A Holy Kaleidoscope—The Diversity Of The Saints In Light Of Christ

Have you ever received gifts or trinkets growing up that you continue to keep for sentimental or nostalgic value? Something a family member or a friend gave you on a birthday or for a special event that remains on prominent display in your home?

Prism

I received a prism on my 8th birthday. A simple but an intriguing item. I kept it on my bookshelf for many years. Unfortunately, I lost the prism.  I still reflect (no pun intended) on the awesome light tricks: bending rays of light and creating miniature rainbows.  The splendid spectrum-forming crystal helped in forming simple and joyful memories with my siblings. Since lacking a physical prism, I still use a metaphorical prism as a perfect analogy for explaining how diversity (of light) can be reconciled into a focus of unity.

The word diversity tends to invoke sudden reactions from people. Perhaps it is due to a hostile political environment or maybe it is because various entertainment sources poke fun at striving for differences of thought (refer to The Office Season 1 Episode 3: “Diversity Day”). Even within my own workplace I hear co-workers scoff or grumble at the idea of recognizing differences in opinion, culture, thought, or belief. Oftentimes, failure to identify the good that people’s differences can bring for the greater good lead to hostile environments, bullying, fractured relationships, and promote self-centered tendencies.

Communion of saints

Rainbow of Holiness

Focusing on the ugliness of the differences in the trees leads to us missing out on the beauty of the forest when viewed all together—in unity. As a person who struggles mightily with change and a fervent desire to maintain consistency throughout the day, week, and year, I oftentimes fail to see how differences can promote unity.

Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, urges his followers, “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). Prisms separate light into various hues. Analogously, the Holy Spirit bestows individuals various gifts (hues) of charisms. These gifts help spread the light of the Gospel. Only unified through the light of Christ may the saints provide various ways to communicate the Gospel. Saint John Paul the Great said, “Unity not only embraces diversity, but is verified in diversity.”

The Catholic Church teaches various paths to holiness exist. According to the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium,

“All the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status are called to the fullness of the Christian Life and the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society” (no. 40).

God calls everyone to holiness.

Ordained Saints

Holy Orders

I will not spend too much time on saints who received the sacrament of Holy Orders as the more famous saints that come to mind were priests, deacons, or bishops. According the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

“Since the beginning, the ordained ministry has been conferred and exercised in three degrees: that of bishops, that of presbyters, and that of deacons. The ministries conferred by ordination are irreplaceable for the organic structure of the Church: without the bishop, presbyters, and deacons, one cannot speak of the Church” (1593).

Saints that immediately come to mind who received the sacrament of Holy Orders include the following (not even close to an exhaustive list):

  • Peter
  • Augustine
  • Athanasius
  • Gregory the Great
  • Stephen
  • Pope John Paul II
  • Francis of Assisi
  • Francis de Sales

Married Saints

Saints Louis and Zelie Martin

The vast majority of the Catholic faithful consists of married couples and their families. However, when I was researching for this article I could not think of any married saint immediately off the top of my head. Perhaps it is because marriage is more commonplace than Holy Order. I think the diversity between a man and woman in the Mystery of the sacrament of Matrimony has been lost in our culture.

Not everything in marriage needed to be reduced to sameness between the spouses. If that happens a little bit of the Mystery may disappear. Marriage involves learning about your spouse. Love desires sacrifice. It’s not about conformity or coercion. I can’t expect my wife to be exactly the same as me. The sacramental grace received from the Holy Spirit helps us grow in holiness.

Diversity leads to unity.

Here’s a list of some married saints:

  • Louis and Zelie Martin (more famously known as the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux)
  • Monica (mother of St. Augustine)
  • Elizabeth Ann Seton
  • Joachim and Anne (parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

Religious Saints

Saint Teresa of Avila

Individuals not called to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders or Matrimony, often go on to live out the vocation of the religious life. The Catechism states the following about this vocation,

“Religious life derives from the mystery of the Church. It is a gift she has received from her Lord, a gift she offers as a stable way of life to the faithful called by God to profess the counsels. Thus, the Church can both show forth Christ and acknowledge herself to be the Savior’s bride. Religious life in its various forms is called to signify the very charity of God in the language of our time” (926).

Saints who lived out this lifestyle provides an impetus to the Church in times of slow growth or decline. Among the saints who lived out their religious vocations include:

  • Benedict of Nursia
  • Teresa of Avila
  • Mother Teresa of Calcutta
  • Maria Faustina
  • Therese of Lisieux

Consecrated Life

Catherine of Siena

The fourth and final vocational path to holiness is the consecrated life. Such individuals do not receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders, Matrimony, nor life in a religious community. This vocation often gets misinterpreted as miscellaneous catch-all category for individuals either indecisive or uncommitted to the other ways to holiness.  But the consecrated life is a valid and essential vocation needed in the Church. The Catechism  reads highly of this vocation,

“The state of life which is constituted by the profession of the evangelical counsels, while not entering into the hierarchical structure of the Church, belongs undeniably to her life and holiness” (914).

This vocation in particular affords individuals a certain freedom, not enjoyed by the other vocational paths. People living out the chaste and consecrated life share their unique gifts with the world.

Saints who lived out this fourth path to holiness include:

  • Agatha
  • Lucy
  • Agnes
  • Catherine of Siena
  • Joan of Arc

Diversity (and Unity) of Love

Light of the world

According to Lumen Gentium,

“For just as in one body we have many members, yet all the members have not the same function, so we, the many, are one body in Christ, but severally members one of another” (32).

While the ever relatable analogy of the Body and its individual parts testify to the truth of the unity of the Catholic Church in spite of its diverse members, I find that the analogy of the light and the color-spectrum also provides an interesting view on this seeming tension between unity and diversity. Along with my gift of a prism, I enjoyed looking at kaleidoscopes. The beauty would be lost without having light to shed brilliance on the kaleidoscope. In a similar way, the uniqueness, diversity, and individual excellence of the saints would all be in vain unless viewed through the prism of Jesus Christ. The brilliance of truth is seen as a beautiful rainbow of holiness as well!

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A Letter to United States Catholics

Letter

Dear American Catholics,

In the Catholic world, January 6th, 2021 was primarily to be the celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 528, “The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world.” God became man in a humble stable. He used the language of science to appeal to the Eastern wisemen. They noticed a brightness in the night sky (the crossing of Jupiter and Saturn) of a “star”.

The events at the United States Capitol plunged social media and news networks into a darkness. Chaos. Confusion. Hurt. Division. Strife. Call it what you want. It’s the result of humanity’s fallen nature.

Jesus Christ became man to save humanity from sins. The God-man acts as a bridge for the human race to reconcile with the Holy Trinity. Saint Pope John XXIII wrote, “It is impossible to be joined to God except through Jesus Christ; it is impossible to be united to Christ except in and through the Church which is His Mystical Body.” Last century, that claim certainly seemed commonplace and it was abnormal to reject. Unfortunately, we live in a time in history where the greatest threats to the Church come from within.

What is the truth?

What is truth

It’s a question philosophers throughout history pondered. Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Descrates, Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, and all in between. But it’s a question people ask on a daily basis.

Fake news has become a staple in Catholics’ everyday conversation. Cynicism, doubt, fear, worry, and anger result from the confusion. I’ve been silent far too long on the behavior I see by prominent Catholics on both sides of the political spectrum.

What is truth? That’s the wrong question to ask. Truth isn’t a what but a who.

Who is truth?

The Way, the Truth, and the Life

It shouldn’t be a surprise to know that the answer to the question is Jesus. Saint John the Apostle tells us in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus ascended to God the Father forty days after his Resurrection so how exactly can we come to Jesus? It is through the sacraments. Christ gave his Apostles the authority to forgive sins and ability to be channels of grace for the other sacraments.

The Catholic Church is meant to be a light to the nations. One, holy, catholic (universal), and apostolic are the distinguishing marks of the Catholic Church. Navigating the rabbit holes that are social media comments section on political topics you won’t think of those qualities at all!

falling in rabbit holes

False claims on both sides and vitriol dominate many online Catholic conversations. Trump. Biden. Republican. Democrat. Those aren’t the four marks of the Catholic Church. Too many times American Catholics put country and politics above the Creator of the Universe. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for decades because of worshipping false gods.

People maybe aren’t worshipping golden statues. But they certainly give the impression that it’s okay to idolize “golden” personalities.

How Does the Church Get Back on Track

What is the solution

On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, my priest gave an amazing homily on the ark of the covenant. In the Old Testament, the ark was a sacred vessel that housed the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s staff, and the manna from the desert. The main point of the homily was the Israelites’ success in battle when carrying the Ark of the Covenant. Troubles came when they failed to travel with it.

The Ark of the Covenant carried the presence of God. His laws and food for the journey. Catholics refer to Mary was the New Ark of the Covenant. Why? Because she housed God during her pregnancy with Jesus. The Catholic Answers website has an informative and detailed article for more reasons why Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant.

Our Theological GPS

Mary is guide to Jesus

Mary is the perfect guide to Jesus.

Where Mary is present so too her Son is. How does the Church get back on track? The theological GPS back to Jesus is Mary. And the most effective prayer is the Most Holy Rosary. Anytime I fall away from the faith or lapse in my duty to love God and neighbor I ask the Blessed Virgin Mary for guidance. Saint Louis de Montfort said, ““For never will anyone who says his Rosary every day become a formal heretic or be led astray by the devil. This is a statement which I would sign with my blood.”

Wow! The French saint’s words may sound like hyperbole but they’re true. Mary is the connection to Christ. Mothers have an intimacy with their children. Why should it be any different for the Mother of God? Plus, through my direct experience I have learned about the efficacy of the Rosary. The goal of prayer is to get closer to God— Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Prayer isn’t simply a recitation of words. The amount of times you pray the Rosary doesn’t increase or decrease your holiness level. Vocal prayer is a starting basis and important. But it shouldn’t be the end destination. God desires us to draw us into deeper communion with him. Vocal prayer should be followed (eventually) with mental prayer. Allowing our thoughts, wishes, desires, worries, fear, anxieties, doubts, joys, and everything be an offering to God.

I have struggled with thinking I was holier than others because of how I followed certain Catholic traditions. This is rooted in my selfishness, pride, and lack of fully trusting in God.

Evidence for Spiritual Growth?

Spiritual growth

One of the things I learned growing up was the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit. But lately, that information remained merely a factoid in my memory bank. Inviting the Holy Spirit to dwell in your heart and soul increases your knowledge of God but more importantly your actions are transformed. Spiritual growth is determined by the fruits you notice. Here are a list of the fruits of the Holy Spirit:

  • Charity
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Generosity
  • Gentleness
  • Faithfulness
  • Modesty
  • Self-control
  • Chastity

Are you displaying these traits in your online (and offline) interactions? Does disagreements make you impatient or cause a rush to judgment? Do you currently lack self-control? Or faith in God’s Divine Plan?

These questions should be pondered often. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom, knowledge, understanding, reverence, awe/wonderment, courage, and counsel.

Ask the Holy Spirit for Help

These times are confusing. Uncertainty appears to be the new standard. Don’t fear! Our Common Enemy wants us to be afraid because this leads to movement away from God. Know Jesus is Truth, look to Mary to help point you to Him, and ask the Holy Spirit for the gift to live intentional and follow the will of God. The Catholic Church in America is in trouble but if you seek personal holiness you will be a salt to renew the joy of the Gospel.

In Christ,

The Simple Catholic

Thank you for sharing!

3 Reasons Why St. Ambrose of Milan is Still Relevant Today!

Living in the 4th century A.D., St. Ambrose was bishop of Milan during a tumultuous era of Church history. His road to ordination was an interesting journey. The sudden death of the current bishop of Milan in 374 A.D. left the bishop’s seat open amid the climate of the Arian heresy. Ambrose, an unbaptized believe in Christ and charismatic figure, appealed to all sides of the Arian debate.

Saint Ambrose of Milan

Baptized as a Christian in his mid-thirties, Ambrose soon after received the Sacrament of Holy Orders and shepherded the peoples of Milan of the reminder of his life. Today I wish to highlight 3 reasons why I believe St. Ambrose is still relevant to Christians in the 21st century.

You catch more flies with Honey than you do with vinegar”

There exists a legend within the hagiography of Ambrose which tells of a bizarre encounter with bees. As an infant, it is purported that several bees hovered over the head of the saint as an infant. The bees left Ambrose unharmed with honey atop his head. His parents interpreted this an a divine sign and foretelling of his ability to eloquently speak and unite differing factions. For this reason, Ambrose became known as the patron saint of beekeepers and bees.

According to Mike Aquilina in The Fathers of the Church: An Introduction to the First Christian Teachers, “He was unanimously elected bishop, winning the votes of both Arians and the Catholics…an intellectual, he could move the movers and shakers of Latin culture. It was he who finally persuaded the stubborn Augustine to proceed to Baptism [I will expand in this later on!] “ (p. 166). Sweetness and kindness of speech is equally important to proclaiming truth. Ambrose found a balance between charity and truth. As result he was an effective teacher and administrator of the Catholic Church.

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Model of the Episcopate

Along with Ambrose’s ability to teach truth in a charitable manner, he remained steadfast as a guardian of the teaching of the Catholic Church—one of the most important functions of a bishop! Because of his sweetness of speech, Ambrose built up enough rapport with the secular leaders of his time that when the time came to stand his ground his words packed clout.

Ambrose graciously, but sternly, declined Emperor Valentinian’s invitation to a Church Council that bishop believed the secular leader had no authority convening. The sainted bishop stated,

And how, O Emperor, are we to settle a matter on which you have already declared your judgment, and have even promulgated laws, so that it is not open to anyone to judge otherwise?…if anything has to be discussed I have learned to discuss it in Church, as those before he did. If a conference is to be held concerning the faith, there ought to be a gathering of bishops, as was done under Constantine, the prince of august memory, who did not promulgate any laws beforehand, but left the decision to the bishops…

st. ambrose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Master of the Master

According to R. Thornton in St. Ambrose: His Life, Times, and Teaching, St. Ambrose had a significant impact on arguably the most influential theologian in the history of the Catholic Church—St. Augustine of Hippo.

In fact, Augustine talks of Ambrose’s influence in Confessions Book VI Chapters 1-8. “The bishop of Milan was at least the guide of the guide of the theology of the West,” stated Thornton (St. Ambrose: His Life, Times, and Teaching p. 125). To put it in modern lingo, St. Ambrose was the Qui-Gon Jinn to Augustine’s Obi-Wan Kenobi!!

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In the age of social media, our world needs holy men and women to demonstrate truth in a charitable way. Proclaiming truth without kindness will never convert unbelievers’ hearts. St. Ambrose is a reminder and role model for our society that charitable dialogue is possible.

For me personally, I need daily reminders to wed truth with charity. Remembering St. Ambrose’s life provides me with a guide on how to interact peacefully in a secular world. The sainted bishop’s ability to network with a myriad of people is another example of how he is still applicable to our society of marketing, social media, and age of internet. The next time I notice an buzzing bee on a summer’s day I will be reminded of the sweetness of truth exemplified by Ambrose!

Honey Bee

Related Links

Prayer of St. Ambrose

Saint Ambrose— Catholic

St. Ambrose’s impact on St. Augustine: Excerpts from The Confessions

Thank you for sharing!

Building Up the Faith: An Interview with John Kraemer on the Lego Church Project

 


Editor’s Note: Matthew Chicoine interviewed John Kraemer via phone call on December 3, 2020. Some of the questions have been rearranged and edited to provide the best reader experience without losing any of the integrity of the answers given.


John Kramer Lego Church Project

How the Lego Project got started?

My first project begin in 2003  and featured at Christ the Good Shepherd Church. It wasn’t until I started displaying my churches during the Christmas season (in year 4) that the Project took off.-

How do you pick the specific Catholic Church to build each year?

It has been a church of my own design. I wanted to combine the elements of modern church while keeping to tradition. I try to show the happy medium between the modern and traditional.

I try to keep things as accurate as I can. I will blend some real world elements. For examples, I have included items from Rugged Rosary (Crucifixes and Statue of Mary).

What is your favorite Lego display?

The Christmas display is one of my favorite and most important displays.

I build the displays in mid-February. It takes around a couple months for about 2-5 hours a day. I usually take a break after Easter. I usually tear down the Church at the end of the year. I sometimes save the tabernacle and ambo for later use.

Lego Church Project

How do you find inspiration with creating the Lego Churches?

Until I sit down with the bricks, I’m not quite sure where the story takes me.

I’m always looking, studying, getting ideas for what’s around me. How are things set up? Placement is everything for me.  I review my previous projects all the time.

Did you play with Legos a lot as a kid?

Yes,  while my friends were building spaceships I found myself constructing buildings. Eventually it developed into me making churches.

How does your work inspire others?

One priest was building a Vatican City and he was looking at my work to get an idea.

The Project is a prayer because it is also a reflection of where we’ve been and where we should be. My thoughts for this Christmas is an end to the pandemic.

Tell me a bit about your devotion to Blessed Solanus Casey.

The qualities that attracted him to me was his learning difficulties. His faithfulness and obedience. I learned about him as he was from Detroit and my parents grew up in Detroit. Grandma grew up across the street from the monastery. One of her wishes before he died was to see Blessed Solanus canonized.

Why is the Mass is important to you?

When we participate in the Mass we are part of something else. No matter what storms or challenges we face when we make the Mass our priority he say Jesus is our savior.


John Kraemer is a Catholic out of Saginaw, Michigan and has been building his annual “Lego Church Project” for over twenty years. With a focus on disability awareness.

It was a joy interviewing John and his work about the Lego Church Project. To learn more about his ministry follow his Facebook page at The Lego Church Project


 

 

 

Thank you for sharing!

10 Reasons Why Catholics Should Always be Thankful

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on November 26, 2017.


G.K. Chesterton stated in Christmas and Salesmanship, “Gratitude, being nearly the greatest of human duties, is also nearly the most difficult.” As a father I know all too well how difficult it is sometimes for my children to express gratitude to me. On the other hand, as a husband I struggle to tell my wife how thankful for all that she does. Not only do I need to improve on my attitude of gratitude within my marriage,  I need to focus on having a thankful mindset in my spiritual life and relationship with God. In celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday, I came on my top ten reasons for why I am thankful for Catholicism!

eucharist 2

Eucharist

The Bread of Life Discourse in John 6 has Jesus preaching the most profound truth in the history of the universe. Jesus said, I 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” (John 6:51). The Catechism of the Catechism Church calls the Eucharist the “source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). Every Sunday I experience the miracle of being able to receive the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ!

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Holy Trinity

God is love. Love entails relationship. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is the Mystery that God is a Communion of Three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I am grateful for the revelation of this truth. I am able to ponder the depth of its truth without it growing stale, it always remains fresh and profound!

Incarnation

The most solemn moment of the Nicene Creed occurs when we profess: “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.” At this point, we bow to recognize the amazing fact that God became a mere human. St. Athanasius had this to say about the Incarnation, “God became man that man might become God” (On the Incarnation). I am thankful that God sent his only Son-Jesus Christ—to become a bridge for humanity to access God.

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Confession

I have experienced real, tangible, and concrete healing when I receive God’s healing grace’s in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Through frequent reception of Penance, I have been able to overcome sins that dominated me in my youth. I have also been able to recognize sins that hid in the background previously. As a result, Confession provides me with graces to root out sinful tendencies and to grow in holiness.

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Divine Mercy

While I experience Divine Mercy in the Sacrament of Confession, I want to treat this topic as a separate point. I used to view God as a wrathful Judge. My scrupulosity leads to a judgmental mentality—that I struggle with still today. However, through the intercession of the Divine Mercy saints of the 20th century such as St. Maria Faustina, John Paul II, Maximilian Koble, and Mother Teresa my awareness that God is a Merciful and Just Judge has increased!

 Mary

My relationship with our Blessed Mother has improved over this past year. In celebration of the centenary anniversary of the Apparitions at Fatima, my wife and I consecrated ourselves to Jesus through St. Louis de Montfort stated, “[Mary] is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus and will surrender themselves to her, body and soul, without reserve in order to belong entirely to Jesus” (True Devotion to Mary). I learned that Mary is the greatest witness and advocate for God. Her desire is to lead ll her children to Jesus Christ.

 Saints

Along with Mary, the saints in Heaven provide a model for me to follow to help me grow in holiness. Reading about the lives of my favorite saints [St. Athanasius, John Paul II, St. Amelia, St. Bernadette, St. Pius IX, St. Maria Faustina, and St. Maximilian Koble—to name a few] helps provide concrete examples of what holiness looks like and how I am able to emulate their trust in God in my own life.

 Hope

I am thankful for the hope that the Catholic Church teaches and provides me daily. Attending Sunday Mass, going to Eucharistic Adoration, meeting with my monthly Catholic men’s group, and teaching Religious Education at my parish are ways that I receive [and pass on] hope. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1843, “By hope we desire, and with steadfast trust await from God, eternal life and the graces to merit it.”

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Sacred Tradition

I am a history buff. In fact, I earned my undergraduate degree in history. The Catholic Church is a storehouse and guardian of 2,000+ years of history and tradition. While lesser important traditions pass away and give way to more appropriate devotional practices that fits the needs of the faithful, Jesus Christ knew that stability and consistency of truth is essential in mankind’s relationship with God.

The Catechism tells us in paragraph number 96-97,

What Christ entrusted to the apostles, they in turn handed on by their preaching and writing, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to all generations, until Christ returns in glory. ‘Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God’ (DV 10) in which, as in a mirror, the pilgrim Church contemplates God, the source of all her riches.

I am thankful that Jesus instituted the priesthood and office of the papacy to have truth passed on through the ages.

Beauty

The final fact about Catholicism in my top ten list that I am grateful for is the beauty I experience. Catholic cathedrals and basilicas are places where I have experienced beauty in an ineffable way. During the celebration of the Liturgy, I experience the beauty of God in both song and sight. The icons in my local church allow my prayers to be better united to God. I am pointed toward higher realities when I meditate with the aid of sacred song and holy images.

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Lord, we thank you
for the goodness of our people
and for the spirit of justice
that fills this nation.
We thank you for the beauty and fullness of the
land and the challenge of the cities.

We thank you for our work and our rest,
for one another, and for our homes.
We thank you, Lord:
accept our thanksgiving on this day.
We pray and give thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord.

R: Amen.

Related Links

Catholics, Be Thankful Always and Everywhere

Why I’m Thankful To Be Catholic

Announcing 10 Catholic Role Models to be Thankful for!

Thank you for sharing!

3 Things I Learned about the Sacrament of Confession


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on November 4, 2019.


According to the ancient Greek philosopher Democritus, “Raising children is an uncertain thing; success is reached only after a life of battle and worry.” Written over 2,000 years ago, that advice remains ever relevant and new. Parenting feels like a daily battle. Frustrations brew, chaos ensues, and bedtime routine feels like WWIII.

More often than not, my anger gets the best of me. Fatherhood takes a lot of work. Some days I make excuses to not put in the work. Failure and faux pas have became habit. I desire a reset. A new beginning. I want to do better. Become something better. Become someone better for me kids.

Thankfully, I don’t have to look [or travel] that far for the remedy.

The Sacrament of Confession provides Catholics an opportunity to be forgiven and restore one’s relationship with God and their neighbor. St. Isidore of Seville wrote, “Confession heals, confession justifies, confession grants pardon of sin, all hope consists in confession; in confession there is a chance for mercy.”

This school year my oldest child receives his First Confession and Eucharist. Next week he will receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. My wife and I have been going through the religious education lessons to prepare him for an understanding and proper disposition to receive the sacrament of healing. In teaching him the basics about this sacrament, I too, actually learned something about Confession.

The Simpler Is Better

Albert Einstein famously quipped, “If you can’t explain it to a sixyearoldyou don’t understand it yourself.” It definitely takes a talent to be able to articulate the complexities of the Catholic faith to young minds. This is something I struggle with a bit, but I am getting better.

Simple is better

Less is more. I never actually understand that phrase until after going through these lessons with my son. Sometimes discussion about the sacraments can get bogged down with technical jargon or bias. Essentially the main questions kids and new converts to the faith wonder include:

  • What are sacraments?
  • Why are sacraments important?
  • How do I receive the sacraments

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1131, “The sacraments are efficacious [effective] signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us.” To put it is more basic terms, a sacrament is a visible sign of God’s invisible grace. By receiving the sacraments we grow closer to God.

A Brief History of Sin and Salvation

Adam and Eve disobeyed God. This disobedience caused sin to enter into the world. Sin separates us from God. God sent His only Son Jesus to restore that relationship through his death on the Cross. Before Jesus’ Ascension he promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide the Apostles. On Pentecost the Holy Spirit met the Apostles and gave them the ability to preach the Gospel.

Sacrament of Confession

The Apostles, the first bishops, ordained their successors. This Apostolic succession continued throughout history. Jesus gave Peter and the rest of the Apostles the authority to forgive sins (see John 20:1-23) and consecrate the Eucharist. Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the successors of the Apostles (bishops) ordain men as priests. Jesus Christ works through those men in the Sacraments of Confession and Eucharist.

We explained to our son that Jesus is working through the priest.  When he will confess his sins to our priest it will actually be Jesus that he will be talking to and it will be Jesus who forgives sins. The priest is an instrument by which God works through.

Mercy

Another lesson I [re]learned in preparing my son for the Sacrament of Confession, is that everyone is in need of God’s mercy. “Even the pope goes to confession!” I told my eight-year-old. I went on to tell him about Saint Pope John XXII who received that sacrament daily.

Although the sacrament of Baptism cleanses us from original sin, humans still have the ability to freely choose to love or to not love God. Choosing to not love God or others results in sin or separation. As a father, I am definitely reminded of my need for forgiveness. Patience does not come naturally. This virtue gets tested daily, hourly, and sometimes every minute in the Chicoine household.

Being able to tell Jesus through the priest of my failures as a parent, husband, friend, worker, and neighbor is an incredible gift. Even more incredible is God’s mercy of absolving me from my past sins.

Reaping the Fruit of Our Sacramental Marriage

The third thing I learned about the Catholic faith while teaching my son about Confession is that the Holy Spirit delays certain gifts and gives them at key times in our life. My wife and I received the Sacrament of Matrimony in 2010. We took [and still take] our faith seriously. The primary purpose of marriage is to help the spouses grow in holiness.

Fruit

According  to the Catechism paragraph 1661,

The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church. It gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved his Church; the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity, and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1799).

In my post Toddlers: An Adorable Trace of the Trinity I wrote, “A fruit of the sacrament of marriage is children…I think of my children as the best gift that God has given me personally to grow in virtue daily.” Kids test your love. They give you opportunities to grow in understanding, patience, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, and gratitude to name just a few virtues. Educating our children about the faith provides my wife and I chances to rekindle our love for the Church and Christ.

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If you are experiencing doubt, impatience, anger, resentment, worry, or other vices I strongly encourage you to examine your conscience and ask God for forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession.  Build up the Body of Christ and seek God’s mercy!

Related Links

What is the Sacrament of Confession

Why I Love the Sacrament of Confession

Afraid of going to confession? Pray this prayer for courage

How the Sacrament of Confession is Prefigured in the Old Testament

Thank you for sharing!

A Personal Litany of Saints for 2020

November 1st—the Celebration of the Feast of All Saints—among my favorite feasts in the Church’s liturgical calendar. Only the Feast of the Holy Trinity and the Most Precious Body and Blood eclipses All Saints Day in significance for me personally.

Who are the Saints?

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness. . . . They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus . . . . So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped” (CCC 956).

In other words, the reason we honor the holy men and women in union in Heaven with God is because they draw of closer to unity with God. November 1st is not meant to be a Holy Oscars or a rolling out of a theological red carpet.

The Saints Point Us to God

Saints are witnesses to the faith and reflect the light Holy Trinity. I am reminded St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney when he said, “We are all like little mirrors, in which God contemplates Himself. How can you expect that God should recognize His likeness in an impure soul?” This likening of the human soul as a reflection, a mirror of God’s love can be found even earlier in Church tradition. St. Theophilus of Antioch [circa 2nd century A.D.] declared,

A person’s soul should be clean, like a mirror reflecting light. If there is rust on the mirror his face cannot be seen in it. In the same way, no one who has sin within him can see God.

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Below I formed a list, a sort of personal litany of saints, and applicable holy writings that have helped me grow in holiness and polish my soul to better reflect the love of the Holy Trinity.

Along with the names of canonized saints who personally influenced me, I outlined several Christian writers who lived fairly recently or are currently alive and are not officially canonized. Nevertheless, the books from the suggested reading still helped me grow in my Catholic faith.

***Note: I added the book(s) that I have actually read that have impacted me and deepened my relationship with God through the saint. This is in no way an exhaustive list –it is merely a list of saints whose writings and/or witness influenced me positively***

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November Nourishment for the Soul

  • Mary- The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God by Venerable Fulton Sheen
  • Joseph
  • Athanansius: On the Incarnation; Life of St. Antony
  • Pope John Paul II: Fides Et Ratio; Redemptoris Misso; Veritatis Splendor
  • Maria Faustina: Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul
  • Francis de Sales: Introduction to the Devout Life
  • Augustine: Confessions
  • Louis de Montfort: True Devotion to Mary
  • Terersa of Avila: Interior Castle
  • John of the Cross: Dark Night of the Soul
  • Therese of Lisieux: The Autobiography of Saint Therese of Lisieux: The Story of a Soul
  • Luke: Acts of the Apostle; Gospel According to Luke
  • Josemaria Escriva: The Way
  • Pope Pius XII: Humani Generis
  • James: The Letter of St. James
  • Maximilian Koble
  • Bernadette
  • Pope Pius IX
  • Pope Leo XIII
  • Thorlak
  • Francis of Assisi
  • Ignatius of Loyala
  • Ambrose: De Incarnationis Dominicæ Sacramento [on the Incarnation and Sacraments]
  • Jerome: Homilies
  • John Chrysostom
  • Thomas Aquinas: The Summa Theologica

Suggested Reading

  • G.K. Chesterton: Orthodoxy
  • S. Lewis: Mere Christianity; Screwtape Letters; Space Trilogy
  • Bishop Robert Barron: Catholicism
  • Peter Kreeft, P.H.D.: Socrates Meets Jesus: History’s Greatest Questioner Confronts the Claims of Christ; Prayer for Beginners; Between Heaven and Hell
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit; The Lord of the Ringsmass not boring.jpg

Now these readings aren’t replacement for the Mass. Hopefully you find this list helpful in your spiritual journey!

Thank you for sharing!