3 Rest Stops for Our Pilgrimage Towards Holiness

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According to the National Sleep Foundation, humans are considered the only mammal that willingly delays sleeps. For more interesting facts about sleep here is a link: https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/25-random-facts-about-sleep. Sleep is an issue that pervades all of human life. As a father to four young children, I oftentimes determine the success [or failure] of a day over whether my children successfully or unsuccessfully take their scheduled nap!

The stresses of life, dealing with sick family members, and limited sleep due to my new work schedule drain me on a daily basis. The exhaustion last week became so overwhelming that I almost gave up hope. But the thing about tiredness is that is oftentimes causes people to forgot and lose strength to continue.

On the verge of wallowing in a lake of lassitude, I suddenly remembered the words of Bishop Paul Swain that he said at a confirmation Mass. Specifically referring to the sacrament of confirmation, but I believe his words apply to the rest of the sacraments as well, the successor of St. Peter said, “Sacraments [the sacrament of confirmation] are not the end or graduation of the Catholic life, rather sacraments act as theological rest stops to give us strength.”

In the past, I associated the sacraments as offensive weapons against sin, however, recently I have come to view the sacramental system as a means to shield and sustain oneness from the endless assault of the Enemy’s attacks. Below I wish to explore my experience with how the sacraments of confession, Eucharist, and marriage help provide spiritual rest for my pilgrim journey.

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Confession Crossing

Growing up I remembered the summer vacations my family and I went on involved a ton of driving. If the rambunctious nature of sons is any indication of what I was like as a kid, I imagine my parents looked forward to taking a pause in the long drive to allow my siblings and I to run out our energy. As a parent, I learned that a periodic rest stop sometimes solves a fussy situation in the car. Pope Francis once declared, “Always remember this: life is a journey. It is a path, a journey to meet Jesus. At the end, and forever. A journey in which we do not encounter Jesus is not a Christian journey.”

Too many times I forget that life is more of a pilgrimage—toward Heaven. Life is not simply a tourist attraction for me to amass as much pleasurable and exciting experiences as possible.

Without Jesus as the focus of my journey I lean toward being a tourist of the world instead of a pilgrim in the world. Confession is the sacrament that provides me an opportunity to rest and receive God’s graces. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “This sacrament reconciles us with the Church. Sin damages or even breaks fraternal communion. The sacrament of Penance repairs or restores it” (CCC 1469.

Recently, I received the sacramental graces of the medicine box. I felt a large burden lifted from me and have the strength to be able to encounter the busyness of life with a calm assurance that God will sustain me even during tough situations.

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Eucharist— Fuel for the Road Ahead

While Confession heals the wounds of my sins, the sacrament of the Eucharist provides me nourishment and strength for the journey for the rest of the week. In the book of Exodus, God listened to the plea of his people, traveling in the wilderness, a plea for food to sustain them during the tumultuous journey. As amazing and unmerited the gift of manna in the Old Testament, Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist as a fulfillment of this prefiguration in Exodus. Jesus decisively teaches us in John 6,

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.48I am the bread of life.49Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;z50this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.51I 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.

After receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ every Sunday Mass, I gain the strength to make it through the trials of this world. According to the Catechism paragraph 1391, “The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Lord said: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”226 Life in Christ has its foundation in the Eucharistic banquet: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.”

Reading this passage makes me reflect on the popular adage, “you are what you eat”—receiving Jesus in this sacraments helps transform us into the best [i.e. most Christ-like] versions of ourselves!

Matrimony—Momentum for the Journey

G.K. Chesterton is considered a king of wit and satire—especially among Catholics. His quotes on marriage frequent social media. Ironically, I actually shared the below memes on Instagram recently!

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Wait! “I thought this article was about theological REST STOPS for our pilgrim journey—not holy hand grenades,” one might say. I agree with Chesterton, oftentimes marriage is like going to war—sins of pride, impatience, anger, lust, greed, and sloth [to name just a few]—become casualties. However, war does not always involve active or constant movement. Rather, a large part of war entails strategizing against the enemy—and that involves resting and planning. The sacrament of marriage is a gift from God that allows spouses to acquire the graces of rest and perseverance.

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Marriage as a sacrament involves total commitment towards one’s spouse. Husband and wife do not split responsibilities as in a 50/50 contract. Instead, marriage is a covenant—an oath that involves 100/100 dedication of the husband toward the wife and vice versa. Honestly, I sometimes struggle to view marriage this way. Throughout periods in my wife and I’s marriage either she or I would have to “more time and effort” than the other “put in”. Keeping a tally sheet and IOUs does not lead to a fruitful marriage. Only by donning a servant mentality did I truly receive the sacramental graces of matrimony to acquire true peace and rest.

Rely on the Sacraments for Rest!

To close, I wish to again ponder the words of Bishop Paul Swain, “Sacraments [the sacrament of confirmation] are not the end or graduation of the Catholic life, rather sacraments act as theological rest stops to give us strength.” Do you take advantage God’s oasis’ for holiness? If you are married do you take time to see God work in your spouse? Is there any ways you may be able to deepen your participation in the sacrifice of the Mass? Let us use the rest of Lent as a time to grow in holiness and thank God for the gifts of the sacraments—theological rest stops for our pilgrim journey!

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5 Tips to Build Your Domestic Church when Time is Limited

Since the advent of the Internet an explosion of information has been accessible to a majority of the world. Social media and the invention of the smart phone only continued the ability to learn new information quicker and at an earlier age.

As a dad to four children I am both excited and terrified of the new advancements technology will afford humanity in the next few decades. Technology by itself is neutral. Its implementation can be used for good or evil. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1656, “In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith. For this reason the Second Vatican Council, using an ancient expression, calls the family the Ecclesia domestica (domestic church).” Faith starts in the home.

During the Baptismal rite, Catholic parents pledge to teach their children in the faith. In the minutes after the ceremony, it is easy for parents to feel empowered and emboldened by the Holy.  “Nothing can phase us. We has the power of the Holy Spirit guiding us (and our child)!” I thought as I held my oldest son after his Baptism. I felt invincible as a dad. It took less than a week for the Enemy to take advantage of my pride. Sending us temptation after temptation the Devil seeks to wear us down. His goal is to get us to a state of despair.

Life gets busy, messy, stressful, frustrating, hopeless at times, and tons of other inconveniences bombard us daily. It is definitely easy to lose sight and forget about the Baptismal vows we made before God and the Church. I struggle at least every month. On the worst months, I feel the strain almost daily. Recently, I switched to working the night shift. While this schedule has blessed me with the ability to stay home with the younger kids and take the older children to school, the result is less time as an entire family fully together at once.

Fortunately, the Labor Day Weekend provided our family to spend quality time. My wife suggested that I write about the ways we have developed to maintain our church at home despite our schedule. This post will center on five specific and simple ways to build your domestic church with little time.

Morning Prayer

St. John Vianney once said, “Prayer is the inner bath of love into which the soul plunges itself.” If we expect our kids to brush their teeth and wash their faces before school, why should we not also expect them (and ourselves) to wash their souls with morning prayer. My parents were not superbly theological in their articulation about the faith.

In hindsight, I realized they actions and prayer life made a big impact on me. Every morning on the drive to school my mom (in elementary school) and my dad (in high school) would lead us in a daily morning prayer consisting of an Our Father, Hail Mary, and various other prayers at times. This simple practice to begin the day was instrumental in build our church at home. My wife and I adopted this practice now.

Playtime can be Prayer Time

According to Genesis 2:3, God rested after completion of creation. Certainly the creator of the Universe would not tire, it is important because God “rested” as a means to show humanity the importance of taking time away from work. Some days I am too tired to play with my kids. But it is an importance duty as a parent. Play is equally as important as working. “Dad! I want you to play a game or outside with me,” my kids constantly tell me.

St. Francis de Sales in Introduction to the Devout Life wrote, “We must needs occasionally relax the mind, and the body requires some recreation also” (Part III, no 31). Throwing the frisbee with my wife the other day and watching my kids play at the playground had a sacramental quality to it. I felt drawn closer into the Mystery of God’s grace as I calmed my anxious mind through the playful activities of the weekend. The Doctor of the Church lists out good and moral playful activities, all still relevant today. Francis charts out the following:

Walking, harmless games, music, instrumental or vocal, field sports, etc., are such entirely lawful recreations that they need no rules beyond those of ordinary discretion, which keep every thing within due limits of time, place, and degree. So again games of skill, which exercise and strengthen body or mind, such as tennis, rackets, running at the ring, chess, and the like, are in themselves both lawful and good.

Look to Your Family’s Patron Saint(s)

Another simple way to grow your church at home is to reflect on your family’s patron saints. Your family’s patrons could be either the saints that you, your spouse, and your are named after or it could be a particular saint you learned about later in life. For example, if your family enjoys camping in the summer look to Saint Pope John Paul II as your role model.

My family’s patron saints are Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and Gerad of Majella. We also ask for help from the Blessed Virgin Mary and specifically are close to Our Lady Undoer of Knots devotion. Sometimes the “can’t man” or pessimistic attitude invades our house. Mary helps to undo our knots (nots) and turns them into “yeses”.

Celebrate your children’s and spouse’s saints feast days by making food specific to the nationality of that saint. Read a bedtime story about that saint’s life or print off pictures of your patron saint as a coloring activity. If you are super pinched for time that day, simply reflect on the life of that saint throughout the day.

Patience is a Virtue

A fourth reason to develop your domestic church is to exercise the virtue of patience. It is easy to tell yourself to be patient, but it is super challenging to implement on some days! Jesus told his disciples and us in Matthew 7:7, ““Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” If you are running low on patience ask Him. You will receive it. Ask. Ask. Ask. Your children may challenge your belief in that verse, but please know your struggles for the day will day—eventually!

Getting the kids ready for bed is the most challenging part for us. My wife tells me that she constantly prays the Rosary to help prevent her was losing her cool. Mary is an effective intercessor. Mary always will intercede for us and draw us close to Her Son for aid.

Night Prayer

The last strategy to implement to similar to the first—end your day with prayer. Nightly prayer as an entire family may not be feasible daily depending on your schedule. Because I work the overnight shift throughout the week, I can only pray with my wife and kids twice a week.

Frequency is not as important as consistency. I aim to consistently pray as a family even though it is only a couple times a week. Praying a decade of the Rosary or listening to the Chaplet of Divine Mercy sung are two ways my family likes to end the day.

Family that Prays Together Stay Together

As corny as the saying is families that nurture a consistent prayer life do stay together. Jesus prayed for unity (John 17:21)—so should you for your family’s sake and for the sake of the Church. Saint John Paul the Great declared, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” Serve God, your family, and the world use the time you have to foster the domestic church!

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Why the Best Writing Rarely Develops as You Originally Planned

I am the dictionary definition of a Type A personality. Order, preparation, planning, scheduling, and structure are my addiction. I thrive on a rigid schedule and always need a contingency plan in place just in case the first 37 plans fail.

Benjamin Franklin spoke of the importance of planning, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” You May be worried that the title of this post is a sign I might be abandoning my priority on order and organization. Have no fear! That is not going to happen.

Life includes Curved Roads

While preparation sets you best for daily and lifelong success, it is still important to remind your that life does not always follow a straight path. How I wished it were that “straightforward” and simple!

Sometimes situations get complex. You may forget something or other people may slow our progress. Sometimes things outside our control run into our sights like a deer running across the interstate unexpectedly. We might notice in time to avoid collision. More often than not we will hit these unexpected situations.

We Can’t Plan for Everything

These are the times are best efforts to plan ahead seem to be in vain. This morning started that way for me. Coming off little sleep, Monday hit me. Hit me hard! Initially, I reacted poorly, I am ashamed to admit. All my hopes for the day appeared to be dashed. Pessimism overwhelmed me.

Through the help of my amazing wife, my stress-induced slide stopped. I took action and wrote about my struggles. Giving little thought about structure, I just wrote from the heart. I wrote how I was feeling.

Suddenly, after a minutes I had a few paragraphs. A few minutes later more and paragraphs. I did not originally intend on writing this post today. I had a “grander”, a “better”, and a “more prepared”?topic to discuss. What I came to realize is that I was writing for myself–selfishly. I wanted to have a perfect post. A planned and perfectly executed article. What I definitely was not thinking about earlier was my audience. You!

Allow Yourself to Show in Your Writing

The reason I believe my best writing is the least planned is because it includes the following:

  • Lots of heart
  • My vulnerability
  • Strong desire to help others

I am not immune from hurt. This really is no surprise anymore.

Because of my hubris, I am quick to forget the reason I write. I write to help others. To help you. I want to give hope at the beginning of a stressful week. I want to give hope to new writers that it is okay if your posts are not perfect. Why do I fail so miserably sometimes?  I am merely human. You are too.

Learn from Challenges

Planning your day and weekly schedule is still important. Learn from my mistakes. Don’t let rigid structure control your life. Allow it to guide you.

If you found this post helpful please share it with a someone you know it can help as well. Please also tell me your current struggles in the comments section. I would love to listen and encourage you in any way possible!

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My First Podcast Interview Just Aired!!

Last month I had the pleasure of recording an episode for The Catholic Servant Podcast discussing the importance of empathy at work, home, and in the spiritual life. Today that episode aired.

Here is the link:

https://thecatholicservant.com/matthew-chicoine

The article of mine that initiated this collaborative meeting can be found by going to this link: https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2019/07/01/the-power-of-empathy-2/

Hope you find it a useful and informative podcast discussion! Please leave any feedback in the comments section. 🙂

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Unexpected Joys on a Summer Morn

Jogging in morning

I woke up last Tuesday morning to a sky full of blue.

I pondered about what I was to do.

Children woke up early—rambunctious and vociferous.

Realized I needed to get a little adventurous!

Baby and toddler in tow, I took them in the stroller for an amble.

Running,running brings me such joy. It was worth the gamble.

A gamble? You ask. Why yes, see the sunlight causes the baby to be afraid.

Shade. An umbrella. Anything will suffice. Blessed be the stroller shade!

Running, running, running strong. Oh no!

I am running low. Low on energy. Low so low.

Doubt creeps in. Do I stop? Do I go on?

Fatigue. Weariness. My will power is failing.

I cross a genteel man sitting atop a rock—smiling

With a baby upon his lap.

His simple gaze allowed my to continue on the jogging lap.

Half point reached. Hooray! Ahead of pace.

About to pass the bus stop and there is a face.

A figure in red shirt and teal shorts. Hidden partially by the glow of dawn.

Looks like he donned a straw stitched hat. Don?

My thoughts wander thinking about his name.

By this time I have passed by the same

Genteel man with the baby upon his lap.

His kind smile I reply with a wave as I finish my last part of the lap.

Rounding the home stretch in kicks my mettle.

I refuse to settle

For anything less than a strong finish.

The unexpected joys sustained me. Never did I diminish.

I am grateful for the simple joys from that Tuesday morn.

When you are open to the little joys in life you will never be forlorn.

Not alone

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