3 Ways Hope Can Overcome Despair

According to the great English writer, J.R.R. Tolkien, “Oft hope is born when all is forlorn.” When I first discovered this pithy quote by the creator of Middle Earth, I paused and pondered his words’ truth. More often than not, the seed of hope gets planted within the soil of my loneliness. Over the past year, my wife and I experienced spiritual highs and lows. Currently, I am in a period of stability—a time where hope is my guiding light! Reflecting back on my personal valleys, I realized that the times I felt distant from God, my friends, and even my wife. Oddly enough, this become an opportunity for me to turn to the virtue of hope! Since I placed my hope [and ultimately greater trust in the Lord], I am better anchored in my faith—even in the midst of continual strife.

Mahatma Gandhi once declared, “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.” Hope defends against despair, especially hope in truth, goodness, and beauty. According to Mike Pacer in Mercy and Hope, “Hope guides us through the darkness. It assures of the light that is just beyond our sight.” Along with this profound insight, I discovered three easy ways which helped shift my mindset away from despair and towards hope.

Larger Piece of the Puzzle

Growing up my mom and I used to always work on jigsaw puzzles during hot summer days or cold winter months. Five hundred and one thousand piece puzzles seem daunting at first. What helped alleviate any anxiety is knowing that I was not alone in figuring out how the pieces fit together. A second key aspect to putting together puzzles is forming the outside frame first. Finishing the perimeter provided hope that the puzzle could be solved!

Getting lost in the shuffle of life is analogous to navigating through a massive jigsaw puzzle—without borders and helpers it is easy to lose hope and give up. Puzzles provide a concrete example of how different pieces fit together perfectly to create a completed picture. Knowing your place in the world—as a piece to the larger story of life—may be helpful in lessening anxiety and orient us towards hope.

Hope Our True Consoler, Not False Optimism

Dovetailing off the previous point, the virtue of hope is a true helper. According to Mike Pacer, “The key to hope is to acknowledge our feelings and separate them from reality (Mercy and Hope p.121). Hope should not be reduced to wishful thinking or mere pseudo-optimism. A realness exists with hope. The virtue of hope does not procedure a placebo effect like false-optimism.

Hope is a gift granted by God, most especially by the Third Person of the Holy Trinity—the Holy Spirit. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph number 691, “When he proclaims and promises the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus calls him the “Paraclete,” literally, “he who is called to one’s side,” ad-vocatus.18 “Paraclete” is commonly translated by “consoler,” and Jesus is the first consoler.19 The Lord also called the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth.”

Heaven—the Final Frontier

Referring to St. Paul’s assertion for our yearning for Heaven in Hebrews 13:14, Mike Pacer declared, “We are not living in our permanent home. Rather, we are on a journey. We have a definite destination (Mercy and Hope pp. 134-135). Put another way, St. Augustine’s axiom, “Our souls are restless until they rest in thee [God].” All the material possessions, power, and control in the world do not offer long-term and lasting fulfillment. Humanity keeps yearning for something greater, and greater, and greater!

St. Therese of Liseux famously summed up this truth using a nautical example, “The world’s thy ship and not thy home!” Earthly existence is a pilgrim journey. The virtue of hope allows us to don our theological lens to view more clearly that Heaven is the final frontier!


O my God, relying on your infinite goodness and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of your grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.

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3 Reasons Why I Don’t Argue with Opponents of the Catholic Church

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This weekend I heard the following comment on the floor as I began work, “Catholics and I don’t get along much. I live to destroy Catholics.” While his statement may certainly be hyperbolic—that co-worker is definitely known for exaggerated and bombastic claims—there is truth to it. During my college years, his statement would have provoked righteous anger. Immediately, I would have engaged in debate on the level of St. Nicholas, the hectic-puncher, himself!St. Nick Heretic puncher

According to Venerable Fulton Sheen, “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.” Perception trumps reality more often than not. Refraining from leaping to judgement, unlike my co-worker, will allow me to demonstrate the love and truth of Catholicism. This article will look at three reasons why I no longer debate opponents of the Catholic Church.

Change the Heart, Not the Mind

Change Heart not Mind

Arguments only appeal to the rational side of a person and usually only leave the parties further entrenched in their respective beliefs. The 20th century American actor Will Rogers said, “People’s minds are changed through observation and not through argument.” You just have mention the words politics, religion, or Trump to prove his claim. Social media simply adds more fuel to debates.

Instead of seeking to be the winner of an argument, focus on changing the human heart. The Common Doctor St. Thomas Aquinas plainly wrote, “To convert somebody go and take them by the hand and guide them.” Entering into a relationship with those of different beliefs from will not able help you understand their point of view, but also open their heart to the beauty of Catholicism. I have many college friends I try to keep in contact who oppose the teachings of the Gospel. Whenever we hung out in the past, I never sought to impose my beliefs on them actively. I demonstrated charity and clearly articulated the reasons for my belief when they asked.

Preach Gospel—Use Words Only When Necessary

Preach the Gospel Use Words If Necessary

Another reason I no longer actively seek debates with opponents to Catholicism is because I have learned the value in actions speaking louder than words. I used to tout the importance of charity, yet I failed so display that same virtue in an argument, on social media or real life. Mark Twain purported, “Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.” Despite the progress I have made over the years, I still fail at having my words match my deeds 100% of the time! If you too struggle with hollow words and insincere actions, hope is not lost—now is the best time to start over.

Strengthening the Will

Work and family life presents plenty of challenges, annoyances, and irritations. In other words, opportunities for holiness. My parish priest said in his homily for Pentecost, “We must ask the Holy Spirit to widen our narrow view.” We can only see our perspective.

Those bigoted words from my co-worker about the Catholic Church did not  spontaneously spew out. His experience with the Church or what he perceives the Church to be is jaded. I asked the Holy Spirit to provide me the strength to remain calm and silent.

St. Josemaria Escriva wrote, “Don’t say, ‘That person bothers me.’ Think: ‘That person sanctifies me’!” That is how I approached that man’s attitude—as an opportunity for me to exercise patience. Catholics must not fight fire with fire. We can only douse out the incendiary actions of our opponents with help of the Holy Spirit.

No Need to Defend Truth—Truth is Undefeated!

Truth

Our natural reaction when someone we love dearly is attacked is to rush to their defense. In my early twenties, I acted boldly, yet rashly, in defense of my faith. More times than not, I regretted my hotheadedness.  Experience and the Holy Spirit has taught me a different approach. As St. Augustine put it, “The truth is like a lion; you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself.”

It is not my job to save the Church. My primary role as husband, father, and a member of the laity is to teach the faith to my wife, children, and those I meet on a daily basis. Actions speak louder than words. I no longer debate non-Catholics or people vehemently attacking the Church.  I witness to the truth in my daily life. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.  He already has won! We need only to obey and truth in His Providence.

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3 Reasons Why Christians Need to Always Err on the Side of Mercy

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“Why are you purposefully making errors?” Should we not put the customer first instead of individual metrics? Why does she [my wife] refuse to help around the house? Do my children live to make life difficult?  These questions bombarded my mind over the course of the past few weeks while at work and home. The roots of impatience and capricious thoughts grew in my heart.

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Today, I made time during my breaks and after work to reflect on my anxieties, worries, and fears. Slowing down to ponder the effects of my actions [or inactions] allowed me to realize the message of Psalm 103 is not merely a pious saying, but rather it is essential to incorporate mercy into daily living! According to the Psalmist, “Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger, abounding in mercy” (Psalm 103:8). Rooted in compassion, mercy is what all Christians are compelled to show their fellow neighbors at all times.

Admittedly, I fail at this goal each and every day. I lash out in anger when my children do not listen to my directions, I am quick to judge my co-workers mistakes as failings, and I fail love my wife—each and every day—as Christ loved the Church! Below are three reasons why Christians need to display mercy daily!

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Work Sanctifies

 A turning point in my spiritual journey occurred upon my discovery of the richness of theological wisdom of St. Josemaria Escriva. Founding Opus Dei, the Spanish priest reminded the world that everyone is called to holiness and that ordinary life can sanctify us. An anonymous donor at my parish gifted various families during Christmastime. Serendipitously, my family was chosen to receive gifts. We only needed to complete a form with suggestions for items based on our needs and wants. Under the section marked “wants” I requested the book The Way by Fr. Escriva.

Along with being a treat to read, the saint’s wisdom is quite practical to living amidst the busyness of daily living. According to paragraph number 359 he wrote, “Add a supernatural motive to your ordinary professional work, and you will have sanctified it.”  Working for the sake of breadwinning is an admirable goal. However, only when I begin my workday with the specific mentality that the joys, trials, and anything in between that I encounter in my labors will lead me to becoming the best version of myself do I truly thrive—not merely survive at work!

The Second Vatican Council’s spoke of the value of human work as well. According to the Council Fathers,

Human activity, to be sure, takes its significance from its relationship to man. Just as it proceeds from man, so it is ordered toward man. For when a man works he not only alters things and society, he develops himself as well. He learns much, he cultivates his resources, and he goes outside of himself and beyond himself. Rightly understood this kind of growth is of greater value than any external riches which can be garnered. A man is more precious for what he is than for what he has (Gaudium Et Spes, 35).

The essential message is that personal development occurs through our daily work, it matters not what we are doing as long as we continue to strive for excellence in virtue and develop our love for God and fellow mankind.

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Marriage Matters

G.K. Chesterton reparteed regarding the subject of marriage by saying, “Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honor should decline.” From my experience, the English essayist’s words ring true for my marriage.

This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church number 1641,

This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this grace they “help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children.

Being a parent myself, I learned it is essential to err on the side of mercy when raising children. Repeating commands to my children is a frequent task. Recognizing that my son and daughter do not always intentionally refuse to listen is key to bettering me as a parent. Children learn new things daily, hourly, and sometimes each and every minute. Kid’s excitement of experiencing newness oftentimes gets perceived—at least I fall into this erroneous line of thought— as them acting out or being too rambunctious. Parents need to be slow to anger and rich in mercy like the Divine Father.

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Just Don’t Judge, You are not the Just Judge

 Jesus’ most famous teaching with regards to judging others comes from Matthew 7:1-5. Our Lord informed the crowds during his Sermon on the Mount with the following,

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

This ever relevant message seems always be applicable no matter the age or nation a person is from. Yesterday, I saw a thread on a Catholic-related Facebook group that I am a member where Christ’s words would have been wise to ponder. The original post discussed a recent quote about Pope Francis and his conversation with a man with same-sex attraction. People seemed quick to judge the bishop of Rome’s statements as being out of line with Catholic Church teaching.  Judging from the peanut gallery does not solve the issues the Church faces on a daily basis. statler-waldor-peanut-gallery

Christians need to err on the side of mercy for it is the centerpiece of Jesus’ teaching. While the entirely of Catholic Church tradition emphasized God’s Mercy, the focus of Divine Mercy deepened with the saints of the 20th century. Perhaps the best encapsulation of Divine Mercy is St. Maria Faustina’s mystical experiences with Jesus Christ.  “‘I am love and Mercy Itself.  There is no misery that could be a match for My mercy, neither will misery exhaust it, because as it is being granted – it increases.  The soul that trusts in My mercy is most fortunate, because I Myself take care of it.’” (Diary of a Soul 1273, page 459). Let us reflect God’s mercy in our daily life and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us away from an unhealthy judgmental mindset!

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3 Valuable Lessons Takers Can Teach You

Last week I talked about three valuable lessons that we can learn from givers. This post will focus on the reverse side of the giver/taker coin—taking. While givers tell us what to do takers will help us know what to avoid. We will focus on three specific lessons.

Don't Be Fake

Don’t be fake

Nothing frustrates me more than dishonesty. People who are takers camouflage their intention under the guise of “helping.” In reality, takers seek elicit a quick, immediate, short term relationship in hopes for a quick reward. Authenticity requires diligence, honesty, and integrity. Those virtues don’t normally lead to quick results. St. Mother Teresa stated, “Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.”

Creating a facade may give you a sense of strength. That is a lie! It only leads to a fleeting, temporary strength. Eventually the truth with catch up to you.

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Don’t be greedy

Another motivation for takers is seeking money and power. A natural fruit of inauthenticity is the need to compensate for any failures. I am reminded of the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. Three servants are provided varying amounts of talents (5, 3, and 1) by their master. He expects them to be fruitful with them and provide a return upon arrival back from his journey. The servants with 5 and 3 talents used them wisely and shared them—as a result they received double the portion. Greedily the servant with 1 talent hoarded his without a thought about helping others. The master chided him saying, “His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!” (Matthew 25:26).

Takers don’t care about others they selfishly hold onto best practices, advice, or help (unless they get a GUARANTEE of a return). Giving does not lead to loss—in the long-run. You only receive. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during his November 16th, 2008 Angelus declared, “the parable places a greater emphasis on the good fruits brought by the disciples who, happy with the gift they received, did not keep it hidden with fear and jealousy but made it profitable by sharing it and partaking in it. Yes, what Christ has given us is multiplied in its giving! It is a treasure made to be spent, invested and shared with all” Don’t be greedy. Share your talents with others!

Don't rush things

Don’t rush things

Along with avoiding dishonesty and greed, takers teach us to the value of patience. According to Jason Vana in his Linkedin video on Givers vs. Takers the latter seeks to hook you with short term trick such as an instant promotional message upon connecting or spamming your inbox. Takers seek out the short-cut, the easy way, the path of least resistance. While the path of least resistance brings success instantly, life is not a 100 yard dash. Instead, it is a marathon. Some days it feels like a mega-marathon!

Saint Pope John Paul II wisely wrote, “Young people are threatened… by the evil use of advertising techniques that stimulate the natural inclination to avoid hard work by promising the immediate satisfaction of every desire.” I would add that all people struggle against the temptation to take the easy road, the “lazy way”. All good things take time to grow in order to flourish. Be on the lookout for takers falsely promising “instant success”.

Even if you personally are not a taker you still can learn what (NOT) to do. Avoid taking advantage of others because inauthenticity and greed do not provide long term success and health. Promote a giving mentality—not for notoriety, but because it is the right thing to do. I guarantee you that would be blessed beyond measure if your heart is in the right place!

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Mathematics of Living a Joyful Life

Disclaimer: All my readers who hated math in elementary and high school please bear with me as I promise the mathematics I am proposing today is less confusing than long division and solving a geometric proof! For math aficionados hopefully you enjoy this post as much as you enjoy the following math jokes:

  1. How do you stay warm in an empty room? Go into the corner where it is always 90 degrees.
  2. There are three kinds of people in the world: those who can count and those who can’t.

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“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves,” John Paul II declared in his Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor. I reflect on this quote more than any other from the Polish pope’s papal writings. Throughout my life I felt a pendulum swing between the scientific and spiritual sides of my being. Instead of embracing unity between this two sides, I fall into the error of viewing faith and reason  in an unnatural mule-like state.

faith and reason

Seek Balance

Imbalance leads to lack of joy, despair, and doubt. Today, I allowed a one-sidedness to creep up on my and grasp my being. Being a perfectionist, my rational pursuit for excellence at work sowed the seeds to restlessness and anxiety. Any little mistake I made remained with me for some time. I struggled with healthy self-esteem during my periods of pure rationalism.

The danger of reducing all knowledge to reason is that a loss of wonder occurs. During the periods where I exhibit control over all areas of my life [work, home, leisure time, etc] ironically instead of acquiring long-term control and freedom, I only gain a fleeting control that seems to escape my grasp as soon as it arrived.

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It’s Not Rocket Science!

I stumbled upon the apropos wisdom of G.K. Chesterton on my dilemma. Instead of reflecting inward the great Englishmen declared, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought.” When I am grateful I am happier. I find this to be true in my life experiences. Oftentimes, after a difficult day at work, home, or both I try to take a short inventory at the end of the day of where I typically failed and how I could succeed. Only through the addition of gratitude to my attitude am I able to subtract the worries of the world from the next day. Strangely enough, I discovered that the mathematics of thanksgiving does not necessarily follow the standard rules of elementary arithmetic.

The rest of the Chesterton quote from above goes as such, “Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” My conscience [and rational] effort to focus on being more thankful is not sufficient to a happy and joyful life. Thanksgiving needs to be multiplied with wonder. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph number 1299, “The bishop invokes the outpouring of the Spirit in these words:

‘All-powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by water and the Holy Spirit
you freed your sons and daughters from sin
and gave them new life.
Send your Holy Spirit upon them
to be their helper and guide.
Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of right judgment and courage,
the spirit of knowledge and reverence.
Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.113′”

Power of Amazement

Notice that the final gift of the Holy Spirit conferred is wonder and awe. Amazement at the splendor of God’s being and even his created works is a grace. As a child seeing the world through the lens of wonder was easy. I had the dependence on my parents [and God] that things would work out. Jesus spoke of the importance of child-like faith in Matthew 18:1-5:

At that time the disciples* approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”2He called a child over, placed it in their midst,3b and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,* you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.4c Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.5* And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.

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The Son of God is not meaning that we should don a gullible faith in God–that is an immature understanding of his words. What Jesus means is that our relationship with God should be that of a father-son/daughter bond.As an adopted son of God I am called to ask for and freely choose to rely on God for dependence during trying times in my life. As previously stated, there is a balance that needs to be struck between human reason and faith in Our Heavenly Father.

Orderly Wonder of Joy

Aristotle wrote, “The mathematical sciences particularly exhibit order, symmetry, and limitation; and these are the greatest forms of the beautiful.” There is a true beauty in the overall structure of the created universe. I also believe that God allowed human freedom and intellect to possess the ability to develop and discover math and science to uncover the mysteries of the world. More authentic usage of our rational capabilities along with recognizing our limitations allows for a person to be both grateful for the created order and marvel at God’s majestic masterpiece. I will leave you with a homework problem below: [DON’T WORRY IT WILL BE AN OPEN NOTE QUIZ I ONLY ASK YOU SEEK TO TRY TO IMPLEMENT THIS EQUATION IN YOUR LIFE!!]

Your Daily Challenge

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***Gratitude +Wonder= Subtraction of Worry and Multiplication of Joy*** 

 

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