How Saint Catherine of Siena Leads You to God

The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena on April 29th. One of only four women Doctors of the Church, Catherine’s writings and life continues lead people to Christ.

Catherine of Siena

Catherine has been particularly important in my life. When my wife was pregnant with our youngest child  complications existed. Several times throughout the pregnancy we feared having a miscarriage. We prayed daily for the safety of our unborn child and asked for saints Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and Gerard of Majella for help and intercession. Avila Catherine Geraldine was born in late 2018. She was healthy!

Since then my family continues to look to Catherine of Siena as a role model and guide to God. The Doctor of the Church provides mystical insight into the Gospel and demonstrates the depths of God’s love.

Fierce Defender of Truth

Few individuals have displayed such tenacity for the truth as Catherine did in her life. During the 14th century, the Catholic Church endured one of the most corrupt periods. Known as the Avignon papacy, the popes succumbed to worldly powers, specifically under the influence of the French monarchy. Catherine wrote frequently to Pope Gregory XI. An example of her boldness is shown in a Letter to Pope Gregory, “But, I hope, by the goodness of God that you will pay more heed to His honor and the safety of your own flock than to yourself, like a good shepherd, who ought to lay down his life for his sheep.”

Love is a Divine Furnace

Another key theme in Catherine’s writing is describing how God  love burns away sin.  God appears to be absent in our life. Suffering seems mysterious. That was the way I thought before reading the saint’s works. Her description of love as a divine furnace helped me better understand how God allows suffering to draw us closer to Him.

Fire of God's love

Reflecting on my past pains I realized how my prayer life actually bloomed. Having recovered from the contracting COVID19 a couple weeks ago, I rediscovered the importance of relying on God. At first I was angry for getting sick. I took all the precautions. Prayers started out as laments and ended in hope.

God was using my sickness to cauterize my sinful inclinations and renew my prayer life and trust in Him.

Spiritual Sister

According to the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his General Audience on November 24, 2010, “Catherine (of Siena) is one of these and still today speaks to us and impels us to walk courageously toward holiness to be ever more fully disciples of the Lord.” Her intercession is powerful. I used to only think of saints as people too lofty to relate to. But reading the Sienese saint’s writings and her struggles I gained an intimate spiritual relationship with her—like a sister.

Her wit and spiritual knowledge helps me grow in holiness. Sanctity. That truly is the purpose of family. Catherine wrote,  “There is no sin nor wrong that gives man such a foretaste of Hell in this life as anger and impatience.” Wow! Those words sound like they were written specifically for me. Parenting tests your patience. Daily. Hourly. And sometimes nearly every minute.

Catherine of siena quote

Catherine reminds me to trust in God. Her holiness shows through in her books and letters. I highly recommend looking to this Doctor of the Church for spiritual guidance.


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The Joy of Recovery and the Fist pump

I have randomly been fist pumping the air as a sign of thanks and triumph for each passing moment where I don’t have a fever.

This is not a victory for me. I just happened to get better. This is a victory for my family and friends. You surrounded me to give me support during my weakness.

I will not stop fighting because I am better. This was a short hiccup in my journey.

1️⃣ I will continue spreading awareness of the benefits of social distancing.

2️⃣ I will continue spreading the Good News of the Gospel.

3️⃣ I will continue to be an autism advocate.

I maybe look silly pumping my fist in the air to myself. I am sure God is finding it humorous too.

But I am also sure He wants me back on the fight.

This world is not about me. It never was and never will be. The only mission that matters is love.

Love God first. Others second. And myself last.

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How Suffering is Purposeful

A purpose in pain

Suffering is necessary for transformation.

If I did not suffer I would not be able to rely on God as much and I would not be able to be so aware of how sinful person I am.

Pride. Greed. Sloth. Lust. Gluttony. Anger. Envy.

I suffer from all these deadly sins.

I am suffering from them a lot less than I did five years ago.

Going through the trauma of losing all that I lost in 2014 made me the man I am today.

But God‘s not done with me. And I don’t want to be done with me not until I learned to be so unselfish that it’s so natural not just a majority of the time but all the time.

I just don’t want to be a good person I want to be a saint.

I want to be a person that others look to for help and encouragement.

Suffering sucks. But you know what?

Jesus suffered. Worse than anything I will endure.

If he didn’t avoid pain what makes me so special to think I should avoid suffering.

Suffering transforms. Makes you beautiful.

How is your Holy Triduum going?

What things can I pray for you?

Live Holy Week

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Happy Good Friday!

You’re suffering is not in vain.

Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary is evidence of this.

You are valuable. Loved. Everything works towards a greater good and purpose.

I have witnessed so many times in my short life that the suffering I endured was God’s medicine to remove me from my sins.

If I need to suffer to attract others to the Cross I will do it. Always.

Good Friday is only part of the story of the Paschal Mystery but it’s a necessary part.

I ask God for strength to endure any pain, doubts, and despair that comes my way today.

Nothing I face will shake my faith.

How is your Good Friday?

Good Friday
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3 Reasons Why Children are Good Teachers

schoolhouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Washington Carver once stated, “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” Over the course of the centuries education has changed, developed, and evolved. As a society we are becoming more aware of the benefits of education, both at an early age and at later stages in life. Continual learning past the traditional high school, college, and even post-graduate levels is essential for living a healthy and fulfilling life.

Learning is Life!

As a husband of a special education teacher and a former educator myself, I am attune to the importance learning holds for a person both professionally and personally. Having earned a Master’s in Theology, I once thought myself to be an expert, or master, in that particular field–the study of God. My vocation as a father proved this arrogant premise to be contrary to what I once believed. Children–my three incredible adorable and sometimes obstinate offspring–are in fact good teachers in the school of life.

children teach

“Knock, knock who is there?”

Eight o’clock at night arrived in my household. Both my wife and I were scrambling to get our older children to bed. My son and daughter finished their evening snack of a cheese-stick, clothed in their pajamas, and teeth brushed. We prayed the Guardian Angel prayer before shipping them off to the bedroom. I thought we were in the clear when I heard my daughter asking, “Daddy, can I get a book? I don’t have one in my bed!” Begrudgingly, I harped, “Yes, go quickly into the living room and pick one off the shelf.”

Oddly enough–or maybe not so oddly– my daughter grabbed a joke book filled with riddles, knock-knock jokes, and other corny puns. As I tucked the blanket around her, my daughter insisted I read a few jokes. I conceded and read a couple knock-knock jokes. Her eyes lit up and dimples appeared in the corners of her smile. Reflecting upon this seemingly mundane experience now, I realized that laughter is okay–even during bedtime routine. My children taught me that lessening my serious demeanor will not kill me. Instead, laughter enlivens my spirit. New life is breathed into me as I gaze at the humorous antics within my home.

pinky swear gif

Keep Your Promises

Our oldest son is a “rules kid”. What do I mean by this? He is quite bright, detail-oriented, and observant. I am convinced he possesses a photographic memory. My children taught me that the stakes for making–and breaking–promises exponentially increase when you become a parent.

During the hustle and bustle of daily living, I sometimes say things to assuage my son’s persistent pleading. I am not proud of it. As a member of the human race, I suffer from original sin as much as anyone. My promises do not always get fulfilled. Oftentimes, I fall short of the expectations my son and daughter have for me. What parenthood has taught me is that I need to be honest when I break a vow. I need to continually strive to be better at keeping my promises. Most importantly I have learned that children are fairly quick to forgive– I have learned forgiveness is key to becoming a better father.

little things calvin hobbes

Joy in the Little Things in Life

 Our youngest son was recently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Daily life is frequently tough as he struggles to communicate his needs and wants effectively. Meltdowns and tantrums occur regularly. Despite his struggles and limitations, my son teaches me everyday to look for the simple joys in life. For instance, he finds an inordinate amount of joy in anything containing or resembling the shape of a circle. If we go grocery shopping, his eyes light up whenever we pass a helium-filled balloon or whenever he gazes up at the round light bulbs in the store ceiling. Similarly, at house he plays with the same toy cars and trucks without getting bored. Although he has a social-communication disability, in some ways my son has a special ability– to see joy in the seemingly mundane.

Fatherhood reminds me of the words of Aristotle, “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” Personal growth and learning take time and oftentimes are painful. By focusing on mere snapshots of my parenthood journey I fail to see the fruit that family life fosters. I am incredibly grateful for the life lessons of humility, humor, and joy that my children taught me. I pray that I continue to strive towards being an open and honest student!



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How to Grow in Holiness During a Quarantined Holy Week

Unexpected Plans

God meets us in the unexpected. This is a truth throughout human history. Abraham left his homeland and trusted God would gift him a legacy of descendants (Genesis 12:1-23). Moses met the Divine under the guise of a burning bush (Exodus 3). Salvation history contains many other examples of men and women meeting God in a unique or unexpected manner. This week the Catholic Church celebrates Holy Week.

Palm Sunday is the beginning of this solemn period. It marks Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. His entrance into the capital city had the feel of grandeur and might. People were excited. According to the Matthew 21:8-10,

The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road,
while others cut branches from the trees
and strewed them on the road.
The crowds preceding him and those following
kept crying out and saying:
“Hosanna to the Son of David;
blessed is the he who comes in the name of the Lord;
hosanna in the highest.”
And when he entered Jerusalem
the whole city was shaken and asked, “Who is this?”
And the crowds replied,
“This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Expectation and anticipation. That summed up the attitude of the Jews. The Scriptures prophesied of a messiah sent by God to unite the Israelites. Many misinterpreted the messiah being a military or political leader. Jesus was the true Messiah. He did come to provide salvation and unite a divided people. But God’s plan is always bigger than it first appears.

Anticipating the New

Did you begin 2020 with anticipation? Excitement? Joy? I certainly did. This was the year we truly were in the future. As a kid I always viewed 2020 as so far off. Interestingly, the start of this new year kind of was a letdown. No flying cars. Or universal hologram system. But soon we learned that this year was going to be one for the history books.

giving up public mass for lent

Originating in the Wuhan region of China, the novel coronavirus spread quickly around the globe. Social distancing, pandemic, flatten the curve, and closure of public events have become common words and phrases. The greatest impact to Catholics across the world is not being able to celebrate public Masses.

It happened so fast that I truly didn’t get to process how I felt about it. Combined with toilet paper fiasco and ever-changing death tolls on the news you too may not have thought in depth about what this change means for our faith.

Technically, we are still in the season of Lent. Hard to believe. March seemed to last forever. It came in like a lion and roared out like a dragon. But Holy Week is upon us. COVID-19 is not going anywhere soon. How do you celebrate the holiest of weeks without being in communion with your priests, deacons, and the rest of the laity?

Domestic Church is Where the Faith Starts

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church  in paragraph 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.” Public mass gatherings are suspended. But your faith does not need to be put on hold. Parents are the first teachers of the faith.  This promise is pledged at a child’s baptism and renewed at subsequent baptismal ceremonies.

Marriage quote

In Toddlers: An Adorable Trace of the Trinity!, I discuss how the sacramental graces received in marriage help me during tough times. I wrote, ”

A fruit of the sacrament of marriage is children. The family life is a great arena by which a sinful man like me may be tested and tried daily. Such testing will hopefully result in an increase in holiness. I think of my children as the best gift that our Trinitarian God has given me personally to grow in virtue daily.

The sacrament of marriage is more important that ever. If you are married, look to your spouse for strength. Serve your husband or wife with love and kindness. Pray for married couples if you are single, religious, or ordained. Quarantine time is not an easy thing to endure, but it need not be a stressful period. Let it be a time for holiness and renewal.

Sacrifice Leads to Holiness

Sacrifice quote Padre Pio

St. Sebastian Valfre wrote, “When it is all over you will not regret having suffered; rather you will regret having suffered so little, and suffered that little so badly.” This is profound. Jesus came to serve others. His sacrifice on the Cross was in atonement for humanity’s turning away from God. Christ showed us the way toward Truth is self-denial.

Lent 2020 definitely will be remembered as a season of self-denial. Easter plans cancelled. Hugging your extended family member and friends discouraged. I can’t even remember the last time the sign of peace was done at Mass.

Sacrifice. That’s the meaning of the season.

Social distancing, adjusting your plans, celebrating Mass virtually, or changing your grocery shopping habits are not easy. Change hurts. It involves some kind of pain. But out of love for others and keeping them safe we implement these sacrifices.

An Unexpected Holy Week

Not being able to receive Jesus sacramentally in the Blessed Sacrament is painful. God works in unexpected ways. He did it with Abraham, Moses, and the Apostles. And now He is revealing to us a plan. A plan for renewal and greater appreciation for the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. More and more people are talking about the Mass. They miss it. Long for it.

Eucharist Mother Teresa quote

Have you ever received a gift you can’t tell the person ‘thank you’ in person? It kind of hurts to contain your joy. That’s is how I feel missing Mass. I wish so much to thank God for everything in His Real Presence. You probably feel a similar pain. It’s okay to lament the situation. But don’t despair. Let’s look at this as an opportunity to sacrifice as a means to grow in holiness.

Take this week to thank God for the blessings in your life. Read the Bible and go to your diocesan website for online live or recorded liturgy options. If you have children visit sites like Holy Heroes or Catholic Brain for fun and educational Catholic activities.

Don’t lose hope. All things pass. No virus can keep the joy of the Gospel from those who believe. “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” —Matthew 19:14

May God bless you during this Holy Week. Here was a snapshot of my family’s Palm Sunday. 😊

Palm Sunday 2020  Palm Sunday 2020

Amelia: “The holiness is flying all around!”

Josiah: “Pom-Pom (palm-palm)

Kids(chanting): “All hail King Jesus!!”

Related Links

How To Celebrate Holy Week In Your Domestic Church

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Irenaeus, Apostolic Succession, and the One True Faith

Saint Irenaeus

By: William Hemsworth

In the second century Gnosticism threatened to tear the young Christian Church apart.  It was a heresy that taught that all matter was evil, Jesus was spirit, and that true salvific doctrine was passed down through a secret oral tradition.  To combat this growing problem the early Church father St. Irenaeus wrote a lengthy treatise titled Against Heresies

Foundations Of The Creed

One of the methods used by the great Church Father was the rule of faith.  In describing the rule of faith Irenaeus writes, “The Church, though dispersed through our the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation.”

This rule of faith would lay the groundwork for what would become the Apostles’ Creed.  St. Irenaeus argues that the faith was given by Christ to the Apostles, and then to the bishops to whom the disciples appointed.  Which is exactly what the Catholic church teaches today.

The Historic Faith

The rule of faith also shows that Christ was truly incarnate, and that matter was created by an eternal God and not evil.  The rule of faith was a vital part in combating Gnostic teaching because it showed that they had no historical, scriptural, or apostolic support for the claims that they were making.

Incarnation of Jesus

It helped expose their schismatic and anti-scriptural view of Christianity.  Irenaeus also appealed to Ephesians 1:9-10 in his refutation of Gnosticism.  That passage of scripture states, “he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth (NRSV).”  The great saint used this to show that, contrary to the Gnostic view, not all matter is bad.

One Faith Given By Christ

The Church was to be a unified body of believers with Jesus Christ as its head.  However the Gnostic heresy was causing division.  It is linked with the rule of faith in that there was only one faith handed down from Christ.  There was not one faith for one group, and a special secret faith for a select few.  The faith in Christ is available to all people and in that we should be unified.

The rule of faith previously cited is a great tool in confronting false doctrines in our own times  There is no shortage of false doctrine and some of these groups out there are great at evangelization.  This is impressive given how low their numbers are compared to Catholics.  The rule of faith is a great tool because it shows that the catholic faith is not a new invention, but was passed down by Christ himself.

It shows that Christ is God incarnate, and firmly teaching that the Trinity is one being with three distinct persons.  Many of these groups deny the Trinity and claim scriptural support.  Many of these passages were used in the days of Irenaeus and he corrected false usage.

Go preach the gospel

Whether it be in person, phone, or email, a dialogue about the truth can mean a lot to someone caught in false doctrine.  It gives them someone to ask questions to and the Holy Spirit can plant a seed.  Many great saints came to faith in just that way.


About our guest blogger:

William is a convert to the Catholic faith.  Before entering the church he was ordained as a Baptist and Lutheran and earned a Master of Divinity from Liberty Theological Seminary.  William lives with his wife and four children in Tucson, AZ and teaches religious education for children and adults.  Check out his website/blog at williamhemsworth.com for more great and informative Catholic content!


 

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