This is the real life origin story of how The Simple Catholic began:
My name is Matthew and I have run The Simple Catholic blog since 2015. It was a fruit born out the suffering from losing my unborn son Jeremiah (miscarriage). Writing was a healing balm for my heart, mind, and soul.
I earned my Master’s degree in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville and had teaching experiences. Personal and family circumstances caused me to leave teaching but the desire to help others learn about Jesus and His Church remained. The blog blossomed into a mission: to inform others about the Catholic faith and show how joy can be found in daily life (even in the suffering).
Finding Strength in My Differences
I was diagnosed with ADHD as a kid and it is one of my “super-powers” as it allows me to make connections between seemingly unconnected things.
I have had to learn over the years my neurodivergent mind wasn’t a weakness but it can be a strength. Through the help of my wife (a special education teachers) and my four kids along with the Holy Spirit I have been able to learn how to harness my differences and quirkiness with my passion for Catholicism.
In this picture, I celebrated my paper football victory over my oldest son: 60-24. 😀😂
The Healing Power of Humor
Humor is a big part of my life. It acts as a stabilizing force during the times my depression and anxiety flare up.
My favorite show is The Office (a great way to get me attention in the sea of emails I receive is to make a reference to this show). Threat Level Midnight or A.A.R.M are my favorite episodes.
I also enjoy reading (no less than 8 books simultaneously). I’m a literary omnivore but I do tend to enjoy theology, sci-fi, and comic books more than others.
I am also an avid football fan and love tossing the frisbee around.
Because of my ADHD I tend to enjoy lots of other things too:
Watching bees carry pollen
Looking at the moon
Drinking Dr. Pepper, Coffee, and Bai Teas (not together)
Listening to Bon Jovi
Reading anything Marvel
Playing board games
Reading about board games
Watching video about board games
Talking about board games
Making Seinfeld and The Office references on an almost daily basis
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I am the dictionary definition of a Type A personality. Order, preparation, planning, scheduling, and structure are my addiction. I thrive on a rigid schedule and always need a contingency plan in place just in case the first 37 plans fail.
Benjamin Franklin spoke of the importance of planning, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” You May be worried that the title of this post is a sign I might be abandoning my priority on order and organization. Have no fear! That is not going to happen.
Life includes Curved Roads
While preparation sets you best for daily and lifelong success, it is still important to remind your that life does not always follow a straight path. How I wished it were that “straightforward” and simple!
Sometimes situations get complex. You may forget something or other people may slow our progress. Sometimes things outside our control run into our sights like a deer running across the interstate unexpectedly. We might notice in time to avoid collision. More often than not we will hit these unexpected situations.
We Can’t Plan for Everything
These are the times are best efforts to plan ahead seem to be in vain. This morning started that way for me. Coming off little sleep, Monday hit me. Hit me hard! Initially, I reacted poorly, I am ashamed to admit. All my hopes for the day appeared to be dashed. Pessimism overwhelmed me.
Through the help of my amazing wife, my stress-induced slide stopped. I took action and wrote about my struggles. Giving little thought about structure, I just wrote from the heart. I wrote how I was feeling.
Suddenly, after a minutes I had a few paragraphs. A few minutes later more and paragraphs. I did not originally intend on writing this post today. I had a “grander”, a “better”, and a “more prepared” topic to discuss. What I came to realize is that I was writing for myself–selfishly. I wanted to have a perfect post. A planned and perfectly executed article. What I definitely was not thinking about earlier was my audience. You!
Allow Yourself to Show in Your Writing
The reason I believe my best writing is the least planned is because it includes the following:
Lots of heart
Strong desire to help others
I am not immune from hurt. This really is no surprise anymore.
Because of my hubris, I am quick to forget the reason I write. I write to help others. To help you. I want to give hope at the beginning of a stressful week. I want to give hope to new writers that it is okay if your posts are not perfect. Why do I fail so miserably sometimes? I am merely human. You are too.
Learn from Challenges
Planning your day and weekly schedule is still important. Learn from my mistakes. Don’t let rigid structure control your life. Allow it to guide you.
If you found this post helpful please share it with a someone you know it can help as well. Please also tell me your current struggles in the comments section. I would love to listen and encourage you in any way possible!
Music has the ability to infuse the human heart, mind, and soul with energy and joy. Singing has helped me on my toughest days. There exists a certain universal quality to music that draws all mankind together.
The Catholic Church promotes unity (one of its four chief characteristics). Music is an important facet of the faith. While one might first think of liturgical music, God can use many kinds of music to promote unity and truth. Father Mark Baumgarten is a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Perth, Australia who uses his musical gifts to evangelize. I had the pleasure of talking with him about his debut album Now and Not Yet.
Fr. Mark wrote and performed the songs His music in the album ranges in style, due to his eclectic taste in music. The first half of the album is from his pre-seminary days and wrestle with philosophical questions about life, whereas the second half relates to his life as a priest.
The Australian priest showcases his skills as a musician, singer, and promoter of truth. Though his songs aren’t overtly Catholic in lyric, his music provides assurance about God’s Providence while being fun to listen to.
Listening to Now and Not Yet during the day helped ease my stress at work and got me nodding to his upbeat, jazzy tracks like Wake-Up Juice.
I highly recommend listening to this positive piano 🎹 infused album by Fr. Mark.
“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ― G.K. Chesterton
I’ve always been a fan of fairy tales and fantasy stories. The appeal initially began with the wonderful plots and scenery. But it’s the character development (at least in Disney renditions of the fairy tales) that continues to enchant me to revisit these tales. In the book A Catholic Field Guide to Fairy Tale Princesses: Modern Virtues in Tales as Old as Time, author Therese Zoe Williams examines a panoply of classic and modern princesses and the virtues they espouse.
One of the challenges Catholics faces is how to evangelize in a secular modern not in line with traditional Catholic Church teaching. Followers of Jesus know this world is not our home. It’s a pilgrimage towards the next reality― Heaven. But this doesn’t mean we should flee from worldly things completely or never engage with the present culture. Williams says it well, “If we are to be truly ‘in this world but not of it’ (cf. Romans 12:3), then we have to sincerely engage pop culture at large. The whisper of God is in everything” (p. 18).
Williams’ book is divided into four sections: The Official Disney Princesses, Other Notable Disney Princesses, Other Disney Women of Virtue, and Noteworthy Non-Disney Princesses. Each chapter includes a description and brief history of the fairy tale related to the princess. Williams also includes a section titled A Real-Life Fairy Tale where she focuses on a saint who exhibits the same virtue depicted by the fairy tale heroine. Chapters conclude with a prayer related to the virtue and/or saint.
This was a fun and quick read. Williams did a great job in showing how the virtues exhibited by Disney princesses are relevant to our lives today. I particularly enjoyed the Real-Life Fairy Tale section. Williams found appropriate saints throughout Church history to match their fairy tale counterparts.
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Deciding on which college to attend is a large part of a high schooler’s life. So much time and pressure are spent boosting our GPA, participating in extracurriculars, and volunteering so that we get accepted into our ‘’dream school.’’
I was not one of those people.
My GPA was good, but I didn’t have to put in much effort to earn it. The only extracurricular activity that I was involved with was theatre. And for volunteering, I spent some summers helping the public library in my town plus being one of the leaders for Vacation Bible School at the local church.
I applied to four colleges in my state: a private Jesuit university, a private Catholic university, and two public state universities. I ended up deciding on attending Western Connecticut State University. It’s public state college about 45 minutes from my hometown. I picked WCSU because of the financial aid they awarded me, its smaller size, and the opportunity to have a fresh start.
When move-in-day finally arrived, I was surprised at how quickly I adjusted to college. In a matter of weeks, I was able to walk around campus without getting lost. Plus, I had found a group of friends to hang out with.
The Life Changing Experience of the Newman Center
Around the end of September, however, my entire life was changed when I was introduced to my university’s Newman Center.
The Western Connecticut State University Newman Center.
At the time, I was a Catholic at surface level. I was raised in the faith as a child and attended religious education classes. I also received the sacraments of First Holy Communion, Reconciliation, and Confirmation. However, I did not have my own personal relationship with God. Daily prayer was something that I did not partake in. Nor did I attempt to go to Confession or read the Bible.
The only time that I thought about Jesus was once a week.
Four FOCUS missionaries resided at the Newman Center. It was the first time I witnessed young adults live out their Catholic faith. All the missionaries prayed daily, went to Mass daily, and received Confession often. What was more amazing was the fact that they interacted with others in a welcoming manner. Not only that, but everything they consumed, said and did was for the glory of the Lord. Their actions reminded me of this Bible verse:
Finally, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. ―Philippians 4:8
Challenges of Being a Catholic in a Secular College
As I spent more time at Newman, I got to experience many things that I have never experienced before: engaging in fellowship, attending a Bible study; being in the presence of the Lord during Adoration. By learning and growing in faith, I realized that I must do a very important thing; the most challenging thing that I have ever done (or ever will do): being of the Word and not of the world.
Attending a small, secular, state school has made this no easy feat.
Being a Catholic at a college where faith isn’t a priority in many students’ lives can be frustrating. I have encountered the following challenges along the way:
Questioning whether I should wear my Miraculous medal or the shirt with Our Lady of Guadalupe on the back out in public instead of during a time when I’m in my dorm room more.
Whispering the rosary at night, hoping that my roommates don’t hear me and call me out on what I’m doing.
The awkwardness of discussing with classmates why I haven’t seen an episode of Euphoria because ‘’that show is something that I am not a fan of.’’
It’s watching some of my friends outwardly (and proudly) state that a woman has the right to decide what to do with her body, even if meant killing the innocent human being that was inside her.
Honestly, there have been times I’ve been upset and wished I attended a Catholic university. In the moment, it seemed ‘easier’ to be surrounded by people who were just like me.
Living the Christian Faith is Worth It
But walking with Christ has never been (or never will be) easy. If it was, then we wouldn’t be able to grow in our faith. The temptation to go with the crowd and abandon my beliefs is something that I will always have to fight against.
But it is something that’s worth fighting for.
No matter what my peers say about the Church, I will continue to advocate for Her. I have experienced faith, fellowship, love, and servitude, and I know just how beautiful it can be. More than ever, college students are chasing sin to fulfill the emptiness in their hearts. But what they don’t realize is that those desires of being seen, wanted, and loved can be satisfied in Christ.
The Lord wanted me to attend a secular college so I can discover Him in a non-traditional setting and to become a vessel of His love for the campus community.
For a girl who never obsessed about which college to attend, I ended up at the school where I was meant to be. And that’s all because of Jesus.
About our guest blogger:
Erica Lynn is a third-year Communication and Marketing student at Western Connecticut State University and is Secretary of her college’s Newman Club. Erica is passionate about fellowship and the power of social media to evangelize within the Church. Follow her on Instagram @_catholit_ to see more Catholic content.