Join Together—the Message of Jolly Pope John XXIII

According to the Nicene Creed, the first of the distinguishing marks of the Catholic Church is unity. Without unity things tend to fall apart: societies collapse, families fight, and friendships evaporate. Over the course of history the Church has undergone a multitudes of developments and faced its share of difficulties threatening union. Jesus Christ promised that in spite of the conflicts unity still would persist through the office of the papacy. Guided by the power of the Holy Spirit all successors to the original “rock” of the Church, the Apostle St. Peter, provide stability and direction to the faithful. While I have been blessed with to live witness the tail end of the prominent papacy of St. John Paul II [the Great], I recently made an effort to acquaint myself with former pontiffs from the 20th century. Most recently, I learned more about the wondrous, albeit brief, papacy of the St. John XXIII.

Two words immediately come to mind with I think of John XXIII—jolliness and unity! He was a joyfully jolly individual whose papacy promoted greater unity for all mankind.  The Italian pope declared, “The whole world is my family.” While at face value, this appears to be a simple and unimpressive statement, looking at the human conflicts currently existing in the world today and throughout history, we suddenly realize that disunity is part and parcel of human nature. Opening the world to the Catholic Church via the initiation of the Second Vatican Council, John XXIII opened the supernatural ark and invited humanity a chance assess the spiritual graces housed in the Catholic Church.

I am grateful to have discovered the positivity, and harmonious message of the pope of the Second Vatican Council. Below are several insightful and uplifting words from St. John XXII we can reflect on for the rest of the week!

“I want to throw open the windows of the Church so that we can see out and the people can see in.”

What unites us, is much greater than what divides us.

See everything, overlook a great deal, correct a little.

“Before everything else, fidelity to the Church: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. Jesus did not found several churches, but one single Church.”

“O Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, I would like to be filled with love for You; keep me closely united with You, may my heart be near to Yours. I want to be to You like the apostle John. O Mary of the Rosary, keep me recollected when I say these prayers of yours; bind me forever, with your rosary, to Jesus of the Blessed Sacrament. Blessed be Jesus, my love.”

Men are like wine – some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.

Don’t Judge, Be Happy!

Over the course of the past month, the word judge has become a hot-button term. The allegations against newly confirmed Associate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh dominated the news cycle. Everyone seems to have their own opinion about the matter. Ironically, people formed a judgment on his character before analysis of the entire facts. Now, this post is not aimed at dissecting that judicial confirmation process or whether it was right or wrong that he was appointed to the Supreme Court. There are plenty of other articles, sites, and media avenues that address this issue. What I wish to highlight is that judgments form quickly, and sometimes even unconsciously.

Going to the New Testament, Jesus makes his case about judging clear in Matthew 7:1-5,

1*a “Stop judging,* that you may not be judged.b 2For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.c 3Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? 5You hypocrite,* remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

Because of our fallen human nature, avoidance of judgment is much easier said than done. St. Maria Faustina, wonderful saint and mystic who provided the world with the Divine Mercy Image, declared, “Let our judgment of souls cease, for God’s mercy upon them is extraordinary.” As a mere creation of the Creator, I cannot possible fathom the depths of the ocean of his mercy. Speaking with my brother about trials and negativity I face at work on a daily basis, he told me the following advice that lines up perfectly with the truth proclaimed by Jesus and echoed by Sister Faustina. My brother simply said, “Do not judge people ever. Just eliminate judging someone as “bad” at all times. If you stop judging, I guarantee you will be happy!”

How exactly do you begin to stop judging others? The easy answer is the following—just start! Fill your mind with something else when judgmental thoughts start to creep in. Pray the Hail Mary, place a holy icon of a saint or Jesus at your desk, or read the daily Mass readings throughout the day. These are a few small, but concrete examples of things that I did to slowly work to replace, but judgmental attitude. When all other means fail, I look to the official teaching of the Catholic Church for ways to show mercy to others.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2447,”The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.”

Free yourself from the shackles of judgment, but filling your life with holy words, thoughts, actions, and works. Remember this will be a continual battle, but by relying on the guidance of the Jesus Our Savior, Mary our Comforter, and guides of the saints you are not in this journey alone. Be happy today. Don’t judge others!

Proofs Against the Ways of the World

According to St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  The Apostle to the Gentile guarantees that the standards of what the world considers successful will conflict with the path of Christ. Laughter and ridicule occurred on Good Friday after the Death of Jesus Christ. If the tale stopped there, then everything Paul preached and the saints throughout Christian history would be in vain—a sad farce. Dreariness and hopelessness would dominate without the victory of the Resurrection!

I encountered a foreshadowing of that pessimistic and dismal way of living earlier this week. Continual confusion, and daily, sometimes hourly, changes, along with negative remarks from co-workers throughout the week barraged me. In my weakness, I only saw the limited perspective of suffering. Willing myself to be more positive did not alleviate the negativity surrounding me. A lot of the time people use sarcasm as a method to make light of a stressful situation. By the amount of usage of sarcasm and crass jokes at work it gives off the perception that everything is stressful. Do not get me wrong there are appropriate times to make a sarcastic comment, but I am of the belief those should be used sparingly. Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde once declared, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” Now whether he intended to have the last part of the quote to be taken is a question for another day, but all things in excess lead to bad ends.

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Why exactly am I talking about workplace doldrums and complaints? How does this tie back into what the Gospel message preached by St. Paul? While I am an avid ichthyologist aficionado this actually is not a red herring [as much as I love talking about this mythical creature!], in all seriousness, as a Christian, I am called to exist in the world without succumbing to the temptations and powers of the world. The evidence put forth by my co-workers shows proof of a fallen and imperfect stated of humanity. Certainly true, as Christ, Paul and the rest of the saints would agree with this point. Where the truth of Good News diverges from the Gospel of the World is that hope is possible. Compelling as the world’s claim that reality is ultimately hopeless is I put forth two specific proofs against this evidence of the world.

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  1. Sacrament of Marriage: The definition of the word sacrament is a visible sign of the invisible grace of God. Regarding the sacred bond between man and woman in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, the love of God becomes visibly present in the exchange of sacrifices between the spouses. Yesterday, my wife called me before work and provided me encouragement that sustained me throughout the day. My wife declared, “I just wanted to thank you for the sacrifices that you make to provide for our family!” In a tangible way, the grace of God entered into my day through the person of my spouse. We have been through ups and downs over the course of our 8 years of marriage. Without the sacramental graces provided by the Most Holy Trinity we would struggle mightily.

Sacramental marriages point to the Cross of Jesus Christ because each day husbands and wives are called to “die” to their selfish tendencies and put love for the other spouse first. In stark contrast, secular “marriages” lack this unifying bond of God’s grace.  Too often, people focus on the individual instead of the unity of the family.

In addition to my own marriage, my parent’s sacramental marriage demonstrates even further proof that love prevails against the world’s claim of individualism. Divorce pervades the 21st century. Giving up when times get tough is an easy out. My parent’s lifelong commitment proves the importance of sacrificial love.

  1. Tame Your Tongue, Tame Your Temper: Silence speaks louder than words. I never truly understand the power of Jesus refraining from answering Pontius Pilate’s questions in John 19 until I had children. When we are young talk is attractive. We all desire to be heard. Kids, especially those with ADHD such as my son [and myself—yes I still consider myself a kid at heartJ] have a particularly difficult time remaining silent. What is even tougher than remaining silence with wanting to share exciting news is being taciturn during stressful situations. According to Boston college philosophy professor Peter Kreeft, “God is the tongue-tamer. You can’t do it without him. But he won’t do it without you” (Your Questions God’s Answers 39).

Anger leads to impatience. Impatience lead to unrest. And unrest leads to sins of the tongue—rude vocal outbursts in reactions to trying situations. This week I made a conscious effort to pause before anytime where my natural inclination would tend toward anger. In the pause, I prayed for the grace to remain silence. Although I am a lifelong Catholic and possess a “Masters” degree in theology [I mean really can one truly be a master of anything?!  J], I am still a bit surprised at the ability to withhold negativity from leaving my mouth.

practice the pause

The way of the world tries to persuade you to run when the going gets tough. Increased divorce rates only show that people fail to see marriage as a lifelong friendship and gift for growing in holiness. Quick reactions whether it be in real life or social media are the norm for the 21st century man. Short term solutions or fleeing when times get tough certainly appear enticing, but from my experience and the witness of my parent’s marriage and wisdom of the Catholic Church proves otherwise.