Category Archives: Joyful Christian

A Family Prayer to Jesus. Mary, and Joseph

My priest sent us this prayer. I liked it so much that I thought I would pass it on.

A PRAYER
FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY

Dear Lord, bless our family.
Be so kind as to give us the unity, peace,
and mutual love that You found in Your own family
in the little town of Nazareth.

Saint Joseph, bless the head of our family.
Obtain for him the strength,
the wisdom, and the prudence
he needs to support and direct those under his care.

Mother Mary, bless the mother of our family.
Help her to be pure and kind,
gentle and self-sacrificing.
For the more she resembles you,
the better will our family be.

Lord Jesus, bless the children of our family.
Help them to be obedient and devoted to their parents.
Make them more and more like You.
Let them grow, as You did,
in wisdom and age and grace before God and man.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
make our family and home more and more like Yours,
until we are all one family,
happy and at peace in our true home with You.

Amen.

How Do I Learn to Love God?

If the answer is to love God more, the question then becomes, “How do I learn to love God more?”
God teaches us how, through the sacrament of marriage. As I discussed before, marriage is supposed to be hard, because in marriage we are learning how to love, and in particular, how to love God. So by looking at how we learn to love our spouse, we learn how to love God.

  1. Knowledge of our beloved
    To love someone, we must know them. Dating is all about getting to know someone, but it doesn’t stop there. Throughout our married life, we continue to share ourselves with our spouse. We talk about the present and the past, learning about our spouse as he or she changes and grows.
    Likewise, we must continue to learn about God. To know Him more and more intimately. We do this primarily through the reading of sacred scriptures, but the writings of the Church and of the saints are essential to understanding what we are reading in the scriptures, fallible creatures that we are. Just as in a marriage we must learn about our spouse every day, in our faith life we must learn about our Lord every day, and if we do so faithfully, we will be shocked at how much there is to know.
  2. Spending time with our beloved
    Time together is critical for a marriage. We spend time together every day, to make sure we are connected. We have dates every week, show how important we are to each other. We have longer, special times monthly or at specific events, to celebrate our love.
    We must do the same with God. We must spend quality time with Him daily, in prayer. We must have that more special extended visit with Him, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, at least weekly. And then there are the feasts, whether they are days of obligation or not, they are opportunities to celebrate with our Lord.
  3. Defending our beloved
    Would you ever spend time with someone who disliked or even hated your wife? Would you stand casually by while a “friend” spoke badly of her? We must give God at least that much courtesy. At least that much devotion. We must make friends that share our feelings about God, and we must stand up to those who would disparage him. Otherwise, we will be prone to assimilating the negative attitudes of those not close to God.
  4. Finding couples to emulate
    If we want a good marriage, we find couples who have good marriages already. We watch what they do and how they treat each other. Likewise with faith. If we want to grow in our love of God, we must surround ourselves with those who love Him, and we must try to emulate them. Otherwise, we will be emulating someone else.
  5. Reflect frequently on how much our beloved loves us
    When we think how much our spouse loves us, we feel emotionally compelled to love them back. This is even more true when it comes to God. When we realize how much God loves us, truly loves us, we can become overwhelmes at the infinite nature of that love. It is love that can bring joy even to a life of great suffering. In the face of that love, how can we not love Him back?

Remember this: love is not a feeling. It is a decision and an action. It is something under our control. If we decide to love, and we act with love, the emotions will follow, in their own time. So, to love God more, we simply have to decide to do it, and then act on it.

Let the Light of the Resurrection Shine Forth in Everything We Say and Do

After the long somber and penitential season of Lent, it may be difficult to transition to the joy of Easter. Even the apostles had difficulty accepting it. But transition we must, because in the end, it all comes down to the resurrection. We can fast all we want, we can repent of our sins as much as we want (and yes, these things are necessary), but without the resurrection, it would all be for naught.
And we are not called to be a somber and sorrowful people. When we fast, we are not to let the world know. We are called, especially as parents and spouses, to exhibit the joy of the gift that Christ has given us.
Through His sacrifice, Christ has opened up Heaven for us. Yes, we still have to accept His gift. We still have to carry our crosses and enter our own little Calvarys in order to reach that gift. But He gives us the graces we need to do that.
So in spite of our suffering, in spite of our struggles with sin, we are right to be joyful. Our spouse needs to see it; our kids need to see it; and especially the world needs to see it from us as a family. Let them see the truth of the resurrection in everything we say and do. It is our duty and our privilege.

The Answer is to Love God More

When we struggle to accept a difficult situation, the answer is to love God more.
When we battle with a sin that we just can’t shake, the answer is to love God more.
When we want to do God’s will but just don’t know what that is, the answer is to love God more.
When we cannot forgive our neighbor, the answer is to love God more.
When our prayer life is dry, the answer is to love God more.
When we are angry or hurt or afraid, the answer is to love God more.
When our suffering is more than we think we can bear, the answer is to love God more.

When we love God more, we love ourselves less.
When we love God more, we love the world less.
When we love God more, we see Him in the eyes of those around us.
When we love God more, we find joy in unlikely places.
When we love God more, we come to understand His love for us.
When we love God more, we learn to love our neighbor.
When we love God more, we open ourselves to His abundant graces.
When we love God more, His will becomes our will.
The answer is to love God more.

Thérèse of Lisieux and Louis de Montfort: Two Great Saints Who Go Great Together

I have long loved St. Thérèse of Lisieux. She holds a special place in my family, and she was the inspiration of this blog. I’ve always known that I will never be a hermit on a mountain or a prophet in the desert or a Doctor of the Church. The gifts God has given me are humble gifts, and they are unlikely to earn me a feast day or my own page on Saint of the Day. I am just a husband and a father, with my own virtues and foibles, challenges and opportunities. Thérèse taught me that I don’t have to move mountains to get to heaven. I just have to do the little things with great love. And we are all capable of great love.

Now that I have made my consecration to Jesus through Mary, I see how St. Louis de Montfort is trying to lead us down the same path.

St. Thérèse says, “Expect all things from the good God just as a little child expects all things from its father.” We are to approach God with a childlike love and trust.

St. Louis de Montfort says, “If you put all the love of all the mothers into one heart it still would not equal the love of the Heart of Mary for her children.”

Every child needs a father AND a mother. And we ARE children. St. Thérèse didn’t make this up. Christ, himself, told us this:.

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3.

Every child needs a father AND a mother. St. Thérèse exhorts us to remain a child:

“Even among poor people, a child is given all it needs, as long as it is very little, but as soon as it has grown up, the father does not want to support it any longer and says: “Work, now you are able to take care of yourself”. Because I never want to hear these words I do not want to grow up, feeling that I can never earn my living, that is, eternal life in heaven. So I have stayed little, and have no other occupation than of gathering flowers of love and sacrifice and of offering them to the good God to please Him.”

And St. Louis de Montfort guides us to our Mother:

“Mary alone gives to the unfortunate children of unfaithful Eve entry into that earthly paradise where they may walk pleasantly with God and be safely hidden from their enemies.”

What these two wonderful Saints are saying is that we do not need to resign ourselves to a morose and laborious spiritual life, filled with privations and fear of eternal punishment. As St. Thérèse said:

“You are not sufficiently trusting, you fear God too much. I assure you that this grieves Him. Do not be afraid of going to purgatory because of its pain, but rather long not to go there because this pleases God who imposes this expiation so regretfully. From the moment that you try to please Him in all things, if you have the unshakable confidence that He will purify you at every instant in His love and will leave in you no trace of sin, be very sure that you will not go to purgatory.”

Our faith must, instead, be suffused with joy and love. And it will be, if we entrust ourselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of His Most Blessed Mother. As St. Louis de Montfort said:

“Happy, then, a thousand times happy, are the Christians who are now fastened faithfully and entirely to Her, as to a firm anchor!”

Be a child. Entrust yourself to Mary. Love Christ. Love His Mother. If we love Christ, we follow His command to take His Mother into our home.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his
home.
John 19: 26-27

So both of these great Saints are guiding us to take the Blessed Mother as our Mother, and allow her to bring us closer to Jesus.

In fact, St. Thérèse’s memory of her first communion – “In that first ‘fusion’ with Jesus (holy communion), it was my Heavenly Mother again who accompanied me to the altar for it was she herself who placed her Jesus into my
soul.” – mirrors St. Louis de Montfort’s instructions on receiving Holy Communion: “Implore Mary to lend you her heart so that you may receive her Son with her dispositions.”

So listen to these wonderful Saints. Be a child. Take Mary as your mother. Consecrate yourself to Jesus through Mary. Make of yourself a humble and joyful Christian.

9 Ways Raising a Family Increases Your Holiness

Christ told us to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, give shelter to the homeless. When they are born, our children are naked, hungry, and homeless, and they remain wholly dependent on us.

Paul said that love is patient. No one needs patience more than a parent of a 2-year-old.

Denial of self comes with the territory when you are a parent. I want to work on my book, but instead I am driving a child to ballet. I want to buy a new car, but instead I pay tuition for Catholic school. I want to get some sleep, but instead I soothe a sick child. And for some grace-filled reason, I don’t resent it.

God said to be fruitful and multiply. Can’t do that without a family.

Christ’s first miracle took place at a wedding. Think that’s a coincidence?

The Holy Family is the ultimate example of sanctity. All we have to do is follow.

When I teach my kids about the faith, they ask me questions I never thought of. And they won’t accept a non-answer.

Christ said, “Let the little children come to me.” So when we bring our kids to Mass, we are doing His bidding.

Christ said to have the faith of a child. What better way to learn to love God like a child than to watch how our children love us? With simplicity, trust, and no preconditions. Just try finding unconditional love anywhere else.

A Reflection on Suffering

It is hard to remember that all things that happen are allowed by God. Since God is all good, and God is love, and since all things are allowed by Him who cannot ere, then our sufferings must be for the good, as impossible as it may be for us to understand.

God is timeless. He sees the world, from beginning to end equally, as one thing. His timelessness is how we can approach Calvary each day at Mass. When we suffer, He sees us as the eternal souls we are destined to be, and our suffering is an integral part of that meaning.

When we suffer, we must trust in His judgment and love.

From the Divine Office:
The Moral Reflections on Job by Pope St Gregory the Great
If we receive good from the hand of God, why should we not also receive evil? Paul saw the riches of wisdom within himself though he himself was outwardly a corruptible body, which is why he says we have this treasure in earthen vessels. In Job, then, the earthenware vessel felt his gaping sores externally; while this interior treasure remained unchanged. Outwardly he had gaping wounds but that did not stop the treasure of wisdom within him from welling up and uttering these holy and instructive words: If we have received good at the hand of the Lord, shall we not receive evil? By the good he means the good things given by God, both temporal and eternal; by evil he means the blows he is suffering from in the present. Of those evils the Lord says, through the prophet Isaiah, I am the Lord, unrivalled, I form the light and create the dark. I make good fortune and create calamity, it is I, the Lord, who do all this. I form the light, and create the dark, because when the darkness of pain is created by blows from without, the light of the mind is kindled by instruction within. I make good fortune and create calamity, because when we wrongly covet things which it was right for God to
create, they are turned into scourges and we see them as evil. We have been alienated from God by sin, and it is fitting that we should be brought back to peace with him by the scourge. As every being, which was created good, turns to pain for us, the mind of the chastened man may, in its humbled state, be made new in peace with the Creator. We should especially notice the skilful turn of reflection he uses when he gathers himself up to meet the persuading of his wife, when he says If we have received good at the hand of the Lord, shall we not receive evil? It is a great consolation to us if, when we suffer afflictions, we recall to remembrance our Maker ’s gifts to us. Painful things will not depress us
if we quickly remember also the gifts that we have been given. As Scripture says, In the day of prosperity do not forget affliction, and in the day of affliction, do not forget prosperity. Whoever, in the moment of receiving God’s gifts but forgets to fear possible affliction, will be brought low by his presumption. Equally, whoever in the moment of suffering fails to take comfort from the gifts which it has been his lot to receive, is thrown down from the steadfastness of his mind and despairs.
The two must be united so that each may always have the other’s support, so that both remembrance of the gift may moderate the pain of the blow and fear of the blow may moderate exuberance at receiving the gift. Thus the holy man, to soothe the depression of his mind amidst his wounds, weighs the sweetness of the gifts against the pains of affliction, saying If we have received good at the hand of the Lord, shall we not receive evil?

And from the morning reading of the same day:
Judith 8:25-26,27
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God who, as he tested our ancestors, is now testing us. Remember how he treated Abraham, all the ordeals of Isaac and all that happened to Jacob. For as these ordeals were intended by him to search their hearts, so now this is not vengeance that God exacts against us, but a warning inflicted by the Lord on those who are near his heart.

The Spiritual Bouquet of St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales is the author of Introduction to the Devout Life, sort of a how-to guide to applying the scriptures to every day life.

In Chapter 9″, the first of ten preparatory meditations, this Doctor of the Church writes, “At the end of your meditation linger a while, and gather, so to say, a little spiritual bouquet from the thoughts you have dwelt upon, the sweet perfume whereof may refresh you through the day.” This was a new idea to me, and it has helped to create a marked improvement in my prayer life.

What is a Spiritual Bouquet?

From what I have seen and read, there are three different kinds of spiritual bouquets: the doctrinal bouquets, given to us through the saints; prayer bouquets, made up of the standard prayers of the church; and there are personal bouquets, as described in the first quote of this article.

Spiritual Bouquets from the Saints

In the Preface to this wonderful book, St. Francis de Sales describes a girl who arranges common flowers into beautiful bouquets.

“The flower-girl Glycera was so skilled in varying the arrangement and combination of her flowers, that out of the same kinds she produced a great variety of bouquets; so that the painter Pausias, who sought to rival the diversity of her art, was brought to a standstill, for he could not vary his painting so endlessly as Glycera varied her bouquets.”

He goes on to compare this flower girl to the Holy Spirit, working through the Saints in the various ways the describe God’s revelation:

“Even so the Holy Spirit of God disposes and arranges the devout teaching which He imparts through the lips and pen of His servants with such endless variety, that, although the doctrine is ever one and the same, their treatment of it is different, according to the varying minds whence that treatment flows.”

So we see that although we have one set of flowers, the doctrine provided to us through scriptures and Holy Mother Church, these flowers can be arranged into a vast variety of bouquets. St. Francis de Sales has arranged one for us. Other bouquets – very different – are from St. John of the Cross, St. Louis de Montfort, St. Thérèse of Lisieux and a host of others who put their spiritual thoughts on paper. Other Saints arranged their bouquets through the actions of their lives – Mother Theresa, though not canonized yet, is a modern example. Still others give us devotions such as the Divine Mercy and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

As fallible and sinful men, we need these bouquets so that we can come to a more full understanding of God’s plan of salvation, and His very real love for us. What a blessing that the Holy Spirit has provided so many different ways to learn and grow in the faith!

Prayer Bouquets

An apologist on Catholic Answers forums describes spiritual bouquets this way:

“A “spiritual bouquet” is a group of prayers gathered together for a particular intention. The idea is that each prayer is like a flower and that the group is like a bouquet mystically offered as a gift to God for a particular intention. That is why, for example, you’ll sometimes see Catholics organize “spiritual bouquets” for particular purposes, such as for the intentions of the Pope in honor of his birthday. Those who participate promise a certain amount of prayers and devotions for the intention and then the list is compiled and given to the person whose intentions are being remembered in prayer.”

A good example here are the rosary campaigns we do for Forty Days for Life, where a basket is kept in the church, collecting markers for the number of rosaries prayed for the campaign. It is a beautiful way to compound the power of prayer for very specific intentions.

Personal Spiritual Bouquets

But what did St. Francis say in Chapter 9?

“At the end of your meditation linger a while, and gather, so to say, a little spiritual bouquet from the thoughts you have dwelt upon, the sweet perfume whereof may refresh you through the day.”

In this case, at the end our prayers and meditations, we think back over our prayer time, searching for those nuggets that we want to remember and contemplate over the course of the day. I find as I do this now, that the benefits of my prayer time are greatly enhanced. My prayers stay with me over the course of the day, and I am more likely to learn something.

The richness of our faith is truly inspiring! St. Francis de Sales, pray for us!

Why Santa?

Many Christian parents reject Santa Claus. They never have gifts from Santa waiting Christmas morning. They don’t trudge to the mall for pictures with Santa, and they discourage their kids from believing in Santa. They have good reasons for this – keep the focus on the Christian truth of Christmas, and minimize the materialism.

Our family embraces Santa. We do it all, the cookies, the carrots for the reindeer, the letters, and the stockings. Why?

First, I do it because it makes my kids happy, and I don’t like to puncture their balloons. Its an emotional reason, but there it is.

Second, I don’t want to become the dour, joyless Christian. The thing that Santa exemplifies is the joy of the Christian life. He lives to serve, and he is happy (jolly) about it. He lives removed from the world (at the North Pole) but he eagerly engages with the world. He is all about being happy, giving and sharing. I want to be a joyful Christian, even when I am fasting or practicing self-denial. And I want my kids to see that Christianity can bring joy without corrupting Christ’s teachings. I hope they can learn that from the way I lead my life.

Finally, I remember a scene from Thérèse where she was a little girl, putting her shoes out for Father Christmas and overheard the truth from her father and sister talking. If Santa was good enough for the Martin family, he is good enough for mine.