An Unexpected Journey- How September 21st, 2017 Became the New Start to My Spiritual Life

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Editor’s Notes: Originally published September 22nd, 2017


Over the past few weeks, life has been throwing stress-filled curveballs at me. Reeling from anxiety, anger, and frustration, I recently went to the spiritual medicine box—Confession—to gain sacramental graces to help me grow in patience and perspective. I experienced a true transformation in my life this week in the days following my reconciliation with God, the Church, and my fellow man. September 21st, 2017 became a new launching point for my spiritual journey. Excited for this re-start on my path toward Christian holiness, I will provide a few reasons why this date holds a special place in my heart.

The hobbit book

Anniversary of the Publication of The Hobbit

Eighty years ago, on September 21st, 1937, The Hobbit—an essential item on any fantasy fan’s bookshelf—was published. Eight decades later the tale of J.R.R. Tolkien still instills wonder in its readers.

Regrettably, I did not explore Middle Earth until my mid-20s. Over the past five years, I have read The Hobbit twice and The Lord of the Rings trilogy once.

A true literary treasure is measured through its ability to stand the test of time. Nearly a century later, I would say that Tolkien’s work passes with flying colors. Characters within the story seem to speak directly to me. For instance, the dwarf Thorin tells Bilbo, “There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” How easy is it for us to lose memory of the importance things in life? I forget fairly quickly. Tolkien reminds me to look for the hidden joys in my life. Perhaps, an unexpected journey is in store for me starting September 21st, 2017.

St. Matthew

Happy Holiness Day

Along with the anniversary of The Hobbit, September 21st is the feast day of my patron saint—St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. Before his “coming to God moment”, Matthew worked for the Roman equivalent of the IRS. Hatred of paying government taxes is an innate principle built into humanity. Palestine 30 A.D. was no different. What courage and faith it must have taken Matthew to leave his luxurious, high paying government job?

Tax collectors were considered traitors to the Jewish people. They basically did the Roman government’s dirty work of extolling individuals for money. I always imaged how Matthew would fit in with Jesus’ motley crew of Apostles. Was he accepted right away? Did trust issues exist?

While such questions are purely speculative, but I find pondering the transition of Matthew from a hated tax collector to an evangelist helpful in my relationship with my patron saint. I too struggle to fit in at times, yet I am gifted with the ability to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ just like St. Matthew! September 21st is the beginning of my re-commitment to evangelize through my writing, family life, and volunteering at my parish. I hope to exhibit the same steadfast faith as Matthew did when Jesus said, “Follow me” (Luke 5:27).

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September of Sacraments

Together with my patron saint and favorite fantasy jubilees occurring on the same day, the month of September started as a transitional month for my family and I. My wife began a new job, our children started to get in the school routine, and changes galore occurred at work. Through the grace of God and ability in our hectic scheduling, and mostly due to my serious need for divine assistance I went to confession twice this month.

During my first confession, the priests gave me this amazing penance—pray the Prayer of Humility. Humility is the virtue that stands in opposition to the vice of pride. Pride is what made the Devil fall from his celestial pedestal as God’s favored angel. Pride leads me to be an inferior version of myself. Let us briefly ask God for the gift of true and beautiful 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…

spiritual path

Be on the Lookout for Your Unexpected Journey

Unexpected journeys are difficult, but the joy attained through its travel is immeasurable. Jesus tells his disciples [and us], “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25). God asks us each day: will you follow me?

Starting on September 21st, 2017, I said yes! I renewed my commitment to follow His lead. Will I continue on this path? I certainly hope so, only time will truly tell. I will close with the following exchange between the hobbit and wizard before the great journey:

Gandalf: I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.

Bilbo: I should think so—in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them …

Gandalf: You’ll have a tale or two to tell when you come back

Bilbo: You can promise that I’ll come back?”

Gandalf: No. And if you do, you will not be the same

Related Links:

3 Similarities I Share with my Namesake— Saint Matthew

Could J.R.R. Tolkien ever be canonized a saint?

An Unexpected Journey? The Case For The Canonization Of J.R.R. Tolkien

How Tolkien’s Middle-Earth Introduced Me to Catholicism

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Thank you for sharing!

Why the Best Writing Rarely Develops as You Originally Planned

I am the dictionary definition of a Type A personality. Order, preparation, planning, scheduling, and structure are my addiction. I thrive on a rigid schedule and always need a contingency plan in place just in case the first 37 plans fail.

Benjamin Franklin spoke of the importance of planning, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” You May be worried that the title of this post is a sign I might be abandoning my priority on order and organization. Have no fear! That is not going to happen.

Life includes Curved Roads

Expectations vs. Reality

While preparation sets you best for daily and lifelong success, it is still important to remind your that life does not always follow a straight path. How I wished it were that “straightforward” and simple!

Sometimes situations get complex. You may forget something or other people may slow our progress. Sometimes things outside our control run into our sights like a deer running across the interstate unexpectedly. We might notice in time to avoid collision. More often than not we will hit these unexpected situations.

We Can’t Plan for Everything

These are the times are best efforts to plan ahead seem to be in vain. This morning started that way for me. Coming off little sleep, Monday hit me. Hit me hard! Initially, I reacted poorly, I am ashamed to admit. All my hopes for the day appeared to be dashed. Pessimism overwhelmed me.

Through the help of my amazing wife, my stress-induced slide stopped. I took action and wrote about my struggles. Giving little thought about structure, I just wrote from the heart. I wrote how I was feeling.

Suddenly, after a minutes I had a few paragraphs. A few minutes later more and paragraphs. I did not originally intend on writing this post today. I had a “grander”, a “better”, and a “more prepared” topic to discuss. What I came to realize is that I was writing for myself–selfishly. I wanted to have a perfect post. A planned and perfectly executed article. What I definitely was not thinking about earlier was my audience. You!

Allow Yourself to Show in Your Writing

The reason I believe my best writing is the least planned is because it includes the following:

  • Lots of heart
  • My vulnerability
  • Strong desire to help others

I am not immune from hurt. This really is no surprise anymore.

Because of my hubris, I am quick to forget the reason I write. I write to help others. To help you. I want to give hope at the beginning of a stressful week. I want to give hope to new writers that it is okay if your posts are not perfect. Why do I fail so miserably sometimes?  I am merely human. You are too.

Learn from Challenges

Learn from Challenges

Planning your day and weekly schedule is still important. Learn from my mistakes. Don’t let rigid structure control your life. Allow it to guide you.

If you found this post helpful please share it with a someone you know it can help as well. Please also tell me your current struggles in the comments section. I would love to listen and encourage you in any way possible!

Related Links

How to Pack Power into Your Writing with this Tip

3 Reasons Why Forcing Ideas Leads to Bad Writing

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How to Roundhouse Kick My Daily Precipitation of Precipitateness


Editor’s Note: This post originally published on July 19, 2017.


Joseph Pieper, a 20th century German Catholic philosopher, wrote in Happiness and Contemplation,

Repose, leisure, peace, belong among the elements of happiness. If we have not escaped from harried rush, from mad pursuit, from unrest, from the necessity of care, we are not [fully] happy. And what of contemplation? Its very premise is freedom from the fetters of workaday busyness.

I think every person needs to be daily reminded of this message. It seems that lately I have been encountering a flood of fleetingness. Craziness abounds in both my work and home—demands piles up both from company leadership and my children.

Instead of me thriving and managing the stresses of daily routine, life has become a panicked response to these hurried stimuli. I wish there is some why for me to fight these stresses. Sometimes I wish this precipitation of precipitateness could manifest itself in a physical form so I could perform an epic beat down on it.

My wife recently started kick-boxing for her morning exercise routine—so please do not think I am always a violent person! Would it not be nice to pull a Chuck Norris and roundhouse kick stress, busyness, and hurriedness into oblivion?

Although it may be a pipe-dream to pull that off this donnybrook on stress literally, there are a few tips I have learned from my Catholic faith, my counseling sessions, and through my own life experience that help me stave off the burdens of busyness.

Present Before the Greatest Presence

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church number 1323, “The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.”136 “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it.” Oftentimes I fall into the trap of citing official church documents in hopes of slamming the door on any possible counter-argument to the truth. I have recently learned the errors in my line of thought. Great, I cited the official teaching of the Catholic Church on the sacrament of the Eucharist. But what exactly does this mean for me on an individual level. Do I experience any sort of change or transformation through my encounter with this divine presence?

I wish that I could provide you with an answer to all possible questions on this topic. But to be honest, I would only be kidding myself and I would fall short. I would be an inadequate emissary for the Catholic Church. For more information on rational arguments for belief in the Real Presence in the Eucharist please refer to 3 Reasons Why Critically Reading John 6 Will Convert Protestants.

What I can provide is my perspective, despite the fact that it is limited. I am actually most at peace in this life when I sit quiet before the sacrament of the Eucharist in Adoration. As a Catholic, I truly believe that during the Mass the bread and wine is transformed into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Communicating with God through the form of the Blessed Sacrament is where I am most at peace. Sacraments are visible signs of an invisible reality.

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The Sacraments Help Limit Stress

The second place I am most at peace is when I make myself vulnerable to my wife and share my dreams, fears, and worries to her. In the sacrament of marriage the love of God is made manifest in the exchange of a husband and wife [I rely on this type of presence of God more frequently than the Eucharist simply because it is more readily available].

Jesus never stressed about the busyness of this world. Even when he heard the terrible news of his close friend’s Lazarus dying Jesus never hurried. In reply to the concerned words of Lazarus’ sisters Christ calmly states in John 11:4, “This illness is not to end in death,* but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Perhaps the worries and stresses God allows in my life was a preparation for his glory and display of mastery of them later in time. Through the sacraments I acquire calmness of mind and heart.

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Cudgeling through Communication

How do you handle stressful situations? This was an interview question a prospective employer once asked me. I paused for a couple moments to collect my thoughts. I then provided two simple ways: communication and patience. As I stated above, I increase my patience through the graces I receive in the sacraments. Regarding communication, I have worked to consciously improve the manner and tone by which I rely on information both at work and at home.

What I have found out is that clearly and concisely conveying information is a surefire way to mitigate or defeat stressful situations. My counselor at my appointment today advised me to take a different perspective [i.e. try to see things from my manager’s vantage point] before I react and communicate something in a stressful event.

Perfectionists are not Perfect

Something I struggle with frequently is my tendency toward perfection. I have always been a perfectionist and an idealist. A large part of this may be due to my OCD inclinations and strong desire to have things in a straightforwardly organized manner. I want things to be predictable. There is an internal conflict within myself over desiring control over situations. Thankfully God gave me the gift of marriage as a means in seeing a different perspective through my wife. By her example, I have slowly [hopefully surely!] worked toward a balanced approach to the stressful situations in life. Perfectionists are not perfect. We seek to attain it daily, but we will always fall short.

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Does that mean I need to lower my expectations or my standards? There is a question that I may have an answer to later in my life. What I do know is that I need to come to grips with the reality that humanity is fallen. Perfection is not to be fully attained in this life—it is hinted at through the holy witness of the saints and the life of Jesus Christ!

Related Links

3 Incredibly Simple Tactics Guaranteed to Defeat Stress Daily

7 Ways to Shield Yourself against Anxiety!

Devotion to St. Martha Eases Anxiety


P.S. Congratulations for reaching the end of this article (or maybe you skimmed😊 ). **plays fanfare on silver trumpet🎺 **

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


Editor’s Note: This post originally published on July 20, 2018.


Saint Therese of Liseux once stated, “Our Lord does not so much look at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them.” Part of the universal appeal of the Little Flower was her simplicity and humility when approaching the greatness of God.

As a classic over thinker and a perfectionist, I tend to overanalyze sanctity. Making checklists or reminders on my phone, I try to cram a bunch of spiritual activities into a week all the while juggling a healthy work, life, and exercise routine! I am exhausted simply thinking about scheduling confession in on a Saturday around my three children’s naptime and giving my wife time to go to the medicine box as well.

At work the stress continued. The constant barrage of complaints, concerns, and questions wear down a person. I try to give myself a few seconds rest between the hustle and bustle. St. Therese taught me three important lessons this week.

 

Saint Therese of Liseux

Start Small

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

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

Fueled by the Fire of Love

According to Genesis 3, the curse place upon Adam [and later all mankind] was work being toilsome and difficult. In fact, the day of the Fall may have well been history’s first Monday! All joking aside, we normally dread work because it takes away of play—an activity of something which we enjoy and love doing. St. Josemaria Escriva declared, “Either we learn to find the Lord in the ordinary everyday life or else we shall never find him.”

fire of love

Very much in keeping with his spirituality, and likely a major influence for the Founder of Opus Dei, St. Therese reminds us that work need not be toilsome—as long as daily work is fueled by love. Watered by love—of God and neighbor—work blossoms into a sweet activity that paradoxically involves suffering but bring joy as well! “I understood that love comprises all vocations – that love is everything, and because it is eternal, embraces all times and places,” the sainted French nun declared.

Part of a Whole

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

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

Love your neighbor

Easily declared from my theological armchair, I struggle mightily in the midst of family life and the bustle of raising children. Here is where the example and spiritual maturity of St. Therese again teaches me. On the subject of being a saint, Therese stated, “I realized that to become a saint one must suffer a great deal, always seek what is best, and forget oneself.”

Depend on God

The youngest of nine siblings Therese learned quickly in life that she could not always be the center of attention—although she did admit in her Diary of a Soul that her selfishness pervaded her very earliest of years. The Little Flower’s constant message in her writings about her [and our] need to have a complete dependency on God our Heavenly Father helped shift my selfish mindset toward others and the Ultimate Other.

Start small, easy your daily struggle with the fuel of love, and remember you are part of a larger whole—members of the human race. These three lessons the young, but wise French saint taught me this week.

Related Links

5 Reasons Why October is the Holiest Time of the Year

St. Therese of Lisieux is a Spiritual Powerhouse

Live Like St. Thérèse of Lisieux

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Pretzelgate 🥨

Control reactions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Editor’s Note: Post originally published on November 6, 2019.


🤔” Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.” ― Irving Berlin

🔶Reactionary responses rarely are the best—especially if you are in a stressful situation.

🔶Yesterday, I was trying to get some rest as I worked the overnight shift. Thankfully, I got a solid short nap in. I woke to the sight of the contents of a 20 Oz pretzel 🥨 bag scattered on the living room floor.

🔶Immediately, I fretted. I got angry. In hindsight I realized it was actually a bit humorous.

🔶The kids were just trying to get a snack without waking me. Plus, Avila did benefit from Pretzelgate!

🔶She crawled swiftly over and took a fistful of pretzels for her snack. Grinning from ear to ear she held up her delicious trophy triumphantly.

🤔” Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.”

🔶In the Chicoine House life is 10% of what you make of it, 90% of your perspective, and 100% about 🥨.

Pretzel day the office

🔶I needed not get salty in attitude. I should have merely gone to work cleaning up by enjoying the crunchy and salty snack.

🔶How has time changed your perspective on a negative event for you?

Share your thoughts in the comments below. 😊

#perspective  #chicoinecontent  #lifequotes  #lifelessons

Thank you for sharing!

The Only Lasting Solution to Overcome (or at Least Combat) Stress

The world moves at lightning ⚡ pace and stress seems to compound faster than interest on payday loans.

Add the short-staffing crisis and the ongoing pandemic to the mix and it’s no wonder people’s mental health is on the brink of breaking (again and again).

Will the Stress Ever End?

I have suffered anxiety attacks at least weekly at work.

I often get frustrated at myself for not having more “strength” to weather the stress storm.

“My best is not enough” I think as I analyze the ever-growing list of things needed to do at work.

And it never will be enough.

You are not meant to have perfection or “enoughness” in this life.

Only One can fill your heart and mind with satisfaction and long-term peace, contentment and joy.

God.

Gratitude is our oxygen.

The pressures of the world make it appear survival is the only option. Inhale a large breath and make it last until you burst.

Taking a moment or two to exhale by taking in gratitude infuses new life.

God gives us grace (pure gift) to help us in times of trouble.

The catch?

Gifts are only help when you accept them

Ask and you will receive.

One way to receive grace is to practice gratitude.

Exhale this Monday.

What are you grateful for today?

P.S. Three things I’m thankful for today:

  • Coffee
  • Blankets
  • Bible in a Year podcast

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How Pressure and Suffering Makes You Beautiful and Stronger


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on November 30, 2020.


🚫 Demands without the grace of time & patience makes success almost impossible.

This year has been bat**** (no pun intended) crazy from millisecond number one.

Mind blowing stuff right?!

I never juggled while getting chased by a rabid platypus but I think I still have time to check that off my not-bucket list. 😉

Your plans probably didn’t work out (unless you’re currently on contingency plan 215— this means you probably beat life and unlocked bonus levels).

😔 Mine haven’t worked out not in the slightest.

Frustration brews daily.

What new challenge will slam us now?

2020 meme

While this meme was from 2020 it still applies to 2021.

I’m writing this post with the four minutes of free time I have to get this message out— suffering doesn’t make you a failure.

No, suffering means you’re a human. A freaking normal, beautiful human being.

Crises bring out the worst in people.

But pressure and stress over a long time can transform ugliness into beauty.

Thankfully, you have have time.

💎 Time to achieve your dreams (it not be how you planned or expected but God’s plan usually surprises people)

Are you coal or a diamond or something in between?

God making diamonds out of us

💎 How have the pressures of 2021 transitioned you from coal into a diamond?

#writing #personaldevelopment #2021 #life

Thank you for sharing!