Cardinal Sarah on kneeling before the Eucharist, Communion in the hand
Along with my enjoyment of crafting the written word into sentences, paragraphs, coherent thoughts, and detailing my struggles and limitations, I began The Simple Catholic blog with the aim to pursue the joy of the Gospel in my pilgrim journey on this Earth. This thing about joy is that it is always momentarily and never actually something you can produce yourself. Joy is different from mere happiness as joy hints at a higher reality and is a gift from God. Happiness, on the other hand, may be man-made, it is something able to be manufactured and it provides temporary pleasure.
According to C.S. Lewis discussing a life experience in Surprised by Joy wrote, “I called it [his experience] Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and from Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again…But then Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is” (p. 18). The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to joy as a fruit of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1829). Only through love of God and neighbor, through the virtue of charity is the gift of joy received!
Another interesting thing about joy is that we receive this gift unexpectedly. Ironically, and no pun intended, when I noticed Lewis’ Surprised by Joy hidden on the bottom of a bookshelf in the local used books store joy immediately flooded in. I was “surprised by joy!” Out of great love for C.S. Lewis, I was grateful and joyful to have the opportunity to purchase his wonderful conversion story.
Earlier this week, I received joyful and surprising news—I was going to see a college buddy of mine. My wife texted, “We are having dinner at XXX and XXX’s house on Saturday! We are bringing dessert.” While at face value this message appeared ordinary, charity transforms seemingly mundane events into joyful ones! I was not excited about the dessert or a change in scenery for dinner. Rather, I was joyful about spending time with my friend and his family.
Joy out of this World
Joy involves the in-breaking of the transcendent reality into this earthly existence. It hints at a higher reality of Heaven—communion with God forever. According to Saint John Paul II, “Christ remains primary in your life only when he enjoys the first place in your mind and heart. Thus you must continuously unite yourself to him in prayer…. Without prayer there can be no joy, no hope, no peace. For prayer is what keeps us in touch with Christ.”
Joy is a gift we receive when we live for others and receive it most fully when we live for the Ultimate Others—the Trinity of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Sin separates us from the joy of love of God and fellow man. We need to ask God for the gift of joy, the fruit of charity to be aware of the little moments He meets us throughout our life. The first step after prayer is just others over yourself!
Related Resources for More Joy:
Bishop Robert Morlino, RIP
Letter To Beloved, My Dearest Child
Coming off the heels of the Thanksgiving holiday, it may be easy to move directly into “Black Friday” Christmas shopping mode. The hustle and bustle of completing the holiday to-do list certainly puts pressures on people to rush. As a result, sometimes we forget that thanksgiving is not merely a day of the year, but rather a mindset. Recognizing the blessings in your life is not a novel, Americanized concept. Actually it is quite old. According to ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” I needed to hear that wisdom as I too suffer immensely from gratitude nearsightedness.
Acclaimed Catholic journalist and essayist G.K. Chesterton pithily proclaimed, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” Since focusing my attitude toward gratitude, I have noticed a seismic shift in my approach to treating my wife, kids, customers, and co-workers with more respect and patience. Along big component to thanksgiving is sharing with others gifts that helped you out, for me ten outstanding individuals helped shape—and continue to shape—my Catholic faith. These following ten Catholics are role models I am incredibly thankful for God allowing to enter into my life by either reading their works or listening to their speeches.
1. Venerable Fulton Sheen: Reading the works of the American archbishop helped me learn my faith in a clearer and more articulate fashion. His book The World’s First Love: Mary the Mother of God influenced more than any other work on deepening my relationship with the Blessed Virgin.
2. St. Josemaria Escriva: Since receiving his book The Way as an unexpected Christmas present, this Spanish priest became a huge role model for me. Fr. Escriva’s practical advice and wisdom on work being a pathway to holiness helped me become not only a better employee, but also a better husband as well.
3. St. Catherine of Siena: Over the past couple of months, I had the privilege and joy of acclimating myself with the teachings of this Doctor of the Church. In light of the recent clergy crisis, I oftentimes sink into despair as I think that a simple lay person such as myself has nothing to contribute or weight to affect the good of the Church. Reading the many letters of Catherine of Siena proved to me that even the laity have the ability—and the charge—to holiness and call on Church leadership to be good shepherds to lead the flock faithfully!
4. St. Maria Faustina: Being my wife’s confirmation saint, I did not learn about Sister Faustina until we started dating in college. Along with the impact the Polish nun had on my wife, her Diary of a Soul proved to be a fruitful read for my spiritual life. As a lifelong Catholic, I always knew of God’s mercy, but her ability to articulate boundlessness of Divine Mercy and the Divine Mercy icon now have become staples in my spiritual life.
5. St. Athanasius: Growing up as a cradle Catholic, I am ashamed to admit I never heard of this amazing doctor of the Early Church. Since taking a graduate course on Christology and reading [enter book title], St. Athanasius’ intrepid stand against the most sinister heresy—Arianism—in the history of the Catholic Church always inspires and fascinates me! I am grateful to have had the opportunity to read the sainted bishop’s On the Incarnation.
6. St. Pope John Paul the Great: The Polish pope overcome much adversity in his life: losing his immediate family members by the age of 21, living through Nazi and Communist regime, and suffering from polio at the end of his life. JPII’s ability to suffer gracefully and his strong devotion and daily reception of the sacrament of Penance make him the perfect role model for faithful Catholics.
7. St. Francis de Sales: Although Frances was a bishop, his spirituality largely impacted the laity. In his spiritual work Introduction to the Devout Life, remains today almost 500 years later a
8. St. Therese of Lisieux: Whether I experience doldrums or dryness in the spiritual life, reacquainting myself with the Little Way of St. Therese provides me spiritual nourishment to withstand those dry spells. The simplicity of her spiritual helps to provide me perspective that I do not have to perform grandiose works to grow in holiness. Actually, that path it founded by continually to pray and rely on trusting in God’s will. I am thankful for her loving witness to trust in the Father’s Divine Plan.
9. J.R.R. Tolkien: While the father of fantasy and beloved creator of Middle Earth may appear as an outlier in this list, the late Oxford professor strongly influenced and deepened my Catholic faith in recent years. His ability to teach truth without sounding preachy is second to none. Reading his works sparks my imagination. When I found out that his Catholic faith permeated his entire life, even his writing, I too dove deeper into the pursuing the joy of the truth founded in the Good News of Jesus Christ.
More information about my admiration for J.R.R. Tolkien can be found be clicking on this link to an article I wrote for EpicPew: https://epicpew.com/an-unexpected-journey-the-case-for-the-canonization-of-j-r-r-tolkien/
10. Bishop Robert Barron: I discovered the awesomeness that is Robert Barron back in 2014 as I was teaching Old and New Testament Scripture classes to high school sophomore. His YouTube videos provided clear and interesting short clips about various topics on Catholic theology. I am indebted to his evangelization ministry Word on Fire as well. Along with his videos, Bishop Barron’s book Catholicism proudly is displayed on my bookshelf and is a frequent reference for many of my posts.
Lord I am grateful for the wonderful individuals who followed your will and helped me learn more about the Catholic teaching and strengthen my spiritual life!
Among the perennial questions that mankind asks involve freedom. With the increasingly new information scientists learn about human biology and DNA that gets passed on from generation to generation, it is natural to wonder: how much control or freedom do I actually possess in my life? Over the course of history the greatest of literary works—Oedipus Rex and Macbeth to just name a couple— centered on the debate of freedom versus fate. When things did not go my own way, I recently struggled with having fleeting thoughts about fatalism— the belief that human actions happen through necessity and a result humans ultimately lack free will.
A year and a half ago, I wrote an article titled Reconciling Free Will with God’s Omniscience: Evidence form C.S. Lewis and My Life. Since publishing this originally in 2017, I have noticed that more search engine results came up on the topic of free will, God’s knowledge, and how to resolve these two seemingly diametric views. If God is all knowing and knows the outcome of every event in an individual’s life, do we truly possess free will? Or are humans fated and not in possession of the ability to be permitted to act on their own accord? Because a lot of attention centers on this topic, I feel compelled to write again on this subject.
While I still experience feeble moments of struggle to reconcile God’s omniscience with human freedom, hope is not out of reach. I am stronger in my belief and understanding. This is through the graces of the Holy Spirit along with my own continued pursuit of truth and sharpening my intellect through reading of people much, much wiser than myself. Most recently, I re-discovered the superb sagacity of Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen. Through the clear writing of Sheen, specifically his work Re-Made for Happiness, and my own humble experiences as a father I furthered my understanding that it is possible to reconcile the apparent Catch-22 between free will and divine omniscience!
1. Sagacity from Sheen: Although every book I have read of Archbishop Fulton Sheen impressed me, as of right now, Re-Made for Happiness tops them all. Chapter 13 entitled Hope specifically resonated with me. I got so excited after reading that chapter that I called my wife and declared, “This is the most amazing chapter, I have ever read of perhaps any book ever!” Whether this is a premature hyperbole, that is a debate for another time, nevertheless, I strongly recommend reading his entire book as soon as possible. In the meantime, I hope to provide an adequate highlight of his treatment on hope, free will, and God’s omniscience. According to Fulton Sheen, “Remember that in God there is no future. God knows all, no in the succession of time, but in the ‘now standing still’ of eternity, that is, all at once. His knowledge that you shall act in a particular manner is not the immediate cause of your acting, any more than your knowledge that you are sitting down caused you to sit down, or prevents you from getting up, if you willed to do it” (p. 161).
Being outside of the space-time continuum, God is not contained within the constraints of time. Our ability to judge knowledge depends on succession of events, day by day, moment by moment. Divine omniscience does not fit into the box of time. Sheen goes on to say, “Because there is no future in God, foreknowing is not forecausing” (p. 162).
2. Insight from Infants [and beyond]: As a parent I have known my children since the moment of their birth. I gazed [lovingly, not creepily—so do not worryJ] at them while rocking them to sleep, watched them slowly grow, develop, and learn about the world around them. The more I learn about my children the more I am aware of the outcome of the choices they will make. Let me give an example. For instance, my youngest son has developed a fond affection for toy cars, actually wheels in general. Possessing the intimate knowledge of my son’s [all my children’s] interests, patterns, and needs allows me to have an ability to now the outcome of a choice posed for them. This “foreknowledge” does not limit their freedom.
Together the examples from Fulton Sheen and parenting helped deepen my ability to reconcile the apparent chasm between God’s omniscience and human free will. Ultimately, these examples fall short in fully explaining the natural of divine knowledge. Nevertheless, I am still at peace with these explanations.
I realize that I am a mere part of creation and my Creator is infinitely greater and more loving than I may possibly imagine. This endless wonder and awe about God is a gift. Let us not quiver at the omniscience of God but joyfully ponder it every day!