The Blessed Virgin Mary provides great consolation in time of need.
The stress and unknown due to the coronavirus makes life quite confusing. Here is a prayer I recently learned about that gave me peace. Our Lady Comforter OG the Afflicted is a powerful intercessor. Mary is closest to Her Son—Jesus Christ.
I hope this prayer brings you some comfort like it has for me.
Prayer to Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted
Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our most compassionate Mother, we present ourselves in thy sight in all humility, and with full confidence we implore thee for thy maternal patronage.
Thou hast been proclaimed by Holy Church the Comforter of the Afflicted, and to thee constant recourse is had by the sorrowful in their afflictions, the sick in their maladies, the dying in their agony, the poor in their straitened circumstances, those who stand in all manner of need in both public and private calamities; and from thee they all receive consolation and strength.
Our dearest Mother, turn upon us also, wretched sinners that we are, thy merciful eyes, and graciously accept our humble and confident prayers. Aid us in all our spiritual and temporal necessities, deliver us from all evil and especially from sin, which is the greatest evil, and from all danger of falling into it; obtain for us from thy Son Jesus every blessing of which thou seest we stand in need both in soul and body, and especially the greatest blessing of all, which is Divine grace. Comfort our spirits, troubled and afflicted in the midst of the many dangers that threaten us, and the countless miseries and misfortunes that beset us on every side. This we ask through that immense joy which filled thy pure soul in the glorious Resurrection of thy Divine Son.
Obtain tranquillity for Holy Church, help and comfort for her visible Head, the Sovereign Pontiff, peace for Christian princes, refreshment in their pains for the Holy Souls in Purgatory; for sinners, the forgiveness of their sins, and for the just, perseverance in well-doing. Receive us all, our most tender Mother, under thy loving and mighty protection, that we may be enabled to live virtuously, die holily and attain to everlasting happiness in Heaven.
Words hurt more than weapons in the age of social media. Communication is instant. Less than it takes you to snap your fingers you can receive a direct message or email from someone across the globe. During the current global pandemic the human race is experiencing similar things more than any other time in history.
People largely respond in two ways to a stressful situation. Selfish or selfless. The dichotomy could not be starker in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Hoarding toilet paper was the initial selfish reply to the panic. Now that the first wave of angst has passed people are now getting restless. Self-quarantine or local curfews in some larger cities have lead to cabin fever. Really it’s cabin fever multiplied by hundred. I have noticed more snarky, sarcastic, rude, and angry social media posts. It is understandable to be frustrated, but it never gives anyone a right to treat others with disrespect. To combat the negativity I am sharing three tactics of how to use your words to provide unity and build up your neighbor.
Silence is Golden
According to St. John of the Cross, “Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you, remember Christ crucified and be silent.” Today’s world rewards people speaking their mind. Bad press is good press. At least that is the philosophy of many who believe that getting your name in the news is better than remaining in anonymity. Voicing your opinion on social media opens up the possibility for Internet trolls to bombard threads with hate and ignorance. Your first reaction may be to reply with a similar negative tone.
Silence is the best weapon against hateful, prideful, or narrow-minded comments. It doesn’t come natural to practice silence when someone attacks your ideas or character. What helps me is to remember how Jesus replied as the crowd jeered at him on the Cross. He didn’t yell or jeer back. Instead, he prayed. Jesus asked his Father to be merciful, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Remaining silent during an argument online or in real life is difficult, but not impossible. It is necessary if you want to become a better version of yourself.
Give Compliments and not Complaints
Another strategy in controlling the sins of the tongue is to give a compliment as opposed to a complaint. Negative news surrounds us daily. It’s much more interesting. It usually takes at least twice as many positive thoughts to cancel out a negative one.
But try that exercise. Whenever you find yourself tempted to complain do the following:
Write your complaint on a post-it note
Crumple up the note and throw it in the trash
Write a compliment about yourself or give someone else a compliment
Forming new habits takes practice. Hard work. But if you consistently remind yourself to shift your mind from complaints to compliments it will become easier over time. Eventually it will become natural for your to give compliments.
God over Gossip
The last tactic in the battle over the tongue is to pray more. Sounds simple. It is simple, but its not always easy. Gossip is an easily accepted sin. People don’t think it is that bad compared to “mortal sins”. The Bible provides clear direction on this subject. Leviticus 19:16 states, “Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people.” It is quite clear. Don’t engage in gossip. How exactly do you stave off the temptation to gossip? Fill your mind with holy thoughts. Ask God for help. Praying is nothing more than talking to God. Petition the Holy Spirit. Thank God for the blessings in your life. Praise Jesus for his sacrifice on Calvary. All those will orient yourself toward the Holy Trinity and away from gossip.
Avoiding negative comments, complaints or gossip goes a long way towards shifting your mindset. Add in compliment about yourself or others and you will soon notice an overall change in your attitude. You will become more patience, kinder, and generous. Kindness is always in style evevn during the coronavirus pandemic. Change the world by controlling your words. Choose kindness over anger. Build up your immunity against negativity. Don’t let pessimism infect you. Kindness is a good contagion to spread!
The half way point of Lent is a time period when many people begin to cave into their Lenten promises. I know for me it is a struggle. I gave up negativity and fast food. Though in giving it up I find myself with a lot of extra time. I have spent more time in prayer with God during these forty days.
The Latin word for Lent, quadragesima, literally means forty days! However, this number does not mean much to the average person unless they understand the significance of the number forty in Scripture.
God and Geography
The number forty is also attached to particular geography: mountains and deserts. When one thinks of these places words such as desolate, barren, alone, and harsh might come to mind.
God seems to have a close presence to individuals in the Bible in these settings. Take Moses for instance, in Exodus 24:18 when he stays on the peak of Mount Sinai for forty days and nights. It was here that Moses met God and received the Ten Commandments.
Elijah also met God upon a mountain, after traveling for forty days and nights. On the mountain, Elijah faced strong winds and an intense earthquake. But he continued to hold steadfast in faith and met God in a quite whisper.
How often do we let the “noises” of daily life distract us from God?
In this modern world, people hate the quite and constantly surround themselves with “things” (cellphones, internet, television, etc) to keep from silence.
Importance of Fasting
During Lent we are called to a life of fasting. While Christians should always be fasting in some degree throughout the year, the Church urges us to reflect upon it more deeply.
The first thing Jesus does after His Baptism is to fast in the desert for forty days and nights. Probably weak from hunger, He is tempted by the devil. But Jesus fails to give into worldly pleasures. It is this example that all Christians are called to in Lent. By giving up things from this world, we can center our life back onto Christ.
Though it may feel like you are on a mountaintop or in a desert thirsting, know that Lent is not a time for punishing yourself with guilt. In fasting one learns to give up unnecessary and sometimes harmful objects or habits and grow into a closer relationship with Jesus.
Hopefully at the end of Lent, we can all say that we truly experienced God in an deeper way, like Moses and Elijah did on the mountaintop!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 10, 2019.
The spiritual life for the Christian is not a mere horizontal path, but rather vertical and likened to a ladder— consisting of different levels of progression. Thus, the spiritual journey for the Catholic-Christian is composed of three steps being the interior, religious, and spiritual. In this post, I will focus on individuals from St. Luke’s Gospel who exhibit each stage.
Stage 1— The Interior Life
First, the “interior life” refers to the initial level of the spiritual path for Christians. At this stage, a person demonstrates the ability to be self-aware (self-autonomous) and shows the capacity to utilize their imagination. This stage is necessary for a Christian to increase and deepen their spirituality. However, it is possible to have a profound interior life without being spiritual. A pragmatic instance of this is a secular artist painting a picture. They exercise their imagination without contemplating the mysteries of God. Nevertheless, normally the more powerful the imagination is, the greater potential a person has to power their “spiritual engine”—the mind.
Example of the Rich Young Man
Two instances of the “interior life” within the Gospel of Luke include the Rich Young Man 18:18-30 and the centurion at the Crucifixion 23:44-49. Regarding the former, the Revised Standard Edition refers to the Rich Young Man as a ruler who initiates contact with Jesus by posing a query: “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”(v. 18). An analysis of this statement shows the ruler demonstrating the “interior life” on a twofold manner: he knew Jesus was a good, informative teacher (he probably heard about the previous work and preaching of Jesus from others) and the question asked was of metaphysical nature, which thus required imagination and intellect to ponder.
Jesus responds by telling the man to adhere to the Decalogue. The man then tells Christ that he diligently follows the commandments. But Jesus required more, he wanted the Rich Ruler to give away his material goods to the poor. But the man was unable to do so. While he exhibited an “interior life” by asking the right question, the Rich Young Man was not spiritual due to failure to move past material wealth (v.23). Augmenting this point the narrator tells the reader that the man was sad to give up his possessions and thus shows why he cannot move past the interior level.
Example of the Roman Centurion
A second case of someone having the interior life in Luke comes at the close of the gospel. After hanging upon the cross for several hours, darkness came over the land and the veil of the temple split in two and Jesus uttered his final breath. During this a centurion proclaimed “Certainly this man was innocent!” (v.47). The centurion saw the curtain torn and perhaps remembered Jesus’ premonition that the Temple would be destroyed. Such recall shows intellect and imagination. In fact he had such a powerful imagination, that the centurion “praised God” in v.47. Because of this, he had a profound “interior life”.
Stage 2—The Religious Life
Defined as the level where one is focused on concepts of rituals and/or sacraments, the “religious life” is the next stage in Christian spirituality. To put it another way, this phase denotes an experience of contact with the Transcendent deity via religion.
Two prime examples of this are the Pharisees in Luke 6:1-5 and Peter in 9:28-36. With the former, the Pharisees badgered Jesus and his disciples for gathering grain on the Sabbath. Their query in v. 2 shows that they are primarily concerned with Jewish ritual practices, which exhibits a sign of being in the “religious life” phase. The narrator gives a further clue that this is a case of the “religious life” because Jesus corrected them by showing that David set a precedent in 1 Samuel 21:1-6. The Pharisees were thus being nit-picky about the Sabbath law.
Example of the Transfiguration
The second incident of a person existing in the “religious life” level of spirituality occurs a few chapters later at the Transfiguration. Upon witnessing Jesus’ conversation with Moses and Elijah, Peter utters a seemingly perplexing statement, “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths…” (9:33). Knowledge of the main Jewish celebrations is needed to ascertain Cephas’ point. Peter is referring to the Feast of Booths which recalls Israel’s exodus from Egypt and their wandering in the desert for 40 years. Although Peter is being an astute Jew by wanting to follow that ritual custom of erecting a tent, his missed the true purpose of the Transfiguration and hence he is at the “religious” level of the spiritual life and not yet at the final stage.
Stage 3—The Spiritual Life
The final phase of the spiritual journey is at the level of the “spiritual life”. The phrase “the spiritual life” is delineated as the level where mankind’s spirit and the Holy Spirit connect— it also presupposes and fulfills the latter two stages in the spiritual excursion.
Example of Mary
At the outset of Luke’s Gospel, Mary’s fiat in 1:26-38 is the most perfect expression of obedience to God and a person having the fullness of the “spiritual life”. First of all, when the angel Gabriel came to her, Mary although initially concerned did not flee. Rather she listened to the message. After hearing the news of her future pregnancy, Mary asked “How can this be since I have no husband?” (She pledged her life to remain a virgin). Gabriel responded by telling her that Jesus will be conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary’s reply in v. 38 displays her complete surrender to God’s will and shows why she exhibits the “spiritual life”.
Example of the Repentant Sinful Woman
The next case of the “spiritual life” in Luke also is of a woman. In 7:36-50 a sinful woman wept at Jesus’ feet, because of her sins, and cleansed them with her tears and expensive ointment. Luke juxtaposes this woman with Simon, Jesus’ Pharisaic host. He scorned the woman due to her sin. Jesus quips back by saying that the woman washed his feet without him asking. Simon failed to welcome Jesus with the same hospitality (v.45-47). Verse 48 shows the climax of this passage, “Your sins are forgiven”. She desired forgiveness and Christ is pleased to forgive. For this reason, she is an example of having the “spiritual life”.
St. Francis de Sales declared, “All of us can attain to Christian virtue and holiness, no matter in what condition of life we live and no matter what our life work may be.” Our reflection on St. Luke’s Gospel proves that God meets individuals at various places and times. Whether you are at the beginning or more advanced path to holiness, the key to “climbing” the spiritual ladder is to let Christ carry you— cooperate with Divine Providence this week! I challenge you to plunge yourself into the Scriptures this week and mediate on how you can better encounter Jesus.
This Lent I am revisiting the great spiritual treatise of St. Francis de Sales’— Introduction to the Devout Life. Reading a couple meditations each day provides me ample time to reflect on the wisdom of the timeless truths of the Gospels as given to the world by God through St. Francis.
During the height of a stressful work day, I gazed at this book on my desk and resolved to take 5 minutes of my break to read the third meditation.
The theme for that meditation was titled: On Gifts of God. Below is an excerpted section from this third meditation:
Consider the material gifts God has given you—your body, and the means for its preservation;
your health, and all that maintains it; your friends and many helps. Consider too how many persons
more deserving than you are without these gifts; some suffering in health or limb, others exposed
to injury, contempt and trouble, or sunk in poverty, while God has willed you to be better off.
2. Consider the mental gifts He has given you. Why are you not stupid, idiotic, insane like many
you wot of? Again, God has favoured you with a decent and suitable education, while many have
grown up in utter ignorance.
3. Further, consider His spiritual gifts. You are a child of His Church, God has taught you to
know Himself from your youth. How often has He given you His Sacraments? what inspirations
and interior light, what reproofs, He has given to lead you aright; how often He has forgiven you,
how often delivered you from occasions of falling; what opportunities He has granted for your
soul’s progress! Dwell somewhat on the detail, see how Loving and Gracious God has been to you
Affections and Resolutions:
1. Marvel at God’s Goodness. How good He has been to me, how abundant in mercy and
plenteous in loving-kindness! O my soul, be thou ever telling of the great things the Lord has done
2. Marvel at your own ingratitude. What am I, Lord, that Thou rememberest me? How unworthy am I! I have trodden Thy Mercies under root, I have abused Thy Grace, turning it against Thy very
Self; I have set the depth of my ingratitude against the deep of Thy Grace and Favour.
3. Kindle your gratitude. O my soul, be no more so faithless and disloyal to thy mighty
Benefactor! How should not my whole soul serve the Lord, Who has done such great things in me
and for me?
What probably gave me most pause from the above except was St. Francis’ second resolution he charges: Marvel at your own ingratitude. Wait, what? Marvel at my epic fail of thanksgiving this week?! Yes, you read St. Francis’ words correctly. Pondering your own failure to be thankful for the gifts God bestowed upon you is a necessary step towards improvement of an attitude of gratitude.
It did not take me long reflecting about my own spiritual ineptitude. Most of my suffering and negativity this week stemmed from failure to simply thank God. Thank Him for the gifts— however big or small— He already provided me.
Gratitude helps to stave off greed and pride. I am thankful that I decided to spend a small amount of break-time in prayer. I am grateful for the example of holiness St. Francis de Sales. Finally, I am thankful for the gifts of my faith, family, and friends that God grants me daily!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on January 29, 2019.
The idiomatic phrase ‘you are what you eat’ usually comes up at the beginning of each New Year. Health experts, fitness coaches, doctors, and well even your family and friends may have resolved to eat better and more nutritionally in 2019. Last month, my wife gave birth to our fourth child [Yes, the fourth is finally with us!].
Along with the excitement of bringing a new child into the world comes an added responsibility that one more person is dependent on us to learn about the world and grow as a productive, respectful, and loving citizen.
Graces to Guide
Our daughter received the Sacrament of Baptism this past Sunday—the entrance into the life of grace as an adopted child of God. Not only do we as parents have the duty to provide for her physical well-being, more importantly, we are charged with the [awesome] obligation to be the first educators of the truth of the Gospel. During the Baptismal Rite the celebrant (priest or deacon) proclaims the following to the parents and godparents of the child,
On your part, you must make it your constant care to bring him (her) up in the practice of the faith. See that the divine life which God gives him (her) is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in his (her) heart.
If you are not aware of the Christian Baptismal ceremony than I certainly hope you have learned a bit our the significance of that event. However, you may be reading this through the lens of an already faithful Catholic and this news of Baptism may not be too novel. “We already know the significance of Baptism! What does ordering a juicy cheeseburger have to do with Baptism anyways?!”
Once a person becomes a member of the Church the sacramental life of grace only just truly begins. In order for me to be an effective teacher and protector of the Catholic faith in my household I need to increase in holiness myself. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving” (CCC 1434).
Problem of too much food
Among the seven most poisonous sins includes the vice of gluttony. Gluttony refers to a type of greed, specifically in relation to food and drink. Excessive overindulging in food leads to all kinds of issues—for both the body and soul. Saint Josemaria Escriva plainly describes the ill effects of gluttony by stating, “Overeating is the forerunner of impurity.” Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) if we cannot take care of ourselves physically what hope do we have for spiritual progress?
Both my wife and I started an exercise program called The 21 Day Fix. While that title speaks of a fix, a more appropriate moniker would be reorientation. Spending three weeks of portioning our meals, ensuring a balance of all the food groups, and regular fitness regimen will help us re-focus our daily living towards health and wellness. My wife challenged myself and her to give up fast food throughout the week.
Parents will children know how easy it is to fall prey to the temptation for the quick and ‘easy option’. This is especially true when schedules get crammed with school and work obligations.
Fast for Freedom
I implore the Holy Spirit for the virtue of temperance to aid me in staving off the alluring sin of gluttony. I also challenge you to fast from a thing in your life that may have consumed your lifestyle— it need not be fast food, perhaps, you suffer an addiction to social media, gossip, or material possessions. Whatever temptations you face in your life please know that I am with you in this journey of holiness. More importantly, our loving God knows our struggles and desires to help us overcome then.
Please feel free to share your particular temptations and/or resolutions to grow in holiness in the comment section. I greatly desire to have a conversation with you and will pray for strength in your situations!