Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 4, 2018.
The great Italian saint Philip Neri once said,
“We are not saints yet, but we, too, should beware. Uprightness and virtue do have their rewards, in self-respect and in respect from others, and it is easy to find ourselves aiming for the result rather than the cause. Let us aim for joy, rather than respectability. Let us make fools of ourselves from time to time, and thus see ourselves, for a moment, as the all-wise God sees us.”
How easy it is for us to perform acts of charity in hopes of the reward? I struggled with this temptation recently– instead of serving others out of love of God and neighbor, I oftentimes think of the long-term benefits I may receive—the favor may be returned, customers act nicer towards me, work is lessened in the time-run, etc. Seeking the results, the cause [as Philip Neri put it] leads to joylessness.
I started this blog bring joy into my life and into my readers lives as well. Pursuing my daily feed, I came across a post about the patron saint of joy—Philip Neri. His name and patronage stuck with me throughout the workday. “I need to learn more about this saint of joy!” I thought to myself driving back home from work.
As soon as my wife went to bed, I google searched Philip Neri and discovered the along with being the patron saint of joy he is an advocate for humor and, interestingly enough, U.S. Special Forces!
I’ll be incorporating more quotes, writings, and wisdom from St. Philip Neri over the rest of the year. I am excited for this journey to deepen my relationship with God through the witness of Philip Neri this year.
I will close with a prayer to incorporate into my spiritual arsenal (and I hope you do too!):
Prayer to Saint Philip Neri
Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice! (Phil. 4:4)
O holy St. Philip Neri, patron saint of joy, you who trusted Scripture’s promise that the Lord is always at hand and that we need not have anxiety about anything, in your compassion heal our worries and sorrows and lift the burdens from our hearts. We come to you as one whose heart swells with abundant love for God and all creation. Hear us, we pray, especially in this need (make your request here). Keep us safe through your loving intercession, and may the joy of the Holy Spirit which filled your heart, St. Philip, transform our lives and bring us peace. Amen.
Editor’s Note: Post originally published on January 20, 2018.
To be honest, I did not think I have the strength to even write about anything today. I thought exerting any real mental exercises and strain today would lead to my incapacitation. What am I talking about? Am I being overly dramatic? Perhaps, I probably am not in a good frame of mind at this point of the week. Let me at least try to explain my situation and I can let you be the judge of that.
Over the course of the past week, I’ve experienced the funeral of my grandfather and persistent fevers and severe flu-like symptoms from everyone in my family including: my three young children. I’m nearly exhausted the amount of PTO I’m able to utilize for this month―and possibly the next month. Both my wife and I are sleep deprived. I’m definitely past the point of exhaustion and almost crossed the line of delirium.
I’ve really struggled in my spiritual life the last week. Frankly, my relationship with God has been fractured and virtually nonexistent. Sure, I could point to several valid (but are they truly!) reasons for why I have not relied on God during my time of turmoil. Some of you may be quick to forgive me—others maybe not. Ultimately, I need to ask Our Father in Heaven for forgiveness.
Suffering Bears Fruit
Doubt, despair, hopelessness, destitution, weakness in faith, and spiritual sloth have been the fruits of my suffering. Jesus Christ clearly teaches in Luke 6:43-45,
43“A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.44For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thornbushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles.45A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.
My reactions to the suffering I encountered this week are an indictment on my spiritual resolve. The one benefit to my failings in my spiritual life is that one thing is clear – I’m at a crossroads. I can either choose the path of sanctity through redemptive suffering or I let wallowing in self-pity dominate my attitude and view suffering as purposeless.
When Suffering Redeems
The central event of human history is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His redemptive suffering ties together the fabric of reality. Every person is given a choice: to accept the cross gracefully or flee from it. Sometimes people choose the cross during a significant watershed moment in their life – like Saint Paul’s conversion. Most people have to choose the cross of Jesus Christ daily. This choice is the most important choice in our life. This choice determines whether we are a saint, a child of God, or sycophant of the world.
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said,
“Suffering will come, trouble will come – that’s part of life; a sign that you are alive. If you have no suffering and no trouble, the devil is taking it easy. You are in his hand.”
I need to be continually reminded that suffering is part and parcel of living. Only by joyfully taking up my struggles and uniting them to the redemptive suffering of Jesus’ suffering, death, and Resurrection will I truly find moments of peace during the storms of life!
Help me [us all] to remember in these troubled times
The cross you carried for my sake,
So that I may better carry mine
And to help others do the same,
As I offer up (my sufferings) to you
For the conversion of sinners
For the forgiveness of sins
In reparation for sins
And for the salvation of souls. Amen
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 13, 2017.
God is Not Satan’s Biggest Rival
According to St. Louis de Montfort, “[Mary] is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus and will surrender themselves to her, body and soul, without reserve in order to belong entirely to Jesus (True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary ). Even though I am a life-long Catholic this quote caught me off guard. It seemed too intrepid and I thought it was statements like this that bred the Catholic caricature in the mind of Protestants.
I have since been graced with the understanding that the above quote by the French saint is true and a vital truth in our Catholic faith. Earlier this week I start a Marian consecration with my parish disciple group [communal level] and with my wife [private level]. This will culminate on the centennial anniversary of Mary’s Apparition at Fatima.
Like with most of my daily blog topics, my original topic I wanted did not match what I actually wrote. Today is no different. To be honest, I had an urging of the Holy Spirit to write about Mary during my drive back to work during the noon hour. Let me explain why I believe Mary is the prime foe to Satan. I will incorporate Scripture, writing from St. Louis de Montfort, and my own personal experience as evidence to back this claim.
Enmity Predicted in Genesis 3:15
Listen to the words of the inspired writer in Genesis, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head,while you strike at their heel.” The word enmity actually means malice, hostility, or antagonism. No simple division occurred between the woman [Mary] and the serpent [Satan]. There is an antagonistic battle between the two. Interestingly enough, this theme is found in the other bookend of the Bible in the Book of Revelation.
Opposites Don’t Attract
Unlike the adage, “opposites attract” or the truth revealed when playing with magnets, in the case of Mary versus Satan—OPPOSITES DO NOT ATTRACT! St. Louis de Montfort sums it ups both concisely and beautifully, “What Lucifer lost by pride Mary won by humility” (True Devotion 53). Mary’s powerful intercessory power comes from her intimate union with God through her silent prayer and pondering heart. The devil as his weapon of choice is noise and chaos. He wants to increase the “decibels” so our spiritual life never takes root in the silent pondering before God.
Bullies Are Scared of Their Victim’s Mothers
A friend of mine told our discipleship group earlier this week, “Satan will hate you for starting this Marian consecration”. I curiosity asked, “How so?” He went on to tell about his temptations and struggles when he began a similar journey a few years ago. His foreshadowing came true today.
My family’s morning started off hectic and the stress only increased and even doubled down as the day went on. But viewing Mary as the greatest enemy of Satan makes perfect sense of today’s turmoil.
Bullies like Satan tend to get really self-defensive when their victims’ mother intervenes. If anyone bullied my son, I would warn the bully ahead of time to be more afraid of my wife than me. In a similar way, the silent salvo our Salve Regina unleashes on the Devil may intensify during the ensuing days of my Marian consecration.
Before I conclude, I do want to provide a qualifying statement to any non-Catholic reader. I do not intend to place Mary at the equal level of God. She is not God. However, Catholics honor Mary as the most perfect creation of God. We also honor her as the Mother of God.
I will leave you with words of wisdom from St. Louis, “The Son of God became man for our salvation but only in Mary and through Mary” (True Devotion 16). Let us thank God for allowing Mary to be a doorway upon which we may experience God’s graces.
According to the great Italian Saint Philip Neri, “There is no surer or clearer proof of the love of God than adversity.”
His message certainly stands in stark opposition with what the modern world tells us will bring love. Creating viral videos on YouTube, increasing our followers on social media platforms, and possessing the latest Apple technology appear to be channels by which 21st century humanity may achieve happiness. Suffering is so medieval or ancient times!
Why does man need to suffer when technological advancements will eliminate disease and human ailments in the future?
The Christian approach to redemptive suffering stands counter-cultural. What is not necessarily controversial is surprise and intrigue. Less than a year ago, I discovered the unconventional St. Philip Neri. In fact, I learned that the Italian priest is actually the patron saint of joy and humor!
Mark Twain once wrote, “Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.” As a Catholic, I contend with his claim that humor is the greatest blessing, as that belongs to the gift of the sacraments (especially Eucharist and Confession), the American author was correct that good-natured wit and jocosity help humanity. At the end of a stressful day at work, what normally infuses life into my wife and I’s day, and sometimes week, is comedy.
Levity, lightness, and wit dominate Philip’s letters and maxims. He loved to banter with his friends and later in life even with notable Church leaders like St. Charles Borromeo and his friend CesareCardinal Baronius. Along with being the patron saint of joy and humor, I will briefly detail three reasons why Philip Neri could be your patron saint as well!
Humility Makes Us Human
A manager of mine once gave me interesting advice whenever he came across negative experiences from customers. “Remember the Q-TIP method—Quit taking it personal!” Perhaps it is because of the interesting mental imagery that came to mind or maybe my ears were clogged with earwax that I needed to keep using the “Q-TIP” method before I started to take that advice. A more likely answer is that setting my pride aside and listening to others is easier when reading the wisdom of holy individuals such as St. Philip Neri. Neri states,
“When a man is reproved for anything, he ought not to take it too much to heart, for we commit a greater fault by our sadness than by the sin for which we are reproved.”
The Italian saint writes frequently about the importance of humility and the joy that comes as a result of asking for that virtue from the Holy Spirit. Pride is considered to be the vice opposed to the virtue of humility. St. Philip Neri spoke about hubris in this way, “Excessive sadness seldom springs from any other source than pride.” God did not intend for humanity to be sad, but we were made to experience joy and communion. Excessive joy, the opposite of sadness, would spring from the reverse of pride—humility.
Along with the importance St. Philip Neri attaches to the humility, a virtue necessary for growing in the spiritual life, his writings demonstrate an attractive simplicity to living life. Living in today’s world we all could certainly learn to live with less. I particularly struggle with excess—binge watching Netflix, eating fast food, or struggles with too much negativity. According to him, “Avarice is the pest of the soul!” Learning about this joyful saint through his writings help limit these unhealthy desires in my life.
Wading through the mires of trials, self-doubts, and obstacles certainly seems confusing. I came across a gem of spiritual advice from St. Neri. In regards to tackling on the pressures and temptations of the world he wrote, “Persons who live in the world should persevere in coming to church to hear sermons, and remember to read spiritual books, especially the Lives of the Saints.” Weekly attendance of Mass helps sustain us through tough times. While at Sunday Liturgy, Neri provides a simple, but profound insight to combat the devil. He urges us, “at communion we ought to ask for the remedy of the vice to which we feel ourselves most inclined.” His pithy and modest maxims show that living in holiness need not be complicated.
Delight in Difficulties
Another hallmark of the writings of St. Philip Neri is his focus on satisfaction gained through encountering suffering with grace. He realizes that truth of redemptive suffering contains the path to authentic joy. The Italian priest penned, “Nothing more glorious can happen to a Christian, than to suffer for Christ.”
Our joy gained via difficulties does not originate from man. Neri reminds us that the Holy Spirit is the cause for our continual peace and joy in trials. The Enemy’s primary weapon is suffering in hopes we fall into despair. The opposite of despair or sadness is humility. According to Neri, “One of the very best means of obtaining humility, is sincere and frequent confession.” Whenever I receive those sacramental graces poured forth in the medicine box any suffering I encounter turns sweet instead of sour.
Over a year ago, I accidentally stumbled across the unconventional, yet witty life and works of St. Philip Neri. Humility pervades his writings. While you may not acknowledge it now, we all truly need to learn more about being humble in the age of “selfies”. The wit and cheerful tone of Neri’s letters will prompt the natural urge to pursue truth in the Cross of Jesus Christ. Joy and humor enliven the spirit. St. Philip Neri proclaims, “The cheerful are much easier to guide in the spiritual life than the melancholy.” If you prefer an easier, but still true, path to living Gospel maybe you should take up the Italian priest as your patron saint!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 19, 2019.
I recently read that the average American person hits their snooze button about three times a morning. Unfortunately, on some days, my rate is almost double! Well, I wanted today’s topic to include an example that nearly everyone can relate to— the desire for more sleep. What is more, the snooze button is a metaphor for my spiritual life, at least as of late.
Procrastination is a condition that all humans suffer from at some point in our lives. Some suffer from this more than others. One might say, “Now hold on for a sec Matt! A little procrastination is not bad— I mean we should not work too hard in this life, right?!” Procrastination is most definitely less heinous than murder or terrorism. However, I maintain that the devil’s clandestine ploy against God’s faithful often takes ordinary disguises.
Laziness Leads to Lukewarmness
Lately, I have been lukewarm in my faith life. I mean I still uphold the basic tenets of the Catholic faith: going to Sunday Mass, occasional confession throughout the year, and a weekly reading of the Bible. But I still have a deep aching in my soul for more. What is my problem? For one I failed to follow through at times in my spiritual life. I tried to wake up for 6:45 A.M. daily Mass, but I hit my snooze button several times on my phone and overslept.
A New Testament passage that appeals to my current situation is the Agony in the Garden scene. Here Peter, James, and John suffer from sleepiness as well. Instead of having a cellular phone alarm to jolt them back to consciousness they are awakened by the Word of God— Jesus.
According to Mark’s Gospel, Jesus had to provide the sounding alarm for his apostles to wake up not once, but rather three times! The same amount as the average American hits the snooze button. We really have not progressed too far in 2000 years on that subject. Humans constantly let God down by procrastinating and failing to follow through on promises to Him. In Luke 22:40, Jesus warns his closest friends, “Pray that you may not undergo the test”.
No Rest for the Wicked
What this means is that Satan is never going to take a break from trying to sever our relationship with God. The great tempter is rarely overt in his attempts to lead us astray. The closer we get to God, the more sneaky and creative the devil needs to be in attempting to achieve his goals. Who knows what types of graces I may have received during the 6:45 AM Mass. Unfortunately, my chance for today is past. Alas, I must try again tomorrow.
My hope for those reading this post, especially if you are a marginal Catholic that is hesitant to trust the Church or simply stuck in a lazy period of your spiritual life, to please look for people in your life that you can turn to help keep you accountable. Ask a parent, spouse, neighbor, best friend, child, or co-worker to come to Mass with you. For me the only time I succeeded in waking up on time (AT 6 AM!) was when I went to a Catholic men’s faith-sharing group.
The best way to fight Satan’s secret weapons (the snooze button in this case) is actually through clarity. Publicly the Catholic Church is always clear that the sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession are the best ways to ward off the devil’s temptations. And make you war against the elusive evil one public. Ask people to help and pray for you. I certainly will. And I hope you pray for me as well!
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Thank you for reading and hope you have a blessed day!
❗️Fear causes paralysis of the mind, body and soul.
❗️You have to work toward slaying fear daily. Ask God for the grace to move away from fear.
❗️Fear leads to doubt. Doubt leads to distrust. And distrust can have negative or unexpected consequences.
❗️ Moses doubt in God’s Providence to quench the peoples’ thirst in the desert when he impatiently struck the rock twice instead of once (Numbers 20) resulted in him losing the chance to enter the Promised Land.
❗️Peter’s fear for his Lord’s safety caused Jesus to publicly chastise him, “Get behind me Satan” (Matthew 16:23).
❗️Past achievements or your pedigree don’t give you a free pass to give into doubt and fear.
Questions for discernment
🔰 How have you overcome fear in your life?
🔰 Sometimes fear is a good (like aversion to a fire stove or being cautious in situations with warning signs.
🔰 How can these different types of fear be distinguished?
Look forward to any thoughts in the comments below 👇
Recently, the news featured stories about attacks and vandalism at Catholic parishes around the world. This is not really unexpected given the current state of the world. However, we should look at this though the lens of history and realize that this kind of stuff isn’t new. It was not different in the days of Christ and it is no different now.
Our Enemy Hates the Church
The evil one does not like God or what the church itself stands for. Thus, he will use any means he can to destroy us. Even in the Gospels Christ warns us several times that following Him carries risk. Not all will be accepting of the truth He has given us.
Seeing places of worship ransacked always brings sorrow. The Catholic Church stands for something profound. It represents a bridge from the present to Christ’s teaching (2000 years ago). These lessons and wisdom passed down though the generations in the lives of the Saints. Not all accept this truth. They will hate and fear what they don’t understand. If they did not then we would not have anyone who would be considered martyrs.
The Church is Beyond a Building
We must remember that we are more than the buildings and the statues. If the suspension of public Mass during a pandemic has taught us anything is that our faith has to be deeper than the foundations of the buildings. Statues can be vandalized and toppled. Churches can be set on fire and destroyed. They are a focal point for the faith. But they are not the faith itself.
Our faith lies in the path that Christ has given us in this life. Doesn’t matter what happens around us so long as we hold true to the Catholic faith and not make compromises because the world demands us to. We have a commitment to Christ that goes past the world. When we commit to walking with Christ we live in hope.
Nothing should stop us from living the Gospel. No matter what evil the world will throw our way. Much like the days of the Apostles we must be willing to face the hatred! According to Matthew 5:11, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me.” True words to live by in an age where the faith is under more attacks than ever before.
About our guest blogger
JM Kraemer is a Catholic artist out of Saginaw, MI who uses LEGO as creative way to evangelize. He writes on issues related to the Catholic Faith and disability awareness. Visit his Facebook page Lego Church Project to read more content to help you build your faith (and enjoy amazing Lego constructions).