Editor’s Note: Post originally publiched on February 20, 2019.
British author J.K. Rowling declared, “The wonderful thing about writing is that there is always a blank page waiting. The terrifying thing about writing is that there is always a blank page waiting.” Writers since the beginning of time faced the double-edged sword the joy of creation from words and the fear of writer’s block. Some days it seems that words cannot be typed quick enough as phrases, sentences, and paragraphs already exist in your mind. Other times crafting a mere word or phrase is as painful as getting a tooth pulled at the dentist!
Whether you currently are in a state of inspiration or at a standstill in your writing here are three tips to enhance the ability to write more naturally and effortlessly.
Read, Read, Read— Feed Your Mind
The great American author William Faulkner advocated for the importance of reading, “Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out.”
I’ve found that reading a lot leads to effortless writing, without any strain. The mind needs a steady stream of information, like the body needs a balanced meal. Writing different genres is crucial for growth. I read comics for creativity and Catherine of Siena’s dialogues for spirituality and intellect.
Another tip to develop more natural and effortless writing is to make time to reflection on the stuff you read. The Greek philosopher Aristotle purported, ““Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Without proper time to examine yourself and the ideas that you read about it gets difficult to organize them into coherent thoughts. Among the best times for reflecting on a post that I want to write about occurs in the car. Using the minutes between drives to work, the grocery store, or other errands I ponder how I want to organize the essential points of an article that I am working on. Even a few minutes of reflection helps me write at a quicker rate and with less resistance!
Passion and Purpose
After feeding your mind with plenty of information and reflecting on the material that you want to write about the third tip I use to make my writing more effortless includes a passion and clear objective. Why are you writing? Is it for an increased amount of exposure and social media fame or is your reason deeper?
I created The Simple Catholic blog to find joy in life on my journey to Heaven. Flannery O’Connor said, “I write to discover what I know.” Through faith, I know that freedom from sin and death comes from following the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
My secondary goal is to help people find joy in this life and the next. Jesus said loving God and neighbors are the greatest commandments (Matthew 22:34-40). Prioritizing God, others, and myself brings joy to all aspects of life. This joy is meant to be shared with readers and passed on to friends and family.
Filling my mind with a variety of ideas, taking time to analyze that information, and remembering my original mission for becoming a writing has all contributed to helping me write more naturally, more honestly, and more effortlessly. I hope that these tips help you in your writing endeavors as well. Please feel free to share these tips to your family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors.
“All for one and one for all”—Alexander Dumas
“No one has ever become poor by giving.”—Anne Frank
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”— Mahatma Gandhi
In a world brimming with natural wonders, few sights captivate the human spirit quite like the vibrant beauty of a rainbow. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, the rainbow holds profound symbolism that speaks to the depths of our faith and the boundless love of God. Inspired by my own experiences and reflections, as well as insights from two compelling articles, let us embark on a journey to unravel the spiritual significance of the rainbow.
Birth in a Rainstorm
My oldest son is named Noah, and he was born in a rainstorm. He and his siblings are also quite the artists, so the rainbow is a symbol that reminds me of his birth, in addition to reminding me about God’s promise in Genesis. The mention of the name Noah conjures imagery of the biblical account of the Great Flood. Just as the appearance of a rainbow marked God’s promise to Noah, the birth of a child amidst a rainstorm tangibly reminds us of hope and the fulfillment of divine promises.It symbolizes the renewal of life, a testament to the enduring love of our Creator.
The Sacrament of Baptism and God’s Covenant
While I identify as a Catholic dad, but my first identity is an adopted child of God. I received this adaption through the graces of my Baptism. Drawing a parallel between the Flood in Genesis and the sacrament of Baptism, we see that the rainbow becomes an emblem of rebirth and spiritual regeneration. Just as the waters of the Flood cleansed and renewed the earth, so too does the sacrament of Baptism wash away sin and initiate us into the divine family. The rainbow signifies our adoption as children of God and the beginning of a lifelong journey of faith.
A Symbol of Hope and New Beginnings
After a long winter, I tend to think more about spring/summer-related signs like the rainbow more often. What natural signs remind you of Jesus? After a storm, the rainbow emerges in spring and summer, signifying the shift from darkness to light, desolation to renewal. As the earth awakens, the rainbow reminds us of Jesus and the hope He brings. It symbolizes new beginnings, triumph over death, and God’s unwavering presence in every season.
The Incarnational Bridge
A facet of the rainbow rarely focused on: its structure. A bow. It looks like an arch or a bridge. And the bridge is a symbol of the Incarnation because Jesus links us to God. Delving deeper into the rainbow’s symbolism, we uncover its structural aspect—a bow resembling an arch or a bridge. This image becomes a profound reflection of the Incarnation, where Jesus becomes the bridge connecting humanity to the divine. Through His life, death, and resurrection, Christ provides the pathway to God, enabling us to encounter the fullness of His love and mercy.
Rainbows in PopCulture: The Rainbow Road and the Bifröst
In popular culture, rainbows have portrayed roads or connections to other realms. Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road is a boundary-breaking course, igniting players’ imagination. Similarly, the Bifröst in the Thor movies symbolizes the interplay between mortal and divine realms. It is a rainbow bridge linking Asgard to Earth. Though fictional, these representations remind us of the rainbow’s power to bridge gaps and unite realms. They serve as a signpost to Jesus, the ultimate bridge between humanity and God.
Mirrors of Christ’s Light
The best way to convert souls is for them to encounter holiness. We are called to be mirrors of Christ’s light. As believers, we are called to reflect the light of Christ in our lives and illuminate the world around us. Just as the colors of the rainbow blend harmoniously, creating a magnificent kaleidoscope, so too should our lives radiate the diverse facets of holiness. By embracing our unique gifts and virtues, we become living reflections of Christ’s love, drawing others closer to God through our words and actions.
Evangelizing through the Rainbow:
How do we evangelize others about God’s love? Keep discussing the various aspects of the rainbow: structure as a bridge, colors representing a kaleidoscope of holiness, its occurrence usually in spring/summer, reminding one of art/creativity. And our creativity is derived from the creativity of the Holy Trinity.
To effectively share God’s love with others, we can engage in conversations that explore the manifold dimensions of the rainbow. By contemplating its structure as a bridge and its representation as roads in popular culture, we invite others to discover the transformative power of the Incarnation. Emphasizing the diversity of colors, we illustrate the rich tapestry of holiness within the communion of saints.
When we see a rainbow, we reflect on the renewal of life in spring and summer, inspiring hope in others. The rainbow’s connection to art and creativity is seen in Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road and the Bifröst in Thor. These references show the rainbow as a bridge, uniting realms and fueling our creativity—a reflection of divine creativity within us from the Holy Trinity.
The rainbow shows God’s Covenant love, weaving personal experiences, biblical narratives, and theological reflections. Its vibrant colors remind us of rebirth, hope, and the bridge to God. Let the rainbow inspire us to mirror Christ’s light and share God’s boundless love.
Editor’s Note: Post originally published on June 1, 2019.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 675, “Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.” This Sunday Catholics across the world will celebrate the feast of the Ascension. Until recently, this high feast was celebrated on a Thursday—forty days after Easter. From a traditional standpoint normally a 10 day period existed from Ascension to the Coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday. Regardless, of the precise days, the main point is that for a brief period, the Apostles and early disciples of Jesus lived in a transition period from when Jesus no longer visibly existed in the similar manner that he did previously and the official descent of the Holy Spirit.
Suffering from a severe dryness in my spiritual life this Easter season got me thinking: maybe I am in a transitory period myself whereby the descent of the Holy Spirit is not apparent in my life. I feel completely dried up—spiritually! Obviously, my situation is not exactly the same as the 1st century Christians who had to live for an awkward [and maybe apathetic] period before the official reception of the Paraclete. Nevertheless, maybe your life is at a stage similar to that awkward week and a half—pondering the return of Christ, experiencing doubt in Divine Providence, or possibly even living in fear or distress. Reflecting on Acts 1-2 and wisdom from the tradition of the Church—through the Catechism and the saints—I came up with three methods [not really earth-shattering] to avoid awkwardness and apathy in your spiritual life in the days after the Ascension!
Drink from the Wellspring of Worship
The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). I have probably cited this paragraph more than any other passage, yet it is vitally important to the Catholic faith. What sustained the Apostles in the early Church while waiting for the Paraclete? The body of and blood of Jesus Christ in the form of the Eucharist—it is the wellspring, the origin of worship!
Although Jesus’ physical existence did not appear the same after his Ascension, he is still present to the Apostles [and to us] body, blood, soul, and divinity in the sacrament of the Eucharist. St. Pope John Paul II mentioned the importance of this sacrament in his encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, “Her [The Church] foundation and wellspring is the whole Triduum paschale, but this is as it were gathered up, foreshadowed and “concentrated’ forever in the gift of the Eucharist” (no. 5). During periods of spiritual dryness we may be able to sojourn to the spiritual oasis of the Mass.
Hail, Mary: Mother of Perpetual Help, Mother of Good Counsel
Josemaria Escriva declared, “Love our Lady. And she will obtain abundant grace to help you conquer in your daily struggle.” I imagine the days following Jesus’ Ascension was a perilous time for Peter and the rest of the Apostles. During the most confusing and perilous times in my life it appears that Jesus is not present—the most difficult days lands in the middle of the work week when I lack the time to attend daily Mass or ability to go to Eucharistic adoration. Here is where my devotion to Mary is key to sustaining me during the staleness of my spiritual life. Jesus augmented Mary’s motherhood in John 19:27 with a simple command, “Woman, behold your son!” This is a reciprocal relationship as a mere verse later Our Lord urged the Apostle John [who represented humanity both individually and collectively] with the charge: “Behold, your mother!”
From my own experience, I normally contact my mom first [when my wife is not available!] after an incredibly stressful and frustrating day. This is not to downplay the role of my father, but there is something unique, almost mysterious about the ability for mother to sooth children in need. The Blessed Virgin Mary is no different. Mother of Perpetual Help pray for us. Mother of Good Counsel pray for us.
Trust in the Holy Spirit
The great scientist Isaac Asimov once purported, “Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.” While the first two points of his statement may be debatable, it is quite difficult to argue that turning points in life, no matter how large or small, pose a challenge for everyone. Transitioning from physically seeing the Resurrected Christ to the age of the Church would have been a tough transitory event as well!
Jesus prepared his followers of the coming of the Holy Spirit prior to his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. According to Christ in John 14:15-19, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate* to be with you always, 17 the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live.”
While the Holy Spirit did not formally descend upon the Apostles in the Upper Room until Pentecost Sunday, the power of the Holy Spirit allowed Jesus to be substantially present in the sacrament of the Eucharist. The Paraclete also guided Peter and the other Apostles in selecting a worthy replacement for Judas. Moreover, just before his Ascension Jesus repeated his promise to send another Helper to fortify his followers: “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you,g and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Hope Always Never Despair
Although you may in a spiritual dry spell [if not now you most certainly will encounter aridity and acedia—spiritual sloth– sometime in your life!], please do not despair. Hope is always on the horizon. Through the sacrament of the Eucharist, guide of Mary, and promise of the help of the Holy Spirit we receive strength and sustenance make it past any awkward and apathetic period in our spiritual journey. Never give up—hope in the Lord always!
The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men’s activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity (CCC 1818).
In the vast landscape of theology, the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary shines brightly. She guides us to her Son, Jesus, illuminating our path with her maternal love and wisdom. Like a GPS, Mary leads us on a profound journey of faith, offering direction, protection, and unwavering love. In fact, Pope Pius X referred to Mary as the Destroyer of Heresies in his encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis. Heresies are false teachings (or false paths to truth). Mary is a surefire guide to the Ultimate Truth: Her Son. Let’s explore further how Mary is the theological GPS that navigates us toward the Son, revealing God’s plan of salvation.
Begin with the End to Know the Beginning
To truly understand Mary’s significance, we must begin at the inception of God’s plan of salvation. In Genesis 3:15, God foretold the victory of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent. Mary, as the New Eve, fulfills this prophecy by her crucial role in bearing and nurturing Jesus, the Savior.
Early Church Father, Saint Irenaeus wrote, “the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.” She undoes the consequences of Eve’s disobedience and opens the door to our redemption. Mary’s presence in the Bible sets the course for God’s salvific mission. This establishes her as a vital compass in the divine plan.
Marian Apparitions= Checkpoints to Help Humanity Get Back on Track
Throughout human history, Mary has appeared at various times, serving as Jesus’ cherished messenger. These divine apparitions act as checkpoints that remind humanity of God’s love, mercy, and the need for repentance. Three notable apparitions demonstrate Mary’s role as the spiritual GPS in our journey.
The apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico in 1531 revealed Mary as the Mother of all the Americas. It served to unite diverse cultures under her maternal care, emphasizing her role as a unifying figure. Through her image on Juan Diego’s tilma, she invites us to embrace love and unity, transcending geographical and cultural boundaries.
In Lourdes, France, Mary appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous in 1858. Her message of prayer, penance, and the miraculous healing waters springs forth as a beacon of hope, reminding us to seek spiritual renewal and find solace in her Son’s divine mercy.
At Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, Mary appeared to three shepherd children, emphasizing the importance of prayer, conversion, and the reality of hell. Her call for the consecration of Russia and the devotion to her Immaculate Heart reinforces the need for reparation and the power of intercession. Venerable Fulton Sheen even noticed a deeper connection with the name of the location as a bridge to Islam. Fatima was the name of the daughter of Muhammed. He put it this way:
This brings us to our second point, namely, why the Blessed Mother, in this twentieth century, should have revealed herself in the insignificant little village of Fátima, so that to all future generations she would be known as ‘Our Lady of Fátima.’ Since nothing ever happens out of heaven except with a finesse of all details, I believe that the Blessed Virgin chose to be known as “Our Lady of Fátima” as a pledge and a sign of hope to the Moslem people, and as an assurance that they, who show her so much respect, will one day accept her Divine Son, too.
Through these apparitions, Mary acts as a divine GPS, guiding us back to the path of righteousness and reminding us of the eternal destination that awaits us.
One of the beautiful titles bestowed upon Mary is the “Star of the Sea” or “Stella Maris” in Latin. This title draws a parallel between navigators looking to the stars for guidance and Mary’s role as our guiding light. Just as the North Star provides direction in the night, Mary leads us unerringly to her Son, Jesus Christ. Just as the moon reflects the sun’s light, Mary receives and radiates the love and grace of her Son. She illuminates our way, dispelling darkness, and helping us navigate the challenges of life.
The Rosary, often referred to as the Compass Rose, is a powerful tool that deepens our relationship with Jesus through Mary. With each Hail Mary, we embark on a journey of meditation, immersing ourselves in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Mary, our heavenly GPS, accompanies us through the mysteries of the Rosary, guiding us toward a profound encounter with her Son.
In the intricate tapestry of faith, the Blessed Virgin Mary stands as the theological GPS, guiding us unswervingly to Jesus, our Savior. From the beginning of God’s plan in the Bible to the present-day Marian apparitions, Mary’s role as a divine messenger and compass remains steadfast. Let us embrace Mary as our guiding star, allowing her to lead us through the challenges and triumphs of life, ultimately bringing us closer to the eternal embrace of her Son, Jesus Christ.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 13, 2019.
May 13th, 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the Marian Apparitions at Fatima, Portugal. I participated in a 33-day Marian consecration that culminated on the Feast of Fatima. Because of the honor Catholics bestow towards Mary, it is important to dispel common misunderstandings non-Catholics may have about the Blessed Mother of Jesus.
According to 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself.” It seems clear-cut that any reaching out to Mary for help and mediation is to be frowned upon to prevent falling into heresy!
Honor NOT Worship
This article outlines a few explanations from both Scripture and Tradition to describe the Catholic approach to Mary. Catholics HONOR, but NOT WORSHIP Mary! First, we will look at biblical evidence. Next, we look at the Second Vatican II document on the Church [Lumen Gentium]. Lastly, we will analyze some thoughts about Mary from the St. Pope John Paul II.
Biblical background on Mary’s Mediation
Before I mention the key passage about Mary’s intercessory action I want to highlight her vow of total obedience to God first. In Luke the angel greeted Mary with these words, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). The original Greek is Chaire, Kecharitomene which translated to “Hail, full of grace”. Catholics interpret the phrase full of grace to refer to Mary being conceived without sin. Having this preliminary understanding of Mary, let us look at a strong example regarding her mediation to help humankind.
The wedding at Cana in the beginning of John’s gospel is Jesus’ first public miracle. Here Mary displays her role as a mediator and advocate when she urges Jesus to perform the miracle of changing the water into wine. According to the fourth gospel. “When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine” (John 2:3). Catholics honor towards Mary is not because she is a god but because of her close connection to God! John 2:5 is evidence that Mary’s end purpose is obedience and submission to God when she expresses to the wedding servers, “Do whatever he [Jesus] tells you.”
Testimony of Tradition
Along with the evidence from the New Testament, we will look briefly at what the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium and Pope John Paul II tells us about Mary as a mediator. According to Lumen Gentium 60,
There is but one Mediator as we know from the words of the apostle, “for there is one God and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a redemption for all”.(298) The maternal duty of Mary toward men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows His power. For all the salvific influence of the Blessed Virgin on men originates, not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. In no way does it impede, but rather does it foster the immediate union of the faithful with Christ.
It is also appropriate to mention that it is not a coincidence that the content of the final chapter of this council document being relating to Mary. The last major section of the chapter mentions Mary as the sign of created hope and solace to the wandering people of God. Mary is not the end. Rather, she is a signpost pointing Christians to Christ! (Lumen Gentium 68).
Witness of JPII
Finally, I want us to examine St. John Paul II’s Marian devotion. The polish pope focuses on the maternal mediation of Mary in his encyclical, Redemptoris Mater. To start off, John Paul II acknowledges hat there is only one mediator Jesus. In union with Tradition the pope states, “The teaching of the Second Vatican Council presents the truth of Mary’s mediation as “a sharing in the one unique source that is the mediation of Christ himself (Redemptoris Mater 38). Mary is the first and greatest apostle of God. God entrusted Himself to her before anyone else (Redemptoris Mater 39).
John Paul II also says, “After her Son’s departure, her motherhood remains in the Church as maternal mediation: interceding for all her children, the Mother cooperates in the saving work of her Son, the Redeemer of the world (Redemptoris Mater 40). The key word in this quote is cooperates. Mary is not equal to God, but she does COOPERATE with God and in the mediation of Jesus Christ!