You might think I have my life together due to the prolific amount of humorous and inspirational content I post here on IG and this website.
That’s one of the side-effects of social media. It causes people to think the creators of their favorite accounts somehow discovered the secret to dealing with life’s curveballs (and sinkers, fastballs, and knuckleballs) thrown our way.
But I have struggled and continue to this day to deal with anxiety and depression.
Some months it is on a daily basis.
This has been a rough week for me.
It’s been stressful at my retail job (thankfully, there’s relief on the horizon with less hours next month), it’s a busy time with parenting four children and juggling all the responsibilities that goes with it, and I’m struggling with imposter syndrome when it comes to my writing.
Anxiety disorder is something I’ve found I have to slay and tackle daily.
There is no permanent remedy save for total and complete abandonment to God’s Providence.
But it must be a conscious focus each and every single day.
These shields help my battle too:
Humor (The Office has helped me an incalculacable amount of days)
Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints to help me find peace of mind and discover the joy of the Gospel
If I ever got a tattoo it would be the Teresa of Avila prayer. Daily I ask for her intercession, and I etch God’s promises on my heart every time I recite this prayer.
Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing away: God never changes.
Patience obtains all things Whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.
God wants you to find comfort and peace in this life. Never be afraid to seek help or to admit you don’t have your life together: no one else does, it’s part of being human.
A few days ago, my wife sent me a text that I never expected. It simply read, “No apple orchard this year😢 ,” accompanied by a screenshot from our favorite apple orchard. The notice from the Orchard explained,
“APPLE UPDATE: An update we are devastated to share…With great sadness, we are not able to offer U-Pick Apples out in the orchard this season. Due to the spring drought and apple thrip pest, our trees just weren’t able to produce the harvest we had hoped for.”
Disappointment washed over me as I absorbed this news. When you spend months looking forward to something the letdown is pretty steep when your hopes are dashed. This experience led me to contemplate the connection between life’s disappointments and spiritual dryness.
Part 2: Understanding Spiritual Aridity
Spiritual dryness, an often-overlooked aspect of our faith journey, cuts to the core of our spiritual walk. We’ve all experienced those profound moments of connection with our faith, those times when the presence of God felt tangible and reassuring. But what occurs when that profound sensation suddenly evaporates? This experience can be overwhelming, especially if it’s our first encounter with spiritual aridity. However, it’s crucial to understand that this arid phase isn’t a judgment on our worthiness or dedication. Rather, it’s a facet of our spiritual journey, a terrain we’re meant to traverse, not an indictment of our faith.
As we explore this intricate topic, let’s take a page from the saints’ playbook. These remarkable individuals, who left their indelible mark on our faith, also grappled with spiritual dryness in their journeys. Amidst their spiritual desolation, they discovered that these periods weren’t indicative of their lack of holiness or spiritual effort. Instead, they realized that God, in His divine wisdom, allows souls to undergo these purgative periods to deepen their relationship with Him. This profound insight serves as our guiding light. It reminds us that our own spiritual dryness isn’t a verdict on our devotion but an invitation to fortify our faith.
When the wellsprings of spiritual consolation seem to have run dry and our souls yearn for the divine presence, let us remember that this spiritual dryness is a natural part of our journey. Draw inspiration from the saints who navigated this arid terrain. We find solace in knowing that these droughts aren’t desolation but opportunities for spiritual growth and a deepening of our relationship with God.
Part 3: Transforming Aridity into Wonder
In an article I wrote for Catholic Exchange, I explored “Three Ways to Turn Spiritual Aridity into Wonder.” Drawing inspiration from saints like St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Maria Faustina, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. John of the Cross, I learned that dryness in prayer is not an indictment of our spirituality. Instead, it’s an opportunity for growth. Much like a desert, periods of spiritual dryness can serve as a place of purification and transformation.
Look to the Sacraments as Spiritual Oases
Just as travelers in a parched land seek water with utmost urgency, those facing spiritual aridity yearn for a source of spiritual refreshment. These oases in the desert, are the sacraments that Christ instituted to sustain us throughout life’s various stages. The sacraments, such as the Eucharist and Confession, stand as omnipotent oases, ever-flowing sources of God’s grace.
Living Water: A Promise from Christ
Recalling the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, we are reminded of His promise of living water. While this living water is not the physical water necessary for our survival, it symbolizes the grace found in the sacraments. These sacramental oases never run dry; they patiently await our journey to their wellsprings to receive God’s abundant grace.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 1210):
“Christ instituted the sacraments of the new law. There are seven: Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrismation), the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. The seven sacraments touch all the stages and all the important moments of Christian life: they give birth and increase, healing and mission to the Christian’s life of faith. There is thus a certain resemblance between the stages of natural life and the stages of the spiritual life.”
Journey to the Well: The Sacrament of Confession
At the end of a particularly challenging week I recognized the need to address my issues with anger and impatience at home. Seeking spiritual refreshment, I ventured to a nearby Catholic Church to confess my sins to a priest.
In that moment, the priest stood in Personi Christi, embodying the authority to forgive sins through the sacrament of Holy Orders. This power, passed down from Jesus to His Apostles—the first Catholic priests (John 20:22-23)—allowed me to receive the healing graces of Confession.
Armed with this newfound grace, I returned home better equipped to confront the temptations of anger and impatience that had plagued me. Just as travelers in the desert find solace in the oasis, I found solace in the sacrament, knowing that these spiritual oases never run dry, always offering refreshment to those who seek them.
Follow the Caravan
Autumn has always held a special place in my heart. It’s a season when nature’s vibrant hues signal the transition from the warm embrace of summer to the crisp embrace of fall. One of my favorite autumn traditions has been visiting the local apple orchard with my family. There’s a unique joy in wandering through rows of apple trees surrounded by the fragrant aroma of ripe fruit. Last year, we missed out on this experience due to a hectic schedule and an early frost that closed the orchard prematurely. So, this year, I eagerly anticipated our visit. Little did I know, a message from my wife would take me on a surprising journey, sparking thoughts about the connection between life’s disappointments and spiritual dryness.
We’re not meant to walk our Christian journey alone. Just as travelers in the desert rely on one another for support, we should seek assistance from our fellow believers. Building a network of friendships and seeking guidance from trusted individuals can provide much-needed companionship on our spiritual journey.
In my article “Catholic Camaraderie: Unity in Suffering, I emphasized the importance of finding a community to support and uplift us in our prayer life. In our shared faith, we discover the strength that comes from praying together and bearing one another’s burdens. This sense of unity in suffering reinforces the idea that our Catholic faith isn’t just an individual endeavor but a communal one.
As we navigate the spiritual terrain, building connections within the Church provides a support system that extends beyond the pews. Trusted friends and mentors offer guidance, share their experiences, and help us persevere through our own trials. Following the caravan of fellow believers allows us to draw strength, solace, and inspiration from the Catholic community, making our spiritual journey not only more bearable but also deeply enriching. In unity, we find the companionship and encouragement needed to endure the desert’s challenges and emerge stronger in our faith.
Look to Mary in the Dark Night
In times of spiritual aridity we can turn our gaze toward the gentle presence of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Venerable Fulton Sheen poignantly captured the essence of Mary’s role when he said, “The Blessed Virgin Mary reflects her divine son. Without him, she is nothing. With him, she is the mother of men.” This profound statement encapsulates the beautiful truth that Mary, like the moon reflecting the light of the sun, illuminates our path and guides us to her Son, even when we struggle to feel His immediate presence.
Just as the moon’s glow lights the way for travelers in the night, Mary’s spiritual radiance can lead us to her Son, Jesus. Her intercession has been likened to the moon’s light breaking through the darkest night. Through her unwavering love and maternal care, she provides solace and guidance, reminding us that even in the darkest moments of our spiritual journey, Mary is there to lead us to her Son’s loving embrace.
One profound example of Mary’s role as our spiritual guide is seen in her journey from heartache to hope. Just as the moon’s glow dispels the darkness, Mary’s intercession can pierce the darkness of our struggles and lead us to the radiant presence of Jesus. Her enduring love and guidance offer hope, transforming despair into a deep and abiding faith.
Final Harvest: Wrapping Up 🍎🍏
As I reflect on these three ways to transform spiritual dryness into wonder, I’m reminded of the unexpected turn of events this year. Although we couldn’t visit our local apple orchard, my mom surprised us with apples from her city’s orchard. In that unexpected moment of generosity, I found a glimpse of the wonder that can emerge from life’s disappointments. Just as we can find refreshment in the midst of a dry orchard season, we can also find spiritual renewal during our moments of spiritual aridity. It’s all part of the journey.
So, when life leaves you feeling parched, remember, the oasis is closer than you think. Seek solace in the sacraments, companionship with your fellow travelers, and guidance from the Mother who reflects the divine. In this way, even the driest of deserts can become places of profound spiritual wonder.
Editor’s Note: Matthew Chicoine interviewed Elissa Tiprigan, founder of Catholic Family Crate via phone call on September 4th, 2023. Some of the questions have been rearranged and edited to provide the best reader experience without losing any integrity of the answers given.
Describe your faith journey:
I’m a cradle Catholic and attended Catholic schools through middle school. We went to youth groups and went to a few Steubenville conferences. My husband and I got married and moved to Denver. We were awakened to the richness of the Catholic Church through the witness of large Catholic families. In my adult life, I learned more about our faith. It’s not just a Sunday experience but it’s a joyful and beautiful and a rich history.
When was Catholic Family Crate created?
We started it in 2018.
What led up to the creation of Catholic Family Crate?
My oldest was two at the time and I was learning more about the liturgical feasts (I knew about Advent and Lent). I felt overwhelmed with wanting to share all these rich Catholic traditions. My sister experienced a Catholic community in Steubenville and I was talking with her on the phone about how to learn about the faith. I started to research saint feast days. My sister suggested a monthly Catholic subscription box. For about a year or two I was hoping someone else would develop a company to create a subscription box for Catholics.
Enter in Catholic Family Crate. I formulated a team: my parish priest Fr. Luis Granados, DCJM- our theologian, a few writer friends, and a couple friends who were Catholic Montessori teachers.
Eventually we hired our own artist to help us create more of our own content. At the end of every box we provided a survey. The most popular items our customers selected were the items we created.
I was on a date with my husband at Barnes & Noble and remember telling him how we couldn’t find high quality Catholic products that were affordable. I wanted my kids to have good quality Catholic resources.
After the fourth box, it became apparent we needed to switch to include all our own products.
In 2019 we adjusted our mission statement: to provide high quality and affordable Catholic resources.
Do you have a specialized illustrator for your products?
Yes, since 2019 we hired an illustrator, new writer, and a new theologian.
I didn’t have a desire to be a business owner when I began this journey. It started as a need to fill for my family. I said “yes” to the little “yeses” God sent my way.
How did find your illustator?
We found her through Instagram. We also have had various graphic designers helped with colors and backgrounds when it comes to mass production.
What’s your favorite product you have created for Catholic Family Crate?
Our Pray by Sticker Book. It’s 10 different Catholic images. You match up the stickers with the numbers on the page. At the end you have a beautiful Catholic mosaic. It is an opportunity to keep your child busy with screen-free activity.
I’ve played with your Catholic Playing Cards and enjoyed the artwork and the saints you picked. Describe the symbolism and intention beyond the cards.
We planned to have the Jesus as the King, Mary as the Queen, Joseph as the Jack, and the Holy Spirit as the Ace. We did plan to have a diversity of older and modern saints along with having an equal number of male and female saints.
I could see doing other card themes such as boy and girl saint decks or a Marian deck.
What other products do you have in the works?
A Bingo deck for Catholic-themed party, an oversized activity sheet for the Doctors of the Church, and A Card Ring-Doctors of the Church Edition.
Why should you be Catholic?
Because of the Eucharist.
Elissa Tiprigan is the founder of Catholic Family Crate. Catholic Family Crate makes Catholic educational resources, games, art, stickers, subscription boxes, and more to make growing in the Catholic faith easy and fun. They are on a mission to revolutionize Catholic resources and make them affordable, accessible, high-quality, and engaging. In her mind, she’s an accidental entrepreneur, but she’s grateful for God’s wild plan for her life. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and four children.
In the tapestry of Christian history, certain individuals shine as beacons of faith and devotion. Among these luminaries are Saints Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, both figures who play pivotal roles in the Gospel narratives surrounding the life, death, and teachings of Jesus Christ. Their stories reflect profound spiritual truths and lessons that continue to inspire believers across the world.
Jesus and Nicodemus: Embracing Spiritual Rebirth Through Baptism
The encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus, as recounted in the Gospel of John, offers a glimpse into the transformative power of spiritual rebirth through baptism. Nicodemus, a Pharisee, seeks wisdom under the cover of night. This darkness can be seen as symbolic of his initial lack of understanding or hesitation to fully embrace the truth of Jesus’ message. Yet, by approaching Jesus, Nicodemus takes the first step out of this spiritual darkness.
Their conversation centers around the concept of baptism—a second birth that ushers believers into the realm of the spirit. Through baptism, individuals shed their old selves, emerging as adopted children of God, free from the constraints of original sin. Nicodemus’s willingness to engage in dialogue, despite his initial reservations, demonstrates his openness to spiritual growth. He becomes a beacon of hope for all who seek understanding and a deeper connection with divine truth.
Joseph of Arimathea: Honoring the Dignity of the Human Body
In the final chapters of the Gospel of John, we find Joseph of Arimathea alongside Nicodemus, participating in one of the most poignant moments of Christ’s crucifixion and burial. Their actions serve as a testament to the sanctity of the human body and the importance of performing corporal works of mercy, such as burying the dead.
Joseph of Arimathea’s pivotal role in taking down Jesus’ body from the cross and providing a dignified burial emphasizes the reverence that must be accorded to every human being, even in death. This act of devotion aligns with Isaiah 53:9, portraying Joseph as fulfilling the prophecy that the Messiah would find rest among the wicked, despite his innocence.
Saints Nicodemus and Joseph: Symbolizing Life’s Bookends
Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea represent the bookends of human existence, each illustrating crucial aspects of the Christian journey. Nicodemus, encountered at the beginning of the Gospel of John, serves as a reminder that even in moments of uncertainty or darkness, approaching Jesus with an open heart can lead to enlightenment and spiritual rebirth. His story encapsulates the truth that the seeker of truth will find illumination, even when grappling with fear or doubt.
On the other hand, Joseph of Arimathea’s appearance at the close of John’s Gospel encapsulates the significance of the body in Christian theology. His act of compassion and reverence for the body of Christ in death echoes the belief in the resurrection of the body and the Christian hope for eternal life. This reflects the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which underscores the respect and charity due to the bodies of the departed.
Saints Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, though living in different times and contexts, share a common thread in their interactions with Jesus and their roles as witnesses to profound spiritual truths. Nicodemus teaches us the importance of seeking the light of truth, even when it seems shrouded in darkness. Joseph of Arimathea, by honoring the body of Christ in death, reinforces the Christian commitment to the dignity of every human life.
Their stories remind us that the Christian journey spans from the moment of spiritual awakening to the final resting place, each step infused with profound meaning. The lessons they offer continue to guide believers in understanding the transformative power of faith and the compassionate responsibilities we hold toward one another, both in life and in death.
Editor’s Note: Article originally published in 2017.
Does Your Soul Need a Deep Clean?
My wife and I completed an intense bout of pre-spring cleaning (it was a mere 2 days before the official start of spring J) this past weekend. That coupled with a reference to avoiding desolation and clearing our soul from the “dustiness” of a dry spiritual life during my weekly parish men’s group influenced the title of this post and inspired me to write today.
I am a neat freak. In fact, one of the major three tenets my blog is based on is organization. I am passionate about decluttering, sorting, and cleaning dusty crevices in my house. Yet, when it comes to the spiritual life, why do I occasionally lack the same fervor that I have cleaning my physical house?
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 797,
“What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church.”243 “To this Spirit of Christ, as an invisible principle, is to be ascribed the fact that all the parts of the body are joined one with the other and with their exalted head; for the whole Spirit of Christ is in the head, the whole Spirit is in the body, and the whole Spirit is in each of the members.”244 The Holy Spirit makes the Church “the temple of the living God”.
The Cleansing Power of the Holy Spirit
This imagery of the Holy Spirt being housed in the church is not new. St. Paul clearly states this in 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 2 Corinthians 6:16 to name just a couple verses. However, it was through the intercession of St. Teresa of Avila’s writing that I especially encountered this truth recently.
She begins her greatest work, Interior Castle, with the following divinely inspired words, “ I thought of the soul as resembling a castle, formed of a single diamond or a very transparent crystal and containing many rooms, just as in heaven there are many mansions.”
Teresa’s description of the soul is easy for me to understand yet at the same time illustrates the complexity of our human condition.
Throughout the Interior Castle the doctor of the Church takes readers on a spiritual journey by examining how in navigating through the castle of our soul we are able to grow in closer union with God.
Saint Teresa of Avila Pray for Us
Without a thorough examination of oneself and spiritual guidance we are not able to recognize the graces God grants us daily and gives ways for us to clear out the “dustiness” of our soul. Just like how my home needs frequent seasonal cleanings, the Church in Her wisdom has seasonal cleanings as well for us to grow in holiness.
My goal is to take a few minutes each week to reflect on St. Teresa of Avila’s words in Interior Castle. I hope you all prayerfully consider to join me in this journey and cleanse your own soul of the “dustiness” of sin and temptation.
Saint Catherine of Siena was one of the greatest followers of Christ. Her ability to articulate to Gospel and her ability to charitably bring the papacy to reform are among the key reasons she is one of my favorite saints. My youngest daughter is even named after this amazing saint. Here’s five amazing facts about Catherine.
25 Kids and Counting
While it may seem astronomical to us, having 25 children was not insane back in the Middle Ages. Due to the low infant mortality rate and disease, families gave born to many children but unfortunately few survived to adulthood. Catherine was the 25th child born to her mother, but only half of her siblings survived childhood!
Still, it is incredible to think that if Catherine’s parents lived in today’s society, it would be very likely they would not have been as open to live of so many children. It is astounding that God works in miraculous ways to take one of the youngest of such a large family to grace her with the eventual title of Doctor of the Church!
None of the Nunnery
I always believed that Catherine was part of a religious order and lived in a convent similar to spiritual greats like Therese of Lisieux and Teresa of Avila. After reading more about her, I learned that she actually never spent time in a convent. Instead, Catherine joined the Third Order of St. Dominic. This permitted her to associate with a religious society while remaining within the confines of her home.
Gone too Soon
Why do the most innocent and vibrant of souls perish too early? From film stars to sports figures that perished at a young age, to maybe someone within your life that died too soon, it is natural to question the purpose of an early death. While I do not have the answer to that question, I found it interesting that Catherine of Siena died at the mere age of 33—the exact age that Jesus Christ was crucified, died, and buried!
Never Let Obstacles Get in Your Way
It would have been easy for Catherine to give up when she wrote the pope but she remained steadfast. Her persistence and charity were instrumental in convincing Pope Gregory XI to return from Avignon to Rome.
The stigmata are wounds certain saints received on their hands and/or feet. It is a sign of their closeness to Christ and was given to them as a reminder for Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross. In the case of Catherine, the stigmata wounds were visible only to her. She accepted this unique suffering with grace and hope in God’s Providence.
God raises up holy individuals in times of great need. Saint Catherine of Siena is a perfect role model for Catholics in the 21st century in a world where it’s common to be less than enthusiastic about the faith. May we ask for her help to grow in love and devotion to God.
“Be who you were created to be, and you will set the world on fire.”
According to the English Catholic priest-cardinal John Henry Newman, “Growth is the only evidence of life.” Life is then most apparent in the springtime with the bursting and budding of flowers, trees, and whistling of birds. Winter precedes this era of new life. Is it not interesting that within nature newness of life springs forth from the cold, dark, dreariness of the death of winter?
Currently, we live in a time of transition—March, the chimeric month whereby it begins calmly like a lamb and ends ferociously like a lion or vice versa!
A Transitional Season
The Holy Spirit guided the Early Church in placing Lent during the lowest point (CLIMATICALLY SPEAKING) of the calendar year.
Lent is a time of wandering in the hope it leads to the wonderment of Easter Sunday. Saint John Henry Newman began his Sermon for the First Sunday of Lent with this key reminder, “The season of humiliation, which precedes Easter, lasts forty days, in memory of our Lord’s long fast in the wilderness.” When you actually think about it, wintertime can be a source of humiliation as well.
Tired from the lack of sunlight and seemingly endless shoveling you may oversleep your alarm clock and rush out the door to work. In that panic of celerity, you may have slipped on a patch of ice and fell quickly on your butt— all the while your careful neighbors gaze at you! Well, this actually happened to me, except instead it happened in the busy parking lot of a grocery store! I felt quite foolish and embarrassed. Our 40-day sojourn in the “desert” is a call to unite ourselves in prayer and fasting to Christ’s ultimate humiliation—His violent death on the Cross.
Excerpt from Newman’s Lenten Homily:
For what we know, Christ’s temptation is but the fulness of that which, in its degree, and according to our infirmities and corruptions, takes place in all His servants who seek Him. And if so, this surely was a strong reason for the Church’s associating our season of humiliation with Christ’s sojourn in the wilderness, that we might not be left to our own thoughts, and, as it were, “with the wild beasts.”
Humble Yourself this Lent
Again, the holy priest guides us to focus on Lent as a time to link our personal embarrassment with Jesus’ humble time in the desert. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son Jesus. Jesus endured human things like hunger, thirst, and temptation. Fully human. But fully divine too. Christ never succumbed to the wiles of the Devil. Saint Newman reminds us to humble ourselves before the foot of the Cross.
May we endure the harsh realities of this wintery world through the refreshing oases of the sacraments this Lenten season. Read the Saint John Henry Newman’s entire sermon here: John Henry Newman’s Lenten Sermon.