The Prophet of Scripture and the Wizard of Fantasy—Part I: Archetypes and Myths

By. Andrew Garofalo

In her book, Awakening the Heroes Within, Carol S. Pearson discusses twelve archetypes. According to psychologist Carl Jung, an archetype is a symbol or motif that is repeatedly represented in mythology, art and literature. In all forms of storytelling we see universal characters and situations that are unrelated, yet they share many of the same traits. Similarities between creation and flood stories and hero stories from different cultures around the world come to mind. There’s also the monomyth (or hero’s journey) story template that we see in classical mythology and more recently in books and movies like Harry PotterThe Lord of the Rings, and the original Star Wars trilogy.

Archetypes

According to Jung, archetypes are not only represented in fictional stories though. He believed archetypes are a kind of inherited knowledge that lives in the unconscious mind of all people and that we unknowingly use archetypes to interpret the world and our place in it. Pearson says archetypes are “inner guides” that exemplify “a way of being on the journey” we call life. Note that Pearson isn’t saying archetypes are beings themselves. They are not angels, demons or spirits, but collective knowledge passed on through the generations. Pearson associates archetypes closely with the monomyth which she envisions in three stages: the preparation, journey and return of the hero (Joseph Campbell saw it as departure, initiation and return and I see the saint’s journey as the call, the cross and communion).

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A Catholic Perspective on Archetypes and Myths

Though Jung and his followers like Pearson are psychologists, archetypes do not appear to be purely scientific or artistic in nature. Rather, there is a transcendent quality to them.

In book one of his four-book series, Finding True Happiness, Father Robert Spitzer, SJ recognizes Jungian archetypes as one of the four major dimensions of religious intuition and experience. “The archetypal story calls each of us to be a hero [in the cosmic struggle between good and evil,] … to resist the forces of evil and to assist the divine mystery in bringing humanity to its proper and full end.”

In his second book in the series, The Soul’s Upward Yearning, Father Spitzer connects archetypes to myths when he asks, “What is it about these three stories [Harry PotterThe Lord of the Rings and Star Wars] that catapults them ahead of other great … [stories]? In a word, they all fit the technical description of myths.” Father Spitzer says myths are not concerned with worldly narratives, but with transcendent and spiritual narratives. “The objective of myths is to express ultimate truth and meaning … ultimate reality. … [M]yths fascinate and captivate not only our imaginations but our very souls.” Mythical stories appeal to our emotions; we feel them.

Great Catholics on Myths

Father Spitzer is in good company in his understanding of myths. While some might fear myths as un-Christian or consider them childish fairy tales, St John Paul II said myths communicate something “more than real” and he called classical myths “more than true” (from The Human Person, by J. Brian Bransfield). Furthermore, JRR Tolkien, a devout Catholic and the author of The Lord of the Rings, said, “[Myths are] the best way–sometimes the only way–of conveying truths that would otherwise remain inexpressible. We have come from God and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God.”

Father Spitzer distinguishes himself from Jung and his followers in their understanding of archetypes in one important way. Whereas Jung believed archetypes derive from a common inherited human memory, Father Spitzer believes archetypes derive from a transcendent reality (the numinous experience, religious intuition, and conscience), i.e., from God. I am in agreement with Father Spitzer.

How Archetypes Affect Our Expectations About Stories

Archetypes might explain why great stories closely follow the monomyth (and the three-act structure we see in stories portrayed in all kinds of media). When people experience a story, they expect it to unfold in a certain way based on the archetypes they know. When stories follow the archetypes, the audience is happy. But when heroes and villains don’t behave the way they’re supposed to and stories don’t follow the patterns we expect, they violate our archetypes. And so these rebellious books and movies collect dust at the bookstore (or in the Amazon warehouse) and bomb at the box office.

The Magician and the Sage

Two archetypes discussed in Pearson’s book are the Magician and the Sage. As I read about these archetypes, I thought of two people. One real, the prophet Elijah, and one fictional, the wizard Gandalf. First, let’s look at the motivations of the Magician and the Sage and then we will review the stories of Elijah and Gandalf through the archetypal lens.

As you read on, please keep in mind that much of what we discuss below is metaphorical. We do not believe people are literally Magicians who cast magic spells, but that the Magician figure in stories represents an archetype or truth which derives from God and which plays out metaphorically at different times in each of our life’s journey.Dragon and magician

The Magician Archetype

Pearson says the Magician archetype’s goal is to transform lesser things into greater things. He fears transformation in a negative direction (greater things into lesser things). He responds to problems by transforming or healing them. His task is to align himself with the cosmos and his gift or grace is personal power. The wounded king must be healed by the Magician in order to transform the kingdom.

Magicians typically work as advisers to kings, but when the kingdom is in disarray, they work alone. Magicians seek to connect with others and with the world (they believe everything is interdependent). They know and tell the stories of their culture. They seek to turn negative situations into opportunities for growth and, through compassion and forgiveness, they try to transform negative people and situations into positive ones.

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Finding Balance

Magicians seek a healthy and balanced body, mind and soul. They invoke the divine help of others, e.g., through the intercession of the saints, and they maintain a close relationship with their deity through prayer and meditation. Magicians seek transformation through ritual, e.g., liturgy. They follow their intuition even when others might think they are crazy. A Magician’s ego, which is necessary for him to achieve his goal, can work for him (in the virtue of fortitude) or against him (in the vice of arrogance).

The Sage Archetype

The Sage archetype’s goal is truth and understanding. He fears deception and illusion. He responds to problems by studying, understanding and transcending them. His task is to attain knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment and his gift or grace is skepticism, wisdom and detachment. The Sage seeks the truth about himself, the world and the universe. His ultimate goal is not just knowledge, but wisdom. He understands that the truth shall set him free.

Sages seek to solve the riddle of existence. They speak in parables and symbols. They know the answers they obtain depend on the questions they ask. The Sage seeks universal truth over subjective truths. They know they must understand themselves and their own biases in order to discover the truth. Sages believe knowing oneself is a journey.

Pearson says Sages understand they can never know everything; this helps them develop humility. The Sage seeks freedom through detachment. Jesuits call it indifference; mystics also call it detachment. Sages believe real freedom and joy lies in turning one’s life over to a transcendent and wiser power than oneself, e.g., God. Suffering opens one up to trust and let go, to stop fighting life and trusting in the process of life, e.g., Divine Providence.

In Part II of this series we will examine the lives of Elijah and Gandalf through the lens of archetypes.

Sources:

1 Kings 17-21

2 Kings 2

Brown, Raymond E., Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy, eds. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1990.

Pearson, Carol S. Awakening the Heroes Within. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.

Spitzer, Robert. Finding True Happiness. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2015.

Spitzer, Robert. The Soul’s Upward Yearning. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2015.

Vawter, Bruce. “Introduction to Prophetic Literature.” In The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, 186-200.

https://www.quora.com/What-kinds-of-spells-did-Gandalf-cast

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ainur_(Middle-earth)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archetype

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collective_unconscious#Archetypes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gandalf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hobbit

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jungian_archetypes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maia_(Middle-earth)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vala_(Middle-earth)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wizard_(Middle-earth)


Andrew Garofalo lives in Parkland, Florida with his wife Julie and their three children. He has practiced law for 18 years and is currently discerning a vocation to the permanent diaconate. He is a contributor to Those Catholic Men and Voyage Comics & Publishing and the creator of Saint’s Journey Blog. You can find more of his work at www.saintsjourney.com.

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Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D Part 11—Jonah and Jesus

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According to Christian pastor Rick Warren, “The Bible also tells one story with consistency. It was written over a 1,500-year time span, on three continents, and by 40 authors people from every walk of life, like kings, shepherds, fishermen, and tax collectors. Yet the Bible tells one story from beginning to end: God’s love and salvation for man and how he came into this world through Jesus Christ” I used to teach high school Old and New Testament. Among the various difficulties students had with understanding the Bible this obstacle stood out—why it is so difficult to read!

As a cradle Catholic, I was used to hearing the Old and New Testament readings every week. I took for granted that gift that my parents gave me—the ability to attend Sunday liturgy frequently. Those students that struggled admitted they did not attend Sunday worship weekly.

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In order to teach my students, I needed to educate how the Catholic Church did. How exactly does the Catholic Church illuminate the meaning of the Bible to the average believer? Simply, put there the usage of contextual reading. Every Sunday Catholic Mass contains a First Reading, Second Reading, and a Gospel reading. Most of the First readings come from the Old Testament (the big exception is the Easter Season). The second reading usually is a letter of St. Paul, and the Gospel reading rotates between the three Synoptic accounts (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) with John scattered throughout.

Because I flipped to the New Testament as I taught the Old Testament course and vice versa, my students questioned that method. I whimiscally retorted, “I ensure you I do not have Bible ADD. I just want to show how the Old Testament prepares us for the New Testament and how the New Testament fulfills the Old Testaments!” Coining the phrase “Bible ADD” helped my students remember the importance of always looking to the Scriptures as a whole.

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It has been almost two years since I last had an addition to the Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D series. My plan moving forward is have this be a weekly feature in my blog. Today’s topic will look at the connections between the Old Testament prophet Jonah and Jesus. First I want to briefly review the three main criteria Catholics interpret Scripture.

Criteria to Read the Bible

The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides the following criteria to read the Bible:


 

  1.  Be especially attentive “to the content and unity of the whole Scripture”. Different as the books which compose it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God’s plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, open since his Passover.79 (CCC 112)
The phrase “heart of Christ” can refer to Sacred Scripture, which makes known his heart, closed before the Passion, as the Scripture was obscure. But the Scripture has been opened since the Passion; since those who from then on have understood it, consider and discern in what way the prophecies must be interpreted.80
2. Read the Scripture within “the living Tradition of the whole Church”. According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church’s heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God’s Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture (“. . . according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church”81) (CCC 113).
 3. Be attentive to the analogy of faith.82 By “analogy of faith” we mean the coherence of the truths of faith among themselves and within the whole plan of Revelation (CCC 114).

Typology

According to the Catechism, “The Church, as early as apostolic times,104 and then constantly in her Tradition, has illuminated the unity of the divine plan in the two Testaments through typology, which discerns in God’s works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son.” Old Testament figures such as Jonah, read in the context of the New Testament, were seen as foreshadowing Jesus Christ.

Jonah as Type of Christ-like Figure

In Matthew 12:40 Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees, “Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights,* so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” Jonah’s time in the belly of the whale represented a type of burial. His emergence from the whale (Jonah 2:11) marked a turning point in the prophet’s ministry—a spiritual renewal.

jonah and the whale

Another way Jonah prefigured Jesus relates to the number forty. St. Augustine in The City of God chapter 44 links the forty days of Jonah’s preaching to the Ninevites with Jesus’ forty days of preaching after his resurrection.

A third way the book of Jonah foreshadows God’s plan of salvation for all peoples. According to Stephen Beale in 9 Ways Jonah Prefigured Jesus, “Most of the prophets we encounter in the Old Testament are sent to convert Israel back to God. Jonah is one of the few sent to Gentiles (the Assyrians of Nineveh). In this, he foreshadows Christ’s own mission to Gentiles” (https://catholicexchange.com/9-ways-jonah-prefigured-jesus). Jesus urged his disciples to “Go, therefore,* and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,20i teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (cf Matthew 28:19-20).

Conclusion

The Catechism teaches, “Typology indicates the dynamic movement toward the fulfillment of the divine plan when “God [will] be everything to everyone.”108 Nor do the calling of the patriarchs and the exodus from Egypt, for example, lose their own value in God’s plan, from the mere fact that they were intermediate stages.” While the original interpretation of Jonah is still meant to be an Old Testament prophet, a spiritual reading shows him to be a preparatory Christ-like figure. Reading the Bible takes discipline, patience, and faith. I will continue this series next week by examining how Old Testament women foreshadowed Mary. For your convenience I have included links to all previous installments of Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D series in the related resources section. Thank you for following me on this journey through salvation history!

Related Resources

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2015/06/15/why-catholics-must-have-bible-add-intro/

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2017/03/28/why-catholics-must-have-bible-a-d-d-part-2-miracles-of-elisha-and-jesus/

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2017/04/06/why-catholics-must-have-bible-a-d-d-part-3-creation-week-in-genesis-and-john/

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2017/04/16/why-catholic-must-have-bible-a-d-d-part-4-jesus-as-the-new-passover-lamb/

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2017/04/19/why-catholics-must-have-bible-a-d-d-part-5-war-of-the-serpent/

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2017/05/10/why-catholics-must-have-bible-a-d-d-part-6-destructive-waters/

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2017/05/19/why-catholics-must-have-bible-a-d-d-part-7-joshua-and-jesus/

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2017/05/24/why-catholics-must-have-bible-a-d-d-part-8-joseph-and-jesus/

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2017/05/31/why-catholics-must-have-bible-a-d-d-part-9-akedah-of-isaac-and-the-passion-of-christ/

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2017/08/05/why-catholics-must-have-bible-a-d-d-part-10-elijah-and-john-the-baptist/

 

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Say YES to the NO—Practicing Self-Denial

The Italian mystic St. Paul of the Cross boldly said, “Be as eager to break your own will as the thirsty stag is to drink of the refreshing waters.” I emphasized the phrase break your own will as that imaginary stood out as quite audacious. To break the will seems such a violent thing to do to yourself.  After researching a bit on this saint, I learned that Paul was the founder of the Passionists a religious order dedicated to a penitential life in solitude and poverty. Since, Paul of the Cross lived in isolation from the world do his words hold any meaning for a regular, ‘normal’ people who hold down jobs, have a family? Should not “super-holiness” be reserved for priests and nuns?

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According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2013, “All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity.”65 All are called to holiness: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We are coming up on the perfect season to increase our holiness— Lent! The Lenten season is modeled after Jesus’ 40 day time in the wilderness. Because Jesus is God, he was able to stave off the allures of the Devil. His witness showed that both praying and fasting disable the weaponry of the Evil One. The practice of self-denial is absolutely essential in growing in virtue! Saying YES to God through prayer allows us to say NO to those unhealthy pleasures of the world—through the practice of fasting.

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I struggle mightily with the pressures of the world, and those self-imposed. Anger, resentment, and impatience come as a result of succumbing to the things of this world instead of first saying YES to God and praying. Self-reflection and renewing a practice for saying YES to pray helps begin a habit of saying NO to the temptations of impatience, pride, greed, envy, power-control, etc. St. Francis de Sales affirms the message of Paul of the Cross, the Catechism and Christ by stating, “The more one mortifies his natural inclinations, the more he renders himself capable of receiving divine inspirations and of progressing in virtue.” Be fast to practice fasting. If you struggle at first remember to say YES to God (pray!) in order to say NO to yourself.

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Lost Sheep–Praying for the Conversion of Catholic Politicians Who Allow Abortion

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Words cannot truly describe the evil passage of the New York State bill permitting abortion through the entirety of pregnancy. Pro-lifers and faithful Catholics across the nation call for the bishops to excommunicate Governor Andrew Cuomo–a Catholic!

My initial reaction to passage of this heinous bill was anger. Anger of the fact this bill could even possibly been drafted. Anger at the governor for promptly signing this legislation.

Several days have passed since news broke. As a result, I have had a chance to ponder and reflect on the situation. While I still harbor anger at the bill, the main feeling is that of sadness. I am saddened for the poor souls whose life will be ended before it hardly began. I am saddened by the woman who believe abortion would be their only option. Finally, I am saddened that the officials in government, in particular Governor Cuomo, committed such a heinous offense and thus endangering their souls.

A week ago I would have first and foremost called Andrew Cuomo a laundry list of adjectives: vile, evil, sinister, deplorable, despicable, etc. I even would need to go to a thesaurus as even those would not justly describe his actions. Although I still vehemently denounce his approval of the bill, I now believe a more apt description of Cuomo is that he is ill. No rational and healthy person would allow for third term abortions (really any abortion) to even come into discussion.

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Just as with a physical sickness, the illness of sin causes separation from God which results in a distorted view on goodness, truth, and beauty. Andrew Cuomo signed an objective evil bill into state law. He may appear as a lost cause. But that cannot be further from the truth. According to St. Monica, “Nothing is far from God.” God’s mercy is infinite and mysterious. The parable of the lost sheep applies even in the 21st century. I used to only think of the spiritually lost in terms of people who commit the primary sin directly: prostitutes, murderers, robbers, and terrorists. What if God’s mercy could extend to corrupt politicians as well?! Politicians who may not directly ‘killed the unborn’, but whose ambition for power may have caused them to sell out their moral principles.

We as a pro-life movement need to not only speak out for the unborn and educate about the evils of abortion, but we need to pray just as fervently–perhaps even more, for the conversion of those politicians complicit in allowing abortion legislation to become legal! I will offer up daily sacrifices and increase my prayers for Divine Mercy to bring Andrew Cuomo back to the Catholic Church and realize that all life is sacred.

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True beauty involves realizes the Ultimate Good if God and following the golden rule in our lives. Jesus proclaimed in Luke 15:7, I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” Pray ardently for Andrew Cuomo that he may realize his errors and ask for pardon and forgiveness. If that occurs it will be a beautiful sight and cause for jubilation!


Pope Benedict XVI’s Prayer for the Unborn

Lord Jesus, 
You who faithfully visit and fulfill with your Presence the Church and the history of men; You who in the miraculous Sacrament of your Body and Blood render us participants in divine Life and allow us a foretaste of the joy of eternal Life; We adore and bless you.

Prostrated before You, source and lover of Life, truly present and alive among us, we beg you.

Reawaken in us respect for every unborn life, make us capable of seeing in the fruit of the maternal womb the miraculous work of the Creator, open our hearts to generously welcoming every child that comes into life.

Bless all families, sanctify the union of spouses, render fruitful their love.

Accompany the choices of legislative assemblies with the light of your Spirit,so that peoples and nations may recognize and respect the sacred nature of life, of every human life.

Guide the work of scientists and doctors, so that all progress contributes to the integral well-being of the person, and no one endures suppression or injustice.

Give creative charity to administrators and economists, so they may realize and promote sufficient conditions so that young families can serenely embrace the birth of new children.

Console the married couples who suffer because they are unable to have children and in Your goodness provide for them.

Teach us all to care for orphaned or abandoned children, so they may experience the warmth of your Charity, the consolation of your divine Heart.

Together with Mary, Your Mother, the great believer, in whose womb you took on our human nature, we wait to receive from You, our Only True Good and Savior, the strength to love and serve life, in anticipation of living forever in You, in communion with the Blessed Trinity. 

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432 Hz, Monkey Bars, and Visiting the Farm: The Miraculous April Weekend

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C.S. Lewis wrote in his work Miracles, “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” This weekend I experienced the miraculous in the seemingly mundane. Before I go into detail, I need to provide a little background on my family’s situation. My youngest child who is two years old was recently diagnosed on with mild to severe autism spectrum disorder. Working with local educational and developmental professional he receives occupational, developmental, and speech therapies. Daily life is difficult for typical toddlers, but my son’s trials some days are compounded due to his cognitive delays.

The perfectionist in me seeks the attainable and perfection. However, I took up a new motto when it came to parenting and teaching my youngest son: Practice makes progress. Believe me practice does make progress. I am still fighting my perfectionist tendencies currently! Realistic goals provide a healthier home atmosphere than giving my children unattainable goals. Our two-year old had a breakthrough in his development—true progress displayed and his hard work in therapy paid off. Before we began developmental therapy, my son struggled to communicate his needs. As a result of his inability to properly convey his wants/needs he would bang his head on the ground when overcome with stress. Additionally, every single transition point over the course of the day involved intense meltdowns. While my son still struggles to transition smoothly from activity to activity, he is making progress.

Together with the diligent efforts my toddler and his teachers put into his therapies, my wife learned about the amazing power certain music/sounds that calm the mind. According to the German mathematician Gerhard Huisken, “music tuned to 432 Hz is softer and brighter, giving greater clarity and is easier on the ears. Many people experience more meditative and relaxing states of body and mind when listening to such music. The natural musical pitch of the universe gives a more harmonic and pleasant sound than 440 Hz” (cited from https://attunedvibrations.com/432hz/). I took my three children to the playground this past Saturday. Here I utilized the power of 432 Hz.

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Cabin fever took over my household over the long and drawn out winter of 2017-2018. Outside time was an activity that the doctor ordered! Along with ambling up the stairs and going down the slide by himself—and actually enjoying it—my toddler transitioned well from leaving the park back to the car. Normally, if I placed him in the stroller, wiggling, screaming, and flaying would ensue. What did I do differently this time? I downloaded a 432 Hz player app on my smartphone and played sounds with that frequency as I placed him in the stroller? Almost instantly, the power-struggle ceased. Is this a magic cure? Certainly not, however, the discovery of using 432 Hz frequency is a miracle as my wife and I found another strategy for our educational toolbox to help our child out with his development.

Along with a healthy dose of outdoor time and changing the frequency, we celebrated my godson’s First Communion. After Mass, we traveled to my aunt and uncle’s house for lunch. In the past, we discovered that new scenes oftentimes disrupted our son’s routine. Any sudden change within his daily habits nearly leads to intense meltdowns.  Prepped for an apocalyptic afternoon [at least on the car ride home] my wife and I were pleasantly surprised and quite proud that our toddler had a fun and major meltdown free Sunday. Gamboling in the vast outside spaces, frequently visiting my cousins’ parakeets, discovering hay-bales,  and playing Legos with his siblings and cousins provided plenty of chances for our son to exercise some independence in a new environment.

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My family truly experienced the miraculous in the final weekend of April. Aside from the Mass, as Catholics  weekly partake of the miracle of transubstantiation–mere elements of bread and wine  having the substance changed into the “body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ” while retaining the appearances of mere bread and wine, we experienced the miraculous in the form of hope in ordinary living.  C.S. Lewis stated, “If miracles were offered us as events that normally occurred, then the progress of science, whose business is to tell us what occurs, would render belief in them gradually harder and finally impossible” (Miracles, p. 75).

Science certainly has the ability to explain why 432 Hz is the preferred frequency, describe the development of farmland, and inform us how exercise on playground sets provide health benefits to children. However, the amazing part of our weekend was being surprised by the progress our two-year displayed. Albert Einstein once said, “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” Which way do you prefer to live? Finding the miraculous in ordinary living is both a challenge and a joy!

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“and they were astonished at his teaching because he spoke with authority” –Luke 4:32

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Examples of a [Grand]Father

Early this week, my grandfather passed away at the age of 95. He left 11 children my grandmother in an abundance of Grandchildren, and even great grandchildren. It is with more sadness and joy that I write today. My family – and the world – lost a holy man. His passing provided me an opportunity to pause to reflect on my own life. Sometimes it is important to stop and assess our spiritual life. Reflecting on my own path of holiness I need to take stock of whether I am living as God intended of me. Am I the best possible husband my wife deserves? What virtues may I improve on to become the best version of myself for my children? How am I doing as a Catholic man in today’s world?

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Saint Joseph is the Standard upon which all fathers should be measured on their greatness. St Josemaria Escriva said this about the foster father of Jesus, “St. Joseph was an ordinary sort of man on whom God relied to do great things. He did exactly what the Lord wanted him to do, in each and every event that went to make up his life. ”  I am convinced my grandfather model his life after St. Joseph. As a farmer, husband, and father, himself my grandfather diligently and humbly worked to provide for his family and lived in obedience of God.

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Obviously, we become biased toward our family members and especially hold them in higher regard after their passage from this life into the next. However, I have evidence that my grandfather modeled his life after the greatest male saint of all–Joseph. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 7:16-20,

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.k16l By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.19Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.20So by their fruits you will know them.

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I see the holiness in my own father. I see my dad‘s humble witness to truth and to love for both my mother myself my siblings and the Catholic teaching. While my dad is a holy man in his own right, I believe his path towards holiness was forged in the days all his youth by my grandfather. I see loving examples of husbands and fathers in my uncles as well.

The example of a holy father figure carries a lot of weight. Its effects are tangible and stand the test of time.  “Nothing is so strong as gentlenessNothing is so gentle as real strength,” proclaimed Saint Francis de Sales. The gentle, patient, and humble example upon which my grandfather lived his life will not fade with his death. Instead, the legacy of strong father figures is continued in my father and uncles. Ultimately, I am faced with an important question: which kind of father do I want to exemplify to my own children? I hope to live up to the gold standard example of my grandfather’s [and St. Joseph’s] humble life. I continue ask God to give me grace to become the best version of myself on my pilgrim pursuit toward a joyous life!

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