Spiritual Surgeons— Alphonsus Liguori

In this fourth installment of the Spiritual Surgeons series, I will discuss the medicinal teachings of St. Alphonsus Liguori. The moral decay occurring with the fracturing of the family unit, vicious abortion bills signed into legislation, the promotion of euthanasia, and the devaluing of others different from ourselves makes the Italian saint as relevant as ever!

Doctors of the Church

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been blessed with the opportunity to learn about his wondrous and healing works. In reading his works I have grown closer to God. We will be examining Alphosus’ Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ and Uniformity with God’s Will in this article. The patron saint of confessor possesses an unparalleled ability to synthesize the wisdom of the Doctors of the Church, strong adherence to the will of God, and devotion to Mary.

Following the Will of God

According to Alphonsus in Uniformity with God’s will, “The greatest glory we can give to God is to do his will in everything.” Uniting our will to the Divine Will not only shows great love to God, but only satisfied our internal unrest. We are to follow God’s will in everything—not only in the good times. The Italian saint reminds us that complaining is purposeless—save for increasing bitterness. Suffering, even if God did not actively will it, affords an opportunity for us to grow in union and closeness to Him.

God’s will

Following God’s will definitely is easier when we receive spiritual consolations. However, our character is tested during periods of spiritual desolation. Alphonsus spends his sixth chapter to reflection on spiritual desolation in Uniformity with God’s Will. “When a soul begins to cultivate the spiritual life, God usually showers his consolations upon her to wean her away from the world; but when he sees her making solid progress, he withdraws his hand to test her and to see if she will love and serve him without the reward of sensible consolations,” the Doctored saint tells us. He also makes sure to remind to not think that God has abandoned you in these situations. Alphonsus declares, “When God sends spiritual darkness and desolation, his true friends are known.” Saints endure these dark nights and in the end their faith is rewarded in Heaven.

Comprehensive Catholic

Along with Alphonsus’ strong commitment in following God’s will, his expertise in the faith is second to none. In The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, the moral Doctor demonstrates his theological acumen via his articulate exposition on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and vast references to other Doctors of the Church. No other spiritual work that I have read contains such a concentration of spiritual quotes as Alphonsus’ work.

Check out this powerhouse list of saintly references: St. Teresa of Avila (61 times); St. Francis de Sales (44 times), St. Thomas Aquinas (21 times); St. Bernard of Clairvoux (20 times); St. Augustine (20 times); St. John Chryostom (11 times); and St. John of the Cross (10 times)!

Learning about Love

Alphonsus outlines and expands on St. Paul’s theological definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Every chapter in The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ focuses on an aspect love. These include love being: patience, kindness, humility, slow to anger, and enduring. In his first chapter Love is Patient, the Italian saint writes, “nothing is more pleasing to God than to see a soul suffering with patience all the crosses sent her by him.” This statement definitely hits home for me.

What is Love

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those that have followed my story over the years know that my wife and I lost children due to miscarriage. This sunk us into despair. God removed his consolations. We patiently endured, not always without complaint, these crosses. Love is also kind. Alphonsus cites St. Vincent de Paul on this aspect, “Affability, love, and humility have a wonderful efficacy in winning the hearts of men, and in prevailing on them to undertake things most repugnant to nature” (The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, chapter 2).

Later in the book, Alphonsus spends a chapter to provide a detailed and clear guide to avoid tepidity in the faith. His basic blueprint includes these five steps—desire, resolution, mental prayer, communion, and prayer.

Marian Mentor

According to St. Louise de Montfort, “[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.” This path towards holiness is definitely evident in the writings of St. Alphonsus Liguori. In The Glories of Mary, the Italian saint states, “A true servant of Mary cannot be lost.”

Mary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To conclude every chapter of The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ Alphonsus petitions the Blessed Virgin Mary for help. He uses the following Marian titles: Mother, dispenser of graces, refuge of sinners, Holy Virgin, my hope, Queen, advocate, and spouse of the Holy Spirit. The panoply of appellations demonstrates the saint’s comprehensive understanding of Mariology and his strong devotion to Mary. “As long as temptation lasts, let us never cease calling on Jesus and Mary,” he proclaims (The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, chapter 8).

Individualism dominates our world today. We are constantly being told that seek out your will—that will lead to happiness. Experience proves us otherwise. Selfishness works in the short-term. But it is fleeting. St. Alphonsus reminds of the remedy to these ailments—follow the will of God always! His comprehensive knowledge of the Catholic spirituality and strong devotion to Mary make the Doctor of the Church a great role model for all Christians today.

Related Links

Spiritual Surgeons—St. Lawrence of Brindisi

Spiritual Surgeons— Clean Out the Wounds of Your Soul with Teresa of Avila

Spiritual Surgeons— St. Isidore of Seville

St. Alphonsus Liguori: Bearing the Cross of Mental Illness

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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!

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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!

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Epic Book Review: Shaun McAfee’s I’m Catholic. Now What?

Book Review

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As a cradle Catholic and possessing a Master’s in Catholic theology, I am in a sort of unique spot reviewing this title I’m Catholic. Now What?  by Shaun McAfee. I don’t have the formal experience of being a convert. I never left the Catholic Church. Nor returned to it. I always remained with Her. In the past, I sometimes took my faith for granted.

My initial concerns about this review did not center on the book itself, but my background. How exactly will I write a qualified review when I am not officially  part of the audience for this work?

That was my sentiment before reading. After reading this book I must say this. Buy this book now! Order this for your Church (especially if you work in the parish office). Get it in bulk.

Even though I knew most of the content already, this book helped me fall deeper in love with Catholicism. I wish this book was already when my wife converted. She would have definitely enjoyed it back in 2009.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts on I’m Catholic. Now What?

Bridge from RCIA into Post-Baptismal Life

In the introduction, McAfee tells the reader, “That’s what this book is you’re holding is all about: helping you perfect your soul by living out the fullness of the Christian life. When you’re reading this book, expel the temptation to do the minimum. Be an all-out Catholic!” (p. 15.) I think this message is lost when it comes to bringing new members into the Church. We need not be afraid to welcome them and urge them to FULLY embrace and engage with Catholicism.

The author breaks his book into the following sections: Getting Started; The Sacraments; Mary, the Church, & the Saints; Prayer; Catholic Life; Customs, Rules, & Basic Etiquette, Being a Modern Catholic, Knowing & Defending Your Faith; and Evangelization. 

This book serves as a connection from the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults to life afterwards. The honeymoon time after baptism and acceptance into the Church is brief.

The safest way to travel over a tumultuous body of water or dangerous terrain is to go on a bridge. McAfee’s book helps new Christians travel with both confidence and delight.

He answers the basic and most logical questions that come up for new converts such as: how do I learn more about the Faith (he provides a concise but detailed explanation of the Catechism and other key resources), precepts of the Church, how to grow in holiness, and the importance of the sacramental life.

Both Depth and Simplicity of Catholicism

Along with providing a road map and bridge for converts to travel, McAfee demonstrates both a depth and simplicity of Catholicism in his book. His short chapters help keep the pace moving. The author does a great job with giving you enough information without watering down the faith or overwhelming the reader.

McAfee sprinkles in personal stories about his journey as a convert and new experiences as a Catholic: attending an ordination Mass or going on a pilgrimage to a holy site. These mini-anecdotes add depth, but also add to the relevance and importance of Catholicism as a long-life journey. It’s not merely a ritual here or there.

Catholic Church teaching is not always easy to tackle or wrap our heads around. I mean there is a supreme treasure trove of over 2 ,000 years to draw from! But at its core the Church has a teaching role and does not change the teaching of Jesus. We simply gain a deeper understanding of the Deposit of Faith over the course of time.

The author’s approach to tackling the “hot-buttoned” issues is not really tackling them. McAfee writes with unity and love in mind. He only states the facts about the Church’s teaching. No judgment. McAfee wants the reader to approach Catholicism with an open heart and mind.

Style— Welcoming to Converts

Along with providing a bridge and simple road map for new converts to the Catholic Church, McAfee does a great job to welcome converts. It felt like he was in my home or at the door of the Church when I read this book.

I think the author’s conversion experience gave him this ability. The best Catholics in my opinion have been converts. Saint Paul. Saint Augustine. Scott Hahn. My wife Jennifer. Reading this book makes be comfortable put Shaun McAfee in that conversation (at least in the same category of Hahn and my wife!).

While I enjoyed the entire book, Chapter 63What’s the priest wearing? McAfee’s clear and informative writing style. He defines provides a brief description of all the important priestly vestments worn in the Liturgy. This is simply one example of the clarity he provides.

Conclusion

I could seriously write an entire book about the  relevance and epicness (no pun intendedhe is the founder of EpicPew.com) of  I’m Catholic. Now What?  but that will take time from you purchasing this book. Go to https://www.amazon.com/Catholic-Now-What-Shaun-McAfee/dp/1681923432/ and order your copy today!

Other Simple Catholic book reviews

Book Review on Pope Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth

Book Review: God’s Human Face: The Christ Icon


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The Little Way of the Hobbit—Celebrating Tolkien and the Holy Name of Jesus

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January 3rd celebrates two important events: the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus and the anniversary of the birth of J.R.R. Tolkien. As a Catholic obvious the former has to take precedence, I mean Jesus is the center of the Catholic faith. However, I think it is ironic, maybe even providential, of the placement of the great English literary figure’s birthday within the season of Christmastide.

Creation Leads to the Creator

The famed creator of Middle Earth himself was a devout Catholic and belief in Jesus Christ permeated his entire life. I admire Tolkien because of his creativity, devotion, and ability to invoke joy into my life simply by reading his works or striking up a conversation with a random stranger about his life!

Last year, I wrote an article for EpicPew.com An Unexpected Journey? The Case for the Canonization of J.R.R. Tolkien discussing the reasons for canonizing Tolkien as a saint of the Church.

According to the Baltimore Catechism paragraph 215, Catholics honor saints because

“We honor the saints in heaven because they practiced great virtue when they were on earth, and because in honoring those who are the chosen friends of God we honor God Himself.”

The excitement, peace, and joy I receive when reading, researching, or talking about Middle Earth ultimately is aimed at a higher reality. A deeper reality of full communion with God in Heaven! Tolkien once wrote, “After all, I believe that legends and myths are largely made of ‘truth’.”

All of creation act as signposts pointing to God’s existence.

The same is true for the hidden or not so hidden Easter-eggs contained in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The date of the formation of the Fellowship—that is, the group of representatives of Middle Earth races—actually is December 25th!

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The Little Way of the Hobbit

Much of Tolkien’s theology, whether he would have wanted to admit it or not,  reminds me of the spirituality of The Little Way of St. Therese of Lisieux. Her path towards holiness consisted of relying on God’s mercy and forgiveness while seeking ordinary daily actions to show love of God and neighbor.

The French saint wrote, “Miss no single opportunity of making small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.” Whenever I read and reflect upon that quote I am also reminded of the following words of Tolkien, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

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Fantasy and Tolkien geeks now well that the bearer of the One Ring [the embodiment of temptation]  was a hobbit. If only one word would suffice to describe a hobbit to individuals not too aware of this fictional Middle Earth race it would be diminutive.  Littleness, at least in appearance, is the chief trait of the heroes of The Lord of the Rings.

Even the smallest person can impact the future

Like St. Therese of Lisieux, Tolkien recognizes that the smallest person can have a great impact on human history. The greatest event in human history is the Incarnation—God being man in the person of Jesus Christ in the form of a little baby.

I honor J.R.R. Tolkien today because his “complex”, extensive, and intricate sub-creation of Middle Earth provokes a sense of joy in the little acts done in great love and sacrifice. Ultimately, after reading any of his works, I am reminded to be grateful for creative genius not as a worship of the fantasy author. Instead, I honor him as he points me to the Real and Truth Author of All of Reality!


 “At the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” –Philippians 2:10-11

Related Articles

3 Things “The Hobbit of the New Testament” Taught Me

An Unexpected Journey- How September 21st, 2017 Became the New Start to my Spiritual Life

J.R.R. Tolkien: Truth and Myth

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3 Ways Mary Undoes Knots of Desolation

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Does your life seem confusing? Are you currently in a situation where there is no apparent solution? Sir Isaac Newton once said, “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.” If that is the case it seems that life is lacking truth lately. Confusion, frustration, anxiety, and anger engulfed me over the course of the past couple weeks.

Anyone who has experienced that over a period of time will start to feel like you may be trapped in an endless loop of the daily grind. The image that immediately comes to mind during confusing times is the lithograph print Relativity [see above] by Dutch artist M.C. Escher.

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When life starts to cycle into a twisted journey of never-ending [and never beginning] staircases, the seeds of desolation become sown. Every time doubt and despair grow in my heart I turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary for assistance.

According to the Second Vatican Council’s document Lumen Gentium 56 stated, “”The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience; what the virgin Eve bound through her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith.”  While the devotion to Mary Undoer of Knots is founded in the ancient Church, I recently discovered this special appellation for Mary from Pope Francis.

I learned that the pope’s favorite devotion to Mary is to view her as our mother who unties the knots in our spiritual life. I came up with three reasons why I believe this to be true as well.

True model of obedience to God

As an adopted child of God I often struggle with being obedient to the will of my Heavenly Father. It is easy to embrace a “my way of the highway!” type of mentality. Due to original sin humanity suffers from a detachment from God. Mary is a bridge to Jesus—who is the ultimate bridge to God the Father!

The Blessed Virgin’s intrepid, but faithful statement of obedience in Luke 1:38, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” always give me pause. Her statement she compel you to stop and ponder as well. How often do you attempt to push for your will to be done? Do you notice subtle, or maybe overt, signs pointing to God’s will, yet still ignore them? What things could you do differently to unite your will to the Father’s will?

Mary, Mother of God is the true and perfect standard-bearer for what obedience to God’s will looks like.

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Silent suffering

As a parent, the worst possibly suffering I could ever imagine would involve something happening to my children that was outside of my control and ability to comfort/aid them. Venerable Fulton Sheen always talks of Mary with both charity and clarity. In Mary and the Sword he speaks of the importance for Mary’s suffering before Calvary,

“An unsuffering Madonna to the suffering Christ would be a loveless Madonna. Who is there who loves, who does not want to share the sorrows of the beloved? Since Christ loved mankind so much as to want to die to expiate their guilt, then He should also will that His Mother, who lived only to do His will, should also be wrapped in the swaddling bands of His griefs.”

Having experienced an unimaginable suffering of seeing her only son agonize on the Cross, Mary is the perfect mother for me to seek her aid as another son suffering from desolation and doubts at times.

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Mother to all God’s children

Jesus in John 19 entrusted Mary to be the spiritual mother for John — and not only for John but for all of God’s children. According to the Catechism paragraph 963,

Since the Virgin Mary’s role in the mystery of Christ and the Spirit has been treated, it is fitting now to consider her place in the mystery of the Church. “The Virgin Mary . . . is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer. . . . She is ‘clearly the mother of the members of Christ’ . . . since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head.”502 “Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church.”503

Oftentimes when I experienced confusion, sadness, anger, and doubt growing up [and even today] I usually reach out first to my mom in seeking consolation and clarity. The same is true for my spiritual mother—Mary. Her close unity with Jesus Christ combined with her full humanity allows her to be both a trusted and approachable figure to find refuge in.

Mary guides us to Her Son

St. Thomas Aquinas declared, “As mariners are guided into port by the shining of a star, so Christians are guided to heaven by Mary.” Catholics honor Mary because she points us to her Divine Son Jesus!

We relate directly to Mary due to her full humanity. During the stresses of life, reciting of a Hail Mary calms my angst and orients the storm in my soul toward God’s will. Let us close with the prayer to Mary Undoer of Knots in hopes that she guides us away from the knotty snares of the Devil.17

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Prayer to Mary Undoer of Knots

Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in my life.
You know very well how desperate I am, my pain and how I am bound by these knots.
Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of His children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life.
No one, not even the evil one himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone.
Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot…I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once for all, You are my hope.
O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me, the fortification of my feeble strength, the enrichment of my destitution and with Christ the freedom from my chains.
Hear my plea.
Keep me, guide me, protect me, o safe refuge!

Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me

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A Personal Litany of Saints for 2019

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!

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On Whether Ouija Boards, Tarot Cards, and the Weather Channel Are Evil

The film Geostorm debuted in movie theaters across the world in mid-October 2017. Earlier in the month, a trailer for this movie was on and it piqued my interest. That is rare because I normally find weather-related films to be boring! This movie was different.

Relying on a unique story-line, Geostorm  featured a future with the possibility of a global network of satellites used to control climate to benefit humanity. The  technology gets hijacked  and apocalyptic storms ensue as a result.

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Along with my interest in the possibility of humanity controlling weather, October is a month culturally dedicated on Halloween. Originating from the Catholic tradition of celebrating the Vigil of All Saints Day, the word Halloween originally referred to All Hallows [holy] Eve. It is a celebration of the officially canonized holy men and women  by the Catholic Church who had such a profound and transformative relationship with God that they are believed to be united to Him in Heaven.

Holiness or ghastliness?

Unfortunately, sometimes Halloween gets associated with witches, ghosts, goblins, magic, fortune telling, and other sorts of divination. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone (CCC 2116).

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What exactly does ‘falsely supposed to unveil the future’ mean? A few years ago, a co-worker and I were talking about the weather [go figure]. I do not quite remember how partly cloud with a chance of rain led to the practices of the occult, but my co-worker exclaimed, “You’re Catholic, right?  Don’t Catholics avoid tarot reading, and horoscopes?”

After I confirmed this provided the official Church teaching, he quipped, “Well, what about weather forecasting?”

His question caught me off guard. I did not have a good answer for him. After much reflection on this topic, I will share a few reasons why seeking knowledge from the occult is evil, whereas watching the weather channel to plan your weekend is not bad at all.

Old Testament precedent

The evils of summoning knowledge through the occult is found in the Old Testament. 1 Samuel 28 tells of King Saul’s going to the Witch of Endor to seek knowledge as “He [previously] consulted the LORD; but the LORD gave no answer, whether in dreams or by the Urim or through the prophets” (v.6).

Although this chapter sounds like it came from Middle-Earth [Endor reminds of a Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Universe!!], the first king of Israel went down a path seeking information via the wrong way.  Listen to this brief exchange between Saul and the conjured spirit of the prophet Samuel:

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Samuel then said to Saul, “Why do you disturb me by conjuring me up?” Saul replied: “I am in great distress, for the Philistines are waging war against me and God has turned away from me. Since God no longer answers me through prophets or in dreams, I have called upon you to tell me what I should do.”

e6To this Samuel said: “But why do you ask me, if the LORD has abandoned you for your neighbor?f17The LORD has done to you what he declared through me: he has torn the kingdom from your hand and has given it to your neighbor David.18“Because you disobeyed the LORD’s directive and would not carry out his fierce anger against Amalek, the LORD has done this to you today.g19Moreover, the LORD will deliver Israel, and you as well, into the hands of the Philistines. By tomorrow you and your sons will be with me, and the LORD will have delivered the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines. (1 Samuel 28:15-19).

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Individual gain

Saul’s consultation of Samuel the prophet was not inherently evil. In fact, God encouraged Jewish leaders to listen to His messengers. The problem lay in the fact that Saul sought out Samuel through an improper channel and for ulterior motives. He desired power to defeat his enemies.

If I ever encountered that person from the break room, I would let them know that weather forecasting is definitely not evil. Meteorologists predict the weather for the benefit of society not the individual!

Divination—tarot reading, ouija boards, etc—  occurs when individuals seek specific knowledge to benefit themselves in a selfish manner. What is more, the word occult comes from the Latin occultus which means  “knowledge of the hidden or secret”. Such knowledge is in direct opposition to the knowledge of God taught by the Catholic [Universal] Church!

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Predicting the future

A third and final point regarding the deep gulf between weather forecasting and practice of the occult is found in the nature of how one predicts through those means. Meteorology is established and justified via the scientific process. It is verifiable through series of tests and past data. All forms of divination rely on the paranormal. Man becomes a passive receipt of “secret knowledge” as opposed to learning about knowledge the proper way by faith and reason.

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St. John Paul II in his encyclical letter Fides Et Ratio tells us, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth…Philosophy and the sciences function within the order of natural reason; while faith, enlightened and guided by the Spirit, recognizes in the message of salvation the “fullness of grace and truth” (cf. Jn 1:14) which God has willed to reveal in history and definitively through his Son, Jesus Christ.” 

Relax you can talk about the weather again

Truth is to be for the benefit of all humanity. Because God is our Creator and I am a creature, I am not meant to acquire control of the future of my life—especially through methods of the occult. This would be selfish of me and quite prideful. “Well, what about weather forecasting? Is that wrong too?” I definitively say no.

Weather forecasting benefits the whole of mankind. May we ask for the graces and courage to resist the temptation to control our future! 

 

Thank you for sharing!