In this current age it seem that we have a deep desire to have a dislike for God. We see this every day the more we seek to remove Him from the public square. As a result things will get progressively worse with the state of the world.
As a society we have really become spiritually bankrupt. With recent events we are starting to receive the rewards of that bankruptcy. When God is no longer the focus of our lives. The evil one seeks to fill that void we have willingly allowed to be created. We push God out of the way, and by that same understanding, turn our back to Him.
It creates a path for the evil one to take advantage of the situation. This is because the world is no longer afraid of the punishment of hell. No longer understanding what it means. No longer afraid of sin that takes us down that dangerous path. Nor is the world afraid of the final judgment of our souls that awaits us. To even think about these things becomes for us an uncomfortable truth.
The majority of people right now don’t accept or believe that there is a spiritual war going on. We have lost sight of what is truly important. Replacing it by embracing the sins of the world. Instead of embracing Jesus Christ our Savior.
As followers of Christ we must remain strong and not give into supporting this sins of evil. For the reward for such actions is by no means pleasant. The gate to Heaven as always been a narrow path. While the road to hell is as wide as the rivers. It has always been our choice on which path we take. Taking the time to think about that fact should scare you more than anything else going on in the world right now.
About our guest blogger
JM Kraemer is a Catholic artist out of Saginaw, MI who uses LEGO as creative way to evangelize. He writes on issues related to the Catholic Faith and disability awareness. Visit his Facebook page Lego Church Project to read more content to help you build your faith (and enjoy amazing Lego constructions).
“And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” — Luke 2:19
Reflection has been an elusive activity for most of 2020. It appears life continues to slam us with unexpected situation after another (Kayne West is running for President?! What next?)
Reading centers me during times of upheaval. I enjoy learning new information and thinking about it afterwards. My minor in college was philosophy so René Descartes’ maxim “I think therefore I am” has been imprinted in my brain.
Because of the pandemic our local library still has restricted hours. This forced me to visit my living room bookshelf for my next book. Thankfully, I forgot to finish reading Michael Hesemann’s Mary of Nazareth: History, Archeology, Legends.
I finished the book in less than a week this time. I love Mary, history, archeology, and legends. But did I enjoy all those subjects combined into a single book?
Enter into the Life of Mary
Hesemann begins Mary of Nazareth by detailing out a brief history of the oldest surviving Marian icon— the Advocata Nostra. Christian tradition holds this icon is Saint Luke’s painting of the Mother of God after the events of the Resurrection of Jesus.
The author goes on to spend a chapter on each of the significant events in Mary’s life: the Annunciation, Visitation, Christmas, Flight to Egpyt, Wedding at Cana, at Calvary, the Ascension of Jesus, and Pentecost. Hesemann relies on a multitude of sources to provide a complete understanding of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He quotes Scripture, cites early Church Fathers, ancient secular historians, interviews archeologists, and sifts through pious legends.
At the end of the book, Heseman discusses the Death and Assumption of Mary. He sketches out various theories for location of where Mary died and how old she was when she rejoined Christ in Heaven.
The best part about Mary of Nazareth was Hesemann’s ability to draw the reader into the life of the Mother of God. I felt transported to the Holy Land reading this book. He also did a phenomenal job of presenting the information with little to no bias. Hesemann simply presented the information and rarely interjected a personal opinion (even with regard to the legends about Mary).
I highly recommend you buy Mary of Nazareth as your next addition to your personal library. If you’re a Catholic who loves history this book is going to be in your Amazon cart later today (or purchase it directly from Ignatius Press).
Every day we have a choice. We either give into the pressures of daily living or crumble under the weight of stress. The constant flux of life makes stress inevitable.
This year taught us all about the importance of mental health. Pandemics. Racial inequalities. Economic shutdowns. Adjusted graduation celebrations (or none in some cases). Public Mass suspensions.
Even the best fiction writers couldn’t write a more complicated and despairing storyline than 2020: Reality is Stranger than Fiction.
I understand the need for precaution in slowing down COVID’s spread (in April I contracted the virus and it was a miserable experience). But mental health must be a priority in overall wellness.
Even though stress will always surround you in some way, shape, or form don’t despair. I have learned to shield myself against the pressures of this world and the snares the Devil lays out to try to entrapment. Here are seven ways to arm you against anxiety:
***NOTE: These are only suggestions. Some of the strategies may not be applicable to your situation at this time in your life. Please use these shields against anxiety as it suits your needs/situation.***
1 Peter 5:7 states, “Cast all your worries upon Him because he cares for you.”
Prayer is communication with the Divine Creator of the Entire Universe. It involves a dialogue not a monologue. Much of my spiritual journey has had me focus on my end of communication—asking God for my wants. I did not always listen. Something I have done to open communication is to be more deliberate in my gratitude.
Along with prayer, song safeguards me from anxiety. I used to listen to rock music; however, four years ago I made a shift in the type of music that played in my car. Because the words we hear impact our daily living, my shift to listening to positive and uplifting Christian music protects me from the chaos life throws my way.
Together with prayer and encouraging music, monthly counseling appointments protects me from the foray caused by the foibles of myself and my fellow neighbors. Counselor is a title given to the Holy Spirit as well. Between my professional counseling sessions, I can rely on the aid of the Holy Spirit to console me against daily anxiety.
A fourth shield in my armory against anxiety is frequent reading of good books. According to Frederick Douglas, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” While this quote is not necessarily an absolute truth, I will attest that reading can be a doorway to freedom.
As I journey into the literary universes of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, I am afforded respite from the toils of work. Through the written word I am also able to travel—in a sense—back in time to meet holy men and women and learn about how they existed in a world that was not their home.
St. Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7 provided a timeless example of the spiritual life, “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” I joined cross country in high school and my passion for running continues today. During a stressful week, I defend myself from the snares of anxiety by taking my children out in the jogging stroller for a short run. During my neighborhood circuits, I am able to reflect on how my day went and how I may be able to improve on my shortcomings.
Anxiety medicine does not work for everyone so feel free to disregard this point. However, pharmaceuticals for stress help me to limit the anxieties I impose on myself. Consistent usage of doctor prescribed anxiety medication is beneficial to my unique situation. It took me a long time to acknowledge that outside help was necessary to help relieve intense stress.
God loves humanity so much that he implemented a support system for his adopted children to use to shield against the prowess of the Devil. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church number 1436,
Eucharist and Penance. Daily conversion and penance find their source and nourishment in the Eucharist, for in it is made present the sacrifice of Christ which has reconciled us with God. Through the Eucharist those who live from the life of Christ are fed and strengthened. “It is a remedy to free us from our daily faults and to preserve us from mortal sins.35
The Holy Spirit absolves me of my sins when I have an authentic contrition. Along with forgiveness, I receive grace to stave off future temptations. Often the sacrament of Confession is the only thing that bring me back to the life of faith when I face despair and doubt in the Divine Providence!
Whether you are in the shadows of desolation or experiencing consolation, these seven shields form an effective defense against the constant assault of anxiety. Continue to fight the good fight. Aim to be the best version (holiest) of yourself. Trust in the Lord and don’t give impatience, anger, or doubt the final victory. I pray that you take up this challenge daily.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 19, 2019.
“Ow, ow. My pants are wet! My pants are wet!” I woke up to this sound of my three year old crying in the basement. Remembering the constant thunder and lightning that boomed and flashed throughout the night, I jumped up and rushed down the stairs. Immediately, my fears were confirmed. Water. Pouring. Through. The. Window.
I wish I was more composed initially. I want to say I remained calm and did not curse. Sadly, that is not true. Frustration seared through my veins. I quickly brought my son upstairs and had my wife attend to him. Next, I zoomed outside to start vacuuming up the raising water with the wet-dry vacuum. A full moon +a teething baby +flash flood= a bad start to the day!
According to author Margaret J. Wheatley, “Without reflection, we go blindly on our way.” If I did not reflection on my situation, I would have meandered aimlessly for the rest of the day. I want to share three incredibly simple words to remember when stress slams you down.
Stop. Wait. Halt. Either way you describe it does not matter. Just make sure you pause. Stressful situations keep us moving and moving. Faster and faster until our emotions blow up! Pausing to stop the seething sea of stress coursing through my body and mind definitely helped. I took a short break to compose myself.
The second key word to think about during stressful times is perspective. According to American psychologist William James, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
Perspective allows us to pick a different thought over the negative ones that flood your mind during stressful times. The natural result from pausing during a stressful situation is the ability to develop a perspective. Perspective actually derives from the Latin perspectus meaning “of sight, optical” or perspectiva, “science of optics.”
Perspective also relates to being able to view things from a different point of view. Setting a moment or even a couple minutes of time aside to take a break or simply closing your eyes to reset your mind helps in developing perspective. For instance, I started to develop negativity at work today. When I sensed negativity gnawing at me, I left my desk and took a short bathroom and water break. That small break gave me the opportunity to reset my attitude—shifting my perspective.
The third simple word to remember to help overcome stressful situations is plan. Unlike pausing and taking time for changing your perspective, planning does not always occur instantly or at the same time anxiety hits you. Pause and perspective are offensive tactics to fight stress. Planning is more of a long-term and defensive in nature.
Planning takes time a bit on effort on your part. There is no one size fits all shield of a plan to combat anxiety. I am reminded of Captain Cold’s quip in the CW’s The Flash, “Make the plan. Execute the plan. Expect the plan to go off the rails. Throw away the plan!”
Pause. Perspective. Plan. Two weapons and a guard to battle anxiety. While these are incredibly simple tools you need to utilize these daily. Life does not take a day off. Neither can you! I guarantee that if you consistently use these tactics your mentality will change. You will gain more stamina to stave off negativity. You will be more hopeful, confident, and grateful. I hope you found value in this article. If you have any additional thoughts, tips, or tactics to battle stress please share in the comments section!
This post was sponsored by a generous lay member of the Diocese of Barbados. COVID19 has hit this Catholic diocese particularly strong and many parishioners are in need of assistance.
Consider helping out by visiting God Squad T-Shirts to purchase a Catholic t-shirt. 100% of all proceeds will be used to buy food for the poor.
Over the centuries, humans have endured unimaginable trials. Volcanoes, hurricanes, droughts, famines, floods, and World Wars. The author of Ecclesiastes was right in saying, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sun.”
Our current situation with the COVID19 pandemic may seem unique. While the majority of people living haven’t experienced an event of this magnitude in their lifetime, largescale illnesses have spread the globe before. The virus has not only affected individual’s physical health but also spiritual, emotional, mental, and economic health.
The Catholic Church has been a bastion of hope during these times in the past. Now is the time for the Church to provide aid again. More than a building or group of bishops, the Church is primarily a community founded on love and obedience to God. According to 1 Peter 2:7-8, “The stone which the builders rejected, This became the very corner stone.”
The primary commandment is to love God with your whole heart, mind, and soul and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. How precisely do you love your neighbor in 2020?
Corporeal Works of Mercy
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2447,
The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.
Jesus specifically detailed these works of mercy in Matthew 25: 35-46. Preceding the passage about the Judgment of Nations are the Parable of the Ten Virgins and the Talents. The first parable teaches about the importance of being prepared spiritually because we don’t know the time when our death arrives. In the second parable, Jesus talks about how our natural talents should be used for the common good. If we share our talents (time and treasure) to help others in need we will receive countless graces.
Dioceses throughout the world face economic hardship due to the lockdowns. Our brothers and sisters in faith suffer hunger and financial strain. It can be difficult to help others in need especially if you and your family are currently going through similar pressures. Below I will examine a couple examples of saintly witnesses who cared for the poor despite suffering their own crosses.
Saint Gemma Galgani
Gemma Galgani is the patron saint of the poor and unemployed. She was only 8 years old when her mother died. Gemma’s father encountered financial strain shortly after. He was always a good steward with his wealth, but sickness and the death of his wife led to creditors seizing his property. Succumbing to cancer of the throat, Gemma’s father passed away when she was 19 year old.
Gemma orphaned lived in destitution and the churches had to take up collections for her and her siblings to eat. The saint wrote, “I am happy in every way that Jesus wills, and if Jesus wants the sacrifice of my life, I give it to Him at once. If He wants anything else, I am ready. One thing alone is enough for me; to be his victim, in order to atone for my innumerable sins, and if possible, for those of the whole world” How incredible is her faith? Certainly her story resonates with us during this year of endless trials.
Saint Charles Borromeo
Another saint who lived through an impoverished time was Charles Borromeo. As bishop of Milan, he is most famous for organizing the last session of the Council of Trent. The patron saint of catechists also promoted reform in the Catholic Church. At first his life may seem completely different from Gemma— a bishop versus an orphan.
Charles exhibited the same care for the poor as Gemma. He lived through the Bubonic plague (yes the 16th century was crazy!). Milan endured famine and eventually outbreak of the plague. Despite the secular leaders fleeing the city in fear, Charles remained to care for the people. He sought to feed 60,000 to 70,000 people daily and used all his funds feeding the hungry that he eventually went into debt.
The Italian bishop lived out the corporeal works of mercy. He sought to comfort the afflicted and care for the poor and sick. Saint Charles is an outstanding model for our current situation.
Be Christ to Others
Saints Gemma and Charles listened to the God’s will in the face of their own suffering. Loving our neighbors is not always easy. But carrying our crosses never is easy. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “Take up your cross and follow Me.”
Sadly, I have seen people remain apathetic to others’ suffering. “I doesn’t affect me. I don’t know them so why should I care.” God created humans to live communally. We are to care for the less fortunate. Our life can turn around quickly. Those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic know truth well.
Live out the corporeal works of mercy. Become Christ to everyone you meet. Donate to the poor individually or to charities. You may not be able to help out financially at this time. Share your time or talents with your neighbors. Pray for the conversion of souls and end of the pandemic.
Help our Catholic brothers and sisters in the Caribbean by visiting God Squad T-Shirts to purchase a Catholic t-shirt. 100% of all proceeds will be used to buy food for the poor.
If you are not able to donate at this time please share this post with your Catholic family and friends.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 20, 2019.
According to the great English writer, J.R.R. Tolkien, “Oft hope is born when all is forlorn.” When I first discovered this pithy quote by the creator of Middle Earth, I paused and pondered his words’ truth. More often than not, the seed of hope gets planted within the soil of my loneliness.
Over the past year, my wife and I experienced spiritual highs and lows. Currently, I am in a period of stability—a time where hope is my guiding light! Reflecting back on my personal valleys, I realized that the times I felt distant from God, my friends, and even my wife. Oddly enough, this become an opportunity for me to turn to the virtue of hope! Since I placed my hope [and ultimately greater trust in the Lord], I am better anchored in my faith—even in the midst of continual strife.
Mahatma Gandhi once declared, “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.” Hope defends against despair, especially hope in truth, goodness, and beauty. According to Mike Pacer in Mercy and Hope, “Hope guides us through the darkness. It assures of the light that is just beyond our sight.” Along with this profound insight, I discovered three easy ways which helped shift my mindset away from despair and towards hope.
Larger Piece of the Puzzle
Growing up my mom and I used to always work on jigsaw puzzles during hot summer days or cold winter months. Five hundred and one thousand piece puzzles seem daunting at first. What helped alleviate any anxiety is knowing that I was not alone in figuring out how the pieces fit together. A second key aspect to putting together puzzles is forming the outside frame first. Finishing the perimeter provided hope in solving the puzzle!
Getting lost in the shuffle of life is analogous to navigating through a massive jigsaw puzzle. Without borders and helpers it’s easy to lose hope and give up. Puzzles provide a concrete example of how different pieces fit together perfectly to create a completed picture. Knowing your place in the world—as a piece to the larger story of life—may be helpful in lessening anxiety and orient us towards hope.
Hope Our True Consoler, Not False Optimism
Dovetailing off the previous point, the virtue of hope is a true helper. Mike Pacer writes, “The key to hope is to acknowledge our feelings and separate them from reality (Mercy and Hope p.121). Hope isn’t the same as wishful thinking or mere pseudo-optimism. A realness exists with hope. The virtue of hope does not produce a placebo effect like false-optimism.
God gives us the gift of hope. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph number 691, “When he proclaims and promises the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus calls him the “Paraclete,” literally, “he who is called to one’s side,” ad-vocatus.18 “Paraclete” is commonly translated by “consoler,” and Jesus is the first consoler.19 The Lord also called the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth.”
Heaven—the Final Frontier
Referring to St. Paul’s assertion for our yearning for Heaven in Hebrews 13:14, Mike Pacer declared, “We are not living in our permanent home. Rather, we are on a journey. We have a definite destination (Mercy and Hope pp. 134-135). Put another way, St. Augustine’s axiom, “Our souls are restless until they rest in thee [God].” All the material possessions, power, and control in the world do not offer long-term and lasting fulfillment. Humanity keeps yearning for something greater, and greater, and greater!
St. Therese of Liseux famously summed up this truth using a nautical example, “The world’s thy ship and not thy home!” Earthly existence is a pilgrim journey. The virtue of hope allows us to don our theological lens to view more clearly that Heaven is the final frontier!
O my God, relying on your infinite goodness and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of your grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.
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