3 Reasons Christians need to be Bridge-builders

I love random facts! I find they are great conversation starters and help me to trigger and bridge past and seemingly unconnected memories together. Speaking of the subject of bridges, I recently learned that the world’s longest bridge is over 102 miles! Carrying trains this incredible engineering feat connects the cities of Nanjing and Shanghai.

largest bridge

Aside from being massive architectural projects and accomplishments, the daily function of a bridge is a little more mundane—it serves as a connection between two points that otherwise could not meet or communicate. All Catholics, and Christians in general, are called to act a bridge between God and humanity. Examining Scripture, Tradition, and evidence from a strictly logical standpoint, I put forth three reasons why all Christians need to be bridge-builders

For the Bible tells Me So

You do not have to look far in the New Testament before you discover examples of Jesus promoting unity and building relationships with traditional 1st century outsider groups. In John 4, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at the ancient water-cooler, the well of Jacob. He reached out to a Samaritan who Jews ostracized during ancient times. Despite this, Jesus provides her an offer of everlasting water.

She readily exclaims, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water” (John 4:15).

The Gospel of St. Luke abounds with examples of Jesus ministering to outcasts and “building bridges” to all of humanity. I will list just a few: shepherds being invited to witness the birth of Christ (Luke 2:15-20), call of Levi the tax collector (Luke 5:27-32), forgiving the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50, and sending out of the seventy-two disciples to minister to others (Luke 10: 1-10).

Finally, I want to share the instance in the Acts of the Apostles where possible discord over whether followers of Christ needed to be circumcised in the custom of Judaism. In Acts 15 the Council of Jerusalem took place and God provided unity in this affair by bestowing authority to Peter through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Follow Francis—Pope is the Bridge from Christ to Us

Continuing on the theme of unity promoted by papal authority, Pope Francis on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall told Christians to, “Build bridges of understanding and dialogue.”

In the pope is a visible sign of the unity of the Catholic Church. Catholics look to the pope with honor and as a leader of the faith not because he tells us but because Jesus gave us the gift of the papacy.

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Like Francis, the late Pope John Paul II promoted ecumenism [fancy word for promoting unity J) The Polish pontiff tells us in his encyclical letter Ut Unum Sint [On Commitment to Ecumenism],

Together with all Christ’s disciples, the Catholic Church bases upon God’s plan her ecumenical commitment to gather all Christians
into unity. Indeed, “the Church is not a reality closed in on herself. Rather, she is permanently open to missionary and ecumenical endeavor, for she is sent to the world to announce and witness, to make present and spread the mystery of communion which is essential to her, and to gather all people and all things into Christ, so as to be for all an ‘inseparable sacrament of unity’…The unity of all divided humanity is the will of God (nos. 5-6).  

Brains, brains, brains

I was binge watching an episode of The Walk Dead [YES I DID JUST TRANSITION FROM THE POPE TO ZOMBIES!!] a couple summers ago and took an important lesson from the show. In dire situations humans will work together to survive despite coming from various backgrounds.

Police officers, farmers, and pizza delivery boys were able to unite for a common objective [avoid being turned into a zombie]. I came away from the show thinking: should all people, in particular Christians unite?

Be a Bridge-Builder

From a strictly logical standpoint people tend to be happier when working together as a team. This is true for me. At work I am more fulfilled when I work to serve the rest of my co-workers and assist throughout the day as opposed to having a self-serving mentality. Moreover, the old adage “two heads are better than one” is true when it comes to uniting and forging improved relationships.

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Please do not interpret my urging for all Christians to be bridge-makers as a full on endorsement of compromising your Christians values completely. There are some non-negotiables I hold as a Catholic-Christian. I will not sell out my faith and I believe in the value of life at all stages.

That being said, when it comes to me interacting people with completely different world outlooks from myself I need to exercise patience, clarity in my thoughts, and charity in my dialogue to help others see the value in my positions. I also need to be humble enough to see things from others’ perspectives as well.

Bridge-building is not an easy process—it is long and toilsome. With the gift of understanding and patience from the Holy Spirit such dialogue is possible!

Related Links

Importance of Unity

Ut Unum Sint

 

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Announcing 10 Catholic Role Models to be Thankful for!

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Once November arrives our culture shifts directly into “Black Friday” Christmas shopping mode. The hustle and bustle of completing holiday to-do lists certainly puts pressures on people to rush. As a result, sometimes we forget that thanksgiving is not merely a day of the year, but rather a mindset. Recognizing the blessings in your life is not a novel, Americanized concept. Actually it is quite old.

According to ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” I needed to hear that wisdom as I too suffer immensely from gratitude nearsightedness.

Acclaimed Catholic journalist and essayist G.K. Chesterton pithily proclaimed, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

Since focusing my attitude toward gratitude, I have noticed a seismic shift in my approach to treating my wife, kids, customers, and co-workers with more respect and patience. Along big component to thanksgiving is sharing with others gifts that helped you out, for me ten outstanding individuals helped shape—and continue to shape—my Catholic faith. I am thankful for the following ten Catholics and their witness to Truth.

brace yourself

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Venerable (Soon-to-be Blessed) Fulton Sheen

Reading the works of the American archbishop helped me learn my faith in a clearer and more articulate fashion. His book The World’s First Love: Mary the Mother of God influenced more than any other work on deepening my relationship with the Blessed Virgin.

St. Josemaria Escriva

Since receiving his book The Way as an unexpected Christmas present, this Spanish priest became a huge role model for me. Fr. Escriva’s practical advice and wisdom on work being a pathway to holiness helped me become not only a better employee, but also a better husband as well.

St. Catherine of Siena

Over the past year, I had the privilege and joy of acclimating myself with the teachings of this Doctor of the Church. In light of the recent clergy crisis, I oftentimes sink into despair as I think that a simple lay person such as myself has nothing to contribute or weight to affect the good of the Church.

Reading the many letters of Catherine of Siena proved to me that even the laity have the ability—and the charge—to holiness and call on Church leadership to be good shepherds to lead the flock faithfully!

St. Maria Faustina

Being my wife’s confirmation saint, I did not learn about Sister Faustina until we started dating in college. Along with the impact the Polish nun had on my wife, her Diary of a Soul proved helpful for my spiritual life.

As a lifelong Catholic, I always knew of God’s mercy, but her ability to articulate boundlessness of Divine Mercy and the Divine Mercy icon now have become staples in my spiritual life.

St. Athanasius

Growing up as a cradle Catholic, I am ashamed to admit I never heard of this amazing doctor of the Early Church. Since taking a graduate course on Christology and reading [enter book title], St. Athanasius’ intrepid stand against the most sinister heresy—Arianism—in the history of the Catholic Church always inspires and fascinates me! I am grateful to have had the opportunity to read the sainted bishop’s On the Incarnation.

St. Pope John Paul II

The Polish pope overcome much adversity in his life: losing his immediate family members by the age of 21, living through Nazi and Communist regime, and suffering from polio at the end of his life.

John Paul II’s ability to suffer gracefully and his strong devotion and daily reception of the sacrament of Penance make him the perfect role model for faithful Catholics.

St. Francis de Sales

Although Frances was a bishop, his spirituality largely impacted the laity. His spiritual work Introduction to the Devout Life, remains  as relevant now almost 500 years later.

St. Therese of Lisieux

Whether I experience doldrums or dryness in the spiritual life, reacquainting myself with the Little Way of St. Therese provides me spiritual nourishment to withstand those dry spells.

The simplicity of her spiritual helps to provide me perspective that I do not have to perform grandiose works to grow in holiness. Actually, that path it found through consistent prayer and trust in God’s will. I am thankful for her loving witness to trust in the Father’s Divine Plan.

J.R.R. Tolkien

While the father of fantasy and beloved creator of Middle Earth may appear as an outlier in this list, the late Oxford professor strongly influenced and deepened my Catholic faith in recent years. His ability to teach truth without sounding preachy is second to none.

Reading his works sparks my imagination. When I found out that his Catholic faith permeated his entire life, even his writing,  I too dove deeper into the pursuing the joy of the truth founded in the Good News of Jesus Christ.

More information about my admiration for J.R.R. Tolkien can be found be clicking on this link to an article I wrote for EpicPew: https://epicpew.com/an-unexpected-journey-the-case-for-the-canonization-of-j-r-r-tolkien/

Bishop Robert Barron

I discovered the awesomeness that is Robert Barron back in 2014 as I was teaching Old and New Testament Scripture classes to high school sophomore. His YouTube videos provided clear and interesting short clips about various topics on Catholic theology.

I am indebted to his ministry Word on Fire as well. Along with his videos, Bishop Barron’s book Catholicism proudly is displayed on my bookshelf. It is a frequent reference for many of my posts.

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Lord I am grateful for the wonderful individuals who followed your will and helped me learn more about the Catholic teaching and strengthen my spiritual life!

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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! 

 

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Saints of the New Springtime: Hope for the Catholic Church in 2020 and Beyond

By: Laura Ricketts

  • ❗️The annihilation and remaking of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.
  • ❗️The looming Amazonian Synod.
  • ❗️The defrocked Mr. McCarrick.
  • ❗️Archbishop Vigano’s explosive letters.
  • ❗️Continuing revelations and investigations in Dioceses across the country relating to the abuse scandals.
  • ❗️Unanswered Dubia.

Catholic Church Scandal

It is no secret that we live in interesting and even troubling times. Such scandals remind us of the papacies of old. Jealousies, subterfuge, and politics were par for the course. When priests and prelates had factions and the talk of schism was real and present. It can lead even the most faithful among us to ask, “What are we to do?”

The Timeless Answer

The answer has already been given to us.

“Be not afraid.” This phrase is mentioned more than 365 times!

Saint Pope John Paul II  also reminded us to never fear.  The Polish pope left both an example to follow and the seeds of hope. Almost 20 years after his passing, a New Springtime is upon the Church.

John Paul II

As long ago as 1990, in Redemptor Hominis, John Paul II was speaking of this New Springtime. For those who grew up in the “JPII Generation,” many of us thought and hoped that it would mean a dramatic and unmistakable revival. A huge event. But that is often not how God works.

The seeds of this New Springtime were planted by the Polish Pope himself, in the hearts and minds of the young people to whom he felt a special connection and responsibility. Those “young people” are now the mothers, fathers, religious, priests, young and brave bishops who are coming into their own within the Church. They are professors, teachers, and theologians. They are catechists and pastors. And they have the example of John Paul II to follow to navigate these interesting times.

Impact of the Family

When he was Fr. Karol, John Paul II met with what came to be known as the “Little Family” (Mala Rodzina) and grew into what was called “Srodowisko.” This gathering of lay people with Fr. Karol helped him form his thoughts about love, man, and marriage, family—later known as Theology of the Body. He remarked that this little family became like his family. This experience formed the foundation of his Christological humanism and later, his first encyclical, Redeptor Hominis—the Redeemer of Man.

Hope During the Storms

What a beautiful way to follow the late pope’s example and to continue to water the flowers of the New Springtime! Within our own families and in our own parishes and communities we can form our own “Srodowiskos.” We can learn with and encourage our own friends, children, families, priests, and neighbors.

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With the former Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family removing the study of moral theology from its courses, we, the JPII Generation, can continue to learn and teach and study as John Paul II intended, just as he himself started. We have his Theology of the Body for a text book. We have the writings of Janet Smith, Edward Sri, Pope Benedict XVI, the von Hildebrands, and Mgr Livio Melina, and Fr José Noriega as we continue. We have the sacraments, the Liturgy, and Cardinals like Sarah and Arinze to encourage us as we strive to be Holy and to help each other on the way to Heaven.

With the Amazonian Synod threatening to shake the foundations we know to be unshakeable, we have the Deposit of the Faith that is unchangeable. We have recourse to the Blessed Mother, to whom John Paul II constantly turned and consecrated himself and the Church. We can repeat after him, “Totus Tuus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt!”

Trust God Wholeheartedly

Despite the whispers of schism, allegations, accusations, and denials flying, we can have confidence that even in the most difficult of circumstances God’s Will shall prevail. Truth always shines forth in the end!

If Divine Providence can orchestrate the election of man who saw all of his family members die by his 20th birthday, survived WWII, withstood dangerous communist regimes, and survived an assassination attempt, imagine what He can do when we follow the example of John Paul II. Be one of the saints of the New Springtime!

New Springtime in Church


Laura is a wife, mother, and the wearer of many hats. She is a Client and Marketing Manager for And Then There Were None, and a Birth and Bereavement Doula for her ministry FiLumena Birth and Bereavement. She is certified in Psychological First Aid and Grief and Loss Counseling. When she isn’t wearing one of those hats she can be found reading about her hero and spiritual father, Pope St. John Paul II, kayaking, crocheting, or exploring with her husband, her kids and her cats in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia! Check out her content at filumenabirth.com and Prolifewomen.com.

Thank you for sharing!

Why Freedom is Still a Prerequisite for Love in 2019

Freedom and Love

By: William Hemsworth

Within the course of salvation history there have been many questions about the work of Christ and the role of the human freedom, or free will.  There has been no shortage of theories. Church history shows that there have been many heresies from those trying find a synthesis between the two.

There seem to be two extremes when it comes to this issue—those who think that Christ will save us no matter what we do after coming to faith and those who think that one must continually work to attain salvation (Pelagianism).

The Catholic Definition of Freedom

Saint Pope John Paul II wrote two encyclicals titled Redemptor Hominis and Redemptoris Missio that deal with this important issue.

The Pope reaffirms the teaching of Christ in John 14:6 that He is the way and the truth.  He echoes the words of God is creation where he saw the things that he created as good.  The work of Christ is expressed as an act of love, and a love that the Father had from the beginning with creation.  It was through this act of love that man was restored and made whole.  Regarding this Pope John Paul II writes, “He and he alone also satisfied that fatherhood of God and that love which man in a way rejected by breaking the first Covenant and the later covenants that God again and again offered to man” (Redemptor Hominis Para 9).  Man is unable to enter into relationship with God unless it is through Christ (Redemptoris Missio Para 5).  What Christ did for man was the greatest act of love that ever done.  It is one that our feeble minds can barely start to fathom freedom!

John Paul II

The Pope firmly establishes that it is Christ who is the only way and is the source of our salvation.  The work of Christ on the cross was an act of love that echoes back to the point of creation, and he reconciles man to himself.  How about human freedom?  The freedom of man is a source of controversy for many.

Our lives as lack meaning if we do not have love.  We were made to love and live in communion with each other.  Through His life, death, and resurrection Christ has shown us what love is.  This love changes the lives of the apostles, and they passed that on and it changed the world.

Freedom to Choose Life

God offers this newness of life to every man, but man has the freedom to reject it.  In this regard Pope John Paul II writes, “Faith demands a free adherence on the part of man, but at the same time faith must also be offered to him” (Redemptoris Missio Para 8).  Freedom is not the ultimate end as the world teaches it to be.  Freedom is the choice to do as we ought to.

Freedom and love

Freedom is only a gift if one knows how to use it for everything that is true good (Redemptor Hominis Para 21).  When we encounter Him that is truth we can either accept of deny what he says.  He says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NRSV).

Once we reach this realization Christ calls us to a higher standard of living.  We are bound to regulate of lives with this truth, and we have the freedom to do so or not (Redemptoris Missio Para 8).

Human freedom is a part of the redemption.  By his work on the cross, Christ redeems us by an act of love. We are called to love others and do what Christ commands of us.

Works Cited

John Paul II. Redemptor Hominis 1979 Web. Accessed September 9, 2019.

John Paul II. Redemptoris Missio 1990.  Web.  Accessed September 9, 2019.


About our guest blogger:

William is a convert to the Catholic faith.  Before entering the church he was ordained as a Baptist and Lutheran and earned a Master of Divinity from Liberty Theological Seminary.  William lives with his wife and four children in Tucson, AZ and teaches religious education for children and adults.  Check out his website/blog at williamhemsworth.com for more great and informative Catholic content!

Thank you for sharing!

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!

Thank you for sharing!

Analysis of JPII’s The Splendor of Truth

Pope John Paul II

“Truth enlightens man’s intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord,” proclaimed the late Polish pope, John Paul II in his encyclical letter The Splendor of Truth. Promulgated over twenty years ago, this writing can still act as a guidepost for every Christian, both clergy and laity alike, for moral living. Now more than ever, modern man, in a world where moral relativism and ignorance of objective truths abound, needs the illuminating light of the Holy Spirit channeled through the Catholic Church. The Splendor of Truth delineates the Church’s rich moral teaching and sheds light on the underlying assumptions of those dissenting from the Magisterium’s authority.

I will examine three points− one from each chapter. The moral duty charged to all Christians will be looked at first, followed by a survey of the Church’s stance on conscience. And finally, the need for modern-day martyrs in the face of moral relativism will be addressed.

Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?

Rich Young Man Asks Jesus

The initial chapter of The Splendor of Truth centers on the content from the interaction of a rich young man and Jesus in Matthew 19. Here the young man begins his conversation with Jesus with a query: “Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?”[1] At face value this question seemed sincere for it concerned one of the utmost important issues a person must contemplate. As the late pope tersely put it, “It is an essential and unavoidable question for the life of every man, for it is about the moral good which must be done, and about eternal life.[2] To ascertain the difference between good and evil people need to turn toward Christ who provides the answer. Too many times in the modern world humans seek answers to life’s hardest questions in fleeting, temporal sources such as political systems or New-Age philosophies rather than turning to God.

God is the Greatest Good

To truly live out the moral life, one must understand that an objective good does in fact exist− God. Responding to the young rich man, Jesus proclaims, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”[3] Since the ultimate good exists as God himself, it logically follows that only He can provide answers to the question about what is good in life. Not leaving man in the dark, God sheds light on moral matters by granting humans the ability to find out through reason alone the natural law. Article 12 of The Splendor of Truth mentions that God by creating man, ordered him to the good and have an innate desire for wisdom.

Due to original sin, God had to act in history to initiate his saving plan for humanity. Citing again from the encyclical, the Polish pope states, “The gift of the Decalogue was a promise and a sign of the New Covenant, in which the law would be written in a new and definitive way upon the human heart (cf Jer 31:31-34), replacing the law of sin which had disfigured that heart (cf Jer 17:1).”[4] In other words, a strong connection is made between morality and adherence to the commandments. However, the Church, and ultimately God, does not call for a sterile, drone-like obedience, but rather a total commitment to the law through faith in Christ.

Role of the Conscience

Conscience

Along with being aware of God as the supreme good and knowing that the Decalogue serves as the parameters for the moral life, a proper understanding of conscience and its connection to objective truths will enhance the Christian’s need to adhere to the Church Magisterium regarding faith and morals.

John Paul II begins his section on Conscience and Truth by saying, “The relationship between man’s freedom and God’s law is most deeply lived out in the ‘heart’ of the person, in his moral conscience.”[5] According to Church Tradition, conscience and natural law are not in tension with one another. Instead, conscience communicates moral responsibility in light of the natural law. Simply put, conscience aids man in following the natural law− for it is the “witness of God himself”.[6]

Necessity for Proper Formation of the Conscience

Nevertheless, conscience as a human function trying to pick up God’s voice and will is not exempt from error in judgment. The Second Vatican Council succinctly states, “not infrequently conscience can be mistaken as result of invincible [inculpable] ignorance.” In fact forming a proper conscience and developing virtuous habits takes time. This requires constant conversion. The pope declares that the Church and Her Magisterium greatly aid Christians in the formation of their conscience. Not an arbitrary authority, John Paul II speaks of the Church as “putting herself always and only at the service of conscience, helping it to avoid being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine proposed by human deceit.”[7]

If every Catholic-Christian took the pope’s message to heart on the Magisterium’s role pertaining to faith and morals laity confusion and dissent on hot-buttons issues like abortion and gay marriage, particularly during election years, would decline. Only through obedience to Christ’s authority in the Church via the conscience does man attain true freedom.

Call to Marytrdom

Deny Oneself

 

The best way to combat moral relativism pervading modern society today is not through polemical rhetoric or violence but for Christians to step up as martyrs for the truth. In the third chapter of The Splendor of Truth, the Roman Pontiff calls martyrdom, “the exaltation of the inviolable holiness of God’s law.”[8] He then maps out several examples of people in the Old and New Testament who testified to God’s power through their witness. John the Baptist and Stephen, the first Christian to die for his faith, both laid down their lives in testifying to the Messiah’s teaching. And they also suffered immensely unjust and painful deaths similar to Christ’s death on the Cross.

John Paul II finally points out that the first generation Church, which experienced intense persecutions from Roman emperors, also flourished in holiness due to the witness of saint-martyrs. This leads to his main point, that such witness is a remarkable sign of the holiness of the Church.[9]

The witness of martyrs provides a beacon of light to help illuminate others moral compasses especially in a world with a muddled-up perception of what is truly good and just. “This witness makes an extraordinarily valuable contribution to warding off, in civil society and within the ecclesial communities themselves, a headlong plunge into the most dangerous crisis which can afflict man: the confusion between good and evil,” declares John Paul II.[10] Oftentimes, people can be turned off by an exclusively scare-tactical, fire and brimstone approach to morality. Instilling fear and prodding them with a stick may work short-term, but many people tend to revert back to their old ways without sincere conversion. The witness of martyrs offers a better panacea for moral ambiguity.

An Ugly Term Today?

Modern man likes to shy away from the term “martyr” in part due to the moral duty and responsibility charged to those people who stand as a “sign of contradiction” to the 21st century way of life. The late pope clearly states that, “Although martyrdom represents the high point of the witness to moral truth, and one to which relatively few people are called, there is nonetheless a consistent witness which all Christians must daily be ready to make, even at the cost of suffering and grave sacrifice.”[11] Now in being a witness for the faith necessarily involves sacrifice on some level, albeit not always to the point of a physical and tortuous demise.

Nevertheless, daily sacrifice will lead to a kind of death− a death to sin. Summing up his section on the Christian’s response to morality, the Polish pope explicitly says, “The voice of conscience has always clearly recalled that there are truths and moral values for which one must be prepared to give up one’s life.”[12]

Role of the Church in the 21st Century

To conclude, written over twenty years ago, the encyclical The Splendor of Truth still sheds a ray of light on the moral life of the Church. This document provide an answer to the confusion of the modern world—the teaching of Jesus Christ, safeguarded by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church!

Jesus and Modern Society

Just like the rich young man in Matthew’s gospel who questioned Jesus about how he can attain salvation the human race, in a society pervaded by moral laxity and ambiguity,  must turn to God in order to ascertain what is truly morally good and just. The second point discussed from this moral treatise regarding conscience is important because a proper understanding of it will lead laity to a better appreciation of the Magisterium’s role in helping to form their conscience. John Paul II also mentioned that a properly formed Christian conscience will be able to determine how to act morally in line with natural law. And finally, the high point of the moral life consists of when a person is willing to die for the faith as a martyr. Restating the bishop of Rome, “Martyrdom is an outstanding sign of the holiness of the Church.”[13]

A careful and meditative reading of The Splendor of Truth will hopefully enhance a Christian’s love for the Church and a better following of Christ’s law.


Footnotes

[1] Matt 19:16.

[2] Splendor of Truth, 8.

[3] Matt 19:17.

[4] ST 12.

[5] ST 54.

[6] ST 58.

[7] ST 64.

[8] ST 90.

[9] Ibid., 92.

[10] Ibid., 115.

[11] ST 93.

[12] ST 94.

[13] St 93.

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