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
The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena on April 29th. One of only four women Doctors of the Church, Catherine’s writings and life continues lead people to Christ.
Catherine has been particularly important in my life. When my wife was pregnant with our youngest child complications existed. Several times throughout the pregnancy we feared having a miscarriage. We prayed daily for the safety of our unborn child and asked for saints Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and Gerard of Majella for help and intercession. Avila Catherine Geraldine was born in late 2018. She was healthy!
Since then my family continues to look to Catherine of Siena as a role model and guide to God. The Doctor of the Church provides mystical insight into the Gospel and demonstrates the depths of God’s love.
Fierce Defender of Truth
Few individuals have displayed such tenacity for the truth as Catherine did in her life. During the 14th century, the Catholic Church endured one of the most corrupt periods. Known as the Avignon papacy, the popes succumbed to worldly powers, specifically under the influence of the French monarchy. Catherine wrote frequently to Pope Gregory XI. An example of her boldness is shown in a Letter to Pope Gregory, “But, I hope, by the goodness of God that you will pay more heed to His honor and the safety of your own flock than to yourself, like a good shepherd, who ought to lay down his life for his sheep.”
Love is a Divine Furnace
Another key theme in Catherine’s writing is describing how God love burns away sin. God appears to be absent in our life. Suffering seems mysterious. That was the way I thought before reading the saint’s works. Her description of love as a divine furnace helped me better understand how God allows suffering to draw us closer to Him.
Reflecting on my past pains I realized how my prayer life actually bloomed. Having recovered from the contracting COVID19 a couple weeks ago, I rediscovered the importance of relying on God. At first I was angry for getting sick. I took all the precautions. Prayers started out as laments and ended in hope.
God was using my sickness to cauterize my sinful inclinations and renew my prayer life and trust in Him.
According to the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his General Audience on November 24, 2010, “Catherine (of Siena) is one of these and still today speaks to us and impels us to walk courageously toward holiness to be ever more fully disciples of the Lord.” Her intercession is powerful. I used to only think of saints as people too lofty to relate to. But reading the Sienese saint’s writings and her struggles I gained an intimate spiritual relationship with her—like a sister.
Her wit and spiritual knowledge helps me grow in holiness. Sanctity. That truly is the purpose of family. Catherine wrote, “There is no sin nor wrong that gives man such a foretaste of Hell in this life as anger and impatience.” Wow! Those words sound like they were written specifically for me. Parenting tests your patience. Daily. Hourly. And sometimes nearly every minute.
Catherine reminds me to trust in God. Her holiness shows through in her books and letters. I highly recommend looking to this Doctor of the Church for spiritual guidance.
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Pray for everyone affected by the coronavirus. Is the toilet paper shortage frustrating? Definitely, but remember we are all on the same side—Team Humanity.
We should be helping the most vulnerable. Why? Because Jesus did that. He dined with sinners and tax collectors. Allowed the prostitute to wash his feet with her hair and perfume—even though the elite ridiculed him for that decision.
Christ let the children come to listen to him. He wasn’t afraid to help the leper. When he was tempted by the Devil, despite being hungry and thirsty, Jesus never gave into worldly power.
Social distancing makes it tougher to help our neighbor in the same tangible way that Christ helped those around him. But that shouldn’t cause us to lead to inaction.
As a Catholic, I became an adopted son of God. The Holy Spirit swells within all baptized individuals. A creative force of Love, the Holy Spirit will never cease to inspire us and grant us the gifts of courage, understanding, wisdom, knowledge, and wonder. The key is we have to be ready to ask for the gifts. Humble ourselves.
Here are a few ways to be the hands and feet of Christ during this pandemic crisis:
1️⃣ Hand write letters you your family members, especially those lonely, neighbors, or even contact a nursing home to get names of senior citizens to write to.
2️⃣ Don’t take more than you need
There is a difference between gathering for reasonable concern over a quarantine versus hoarding goods in panicked response or because you want to turn a profit.
3️⃣ Exercise charity online
Social distancing doesn’t mean people will stop being social. Digital interactions will increase. While we have been used to social media for years, the newsfeed has become saturated with negativity about the virus.
Fighting fire with fire only leads to more flames. The same is true with negativity. Match pessimism with a greater dosage of positivity. Be kind and empathetic online to others. Share a funny anecdote about how you are dealing with this crisis.
Jesus forgave Peter for being a jerk who denied him three times. You can certainly forgive those people who acted uncharitably regarding this issue or those individuals whose hysteria led to hoarding.
St. Paul was right in writing 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.” Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no better time as the present to start. Learn from the suffering caused by this pandemic to love others!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 29, 2018. My wife and I gave birth to our rainbow baby daughter late 2018.
Life events such wedding your best friend, celebrating an anniversary, graduating school, overcoming major illnesses, and learning to overcome addictions normally lead a person to joy.
Usually such cathartic experiences bring incredible joy—joy that cannot be contained! However, I am currently struggling to bring myself to seize the joy of the anticipate birth of my fourth child. Let me provide a little background to clarify my hesitancy.
Past Miscarriage Losses Make Current Joy Tough
Dating back to late 2017 and beginning of 2018, my wife and I lost two children due to miscarriage. Because of the previous loss, and the insane amount of pain associated with it, I conditioned my heart, mind, and soul to be cautious. In fact, I guarded my expectations to prevent possible pain of future loss. As a result, I am neutral, stoic, non-responsive to the current joy in my life!
Sifting through writings, thoughts, and quotes about miscarriage I came across profound wisdom from the great C.S. Lewis,
If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing that she may still hope to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild.
Okay to Feel Joy Again
While I am not a mother, the Christian apologist’s words still pertain to me and my fatherhood [really any father who suffered the misfortune of having a child not survive pregnancy. A lot of my writings over the course of the year relate to my suffering, pain, distress, worry, and ultimate purgative experiences with miscarriage. Along with the pain and memory of hope dashed, I struggled mightily with letting my guard down to feel joy, to reacquaint myself with happiness of a birth announcement, and to re-orient myself toward hope.
According to Bishop Robert Barron in his book Catholicism, “We say something is beautiful—a face, a painting, a golf swing—when it hangs together as one (it has wholeness), when all of its parts work together in consonance (it has harmony), and when it shines forth as an archetype of what such a thing should be (it has radiance).” A family missing a member(s) cannot reflect the truth and power of the Holy Trinity. I sense that same is true for my family now.
God Always Has a Plan
Gazing at my three children playing at the park and helping each other go up the various climbing apparatuses or going down the slides, I imagined a fourth playing. Difficult to describe this scene it occurred more in the inner recesses of my heart that actually a physical vision or daydream. During my wife and I’s engagement we talked about being open to life, raising a larger family, and we both seemed to desire [at least open to the desire] for at least four children. We cannot describe this desire in mere words. I just believe God’s Providential plan is at work in my life.
I pray for continued support, strength, and opportunities to unleash the joy of the Gospel during our family’s time of anticipation and cautious yearning for a safe birth and delivery of our child!
💡Husband Hack #7 💡—💙Leave an unexpected note for your wife to cheer her up during a stressful week.
Example: I left a post-it note 📝 on the bedside dresser on my spouse’s phone. Included with the note was a small piece of chocolate 🍫.
🔷I have learned that showing simple and spontaneous gestures of love toward my wife go a long way.
🔷You don’t need to over complicate things when it comes to surprising your spouse. The key is following through on those random acts of kindness.
💡Husband Hack 19💡—💙Use your natural skills to show love towards your spouse. Do something creative and unique for them.
Example: I am a storyteller and writer. My wife is an avid reader—she loves fiction books and especially Harry Potter.
🔷 I started telling a whimsical take on the marker board in our kitchen. Real simple. A paragraph or two at a time. This unique gift is helpful in making the best of us working different schedules.
💡Husband Hack #58 💡—💙If your wife tells you not to play video games because it is the kids bedtime (she is out doing errands or having a girls’ night), keep in mind two things:
1️⃣ Listen to your wife. Happy wife= happy life! 😉
2️⃣ Be creative—you can still get the kids ready for bed while having fun! See example below 👇
Wife: Matt, remember the kids need to be in bed by 8:00 pm. You can’t play Mario Kart with them now.
Me: Okay! Got it. I won’t “play” video games. [I need kids their bedtime snack, brush their teeth, play a YouTube video of the Dr. Mario Championship match on the the background with subtitles and low volume to prevent kids from being distracted.]
✅ Kids in bedtime on time. 🙌
✅ Brushed up on my SNES Dr. Mario 💊skills and learned new strategies!
💊 I enjoy Dr.Mario because I am a puzzle nerd and I love Mario Kart because it is an easy game to play with my 8 year old!
🔷How do you surprise your spouse?
🔷 How have you utilized your natural talents or skills to strengthen your relationship with your spouse?
🔷 What kinds of games do you like playing with your kids (or your friends if you don’t have kids)? What makes them special?