No doubt you have all heard about the heinous news of the sexual abuse committed by Church leaders and silenced by their protectors for decades. Anger at this betrayal and breach of trust leads to sorrow and despair. It is natural to become pessimistic and lose hope. I am still stomaching this news as well, especially the allegations by Archbishop Vigona against the upper echelon of Church leadership that possibly reaches all the way to Rome! What is a simple lay person such as myself to do to affect change? How can I rid of corruption within the Church hierarchy? Seeing yourself as a small part in the overall picture of the Church can definitely be overwhelming. What has helped me [and this is something I need to continually remind myself of] is recognizing what exactly is within my realm of influence.
While I cannot travel to Rome, like St. Catherine of Siena did in the 14th century to fight papal corruption, I am able to influence and help my immediate church—my family. St. Pope John Paul II spoke of the importance of the family unit in this way in his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, “Since the Creator of all things has established the conjugal partnership as the beginning and basis of human society,” the family is “the first and vital cell of society.”
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church number 1666, “The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called ‘the domestic church,’ a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity.” As father and husband, I am called to be a leader of my own family am able to bring my wife and children closer to Christ. I am able to raise [God-willing] responsible, charitable, and truth seeking Catholics to carry on the next generation of the Church. While ecclesial policies may be set in place to ensure that the sexual abuse does not happen again, I realize that I am not able to control those things. My primary function as a husband and father is to get my family to Heaven. In other words, I need to cooperate with God to help create saints!
The primary way to grow in holiness is through prayer. St. Alphonsus Liguori saliently spoke of the importance of prayer in this manner, “Were you to ask what are the means of overcoming temptations, I would answer: The first means is prayer; the second is prayer; the third is prayer; and you should you ask me a thousand times, I would repeat the same.” Today’s post discusses a topic closely related to prayer—fasting. Far from being a replacement to prayer, fasting help us deepen our relationship with God when it is united with a constant stream of prayer. Below are five things I pledge to sacrifice in the upcoming weeks that will help sanctify myself and my [AND YOUR] domestic Church.
1. Drink Only Water: I have previously wrote about my struggle against coffee addiction—especially Iced Mochas from Burger King. Starting the first Friday of September—and every subsequent Friday in 2018, I pledge to abstain from all sugary drinks, and all drinks in general, save for water. This may seem like a simple sacrifice, but I struggled mightily with the sin of gluttony. My 2 year-old even talks about going to Burger King because I have purchased their coffee so often!
2. Jettison Junk Food: Along with being healthier for you and your family, getting rid of junk food from your meals will be an exercise in abstaining from worldly pleasures for the sake of growing in holiness. This wisdom is found as early as the Old Testament. According to Sirach 37:30-31, “for overeating brings sickness, and gluttony leads to nausea. Many have died of gluttony, but he who is careful to avoid it prolongs his life.” What is more tastiness of chips, candy, and other unhealthy food creates an unnatural and sometimes possible sinful attachment to food, not for the sake of alleviating hunger and surviving, but rather for pleasure’s sake. St. Paul spoke of the evils of gluttony as well, “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:18-19).
Start with one day of the week to limit eating junk food—you need not completely go cold turkey on junk food, this may lead to binging later down the road!
3. Shield Yourself from Your Screens: Man in the 21st century appears to be defined by the amount [and type] of “smart” device that he owns. Peering at a computer screen seems unavoidable. Most jobs demand it. Furthermore, when we get home the television screen, tablets, and our cellular devices surround us as well. According to a 2018 study (https://expandedramblings.com/index.php/smartphone-statistics/), the average cell phone user checks their device on average 2,617 times a day! Yes, you read that right—2,617 times a day!!! Even as I compose this blog post, I am staring at a computer screen. Oh, how I wish I have a team of scribes to pen my posts for me—but that would be probably considered a hostile work environment by today’s standards as fingers would cramp up just from writing with a pen and paper!
4. Careen Complaints: American author Maya Angelou declared, “What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.” I certainly could have taken this advice last week. During my struggles both at work and home, I am ashamed to admit that I gave into negativity. I did not simply allow negativity to enter into my life, I was conquered by complaining. I complained over large problems and small.
In light of the recent Church scandals, I gained a perspective that my grumbles truly are minor. I really need to man up and focus on being more grateful. The Apostle of James wrote in his epistle about the power [and dangers] of the tongue,
The tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions. Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze. 6The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna. 7For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, 8but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison (James 3:5-8).
While human beings lack the natural ability to eliminate the evils flowing from the tongue [complaints, gossip, malevolent words to name a few], hope should not all be lost. God grants man the supernatural graces to overcome the natural tendency to complain. Prayer and fasting will aid in this battle.
5. Drink Only Water: Along with my original pledge to fast from all liquids except water on Fridays, I hope to eventually expand this sacrifice to at least another day(s) of the week. Please pray for me for the resolve to withstand the Burger King blandishments!
Growing and nurturing your faith and your family’s faith through prayer and fasting will be an antidote to the Church’s larger issues. If you feel helpless and afraid of the cancerous effects of this recent sexual scandal please do not give up hope. In the words of Bishop Robert Barron, “Now is not the time to leave the Church, it is the time to fight for the Church!” Ask the Holy Spirit to give your strength to battle Satan with the weapons of sacrifice and prayer. Remember, we are all in this fight together.
“As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” –Joshua 24:15