Re-Gaining a Sense of Voyage in Life

As a child I had a fascination with maps, geography, and the idea of being on a quest. My favorite books to read as a kid included the famous Greek epic The Odyssey and the Redwall Series by English author Brian Jacques. Both included a sense of adventure whereby the main character(s) trekked across dangerous terrain and met obstacles to overcome (external and internal struggles) before eventually arriving at their destination at the end of the story. The word odyssey actually means journey, pilgrimage, or trek.

As a father of four [one is in utero!], I am able to reacquaint myself with the sense of life as a voyage. Frequently, I lose sight of reality as the flood of daily temptations, confusion, and struggles assail me. My 5 year old daughter definitely got her penchant for atlases from me. Almost every day, she asks me, “Daddy! Can you please get me paper and markers for me to make a map?!”  Cartography reigns supreme in my household—especially on rainy days!

The other day I read an article online that referenced the importance of returning to a sense of voyage. A quote from St. Thérèse of Lisieux stuck in my mind after I went on with the rest of my day. The Doctor of the Church wrote, “The symbol of a ship always delights me and helps me to bear the exile of this life.” Her words convey a truth that I always wanted to communicate but was not able to fully articulate—something about sea travel points to a higher reality. Perhaps it is because we named our child Noah, named after the Old Testament figure who crafted the ark, that I tend to have boats on the mind—at least subconsciously. Or maybe, there is something innate in each of us that desires the continual movement that travel affords us. St. Augustine famously declared, “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in you [God].”

Here is a well-written and easy to understand article on the connection between Noah’s Ark and its prefiguring of the Catholic Church: https://catholicexchange.com/ten-ways-noahs-ark-prefigured-church. Some highlights include that just as the giant boat housed the holy individuals of Noah and his family, so too, does the Catholic Church safeguard individuals striving for holiness against the dangers of the deluge of temptations!

Another important point that stands out regarding the maritime theme is that life is bearable when we look to the Promised Land—Heaven—as our destination. When times get tough, during the turbulence of life we look beyond our vehicle, and outside of ourselves toward the horizon—toward the rising of the Sun [Son]!

Every quest involves dead-ends, treacherous terrain, and wild beasts [physical and/or spiritual]. Fellowship is essential for any journey—just ask Frodo the Hobbit!

Reacquainting myself with the fact that life is truly a voyage helps to remind me that I am not only in the journey. God provided helpmates along the way, namely my wife, children, and the saints such as St. Thérèse. When life gets your down and despair sets in please be reminded that you still have a road ahead. You have the ability to pick the road on this pilgrimage of life—make life more joyful by following the witness of the holy ones before us!

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Missing Pieces or Finding Peace—How the Puzzling Brokenness of Human Nature Leads to God

Saint Augustine’s simple and ageless maxim, “Because God has made us for Himself, our hearts are restless until they rest in Him” resonates with mankind regardless of history and time. No amount of material possessions, health, or control over finances will provide lasting and authentic happiness and peace. Humanity is naturally a broken species—greed, pride, anger, lust, gluttony, sloth, envy abound. This truth is evident simply by noticing daily interaction with yourself and others. Perfectibility in the human race—eugenics—was tried and failed many times, arguably most notoriously during the Nazi regime in the mid-20th century. True perfection does not occur through purely human willpower and scientific advancement. Rather authentic perfection—or holiness is achieved through cooperating with the Divine Will.

Possessing all the catechetical knowledge in the world will not ensure that a person has the puzzle of life solved. A relationship with Jesus Christ is absolutely essential to fill that “God-shaped” hole in my soul/complete the puzzle of life. As a perfectionist, I struggle mightily with falling into the heresy of Pelagianism. St. Augustine, himself, battled the false teaching of the monk Pelagius. Heresies rise and fall. Pope Francis warned of the dangers of this heresy in his encyclical letter Gaudete Et Exsultate. He declared,

Those who yield to this pelagian or semi-pelagian mindset, even though they speak warmly of God’s grace, “ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style”.[46] When some of them tell the weak that all things can be accomplished with God’s grace, deep down they tend to give the idea that all things are possible by the human will, as if it were something pure, perfect, all-powerful, to which grace is then added. (no. 49).

Awill lacking humility cannot fix the human condition no matter one’s tenacity and intellectual prowess. As I mentioned before I struggle with relying on my willpower over cooperation with my Creator’s gift of grace He bestowed on me. After a frustrating situation at work, I expressed concerns to my manager, “I did everything right. I provided accurate information, willingness, to help, and empathy to customer situations. Normally, I am able to control/steer nearly all my customer interactions to a positive outcome. I wish I could have this influence for all situations.”

Listening intently to my concerns, my manager acknowledged my frustrations yet added this profoundly simple, but very applicable analogy—that of a jigsaw puzzle. “Imagine you are working on a 500 or 1000 piece puzzle and you completed everything perfectly. When you get to the end you discover there is a piece missing. No matter how perfectly you worked with that piece missing the puzzle is still incomplete. Some customer conversations are like that. You may do everything perfect on your end, but still a piece is missing to prevent your perfect result.”

Now I am not aware of my manager’s theological leanings. His analogy originally meant to be for a practical workplace example, after further reflection I learned that this example of a puzzle missing a piece applies to my faith life as well. Willing myself toward perfection and completion cannot happen because a piece of missing in the puzzle of my life—a God-shaped hole!

C.S. Lewis stated “We have a strange illusion that mere time cancels sin. But mere time does nothing either to the fact or to the guilt of a sin.” Humanity cannot evolve out of the original brokenness of human nature ushered in through the Fall of Adam and Eve. Time and time again my hubris leads to the danger relying solely on my will. However, God’s merciful gift of confession allows me to exercise my free will to cooperate with Divine grace to complete the puzzle of my life and overcome my inclinations for self-centeredness. True peace only happens when we have a relationship with God.


Trying to fill the God-sized hole in our hearts with things other than God is like trying to fill the Grand Canyon with marbles. —Peter Kreeft

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Why Praying to the Saints is Not like Magic

The teaching about the Communion of Saints is oftentimes a stumbling block for non-Catholics and even new Catholic converts in learning about the faith. I know my wife had a few questions about this when she initially converted almost a decade ago. Although I am a cradle Catholic, I try to put myself in the mindset of a non-believer to better understand other people’s perspectives about the Catholic faith. A common misconception about saints is that they provide a sort of magically aid or instant assistance on particular issues. Communicating with the saints solely for the spiritual relief they provide can lead to a sort of idol worship—this is not the intention of the doctrine about the Communion of Saints.

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According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek, rather, that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened. Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself (CCC 957)

Instead of leading us astray from God, communicating with the holy ones in Heaven is a great way to help increase our own holiness. Below are five reasons for why praying to the saints is not akin to usage of magic.

1. Other-centered vs. Self-centered: The primary aim of asking the saints for help through prayer is not about yourself. When I ask the saints for intercession it is usually to assist myself along with my family, friends, and the community around me. On the contrary, magic tends to be geared toward the individual. Fortune telling, Ouija boards, crystal ball reading, and other forms of magic are first and foremost focused on providing answers [usually regarding the future] for the person who uses the magic.

2. Call to Universal is Universal, Cauldron Brewing is a Niche Practice: Throughout the history of the Church, holiness has always been a universal call and not simply for priests and religious life. Saints appeal to everyone. In order for an individual to be officially canonized a saint they must be a guiding light and help to a large amount of people. Truth is universal and if an individual truly lived according to truth their life would appeal to diverse population across time and space. For example, St. Augustine lived in the 4th century A.D., but his struggles with lust and promiscuity still relate to people in the 21st century who struggle with an addiction to pornography or treat sex as a casual act.

On the other hand, magic is not a universal practice. It is a niche field that appeals to a small section of humanity.

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3. Saints Help You Become the Best Version of Yourself: Along with being focused on others and a universal appeal, communication with the saints in Heaven ultimately help you become the best version of yourself. From my experience whenever I struggle with sin, my particular vice is anger, I reflect on individuals who struggled with similar temptations  and ask for help. St. Jerome was known to be quite hot-headed and rash with his words. In fact he minced words with St. Augustine several times throughout his life. Eventually through prayer, study of the scriptures, and the sacraments, Jerome learned to overcome his anger problems. Examples like him serve as good role models for me to mimic. True and honest communication with the saints through prayer will only lead to you finding a better version of yourself!

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4. Magic Seeks Mastery over Material World, Sanctity Seeks Mastery over Spiritual Matters: Magic tends to be focused on worldly matters and manipulation of matter. Alchemy seeks to transform ordinary objects into elements of greater value [i.e. other elements into gold]. Fortune telling seeks to grasp control of an individual’s future. Contrarily, praying to the saints leads to a mastery to spiritual vices and an increase in virtue.

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5. Slow and Steady Wins the Race: Perennial truth exists in Aesop’s timeless fable The Tortoise and the Hare. Although he was much faster, the hare assumed that the race was in the bag. Instead of running consistently through the entire race, the hare lazily snoozed for half of the race. On the other hand, the tortoise knew that the race was long, but he was constant and diligent. By the time the hare woke up the tortoise crossed the finish line. Throughout literature magic is usually a device individuals use as a shortcut to solving a problem or ethical dilemma. Oftentimes the quickest and easiest path is not always equated with the most dependable option—at least not in the long-term outlook.

Whenever I have asked the saints for assistance the relief was not immediately granted. Occasionally I received help quickly but it is not a guarantee in prayer. Regardless of the time-frame on when answers arrive from my prayer request I am always sure to pray CONSISTENTLY and BE THANKFUL.

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A fruit of my of relationship with my spiritual brothers and sisters in Heaven is that I am more closely united with the rest of humanity. By mirroring good and holy role models I am better able to display works of charity and humility toward the poor in both spirit and materially poor in my community. It is not enough to magically state, I love mankind in the conceptual sense, but rather meet the individual in the daily circumstances of my life. My spiritual helpers in the communion of saints draw my closer to Jesus and give me examples of what true love of people looks like!

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Was I Created to Yearn for Truth?

What is truth? According to the dictionary, truth means that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality. For years I have found myself asking the same question: What is truth? This query has seemingly evaded philosophers’ full grasp for centuries and political leaders sought out the answer to this question as well. The Roman governor Pontius Pilate even posed this question before Jesus Christ himself in John 18:38.

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What I want to focus on today is the words of Christ that caused Pilate to ask “What is truth?”. According to the fourth evangelist Jesus told Pilate, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37 New American Bible). Jesus’ statement seems to be a stoic reply that apparently seems to not really give us much information. When I searched the rest of John’s gospel on passages that relate to truth I came across this verse that I think decisively answers Pilate’s question. In a discourse during the Last Supper, Jesus consoles his apostles, specifically Thomas, with the following words, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 2466 declares, “In Jesus Christ, whole of God’s truth has been made manifest.’Full of grace and truth,” he came as the “light of the world,” he is the Truth.’” Manifest means clear and obvious to the eye or mind. In other words, truth was plainly seen the Incarnation that occurred 2,000 years ago. Struggling with A.D.H.D and anxiety my entire life I have tried a gamut of remedies to cure my nervousness and constant worrisome. Truthfully, it is not until I rest in the Truth of God in the person of Jesus Christ where my anxiety truly disappears. All my successes: marrying my wife, celebrating our children’s births, earning my Master’s Degree, and promotions at work only give me temporary relief from my daily anxiety.

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Uniting myself to truth is the only solution to my worry. I do believe humanity was created to yearn for truth. St. Augustine’s adage, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You” is truer now than ever before. I ask the Holy Spirit to continue to provide me consolation and strength to daily seek and unite myself to the Truth!

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Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D Part 9- Akedah of Isaac and the Passion of Christ

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Cherry-picking, prior to me taking philosophy courses, was a term I associated with a fun fruit activity aimed at selecting delectable berries from an orchard on a warm summer afternoon. I have since learned that words contain a slew of meaning and context is everything in determining the meaning and authorial intention of a particular passage in a fiction or non-fiction work. The same may be said about cherry-picking evidence to build up the Scriptures or to tear them down. Between the erroneous stances of biblical fundamentalism [taking everything literally to be true] and modernism which jettisons truth from the Scriptures is the middle ground of the Catholic interpretation of the Bible.

Each of my previous works in the Why Catholic Must Have Bible A.D.D. series I stress the importance of reading the Old Testament and the New Testament as a whole instead of fragmenting and pitting passages against one another. The Old Testament prepares the way for the New Testament and the New Testament perfects the Old Testament. Today I want to tackle a commonly misunderstood and difficult text to reconcile with the Christian faith—Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of his son Isaac. I will look at contextual evidence within the book of Genesis in the chapters leading up to this troublesome event, evidence from the New Testament, and interpretations from Catholic Church Tradition on how to understanding the meaning of Genesis 22:1-19.

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Before I begin with my analysis I will briefly outline Genesis 22:1-19 [traditionally referred to as the Akedah or binding of Isaac]. Genesis 22 starts with God testing Abraham. He charges the patriarch to take Isaac to Mount Moriah and “offer him there as a burnt offering”. Interestingly Abraham does not argue with God’s command [I will explain why I think this in the case in my analysis soon]! Arriving at the sacrificial site on the mountain Abraham raises his dagger and is just about ready to slay Isaac as an offering when the angel of the Lord intervenes. God saves the day by sending a ram caught in a thicket to be the substitute sacrifice in place of Isaac. Countless unbelievers find this passage deeply troubling and even Christians themselves struggle with reconciling Abraham’s faith with his willingness to kill his son. I too wrestled with the binding of Isaac until I discovered the following information.

1. Contextual Clues in the Chapters Leading Up to the Binding of Isaac: Randomly opening up the Old Testament and reading Genesis 18 really opened my eyes to the mysterious test God gave Abraham four chapters later.

a. Promise Not Meant to be Broken: Chapter 18 begins with a son [Isaac] being promised to Abraham and Sarah. This was a miraculous birth due to the elderly status of the couple. Sarah was thought to be barren so she laughed at the claim delivered by the angels. Because of this, the baby name was Isaac whose name means “laughter”. God does not make promises only to break them. Viewing the test of Abraham in light of the birth of Isaac is evidence that Isaac’s life was never in jeopardy.

b. Abraham tests God: The second half of chapter 18 sets the stage for God’s test of Abraham. Less than a chapter before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham fervently appeals to God to spare the sinful city of Sodom. Almost defiantly Abraham questions God, “Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24Suppose there were fifty righteous people in the city; would you really sweep away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people within it? 25Far be it from you to do such a thing, to kill the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike! Far be it from you! Should not the judge of all the world do what is just?” (Genesis 18:23-25). God replies, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city I will spare the whole place for their sake” (Genesis 18:26). Abraham continues his interrogation of God with the same question substituting a smaller number of people from 45, 40, 30, 20, and eventually a mere 10 hypothetical righteous people. God answer remains the same. Despite the vengeful power of God his mercy always accompanies his judgment!

c. God’s test not arbitrary: Re-reading Genesis 22:1-19 I now see that God’s test to Abraham is not simply a game that he is playing with his son Isaac. Our faith is increased through testing but God already hinted at the outcome of the binding of Isaac through his merciful response to Abraham’s interrogation in Genesis 18.

2. Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross: Reading the binding of Isaac within the greater context of Genesis helps us understand the purpose of the event but the fullness of this test is not revealed until the Crucifixion of Jesus on the Cross. Cardinal Jean Danielou in his masterful work From Shadows to Reality: Studies in the Biblical Typology of the Fathers, spends a chapters on the binding of Isaac viewed through a typological purview. The early church interpreted the akedah of Isaac as a prefiguration of Jesus’ death on the cross.

a. Ram as Sacrifice: The ram caught in the briar thicket is a type of sacrifice that foreshadows Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb. According to St. Augustine, “What does this [ram caught in thorns] prefigure, if not that Jesus, before being sacrificed, was crowned with thorns?” (From Shadows to Reality p. 127).

b. Way of the Cross: Isaac like Jesus both carry the wood [of the cross] on the journey to the sacrificial site [which was both on a mountain!].

c. Miraculous births and innocent victims: Another connection I noticed between Isaac and Jesus is their conception is considered miraculous. Sarah laughed at the absurdity of being pregnant since she was considered too old and barren to conceive. Mary was on the other side of the spectrum. As a young woman she conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit and was likewise surprised by the angel’s news (see Luke 1:34).

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3. Tradition of the Catholic Church: The early Church Fathers viewed the New Testament events as fulfilling the Old Testament type. According to St. Athanasius, “When Abraham offered his son her adored the Son of God, and when he was forbidden to offer Isaac, he saw in the lamb Christ who was offered to God” (From Shadows to Reality p. 129). Theodoret also recognized the reality hidden in Genesis 22 when he said, “All these were shadows of the economy of our salvation. The Father offered his well-beloved Son for the world. Isaac typified the divinity; the ram the humanity: even the length of time is the same in both cases, three days and three nights” (From Shadows to Reality p. 130). Cardinal Danielou states that specifically the birth and sacrifice of Isaac foreshadow the fullness of the Incarnation in the New Testament ((From Shadows to Reality p 121).

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I have only been satisfied with the meaning of the Akedah of Isaac when viewed in light of the interpretative key of Jesus’ sacrificial death. Noticing Abraham’s testing of God in Genesis 18 and the mercy of God helped me better understand that God does not make promises simply to break them. I hope that you have found this topic enlightening and I encourage you to continue to question seemingly problematic texts and seek guidance from the Holy Spirit and the tradition of the Catholic Church!

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