Tag Archives: spirituality

Avoiding a Post-Easter Spiritual Letdown

Easter Letdown

Easter night I was tucking my boys in, and we were having a discussion about Easter, comparing it to Christmas, and I was making the point that though Christmas has more decorations and gifts, Easter is still the most important Holiday of the year. One of them summed up the discussion with the question:

“Why isn’t New Year’s at Easter?”

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Sitting on the Lap of the Father

This morning, in the pre-dawn, as I prepared to go to work, I found my 4-year-old tugging at my pant leg. They had the day off school, so the rest of the kids were still asleep. Mom was downstairs studying.

“What do you need?” I asked.

No answer.

“Did you have a nightmare? Do you need a drink of water?”

He just should his head and mumbled sleepily.

I paused for a moment. I needed to go to work. I considered ushering him back to bed and getting on with the task at hand.

“Do you need to sit on my lap?”

He nodded silently. I sat and gathered him up and onto my lap. We just sat
silently. I held him and enjoyed his presence, happy that I had grasped the opportunity that I so nearly let slip through my fingers. It is so easy to do that as a parent. “Go back to bed.” “Go watch some TV.” “Go outside and play.” “Go leave me alone.”

Our Father in Heaven never says “Go”. He always says “Come”.

“Come sit on my lap.”

Sometimes I need to sit on the lap of the father. I need to enjoy His presence, without asking for anything or complaining about anything.

Elizabeth Ann Seton and the Little Way

Yesterday’s Office of Readings contained a quote from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton that nicely summarizes The Little Way.

The first end I propose in our daily work is to do the will of God; secondly,to do it in the manner he wills; and thirdly,to do it because it is his will.

For those of us who are married and parents, the will of God in our life, our daily work, is simply to love our spouses and children, to live out our marital vocation, and to teach and raise our children in the faith. It is not to make a bunch of money, move into the nicest neighborhood, or raise a sports star, pop star or otherwise hyper-successful child.

What is the manner in which he wills it? We do our daily work as perfectly as we can, with a spirit of self-sacrifice. We don’t cut corners in order to make time for TV, partying, or ladder-climbing. We focus on the task at hand and are grateful for it, even if it involves mowing the lawn or cleaning up after a sick toddler.

We do it because it is God’s will. We don’t do it because it makes us feel good, though satisfaction and joy may come as a grace. We don’t do it with the expectation of gratitude from wife/husband or child. We don’t do it to impress others. Others might not be impressed. Gratitude might not be forthcoming. This daily work might include suffering such that satisfaction and worldly happiness is a rare experience. The fact that God wants it must be enough for us.

So let us today resolve to be an instrument of God’s will. We don’t have to be the next Mother Theresa or Padre Pio or John Paul II or Elizabeth Ann Seton (who, by the way, was a wife and mother). We just have to be a devoted husband, wife, father, or mother.

Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us!

The Hand of the Lord Feeds Us, He Answers All Our Needs – Does He Really?

The Hand of the Lord Feeds Us, He Answers All Our Needs. Is this just touchy feely religious sentiment? The cancer patient who prays for a cure; is He answering her needs? How about the expecting mother facing a miscarriage? The husband seeing his wife slip away into the mystery of Alzheimers? The martyrs that shed their blood to this day in many corners of this world?

We all suffer. We all die. We all eventually lose those we love. We all mourn and weep in this valley of tears. Is God really answering all our needs? It is easy to say no. It is easy to reject the faith on this premise alone. It is easy to be tragically wrong.

We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Somehow, some way, these sufferings are supposed to work for good, for our good. Is this just another condescending little head pat to console us when our prayers aren’t answered? Or is it the case that suffering happens and God tries somehow to make it up to us? Again, no. Such a promise cannot be so easily dismissed.

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.
Collossions 1:24

So the good that our sufferings work for isn’t just some consolation prize from God, but it is something essential. Christ’s afflictions were and Sources necessary for the salvation of all of us. Since Christ is God, He cannot of course be imperfect, so the only thing missing from His afflictions must be something that He requires as our contribution, and that would be our suffering. If our suffering makes up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions, then both our and His suffering must be working toward the same goal – salvation.

So our suffering is not only turned into good by God, it is in fact necessary. But why? This is not some arbitrary rule. In fact, it derives logically from the nature of our existence.

God created man not as an animal, and not as an automaton. He gave us free will. Why? Because He wanted to create a creature whom He could love and who could freely love him back. Without free will, there is no love, only coerced action.

But with free will comes the ability to say no, the ability to reject God. With free will also comes a selfishness, a base desire to guarantee my own self-preservation, to look out for my interests above those of others. To truly love someone – in a total and pure way – you have to be willing and able to put the other’s needs over your own. In perfect love, this self-sacrifice extends even unto death. I would die for my wife and my children.

So to love God perfectly, I must be willing and able to sacrifice my life for God. How many of us are sure we could do that? Adam failed at the task miserably, and we are all still paying for his failure.

The reason why our suffering – joined to that of Christ – is essential to our salvation is because it helps us to learn how to offer our lives up for God, how to be willing and able to sacrifice our very existence for Him. Once we have learned that, we have learned to love God perfectly. And once we can love God perfectly, we can become the creatures He originally intended us to be.

So yes, God does answer all our needs. And one of our needs is to suffer. We don’t need to be afraid of it.

Lessons in Spiritual Warfare from a Broken Garage Door

I spent time recently repairing my garage door. On Saturday, one of the pulley cables snapped. Simple, I thought. I purchased a new cable and made the repair. The door worked for about a day and then jammed. A hinge had broken. I repaired the hinge, but still no go. The door would not close all the way. I finally determined that a pulley had lost a bearing and would not turn.

Of course, this was not some grand coincidence or case of really bad luck. The cable, hinge, and pulley were all related. One of them, probably the pulley, had begun to fail first. This put additional stress on the other parts. The cable turned out to be the first to fail completely. The other parts quickly followed suit. In engineering, we call this a cascading failure. It is a feature of any interconnected system.

Our spiritual lives can be like that. When we neglect part of our spiritual life – for instance when we sin – we can quickly find the rest of our life falling apart in short order, and soon we wonder why we feel so empty inside. One sin predisposes us to another and then another, until sinful behavior has become a habit and we start justifying ourselves, saying that such-and-such a sin really isn’t so bad. Sin becomes a part of every aspect of our life.

Now that my garage door is working again, I notice that it is remarkably quiet. I hadn’t even realized it was getting noisy. The pulley must have been getting a little noisier every day, the noise increasing so slightly that, like the frog in the boiling water, I was oblivious to the relentless creeping change.

Again, sin is like that. It can start with such seeming innocence that we barely realize we are sinning. It might start out as too much TV watching. Then watching shows that are morally questionable, that titillate and excite. Then turning to programs not just questionable but objectionable. This is how men get sucked into pornography, bit by bit. When we open the door to sin, it can grow throughout our lives without our even realizing it. And then it comes, cascading failure.

The sin has permeated us. We drift away from our loved ones. We drift away from the faith. Our lives become chaotic. We obsess about appearance, status, money, possessions. Eventually, we don’t even know who God is.

How do we prevent this? When designing a complex system, we first design to avoid cascading failures. We choose parts less likely to fail. We design in backups. We minimize dependencies between parts. And we do preventive maintenance, to catch small failures before they have a chance to cascade. This is why the mechanic, when he changes the oil in your car, always checks the air filter.

In our spiritual life we do the same thing. We design our life to avoid the failures. We call this avoiding the near occasion of sin. In our family, we don’t subscribe to cable TV. In business I have a personal rule not to have lunch or even coffee alone with a woman, no matter how innocent.

We also do preventive maintenance. We pray the morning offering and the rosary. We do a daily examination of conscience. We read the scriptures and frequent the sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation.

In short, we can prevent the kind of breakdown suffered by my garage door, but it takes diligence and planning.

It’s Hard to Love Your Neighbor

It’s hard to love your neighbor when he almost runs you over in the parking lot.
It’s hard to love your neighbor when she takes 20 items into the 10 items or less lane–and cuts in front of you to get there.
It’s hard to love your neighbor when she not only talks during the movie but explains to her partner exactly what is going to happen next.
It’s hard to love your neighbor when he tosses an empty beer can out of his car window.
It’s hard to love your neighbor when you have to walk through her cloud of cigarette smoke.
It’s hard to love your neighbor when he lets his dog potty in your yard and doesn’t clean it up.
It’s hard to love your neighbor when the “music” from his car drowns out the conversation in your car.

It’s hard to love your neighbor when he mocks you, spits on you, beats you, pierces your hands and feet and side, and leaves you to die in front of your weeping mother.

Well, ok. Maybe I could try harder to love my neighbor.

Prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

O Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Heavenly beauty and splendor of the Father,
You are the most valued Heavenly treasure.
New Eve, immaculate in soul, spirit and body,
Created of the godly seed by the Spirit of God,
You are the spiritual Mother of mankind.
Pure Virgin, full of grace then and now,
Your whole being was raised Heavenly in full glory,
To be elevated above all the hosts within the Kingdom of God.
O Heavenly Mother, Queen of Heaven and earth,
I recognize the glory of your highest title,
The Immaculate Heart of Mary!
Loving Mother, dispenser of endless blessings,
You who continuously intercede on our behalf,
Please present my need before your loving Son Jesus.

O Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I know that you are now presenting my need before Jesus,
For you have never turned away those in dire need.
Mother dearest, I await your favorable answer,
Submitting myself to the Divine will of the Lord,
For all glories are His forever and ever.

Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

This Friday is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and as such, it is a great day to perform an Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in your home.

What is the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus?

From a practical perspective, the enthronement is a ceremony in the home in which a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is placed in a position of honor and certain prayers are made. The enthronement can either be done with the assistance of a priest or by the parents themselves.

From a spiritual perspective, the enthronement is an acknowledgement that Jesus Christ is our King, and He reigns over our household. Of course, He is King and reigns regardless of whether we acknowledge it, but the enthronement does two things:

First, it reminds us of Christ’s kingship in an ongoing way, so that we might remember to act in accordance with this truth.

Second, it consecrates our home and our family to Jesus’ Sacred Heart. In consecration, we are separated from the common, dedicated to sacred use. This sanctifies our living space, making our home a more holy place and giving us additional graces so that we might have strength to live our day-to-day discipleship as we rededicate our family to Christ’s service.

The enthronement, as a devotion, helps us to ensure that we are Christians in every part of our lives, not just on Sunday mornings.

Below are two websites with slightly different formulas for the enthronement.

Enthronement Link 1

Enthronement Link 2

Both sides have a wealth of information about the Sacred Heart of Jesus and about Enthronement.

My Three Favorite Scriptures

Thanks to Bryan at Calling All Witnesses, I’ve been tagged in a blogging meme! I didn’t know what that was. It turns out that a blogging meme is a topic that is passed from blogger to blogger, sort of like a big game of tag. Each person passes the meme to three others, and so it grows, sort of like compound interest. The theme for this meme is “My Three Favorite Scriptures”

Here are the rules:

  1. Write a post on your three favorite verses from the Bible and why you like them.
  2. Link back to this post.
  3. In your post tag three other bloggers to carry this theme forward, link to you, and tag additional bloggers.

Its been a busy week for me, but now I am all over it. So here are my three favorite scripture passages.

  • The Eucharist
  • John 6:53
    Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”

    This is just a snippet of Christ’s teaching on the Eucharist. Once I truly had digested this chapter of John, I wondered how anyone could not see the truth of the Catholic church. “My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”
    Many couldn’t handle it and left, but Jesus didn’t try to get them back. And he didn’t offer any other explanation for his words, which he would have done, for the sake of his apostles, if it had been merely a parable.
    This is the first verse I had my kids memorize, because if we’ve got the Eucharist, we’ve got it all.

  • Marriage
  • Ephesians 5:25-26
    Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

    And this is the ultimate description of the role of the husband in the vocation of marriage. It is a Christ-like role of self-sacrifice. It is a sanctifying role. There are a million little deaths to self that a husband must go through, and this passage inspires me like nothing else. What a calling! What a responsibility!

  • A Blessing
  • Numbers 6:24-26
    The LORD bless you and keep you!
    The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
    The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!

    This is the Aaronic prayer or blessing. God gave this to Moses, instructing him to tell Aaron to use this blessing to bless the Israelites. When my oldest daughter was still quite young, I saw a talk by Jeff Cavins (the Great Adventure, Bible Timeline) where he suggested using it to bless your children every night. I haven’t missed a night since, and my kids can’t go to sleep without it.

So there it is. My top three scripture verses. And now I am handing it off to three others.
Here are the candidates. Hope they accept. Even if they don’t, their blogs are worth the visit:
Chris at This Pilgrim’s Progress
Joe at Average Catholic Joe
Kortni at Heart Shaped Stone

Dad: The Big Hero for Little Crises

Life has its major crises, of course. Illness, death, job loss, and so forth. These things require a loving family to pull together and get through the tough times. Thanks to our merciful Lord, however, these times are usually few and far between, and we can sometimes go for many years without having to face such trials.

Life is full, however, of the little crises that loom large in the moment. These can range from a flat tire on the interstate to a stray bird trapped in the house. It may be in these little crises that Dad has one of his most important roles.

In the truly big crises, Dad steers the ship and gets the family through it, but in most cases he can’t really fix anything. Death still comes; the economy still has its victims; the tears will still flow. In the little crises, Dad has the opportunity to be the hero, and being the hero during those times is important, and not just to Daddy’s ego. Daddy’s heroism – his calm self-assurance that he can fix the problem – during the little crises matters because here the kids learn to trust their father, to turn to him in times of trouble, to believe in him. They learn hope even when they are scared or hurt or sad. And if they learn to have hope and to trust in their earthly father, their faith and hope in their heavenly Father can follow.

A child’s love for their father is a template for their love for God. If we, as fathers, are trustworthy, and even heroic, in those little crises that seem so scary to children, then they will learn, on an emotional level, that God Himself is trustworthy and heroic in all things. If they come to believe that Dad won’t be there for them, then how will they learn that God is there for them? In that case they may find themselves leading a lonely life, with only themselves to rely on.

Here is a short and humorous (at least to me) example of one of those “little crises”.

Elijah: “How did this corn get in my nose?”
Dad: “Is there a corn in your nose?”
Elijah: “Yes.”
Dad: “What kind of corn?”
Elijah: “Popcorn.”
Dad sits up.
“Did you put a popcorn kernel in your nose?”
“Yes.”
“Why?”
“I don’t know.”
“Elizabeth, bring me a flashlight.”
Elizabeth hands Dad a Harry Potter wand.
“That’s a wand, not a flashlight.”
Elizabeth: “It lights up. I can’t find the flashlight.”
“It’s … never mind.”
Dad sighs and points wand into Elijah’s nose. There is no light.
“You have to shake it.”
Dad shakes the wand. It lights up, and Dad peers into Elijah’s nose.
“Yup. There’s a popcorn kernel in his nose. Elijah, blow hard.”
Nothing comes out.
“Eliz, get me the bulb nose aspirator.”
For several minutes Dad tries sucking out the kernel, to no avail. Elijah starts to panic.
“That didn’t work. Get me the tweezers.”
Elijah: “No!”
“Lie down, son. I won’t hurt you.”
Several minutes of gentle probing later:
“Ok. We may have to go to the ER. Elijah, blow again. HARD.” Dad covers his mouth and other nostril.
Elijah blows. The kernel flies across the room and lands in Elizabeth’s lap. Elizabeth shrieks and runs away.