Fixing Our Gaze on Golgotha

Jesus on the Cross

A Prayer Before the Cross

Lord Jesus Christ, I petition you as your most unworthy servant and adopted child through the waters of Baptism to hear my petitions. Please soothe the anxiety in my heart, mind, and soul over the pressures, toils, and attacks of despair the Enemy sends my way. Self-doubt and self-loathing pervades me mind throughout today. In keeping with the words of the great Doctor of the Church St. Catherine of Sienna, “Every great burden becomes light beneath this most holy yoke of the sweet will of God.” May I receive the graces from the Holy Spirit to love myself and confidently seek your Will, not for my sake but as in loving myself I make a worthy offering to you Most Holy God.

While my sins wound me and damage my relationship with myself, my neighbors, and ultimately You Most Holy Trinity, I petition for intercession from the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints in Heaven to help re-orient my gaze from the gutters of the troubles of my life to gaze upward to the Cross of Jesus—crucified on Golgotha.

Focus on God

Mary Intercede for Us

I recall the words from a homily by my parish priest who declared, “It is through the atmosphere of Mary that we truly are able to receive the light of the Son.” According to John 19:26-27, “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ 27 Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” At the foot of the Cross, Jesus entrusted his beloved disciple [and all humanity] to his mother. More important, Jesus gifts us the blessing of the Blessed Virgin Mary as well.

Mary at Foot of Cross

Despite the failings, trials, and doubts that surround us, be assured that peace and joy can be found in uniting ourselves to Christ’s suffering in Calvary. Remembering that we are all in this pilgrim journey, towards holiness, together helps sustain me in my downtrodden times

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Your Dark Night—Why Does God Allow Abandonment?

Psalm 22

Did God Actually Abandon Jesus?

For several years of my life, the final words of Jesus before his death on the Cross puzzled me. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34). The word forsaken has many synonyms.The two that stand out to me are quit and desert.  Let’s insert these words into the previous quote and read it again. On the Cross Jesus cries out, “My God, my God why have you quit on me and deserted me?” I think that everyone relate to Christ’s words. Within my own life I feel God has quit on me too many times to count and I believe I may be experiencing a period of abandonment and loneliness currently.

Why am I telling you this? Is my accusation of God’s commitment to me a grave danger to my Catholic faith? Is my feeling of abandonment caused by outside factors such as my work, stress, the winter weather? Perhaps. However, I felt compelled to journal about my inner struggles as a Catholic man as a type of prayer to God Himself. Abandonment

Spiritual Darkness

A few years ago, I took graduate theology courses. There was a particular class where I was required to read St. John of the Cross’s A Dark Night of the Soul– a spiritual grace that flowed from his period of spiritual loneliness. During this time of my life, I starting reading the Diary of St. Maria Faustina and she expressed similar sentiment. The Polish saint writes, “O Jesus, today my soul is as though darkened by suffering. Not a single ray of light” (Diary 195),  Her words express my exact thoughts today.

When I read Faustina’s words, I felt provoked to learn more about the words of the dying Christ: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It turns out that the Gospels writers were making an allusion to Psalm 22- a prayer the psalmist wrote as a lament to God. I believe that the Holy Spirit was teaching me by fusing my theological background of the Scriptures with my current life experience.

spiritual dryness

Purposeful Pain?

Maybe God is allowing me to suffer loneliness because He knows that this will direct me on the path of prayer again. See I have not been the best Catholic. I have been impatient at work and home. I allow doubt to creep into my life. Perhaps this spiritual abandonment is the greatest gift God can grant to me now. Perhaps God is doing the same thing in your life now. Let’s embrace this loneliness together and continue to hope in God’s Providence. Amen.

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3 Reasons Humility is Practical and Reliable

Opening my email inbox I noticed a correspondence from a resume-building website titled Your Resume Review is Complete. Quickly, I clicked on the email to see how I compared to other job seekers. Needless to say, my feedback shows that I have much room for improvement. My initial reaction to the review included feelings of dejection, inadequacies, and defeat. On top of these negative feelings my toddler son began a 10 minute tantrum. “Today is going to be one of those days,” I thought.

Author Erwin McManus wrote, “Attitude is an accurate monitor of where we fall on the spectrum of pride and humility.” Normally, my virtue-vice needle points closer to the pride side. Today was different though. Although my natural reaction tended toward despair which is a product of pride, that soon dissipated towards a desire to learn and improve on my resume — I realized I’m not the smartest when it comes to professional resume building!cs lewis humility

According to C.S. Lewis, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” The old me would tend toward despair with any type of constructive criticism. My primary focus has been to improve my spiritual life– I need to limit my impatience, pride, and anger when things get outside of my control. Reading St. Louis de Montfort’s The Secret of the Rosaryenhanced my devotion to Mary. Aside from Jesus, no other person exhibits humility as much as the Queen of Humility. Along with spiritual benefits of humility this virtue provides practicality and reliability to daily life.

Time-saver

Ralph Waldo Emerson plainly wrote, “For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind.” The times I most often get angry is when something does not go MY way. Whenever I have the prideful audacity to believe that I am in 100% total and utter control of my day is usually the day that nothing I want gets done. Humility is the antidote to pride. Patience is also a cousin of the virtue of humility. During the more stressful parts of parenting, I noticed that whenever I exercise patience I actually end up saving time in the long-run.

Improves relationships

Along with saving time, the virtue of humility helps and strengthens relationships. One does not need to look far to see how the virtue of humility helps. The department for the company that I work for holds a monthly meeting to detail the progress over the past 30 days. Together with the business achievements, managers recognize employers who excelled that particular month. Without exception, the workers who receive Team Member of the Month have been dutiful and humbly going about their work without the promise for recognize. Such individuals have strong relationships with their peers.

don't brag gif

Not only does the virtue of humility apply to healthy and successful profession relationship, but it is essential for family life as well. St. Teresa of Avila declared, “There is more value in a little study of humility and in a single act of it than in all the knowledge in the world.” All the books on marriage preparation or counseling will strengthen your marriage as much as your willingness to humble yourself before your spouse. St. Paul details the characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13. While he does not specifically use the word humility it is clear that exercising that virtue will only benefit spouses.

Buoy during Life’s Storms

buoy during storms

Together with helping you move on from stressful situations easier and fostering relationships, the virtue of humility acts as a benevolent beacon to guide you through all of life’s storms. A common reaction toward the pressures, woes, and calamities of life is to flee. Developing the strength to withstand the maelstroms of misery takes time and patience. The great Chinese philosopher Confucius wrote, “Humility is the foundation of all virtues.” St. Bernard of Clairvaux recognized the importance of humility as well as he famously declared, “The three most important virtues are humility, humility, and humility!”

From my own experience the instances where I weathered the storms best occurred whenever my wife and I were both on the same page–sharing the same goal and purpose. Through humbling myself to recognize the merits of her insight was I able to lift her up [and she lifted up me] during the tumultuous times.

No matter what stage or circumstance you are at in life the virtue of humility will always be reliable and practical–on a daily basis! A trusted resource I use whenever the tentacles of pride try to take over my life is the Litany of Humility. Be prepared for this powerful prayer to change your life!


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…

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Spiritual Surgeons—St. Catherine of Siena



Healthcare has become a hot-button issue over the past several years. Is it a privilege or a natural human right? Should you vaccinate your children or allow their body’s immune system to fend off diseases naturally? Is surgery better or experimental non-evasive treatment better? The list of questions go on and on. Because I am not a doctor, I will not be discussing healing of the body in this article. Instead, as a Catholic and student of theology, I will examine the best practices to combat spiritual sickness—sin!

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1501,

Illness can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God. It can also make a person more nature, helping him discern in his life what is not essential so that he can turn toward that which is. Very often illness provokes a search for God and a return to him.

Icon of Christ the Divine Physician

A common title given to Jesus is Divine Physician because he heals humanity from sin and death. While our ultimate trust focus on God as healer of souls, He has employed various men and women over the centuries to stand as great witnesses to the truth. Such saints are called Doctors of the Church.

Not to be confused with medical doctors, Doctors of the Church are, “certain saints whose writing or preaching is outstanding for guiding the faithful in all periods of the Church’s history (https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=33180). To view a complete and detailed list of all saints with this honor please refer to Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio’s Doctors of the Catholic ChurchComplete List in the related sources section as the end of this post!

Working for God

Saints Work for the Divine Doctor

Because of the incredible need for healing and hope in this fallen world, today will mark the beginning of a weekly blog series Spiritual SurgeonsCo-workers with the Divine Physician. Every week we will focus on a different saint. We will examine key themes and advice from their writings to help us root out sin and grow in our relationship with God and neighbor. St. Catherine of Siena will be the focus of this inaugural Spiritual Surgeons installment.

Corruption of Sin

Catherine lived in the 14th century during a period of grave clergy corruption. She famously wrote to Pope Gregory XI urging him to return to Rome and clean up the abuses going on within the Catholic Church hierarchy. At that time, the papacy succumbed to the powers of the world (France) and the pope lived in Avignon to appease the French rulers. Catherine petitioned to the pope by declaring,  “But, I hope, by the goodness of God that you will pay more heed to His honour and the safety of your own flock than to yourself, like a good shepherd, who ought to lay down his life for his sheep” (Letter to Gregory XI). Her brave and consistent witness to the Truth even against those in power brings us hope.

Cleansing fire

Furnace of Divine Love

Along with Catherine’s teaching on the corruption of sin, she teaches sin decays the soul. Similar to how disease infects the body, so too, sin infects the soul. Physical surgery involves pain. Both in the actual procedure and the healing process afterwards. Spiritual surgery necessarily contains suffering as well. St. Catherine’s remedy includes the fire of God’s love.

Catherine warns against non-evasive spiritual treatments in fighting sin. According the Sienese saint in a letter to Pope Gregory XI, “If a wound when necessary is not cauterized or cut out with steel, but simply covered with ointment, not only does it fail to heal, but it infects everything, and many a time death follows from it.”  Her advice matches what Jesus taught on the Sermon of the Mount. In Matthew 5:29-30,

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.s It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go to Gehenna.

Purification by Flames

Fire acts as a destructive or purifying agent. Catherine speaks of God’s love as a fire cleansing the soul from sin. The word fire occurs 94 times in The Dialogues of St. Catherine. Phrases such as fire of Divine love and fire of Divine charity occur 5 and 3 times respectively. Although the first man muddied himself with the disobedience of sin, Catherine reminds us that God became man to show us the path of salvation. She wrote in her Dialogues, 

So that each man has in his own person that very same key which the Word had, and if a man does not unlock in the light of faith, and with the hand of love the gate of heaven by means of this key, he never will enter there, in spite of its having been opened by the Word; for though I created you without yourselves, I will not save you without yourselves. Wherefore you must take the key in your hand and walk by the doctrine of My Word, and not remain seated, that is to say, placing your love in finite things, as do foolish men who follow the first man, their first father, following his example, and casting the key of obedience into the mud of impurity, breaking it with the hammer of pride, rusting it with self-love. It would have been entirely destroyed had not My only-begotten Son, the Word, come and taken this key of obedience in His hands and purified it in the fire of divine love, having drawn it out of the mud, and cleansed it with His blood, and straightened it with the knife of justice, and hammered your iniquities into shape on the anvil of His own body.

Catherine of Siena

Catherine of Siena lived a profoundly holy life of faith. Her ability to correct clerical abuses with charity was second to none. According to St. Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Three Co-patronesses of Europe,  “Catherine addressed churchmen of every rank, demanding of them the most exacting integrity in their personal lives and their pastoral ministry. The uninhibited, powerful and incisive tone in which she admonished priests, Bishops and Cardinals is quite striking.” Learning from this great Doctor of the Church not only deepened my knowledge about God, but strengthened my personal relationship with God.

Related Resources

https://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2ptrns.htm

https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/media/articles/doctors-of-the-catholic-church/

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The Link Between Lent and Confession—by Guest Blogger William Hemsworth

On March 6 we celebrated Ash Wednesday.  That great day marks the beginning for the season of Lent.  For some Lent is a season that brings to mind drudgery and self deprecation, but is this what Lent is all about?  Is it about us merely giving something up, or is there much more to it?  Lent reminds us that spiritual warfare is real.  It is a call to arms in which we latch on to Jesus and head into battle.  We are not alone in this fight.  We have the communion of saints and our Lord Jesus Christ by our side.

spiritual warfare

Perhaps we should start with what Lent is not.  Lent is not a time to give up something in an attempt to be fashionable.  Many give up a favorite food or desert and call it a day.  The whole point of giving up something is to replace it with a spiritual practice.  What spiritual practice you take up is totally up to you.  Maybe you find yourself too busy to pray.  As a result, you may wake up 10 minutes early to pray to replace the 10 minutes you take eating your favorite candy bar.  My wife recently gave up Starbucks, and she has chosen to take the money she would normally spend and give it to the St. Vincent De Paul Society at our parish.  You may choose to take time throughout the day and pray the Liturgy of the Hours.  As previously stated, that is up to you and what you feel called to do.  However, fasting without prayer is merely dieting.  If you are obtaining or fasting, but not praying you are dieting.

prayer fasting almsgiving

Lent is an ancient practice that goes back to the earliest days of the church. In Luke 4:1-2 we read “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished” (NRSV).  I was always intrigued as to why the sinless and divine Son of God went into the wilderness to be tempted.  This is something that Jesus did to prepare himself for ministry.  He was at his weakest after fasting for so long, and Satan knew that this may be his only chance.  Jesus did this as an example for us.  He knows how we are tempted because he experienced it first hand.  

If Jesus was tempted, do we think we are somehow exempt?  I certainly hope not, but as our Good Shepherd he is leading the way through danger.  By doing so he is stating that he is with us and beside us on this tough journey.  If you are a follower of Christ the evil one will come after you.  That is a guarantee.  We will get beat up at times, but we must get back up and dust ourselves off.

When I was in the military, we were taught to always keep your equipment in top condition.  Whether it was out Kevlar helmet, rucksack, or weapon everything had to be maintained.  Lent reminds us that there is more to life than the things of this world.  It is a time to reflect and evaluate our equipment.  

spiritual battle

In the spiritual life our equipment is our mind and hearts.  What are they preoccupied with?  What filth have they accumulated over the past year?  A weapon will not work if it is grungy and filthy.  Likewise, our souls get dirty from venial sin.  If we become complacent with venial sin it is much easier to fall into mortal sin.  Regarding this 1 John 5:17 states, “All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal” (NRSV).  Mortal sin severs our relationship with God.  Essentially, we have made our choice, and it wasn’t God.

There is hope.  The hope is Jesus Christ and the sacraments that he established.  As previously stated, Lent is a time to reevaluate our spiritual lives.  It is a time to reflect on the things we have done and not done.  We all have sinned and have fallen short of God’s standard (Romans 3:23).  This does not mean that God does not want us anymore.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  

Our Lord has established the sacrament of reconciliation so we can once again be in fellowship with him.  The great church father St. John Chrysostom put it this way, “And though every day a man lives may rightly be a day of repentance, yet is it in these days more becoming, more appropriate, to confess our sins, to fast, and to give alms to the poor; since in these days you may wash clean the sins of the whole year”.

The evil once tries to tempt us in our weakness, just like he tried to tempt our Lord.  A lion attacks the member of heard that is sick, weak, and alone.  Satan tries to do the same thing.  He will try to make us feel alone and like we are too messed up to be reconciled to God.  That is one of his greatest lies.  Jesus wants you!  In the sacrament of confession, we are absolved over the sins that we have committed, both venial and mortal.  We have a clean slate and are once again reconciled with the church (in the case of mortal sin).  

Partaking of the great, and underutilized sacrament, assists us by strengthening our resolves against Satan and his temptations.  It is a crucial weapon in our daily spiritual warfare.  Without it we are taking a knife to a gunfight.  A few months ago a priest told me “Take advantage of the sacraments.  They are there to help us.  A priest will make the time.”  I implore you to make the sacrament of confession a key part of your Lenten journey this year.  Go during scheduled times, make an appointment, and make the time to make a good confession.  You will be happy that you did.  There is nothing greater than the love of God, and we feel it especially after He forgives us.


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!

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A Plea to God for Help from a Soul Suffering from Depression

O Almighty God, implore your aid in my time of desperation. All hope seems lost. My gaze and thoughts have became narrowed– only able to see the trials and tribulations that give me fits. The Enemy has jumped this season of suffering as an opportunity to lead me astray.

All my thoughts spiral out of control into a maze of misery and depression. Feeling no comfort and consolation at this time I experience vulnerability. My hope is always going to be in you my Lord. The weak creature that I am humbly asks for the consoling presence of the Holy Spirit. God you are my only source of strength, stability, and peace in this life! I know this to be true even as I attempt to fend off the onslaught of the Enemy. Please have mercy on me and forgive me of my doubts during this spiritual dearth.

–A soul suffering from depression

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Reflections on Blessed John Henry Newman’s Lenten Sermon

Sermons

According to the English Catholic priest-cardinal John Henry Newman, “Growth is the only evidence of life.” Life is then most apparent in the springtime with the bursting and budding of flowers, trees, and whistling of birds. Winter precedes this era of new life. Is it not interesting that within nature newness of life springs forth from the cold, dark, dreariness of the death of winter? Currently, we live in a time of transition—March, the chimeric month whereby it begins calmly like a lamb and ends ferociously like a lion or vice versa! I do not think it is a coincidence that the Holy Spirit guided the Early Church, and sustained the ekklesia through the ages to place Lent during the lowest point (CLIMATICALLY SPEAKING) of the calendar year!

harshness of cold gif.gif

Lent is a time of wandering in the hope it leads to the wonderment of Easter Sunday. Blessed John Henry Newman began his Sermon for the First Sunday of Lent with this key reminder, “The season of humiliation, which precedes Easter, lasts forty days, in memory of our Lord’s long fast in the wilderness.” When you actually think about it, wintertime can be a source of humiliation as well.

slipping on ice gif.gif

Tired from the lack of sunlight and seemingly endless shoveling you may oversleep your alarm clock and rush out the door to work. In that panic of celerity you may have slipped on a patch of ice and fell quickly on your butt— all the while your careful neighbors gaze at you! Well, this actually happened to me, except instead it happened in the busy parking lot of a grocery store! I felt quite foolish and embarrassed. Our 40 day sojourn in the “desert” is a call to unite ourselves in prayer and fasting to Christ’s ultimate humiliation—His violent death on the Cross.

Here is an excerpt from Newman’s Lenten Homily:

For what we know, Christ’s temptation is but the fulness of that which, in its degree, and according to our infirmities and corruptions, takes place in all His servants who seek Him. And if so, this surely was a strong reason for the Church’s associating our season of humiliation with Christ’s sojourn in the wilderness, that we might not be left to our own thoughts, and, as it were, “with the wild beasts,” and thereupon despond when we afflict {10} ourselves; but might feel that we are what we really are, not bondmen of Satan, and children of wrath, hopelessly groaning under our burden, confessing it, and crying out, “O wretched man!” but sinners indeed, and sinners afflicting themselves, and doing penance for sin; but withal God’s children, in whom repentance is fruitful, and who, while they abase themselves are exalted, and at the very time that they are throwing themselves at the foot of the Cross, are still Christ’s soldiers, sword in hand, fighting a generous warfare, and knowing that they have that in them, and upon them, which devils tremble at, and flee. 

Again, the holy priest guides us to focus on Lent as a time to link our personal embarrassment with Jesus’ humble time in the desert. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son Jesus. As a model and giver of hope for humanity, Jesus endured human things like hunger, thirst, and temptation. The only difference between Christ and us is that He never, ever succumbed to the wiles of the Devil. Blessed Cardinal Newman reminds us to humble ourselves before the foot of the Cross.

eucharist

May we endure the harsh realities of this wintery world through the refreshing oases of the sacraments this Lenten season. To read Blessed John Henry Newman’s entire Lenten Sermon click on this link: http://www.newmanreader.org/works/parochial/volume6/sermon1.html#note

 

 

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