Why St. Martha is the Perfect Saint for My Birthday!


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 31,  2017.


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July 29th was my 30th birthday! More importantly it is the Feast Day of St. Martha the friend of Jesus Christ and sister to St. Lazarus and St. Mary. I have always shared a special connection to this ancient Christian role model. My own personal journey to overcome anxiety, worry, OCD, and constant movement in both my daily and spiritual life. Here I want to share a couple ways by which Martha is a perfect person to share July 29th.

Action, Action, Action

Diagnosed with ADHD at a young age, I remember always being in motion as a kid. I know that sounds cliché to talk about children moving around, wiggling, and lacking focus. But for me that was and still is true. I struggled with sitting still. I seen this trait passed on to my own children as well.

My kids rarely are able to sit down for a complete meal. In fact they have a tough time sitting still for more than a couple minutes at a time. The action and constant movement of St. Martha appeals to me on a personal level. busyness.jpg

“Martha [Matt], Martha [Matt], you are anxious and worried about many things”

Another reason the patron saint of homemakers is a perfect person to share my birthday with is due to her anxiety. Martha complains directly to Jesus about her sister Mary in Luke 10:40, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” 

Martha’s tactless manner upon which she communicated her frustrations about her sister to Jesus negated her hospitality. Jesus calmly replied, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.42 There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

How often do I experience similar frustrations when I think I am doing more to prepare for guests than my wife or other members of my family. Preparation and hospitality are good in and of themselves. Where the trouble lies in Martha’s situation is she worried about something fleeting [the itinerary of the feast]  instead of cleaving to the eternal [sitting at the feet of Christ].

Initial doubt

Along with both the personal limitations Martha struggled with constantly and the focus on the minutiae of daily life, her initial doubt of Jesus’ ability to help Lazarus reminds me of my own frequent self-doubt. According to John 11, Jesus heard about Lazarus’, the brother of Mary and Martha, severe sickness.

I always found these two sentences in this story interesting and bewildering: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was” (John 11: 5-6). Wait. If Jesus really loved his friends, why in the world did he procrastinate the equivalent of a weekend’s worth of time?

To be honest, this passage was a difficulty for myself. It is reading the entirely of the chapter—and reading it in light of the Resurrected Christ—that I realized John is preparing us for a tremendous miracle—the raising of Lazarus.

Trust Follows Doubt

Martha’s reply to Jesus entering the city of Bethany is similar to something I would say, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!!”  (John 11: 21). I often lament to God saying, “If only you answered my prayers timely would I not be suffering at this moment!”

St. Paul reassures us that even in the face of suffering, doubt, and strife, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28). This was actually the first line in the second reading of the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 30th). I  planned to write this post on Saturday. I am grateful that my friend took me to see the newest Spiderman movie in theaters for my birthday. God allowed the simple occasion of a movie to help make the connection between Paul’s message and Martha’s anxiety. We know that all things work for good for those who love God. This timeless message also reminds me of this Lauren Daigle’s Trust in You

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

Martha is known as the patron saint of housekeepers, cooks, laundry workers, and servants. While I am not a great cook, I am a clean-freak. As a result of my OCD, I tend to do the majority of the household cleaning chores [I have control issues that I am currently working on].

I also helped my mom with her cleaning business as a kid and I worked in the fast food industry cooking and serving food for almost seven years during high school and college. Little did I know God was using my experiences with menial jobs to forge a relationship with one of the New Testament saints.

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Going into writing this post, I had some anxiety about how I would finish it properly. What I have learned is that God will transform the ordinary. In this case, God took my anxiety and work experiences and raised it to a newness of creation. Sharing my birthday with the feast day of St. Martha of Bethany is an honor and a privilege. While I can wait to get another year older I cannot wait to celebrate this wonderful saint’s feast day again next year!

The Office celebration gif29Related Links

Saint Martha-Catholic Online

Memorial of Saint Martha

4 Reasons to Never Worry—Trust God Will Provide

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3 Reasons Humility is Practical and Reliable


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 18, 2019.


Opening my email inbox I noticed a correspondence from a resume-building website titled Your Resume Review is Complete. Quickly, I clicked on the email to see how I compared to other job seekers. Needless to say, my feedback shows that I have much room for improvement. My initial reaction to the review included feelings of dejection, inadequacies, and defeat. On top of these negative feelings my toddler son began a 10 minute tantrum. “Today is going to be one of those days,” I thought.

Author Erwin McManus wrote, “Attitude is an accurate monitor of where we fall on the spectrum of pride and humility.” Normally, my virtue-vice needle points closer to the pride side. Today was different though. Although my natural reaction tended toward despair which is a product of pride, that soon dissipated towards a desire to learn and improve on my resume — I realized I’m not the smartest when it comes to professional resume building!cs lewis humility

 

 

 

 

 

According to C.S. Lewis, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” The old me would tend toward despair with any type of constructive criticism. My primary focus has been to improve my spiritual life—I need to limit my impatience, pride, and anger when things get outside of my control.

Reading St. Louis de Montfort’s The Secret of the Rosary deepened my devotion to Mary. Aside from Jesus, no other person exhibits humility as much as the Queen of Humility. Along with spiritual benefits of humility this virtue provides practicality and reliability to daily life.

Time-saver

Ralph Waldo Emerson plainly wrote, “For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind.” The times I most often get angry is when something does not go MY way. Whenever I have the prideful audacity to believe that I am in 100% total and utter control of my day is usually the day that nothing I want gets done. Humility is the antidote to pride. Patience is also a cousin of the virtue of humility. During the more stressful parts of parenting, I noticed that whenever I exercise patience I actually end up saving time in the long-run.

Improved relationships

Along with saving time, the virtue of humility helps and strengthens relationships. One does not need to look far to see how the virtue of humility helps. The department for the company that I work for holds a monthly meeting to detail the progress over the past 30 days. Together with the business achievements, managers recognize employers who excelled that particular month. Without exception, the workers who receive Team Member of the Month have been dutiful and humbly going about their work without the promise for recognize. Such individuals have strong relationships with their peers.

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Not only does the virtue of humility apply to healthy and successful profession relationship, but it is essential for family life as well. St. Teresa of Avila declared, “There is more value in a little study of humility and in a single act of it than in all the knowledge in the world.”

All the books on marriage preparation or counseling will strengthen your marriage as much as your willingness to humble yourself before your spouse. St. Paul details the characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13. While he does not specifically use the word humility it is clear that exercising that virtue will only benefit spouses.

Buoy during Life’s Storms

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Together with helping you move on from stressful situations easier and fostering relationships, the virtue of humility acts as a benevolent beacon to guide you through all of life’s storms. A common reaction toward the pressures, woes, and calamities of life is to flee. Developing the strength to withstand the maelstroms of misery takes time and patience.

The great Chinese philosopher Confucius wrote, “Humility is the foundation of all virtues.”

St. Bernard of Clairvaux recognized the importance of humility as well as he famously declared, “The three most important virtues are humility, humility, and humility!”

From my own experience the instances where I weathered the storms best occurred whenever my wife and I were both on the same page–sharing the same goal and purpose. Through humbling myself to recognize the merits of her insight was I able to lift her up [and she lifted up me] during the tumultuous times.

No matter what stage or circumstance you are at in life the virtue of humility will always be reliable and practical—on a daily basis! A trusted resource I use whenever the tentacles of pride try to take over my life is the Litany of Humility. Be prepared for this powerful prayer to change your life!

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4 Reasons to Never Worry—Trust God Will Provide


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 15,  2017.


Throughout the Bible the phrase “Do not be afraid” is invoked over 300 times. In fact, the first mention of fear in the Bible is in reference to Adam and Eve hiding for fear of disobeying God for eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Fear, worry, and anxiety are feelings that are at the center of the human condition. The reality of sin—otherwise known as the separation from God—is the number one cause for humanity to fear and worry.

Faith not fear

As a broken and fallen man, I struggle with worry constantly both in large and trivial matters. Changes at my workplace leads to anxiety on my part and past suffering such as the loss of my unborn child are a couple of the various things I worry about. Even this morning, I got anxious about what topic I should write about today.

Oddly almost immediately after my worrisome thoughts are lacking a subject to write about, my eyes noticed a bible verse I have posted on my cubicle wall. Matthew 6:25-34. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit granted me the gift of knowledge and understanding and shed light on my situation. I thought, “Matt why don’t you write about the subject of worry and God’s answer?!” Here I provide four reasons why Matthew 6:25-34 is the most relatable bible passage for me personally.

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My personal anxiety

For most of my life I have struggled with anxiety and stress. It got so bad in high school that I went to see a counselor for a couple of years. I got it under control better in college but a couple years ago anxiety struck again—after losing my job, suffering a miscarriage, and stresses of adjustment to a new house and city—and attacked me.

I have since been on the road to recovery in large part to the sacrament of marriage [my wife’s patience is awesome!] and a discipleship group at church has helped as well. A few weeks ago, I printed off Matthew 6:25-34 and posted on my cubicle wall to remind me that God is in charge. Jesus reminded me,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? 27Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? (Matthew 6:25-27).”

My Children

When I lost my job I seriously begin to doubt the providence of God and I worried about the very thing Jesus tells us not to worry about above—feeding my children. God provided me with a job that is less stressful that my previous job and allows for excellent flexible options for me to take time off in case my children get sick.

Why was I anxious about food and paying the bills?

Failure to trust and fear caused by sin. Once again the sacramental graces God poured out to me through my marriage helped me out!

Timeless Message

Do not worry

Several passages in the bible sound anachronistic—out of place and outdated. Not so for Matthew 6:24-35. Jesus’ words relayed by the evangelist contain a message that will never age!

Finding adequate shelter, food, and clothing will always be relevant for the human race despite the leaps and bounds we have made technologically. That is the genius of the Gospel to stay relevant across centuries and centuries!

Birds of a Feather

Living in the Midwest of the United States of America, I see tons of birds in my yard and throughout the city. Robins, crows, and sparrows. Some bible versions translate birds as sparrows. Whether this is the most literal translation is debatable; however, I associate with this passage even more when the word “sparrows” are used. Jesus says,

“Look at the birds [sparrows] in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? 27Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? (Matthew 6:26-27).”

I notice animals around my neighbor on a daily basis and they eat on a daily basis. God loves humans immensely more. Do not worry!

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Each spring a sparrow tries to build its nest in our garage. Jesus’ words always come to mind in those I notice twigs and straw hanging from the rafters left by my aviary associate.

“Look at the birds [sparrows] in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?”

Yes…He does provide.

Related Links

3 Incredibly Simple Tools to Incapacitate Anxiety

7 Ways to Shield Yourself against Anxiety!


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May God give you strength to overcome fear and worry in your life.

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Why Salt Water is the Cure for Everything

By: Deacon Marty McIndoe

I have lived almost all of my life on an island, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Long Island Sound.  I feel very blessed by that.  The sea part of me. Every year my wife and I usually try to escape to warm weather for the months of January and February.

Two years ago we spent the time in the southwest traveling around Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and inland Southern California.  We absolutely loved it and appreciated the beauty of the southwest.  However, I really felt like I was out of place.  I was no where near any large body of salt water.  It just didn’t seem right to me.  I was out of place, literally.

This year we did our winter getaway in the south and in Florida and stayed almost all of the time in timeshares that were on the beach, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico.  I felt so much more at home than I did on our desert trip.  There is a real comfort and awe when we look out on the ocean.  For me, I see and feel God in the beauty and immensity of the ocean.

I came across a quote from Isak Dinesen (also known as Tania Blixen author of “Out of Africa”) from her “Seven Gothic Tales” which consisted of the following dialogue:

An old seaman says to his unhappy foster-son, “I know of a cure for everything: Salt water.”

“Salt water?” I asked him.

“Yes,” he said, “in one way or the other. Sweat, or tears, or the salt sea.”

History of Salt

I couldn’t help but to see the truth in that statement.  The cure for everything is “Sweat or Tears or the Salt Sea”.   It’s interesting to see the history of man’s use of salt.  The Hebrew Scriptures (The Old Testament) value salt so much that it was considered to be able to be used as a gift to God as a “covenant of salt” (Lev. 2: 13; II Chron. 13:5; Num. 18:19). It was also used in sacrifices by the Israelites (Ezek. 43:24 and Gen. 31:54).  Belief in its preservative and healing properties led to its use to dry and harden the skin of newborns (Ezek. 16:4) and to prevent umbilical cord infection.

The Egyptians and the Persians considered it such a special commodity that it could only be handled by their royalty.  The ancient Romans paid their soldiers their wages in salt (Latin word is “sal”) from which we today get the word “salary” and the expression, “worth his weight in salt”.

Salt Preserves

Salt had been used for over 3500 years as a preservative for meats and a flavoring for food.  It is still seen as a sign of hospitality and friendship in the Middle East. In Mark Chapter 9, verse 50 Jesus says, “Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”   St. Paul’s tells us in Col. 4:6:”Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”  Jesus also called His followers to be the “salt of the earth”.   Salt is all about preservation, healing, and peace.

The Church has a special prayer for the blessing of salt.  After the blessing, the salt is often placed in Holy Water, or sometimes used by itself.  This prayer, from the Roman Ritual says,

 Almighty God, we ask you to bless this salt, as once you blessed the salt scattered over the water by the prophet Elisha. Wherever this salt (and water) is sprinkled, drive away the power of evil, and protect us always by the presence of your Holy Spirit. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 Salt is also seen as a means of driving away evil or preserving one from evil corruption.

Salt is found naturally in the sea, in our tears, and in our sweat.  All three of these can help to heal us.  As motivational speaker Rita Schiano tell us, “Tears are God’s gift to us. Our holy water. They heal us as they flow”.  Tears come to us from our very being.  They are responses to hurt and loss as well as happiness and gain.

Soothing Tears

Tears can be shed from earthy stimuli such as movies and can also be shed from spiritual stimuli such as God’s Word or the touch of Christian love.  They are an expression that sometimes can speak louder and clearer than words.  They bring us healing in so many ways.

Sweat of our brow

Sweat is a result of our hard work.  The Catholic Church has always stressed the importance of work in our lives.  The Protestant Churches are also known for their work ethic.  Work is not only necessary for civilization to flourish, but it brings a sense of purpose and often healing to the individual.  It also helps us to accomplish our dreams.  Colin Powell tells us, “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.

We find our happiness in working hard for our dreams whether it be as simple (yet profound) as a man or woman working hard to support their family, or a researcher finding the cure for cancer.  Work, and sweat, are part of who we are called to be.

God’s Gift of Water

The Sea is a special gift to us from God.  Our scientists tell us that life itself originated there.  For us, it is a place to enjoy in so many different ways whether it is swimming and fishing or simply gazing out towards its majesty.  As John F. Kennedy told us, “We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.”  The Sea can truly be a healing influence in our lives.

In writing this article, I hope to make you think and pray about the healing influence of the Sea, Sweat and Tears.  I am including some quotes for you to think about and pray about and see how the Lord may be speaking to you.  I hope that you find some quiet time to pray and think about these quotes.  May our good Lord bless you and bring you His healing love.   May you come to better realize the healing gifts given to us in Salt Water: the Sea, Tears or Sweat.

About the author

Deacon Marty McIndoe is a Roman Catholic permanent deacon in the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island, NY. He was in the first class of deacons for the diocese and was ordained on October 4th, 1980. Marty also follows Franciscan spirituality as a member of the Society of Franciscan Deacons.
He has done numerous speaking and teaching events within the Long Island area, as well as published articles and blogs, and is currently working on his first book. He has been actively assigned to St. Francis de Sales in Patchogue New York since his ordination.
Deacon Marty prides himself in following the teaching Magisterium of the Church and in his commitment to obedience to his bishop. He also tries to follow his call given to him on his ordination day when his bishop handed him the Gospel book and said, “believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.” Deacon Marty, a former Methodist, converted to the Catholic Faith in 1972.

Related Links

Are You a Salt or Sugar of the World

Discipleship, Holiness, and the Gospel Of Matthew Part 3


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3 Tips to Acquire Mentality Agility and the Joy of a Calm Mind


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 3rd, 2018.


Are you feeling sluggish? Groggy? Quick-tempered? Do you struggle to move on from a trying situation despite your best efforts?

If you answered yes to at least one of the questions, or even all of them, please know that you are not alone! I often struggle with keeping up in an ever-changing work-place and quickening of life in general. I struggle to handle difficult and frustrating situations with grace and patience.  What is the solution?

Experts, educators, doctors, psychologists, and scientist provide a panoply of tips and methods to improve people who suffer from anxiety and feelings of constant lack of energy. My goal today is not to replace or compete with any of those already tried and true methods. Instead, I want to share my personal experience living with and dealing with ADHD and anxiety.

Although ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, it sort of is a misnomer—people with this diagnosis do not always fail to pay attention. Rather, I go through periods where I actually hyper-focus. What this means is that I tend to fixate or zoom-in on a particular subject/hobby that I am passionate about. When this happens I tend to lost sight of things happening around me—my wife or children asking me a question or other perspectives at work.

Shifting my focus to and from various things in the day is tough for me, but I discovered a few strategies that help me form a habit to more agilely more from task to task throughout the day.  The advice below comes from things that worked for me personally to limit my anxiety and increase my ability to move from trying situations easier and more positively.

Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry

Saint Padre Pio, a 20th century mystic and stigmatist, was a man whose powerful presence captivated a multitude of people. “Pray, hope, and don’t worry,” he exclaimed. When I first heard this statement in high school, I always thought it was a pious saying that overly religious people told you when things got tough. Certainly, I did not believe praying, hoping, and simply not worrying actually had a basis in reality.

After nearly a decade of being a parent, I learned about the power of prayer. Hoping even amid a seemingly hopeless situation is effective. The last part of DO NOT WORRY is a part that I struggle with mightily, but at least I am aware of my deficiency. Padre Pio continues to provide comfort to me. He reminded me the importance of the presence of God even when you cannot feel it,

Jesus is with you even when you don’t feel His presence. He is never so close to you as He is during your spiritual battles. He is always there, close to you, encouraging you to fight your battle courageously. He is there to ward off the enemy’s blows so that you may not be hurt.

Remind Yourself to be Thankful

Equally important as praying is reminding yourself to be thankful. In fact, among the most common prayer is that of gratitude for the blessings in one’s life.

Forming a habit of shifting my mindset to reflecting on the blessings in my life took time and work. Ultimately, this habit has paid off! I found a direct correlation with the frequency of thankful thoughts with my ability to more quickly navigate between stressful situation.

Former NFL quarterback and devout Christian Tim Tebow spoke of thanksgiving in this way, “I pray to start my day and finish it in prayer. I’m just thankful for everything, all the blessings in my life, trying to stay that way. I think that’s the best way to start your day and finish your day. It keeps everything in perspective.”

As someone with diagnosed ADHD, I struggle with honing in on the trees of the forest instead of stepping away to notice the beauty of the forest [or life] as a whole. Jotting down a few of my blessings everyday on a Post-It note is an easy way for me to daily remind myself to continue an attitude of gratitude.

Exercise with Exorcise Your Personal Demons

My favorite philosopher Aristotle [sorry Plato!] wrote about the importance of developing a regular routine, “Quality is not an act, it is a habit.” Along with filling myself spiritually and emotionally with prayer and a thankful mindset, frequent exercise combats my inner demons of impatience and anger that get pent up after a stress-filled day at work and home.

Running calms my mind and provides me energy. St. Paul uses the analogy of running frequently in his letters, but among my favorite quotes comes from 1 Corinthians 9:26 when he writes, “Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly.”

Jogging intermittently or aimlessly does me no good in the long run. Frequent jogs at least three times a week for 2-3 miles provide me the best defense against my personal vices of anger, bitterness, impatience, and judgmental thoughts.

After a fulfilling 5k, I almost immediately experience a sense of joy and relief. Any lingering anxiety from earlier in the day disappeared. Focusing on a landmark or sign throughout my jog helps motivate me to push past any exhaustion or temptation to take a break.

Forming a healthy habit of prayer, thanksgiving, and exercise [mental and physical] will not happen overnight. The key is to acknowledge your progress and pick yourself up when you fall—believe me falling and failing is guaranteed. Good habits take time. Practice makes progress. Soon you will be able to encounter a difficult situation and more easily able to overcome.

Related Links

3 Reasons the Worst Monday Ever Failed to Stop My Joy

3 Simple Ways to Find Joy

Catholic Joy?

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Focus, Assess, Inward, and Live—How to Deal with Failures

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Perhaps the most difficult phrase a person has to hear in life is: You need to wait. Whether you renewing your driver’s license and have to wait at the local DMV or waiting for a job interview or searching for your vocation in life, waiting can be tough. St. Paul wrote about the importance of patience. Perhaps his most famous, and arguably his most timeless passage, 1 Corinthians 13:4, the great evangelizer ever reminds us, “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated” (emphasis mine).

Wait it Out

My natural tendency leans towards impatience. Busyness and speed dominate my daily life. Whether this issue began as a child, as I was diagnosed with ADHD or if my fast-paced work environment and reliance on technology is a factor may be debated. Regardless, at the end of the day, I am in charge of choosing to slow down, to pause, and to reflect on my crossroad events in my life. Certainly, today it seems is a turning point in my life.  Earlier this week, I learned about a fantastic job opportunity within my company that would be a perfect match for my skills. Excitedly, I discussed this chance with my manager. Needing permission from senior management to apply—as I am still only a few months in my current role, my manager informed me that I needed to wait for a year from when I was hired in my current role.

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Failure as a Learning Opportunity

Disappointed I took this time to focus my efforts into working diligently. Focus. This word permeated my thoughts today. According to the great Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Oftentimes, courage is associated with quick thinking. However, sometimes the courageous thing to do involves waiting—patiently. That is what I did today. I paused and assessed my frustrating situation. “I am stuck in a position where I am not happy. It is not a good fit!” I initially told myself.

After inwardly reflecting I realized that waiting is not necessary a bad thing. The American author Joyce Meyer poignantly put it, “Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.” Taking time to reflect on my apparent failings gave rise to a mantra that helped re-focus my attitude—F.A.I.L= Focus+ Assess + Inward=Live

keep calm live to fullest

Live life to the fullest. We are called to a joyful life. This does equal a life free from suffering—today certainly proved that with my disappointment about the job opportunity. Nevertheless, any cross, big or small, presents us all with an opportunity—to run from it or to embrace it. Today, I choose the latter! St. Therese of Lisieux encountered suffering most of her earthly life. The wisdom gained from accepting her crosses was profound. The French saint stated, “For one pain endured with joy, we shall love the good God more forever.” Love is patient. God is love. Therefore, God is patient. May the Holy Spirit grant us the virtue of patience and ability to transform apparent failings into fruitful joys!

Thank you for sharing!

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!

Thank you for sharing!