Blustery winds, icy streets, and bustle of the holiday happenings form the recipe for the perfect storm. The best way to combat the crazy I discovered is through preparation for the storm. Recently my family’s home-life has been strained: my wife’s workload keeps getting increased, my job assignments, and testing this month for our two-year old as he gets re-evaluated to see if he would qualify for early childhood special education services still. The crazy keep hitting us before my mind is able to register the previous crazy event or antic that hit me.
Finding fleeting moments, but still at least some MOMENTS of reprieve as I drive to and from work—after dropping off the kids off at daycare and school of course!—I prepare for the list of all of things or chores, writing topics I hope to write about, and our family’s schedule. Listening to Christian music in the radio, the song What Child is This? came on over the airwaves. No matter the setting that I hear this hymn, I always get choked up—most especially during the refrain:
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!
Specifically, the words haste stands out for me. Synonyms for haste include: swiftness, rapidity, acceleration, and quickness. I always find it intriguing to talk of birth of Jesus in this hustle and bustle manner. Really, I should not find that too fascinating as expectancy and preparation for the Son of God is a common theme throughout the Bible. Among the more famous Old Testament examples common from Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign;* the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel.” Over centuries and centuries God gathered a people together under the nation of Israel and promised the birth of a Savior to reunite humanity with God. While preparation takes a long time and patience, it is essential to combat the storms one encounters in life. No greater preparation exists than preparing your soul to receive the King of Kings.
1. Daily Drudgery: A primary side effect of the Fall of humanity in Genesis 3 included pain and toil in daily living. Just because something is painful and boring, or in the case of many jobs, painfully boring, it should not be avoided. Instead, good, authentic, and true work brings a sort of dignity and fulfillment in humanity. According to St. John Paul II in Laborem Exercens, Work is a good thing for man-a good thing for his humanity-because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfilment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes “more a human being” (no. 9).
2. Constant Constancy: Work turns into daily drudgery when not viewed as an opportunity to growth in virtue and love of neighbor. St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, says it best, “You cannot forget that any worthy, noble and honest work at the human level can — and should! — be raised to the supernatural level, becoming a divine task” (The Forge, no. 687). The only way for this to occur is continual reliance on God. Ask the Holy Spirit for the graces to sustain you in the tough times and the stamina to prepare for the less tough times. As an adopted child of God through the sacrament of Baptism, I too often forget the gifts at my disposal from my Divine Father. I need only to graciously ask for help on the way of my day.
American Christian televangelist Robert Schuller, declared, “Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation.” Preparation goes unnoticed. All the behind the scenes work do not receive any accolades. Oftentimes, the mundane and dryness of preparation for the storms of life wear us down. I pray you may have the patience, fortitude, and mettle to weather the changing tides of life. The most important duty is to prepare for the arrival of the King of Kings. Make the most of the reminder of this Advent season to kindle the flame of expectation for Jesus Christ!
“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”— Luke 21:36
From darkness comes light.
The Key To A Peaceful Day!
Grand Illuminations (& Advent Awakenings)
According to American author Anthony J. D’Angelo, “Don’t reinvent the wheel, just realign it.” The continual focus on progress, change, movement, and improvement dominates 21st century humanity. Continued desire to improve on limiting stress, furthering personal and career goals may be inherently good; however, a person reaches a point when the trajectory of progress cannot ascend any higher. Ernest Hemingway wryly wrote, “Never confuse movement with action.”
Throughout history and literature, quick and unbridled progress poses the danger for a quick fall back to mediocrity and a starting at square one. The Great Depression in the 1930s happened on the heels of an epic economic boom, Greek literature warned of Icarus soaring too close to the sun—and eventually his wax wings melted and he fell to his doom. Personally, I too notice that whenever I experience a successful season in my life I have to be wary of being puffed up too much with pride. I start think too boldly—leading to the error of becoming a braggadocio!
As a Catholic, my faith plays a strong shaping force in my world outlook and daily life. According to Lumen Gentium the primary goal of all faithful is to grow in holiness, the Council Fathers declared, “Therefore, all the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state. Indeed they have an obligation to so strive (no. 42). I never truly pondered it before, but I recently realized that Jesus’ parables and teaching examples often included planting, gardening, and farming references because plant growth takes time—it is slow, but steady. Likewise, our growth in virtue and moral excellence needs to be watered with essential elements. The growth need to be natural, steady and sure for the progress to be permanent. Ascendency towards one’s goals whether that be moral, work, or exercise related poses a threat of a great fall. To avoid any backpedaling, it wise to return to the fundamentals of success. Below are three basic activities that helped me limit stress, decrease my negativity, and improve my relationship with others.
- Prayer: Saints wiser and infinitely holier than myself, always proclaim the importance of prayer. Perhaps no one else discussed the importance of prayer more plainly than St. John Chrysostom, “It is simply impossible to lead, without the aid of prayer, a virtuous life!”
Over the past couple of months, my wife and I committed ourselves to a regular, steady prayer routine. Before putting the kids to bed, we pray a decade of the Rosary. According to St. John Paul the Great, “The Rosary is the storehouse of countless blessings.” His words ring true with crystal clarity—the graces I received have been immeasurable. My manager noticing the changes in my demeanor at work told me, “Matt, you have had a tremendous month. I notice a great calmness within you over the past few months.” I almost was tempted to pull out my scapular—strong Marian devotion—to show my manager that what has changed did not occur on my own power. To cite John Paul II again, “Prayer joined to sacrifice constitutes the most powerful force in human history.”
- Exercise: Along with daily prayer, renewing my focus on regular exercise greatly helped sustain the progress I made. Because of the changing of the weather, I have get creative with my workouts. Actually, not truly that creative, I just call upon Shawn-T with his T-25 fitness program that I watch through the Beach Body channel on my Roku. Jabbing, hopping, and twisting my arms, legs, and core in my living room I feel replenished with energy after the under half-hour workout session. Not only does exercise help with the body, it reinvigorates my mental capacity and energy for the rest of the day.
- Reading Renaissance: Those of you that have followed The Simple Catholic will be aware that one of my strongest passions and loves in this life consists of the written word in the form of books. The only hindrance for me from purchasing and amassing more and more books is because I would either have to buy more bookshelves or take time away from reading to make a bookshelf myself. It is quite the predicament!
In all seriousness though, reading, and specifically reading good books from good authors, reignites my desire to become a better person. Late American essayist E.P. Whipple wrote this beautiful description for books, “Books are lighthouses erected in the great sea of time.” Reading books, especially the classics, allows the reader access to the thoughts, intellects, curiosities, and inquiries of history’s greatest minds. The foundation for all success is being humble to realize someone else is always smarter and wiser than yourself. After reading Fulton Sheen’s Remade for Happiness and C.S. Lewis’ Surprised by Joy, this fact was reaffirmed. Surrounding yourself with the wisdom and insights of those men and women before you will only enhance your ability to become the best version of yourself.
Progress is not bad, in fact, it is necessary in an ever changing world. In order to survive and flourish, you need to learn to adapt to changes. If you have found strategies or things that have already proven to help you develop into a healthier, stronger, and more virtuous version of yourself keep doing those things! Go back to the basics as often as needed. My revisiting of my basics—prayer, exercise, and reading— continues to provide me stability for a successful [and hopefully sanctifying] life!