Below is a letter I dedicate to our Lord Jesus Christ in celebration of his birth, December 25, 2020 Anno Domini.
Dear Baby Jesus,
In a stable, 2000 years ago, a seemingly ordinary infant was born. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, shepherds and kings from afar learned about His incredible presence. God uses the most common of circumstances to work the greatest of all miracles–the Incarnation. God so loved the world He sent you–His only Son– to bridge the great gulf, the separation caused by sin.
Wrapped in swaddling clothes, laid in a manger, you my king took the form of mankind. I have heard the Nativity story dozens of times. This Advent I feared I would took your origin story for granted. Instead, I am grateful for the opportunity to gaze on the Nativity scene through new eyes–not merely of a follower, but also as a father.
My children are a reminder of your goodness, truth, and beauty. Seeing the twinkle in their eyes when they gaze at the Nativity Scene at home or church is priceless. The smiles on my kids faces as they color “presents” pictures for my wife and I remind me the true reason for the season!
People are born everyday on this earth, but only once a year do we remember the greatest birth of all.
Jesus my servant king, Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, God-hero, I adore you and celebrate with my family and friends the anniversary of your birth. I pray that my heart is enlarged to make room within the inn of my soul for you, my family, friends, and people I meet daily!
Praise we to God in the Highest and Alleluia for our Savior’s arrival.
With great love and gratitude,
Your adopted son,
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
Editor’s Note: Post originally published on January 13, 2019.
The legendary Italian artist Michelangelo once purported, “The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.” I once traveled overseas on a college trip around Europe. One of the stops our tour group was in Rome. Seeing Michelangelo’s masterpiece in the Sistine Chapel certainly allowed me to encounter the mysterious and awesome presence of God. My sublime experience in Rome lasted only a few minutes and occurred over a decade ago. I am extremely grateful to have seen with my own eyes one of the greatest and most beautiful works of art in all of human history.
Fast-forward ten years and a lot has changed in my life: I am married with four children, and in the workforce. While life brought me many struggles since that moment in Italy, my Catholic faith is stronger and more real because of those trials. Throughout much of 2018 I wrote frequently about my wife and I’s struggle with despair, loneliness, and sadness at the loss of our unborn children. Losing a child, you never could hold takes an indescribable toll on a person’s mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.
A Christmas Miracle Child
This Christmas season our family was blessed with the healthy birth of our daughter. From the onset of the pregnancy complications developed. God interceded and saved our daughter from being miscarried. He accomplished it through the power of prayer and healing graces of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Our parish priest administered this sacrament to my wife. In my post, Containing Joy—Rainbow Baby After Miscarriage Maelstroms – The Simple Catholic, I talk about the struggle be joyous throughout the pregnancy. Hope always permeated our thoughts, but we tempered our joy just in case our daughter did not make it to term.
God’s Peace in the Pain
After my wife’s contractions got frequent enough for the delivery doctor and nurses to arrive, a calming presence overcame me as I gazed into my wife’s eyes between her painful contractions. An otherworldly peace entered that delivery room. Joy, peace, and confidence radiated from my wife’s eyes in the moments before our daughter was born.
Skeptics may doubt Divine Providence had anything to do with our experience in the delivery room. All I can speak of is my experience and that was an encounter with a reality, call it what you will, whose origin is not of this earthly existence. Long anticipation of seeing, hearing, and holding our daughter seemed to have time at a standstill those short minutes before the arrival of Avila.
Bishop Robert Barron once stated, “Begin with the beautiful, which leads you to the good, which leads you to the truth.” Our joy-filled yet anxious laden pregnancy delivery began with the beautiful―the news of the conception of our daughter. That beautiful news led to the good. Good through the form of good friends, family, and priests praying for us on this 9-month journey.
Finally, the good of fellowship and prayer led my wife and I to the truth― this reality is not the sole mode of existence. The God who is above humanity’s total and complete comprehension decided to reveal himself in the material world. God became man in the person of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day in Bethlehem, and I had the privilege of encountering the peace of the Holy Spirit that early morn in the hospital room before and during the birth of my daughter!
“The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.”
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 31, 2017.
July 29th was my 30th birthday! More importantly it is the Feast Day of St. Martha the friend of Jesus Christ and sister to St. Lazarus and St. Mary. I have always shared a special connection to this ancient Christian role model. My own personal journey to overcome anxiety, worry, OCD, and constant movement in both my daily and spiritual life. Here I want to share a couple ways by which Martha is a perfect person to share July 29th.
Action, Action, Action
Diagnosed with ADHD at a young age, I remember always being in motion as a kid. I know that sounds cliché to talk about children moving around, wiggling, and lacking focus. But for me that was and still is true. I struggled with sitting still. I seen this trait passed on to my own children as well.
My kids rarely are able to sit down for a complete meal. In fact they have a tough time sitting still for more than a couple minutes at a time. The action and constant movement of St. Martha appeals to me on a personal level.
“Martha [Matt], Martha [Matt], you are anxious and worried about many things”
Another reason the patron saint of homemakers is a perfect person to share my birthday with is due to her anxiety. Martha complains directly to Jesus about her sister Mary in Luke 10:40, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”
Martha’s tactless manner upon which she communicated her frustrations about her sister to Jesus negated her hospitality. Jesus calmly replied, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.42 There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
How often do I experience similar frustrations when I think I am doing more to prepare for guests than my wife or other members of my family. Preparation and hospitality are good in and of themselves. Where the trouble lies in Martha’s situation is she worried about something fleeting [the itinerary of the feast] instead of cleaving to the eternal [sitting at the feet of Christ].
Along with both the personal limitations Martha struggled with constantly and the focus on the minutiae of daily life, her initial doubt of Jesus’ ability to help Lazarus reminds me of my own frequent self-doubt. According to John 11, Jesus heard about Lazarus’, the brother of Mary and Martha, severe sickness.
I always found these two sentences in this story interesting and bewildering: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was” (John 11: 5-6). Wait. If Jesus really loved his friends, why in the world did he procrastinate the equivalent of a weekend’s worth of time?
To be honest, this passage was a difficulty for myself. It is reading the entirely of the chapter—and reading it in light of the Resurrected Christ—that I realized John is preparing us for a tremendous miracle—the raising of Lazarus.
Trust Follows Doubt
Martha’s reply to Jesus entering the city of Bethany is similar to something I would say, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!!” (John 11: 21). I often lament to God saying, “If only you answered my prayers timely would I not be suffering at this moment!”
St. Paul reassures us that even in the face of suffering, doubt, and strife, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28). This was actually the first line in the second reading of the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 30th). I planned to write this post on Saturday. I am grateful that my friend took me to see the newest Spiderman movie in theaters for my birthday. God allowed the simple occasion of a movie to help make the connection between Paul’s message and Martha’s anxiety. We know that all things work for good for those who love God. This timeless message also reminds me of this Lauren Daigle’s Trust in You
Cleanliness is next to Godliness
Martha is known as the patron saint of housekeepers, cooks, laundry workers, and servants. While I am not a great cook, I am a clean-freak. As a result of my OCD, I tend to do the majority of the household cleaning chores [I have control issues that I am currently working on].
I also helped my mom with her cleaning business as a kid and I worked in the fast food industry cooking and serving food for almost seven years during high school and college. Little did I know God was using my experiences with menial jobs to forge a relationship with one of the New Testament saints.
Going into writing this post, I had some anxiety about how I would finish it properly. What I have learned is that God will transform the ordinary. In this case, God took my anxiety and work experiences and raised it to a newness of creation. Sharing my birthday with the feast day of St. Martha of Bethany is an honor and a privilege. While I can wait to get another year older I cannot wait to celebrate this wonderful saint’s feast day again next year!
During a recent training seminar at my job, we took a test to determine our social style. To no surprise, I landed almost exclusively in the category of a thinker social style. Simply put, as a thinker I tend to enjoy viewing the entire process and need time to go over changes in my mind. I also tend to ask lots of clarifying questions. Along with my thinker social style I am also a director—a person who tends to be results oriented and a problem solver. I bring my social style up, well in large part because as a thinker I am compelled to provide a little background to my current situation!
I am 29 years old and my birthday is at the end of July. In the twilight of my twenties, I have pondered what things I hope to achieve and spend time doing in the final month of my roaring twenties. I tend to get grandiose in my goals, but having three young kids and a full-time job will limit some of my bucket list items. For the sake of my sanity and simplicity’s sake here are three things I want to continue to accomplish before I turn 30 and continue to work on after I hit this momentous birthday.
1. Improve as a Husband and Father: The majority of my time in the twenties I spent as a husband and father. I got married at age 22 and had our first son when I was 23. Sadly, I have failed in many respects in both vocations. Early in my marriage and fatherhood, I struggled with anger and losing patience. I have improved. Yet, I hope to make marked strides as I cross the fine line of my race to thirty and begin a new marathon toward forty years old! Yesterday, I had a great day with my kids. Today I am spending exclusive and quality time with my oldest son. There is hope on the husbandly horizon.
2. Wordsmithing: Words cannot describe my passion and thrill for writing. I will try my best to capture this feeling I have about wordsmithing. There is something cathartic and healing about sitting down at the keyboard or with pen in hand and getting my thoughts out in the open. I have experienced closeness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit through my weekly writing for this blog. I want to continue to share my joys and struggles in my faith to help others discover the work of the Holy Trinity in their lives as well.
3. Run Barry Run: Running has always played a large role in my life. During high school I participated in cross country and track. I cherish the memories I made with my teammates during our practice and race-day runs. I often recall the people I met through those experiences. After a brief hiatus from running during my early twenties, I recently started training for a half-marathon and completed a 10 mile run in April. What brought me the most joy what that I was able to run with my brother and sister for the first time ever! Secondly, my favorite T.V. show The Flash [based on my favorite superhero Barry Allen- aka The Flash!] has a major theme of running and endurance in difficult times. I hope to continue to train for a half-marathon in the waning days as a twenty-nine year old and make new friendships through racing as I enter my thirties. To my wife’s potential chagrin I hope to continue to read as many The Flash comic books as possible going into my thirties as well!
We all have hopes, goals, and dreams. Sometimes it takes milestone occasions—like my thirtieth birthday— to jumpstart motivation to pursue our life-dreams. My goal in the upcoming months is continue to foster my family relationships, write, and run. I hope that whenever and wherever you are in your life that you do not hesitate to follow your dreams!