What is your reason for… everything?
Both a blessing and a curse, water exists as a life-giving resource or a potential deadly force—in the form of floods, monsoons, and hurricanes. The universality of hydrogen dioxide always is a great example to compare the stresses and storms of life against. Summer vacation does not always seem like a retreat especially as a father of three young children. Over the past week, my family traveled to a local state park and camped in a cabin, visited our municipal zoo, and went to a children’s museum. While on paper that seems a recipe for a smooth, carefree, and memorable family experience, the reality with having children with special needs do not necessarily match this ideal.
The power-struggle of putting our four-year old toddler to bed each night combined with daily challenges adapting to two sons on the autism spectrum needs to be frequently prepared for change led to lassitude. Mere fatigue does not adequately capture my wife and I’s emotional, physical, and mental state. In fact, my energy was zapped from me and it felt like we withstood—ONLY by a great miracle—a tsunami of tiredness!
Precisely how did I live through the most recent storm of life? Reflecting on the course of the past week, I realized some important ways to survive, or stay afloat, maelstroms of life.
The Rock We May Cling To
According to Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” The Old Testament also speaks of entrusting your concerns, weariness, and anxieties with the Lord. Isaiah 40:31 describes this, “But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Moreover, the Psalmist describes God as a bastion to remain safe: “But the LORD is my fortress; my God is the mighty rock where I hide” (Psalm 94:22).
What I find interesting is the description of God as a mighty rock as a place for us to hide. Amid stressful situations it may seem like a copout to go into hiding while the storm passes. However, hiding is not the same as fleeing.
As a parent, I go into brief periods of hiding [into another room or even outside] when the noise, raucous, and whining of my children compound on each other. Taking a five minute break in the form of “hiding” into another room or at least seeking “hiding” through prayer is actually a healthy thing that makes the difference to me parental mindset. Frankly, I need to utilize opportunities to “hide” or cling to the rock of Our Lord much more often that I do currently!
Mary—Model to Mirror
Along with the stalwart strength God affords us during the stormy seas of life, looking to the Blessed Virgin Mary as a role model to emulate is another way that I stay afloat during bouts of exhaustion. My family’s favorite appellation for Mary is Star of the Sea. In fact, through this devotion of Stella Maris [Latin for Star of the Sea] that my wife’s faith as. Convert to Catholicism deepened!
A nautical theme exists in our living room and bedroom with the walls decorated with anchors. These aquatic ballasts symbolize the ability to be anchored in the Lord and experience security continual turmoil of daily stresses. As the supreme role model for humanity, the Blessed Mother of God shows us that obedience to God is possible.
Guided back to Shore
My personal favorite quote about Mary’s guidance comes from St. Thomas Aquinas. According to the Doctor of the Church, “As mariners are guided into port by the shining of a star, so Christians are guided to heaven by Mary” Another sainted doctor, Francis de Sales, provides incredibly powerful words to describe Mary’s intercessory influence, “Let us run to her, and, as her little children, cast ourselves into her arms with a perfect confidence.”
Ready, Set, and Prepare for the Next Storm
Together with reliance on God and looking to Mary as a human role model, being prepared is absolutely essential for withstanding a current maelstrom you may be experiencing and for weathering future flurries. According to St. Josemaria Escriva, “Discouragement is the enemy of your perseverance. If you don’t fight against discouragement, you will become pessimistic first and lukewarm afterward. Be an optimist (The Way, no. 988“
Prepare yourself with seeing trials that come into your life as an opportunity to learn and grow instead of being a burden drown you in a sea of depression. I honestly did not realize that the Spanish saint’s feast day was today until I noticed a post from in a Catholic group I follow on Facebook.
Even as I am writing now I struggle with physical stamina and mental mettle to complete this post. Suddenly, looking at an underlined passage that begins the chapter entitled Perseverance—I pause and realize that preparation does pay off! St. Josemaria reminded me, “To begin is for everyone, to persevere is for saints” (The Way, no. 983).
Without God’s previous preparation and my cooperation in that through my learning about the wisdom of St. Josemaria Escriva, there conclusion to this post would be a little rocky [no pun intended!]. I am always willing to seek the advice of the spiritual giants who came before me. I always desire to seek an opportunity to better myself.
Go Out to Sea of the World with God’s Grace
While I failed to exit the most recent life-storm unscathed and with grace [both my wife and kids know that I lost my patience many times and pledge to be a better husband and father], my reliance on God as a rock of strength, Mary as a guide, and the rest of the saints as models to emulate I will be better provided to stay afloat with the next tsunami of tiredness hits. I pray that you find this read helpful and stay afloat with me using these tips during your storm(s) of life as well!
Fail early, Fail often, Fail forward.
British author J.K. Rowling declared, “The wonderful thing about writing is that there is always a blank page waiting. The terrifying thing about writing is that there is always a blank page waiting.” Writers since the beginning of time faced the double-edged sword the joy of creation from words and the fear of writer’s block. Some days it seems that words cannot be typed quick enough as phrases, sentences, and paragraphs already exist in your mind. Other times crafting a mere word or phrase is as painful as getting a tooth pulled at the dentist!
Whether you currently are in a state of inspiration or at a standstill in your writing here are three tips to enhance the ability to write more naturally and effortlessly.
- Read, Read, Read— Feed Your Mind: The great American author William Faulkner advocated for the importance of reading, “Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out.” From my own experience, I have learned that the most fruitful periods of writing, and writing that comes naturally without really any strain, occurs during times where I read a lot! Just like the body requires a balanced meal for good nutrition, so too does the mind need a steady stream of information. Along with frequent writing variety is equally important. Making a habit of non-fiction and fiction will only help to expand your ability to write from multiple points of view and in diverse ways. Currently, I am reading Guardians of the Galaxy and X-Men comics (to fill my creative side) and Dialogues of Catherine of Siena and Heresies by G.K. Chesterton (to satisfy my more spiritual and intellectual side).
2. Reflection: Another tip to develop more natural and effortless writing is to make time to reflection on the stuff you read. The Greek philosopher Aristotle purported, ““Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Without proper time to examine yourself and the ideas that you read about it gets difficult to organize them into coherent thoughts. Among the best times for reflecting on a post that I want to write about occurs in the car. Using the minutes between drives to work, the grocery store, or other errands I ponder how I want to organize the essential points of an article that I am working on. Even a few minutes of reflection helps me write at a quicker rate and with less resistance!
3. Passion and Purpose: After feeding your mind with plenty of information and reflecting on the material that you want to write about the third tip I use to make my writing more effortless includes a passion and clear objective. Why are you writing? Is it for an increased amount of exposure and social media fame or is your reason deeper?
My own particular desire for creating The Simple Catholic blog was (and still is) to discover the joy in life on my pilgrim journey towards Heaven. As the great Catholic write Flannery O’Connor wrote, “I write to discover what I know.” Through my faith I know that truth that freedom from sin and death exist by way of following the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A secondary goal flowing naturally from my first is to help people discover joy in this life (and hopefully the next as well!). Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God with your whole self and that the second greatest commandment— love of neighbor— flows naturally from the first command (Matthew 22:34-40). Putting God first, others second, and myself last not only helps my writing, but also infused joy into all facets of my life. This kind of joy cannot be contained and I do not want to keep this gift all to myself—it need to be shared with others, you my readers, and in turn I hope you share with your friends and family!
Filling my mind with a variety of ideas, taking time to analyze that information, and remembering my original mission for becoming a writing has all contributed to helping me write more naturally, more honestly, and more effortlessly. I hope that these tips help you in your writing endeavors as well. Please feel free to share these tips to your family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors.
“All for one and one for all” —Alexander Dumas
“No one has ever become poor by giving.” —Anne Frank
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” — Mahatma Gandhi
News from the past weekend exhibited just how much division and separation exist in the world. A Buzzfeed story about a group of Covington Catholic High School students taunting a Native American leader Nathan Phillips displayed only part of the entire picture. Things taken out of context and contentious headlines incite quick reactions and rash judgments. I am not writing today to provide an opinion on which of the parties involved were right or wrong. I am not a judge–by trade or by ontology. The title of True Judge is resolved for God alone.
What I do know for absolute certainty is that unity is preferred over division. Through dialogue, patience, and perspective taking greater consensus will be reached over arguments both large and small. Why does discord exist? Why do people of various creeds, nationalities, races, and backgrounds fight? The simple answer is due to fallen human nature. Because of Original Sin, humanity disharmony entered the world. Can society provide unity? Can governments legislate unity? No, granted some bills may help promote unity, but such sinister division, tension, and strife is a matter of the human heart.
Unity begins in the domestic family unit, but not merely the civil family structure. Instead only through the sacrament of marriage is true unity able to be fostered between husbands and wives and between siblings. According to Saint Pope John Paul the Great, “[Speaking of marriage and family] In this entire world there is not a more perfect, more complete image of God, Unity and Community. There is no other human reality which corresponds more, humanly speaking, to that divine mystery.” In fact, the first miracle in the Public Ministry of Jesus occurred at a wedding feast. Changing the water into wine helped save the newlyweds from a stressful bind, but more importantly Jesus demonstrated the importance of the institution of marriage.
Since the birth of our fourth children in late December, my wife and I experienced both intense unity, but also some division. Although this may come as a newsflash, most likely not, newborn babies tend to not sleep very well at night! Our daughter is not different. Successive days from minimal or less than minimal sleep limits the capacity for my wife and I’s patience. Without the aid of God, my marriage would be fruitless and joyless. This is not an indictment on my wife, but rather myself. In my natural state, I am not the most gracious or joyous person. However, through the sacramental graces received in matrimony God provides couples the grace to increase in unity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church backs up this point as well,
By reason of their state in life and of their order, [Christian spouses] have their own special gifts in the People of God.”147 This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this grace they “help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children (CCC 1641).
Authentic unity only can occur if the human heart is healed from the destructive effects of sin. Legislation and social media awareness can only go so far in promoting unity. Baptism is the doorway to the supernatural and unitive life of grace. That is only the beginning holiness begins in the home. Please pray for married couples and their children to be open to receive the graces to love more tenderly, increase their patience, and capacity to forgive!
“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” —Saint John Paul the Great
Christmastime always holds a special place in my life. As a life-long Catholic, I grew up with the understanding that the celebration of Christ’s birth does not end on December 25th, instead it is actually the beginning of a twelve daylong celebration that goes until the Feast of the Epiphany, the arrival of the Wise men. Over the course of the past week, I noticed a ton of memes, gifs, and posts from my fellow Catholic friends about keeping up Christmas decorations and not tearing them down immediately the day after. I am guilty of that liturgical bravado as well!
This year the season of celebrating Christ’s birth contains extra expectation as my wife and I are waiting for the arrival of the birth of our fourth child!
Being both uber-planners and type-A personalities we have actually been prepped for our daughter’s big arrival for months. To be honest, I really have been ready for another baby to hold, cuddle, and love since our miscarriage last December 2017.
The beginning of this pregnancy started off rocky and scary. Frequent OBYGN appointments, progesterone shots, and nightly petitioning to our Lord through the Blessed Virgin Mary and saints Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and Gerard became daily routines over the course of the past 9 months. I came across this quote from Indian filmmaker and director Anurag Prakash Ray that applies directly to my attitude about waiting hold my daughter. He wrote, “True love is worth waiting for even if it takes a lifetime. Then in return, a lifetime of love will be waiting for you.” Waiting for our rainbow baby truly does feel like it has been a lifetime—I am certain in the case of my wife she may feel like it has been several lifetimes!
If a person has a negative mindset, waiting, and especially waiting for something with much anticipation, is quite painful and burdensome. However, shifting the focus away from negativity and instead towards hope, that burden of being agog will be bearable. Saint John Paul the Great lived a long life filled with suffering and waiting. Whenever I get anxious I look to him for advice. The great Polish pope declared, “From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s Will in all things. From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone. From Mary we learn to love Christ her Son and the Son of God!”
Throughout this season of expectation(s) be sure to always petition the Lord for help. This may be directly or through the effective intercessory power of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints in Heaven. I welcome any and all prayers for the safe delivery of my daughter whenever she decides to arrive!