may also be taught by a specific religion, because truth is one. It would be a mistake to confuse the proper autonomy exercised by Catholics in political life with the claim of a principle that prescinds from the moral and social teaching of the Church.
Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding The Participation of Catholics in Political Life, Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, November 21, 2002
A separation of faith and public life has aided in or descent into the current cultural madness. If we are not careful, it will be this type of thinking that will allow the powerful progressive agendas to sweep us into a dark period of intense persecution in coming years. Lest you think I am engaging in conspiracy theories, take some time to read the comment sections on various articles or even in your own Facebook feed. The real agenda is out in the open in all of its fury. We are an avowed enemy of this ideology. If you want to understand our culture then you need to study nihilism, relativism, and utilitarianism. These are the predominant philosophies within our culture at present. Attacks are nothing new for the Christian Church, which has been persecuted since Jesus Christ was crucified on the Cross. Our own Savior was killed, why should we expect anything different?
Since we know we will be “hated” or “vilified” on account of our faith in Jesus Christ, we need to turn our gaze back to Him. No purely political or human response is ever going to solve the world’s ills. Humanism will never eradicate the problem of sin and evil. The only answer to sin, evil, and death is salvation. Since we know this truth as Catholics, we cannot operate in a manner that betrays a lack of hope in the Paschal Mystery and an over-dependence on the temporal order. We live and work in the temporal affairs of this life, but we do not live as if the material is the only reality in existence. We live knowing Christ is the true hope and savior of all.
Modern man is on the road to a more thorough development of his own personality, and to a growing discovery and vindication of his own rights. Since it has been entrusted to the Church to reveal the mystery of God, Who is the ultimate goal of man, she opens up to man at the same time the meaning of his own existence, that is, the innermost truth about himself. The Church truly knows that only God, Whom she serves, meets the deepest longings of the human heart, which is never fully satisfied by what this world has to offer.
There should be little doubt that our world is hurting. There is a great deal of suffering and the conversion of souls is an ever new problem, this has been complicated by a relativism inside of the Church that claims all religions are equal, thus nullifying our need to evangelize. This is heresy. The Catholic Church contains the fullness of truth, and while partial truths abound in God’s creation, our desire should be for all peoples to come united in order to participate in the Eucharistic feast.
This day-in-age far too many people have fallen into error and now worship at the high altar of self. This poses great challenges to us in the New Evangelization. The role of the laity in the Church is to evangelize the culture in order to bring it into conformity with the Most Holy Trinity.
Secular duties and activities belong properly although not exclusively to laymen. Therefore acting as citizens in the world, whether individually or socially, they will keep the laws proper to each discipline, and labor to equip themselves with a genuine expertise in their various fields. They will gladly work with men seeking the same goals. Acknowledging the demands of faith and endowed with its force, they will unhesitatingly devise new enterprises, where they are appropriate, and put them into action. Laymen should also know that it is generally the function of their well-formed Christian conscience to see that the divine law is inscribed in the life of the earthly city; from priests they may look for spiritual light and nourishment…Since they have an active role to play in the whole life of the Church, laymen are not only bound to penetrate the world with a Christian spirit, but are also called to be witnesses to Christ in all things in the midst of human society.
Gaudium et Spes 43
‘We are called to witness to Christ in all things.’ This is a tall order, but in full conformity with our Baptismal promises. Being Catholic does not mean attending Mass on Sunday and then living as everyone else in the culture lives. We are to testify and witness by our lives. This means praying for the courage to step onto the long arduous path of holiness. The meaning of our lives is to become a saint. Sainthood is not reserved for the select few who are canonized by the Church. Sainthood is the call for every single one of us.
This is a lengthy topic and I cannot cover it in one single post, but here are some things to consider in your own life, as I consider them in my own life. I will write frequently on these topics.
- Do you practice what you preach in social media or to the people you know?
- How is your prayer life?
- Do you truly grasp the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist and its implications?
- Do you pray as a family on a regular basis?
- Do you study and pray with Scripture daily?
- Do you own a Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church?
- Do you really know what the Church teaches or only base it on conjecture, hearsay, or what you want to believe?
- Do you truly know and love Jesus Christ and desire communion with the Most Holy Trinity?
- Are you addicted to good feelings or has your faith matured beyond good feelings? Sainthood will never happen if we are addicted to good feelings. We must be refined in the Divine furnace and that requires suffering.
- Do you frequent the Sacraments, especially Confession and Holy Eucharist?
- Do you monitor the media you and your family ingest?
- Is your day structured around prayer and right praise of God or is prayer an after-thought?
- Do you celebrate holidays in a purely secular fashion or is your Catholic faith a part of the celebration?
- Do you openly share your faith with others?
- Do you serve in your community and parish in bringing the world to Christ?
- Do you attempt spiritual study whether through books, movies, or audio options?
- Are you leading your family to Heaven?
- Do you understand that your goods and money are gifts from God meant for the common good and the Church?
- What are your false idols?
- Can your co-workers and friends tell you are Catholic by the way you live, speak, and act?
All of these questions and countless more are things we need to be considering in our daily lives. I fail at so many of them, but the point is to seek God’s guidance in doing better. We must “will to be saints” per St. Thomas Aquinas. If our will is not involved then we cannot be sanctified. God comes to us in love and love is never coerced through force. Holiness is not a passive activity, it is the most active activity we will ever be called to engage in.
Today’s First Reading from the Book of Revelation paints a dire picture of what it means to be a lukewarm Christian.
I, John, heard the Lord saying to me:
“To the angel of the Church in Sardis, write this:
“‘The one who has the seven spirits of God
and the seven stars says this: “I know your works,
that you have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
Be watchful and strengthen what is left, which is going to die,
for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.
Remember then how you accepted and heard; keep it, and repent.
If you are not watchful, I will come like a thief,
and you will never know at what hour I will come upon you.
However, you have a few people in Sardis
who have not soiled their garments;
they will walk with me dressed in white,
because they are worthy.
“‘The victor will thus be dressed in white,
and I will never erase his name from the book of life
but will acknowledge his name in the presence of my Father
and of his angels.
“‘Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
“To the angel of the Church in Laodicea, write this:
“‘The Amen, the faithful and true witness,
the source of God’s creation, says this:
“I know your works;
I know that you are neither cold nor hot.
I wish you were either cold or hot.
So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold,
I will spit you out of my mouth.
For you say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’
and yet do not realize that you are wretched,
pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich,
and white garments to put on
so that your shameful nakedness may not be exposed,
and buy ointment to smear on your eyes so that you may see.
Those whom I love, I reprove and chastise.
Be earnest, therefore, and repent.
“‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
then I will enter his house and dine with him,
and he with me.
I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne,
as I myself first won the victory
and sit with my Father on his throne.
“‘Whoever has ears ought to hear
what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
Rev. 3:1-6, 14-22
Have we taken this reading to heart? Do we understand the dangerous implications in our half-hearted–which really amount to no attempt–at following Christ and becoming a saint? Yelling or correcting someone in social media or in the parish community does not amount to sanctity. We need to look deep within ourselves and allow God to penetrate our own darkness. If we have the courage and walk with Christ, we will begin to see our own ugliness and the desperate need for the blood of the Cross to wash us clean.
The first step in changing the world is to become saints. We must allow God to prune us and help us to overcome sin. We must be striving in virtuous living and establishing good habits such as regular prayer, the Sacraments, prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice always bound up in the supernatural virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Only then will we begin to see tangible results. Those results will seem small, but in reality they have eternal implications. Pax Christi.
I will admit that after I wrote about leaving Facebook again, I struggled to deactivate. That is until God knocked me upside the head. This is the “letter” I wrote to my Facebook friends, many of whom have been very important to me at various times in my life.
In a Fallen world where suffering abounds: What is the Christian answer to suffering and uncertainty? What is it we have been given in the face of pain, sorrow, uncertainty, and agony in our lives and the world? The answer is the supernatural virtue of hope. The Christian life is one lived in hope, no matter what happens on a personal or global level. In his encyclical, Spe Salvi, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reminds us of this gift:
“Spe salvi facti sumus”—in hope we are saved, says Saint Paul to the Romans, and likewise to us (Rom 8:24). According to the Christian faith, “redemption”—salvation—is not simply a given. Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.
Spe Salvi 1
Not only are we given hope, but “trustworthy hope” because hope comes from God. It is true that the road to holiness and communion with the Most Holy Trinity is arduous. There will be periods of intense suffering from external and internal factors largely outside of our control, but in the midst of that suffering hope sustains us and propels us forward. If we keep our eyes fixed in hope on Christ and our eschatological end, then the pain is worth the effort necessary to attain our goal, which is God. We must live in hope and not despair no matter what happens around us or to us.
Where does our hope rest?
Our hope does not come from the material world or the powers of this world. Our hope rests in Christ. While the Paschal Mystery has renewed creation, and brought about the salvation of mankind, men and women must still battle sin and suffering in the pursuit of holiness in a Fallen world. Pope Benedict XVI states: “Since man always remains free and since his freedom is always fragile, the kingdom of good will never be definitively established in this world. Anyone who promises the better world that is guaranteed to last forever is making a false promise; he is overlooking human freedom.” Definitive hope rests with God, not in the temporal order. We live hope in the temporal order, but hope does not come from this world.
One of the major struggles in Western society is based on a secular humanism that promises to lift mankind out of suffering through the use of reason. Due to the sinful and free nature of man, we cannot rely on the hope promised by human beings alone. This is also the danger of those who look to the state for all of the answers to human misery. No system based on reason and sinful human beings can completely free humanity from suffering, sin, and death. Only Jesus Christ can fulfill those promises.
A little over a week ago I reactivated my Facebook account after a year away. I have one of those personalities that gets easily sucked into the news feed. I have been watching the news since I was 5 years old, so old habits die hard. My problem is I become immersed in it. It isn’t good for me or people like me. I knew this a year ago and it is still true today. I am deactivating my account and trusting that God will provide for our adoption through His ways.
I went back on because social media is an invaluable tool in running an online fundraising campaign. My husband and I discerned that we need to humble ourselves and begin an online fundraiser to help us pay the astronomical costs associated with adopting a child, or Lord willing, children. I built our fundraiser and then I reactivated my Facebook account to share it. Upon my first scroll through the news feed I could see why so many of my friends have come to me saying they left Facebook for good. This election cycle has brought out the absolute worst in people on all sides.
The problem with the war being waged in social media is that many Catholics are involved in the constant battles and nastiness. It is true that we are called to take an active role in political life; however, it is hard to tell the difference between believers and non-believers at present. Christ tells us in the Last Supper account in the Gospel of John. “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” So my question for people is: Can people tell we are disciples by our love for one another? Can they tell our love for others? Christ commands us to love our neighbor. The constant fighting, offensive and overly simplistic memes, and the dehumanizing of one another accomplishes nothing except Satan’s desires for division. And there is a lot of division.
Fear and ideology have blinded so many that common sense has been lost. Catholics are forgetting that there are in fact laws, principles, and virtues to follow. Things are so upside down that a priest can commit sacrilege on an altar harming the pro-life movement while Catholics applaud this abuse of the Sacrament of Holy Orders and violation of the dignity of the dead. Catholics keeping throwing around mortal sin, without fully understanding moral theology or Catholic Social Teaching. The blindness to Clinton’s radical pro-abortion agenda and her constant apathy towards the dignity of the human person is ignored by her supporters. Trump’s waffling and indifference on pro-life issues is supposed to convince me that he is the great harbinger of the culture of life. In reality they both subscribe to intrinsic evils, are are wholly unreliable, corrupt, and bullies. I couldn’t buy the arguments of either side in the cacophonous din.
In full disclosure I have never voted for a Democrat because of their radical abortion agenda and the fact that faith is not divorced from public life. What I do see on both major sides is a lost sense of the good and how fear has come to rule the day; any and all scare tactics can be used to elect someone is the claim of the ideologue. We can do anything as long as she isn’t elected. This is false and immoral.
I just voted–and in full disclosure–I didn’t vote for either major party candidate. For the first time in my life I wrote someone in. I went with the American Solidarity Party. I walked out without the slightest tug at my conscience. I don’t agree with their call for single-payer healthcare, it violates the principle of subsidiarity and eventually the other three principles of Catholic Social Teaching in practice, but I didn’t have to choose between Moloch and Ba’al, as someone put it so well on Facebook. I could not stomach (I actually felt sick to my stomach) voting for either candidate, so I said a resounding “no” to the evil of both candidates. That is what I decided to do based on my conscience, which is properly ordered to the Catholic teachings on faith and morals. Others may arrive at a different conclusion and still be in line with CST.
I don’t expect people to agree with me, but I am fully within my right as a Catholic and acting in line with Catholic Social Teaching. My conscience could no long accept the consequential argument of the lesser of two evils. The “lesser” part kept on tripping me up this time around. I couldn’t see much of a distinction between the two. We reached the point–I knew we would soon after I plugged my nose to vote for McCain and Romney–when my conscience couldn’t do the mental gymnastics anymore. While folks from either side may not agree with my decision, they are required to respect it, which is the problem on Facebook these days.
There is no respect for others and a total dehumanizing and labeling of “other”. I have been accused of committing a mortal sin because I did not vote for Trump. That is the argument of an ideologue. I commit a mortal sin by abstaining from evil? It takes astonishing mental gymnastics to reach that conclusion. An example where this might actually fit might be: I vote for Clinton because she is for partial birth abortion. That violates the moral law and Catholic Social Teaching. Let’s try to keep our facts and theology straight.
The use of “other” to separate people has been in use since the Fall and it is always dangerous. It is used to take away the dignity of another group of people; to forget that they are human beings made imago Dei. The memes demonizing both sides does this task quite easily. Anger, fear, and the irrational are fueled and the volatile situation we now find ourselves in becomes reality. Social media provides an endless onslaught of real-time information, much of it false, anti-intellectual, offensive, or overly-simplistic. Yet, we ingest it and share it en masse without the slightest nod to prudence.
Fear is the word of the day. Far too many people are worried that if she gets elected the world will come to an end. There will be open sacrifices of the unborn on altars around the country, all Catholic Churches will close on Inauguration Day, and the apocalypse is upon us. The problem is, this isn’t an exaggeration of what I have seen. It reminds me of the scene from Ghostbusters where they talk about the End Times as they wait for the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Fear is not a reasoned response to evil. Fear makes people do, say, and think stupid things. Yes, stupid. I think stupid things when I am blinded by fear. I will freely admit it. There’s a reason Christ tells us to hope and not fear. I can understand a reasoned argument in favor of Trump, but I do not accept the argument based on fear that if she wins the end is nigh, so I must vote for Trump. I don’t vote for one because of the other. That isn’t a sound evaluation of the candidate as he stands. We are called to use our God-given reason, not succumb to fear of the unknown.
There is a tremendous lack of hope right now, which is the antithesis of the Catholic understanding. Catholics live in present history, but also in the past and the future. There has never been a perfect time in human history since the Fall. Horrors, evils, torment, and intense suffering have always been a part of our experience. Even in that pain the joy of the Paschal Mystery renews all of creation and us. We now dwell in the hope of entering into communion with the Most Holy Trinity. We live in the hope that God will use us in His divine plan. We are called to transform the temporal order within our sphere of influence. Yes, vote, but our system is completely broken. We have to start from the ground up and evangelize the culture. It’s the long view. It’s the Catholic view. We don’t obsess in impending doom. We transform the culture where we are and come what may, even if it is martyrdom. Our eyes must always be fixed on Christ and not the storm:
Then he made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea.When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.t once [Jesus] spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
People who come across us in social media or in person should be able to see that we are Christ’s. We share our political affiliations–if we have any at present–in hope and joy that no matter the outcome, Jesus Christ is King now and forever. We do not rant in irrational fear. We do not overlook evil and call it good. We do not dehumanize others. No matter who is elected this evening, our mission remains the same: to become saints. We can’t do that if we are blinded and attached to ideology. We cannot become holy if we harbor any hatred in our hearts. We cannot become holy if we wallow in fear. Admitting things are broken is not to give up. It is to reassess and figure out how to begin anew. That has been our job in every age. The culture collapses and we are there to pick up the pieces. We cannot pick up those pieces if we are screaming, ranting, or posting obsessively about politics in a doomsday manner.
Fellow Catholics, does our social media presence point to Christ? Is it filled with hope and joy even in the midst of suffering? I am very open about my own pain, grief, and suffering, but I also walk firmly with Christ by my side even as sobs engulf me. Vote today, trust, become holy, love others (including those you disagree with), and ask God for your mission in transforming the culture.
Read these to get started:
P.S. Sometimes it is very hard to tell the difference between sinful anger and righteous anger. Do we know ourselves well enough to tell the difference? Most of us are not developed enough in the spiritual life to truly know the difference. We need to be careful for the sake our souls and the people around us.