But I still got sick— and my content game never recovered fully
But many times life never works out as planned.
The good guys lose and the bad guys win
By the grace of God and the support of my family, friends, and my faith community I survived the virus.
🎶 Let the good (insane) times roll 🎵
But the hits of craziness kept coming:
Remote learning for my kids (mental health drainer there)
The insane requirement on teachers (my wife is a special education teacher) forced me to rethink my approach to my freelance business.
I knew my limits— pandemic + special needs kids + increasing work demands at my “day” job made it a simple choice— I had to put a pause on consistent writing.
I’ve been living on recycled content (mostly) or less than my 💯 work.
I used to be ranked #92 in Feedspot’s Top Catholic Websites and Bloggers. Now I’m in the top 110. I’m not upset about the ranking loss. But I am a bit frustrated at myself for losing the influence I had to help educate and inspire Catholics across the world to find joy in the Gospel.
The Devil is in attack mode
The Enemy has attacked me unceasingly with the sins of anger and sloth. Too often I got distracted by others’ failure to take the pandemic seriously and that wrath zapped me of energy to read and write about Catholicism.
Return of The Simple Catholic
Today is the start of a restart— my goal for the rest of the year is to get more creative, collaborate more, and be more disciplined.
Because I want to provide YOU with a how-to guide to return from a bat 💩 crazy year and succeed (all the while thriving in the truth and hope of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Today I renew my commitment to earn back trust. I won’t wait for the calendar to flip to 2021. Partnering with the Holy Spirit and my team of The Simple Catholic Supporters I gathered over the past year or two, I will end 2020 on a high note.
How do you bounce back from a big backslide in success?
It’s no secret 2020 has been a less than perfect year. You might have had great expectations. New year equals a new start—new opportunities to kick bad habits. But soon you realized 2020 was not going to be a fairy tale. World basketball phenom Kobe Bryant died in January. Following this sudden tragedy was the COVID19 pandemic (with no end seemingly in sight). Race riots emerged afterward. Lockdowns. Quarantines. Masks. Masks. And more masks. The buzzwords of the year.
What the h***’s going on?! Seriously, why all this suffering? This isn’t the way life is meant to be. No sports or music concerts or church services. Those things stabilize us and give meaning to the topsy-turvies of life. You want things to go back to being normal (I want the craziness to stop—I can’t play real-life Jumanji anymore).
Did normalcy ever exist?
Life has never been normal. What exactly is normal? The dictionary defines ‘normal’ as conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected. 2020 was unexpected! Who expected a microscopic virus to cripple the world economy and upturn people’s lives in unimaginable ways?
In April, I contracted the COVID19 virus. It was a horrendous experience. A high fever persisted for almost two weeks straight. It zapped me of energy, taste, smell, and gave me intense full body aches. This virus would have killed me had it not been due to the persistent prayers of my family and friends along with my wife making me drink water every hour and use a rescue inhaler for the first time in my life. In the beginning, I was angry with God for allowing me to get infected. I took every single precaution: washed my hands twice an hour, socially distanced, and consumed Vitamin C daily.
But in the heart of my suffering I recalled how God saved me from an intense depression and loss in 2014—losing an unborn child to miscarriage. Hindsight is 2020 (no pun intended). I experienced a lack of consolation in prayer. At first, I thought it was due to me not having enough faith. But learning more about the prayer life as detailed by Saint John of the Cross, I found out I was going through a Dark Night of the Soul. It is through that lens I view the trials the Church (and world) face in 2020.
Seeds of Faith Grow in the Soil of Suffering
Ever since I endured the suffering of having to bury unborn children, Jesus’ words in John 12:24 has become easier to understand. Christ said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” Suffering is a means to kill the self (selfish desires and tendency towards sin). My suffering in 2014 caused me to be buried in a spiritual darkness. Out of the shroud of suffering I emerged renewed and more trusting in God’s Providence.
The greatest of saints grew into faithful witness for the Gospel through being buried in a soil of suffering. Saint John Paul II lived in Poland during Nazi and Communist occupation. He lost all of his immediate family members before his 22nd birthday. Such loss could have easily driven Karol Wojtyła into callousness and resentment. He looked to the Cross as a way to survive his unimaginable suffering.
10,000 Difficulties Don’t Equal a Single Doubt
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman famously wrote, “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt, as I understand the subject; difficulty and doubt are incommensurate. (unequal).” The English cardinal’s words seem appropriate for Catholics to hear in 2020. How many times do you read on Catholic social media posts about people not trusting in God because of COVID19 precautionary measure? I was once accused of worshipping a “mask deity” because of my stance on wearing a facemask to public masses.
The current pandemic has presented too many difficulties to count for the Catholic. Earlier this year, the United States Catholic bishops decided to suspend all public Masses and the weekly obligation to attend. This led to an outpouring of confusion, concern, and frustration on the part of the laity. People began to blame the bishop and label them cowards for giving into the secular stance on the coronavirus situation.
Soon after Catholic social media lit up into tribalistic squabbles. Catholics began calling out their spiritual brother and sister’s faith into question. But a difficulty doesn’t equate to a doubt. Last time I checked, I don’t possess the ability to read a person’s heart and I am fairly confident most other Catholics lack that ability too. Instead of questioning a person’s faith would it not be more prudent and effective to ask the Holy Spirit for unity, understanding, knowledge, wisdom, and generosity in online discussions?
All Things Work for the Good
Saint Paul wrote in Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God,* who are called according to his purpose.” In pop culture, the NBC drama Manifest (an amazing show about passengers on a plane who mysteriously reappears five years after disappearing) has increased the popularity of this verse. Romans 8:28 is one of my favorite Bible quotes. It has increased in relevance since enduring my Dark Night of the Soul in 2014.
All things work for the good even when you’re in a spiritual dark night.
Fear over the unknown may be the most common fear (even more widespread than fear of death). So much misinformation exists on the COVID19 pandemic. Was the lockdown needed or not? Was the virus naturally occurring or lab-generated? Are facemasks effective or not? Will the pandemic miraculously end the day after the election because a particular political party created the virus? (I don’t subscribe to any conspiracy theory but simply wanted to detail out the variance in thought about COVID19).
All things work for the good for those who love God.
God uses bad things and evil things for good. God is so good that even evil is transformed as a means to be drawn in closer to Him. For example my wife and I lost children to miscarriage. Out of that horror we grew in faith.
Whoever wins the United States election or whatever craziness left for the rest of 2020 only matters in the short-term. In the long-term (or more precisely in the perspective of eternity), all things work for the good of those who love God.
How Can Catholics Finish out 2020
Fear, animosity, blame-gaming, and judging others’ hearts has been the norm of social media. I believe the world is in a ‘Dark Night’. Suffering is not something to shy away from but should be viewed as an offering to God in prayer. It’s okay to have difficulties with how this year is going.
Don’t be afraid to completely break down in tears and shoot salvos of laments to the Holy Trinity. Ten thousand, ten million or ten billion difficulties don’t equal a doubt in God’s Providence. And etch this verse in your heart, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God,* who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).”
The United States of America is united only by name. Today, unity is more rare than a unicorn. Even worse the Catholic Church in America has exposed Her fractured body. The COVID19 pandemic magnified problems already existing in the Church. Frankly, I am exhausted of seeing the infighting of Catholics on social media. It’s a great sign of contradiction for the world when the Church’s member fight about political, legal, or liturgical differences (all minor compared to theological unity).
Jesus prayed for unity in John 17:20-21, “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” This is the approach we need to take as Catholics. Pray without ceasing for unity. Here’s a list of other things Catholics can start doing immediately to help bring the Church together.
Religion and politics is a bloody and violent marriage. History proves this. Catholics need to quit attaching labels to themselves. There is neither conservative or liberal Catholic. To label in this case would be to limit truth. It implicitly puts politics above the faith.
Choose Kindness over Callousness
“But [insert opposite party] acted rude and belligerent. So our side needs to fight back!” How many times have you read something similar on Facebook or Twitter 🤦♂️? Likely more times than you seen the word Jumanji . 😊
Kindness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. This virtue is not a sign of weakness. It’s an indication your willingness to care about others over your pride.
In Why You Should Develop Empathy in 2020 I wrote, “Empathy has become a primary focus for life in the 21st century.” If you evaluated 2020 by the amount of empathy being displayed, then it would be safe to claim we are in a new Dark Ages. Catholic social media threads largely lack empathy.
Listen to Darth Vader. He did end up on the Light Side!
When a person explains their economic, mental, or physical struggles during the pandemic it is good to place yourself in another person’s shoes. I cannot imagine want a person is going through financially due to this crisis. Catholics make all sorts of judgments or assumptions about a person’s intentions and motivations. I can’t tell you why certain bishops or politicians acted a particular way during this pandemic. But I can TRY to see their point of view.
Pro-tip: Avoid making assumptions if you want to improve your empathy. Assumptions are the BIGGEST killer of empathy.
Pause➡ Think➡ React
Pause before you act on social media.
Stop. Look. Listen. It’s what we were taught as kids before crossing the street. What if a similar approach was used when using social media?
Scrolling down your newsfeed you stop on an interesting post. The headline caught your attention or your Facebook friend wrote something to hook you. Whatever emotions get evoked it is important to pause. Even a 30 second pause before typing can be helpful. A short stop before crossing into Comment Boulevard will help reframe your attitude.
Read the Bible
Do you remember singing Jesus Loves Me (or being sung to) to your kids? It’s good to remind ourselves of the lyrics:
Yes, Jesus loves me
For the Bible tells me so (tells me)
So (tells me so)
Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong
They are weak but he is strong
Here’s the thing, Jesus loves you (and me) and the whole world. A simple way for Catholics be more united is develop a habit of reading the Bible. The Bible is a collection of books testifying to God’s plan for salvation from sin. If you feel you’re beginning to get frustrated on social media go to the Scriptures for guidance, patience, and perspective.
Pray for Unity
God desires the Catholic Church to be one. Sin fractures relationships. The Enemy wants to use the suffering caused by the coronavirus pandemic to splinter the Church’s unity. Saint Paul wrote in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” God’s ways are above our total comprehension.
Why does he allow a booming economy to be shut down? How can He let racism persist? Does God care when the vulnerable are dying alone in the hospital?
These questions are all legitimate (I think about these often). Difficulties don’t mean doubts about the faith. Catholics across the world (and especially in the United States) need to choose love over hate. Empathy over assumption. Prayer over complaints.
“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” —John 17:20-21