Back to Basics

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According to American author Anthony J. D’Angelo, “Don’t reinvent the wheel, just realign it.” The continual focus on progress, change, movement, and improvement dominates 21st century humanity. Continued desire to improve on limiting stress, furthering personal and career goals may be inherently good; however, a person reaches a point when the trajectory of progress cannot ascend any higher. Ernest Hemingway wryly wrote, “Never confuse movement with action.”

Throughout history and literature, quick and unbridled progress poses the danger for a quick fall back to mediocrity and a starting at square one. The Great Depression in the 1930s happened on the heels of an epic economic boom, Greek literature warned of Icarus soaring too close to the sun—and eventually his wax wings melted and he fell to his doom. Personally, I too notice that whenever I experience a successful season in my life I have to be wary of being puffed up too much with pride. I start think too boldly—leading to the error of becoming a braggadocio!

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As a Catholic, my faith plays a strong shaping force in my world outlook and daily life. According to Lumen Gentium the primary goal of all faithful is to grow in holiness, the Council Fathers declared, “Therefore, all the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state. Indeed they have an obligation to so strive (no. 42). I never truly pondered it before, but I recently realized that Jesus’ parables and teaching examples often included planting, gardening, and farming references because plant growth takes time—it is slow, but steady. Likewise, our growth in virtue and moral excellence needs to be watered with essential elements. The growth need to be natural, steady and sure for the progress to be permanent. Ascendency towards one’s goals whether that be moral, work, or exercise related poses a threat of a great fall. To avoid any backpedaling, it wise to return to the fundamentals of success. Below are three basic activities that helped me limit stress, decrease my negativity, and improve my relationship with others.

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  1. Prayer: Saints wiser and infinitely holier than myself, always proclaim the importance of prayer. Perhaps no one else discussed the importance of prayer more plainly than St. John Chrysostom, “It is simply impossible to lead, without the aid of prayer, a virtuous life!”

 

Over the past couple of months, my wife and I committed ourselves to a regular, steady prayer routine. Before putting the kids to bed, we pray a decade of the Rosary. According to St. John Paul the Great, “The Rosary is the storehouse of countless blessings.”  His words ring true with crystal clarity—the graces I received have been immeasurable. My manager noticing the changes in my demeanor at work told me, “Matt, you have had a tremendous month. I notice a great calmness within you over the past few months.” I almost was tempted to pull out my scapular—strong Marian devotion—to show my manager that what has changed did not occur on my own power. To cite John Paul II again, “Prayer joined to sacrifice constitutes the most powerful force in human history.”

  1. Exercise: Along with daily prayer, renewing my focus on regular exercise greatly helped sustain the progress I made. Because of the changing of the weather, I have get creative with my workouts. Actually, not truly that creative, I just call upon Shawn-T with his T-25 fitness program that I watch through the Beach Body channel on my Roku. Jabbing, hopping, and twisting my arms, legs, and core in my living room I feel replenished with energy after the under half-hour workout session. Not only does exercise help with the body, it reinvigorates my mental capacity and energy for the rest of the day.

 

  1. Reading Renaissance: Those of you that have followed The Simple Catholic will be aware that one of my strongest passions and loves in this life consists of the written word in the form of books. The only hindrance for me from purchasing and amassing more and more books is because I would either have to buy more bookshelves or take time away from reading to make a bookshelf myself. It is quite the predicament!

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In all seriousness though, reading, and specifically reading good books from good authors, reignites my desire to become a better person. Late American essayist E.P. Whipple wrote this beautiful description for books, “Books are lighthouses erected in the great sea of time.” Reading books, especially the classics, allows the reader access to the thoughts, intellects, curiosities, and inquiries of history’s greatest minds. The foundation for all success is being humble to realize someone else is always smarter and wiser than yourself. After reading Fulton Sheen’s Remade for Happiness and C.S. Lewis’ Surprised by Joy, this fact was reaffirmed.  Surrounding yourself with the wisdom and insights of those men and women before you will only enhance your ability to become the best version of yourself.

Progress is not bad, in fact, it is necessary in an ever changing world. In order to survive and flourish, you need to learn to adapt to changes. If you have found strategies or things that have already proven to help you develop into a healthier, stronger, and more virtuous version of yourself keep doing those things! Go back to the basics as often as needed. My revisiting of my basics—prayer, exercise, and reading— continues to provide me stability for a successful [and hopefully sanctifying] life!

Prayer Before an Election

I urge everyone to humbly pray for wisdom and discernment in voting for the candidates. Voting is a right and a privilege that cannot be taken lightly. Take a moment before entering the ballot box to ask for clarity of selection for the candidates who will best serve office and upholding the dignity of human life at all stages: from womb to tomb and every stage in between!


Lord God, as the election approaches,

we seek to better understand the issues and concerns that confront our city/state/country,

and how the Gospel compels us to respond as faithful citizens in our community.

We ask for eyes that are free from blindness

so that we might see each other as brothers and sisters,

one and equal in dignity,

especially those who are victims of abuse and violence, deceit and poverty.

We ask for ears that will hear the cries of children unborn and those abandoned,

Men and women oppressed because of race or creed, religion or gender.

We ask for minds and hearts that are open to hearing the voice of leaders who will bring us closer to your Kingdom.

We pray for discernment

so that we may choose leaders who hear your Word,

live your love,

and keep in the ways of your truth

as they follow in the steps of Jesus and his Apostles

and guide us to your Kingdom of justice and peace.

We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Litany of Saints—Pray for Us!

Lord, have mercy on us.

Christ, have mercy on us.

Lord, have mercy on us.

Christ, hear us.

Lord, have mercy on us.

Christ, have mercy on us.

Lord, have mercy on us.

Christ, graciously hear us.

God, the Father of heaven,

God the Son, Redeemer of the world,

God the Holy Spirit,

Holy Trinity, one God,

have mercy on us.

have mercy on us.

have mercy on us.

have mercy on us.

Holy Mary,

Holy Mother of God,

Holy Virgin of virgins,

St. Michael,

St. Gabriel,

St. Raphael,

All you Holy Angels and Archangels,

St. John the Baptist,

St. Joseph,

All you Holy Patriarchs and Prophets,

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

St. Peter,

St. Paul,

St. Andrew,

St. James,

St. John,

St. Thomas,

St. James,

St. Philip,

St. Bartholomew,

St. Matthew,

St. Simon,

St. Jude,

St. Matthias,

St. Barnabas,

St. Luke,

St. Mark,

All you holy Apostles and Evangelists,

All you holy Disciples of the Lord,

All you holy Innocents,

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

St. Stephen,

St. Lawrence,

St. Vincent,

Sts. Fabian and Sebastian,

Sts. John and Paul,

Sts. Cosmas and Damian,

All you holy Martyrs,

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

St. Sylvester,

St. Gregory,

St. Ambrose,

St. Augustine,

St. Jerome,

St. Martin,

St. Nicholas,

All you holy Bishops and Confessors,

All you holy Doctors,

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

St. Anthony,

St. Benedict,

St. Bernard,

St. Dominic,

St. Francis,

All you holy Priests and Levites,

All you holy Monks and Hermits,

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

St. Mary Magdalene,

St. Agatha,

St. Lucy,

St. Agnes,

St. Cecilia,

St. Anastasia,

St. Catherine,

St. Clare,

All you holy Virgins and Widows,

All you holy Saints of God,

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

pray for us.

Lord, be merciful,

From all evil,

From all sin,

From your wrath,

From a sudden and unprovided death,

From the snares of the devil,

From anger, hatred, and all ill-will,

From the spirit of uncleanness,

From lightning and tempest,

From the scourge of earthquake,

From plague, famine, and war,

From everlasting death,

Lord, save your people.

Lord, save your people.

Lord, save your people.

Lord, save your people.

Lord, save your people.

Lord, save your people.

Lord, save your people.

Lord, save your people.

Lord, save your people.

Lord, save your people.

Lord, save your people.

Lord, save your people.

By the mystery of your holy Incarnation,

By your Coming,

By your Birth,

By your Baptism and holy fasting,

By your Cross and Passion,

By your Death and Burial,

By your holy Resurrection,

By your wonderful Ascension,

By the coming of the Holy Spirit,

On the day of judgment,

Lord, save your people.

Lord, save your people.

Lord, save your people.

Lord, save your people.

Lord, save your people.

Lord, save your people.

Lord, save your people.

Lord, save your people.

Lord, save your people.

Lord, save your people.

Be merciful to us sinners,

Lord, hear our prayer.

That you will spare us,

That you will pardon us,

That it may please you to bring us to true

penance,

Guide and protect your holy Church,

Preserve in holy religion the Pope, and all

those in holy Orders,

Humble the enemies of holy Church,

Give peace and unity to the whole Christian

people,

Bring back to the unity of the Church all

those who are straying, and bring all

unbelievers to the light of the Gospel,

Strengthen and preserve us in your holy

service,

Raise our minds to desire the things of

heaven,

Reward all our benefactors with eternal

blessings,

Deliver our souls from eternal damnation,

and the souls of our brethren, relatives,

and benefactors,

Give and preserve the fruits of the earth,

Grant eternal rest to all the faithful departed,

That it may please You to hear and heed

us, Jesus, Son of the Living God,

Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of

the world,

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of

the world,

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of

the world,

Spare us, O Lord!

Graciously hear us, O Lord!

Have mercy on us.

Christ, hear us,

Lord Jesus, hear our prayer.

Lord, have mercy on us.

Christ, have mercy on us.

Lord, have mercy on us.

Christ, graciously hear us

Lord Jesus, hear our prayer.

Lord, have mercy on us.

Christ, have mercy on us.

Lord, have mercy on

Don’t Judge, Be Happy!

Over the course of the past month, the word judge has become a hot-button term. The allegations against newly confirmed Associate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh dominated the news cycle. Everyone seems to have their own opinion about the matter. Ironically, people formed a judgment on his character before analysis of the entire facts. Now, this post is not aimed at dissecting that judicial confirmation process or whether it was right or wrong that he was appointed to the Supreme Court. There are plenty of other articles, sites, and media avenues that address this issue. What I wish to highlight is that judgments form quickly, and sometimes even unconsciously.

Going to the New Testament, Jesus makes his case about judging clear in Matthew 7:1-5,

1*a “Stop judging,* that you may not be judged.b 2For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.c 3Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? 5You hypocrite,* remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

Because of our fallen human nature, avoidance of judgment is much easier said than done. St. Maria Faustina, wonderful saint and mystic who provided the world with the Divine Mercy Image, declared, “Let our judgment of souls cease, for God’s mercy upon them is extraordinary.” As a mere creation of the Creator, I cannot possible fathom the depths of the ocean of his mercy. Speaking with my brother about trials and negativity I face at work on a daily basis, he told me the following advice that lines up perfectly with the truth proclaimed by Jesus and echoed by Sister Faustina. My brother simply said, “Do not judge people ever. Just eliminate judging someone as “bad” at all times. If you stop judging, I guarantee you will be happy!”

How exactly do you begin to stop judging others? The easy answer is the following—just start! Fill your mind with something else when judgmental thoughts start to creep in. Pray the Hail Mary, place a holy icon of a saint or Jesus at your desk, or read the daily Mass readings throughout the day. These are a few small, but concrete examples of things that I did to slowly work to replace, but judgmental attitude. When all other means fail, I look to the official teaching of the Catholic Church for ways to show mercy to others.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2447,”The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.”

Free yourself from the shackles of judgment, but filling your life with holy words, thoughts, actions, and works. Remember this will be a continual battle, but by relying on the guidance of the Jesus Our Savior, Mary our Comforter, and guides of the saints you are not in this journey alone. Be happy today. Don’t judge others!

Spiritual Weapon to Slaughter Pride

Over the course of Catholic Church history, the inner tension between good and evil has been described in warlike and violent language. From to premonition of the Woman crushing the serpent’s head in Genesis 3:15 to the various Old Testament battles and even Jesus Christ himself fashioning a whip to run out temple abusers in John 2:15, the spiritual battle is so real that no other way to talk about it save as a battle does justice to describe it.

Peter Kreeft stated, “Pride looks down, and no one can see God but by looking up.” All sin is rooted in pride. According to the great monastic St. Benedict, “The first degree of humility is prompt obedience.” This is precisely why the Blessed Virgin is honored as the greatest of the saints—her humble and total obedience on the news of her bearing the Son of God. Selfishness exists when we prideful think that our life is in our complete control. As a mere creature of the Creator, I need to re-orient my thoughts away from self-centeredness and instead towards gratitude at the life granted by God.

Below is the best, most effective, and simplest of prayers that I rely on to fend off the sin of pride in my life. I sincerely hope you receive great peace, joy, and the virtue of humility over the course of time in reciting the Prayer of Humility.


O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed,

Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…

From the desire of being extolled …

From the desire of being honored …

From the desire of being praised …

From the desire of being preferred to others…

From the desire of being consulted …

From the desire of being approved …

From the fear of being humiliated …

From the fear of being despised…

From the fear of suffering rebukes …

From the fear of being calumniated …

From the fear of being forgotten …

From the fear of being ridiculed …

From the fear of being wronged …

From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I,

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …

That, in the opinion of the world,

others may increase and I may decrease …

That others may be chosen and I set aside …

That others may be praised and I unnoticed …

That others may be preferred to me in everything…

That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

3 Lessons from St. Therese of Liseux—Changing Lives One Day at a Time

St. Therese of Liseux once stated,”Our Lord does not so much look at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them.” Part of the universal appeal of the Little Flower was her simplicity and humility when approaching the greatness of God. As a classic over thinker and a perfectionist, I tend to overanalyze sanctity. Making checklists or reminders on my phone, I try to cram a bunch of spiritual activities into a week all the while juggling a healthy work, life, and exercise routine! I am exhausted simply thinking about scheduling confession in on a Saturday around my three children’s naptime and giving my wife time to go to the medicine box as well.

At work the stress is not lessened it just rears its ugly head in the form of nonstop inbound customer calls. The constant barrage of complaints, concerns, and questions wear down a person. I try to give myself a few seconds rest between the hustle and bustle. St. Therese taught me three important lessons this week.

1. Start Small: The French saint wisely stated, “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.” I have previously written about the importance of small incremental steps to gain progress, however, it is always good to remind ourselves that great things start with doing the little things well.

Children learning to ride a bicycle do not normally go from training wheels to mountain/trail cycling overnight. Bumps, bruises, tears, and frustrations abound over the course of time when learning to ride a bike. The same is true in our pilgrim journey towards holiness. Missed opportunities of smiling at an annoying co-worker or your trouble neighbor does not help our advancement in our sojourn of sanctity. St. Mother Teresa matter-of-factly said, “You have to be holy where you are – wherever God has put you.”  Following in the footsteps of both Therese/Teresa’s I hope to remember daily to start little—with baby steps—as a I grow in holiness.

2. Fueled by Fire of Love: According to Genesis 3, the curse place upon Adam [and later all mankind] was work being toilsome and difficult. In fact, the day of the Fall may have well been history’s first Monday! All joking aside, we normally dread work because it takes away of play—an activity of something which we enjoy and love doing. St. Josemaria Escriva declared, “Either we learn to find the Lord in the ordinary everyday life or else we shall never find him.” Very much in keeping with his spirituality and likely an major influence for the Founder of Opus Dei, St. Therese reminds us that work need not be toilsome—as long as daily work is fueled by love. Watered by love—of God and neighbor—work blossoms into a sweet activity that paradoxically involves suffering, but bring joy as well! “I understood that love comprises all vocations – that love is everything, and because it is eternal, embraces all times and places,” the sainted French nun declared.

3. Part of a Whole: The final piece wisdom the Little Flower of Liesux imparted to me this week was the importance of seeing myself as a part of a larger whole. Now this is not to reduce myself to a small wheel in the cog of Catholicism—such as view is entirely utilitarian and reduces our relationship to other human beings as purely functional/technical.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 952 when speaking about the communion of saints, “Everything the true Christian has is to be regarded as a good possessed in common with everyone else. All Christians should be ready and eager to come to the help of the needy. . . and of their neighbors in want.”487 A Christian is a steward of the Lord’s goods.” Being a husband and father I learned my will must be subordinated for the good of the other members of my family.

Easily declared from my theological armchair, I struggle mightily in the midst of family life and the bustle of raising children. Here is where the example and spiritual maturity of St. Therese again teaches me. On the subject of being a saint, Therese stated, “I realized that to become a saint one must suffer a great deal, always seek what is best, and forget oneself.” The youngest of nine siblings Therese learned quickly in life that she could not always be the center of attention—although she did admit in her Diary of  a Soul that her selfishness pervaded her very earliest of years. The Little Flower’s constant message in her writings about her [and our] need to have a complete dependency on God our Heavenly Father helped shift my selfish mindset toward others and the Ultimate Other.

Start small, easy your daily struggle with the fuel of love, and remember you are part of a larger whole—members of the human race. These three lessons the young, but wise French saint taught me this week. Below I will leave you to reflect on other insightful quotes I found helpful for my spiritual life from St. Therese of Liseux.


“To live in love is to sail forever, spreading seeds of joy and peace in hearts.”

“Kindness is my only guiding star.  In its light, I sail a straight route, I have my motto written on my sail: ‘To live in love.'”

“Love can accomplish all things.  Things that are most impossible become easy where love is at work.”

“Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing.”

“I am the smallest of creatures and I recognize my worthlessness, but I also know how hearts that are generous and noble love to do good.”

“When one loves, one does not calculate.”

3 Ways Hope Can Overcome Despair

According to the great English writer, J.R.R. Tolkien, “Oft hope is born when all is forlorn.” When I first discovered this pithy quote by the creator of Middle Earth, I paused and pondered his words’ truth. More often than not, the seed of hope gets planted within the soil of my loneliness. Over the past year, my wife and I experienced spiritual highs and lows. Currently, I am in a period of stability—a time where hope is my guiding light! Reflecting back on my personal valleys, I realized that the times I felt distant from God, my friends, and even my wife. Oddly enough, this become an opportunity for me to turn to the virtue of hope! Since I placed my hope [and ultimately greater trust in the Lord], I am better anchored in my faith—even in the midst of continual strife.

Mahatma Gandhi once declared, “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.” Hope defends against despair, especially hope in truth, goodness, and beauty. According to Mike Pacer in Mercy and Hope, “Hope guides us through the darkness. It assures of the light that is just beyond our sight.” Along with this profound insight, I discovered three easy ways which helped shift my mindset away from despair and towards hope.

1. Larger Piece of the Puzzle: Growing up my mom and I used to always work on jigsaw puzzles during hot summer days or cold winter months. Five hundred and one thousand piece puzzles seem daunting at first. What helped alleviate any anxiety is knowing that I was not alone in figuring out how the pieces fit together. A second key aspect to putting together puzzles is forming the outside frame first. Finishing the perimeter provided hope that the puzzle could be solved!

Getting lost in the shuffle of life is analogous to navigating through a massive jigsaw puzzle—without borders and helpers it is easy to lose hope and give up. Puzzles provide a concrete example of how different pieces fit together perfectly to create a completed picture. Knowing your place in the world—as a piece to the larger story of life—may be helpful in lessening anxiety and orient us towards hope.

2. Hope Our True Consoler, Not False Optimism: Dovetailing off the previous point, the virtue of hope is a true helper. According to Mike Pacer, “The key to hope is to acknowledge our feelings and separate them from reality (Mercy and Hope p.121). Hope should not be reduced to wishful thinking or mere pseudo-optimism. A realness exists with hope. The virtue of hope does not procedure a placebo effect like false-optimism.

Hope is a gift granted by God, most especially by the Third Person of the Holy Trinity—the Holy Spirit. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph number 691, “When he proclaims and promises the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus calls him the “Paraclete,” literally, “he who is called to one’s side,” ad-vocatus.18 “Paraclete” is commonly translated by “consoler,” and Jesus is the first consoler.19 The Lord also called the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth.”

3. Heaven—the Final Frontier: Referring to St. Paul’s assertion for our yearning for Heaven in Hebrews 13:14, Mike Pacer declared, “We are not living in our permanent home. Rather, we are on a journey. We have a definite destination (Mercy and Hope pp. 134-135). Put another way, St. Augustine’s axiom, “Our souls are restless until they rest in thee [God].” All the material possessions, power, and control in the world do not offer long-term and lasting fulfillment. Humanity keeps yearning for something greater, and greater, and greater!

St. Therese of Liseux famously summed up this truth using a nautical example, “The world’s thy ship and not thy home!” Earthly existence is a pilgrim journey. The virtue of hope allows us to don our theological lens to view more clearly that Heaven is the final frontier!

O my God, relying on your infinite goodness and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of your grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.