3 Rest Stops for Our Pilgrimage Towards Holiness

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According to the National Sleep Foundation, humans are considered the only mammal that willingly delays sleeps. For more interesting facts about sleep here is a link: https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/25-random-facts-about-sleep. Sleep is an issue that pervades all of human life. As a father to four young children, I oftentimes determine the success [or failure] of a day over whether my children successfully or unsuccessfully take their scheduled nap!

The stresses of life, dealing with sick family members, and limited sleep due to my new work schedule drain me on a daily basis. The exhaustion last week became so overwhelming that I almost gave up hope. But the thing about tiredness is that is oftentimes causes people to forgot and lose strength to continue.

On the verge of wallowing in a lake of lassitude, I suddenly remembered the words of Bishop Paul Swain that he said at a confirmation Mass. Specifically referring to the sacrament of confirmation, but I believe his words apply to the rest of the sacraments as well, the successor of St. Peter said, “Sacraments [the sacrament of confirmation] are not the end or graduation of the Catholic life, rather sacraments act as theological rest stops to give us strength.”

In the past, I associated the sacraments as offensive weapons against sin, however, recently I have come to view the sacramental system as a means to shield and sustain oneness from the endless assault of the Enemy’s attacks. Below I wish to explore my experience with how the sacraments of confession, Eucharist, and marriage help provide spiritual rest for my pilgrim journey.

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Confession Crossing

Growing up I remembered the summer vacations my family and I went on involved a ton of driving. If the rambunctious nature of sons is any indication of what I was like as a kid, I imagine my parents looked forward to taking a pause in the long drive to allow my siblings and I to run out our energy. As a parent, I learned that a periodic rest stop sometimes solves a fussy situation in the car. Pope Francis once declared, “Always remember this: life is a journey. It is a path, a journey to meet Jesus. At the end, and forever. A journey in which we do not encounter Jesus is not a Christian journey.”

Too many times I forget that life is more of a pilgrimage—toward Heaven. Life is not simply a tourist attraction for me to amass as much pleasurable and exciting experiences as possible.

Without Jesus as the focus of my journey I lean toward being a tourist of the world instead of a pilgrim in the world. Confession is the sacrament that provides me an opportunity to rest and receive God’s graces. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “This sacrament reconciles us with the Church. Sin damages or even breaks fraternal communion. The sacrament of Penance repairs or restores it” (CCC 1469.

Recently, I received the sacramental graces of the medicine box. I felt a large burden lifted from me and have the strength to be able to encounter the busyness of life with a calm assurance that God will sustain me even during tough situations.

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Eucharist— Fuel for the Road Ahead

While Confession heals the wounds of my sins, the sacrament of the Eucharist provides me nourishment and strength for the journey for the rest of the week. In the book of Exodus, God listened to the plea of his people, traveling in the wilderness, a plea for food to sustain them during the tumultuous journey. As amazing and unmerited the gift of manna in the Old Testament, Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist as a fulfillment of this prefiguration in Exodus. Jesus decisively teaches us in John 6,

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.48I am the bread of life.49Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;z50this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.51I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.

After receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ every Sunday Mass, I gain the strength to make it through the trials of this world. According to the Catechism paragraph 1391, “The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Lord said: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”226 Life in Christ has its foundation in the Eucharistic banquet: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.”

Reading this passage makes me reflect on the popular adage, “you are what you eat”—receiving Jesus in this sacraments helps transform us into the best [i.e. most Christ-like] versions of ourselves!

Matrimony—Momentum for the Journey

G.K. Chesterton is considered a king of wit and satire—especially among Catholics. His quotes on marriage frequent social media. Ironically, I actually shared the below memes on Instagram recently!

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Wait! “I thought this article was about theological REST STOPS for our pilgrim journey—not holy hand grenades,” one might say. I agree with Chesterton, oftentimes marriage is like going to war—sins of pride, impatience, anger, lust, greed, and sloth [to name just a few]—become casualties. However, war does not always involve active or constant movement. Rather, a large part of war entails strategizing against the enemy—and that involves resting and planning. The sacrament of marriage is a gift from God that allows spouses to acquire the graces of rest and perseverance.

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Marriage as a sacrament involves total commitment towards one’s spouse. Husband and wife do not split responsibilities as in a 50/50 contract. Instead, marriage is a covenant—an oath that involves 100/100 dedication of the husband toward the wife and vice versa. Honestly, I sometimes struggle to view marriage this way. Throughout periods in my wife and I’s marriage either she or I would have to “more time and effort” than the other “put in”. Keeping a tally sheet and IOUs does not lead to a fruitful marriage. Only by donning a servant mentality did I truly receive the sacramental graces of matrimony to acquire true peace and rest.

Rely on the Sacraments for Rest!

To close, I wish to again ponder the words of Bishop Paul Swain, “Sacraments [the sacrament of confirmation] are not the end or graduation of the Catholic life, rather sacraments act as theological rest stops to give us strength.” Do you take advantage God’s oasis’ for holiness? If you are married do you take time to see God work in your spouse? Is there any ways you may be able to deepen your participation in the sacrifice of the Mass? Let us use the rest of Lent as a time to grow in holiness and thank God for the gifts of the sacraments—theological rest stops for our pilgrim journey!

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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

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

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!

Thank you for sharing!

My First Podcast Interview Just Aired!!

Last month I had the pleasure of recording an episode for The Catholic Servant Podcast discussing the importance of empathy at work, home, and in the spiritual life. Today that episode aired.

Here is the link:

https://thecatholicservant.com/matthew-chicoine

The article of mine that initiated this collaborative meeting can be found by going to this link: https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2019/07/01/the-power-of-empathy-2/

Hope you find it a useful and informative podcast discussion! Please leave any feedback in the comments section. 🙂

Thank you for sharing!

3 Reasons the Worst Monday Ever Failed to Stop My Joy

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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The Power of Empathy in 2019

Oprah Winfrey stated, “Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.” Empathy has become a primary focus for life in the 21st century.

Power of Empathy

Don’t Be Afraid of Feelings

Humans are composed of body and spirit. Fact and feelings. The old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” does not apply anymore. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines empathy as the following: “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.”

Recognizing the importance of feelings and acknowledging a person’s emotion(s), especially in times of distress does not lead to pampering them. Nor it is a sign of weakness. Actually, displaying empathy is a sign of strength. Obviously, facts are still important.

Empathy is Here to Stay

While can never dismiss concrete situations, acknowledging one’s emotions are essential for moving forward. The increased focus on mental health in recent years definitely shows the trend of empathy will stay. Empathy is not a mere passing fad!

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According to author Kendra Cherry in her article Importance and Benefits of Empathy, “Empathy leads to helping behavior, which benefits social relationships. We are naturally social creatures. Things that aid in our relationships with other people benefits us as well.” I have discovered that the most difficult customer interactions remain tough in the situations where I failed to demonstrate empathy. Becoming more aware of the importance to acknowledge emotions, without discounting them, I have been better able to develop rapport.

Acknowledgment of emotion with a supporting statement acts as a bridge between yourself and others. People start to develop more trust when you are willing to LISTEN to their unique situations. Phrases such as “That would have hurt my feelings also” or “Tell me what you see as your choices here” are just a couple things to say or write aiming at empathy with a client, coworker, spouse, or neighbor. For a more extensive list of empathetic statements please check out the link in the resources section below.

“In a very real sense we have two minds, one that thinks and one that feels,” writes Daniel Goleman in Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.  Use both your mind and heart when interacting with other. Be empathetic. Be reasonable. Encourage someone in a tough situation this week!

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Related Sources:

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-empathy-2795562

https://www.couples-thrive.com/blog/couples-therapy-fort-lauderdale/44-empathy-statements-that-will-make-you-the-greatest-listener/

Thank you for sharing!

3 Tips to Lead to a Mild (not Manic) Monday

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American cartoonist Jim Davis’ Garfield despises the start of the week. The cartoon cat repeated states, “I hate Mondays!” This Monday I definitely shared the same attitude as Garfield. Every single customer interaction proved to be grating, complex, tenuous, and stressful. I could not escape the negativity even during my lunch break! Unfortunately, I sat next to a couple cantankerous managers. They complained about everything: their team members, not getting the correct sauce for their chicken, waiting on work changes, and the list went on and on.

Certainly, it would have been easy for me to dive-bomb into a stress spiral for the remainder of the day. Instead, I choose to end the cycle of complaining. Maya Angelou’s wisdom immediately helps me in these situation. The American author wrote, “What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.” Change is not always easy, but it is absolutely necessary transform your mindset away from negativity—especially at the beginning of the week. I had to remind myself, yet here are three tips to make your Monday mild and not manic!

Recognize Your Struggle

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I have found that if I don’t admit that I am having a tough or challenging day it makes it quite difficult to move forward. Honesty is the best policy. This is true whenever you experience internal struggles. Don’t get down on yourself in those times of trial. Recognize the times you need help and move on to tip two!

Appreciate the Little Things

Appreciate the little things

Along with identifying the situations that cause you chaos and grief, it is equally important to be thankful for the things going right. French 17th century mathematician Blaise Pascal wrote, “Little things console us because little things afflict us.” Manic Mondays usually occur when many little things add up that chisel away at our positive attitude. Gratitude is the best weapon to fend off despair and negativity. Where I struggle is I tend to think “big” where the “little blessings” suffice to defeat my woeful attitude. Grab a post-it note or open a notepad on your phone. List out 5 simple things, people, or situations that you are thankful for despite this hectic Monday.

Perspective Checkpoint

Checkpoint

In high school I ran cross country and track. The shortest race that I usually ran was 1 mile. Endurance always was a key factor in the success of every race. I had to pace myself accordingly in order to finish the race effectively. Making checkpoints throughout the race helped me pace myself without running on fumes. The analogy of a life as a race always reminds me the importance of forming checkpoints.

Amid the stress of today I strategically took a break after a series of angry customers or confusing situations. Taking a quick break from the situation truly helps to prevent the stress from compounding. American author Bruce Feiler stated, “Take a walk with a turtle. And behold the world in pause.” If you lack the ability to own a turtle still pause and gaze at the world in its stillness. In the workplace you need not spend an hour in mediation, but a few minute pause every hour will enhance your ability to gain a different perspective—it helped me get my manic Monday in line.

you got this friends

If you struggle weekly with a hyper start to the beginning of the week don’t despair. Identify your struggle. Be thankful for the little blessings in your life. Take frequent perspective checkpoints throughout the day. You will be surprised how a manic Monday could turn mild.

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Rocks, Monkey Socks, and Toy Cars—Joy Found on a Summer Morning!

Simple Joys

“I love the simple things in life. They tend to get overlooked.” This anonymous quote captured the entire theme of a morning at my home last week. Waking up early, my children itched for an opportunity to play outside and enjoy the warmth of the sun before the humidity set in.  Almost immediately, they rushed to the edges of my backyard to collect and play with rocks.

My son and daughter definitely received their geological glee from me—for a period I seriously considered majoring in geology! Noticing the different colors, sizes, textures, and hardness of the stones captivate their attention. If left to their own devices my oldest children would remain outside for hours and bring inside cartons of rocks.

Joy of a child

Joy of a Child

Along with my children’s joyful “jewel” collecting, their imagination was in full force as well. Albert Einstein once declared, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” I most certainly need to pay more attention to my kids’ imaginative play as my thirst for knowledge has been stymieing my joy lately. The creative juices flowed greatly in the mind of my daughter. “Look dad!” she exclaimed, “Look at this. Taken aback at what I saw I asked, “What are you doing?” Proudly she exclaimed, “I am a monkey! Look at my monkey-socks!” Covering her feet were a pair of garden gloves I bought for her at the local home improvement store. Immediately, a grin spread across my face. Next, I just laughed—not a forced chuckle, but a natural, healthy and joyful guffaw!

Treasuring Toy Cars

Toys Cars

The final thing that brought joy to me that summer morn was my youngest son’s continual love and obsession over his toy cars. Being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in late 2017, we discovered that his obsession and impulsive playing with toy cars is part of what makes him unique. Carrying a plastic vehicle at all the time provides him relief amidst daily stresses of toddler life and living with rambunctious siblings. No less than a couple hundred times do we hear our two-year old say, “A car, a toy car! Look a car!” His enthusiasm and unbridled joy at the simplicity of a toy car reminds me of a spectacular point G.K. Chesterton made in his masterpiece Orthodoxy. He stated,

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.  

Joy of Daily Work

Meaningful Work

Repetition, work, and habits do not infringe on our ability to grow. On the contrary, finding joy in the simple matters of life and completing “monotonous” tasks regularly with joy instill true life in us. Days where I focus on my vocation as a husband and father with love are the days where my vocation does not turn into drudgery. The same is true when it comes to my daily work.

My dad displays this simplicity and adherence to his vocation as husband and father in an exceptional way. Rarely, did I hear him complain about his family duties. Weariness of parenting did not seen to wear on his face—at least from what I remember! In terms of spiritually living, my father is “younger” than myself in the sense that his obedience and joy in his vocation is anchored in the Pre-Existent God more deeply than my spiritual life is at currently!

I will leave you today with a few simple and profound quotes that I hope with awaken or sustain your spiritual life. I hope you discover the simple joy that children seem to naturally possess.


“What I know of the divine sciences and the Holy Scriptures, I have learned in woods and fields. I have no other masters than the beeches and the oaks.” —St. Bernard of Clairvaux

As St. Paul points out, Christ never meant that we were to remain children in intelligence: on the contrary, He told us to be not only ‘as harmless as doves,’ but also ‘as wise as serpents.’ He wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head.” —C.S. Lewis

“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” —Greg Anderson, American author

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