An Unexpected Journey- How September 21st, 2017 Became the New Start to my Spiritual Life

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Originally published September 22nd, 2017


Over the past few weeks, life has been throwing stress-filled curveballs at me. Reeling from anxiety, anger, and frustration, I recently went to the spiritual medicine box—Confession—to gain sacramental graces to help me grow in patience and perspective. I experienced a true transformation in my life this week in the days following my reconciliation with God, the Church, and my fellow man. September 21st, 2017 became a new launching point for my spiritual journey. Excited for this re-start on my path toward Christian holiness, I will provide a few reasons why this date holds a special place in my heart.

The hobbit book

Anniversary of the Publication of The Hobbit

Eighty years ago, on September 21st, 1937, The Hobbit—an essential item on any fantasy fan’s bookshelf—was published. Eight decades later the tale of J.R.R. Tolkien still instills wonder in its readers.

Regrettably, I did not explore Middle Earth until my mid-20s. Over the past five years, I have read The Hobbit twice and The Lord of the Rings trilogy once.

A true literary treasure is measured through its ability to stand the test of time. Nearly a century later, I would say that Tolkien’s work passes with flying colors. Characters within the story seem to speak directly to me. For instance, the dwarf Thorin tells Bilbo, “There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” How easy is it for us to lose memory of the importance things in life? I forget fairly quickly. Tolkien reminds me to look for the hidden joys in my life. Perhaps, an unexpected journey is in store for me starting September 21st, 2017.

St. Matthew

Happy Holiness Day

Along with the anniversary of The Hobbit, September 21st is the feast day of my patron saint—St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. Before his “coming to God moment”, Matthew worked for the Roman equivalent of the IRS. Hatred of paying government taxes is an innate principle built into humanity. Palestine 30 A.D. was no different. What courage and faith it must have taken Matthew to leave his luxurious, high paying government job?

Tax collectors were considered traitors to the Jewish people. They basically did the Roman government’s dirty work of extolling individuals for money. I always imaged how Matthew would fit in with Jesus’ motley crew of Apostles. Was he accepted right away? Did trust issues exist?

While such questions are purely speculative, but I find pondering the transition of Matthew from a hated tax collector to an evangelist helpful in my relationship with my patron saint. I too struggle to fit in at times, yet I am gifted with the ability to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ just like St. Matthew! September 21st is the beginning of my re-commitment to evangelize through my writing, family life, and volunteering at my parish. I hope to exhibit the same steadfast faith as Matthew did when Jesus said, “Follow me” (Luke 5:27).

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September of Sacraments

Together with my patron saint and favorite fantasy jubilees occurring on the same day, the month of September started as a transitional month for my family and I. My wife began a new job, our children started to get in the school routine, and changes galore occurred at work. Through the grace of God and ability in our hectic scheduling, and mostly due to my serious need for divine assistance I went to confession twice this month.

During my first confession, the priests gave me this amazing penance—pray the Prayer of Humility. Humility is the virtue that stands in opposition to the vice of pride. Pride is what made the Devil fall from his celestial pedestal as God’s favored angel. Pride leads me to be an inferior version of myself. Let us briefly ask God for the gift of true and beautiful humility:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me. From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved… From the desire of being extolled … From the desire of being honored … From the desire of being praised … From the desire of being preferred to others… From the desire of being consulted … From the desire of being approved … From the fear of being humiliated … From the fear of being despised… From the fear of suffering rebukes … From the fear of being calumniated … From the fear of being forgotten … From the fear of being ridiculed … From the fear of being wronged … From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I … That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease … That others may be chosen and I set aside … That others may be praised and I unnoticed … That others may be preferred to me in everything… That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

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Be on the Lookout for Your Unexpected Journey

Unexpected journeys are difficult, but the joy attained through its travel is immeasurable. Jesus tells his disciples [and us], “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25). God asks us each day: will you follow me?

Starting on September 21st, 2017, I said yes! I renewed my commitment to follow His lead. Will I continue on this path? I certainly hope so, only time will truly tell. I will close with the following exchange between the hobbit and wizard before the great journey:

Gandalf: I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.

Bilbo: I should think so—in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them …

Gandalf: You’ll have a tale or two to tell when you come back

Bilbo: You can promise that I’ll come back?”

Gandalf: No. And if you do, you will not be the same

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Living Out Your Purpose—Transform the World!

Catherine of Siena Set World on Fire

 

 

 

 

 

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on 🔥.” —St. Catherine of Siena

🔥 You are valuable. Unique. One of a kind. Think about the gifts you have. How can you help others? Those less fortunate than you. Less privileged.

🔥Life is 100% about love. Natural fire destroys. The supernatural fire of divine love transforms.

🔥Catherine did not have the pedigree of a princess or the formal education of a professor.

🔥Her impact on the world and 14th century was because she embraced her role— persistence toward truth and justice. She called out the greed of popes! To me that is the definition of heroism.

🔥St. Catherine has become a major influence in my life. Her writings inspire and give me hope. I consider her my mentor, a best friend, and spiritual sister.

🔥Embrace Love humbly and truthfully. The result will be an amazing transformation and impact. Love now!

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Saints of the New Springtime: Hope for the Catholic Church in 2020 and Beyond

By: Laura Ricketts

  • ❗️The annihilation and remaking of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.
  • ❗️The looming Amazonian Synod.
  • ❗️The defrocked Mr. McCarrick.
  • ❗️Archbishop Vigano’s explosive letters.
  • ❗️Continuing revelations and investigations in Dioceses across the country relating to the abuse scandals.
  • ❗️Unanswered Dubia.

Catholic Church Scandal

It is no secret that we live in interesting and even troubling times. Such scandals remind us of the papacies of old. Jealousies, subterfuge, and politics were par for the course. When priests and prelates had factions and the talk of schism was real and present. It can lead even the most faithful among us to ask, “What are we to do?”

The Timeless Answer

The answer has already been given to us.

“Be not afraid.” This phrase is mentioned more than 365 times!

Saint Pope John Paul II  also reminded us to never fear.  The Polish pope left both an example to follow and the seeds of hope. Almost 20 years after his passing, a New Springtime is upon the Church.

John Paul II

As long ago as 1990, in Redemptor Hominis, John Paul II was speaking of this New Springtime. For those who grew up in the “JPII Generation,” many of us thought and hoped that it would mean a dramatic and unmistakable revival. A huge event. But that is often not how God works.

The seeds of this New Springtime were planted by the Polish Pope himself, in the hearts and minds of the young people to whom he felt a special connection and responsibility. Those “young people” are now the mothers, fathers, religious, priests, young and brave bishops who are coming into their own within the Church. They are professors, teachers, and theologians. They are catechists and pastors. And they have the example of John Paul II to follow to navigate these interesting times.

Impact of the Family

When he was Fr. Karol, John Paul II met with what came to be known as the “Little Family” (Mala Rodzina) and grew into what was called “Srodowisko.” This gathering of lay people with Fr. Karol helped him form his thoughts about love, man, and marriage, family—later known as Theology of the Body. He remarked that this little family became like his family. This experience formed the foundation of his Christological humanism and later, his first encyclical, Redeptor Hominis—the Redeemer of Man.

Hope During the Storms

What a beautiful way to follow the late pope’s example and to continue to water the flowers of the New Springtime! Within our own families and in our own parishes and communities we can form our own “Srodowiskos.” We can learn with and encourage our own friends, children, families, priests, and neighbors.

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With the former Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family removing the study of moral theology from its courses, we, the JPII Generation, can continue to learn and teach and study as John Paul II intended, just as he himself started. We have his Theology of the Body for a text book. We have the writings of Janet Smith, Edward Sri, Pope Benedict XVI, the von Hildebrands, and Mgr Livio Melina, and Fr José Noriega as we continue. We have the sacraments, the Liturgy, and Cardinals like Sarah and Arinze to encourage us as we strive to be Holy and to help each other on the way to Heaven.

With the Amazonian Synod threatening to shake the foundations we know to be unshakeable, we have the Deposit of the Faith that is unchangeable. We have recourse to the Blessed Mother, to whom John Paul II constantly turned and consecrated himself and the Church. We can repeat after him, “Totus Tuus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt!”

Trust God Wholeheartedly

Despite the whispers of schism, allegations, accusations, and denials flying, we can have confidence that even in the most difficult of circumstances God’s Will shall prevail. Truth always shines forth in the end!

If Divine Providence can orchestrate the election of man who saw all of his family members die by his 20th birthday, survived WWII, withstood dangerous communist regimes, and survived an assassination attempt, imagine what He can do when we follow the example of John Paul II. Be one of the saints of the New Springtime!

New Springtime in Church


Laura is a wife, mother, and the wearer of many hats. She is a Client and Marketing Manager for And Then There Were None, and a Birth and Bereavement Doula for her ministry FiLumena Birth and Bereavement. She is certified in Psychological First Aid and Grief and Loss Counseling. When she isn’t wearing one of those hats she can be found reading about her hero and spiritual father, Pope St. John Paul II, kayaking, crocheting, or exploring with her husband, her kids and her cats in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia! Check out her content at filumenabirth.com and Prolifewomen.com.

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On the Eucharist and Education—Returning to Catholic Basics in 2019

Eucharist

📍The #Eucharist is the most precious and powerful gift in the world.

📍 #Catechesis has to start in the home, but it is continued and supported by the community of believers.

📍My three year old son recognizes the importance of the Mass. Every week during the Eucharistic prayer he shout “I see Body of Christ. I want to get more Body of Christ.”

📍Through his simple utterance I have learned so much about our faith. Children can be great teachers.

📍Should we not return the favor ourselves?

👍Stellar work Pete Socks and your team at Catholic Brain Educators! The Catholic Church is blessed by your gifts.

#catholic #catholiceducation

Learn more about the importance of the sacrament of the Eucharist in the link ⤵️

http://www.catholicbraineducators.com/returning-to-faith-in-the-eucharist/

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3 Rest Stops for Our Pilgrimage Towards Holiness

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According to the National Sleep Foundation, humans are considered the only mammal that willingly delays sleeps. For more interesting facts about sleep here is a link: https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/25-random-facts-about-sleep. Sleep is an issue that pervades all of human life. As a father to four young children, I oftentimes determine the success [or failure] of a day over whether my children successfully or unsuccessfully take their scheduled nap!

The stresses of life, dealing with sick family members, and limited sleep due to my new work schedule drain me on a daily basis. The exhaustion last week became so overwhelming that I almost gave up hope. But the thing about tiredness is that is oftentimes causes people to forgot and lose strength to continue.

On the verge of wallowing in a lake of lassitude, I suddenly remembered the words of Bishop Paul Swain that he said at a confirmation Mass. Specifically referring to the sacrament of confirmation, but I believe his words apply to the rest of the sacraments as well, the successor of St. Peter said, “Sacraments [the sacrament of confirmation] are not the end or graduation of the Catholic life, rather sacraments act as theological rest stops to give us strength.”

In the past, I associated the sacraments as offensive weapons against sin, however, recently I have come to view the sacramental system as a means to shield and sustain oneness from the endless assault of the Enemy’s attacks. Below I wish to explore my experience with how the sacraments of confession, Eucharist, and marriage help provide spiritual rest for my pilgrim journey.

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Confession Crossing

Growing up I remembered the summer vacations my family and I went on involved a ton of driving. If the rambunctious nature of sons is any indication of what I was like as a kid, I imagine my parents looked forward to taking a pause in the long drive to allow my siblings and I to run out our energy. As a parent, I learned that a periodic rest stop sometimes solves a fussy situation in the car. Pope Francis once declared, “Always remember this: life is a journey. It is a path, a journey to meet Jesus. At the end, and forever. A journey in which we do not encounter Jesus is not a Christian journey.”

Too many times I forget that life is more of a pilgrimage—toward Heaven. Life is not simply a tourist attraction for me to amass as much pleasurable and exciting experiences as possible.

Without Jesus as the focus of my journey I lean toward being a tourist of the world instead of a pilgrim in the world. Confession is the sacrament that provides me an opportunity to rest and receive God’s graces. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “This sacrament reconciles us with the Church. Sin damages or even breaks fraternal communion. The sacrament of Penance repairs or restores it” (CCC 1469.

Recently, I received the sacramental graces of the medicine box. I felt a large burden lifted from me and have the strength to be able to encounter the busyness of life with a calm assurance that God will sustain me even during tough situations.

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Eucharist— Fuel for the Road Ahead

While Confession heals the wounds of my sins, the sacrament of the Eucharist provides me nourishment and strength for the journey for the rest of the week. In the book of Exodus, God listened to the plea of his people, traveling in the wilderness, a plea for food to sustain them during the tumultuous journey. As amazing and unmerited the gift of manna in the Old Testament, Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist as a fulfillment of this prefiguration in Exodus. Jesus decisively teaches us in John 6,

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.48I am the bread of life.49Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;z50this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.51I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.

After receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ every Sunday Mass, I gain the strength to make it through the trials of this world. According to the Catechism paragraph 1391, “The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Lord said: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”226 Life in Christ has its foundation in the Eucharistic banquet: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.”

Reading this passage makes me reflect on the popular adage, “you are what you eat”—receiving Jesus in this sacraments helps transform us into the best [i.e. most Christ-like] versions of ourselves!

Matrimony—Momentum for the Journey

G.K. Chesterton is considered a king of wit and satire—especially among Catholics. His quotes on marriage frequent social media. Ironically, I actually shared the below memes on Instagram recently!

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Wait! “I thought this article was about theological REST STOPS for our pilgrim journey—not holy hand grenades,” one might say. I agree with Chesterton, oftentimes marriage is like going to war—sins of pride, impatience, anger, lust, greed, and sloth [to name just a few]—become casualties. However, war does not always involve active or constant movement. Rather, a large part of war entails strategizing against the enemy—and that involves resting and planning. The sacrament of marriage is a gift from God that allows spouses to acquire the graces of rest and perseverance.

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Marriage as a sacrament involves total commitment towards one’s spouse. Husband and wife do not split responsibilities as in a 50/50 contract. Instead, marriage is a covenant—an oath that involves 100/100 dedication of the husband toward the wife and vice versa. Honestly, I sometimes struggle to view marriage this way. Throughout periods in my wife and I’s marriage either she or I would have to “more time and effort” than the other “put in”. Keeping a tally sheet and IOUs does not lead to a fruitful marriage. Only by donning a servant mentality did I truly receive the sacramental graces of matrimony to acquire true peace and rest.

Rely on the Sacraments for Rest!

To close, I wish to again ponder the words of Bishop Paul Swain, “Sacraments [the sacrament of confirmation] are not the end or graduation of the Catholic life, rather sacraments act as theological rest stops to give us strength.” Do you take advantage God’s oasis’ for holiness? If you are married do you take time to see God work in your spouse? Is there any ways you may be able to deepen your participation in the sacrifice of the Mass? Let us use the rest of Lent as a time to grow in holiness and thank God for the gifts of the sacraments—theological rest stops for our pilgrim journey!

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Don’t Get Cold Feet about Christmas Shopping in 2019!

🎉 🎊 Only 99 days until Christmas! 🎄⭐️ If you are like me, you might be thinking, “So what? We have plenty of time let’s celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving. Let’s celebrate those first!”

Christmas in September

❗️A part of me wished the entire world 🌎 thought like me. But that is selfish. An unholy mindset. 🧦 Much like my frame of mind, my socks are getting holey. Especially, at the heels! 🧦My wife constantly urges me to get new socks. “Aren’t those uncomfortable?” she asks almost weekly. She is right. Worn down and drab socks are uncomfortable.

❗️Want a solution to this dilemma?

🧦Check out Socks Religious—a wonderful small business that specializes in high quality socks with a Holy flair! Decorated with the Holy figures like John Paul II, Mother Teresa, and Joseph, you will be sure to experience the holelessness and holiness wearing these socks!

🧦Share this post with your family and friends especially if:

📍They are Catholic

📍Enjoy planning Christmas shopping early

📍 Suffer from holey sock syndrome 📍 Enjoy having comfortable feet

📍Need a conversation starter at a year end party—because I know we can all get awkward at times in social events! 😊

https://www.sockreligious.com/?rfsn=2556218.17e774

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Why Freedom is Still a Prerequisite for Love in 2019

Freedom and Love

By: William Hemsworth

Within the course of salvation history there have been many questions about the work of Christ and the role of the human freedom, or free will.  There has been no shortage of theories. Church history shows that there have been many heresies from those trying find a synthesis between the two.

There seem to be two extremes when it comes to this issue—those who think that Christ will save us no matter what we do after coming to faith and those who think that one must continually work to attain salvation (Pelagianism).

The Catholic Definition of Freedom

Saint Pope John Paul II wrote two encyclicals titled Redemptor Hominis and Redemptoris Missio that deal with this important issue.

The Pope reaffirms the teaching of Christ in John 14:6 that He is the way and the truth.  He echoes the words of God is creation where he saw the things that he created as good.  The work of Christ is expressed as an act of love, and a love that the Father had from the beginning with creation.  It was through this act of love that man was restored and made whole.  Regarding this Pope John Paul II writes, “He and he alone also satisfied that fatherhood of God and that love which man in a way rejected by breaking the first Covenant and the later covenants that God again and again offered to man” (Redemptor Hominis Para 9).  Man is unable to enter into relationship with God unless it is through Christ (Redemptoris Missio Para 5).  What Christ did for man was the greatest act of love that ever done.  It is one that our feeble minds can barely start to fathom freedom!

John Paul II

The Pope firmly establishes that it is Christ who is the only way and is the source of our salvation.  The work of Christ on the cross was an act of love that echoes back to the point of creation, and he reconciles man to himself.  How about human freedom?  The freedom of man is a source of controversy for many.

Our lives as lack meaning if we do not have love.  We were made to love and live in communion with each other.  Through His life, death, and resurrection Christ has shown us what love is.  This love changes the lives of the apostles, and they passed that on and it changed the world.

Freedom to Choose Life

God offers this newness of life to every man, but man has the freedom to reject it.  In this regard Pope John Paul II writes, “Faith demands a free adherence on the part of man, but at the same time faith must also be offered to him” (Redemptoris Missio Para 8).  Freedom is not the ultimate end as the world teaches it to be.  Freedom is the choice to do as we ought to.

Freedom and love

Freedom is only a gift if one knows how to use it for everything that is true good (Redemptor Hominis Para 21).  When we encounter Him that is truth we can either accept of deny what he says.  He says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NRSV).

Once we reach this realization Christ calls us to a higher standard of living.  We are bound to regulate of lives with this truth, and we have the freedom to do so or not (Redemptoris Missio Para 8).

Human freedom is a part of the redemption.  By his work on the cross, Christ redeems us by an act of love. We are called to love others and do what Christ commands of us.

Works Cited

John Paul II. Redemptor Hominis 1979 Web. Accessed September 9, 2019.

John Paul II. Redemptoris Missio 1990.  Web.  Accessed September 9, 2019.


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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