Catholic Camaraderie—Unity in Suffering

According to J.R.R. Tolkien in his masterpiece The Fellowship of the Rings, “Not all those who wander are lost.” We do not have to look too far to notice that man in the 21st century wander often.

Struggling with anxiety, I go through periods in my life where desolation and loneliness—for those who have followed The Simple Catholic blog previously, you are already aware this is a common theme of my writing. Filling my day with social media and DC comic books, after my children go to bed, I still feel overwhelmed from the continual onslaught of changes at work, financial strain, and fussy children.

As a Catholic I often forget that the solution to despair is always safeguarded and housed within the Catholic Church—camaraderie in Christ!

Body of Christ

Saint Pope Pius XII declared in his encyclical letter Mystici Corporis Christi, “For, as We said above, Christ did not wish to exclude sinners from His Church; hence if some of her members are suffering from spiritual maladies, that is no reason why we should lessen our love for the Church, but rather a reason why we should increase our devotion to her members” (no 66). Along with loving Christ the Head of the Church, all Christian are compelled to love other members of the Body of Christ as well.

man island

No Man is an Island

Being a social rational animal humans need companionship and interactions with fellow man in order to be happy. While people do require alone time—I myself require it occasionally due to the frenetic nature of family life, it is not natural individual to prefer isolation for the majority of their earthly existence. Our actions and inactions effect not only us and those closest to, but can ripple out to effect, positively or negatively, people beyond our immediate scope or moment in time. The great English poet John Donne wrote about the interconnectedness of humanity. In his poem No Man is an Island Donne states,

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

As a Catholic I am reminded weekly of the importance of communion with God and neighbor alike. Central to Christianity is the tenets of the Nicene Creed—a profession of beliefs Catholics recite weekly every Sunday Mass.

Called to Be United as One

The first characteristic of the Church—the Mystical Body of Christ—is unity. Jesus himself prayed for Christian unity in John 17:19-23. Recognition that we truly are all brothers and sisters of the same human race helps center myself toward a better daily outlook. Viewing daily strife at work as an opportunity to reconcile or reunite my fellow neighbor into communion allows me to limit anxiety, anger, and impatience. No man in an island our good deeds help others and bad deeds hurt others too!

camaraderie.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Many Hands Make the Load Light

Among the best advice given to me has been to learn to accept the help of others. As a perfectionist and someone who suffers from OCD, I often struggle to allow my wife and children aid me in the household chores. Giving up control by letting family, friends, and co-workers help me in daily tasks in the long-run ease self-imposed burdens.

Jesus Christ himself urged all struggling with burdens to trust in Him. In Matthew 11:29-30 the God-Man told his disciples, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,* and I will give you rest. 29* p Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Lesson from The Lord of the Rings

Besides Scripture, the most relatable example I discovered of bearing the weight of another comes from the fantasy classic The Lord of the Rings. Over the course of the trilogy, the central figure of the novels the hobbit Frodo Baggins bears the burden of carrying the One Ring to Mount Doom to destroy it and ultimately destroy the Dark Lord Sauron’s control over Middle Earth.

While hobbits possessed a natural ability to withstand the allure of the power of the One Ring longer than other races, Frodo wore the ring so long that he started to grow weak.

samwise carry gif.gif

Arguably the most striking scene in trilogy in The Return of the Ring involves Frodo’s friend and fellow hobbit Samwise Gamgee entering into the suffering of the ring bearer when he cries,

“Come, Mr. Frodo!’ he cried.’I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well. So up you get! Come on, Mr. Frodo dear! Sam will give you a ride. Just tell him where to go, and he’ll go.”

Carrying Your [and other’s] Crosses

Helping others shoulder their cross is the hallmark of Christianity. Cooperation in suffering pervades the history of Christianity. From Simon the Cyrene helping Jesus bear the weight of the cross up Calvary, to the modern day saints like Saints John Paul and Maximilian Kolbe offering their suffering and death to alleviate the suffering of their fellow mankind, we are all called to a Catholic [a universal] camaraderie.

Purgative experiences on my earthly journey allows me to get beyond my limited purview. Engaging and uniting to the suffering of my family members and neighbors [near and far] plunges us into deeper camaraderie.


Behold me, my beloved Jesus, weighed down under the burden of my trials and sufferings, I cast myself at Your feet, that You may renew my strength and my courage, while I rest here in Your Presence. Permit me to lay down my cross in Your Sacred Heart,

for only Your infinite goodness can sustain me; only Your love can help me bear my cross; only Your powerful hand can lighten its weight. O Divine King, Jesus, whose heart is so compassionate to the afflicted, I wish to live in You; suffer and die in You. During my life be to me my model and my support; At the hour of my death, be my hope and my refuge. Amen.

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How to Forgive Someone When They Don’t Deserve Forgiveness

Forgiveness

My family is going through an unexpected and emotion-laced event. Because of the sensitivity and uniqueness of the situation I can only be vague. This challenging experience combined with my shift to working the night shift has pushed me to the brink. A brink I have not quite experienced since 2015—the very same year I started to seriously discern my dream to become a full-time writer.

Full disclosure: I thought about quitting today. Lack of sleep and emotional strain are likely the culprits of that feeling.

Writing has been my dream a long time. I have been preparing since I was in first grade. I have always been recognized as the storyteller by my immediate and extended family. The passion and peace I experience writing is found nowhere else—except in my faith life.

The Effects of Unforgiveness

Anger, fear, and doubt crippled me. This paralysis could have easily lasted the entire day and longer. When you experience suffering in your life there are two roads to travel. The first path is to succumb to wrath, jealousy, envy, callousness, and other sinister sins of the mind. Not being able to forgive someone makes you initially feel in control. In the short term it is oddly satisfying. Failure to forgive over an extended period of time causes paralysis.

angry unforgiven

According to St. Philip Neri, “If a man finds it very hard to forgive injuries, let him look at a Crucifix, and think that Christ shed all His Blood for him, and not only forgave His enemies, but prayed His Heavenly Father to forgive them also.” Forgiving others sounds great in theory, but what happens when you are put to the test. I mean really, truly, and actually put to the test!

Forgive Without Measure

Currently, I am in the middle of that test. The situation is still fresh. Wounds still raw. Below is a conversation I had with God as I prayed for the grace to help my unforgiving heart:

I don't want to

Me: Lord, I am so incredibly mad. Words cannot describe the rage I am feeling. I cannot forgive now. I don’t want to forgive. Do I have to forgive in this situation?

God: What did I tell St. Peter?

Me: You told him, “I say to you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times [you must forgive them]” (Matthew 18:22).

God: Right! Now why did you ask whether you must forgive others?

Me: Because this situation is particularly bad. I simply cannot forgive in this situation.

God: Forgive others, lest you will be not able to ask me for forgiveness.

Me: But, you must realize this situation is particularly bad.

God: My son, ask and you will receive. Ask me for the grace to forgive and I will give it to you.

Me: But I have asked yesterday and this morning. I still cannot forgive.

God: Ask again my son.

Me: What if it takes me at least a year or worse a decade to forgive.

God: Ask daily if you must. Ask hourly if you must. Even if it takes you years I will keep my promise. I will give you the graces to forgive. Remember the Scriptures of how I led my people out of bondage in Egypt. Sometimes good takes time to come to fruition. Ask, ask, ask my child. Rely on me every moment.

 Suffering Transforms Us

My faith is being put to the test. Suffering transforms us. If you embrace it and carry our cross we become more Christ-like. If we flee from it, it only intensifies. We keep getting opportunities to embrace it. Failure to embrace suffering leads to us becoming less than what we were created for. “If God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that He has great plan for you and certainly wants to make you a saint,” wrote St. Ignatius of Loyola.

This thorny path I am on is painful, but necessary. I need to forgive others. I am not ready to forgive today. I will petition God for the grace to forgive. My prayers will continue daily until the end of this life if needed. All things are possible with God (Matthew 19:26). Every suffering leads toward a greater good (Roman 8:28).

Forgiveness is tough

Will you join me in the quest towards forgiveness? A friend of mine shared a relevant quote he came across recently. “Pay attention to the places in your life that the Enemy fights. Where you face the most warfare is where the enemy is most afraid.” Let us ask Mary Undoer of Knots to undo the tangles of unforgiveness in our hearts and bring our sufferings to Her Beloved Son.

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3 Reasons the Worst Monday Ever Failed to Stop My Joy

its monday again meme

Mondays normally suck. This Monday is different. Today, I encountered the most confusing situations and the most livid of customers.

One word. Penultimate. Confused? Let me explain.

Perspective

Penultimate—this amazing word means second to last.

Example: Today is my penultimate day working at my current job.

See today is my second to last day of working at my current job. One Wednesday I start an amazingly frightful and exhilarating journey of being a full-time freelance writer. This has been my dream since 2015.

Helen Keller wrote, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” Shifting your perspective allows you to overcome negativity. The entire day I kept my focus on the sun—the light of the Son Jesus Christ and also the sunlight of my new career opportunities.

Live with Purpose

In hindsight, this dream of being a writer probably began when I was a 1st grader. Collecting the complete series of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps I developed a deep love for reading. Reading opened up a love for storytelling for me. Every day since I was an elementary student I have at least 2 books in tote. Stories are a part of my life.

The seed for the love and passion for writing was planted over 2 decades ago. It will finally poke through the soil of time and work this Wednesday. No annoyance, irritation, confusion, or complex situation will lessen my gratitude and joy at this opportunity.

live purposefully

My Catholic faith motivates me and provides me stability during the storm. According to Jeremiah 1:5 God tells us, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” This verse is not merely a pious platitude. It reveals the truth about life. Life contains purpose. Life is not meaningless. Trust me. I endured the hell of losing a job I loved and the loss of several unborn children due to miscarriage. I was broken in 2015. Despair surrounded me. But the light of the Holy Spirit never left me. I almost allowed my suffering to kill me. Instead, I choose to let it define me.

response to suffering defines you

God allowed me to suffer in order to open myself up to others. St. Ignatius of Loyola declared, “If God sends you many sufferings it is a sign that He has great plans for you, and certainly wants to make you a saint.” While I am not even close to being close to a saint, I am going to trust the great Jesuit’s wisdom. To embrace suffering allows you to unite closer with Jesus Christ. I will do anything to unite closer to Him. Losing the security of a full-time job to pursue my purpose freelancing is scary, but will allow me to cleave to God more. Depend on Him more. That makes any cross sent my way endurable today.

Grateful Guarantee

Along taking perspective and living with purpose, the third way the “worst” Monday ever failed to defeat me was because of my attitude of gratitude. The first customer I spoke with started cursing and yelling. It is easy to respond to fire with fire. A surety to keep even-keeled during the stress storm is thankfulness. Building a solid foundation of gratitude helped me withstand incendiary language.

gratitude and joy

According to G.K. Chesterton, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” Nothing heightens your ability to sense the divine action in your life or unite yourself to fellow humans as gratitude. I made a focused effort to be thankful throughout the day. Every hour. Every minute. I thanked God for everything. The nice customers. The choleric customers. Thanksgiving acted as a buoyed at first and then later an iron to prevent any negativity from penetrating.

No matter what throws at you it will be overcome it when you prepared. Be grateful. Not just once. Not twice. Not even 2,000 times. Always be thankful. Shift your perspective on your destination. Don’t let the minor circumstances of one awful day throw your overboard in the ship of life. Live will purpose. No matter how terrible life get it is always worth living. Trust me. I survived. And I will survive the future storms.

I just wanted to share to brighten your Monday!

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How the Unchanged One Changed Me

“Everything changes and nothing stands still,” the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus once claimed. I first heard these words as a sophomore in college during an Intro to Philosophy class. Years later, this truth resurfaced under the guise of different words in a response to a question I posed to my interviewing manager for the job I am at today. I asked, “What is the single greatest piece of advice you have been given to succeed at this company?” The interviewer paused and pensively stated, “Be prepared to deal with change and learn to embrace change!”

Is Change Good?

Ever since that 2015 summer afternoon I have frequently pondered the meaning of these words and what exactly they mean for other aspects of my life. Today I want to share my experiences and knowledge that I have learned about the importance changing for the better meant, and still means, for my daily life.

Malachi 3:6

In the post Organized Chaos or Chaotic Order: Which Do I Prefer? I talked about how I am on the autism spectrum. Change always posed a challenge to me. Growing up as a cradle Catholic I benefited from the guidelines of the Catholic Church teachings through which I developed a black/white dichotomous view of morality. Either you are holy or you are not. That was my though process and my coping mechanism to reconcile differences I noticed in the world.

Suffering Transforms

Not until suffering found me on a personal level did my judgmental and simple morality start to transform. Losing my job and suffering a nightmarish miscarriage led me to the end of my rope. Left with nothing in the aftermath of this change-filled maelstrom I turned to God.

To be frank, I did not feel His presence at all but through the urging of my mom and wife I went to Eucharistic adoration on a weekly basis. Here I sought out the Unchanged One for stability and support.

Fast forward to the present and I am more at peace and learning to realize the importance of changing my mindset from negative to positive. My son’s official autism diagnosis in 2016 helped provide some clarity for my situation as well. I am not defined by my inherent inner struggle with change. Although I have moved toward the right direction I still have a long ways to go in embracing change on a daily basis.

Encountering God as the Unchanged One through Eucharistic adoration and through Matt Maher’s song Deliverer gave me hope and perspective to change for the better. I learned that suffering is redemptive and clinging to the Unchanged One changes a person. I am not the same person that I was in 2015. The Unchanged One transformed me!

Eucharistic Adoration

If you are struggling with life’s changes in little and grand ways please consider relying on the Unchanged One to transform you. If I could go back in time, I would tell Heraclitus that he was half-right. I would change to his maxim “Everything changes and nothing stands still” to “Everything changes and nothing stands still. Only meeting the Unchanged One and standing still in His presence will let us authentically change.”

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Fixing Our Gaze on Golgotha

Jesus on the Cross

A Prayer Before the Cross

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

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

Focus on God

Mary Intercede for Us

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

Mary at Foot of Cross

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

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The Morning Everything Went Wrong…and Why I Didn’t Freak Out


Me [on the cell phone]: “Honey! Just what? I just got locked out of my car! And I am locked out of the house too.

Wife: “We cannot afford a locksmith today. You don’t get paid until tomorrow.

Me: I will try my credit card.

Wife: I am leaving work to at least let you in the house. Maybe we have a spare key.

Me: Thank you! But, I am pretty sure we don’t have any extra keys…


To say that my morning began a little off course or on the wrong footing is a big understatement. More accurately, Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day better describes the beginning of my Thursday. After my door dilemma, I make a few fast errand stops at the grocery store and the library before coming home again for my 2 year’s back-to-back speech and occupational therapy sessions.

Because of having to wait for the locksmith to free my keys from the car I had to really rush. My final errand was the library where my son toted around merrily a plastic box of toys. As we started to leave the library atrium, he tripped over his shoes and face planted on the floor—crying ensued and his lips started to seep crimson blood. Having no napkins, I could do nothing except for rushing my toddler to my vehicle and pray that the bleeding stopped before I would be able to get to wipes at home.

The morning smoothed out for my toddler, at least, as he did tremendously well during his therapy sessions. I still felt the busyness and wayward nature of the morning still pursue me as I had to make several phone calls to settle things with my student loan and an application on another loan my wife and I applied for recently. The off-kilter day continued a bit even when I arrived at work. My anticipated meeting with my manager on my monthly progress was unexpected cancelled and moved to the following day. Oddly enough, as someone who normally desires—actually craves—routine and regimen, I was fairly calm considering the maelstrom of morning madness! Certainly out of my natural character, upon reflection I came up with the following three reasons below for why I didn’t freak out.

1. Past Suffering Helps Present Pain: The great American Helen Keller once declared, Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. Being born both blind and deaf, she overcame more than the average person. However, suffering if part of this fallen world. Past suffering from years, and months ago, helped prepare me for the stresses of yesterday. Former President Harry S. Truman stated, “The reward of suffering is experience!” We can learn how to cope with or overcome present pain from lessons in the past.

2. Monkish Methods: My primary objective this week was to limit complaining. If something frustrated me, I really made an effort to act as a mute monk in the situation. According to St. John of the Cross, “Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you, remember Christ crucified and be silent.” Reflecting on the simplicity of this basic truth helped reframe my mindset when “everything” didn’t go my way.

Cardinal Robert Sarah also promotes the monkish method of silence as well. In his book The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise Sarah purports, “Man must make a choice: God or nothing, silence or noise.” There is no middle ground for the red-hatted Prefect for Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. This hard-lined approach toward negativity and complaining worked wonders for me so far! Reticence reverses resentful thoughts. Peace and tranquility ensues and takes place of the former chaos. Sarah beautifully compares silence to visible icons by saying, “Silence is an acoustic veil that protects the mystery… a sort of sonic iconostasis”

3. More Help from Mama Mary: Along with adding a “silencer” to my spiritual weapons against complaining and gossip, a healthy dose of praying a decade of the Rosary nightly with my family protected me against the wiles the Evil One set me that Thursday morn. St. Josemaria Escriva boldly claimed, “The holy Rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence and you’ll be amazed at the results.” There is a reason Our Lady of Perpetual Help is a common title the Blessed Virgin Mary—she is a perfect advocate in times of trouble!

Silence in trying times and refraining from complaining takes strength. Such power cannot originate from within the self. Looking to the witness of the saints, most especially the Mother of God we are provided hope to adopt a properly pious mentality in times of confusion and suffering. Cardinal Robert Sarah again speaks of the importance of silence, “Without silence, God disappears in the noise. And this noise becomes all the more obsessive because God is absent. Unless the world rediscovers silence, it is lost. The earth then rushes into nothingness.”


“The Rosary is the ‘weapon’ for these times.” -Saint Padre Pio

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Unexpected Joy in Expected Suffering

“Is your happiness contingent on whether the cat peed on the carpet or not?” This question was posed to myself, other catechists, and parents by our parish’s Director of Faith Formation. She was referring to events that frustrate us on a daily basis where we may question the purpose of these interruptions in our daily life. Her unique query provoked some thoughts about my recent attitudes towards situations that appear to evade my control. Over the past week and a half, my two-year struggled with allegories, constipation, and changes with his schedule. As both a toddler and someone diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, my son certainly hated these disruptions. Consequently, these sufferings spilled over into our family life. Chucking of food items and toys ensued when he did not get his way or when my son could not fully communicated his needs.

For a control freak, such as myself, toddler temper explosions wreak havoc on my patience levels. Is my happiness dependent on whether everything is in my control? Would I be truly happier if my toddler followed my commands robotically to the “t” and never had meltdowns?  This question about the source of my joy and happiness continued to sow its roots into my heart, mind, and soul.

The work week began with the traditional Monday agitations: technology issues, annoyed customers, and confusion. To add to these annoyances, I woke up with an intense headache that lingered throughout the day. What is more, my personal goal of finishing the month with an impeccable quality score hit a potential hurdle when I failed at a complex call. Hopefully, the quality monitoring team does not review that call! Despite these expected sufferings, an unexpected joy [and peace] existed within my being. My natural inclination to messing up on a call or the craziness of home life would be to develop an anxiety and anger at things outside of my control.

Something provoked me to change my attitude from focusing on the suffering to looking at the opportunity for joy to be found in the suffering. More accurately, Someone provoke me to look deeper beyond my suffering and see the purpose of pain. St. Madeline Sophie Barat declared, “As iron is fashioned by fire and on the anvil, so in the fire of suffering and under the weight of trials, our souls receive that form which our Lord desires them to have.” God cannot get more real, as He is the fullness of all reality, but through the trials of our life we can enter into a deeper relationship with Him. The grace of unexpected joy in my expected suffering cannot originate from my own willpower—it is a free gift granted by the Holy Spirit.

I desire to impact the knowledge of peace and joy to my children. Among caring for their primary physical needs, I am charged with passing on the Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, safeguarded in the Catholic Church to them. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2223,

Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the “material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.”31 Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them:

He who loves his son will not spare the rod. . . . He who disciplines his son will profit by him.32

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.33

What struck me most telling about this passage from the catechism is that the home is likened to an apprenticeship. My children will learn how to love others and God from my interactions with them. While home life seems like corralling a bunch of elephants, lemurs, birds, cheetahs or bears depending upon my children’s mood, I am able to control my emotional state. This morning I failed by provoking my kids to anger unnecessarily—my own pride failed to humbly step away from the situation and to listen to their pleas for help.

Actively picking up our crosses daily will not be easy, Jesus never guaranteed this, however freely choosing to embrace suffering instead of fleeing from it will provide an immeasurably and unexpected joy. Still impressed with the candor and articulate manner of phrasing, I am going to conclude with the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s list key items for embracing freedom [and as a result joy too!]. “The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom” (CCC 2223).

Is the lack of suffering the driving force of our happiness and joy? Do we only love life when things go our way all the time?  If you let the Holy Spirit into your life, be prepared to experience an unexpected joy in expected suffering!

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