12 Ways to be a Better Catholic in 2016

Welcome to 2016!  I know many of us have already formulated a list of resolutions to accomplish in this new year.  Personally, I know that I need to continue reading the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church.  I made it through Part I in 2015 and I hope that I will at least read Part II this year.

I believe becoming a better Catholic should be on everyone’s “todo” list this year.  And I’m not talking about having some sort of abstract and vague goal, but to actually formulate an action plan.  The Catholic Exchange provided a great list of steps you can take to become a better Catholic in the new year.  While the article focuses on becoming a committed Catholic man, there is nothing in the article that doesn’t apply to women as well.

I encourage you to read the full article but for the “too long; didn’t read” crowd, here’s the summary.

  1. Develop a rousing case for why Jesus Christ is your King
  2. Commit to be a Saint of Christ the King
  3. Go to Reconciliation at least once a month
  4. Pray for 15 minutes every day
  5. Discover the majestic manliness of the Mass
  6. Participate in Sunday Mass + 1
  7. Pray the Rosary regularly and carry the Rosary with you
  8. Get to know your Patron Saint and Guardian Angel
  9. Read Holy Scripture for 15 minutes each day
  10. Be a priest, prophet and king in your home
  11. Build a brotherhood with other Catholic men in your parish
  12. Commit to tithing and begin to work toward it


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Catechism Thoughts: Living for Heaven

As I read the Catechism as part of my new year’s resolution I’m going to share little insights and passages that I find relevant to rosary prayer. I came across this prayer in section 260 which I think highlights the power and peace that comes from prayer.  It’s part of the prayer of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity:

O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me forget myself entirely so to establish myself in you, unmovable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing be able to trouble my peace or make me leave you, O my unchanging God, but may each minute bring me more deeply into your mystery! Grant my soul peace. Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action.

In business there is a saying — work the job you want, not the job you have. In other words, if you want to receive a promotion or have greater responsibilities at work, then take the initiative to display your skills now in your current role. Otherwise, you’ll always stay where you are because no one will see that you have the abilities or desire for anything greater.

A businessman's silhouette.
A businessman’s silhouette. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think Blessed Elizabeth’s prayer is the spiritual equivalent of that business philosophy. Act like you’re already one of the saints at peace in God’s Kingdom. After all, Heaven is our ultimate goal (or at least it should be) where we will realize how inconsequential and petty many of our problems really are. Why focus so much time and energy on the problems of this life?  This life is temporary and fleeting and is not where God calls us.  God calls us to look past our earthly selves and look towards raising to new life with Him in Heaven.  If you want your soul to live in Heaven, then act heavenly while on earth.

This prayer’s message is echoed in the First Glorious Mystery, Jesus’ Resurrection. When Jesus rose from the dead He showed us that our earthly death is not the end, but only a transition.  In His resurrection, Jesus opened the gates of Heaven and provided a place for us. Our souls are not temporary and bound only to this life but will live on for eternity. But how do we want to live that eternity? In the grace and joy of Heaven or in the despair and anguish of Hell? When we pray this rosary mystery, we should meditate and examine how much we are truly living for the place in Heaven Jesus prepared for us in His resurrection.

English: Resurrection of Christ
English: Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blessed Elizabeth’s prayer also recalls themes from the Third Luminous MysteryJesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Call to Conversion.  She talks about how our journey into God’s grace is achieved “each minute.”  In other words, grace is achieved in small steps, not in one fell swoop.  It’s not like we fall asleep one night wallowing in sin and wake up the next day a saint.  Conversion is a process made up of a lifetime of small steps into God’s grace.  We should take that to heart when we pray this mystery because it can be so easy to become discouraged when it seems like no matter how hard we try we don’t find that peace we so desperately crave.  Remember, Jesus didn’t find peace here on earth either.  True peace is found only in Heaven.  And you find Heaven only when you convert your earthly ways into heavenly ones.

If you want peace and you want Heaven, work towards it now.  Pray, confess, fast, receive the sacraments, and learn and follow Jesus’ teachings.  You don’t have to be officially recognized a saint to act like one.

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The Catechism: Teaching What Is Right, Not What Is Easy

I came across this article over at the National Catholic Register about how “real men pray.”  It’s a commentary on Cardinal Burke’s comments that men have lost their sense of purpose within the Catholic Church.  He points to the confusing and often conflicting messages presented by popular culture and the Church and how the Church is often silent addressing what it means to be a moral man.

I keyed in on this part of Cardinal Burke’s comments (I encourage you to read the full article at the National Catholic Register):

The crisis between man and woman has been made much worse by a complete collapse of catechesis in the Church. Young men grew up without proper instruction with regard to their faith and to the knowledge of their vocation. Young men were not being taught that they are made in the image of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These young men were not taught to know all those virtues that are necessary in order to be a man and to fulfill the particular gifts of being male.

Prayer isn’t just for little, old ladies

I found Cardinal Burke’s comments timely because I made my new year’s resolution to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church (which is going well; I’m on verse 167 of 2865).  I want to be better catechized particularly in this world of “soft Catholicism.”  I liken myself to a patient wanting the doctor to give me the hard truth about my condition and the prescription for leading a spiritually healthy life.  And I’m not looking for what is easy, but what is best for my mind, body, and soul.

Going back to Cardinal Burke’s comment, why do we have such a collapse of catechesis in the Church?  I find it interesting that when we learn math, we learn about rules and formulas.  When we learn science, we learn about rules and formulas.  Economics — rules and formulas.  Engineering — yep, rules and formulas.  Languages, again with the rules and formulas.  But for some reason, many people shy away from educating about the rules and dogmas of the Catholic faith out of a fear that it might upset someone or it may not be politically correct.

This fear of Church dogma wasn’t always the case.  My mom told me that growing up the Baltimore Catechism was basically her text book for religious education.  But over the years we’ve infantilized religious education to simple platitudes like “God loves you” and “Jesus wants us to be nice to each other.”  Yes, it’s good to learn about a loving and merciful God.  But that’s the starting point.  We can’t stop there.  If we want deepen our faith and our relationship with God we need to deepen our understanding of what our faith is.  Furthermore, we can’t ignore or disregard the truth we learn because we don’t like it or it’s hard to follow.  That’s like saying you don’t believe in gravity or 1+1=3.

One of the goals of RosaryMeds is to motivate you to really take the next steps, whatever that may be, to increase your understanding and love of your faith in Jesus’ church.  When you pray the rosary, ask God to show you what those next steps are.  Maybe it’s to pray more earnestly.  Maybe its to read the Bible or the Catechism.  Maybe it’s to read more RosaryMeds articles (hint, hint).  Whatever form it may take, try hard to move your understanding of the Catholic Faith forward.  We have an infinitely complex God so trust me, there is always something new to learn.

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The Catechism — The Catholic Church’s Silmarillion

Welcome to 2015!  I’m really excited about my new year’s resolution.  I know, I know.  I previously wrote about how new year’s resolutions are bad because labelling them as a resolution almost guarantees that you won’t actually follow through.  But this year, with the help of a little technology, I think I will be able to meet my goal — reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

CCCCBut why?  Isn’t it a bit dry and the spiritual equivalent of reading up on tax law?  Or, isn’t the Catechism more like a reference book that you search through when you have a specific question and not something you read end to end?  To answer that, we’ll need to learn a little literary history.

Let’s go to 19th century France.  The man is Victor Hugo and the book is Les Misérables.  This is a looooong book clocking in at nearly 1,500 pages for a standard sized paperback version.  The reason why it’s so long is because Hugo went to great lengths to provide a historical context for the events in the book.  He dedicates chapters describing the battle of Waterloo, the Parisian sewer system, life in a nunnery, Parisian street slang, 19th century manufacturing processes, etc.  These aren’t little Wikipedia like descriptions either but are the size and scope of small books onto themselves.  These tangents paint a richer world for the events of the book to take place in.  The characters in Les Misérables don’t exist in a vacuum, but live in a bigger world that we can relate to or at least understand because Hugo provides seemingly endless background information.

Fast forward to the 20th century and look at J.R.R. Tolkien.  You know his seminal works — The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.  What you may not know is that there is a lot of auxiliary writings which describe Middle Earth, the land where the events of those books take place.  Tolkien wrote extensively about the culture of hobbits, dwarfs, elves, etc.  He wrote a book called The Silmarillion which describes the universe of Eä which contains Middle Earth as well as other lands.  Like Victor Hugo, Tolkien wrote the background of the places and characters in his books to provide a much richer reading experience because the events happen within a known context.  The Lord of the Rings isn’t a small book or movie because Middle Earth is not a small place.  Elves, dwarves, hobbits, humans, and orcs all act the way they do in the books and movies because Tolkien gave them a detailed history.  Without that history and culture being spelled out, I bet The Lord of the Rings would not have been the complex, layered, and rich book/movie it turned out to be.

By now it should become increasingly obvious why I want to read the CCC.  I want to become more knowledgeable about the Catholic faith so that I can have a richer experience living that faith.  When I pray the rosary or listen to a homily I want to have what I learned reading the CCC in the back of my mind to make new mental and spiritual connections.  I hope that  reading the CCC will generate a whole new level of intentions and meditations when I pray the rosary.  I hope that the increased understanding of the Catholic faith will seep into my writings in my future books (fingers crossed) and on RosaryMeds.

Think of it like this.  Your average Catholic who hasn’t read the CCC is like someone who has only seen the Les Misérables musical or The Lord of the Rings movies.  They have a good understanding of the material and appreciate it but they don’t know the whole picture as envisioned by Hugo and Tolkien respectively.  But the person who has read more church documents like the CCC is like the person who has read Les Misérables or The Silmarillion and understands the greater context and all the little details that are left out of the more popular works.

New year’s resolutions fail because many people only define a goal, not a process for achieving that goal.  I’m a software engineer and I’m all about defining processes for achieving goals.  So here’s how I will achieve my goal of reading the Catechism.  Last year I finally bit the bullet and bought my first smartphone.  It has opened up a whole new world of productivity, especially during my commute.  I spend roughly six hours a week on the road.  Thanks to an app called @Voice Aloud Reader I can turn any text into an audio book.  Combined with my Catholic prayer app, Laudate, I can listen to the entire Catechism on my commutes.  I know I won’t have Doctor of the Church level retention of the information, but I will pick up the major themes and a general understanding.

Here’s wishing you all the best of luck in this new year!

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It Will Get Ugly in November

I have a feeling this year’s presidential election is going to get much uglier than in years past.  Politics has always been a dirty business, but lately everyone seems to act so much more “unhinged.”  People are expressing the slightest disagreements with such high levels of vitriol and anger.  Looking at some peoples’ reactions, supporting traditional marriage or Paul Ryan‘s budget proposal isn’t just a difference of opinion, but more akin to supporting a holocaust or war crime.  In case you forgot, here are some of the issues that will bring about an unprecedented level of conflict leading up to the November vote:

  • Class warfare (Occupy movement, the 99% vs 1%, taxing the rich, more entitlements, etc.)
  • Financial warfare (budgets, deficits, defaults, socialism vs. capitalism, etc.)
  • Armed conflicts (Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, global terrorism, etc.)
  • Government expansion (Obamacare, HHS mandate, nanny laws, greater police surveillance, etc.)
  • Social issues (the poor, gay marriage, identity politics, etc.)
  • Religious freedom threats (HHS mandate, freedom of “worship”, abortion funding through Planned Parenthood, etc.)

And those are just some of the real issues.  We will also fight through accusations of racism, bigotry, and intolerance for any criticism of the Obama administration, media bias, and all the “fakeraversies” and “outrage du jour” that people cook up.  This election will be a perfect storm of important, country-changing issues mixed with just plain craziness.  If you remember back to Obama’s first months as president, the biggest controversy back then was him authorizing federal funds for embryonic stems cell research.  Compared to what is on the table this election, that ethical breach seems like small potatoes now.

I came across this article after hearing about it on Immaculate Heart Radio.  It’s titled “10 Ways Catholic Voters Will Be Misled” and is worth a glance.  It breaks down how the various political groups, the Obama administration, and the media will spin various issues to either tug at the Catholic voters’ heartstrings or attack and dismiss the Catholic position on certain topics.  For example, here is one way Catholic voters will be misled:

“Progressive” Catholic groups will produce polling that supposedly shows Catholics disagree with Church teaching on the sanctity of life and marriage, implying those who agree are in the minority and “behind the times.”

We hear this sentiment all the time whether it be from Nancy Pelosi, Katherine Sibelius, or the Georgetown University administration.  The attacks are only going to get stronger and more aggressive as we get closer to November.  And they won’t magically disappear regardless of the election’s outcome.  Unfortunately, Catholics are going to have to bunker down for a war we will probably fight for our entire lives.  We will experience some glorious wins and some agonizing defeats.  But it’s important that we keep up the fight for what is good, just, and right.

These political battles remind me of the Fourth Joyful Mystery — The Presentation in the Temple.  Remember, St. Simeon waited and prayed in the temple his entire life before finally meeting the baby Jesus.  His life was probably full of frustration as people probably mocked him and what they saw as a sad waste of time.  But he endured and eventually had his victory when he laid his eyes on Jesus.  We should remember the strength and endurance St. Simeon showed when we feel crushed by political forces that seem unstoppable.  Defending our faith will eventually lead to happiness.  It may not be a happiness this world can offer and to many, it may look like we’re wasting our time living Catholic values.  But we will find happiness in God’s heavenly kingdom where we will find our true victory.

Catholic Cross Jesus

When thinking about defending the Catholic faith in the voting booths this November, I’m also reminded of the lessons from the Fourth Glorious Mystery — Mary’s Assumption into Heaven.  We must remember that Mary and the saints are our guides who help us navigate life’s obstacles by showing us the path God puts before us.  Mary has given many messages throughout history.  One theme she keeps repeating is the importance of knowing the faith.  After all, how can we live and defend the faith and love God if we do not know Him?  That is why it is so important to learn the Church’s teachings on various issues so you won’t be misled by those who try to use your faith for their poltical advantage.  Read the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Listen to Catholic radio.  And most importantly, open your heart and mind in prayer to listen to the guidance of Mary and the saints (need help?  Buy my book on Amazon).  Our battles will not end at the polls in November, but with the help of the Church and the power of our faith we can endure whatever craziness comes our way.

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