Advice from St. Alphonsus to Prepare You for Christmas

Great read on one of my favorite saints! St. Alphonsus Liguori pray for us!

https://epicpew.com/9-inspiring-advent-quotes-from-st-alphonsus-liguori/

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New Evidence in the Muffingate Case

🔰Add value by providing humorous or entertaining content!

This is a continuation of the story dubbed “Muffingate”—a level 7 shenanigan event!

🚨 🚨 🚨 BREAKING NEWS 🚨🚨🚨

📍Detective Daddy acquired more evidence in the so-called Muffingate incident that shook Chicoineville last November.

📍After getting a search warrant to sweep the suspect’s living quarters, muffin crumbs were found on the inside of her onesie.

📍Forensic tests proved the crumbs came from a blueberry muffin—the same flavor same the crime scene!

📍Prosecution is pushing for a trial soon.

📍Unfortunately, the suspect—nearly a year old now has acquired a new mode of transportation and making capture tougher for the already tired police force!

📍 Stay with PRNT TV 📺 to receive full coverage on this new scandal “sweeping” across this small town.

📍Text “antics” to 55555 to get text updates and exclusive interviews with the sheriff, eyewitnesses, and first-responders.

📍This has been I.M. Shocked with PRNT News reporting. Thank you for watching (reading)!

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Thoughts?

Let me know in the comments ⤵️

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Sweat, Stress, and Shenanigans: Why Take Your Kids to Sunday Mass?

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Our car’s digital clock reads 9:27 A.M. I am thinking to myself, “Great, maybe we will be able to make it on time to Mass this week…finally!” [we only live 2 minutes away from our parish.]. After we pulling into a parking spot and turn off the ignition, my wife and I rush to get our three children into the church before the entrance hymn starts.

Thankfully, we made it in time. I thought myself, “Please let us be able to make it through at least the first part of the Mass without me having to take any one out!”

Let the Battle Begin

My prayer was almost answered. Two minutes into the first reading, my 18 month old son, started to lose focus and wanted to escape the premises. The granola bar and sippy cup of water were not enough to appease him long enough for me to finish the reading. Perspiration glinted on my temples and forehead from having to hold a squirming and twisting toddler.

I gave up the battle. I left my oldest son in the pew by himself for a couple minutes until my wife came back—she had to take our daughter out for a bathroom break five minutes into the liturgy!

“What is the point, I thought. Should I even continue trying to bring the kids along? Sometime people stare at us as if we have an extraterrestrial being dancing behind them in the pew? My kids are insane!” I lamented to myself. Mass ended fairly decent, considering the crazy start, but I felt inspired to write about my inner struggles about balancing family life with my Catholic obligation for Sunday worship. Here are three reasons why I cannot stop bringing my children to Mass despite the enormous “inconvenience” or “stress” it seems to bring.

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Because I Experience Truth

Someone once asked my wife, “Why did you convert to Catholicism?” Her reply is probably the shortest apologetic statement in history, “Because it’s true!” The conviction and strength of faith of that level is something I have yet to achieve. I oftentimes feel myself providing caveats and further clarifications for why I am Catholic or why I continue to follow the faith.

At the end of the day, I continue to go to weekly Mass on Sundays because the Apostles—the first friends and followers of Christ—started that tradition 2,000 years ago. Jesus informed the Twelve to celebrate the “breaking of the bread” weekly.

I need to persist in taking my children to Mass because Jesus is “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” and we receive the gift of the Eucharist! Truth is not always easy, but without truth I am nothing. Humans long for truth and the truest explanation for the wonders and strangeness of reality I find in the Catholic Church.

Eucharist is Source and Summit

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church number 1324, “The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’136 “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it.” Because of the peak of the Catholic faith is found in the Mass, I am willing to deal with face the difficulties of bringing young children to church. The path toward Truth is not always easy to follow but it is always worth it in the end.

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Peace Be with You

A Catholic priest once described the liturgy as a theological GPS that orients us back to the correct path when we fall away. This image always stuck with me. I seem to wander from the path of holiness frequently. My patience wears thin, I struggle with charity of speech, and I act rashly at times. Frankly, I think weekly attendance of Mass is far, far too infrequent for me! If it were not for my familial obligations as a husband and father along with my work duties to my employer, I would go to weekday Mass as well.

Peace is the gift we receive at Mass from the Holy Spirit. The first words that Jesus said to his Apostles in the Upper Room relate to the gift of peace too. In John 20:19 and 21 Jesus says, “’Peace be with you.’… ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’” Utilizing my favorite reference book—my trusty Thesaurus—the two synonyms for the word peace that stand out most to me are restfulness and calmness.

From my previous posts, you will know that I am not necessarily a calm person. I struggle with anxiety and RESTLESSNESS. Growing up with ADHD and being a father to hyperactive children, I crave peace. I long for rest.

The Mass provides me that chance. Not every moment, because I do have to protect my somersaulting son from danger! Still, I found moments in the liturgy where I acquire genuine peace and calmness of heart. The best place on Earth where I have discovered true peace is within the sacrament of the Eucharist during Mass.

My Primary Role as Dad

My main role as a father is getting my children to Heaven. I am called to be a saint maker—growth in sanctity occurs in this life. According to the Catholic Church,

The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society (CCC 2207).

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How may I expect my children to love God if I did not establish a habit to visit the Divine Presence and rest in His grace? How do I lead my family on the path of true freedom if I do not experience freedom myself?

Lessons Learned

The answers are incredibly simple—visit God and visit frequently! My father was [and still is] an amazing example of holiness. He is patient, slow to anger, and consistent in his faith. Looking by at how he accomplished the tremendous feat of raising my siblings and I, I realized that the biggest constant is his life [besides my mom] was the Eucharist. God fed my own biological father through this sacrament.

The Holy Spirit increased my father’s inherent gift of patience to a profound and loving level—I need to follow that example.

My youngest child still has not called me “daddy” nor even uttered the word! Somedays I struggle to cope with this developmental delay. I noticed that my 18 month old will immediately fold his hands in prayer when I begin the Prayer Before Meals blessing. Seeing those little fingers crossed together humbled me. This small act has made me prouder than anything else.

Life is not about how smart, or beautiful, or successful you are. Life is about love and truth. The Holy Spirit sent me a reminder through the person of my toddler.

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Do not be overwhelmed when it comes to raising your children in the faith. Even if you are a single person without children and struggle with motivation to go to Sunday Mass, I encourage you to still go.

The joy and peace I experience at the end of the Eucharistic celebration is worth it. I wish that every Sunday Mass felt as good as the above picture looks—but that is not always the case in the reality of life.

I need to continue to trust that my apparent feelings of failure and seeming ineptitude of corralling my children at Mass are distinct from the truth we experience every Sunday—that Jesus graces us with the ability to partake of His body, blood, soul, and divinity! No amount of Sunday Sweat, Stress, and Shenanigans will change this truth!

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An Advent Reflection on Finding Gratitude in the Stressful Season

By: Jonathan Hicks

On the first Sunday of Advent, our parish priest gave a homily about how during this season the world tends to speed up and get “busier,” but the Church is actually calling us to slow down and spend more time in prayer. My wife and I both left Mass that Sunday with a high resolve to “slow down” this season and not let the usual culprits get the best of us.

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First Part of Advent

We got off to a great start. I joined an Advent Meditation group that I was invited to. I committed to some new service opportunities. My wife, Kate, took up extra prayer devotions and made a commitment to go to Confession regularly throughout the season. She went on a retreat. We both decided not to get too crazy with parties, and shopping, and all the usual suspects. We got our kids involved in some new Advent traditions. Things were looking fantastic.

The first week went really well. We worked everything into our already existing routine. We held each other accountable. It seemed like this was going to be the best Advent ever for our family spiritually. However, once Kate left for her retreat, we got a series of unexpected circumstances that through us way off track.

Our Series of Curveballs (or Snowballs)

Once Kate left for retreat, our two year old son got sick with a fever. He couldn’t go to daycare. The illness was prolonged by an ear infection. This was quickly passed to his older and younger brothers and the illness took a week and a half for our family to recover from.

My ability to work during this time was severely limited. Fortunately, my wife and I are both self-employed so it was somewhat manageable. However, ironically during this time I began to generate some new leads and was getting into the thick of a re-vamped marketing plan that I was trying to pick up some steam on before Christmas break.

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Nobody was getting a good night’s sleep in our house for about two weeks. Finally, once we thought it was over, then came the stomach virus that afflicted everyone in our family including myself. Suddenly, I found myself stressing out over the season because I was backed up on work and we weren’t ready for Christmas. My prayer routine had gone out the window as I was just trying to stay above water.

God Has a Plan

An Advent prayer

Despite my best plans, my ideal Advent had been de-railed. I had to accept that my prayer life was not going to be perfect, and that I needed to focus on my top priorities for work and possibly save the other tasks until after the New Year.

I’m called in my vocation to love my wife and children. Sometimes that means I cannot commit to a regular routine prayer life and fruitful time of deep contemplation. Sometimes it means holding my five year old while he watches Star Wars until he feels better, or making sure the house is in order because our six month old is sick and just wants to be held by his mom.

The Advent Meditation Group that I joined is looking at Advent through the eyes of St. Joseph. My two biggest takeaways from this group so far in how I am preparing during Advent are:

  • St. Joseph lived his life in humble service to his Creator
  • St. Joseph had a prayer life that was organic.

The Best Prayer is a Humble Prayer

Although I am having trouble getting out my prayer materials at the same time everyday to find fruitful prayer in my routine, I have been seeking God in humble service (to my family) and trying to live a more organic prayer life.

My prayer life has not included things like regular Adoration and Scripture study like it usually does, but I have been taking time regularly throughout my day to thank God for my wife, my kids, the ability to work from home, and the people that have helped me in different facets of my life. It has left me with a more grateful, and simpler attitude.

My marriage has blossomed this Advent as Kate and I both practice gratitude, and I am learning to see God in everyday moments in a special way.

Encouragement

Wherever you are spiritually this Advent, whether your Advent hasn’t gone as planned, you didn’t plan anything special, or it is going better that you thought, I encourage you to stop and consider what God is calling you to in this next week.

Our individual call is just as unique as our set of circumstances. There is always a way to “roll with the punches” and discover our infinite God in new and exciting ways. God meets us where we are. Right in our glorious messes!

The Nativity story is the perfect example of finding God’s will and rolling with the punches. If you are finding that there is “no room at the Inn,” I challenge you to look around you and find your manger where you can slow down and sleep in heavenly peace.

Advent joy


Jonathan Hicks is a husband and father of 3 boys, ages 5, 3 and 6 months. He works as a grant writing consultant and has a passion for Catholic causes, particularly those that serve the poor. Originally from Scranton, PA, he currently resides in Grand Rapids, MI.

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3 Ways Mary Undoes Knots of Desolation

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Does your life seem confusing? Are you currently in a situation where there is no apparent solution? Sir Isaac Newton once said, “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.” If that is the case it seems that life is lacking truth lately. Confusion, frustration, anxiety, and anger engulfed me over the course of the past couple weeks.

Anyone who has experienced that over a period of time will start to feel like you may be trapped in an endless loop of the daily grind. The image that immediately comes to mind during confusing times is the lithograph print Relativity [see above] by Dutch artist M.C. Escher.

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When life starts to cycle into a twisted journey of never-ending [and never beginning] staircases, the seeds of desolation become sown. Every time doubt and despair grow in my heart I turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary for assistance.

According to the Second Vatican Council’s document Lumen Gentium 56 stated, “”The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience; what the virgin Eve bound through her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith.”  While the devotion to Mary Undoer of Knots is founded in the ancient Church, I recently discovered this special appellation for Mary from Pope Francis.

I learned that the pope’s favorite devotion to Mary is to view her as our mother who unties the knots in our spiritual life. I came up with three reasons why I believe this to be true as well.

True model of obedience to God

As an adopted child of God I often struggle with being obedient to the will of my Heavenly Father. It is easy to embrace a “my way of the highway!” type of mentality. Due to original sin humanity suffers from a detachment from God. Mary is a bridge to Jesus—who is the ultimate bridge to God the Father!

The Blessed Virgin’s intrepid, but faithful statement of obedience in Luke 1:38, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” always give me pause. Her statement she compel you to stop and ponder as well. How often do you attempt to push for your will to be done? Do you notice subtle, or maybe overt, signs pointing to God’s will, yet still ignore them? What things could you do differently to unite your will to the Father’s will?

Mary, Mother of God is the true and perfect standard-bearer for what obedience to God’s will looks like.

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Silent suffering

As a parent, the worst possibly suffering I could ever imagine would involve something happening to my children that was outside of my control and ability to comfort/aid them. Venerable Fulton Sheen always talks of Mary with both charity and clarity. In Mary and the Sword he speaks of the importance for Mary’s suffering before Calvary,

“An unsuffering Madonna to the suffering Christ would be a loveless Madonna. Who is there who loves, who does not want to share the sorrows of the beloved? Since Christ loved mankind so much as to want to die to expiate their guilt, then He should also will that His Mother, who lived only to do His will, should also be wrapped in the swaddling bands of His griefs.”

Having experienced an unimaginable suffering of seeing her only son agonize on the Cross, Mary is the perfect mother for me to seek her aid as another son suffering from desolation and doubts at times.

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Mother to all God’s children

Jesus in John 19 entrusted Mary to be the spiritual mother for John — and not only for John but for all of God’s children. According to the Catechism paragraph 963,

Since the Virgin Mary’s role in the mystery of Christ and the Spirit has been treated, it is fitting now to consider her place in the mystery of the Church. “The Virgin Mary . . . is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer. . . . She is ‘clearly the mother of the members of Christ’ . . . since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head.”502 “Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church.”503

Oftentimes when I experienced confusion, sadness, anger, and doubt growing up [and even today] I usually reach out first to my mom in seeking consolation and clarity. The same is true for my spiritual mother—Mary. Her close unity with Jesus Christ combined with her full humanity allows her to be both a trusted and approachable figure to find refuge in.

Mary guides us to Her Son

St. Thomas Aquinas declared, “As mariners are guided into port by the shining of a star, so Christians are guided to heaven by Mary.” Catholics honor Mary because she points us to her Divine Son Jesus!

We relate directly to Mary due to her full humanity. During the stresses of life, reciting of a Hail Mary calms my angst and orients the storm in my soul toward God’s will. Let us close with the prayer to Mary Undoer of Knots in hopes that she guides us away from the knotty snares of the Devil.17

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Prayer to Mary Undoer of Knots

Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in my life.
You know very well how desperate I am, my pain and how I am bound by these knots.
Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of His children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life.
No one, not even the evil one himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone.
Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot…I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once for all, You are my hope.
O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me, the fortification of my feeble strength, the enrichment of my destitution and with Christ the freedom from my chains.
Hear my plea.
Keep me, guide me, protect me, o safe refuge!

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me

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3 Incredibly Simple Tools to Incapacitate Anxiety 

According to Derek Beres, a Los Angeles-based author, music producer, and fitness instructor in a 2017 article Why is Anxiety Increasing in America?,

Anxiety is one of those phenomena that non-sufferers sometimes claim, ‘it’s all in your mind.’ That’s simply not true; panic attacks are also a somatic experience. With a growing awareness of what creates anxiety and a captive online community searching for solutions, we’re learning more about what those triggers are and how they interact with our mind and body.

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While I am far from an expert on the psychology or neurology, I do have knowledge about anxiety from my own personal experiences. Suffering from anxiety and depression myself I learned methods to combat worry and constant anxiety.

As a father and husband I learned that the bustle and complexity of family life ultimately points me toward growing in the virtue of patience and gentleness instead of being a burden to my career endeavors.

Facing a barrage of continual interruptions, meltdowns, and challenges from my youngest son–who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder– some days I feel like giving up. Ironically, enough, this is the seventh attempt to finish this paragraph already this morning [my two-year old wanted me to get a particular toy-car from under the couch and then he proceeded to open the fridge and point to the pickle jar for his second-breakfast snack! :)]

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Sadly, I momentarily allowed the stress wanting to post today’s article sooner rather than later to get the better of me. Suffering interruptions and being compelled to exercise patience I believe actually strengthens my message rather than weakening it. I am reminded by the words of St. Maria Faustina on the subject of suffering, “O, my Jesus, I understand well that, just as illness is measured with a thermometer and a high fever tells us of the seriousness of the illness; so also, in the spiritual life, suffering is the thermometer which measures the love of God in a soul.” Below I am sharing three incredibly simple tools to help to incapacitate anxiety.

Disclaimer: Please remember that the battle against depression and anxiety must be continually fought so while these tool are effective they may not all apply to you now, but I promise you it would be wise to keep them on your utility-belt for the future.

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Checkpoint victories

Recently, I learned that the best way to develop a strategy against stress, anxiety, depression, and fear of failure is to focus on miniature goals. As an avid runner in high school, I utilized this practical strategy when finishing a 5-6 mile training circuit.

Focusing on a point close ahead [i.e. a stop-sign, a large tree, or the corner of the block] I made checkpoints for me to continue running towards. As a result of these minor checkpoints, small victories led to the major victory–finishing a training session without stopping or setting a personal record during a race.

While many of you may not be a runner, and some may even despise exercise [believe me I understand some days I dread working out and simply lack the energy to do so!] the idea of setting short-term and minor goals is something that is transferable to managing daily anxiety.

“Focus on two or three specific goals instead of trying to succeed at mastering many, many things at once. This will help reduce your stress,” my former manager once told me.

Today, I am heeding his words by incorporating these three tools today and for the rest of the week.

Even as I write/wrote this post, I am making bit-sized victories as my kids demanded/asked for my attention. Consequently, the involuntary writer hiatus count is up to 18–it may be up to closer to 30-40 by the time this post is complete that may depend on whether my kids place nicely together the amount of times I decide to help of my favorite literary creature the Thesaurus for inspiring me to come up with fancy phrasing/names such as the involuntary writer hiatus count [as opposed to the boring “interruption-count”]

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♬ Make a list, check it twice ♬

No, I am not referring to the Christmas classic song Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Thank goodness, right! We already have Christmas in July specials do we really need Santa in Springtime?

The second tool to incapacitate anxiety is to make a list of all the blessings in your life. A simple way to incorporate this into the work day is to put a blank Post-It note on your desk. Next, as the day progresses [if there is no time in the morning] start to jot a names of people that bring you joy.

Include as well any material goods that you are grateful for as well: shelter, sunlight, water, food, clothes, and other simple joys. Trying this yesterday allowed me to re-orient any negative and anxious feelings towards a mindset of thanksgiving.

Acid Attack

  According to research [see link for more information: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/tamara-star/post_13013_b_11766146.html] , eating citrus fruits is a practical tasty way to lower anxiety.

Noticing a fellow co-worker eating an orange everyday on her morning break piqued my attention especially because she shared her daily struggles with anxiety and depression. I tried this simple strategy this week–and it worked!

The citric acid and taste of the orange calmed my stress. I even kept the orange peel and smelled a few times the oil from the peel and scent of citric acid continued to provide soothing relief.

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Well, I finally finished this post. Anyone interested in the grand total for the involuntary writer hiatus count: it reached 30–and no, I did not visit my friendly online Thesaurus again, that was all my children–impressive to say the least!

Hopefully, you find these tools invaluable in your war against anxiety. Once again, it you do not find them useful currently, please keep them in your anxiety armory for the next skirmish against stress. After all that writing, I am famished, I think my second breakfast will consist of a couple oranges! Thank you again for reading.

 

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