9 Articles to Help You on the Spiritual Journey October 12-18

path-in-the-woods-13615460746I3Here is this week’s installment of articles and blog posts to help you on the spiritual journey. Enjoy! Pax Christi.

Where the Rosary Appears in Lord of the Rings, Br. Joseph Bernard Marie Graziano, O.P. Word on Fire/Dominicana

Giving Up on Prayer, Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction

Make Your Work an Act of Worship, Fr. M. Raymond, O.C.S.O., Catholic Exchange

Year of Mercy Extraordinary Graces, Fr. Ed Broom, OMV, Catholic Exchange

Be Hopeful Despite Everything, Steve Greene, Crisis Magazine

Some Spiritual Truths that Will Set You Free-A Meditation on a Teaching by St. John of the Cross, Msgr. Charles Pope, Archdiocese of Washington DC

Blindfolding God, Br. Jonah Teller, O.P., Dominicana

The Vulnerable & Rejected God: Power Made Perfect in Weakness, Chris Hazell, Word on Fire

Pope Francis and True Mercy, Bishop Robert Barron, Word on Fire

St. Catherine of Siena and The Thirst for Holiness

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Today we celebrate the feast of St. Catherine of Siena who is one of the four female Doctors of the Church. One of the great literary works found in the Catholic tradition is The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena. The Dialogue is private revelation dictated by her to her secretaries while she was in a state of ecstasy and it was completed in 1370. It is a work rich in fruit and spiritual depth and includes four treatises on the topics of: Divine Providence, discretion, prayer, and obedience. There is too much wonderful material to cover in so short a piece, so I will focus on material found in the Treatise on Divine Providence, namely the call to personal holiness through prayer and suffering.

St. Catherine was born in 1347 and was the twenty-fifth child of Giacomo and Lapa Benincasa. She began receiving visions from Our Lord at the age of 6, when she saw Jesus seated in glory along with members of the Church Triumphant: Peter, Paul, and John. It was then that Catherine resolved to give her whole life to Christ. Her parents desired that she marry, but she remained resolute in her abandonment and surrender to God. Eventually her parents recognized the workings of God in her life and they relinquished her to God through prayer. Catherine decided to follow the great Dominican Founder, St. Dominic, and became a tertiary (now known as Lay) Dominican. She fully embraced a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience. She remained with her family as she served the poor and sick in her community. It was in her service to the sick and suffering servants that she recognized the love of the Crucified Christ.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Confronting Dissent Within the Church

There is major division brewing within the Church. It has been there from quite some time, as religious and laity alike chose to dissent from Humanae Vitae putting them directly at odds with Christ and His Church. We have been reeling ever since. I do believe in time, as medicine and science catch up with what we already morally know, more and more people will see the error of their ways. As our culture implodes, I believe people will begin to see what the deconstruction of the family is doing to our country. I think that we will have to undergo some serious and difficult times first. I think that we will undergo some pretty serious persecution.  This is not alarmist.  I have spoken at length with priests, as well as other members of the laity, and we all can see it in the times we are living.

One of the hardest things for orthodox Catholics to confront is dissent, also known as cafeteria Catholicism. Dissent implies knowledge of Church teaching and the choice to ignore it. There are some who are ignorant of the Church’s moral teaching, but these days it would be hard to not have an inkling that the Church does not agree with the prevailing culture. We have an obligation to continue to study the Faith and to learn what we believe as a Church.  So how do we engage these people? I am still trying to figure this one out, as are many of my friends. A lot of priests and sisters are trying to figure it out as well. There are some stumbling blocks that we have to figure our way around.

First, no one likes to be reminded that they are a sinner. As a friend of mine reminded me today, “we are all broken”. We do not like other people to tell us that what we are doing is morally wrong, or evil. The hardest sin to overcome is pride. Ask my husband about me on this one.  The fact of the matter is that we all sin, we all commit evil. The problem arises when we refuse to accept something is evil and work to overcome it. Sin damages and it can cause widespread evil and pain. The beginning of conversion means recognizing our sinfulness and falling on Christ. The real issue of our day is that the majority of people think that they set truth. A real and full conversion to Christ means submitting to Him in all matters. This is deeply difficult, but the road to real freedom. This is a message that we are struggling to share as we confront relativism.

Moral relativism is widespread. It is in the Church and it is outside of the Church. Thanks to Descartes we all think that we know what truth is and is not. That means that we no longer trust the Church to teach us the Truth. Instead we accept a hodge-podge of sources including the media and secular culture. The Church cannot possibly know what is true in our day. She is antiquated and out of touch. This is one of the biggest hurdles we have to overcome. Many will not change their position and will continue to dissent. All we can do is try to proclaim the Gospel and live it in our daily lives. Many people turned their backs on Christ in His day, our day will be no different, as heart-breaking as it is.

Another major issue is emotionalism. I have tried, and failed, to engage with people who ignore Church teaching on various issues. What ensues is not pretty. I have been called every name imaginable. The discussion quickly turns irrational and launches into personal attacks. In the social media world it usually results in “unfriending” which has happened to me on a few occasions. I am okay with that, but it is distressing that people are so wrapped up in their belief that their only response is rage. There is no reasoning with these people. Instead I commend them to prayer and God’s mercy. I pray that I planted seeds, no matter how poorly I did it. My own sinful nature is carried into debates and I am sure that I don’t always explain things the best, even if I meant well.

We are at a point in our country where tempers are at dangerous levels. People seek to silence one another. This is also true inside of the Church. Heterodoxical people will seek to silence the orthodox. We are already seeing this play out in churches and schools in this country and across the West. We have to remember that Christ can soften hardened hearts. We must pray and do penance. We also cannot put our heads in the sand. We must stand up for the truth. We just have to find the patience, love, and charity that is born out of prayer and contemplation. We must receive the Sacraments often and spend time before the Blessed Sacrament.  We will all fall short and say the wrong thing at times. The Lord knows that I have, but we must keep trying. These people do not understand that our concern is out of love. None of us want to see a person put their soul at risk. It is even more difficult to watch people put themselves at risk as they approach the Blessed Sacrament each week with no thought. I know one thing that I will be doing is beginning more study on Theology of the Body. It changed my life and I know that it can change other hearts.

There is a great story about St. Dominic that another friend reminded me of this morning. St. Dominic was “a great lover of heretics”. His primary mission was fighting the Albigensian heresy, which is not too much different from the heresies of our own day. One day, St. Dominic met an innkeeper who was an Albigensian. It is said that St Dominic stayed up all night and did not retire until the innkeeper acknowledged the truth of the Catholic Faith. So that is what we must do. To take time with each person we meet. We cannot shy away from the truth, but we must share it out of love for souls. It is hard to engage in social media because it turns into a fight where other people get involved. This is a mistake that I have made. It quickly becomes a fight and people gang up on the one espousing the Truth. We have to find a way when in the heat of disagreement, to remember that these people are broken, that they are victims of the Evil One’s lies. So let’s keep about the task of saving souls, regardless of the personal cost to ourselves. If you have suggestions for engaging heterodoxy, please leave a comment. God bless.

 

Persevering in Prayer

Yesterday I had my monthly Lay Dominican meeting.  During Mass, the Homily focused on prayer.  Father talked about how we can underestimate the power of prayer and that it is essential to the Christian life.  It is the focus, along with the Sacraments, of the Christian path.  It was then that I felt like God was smacking me over the head with a hammer.  All week, I have heard the Spirit and my Guardian Angel, whispering to me to pray.  When I get stressed out, pray.  When the world is too much to take, pray.  When someone I love is struggling, pray.  While doing the dishes, pray.  Folding laundry, pray.  Scheduling my day, pray.  Better yet, schedule my day around prayer.  So that is why St. Paul said to “pray without ceasing”.  I can be a little slow on the uptake sometimes.

 
 Working my way to being received in the Lay Order of Preachers, means that prayer is what my day centers upon.  I start the morning with Lauds, go to Mass when possible, which is not quite as easy with a 2 year old, spend time in Scripture, pray a Rosary (I also like to add in Divine Mercy when I can), and then the evening with Vespers.  There is a natural rhythm to living this way, and yes, it is even possible with a toddler and a husband to take care of.  It just means that certain activities that I enjoy, or that control me, get less time.  For instance, the more I focus on prayer and study, the more I become disinterested in television.  After all, reading a book about Church history or Jesus Christ is way more interesting and enjoyable than the trash that is on TV these days.  Yes, I am a nerd and proud of it!
 
As I get older, I have begun to realize that the only thing I can control in life is how I react to things.  The world has always been a bloody and Fallen place.  Pick up any history book and you will see that man is a violent thing.  As Father said in his Homily yesterday, Adam and Eve fell and left the garden.  What followed?  Violence and murder through Cain and Abel.  That is why God had to come and die for us.  He knew that our sinful and violent tendencies could not be saved by anything less than his total selfless love.  Think about it.  We killed God and He came back in forgiving love (see Fr. Barron’s Catholicism series).  That goes against everything we know as human beings because we lack forgiveness ourselves.
 
How I react to my day-to-day affairs is directly tied to my prayer life.  If my prayer life is suffering, my family, and I suffer.  In forgetting to pray, I forget to give my life to God.  When I try to be my own centering force, the whole thing unravels.  My sins and temptations get the better of me and then my shame and guilt take over.  When I persevere, and yes, it requires great perseverance, in prayer, I am strengthened and reminded of God’s goodness and love.  I also remember his mercy in my own life and in other people’s lives.  I need to work hard to listen to the promptings of the Spirit.  The sloth in me wants to be distracted by Facebook, Twitter, my chores, and everything else.  In allowing those things to take me from my true purpose, I allow my vocation to suffer because I am not paying attention to my family, and my relationship with God suffers.  It is a great struggle for me.  Sloth, or the noon-day devil, as they called it in the Middle Ages, is a constant battle.  There are so many “more” interesting things that I would rather be doing than praying.  But, the truth of the matter is that when I commit myself to prayer, the better I become.
 
How is your prayer life?  Are there things that you could do to improve it?  Does your prayer life directly impact your vocation?