Pushing Ourselves During Lent

Exercise is Hard

Like many of you, I don’t like working out, particularly jogging. Who likes setting his lungs on fire and drenching his clothes in sweat to burn off a sip of soda or a bite of cake? However, while I don’t like each individual workout, I do like how I start to feel over time. I feel stronger and have more energy. I also start to enjoy pushing myself — can I run one more house without taking a break? Can I do three more pushups? Can I plank for ten more seconds?

We put ourselves through so much inconvenience and discomfort for our physical health. But what about our spiritual health? It seems much more difficult to fast and abstain for the good of our souls during Lent. Maybe it’s because we can’t physically see our souls like we see our body in the mirror. But it so important that we focus on our spiritual health like our physical, mental, and emotional health. And Lent is the perfect time for that.

The Lenten Desert

Jesus went into the desert for 40 days knowing that he would be tempted by Satan. But he was determined to resist those temptations. He didn’t fear the temptations. He went headlong into them. Fasting and defeating the devil strengthened him for his public ministry and eventual Passion.

We enter into our own personal desert during Lent for many of the same reasons and benefits as Jesus. It is our time to strengthen ourselves spiritually through fasting and prayer. It is our challenge to resist temptation, whether that be committing sins or just not following through on our Lenten promises. We should take more of an athlete’s mindset during Lent — to really push ourselves a little harder each day. Because in the end, we not only celebrate the joy of Easter but become spiritually stronger to defeat temptation in the future.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, our God is a God of joy and happiness. His joy echoes in our hearts when we are determined to overcome sins in our lives, “There is so much joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.” (Lk 15:7) The Blessed Virgin Mary, all the angels, and saints are cheering us to victory. Even if we do not overcome all natural and physical evils in this life, God wants us to be truly joyful now and in heaven with Him by overcoming the moral evils that proceed from our free actions.

Finding True Joy Through Overcoming Temptations (catholicexchange.com)

Going Soft from Watching Videos

As a concrete example, I gave up watching frivolous video clips. At first, it was hard because it was so ingrained into my daily routine. But over the last several days of Lent, I do feel a bit freer and more productive in the evening. Instead of watching clips, I’m reading and writing more. Time spent watching clips is now spent reading one of the many neglected Catholic books.

While watching videos seems innocent enough, it does start to erode your desire for spiritual things. It doesn’t even need to be sinful videos either. It’s the passivity of videos that weakens us. I came across this article that talks about the dangers of consuming so much video content.

If the way we’re using entertainment erodes our ability to reflect, reason, and savor truth, it erodes our ability to know and enjoy Jesus. “Blessed is the man . . . [whose] delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1–2). If we lose the ability to think, we lose the ability to meditate. And if we lose the ability to meditate, we lose our path to meaningful happiness. The life of the mind, and heart, is a pivotal battleground in the pursuit of real and abundant life.

The Blissful and Trivial Life: How Entertainment Deprives a Soul | Desiring God

The World Needs Strong People

It’s easy to sit on the couch and binge-watch Netfix or Youtube. It’s easy to reach for that bowl of ice cream or bag of cookies. We probably have 101 justifications for why we can’t exercise. But we need to recall that it’s Lent and we’re called to do what is good and necessary, not what is easy. When we do that, we find the strength to resist sin. But we also find real comfort through Jesus.

The world is so upside down right now. Whenever I think we’ve reached an apex of craziness, the world has a way of squeezing out more. We need to squeeze out more spiritual strength. We can’t be weak in this life. Spiritual weakness will not only bring misery in this life but may also bring eternal misery in the next. That is why Lent cannot just be a regular forty days. We need to push ourselves so we come out strong. We need to push ourselves so we come out joyful. We need to push ourselves so we are counted as one of Jesus’ disciples.

Communism and the Denial of Human Dignity

Remembering the Evils of Communism

I recently finished reading a book and watching a short movie on peoples’ experience under Communism in the 20th century. This is a timely topic given the current events unfolding in Ukraine. Many of us are so detached from the events of the Cold War and the rise of Communism in the 20th century. In fact, many of you reading this article probably weren’t born when the Berlin Wall came down. It’s important to take a look at the effects Communism had and why it’s so antithetical to Church teachings on the value of human life.

I read a book titled Willing to Die. This is an autobiography of John Muntean, someone who grew up in Romania under Nicolae Ceausescu’s communist regime. He goes into detail about how his village went from close-knit and self-sufficient to just scraping by. He’s quite clear that one of communism’s needed goals for it to succeed is the elimination of religion. This is because a centralized and planned economy and society can’t have anything outside of government interfering with its plans. Under communism, everything is done in service of the state. People are nothing more than cogs in that machine. Religion isn’t tolerated because it preaches the inherent freedom, dignity, and value of the individual.

The Eroding Religion

Much of the religious opposition to socialism has already eroded away since the Cold War ended. And that is what makes Western society’s march towards socialism so scary to me. It didn’t take tanks, soldiers, and labor camps either. It took a virus, mandates, and Netflix to wipe out peoples’ desire for religion. I fear that the days of people willing to die rather than deny their faith are gone in much of the Western world. If communism needs religion out of the way to succeed, then it’s pretty much there. But there’s still a sliver of hope.

I know the Russian invasion into Ukraine is on our minds. And while I’m sad to see fighting and indiscriminate destruction, at least I see a nearly unanimous reaction that what Putin is doing is morally wrong. It doesn’t matter the country or political party, there’s been an almost total condemnation of the attacks. That provides some hope that when the world is pushed into a dire situation, we can put aside various partisan issues and see evil for what it truly is. Perhaps we haven’t moved away from listening to God as I may have thought.

If you don’t have time to read about the evil done in the name of Communism, watch the 1-hour movie, To Believe. It’s free to watch on ETWN. It’s about the horrors done to the Ukrainian people by the Soviet Union in the 20th century. It again focuses on the communists’ hatred for religion because it gave people a doctrine to live by that wasn’t under state control. When you read about current events, keep in mind what it means to these people to have Russia invade their country and why they fight so hard to defend it.

Remembering Human Dignity Through Rosary Prayer

For me, it’s hard to read these books and watch these films and not get angry when I hear people praising socialism. I feel like they have no understanding of history and what socialism inevitably leads to. That’s when I need to take out my rosary and pray the Second Joyful Mystery. I think about Elizabeth’s greeting towards Mary in the Visitation, “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” I think about the inherent value and dignity everyone has from the moment of conception. Every human life is blessed. That dignity is something that a government or ideology doesn’t have the authority to give or take away. It’s given to us by God.

All  human beings, therefore, are ends to be served by the institutions that make up  the economy, not means to be exploited for more narrowly defined goals. Human personhood must be respected with a reverence that is religious. When we deal  with each other, we should do so with the sense of awe that arises in the  presence of something holy and sacred. For that is what human beings are: we  are created in the image of God (Gn 1:27). (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All, no. 28)

Life and Dignity of the Human Person | USCCB

Who do You Say I am?

Challenging His Disciples

On Feb. 22nd’s Gospel (Yes, I know I’m way late), Jesus asked his disciples two questions — “Who do others say I am?” and “Who do you say I am?” He got two different responses. To the first question, people said he’s a prophet. To the second, Jesus is the Messiah (Matthew 16:13-16).

I can imagine that it was easy for people to see Jesus as a prophet. There were many prophets in the Old Testament. Much of scripture at that point were the writings of prophets. Therefore, a Jewish person had a model for how prophets acted and Jesus fit that mold. He preached about God and had supernatural abilities much like the prophets the Jews had learned about in scripture. When trying to define Jesus, “prophet” would have been a natural choice.

But Jesus was constantly reinventing how people saw their relationship with God. He was challenging people to break out of their preconceived notions of who God is and who the Messiah would be. And that was why he pressed his apostles and asked them who they truly believed he was. He wanted them to really think about all they had seen him say and do and speak from their hearts. Would they have the insight and courage to break away from the crowd and acknowledge Jesus as someone more than a prophet?

Challenging the Faithful

During the peak of Covid, the Masses in my parish were closed to the public but live-streamed. I was the lector and often the only person present in the church along with the priest. It’s an eery feeling being the sole member of the congregation. I couldn’t fall back on following along with others. And while I’ve been attending Mass regularly my entire life, it was still difficult to participate as an individual, not as a member of a group.

When we’re at Mass in a large congregation, it’s easy to just follow along with others. But take away the missals, the overhead projector, and the people. How present are you when you participate in the Mass? Are you going through a well-rehearsed script or proclaiming what you truly believe? Even if you attend Mass every week for your entire life, it’s still difficult to embrace the Mass and the Eucharist confidently as an individual. We too often seek the comfort of blending in with the crowd instead of confidently proclaiming what we believe.

The Apostles’ Conviction

I think about Saint Peter and him coming forward declaring Jesus as the Christ. I wonder if he had any hesitancy or doubt. Was he scared about saying something incorrect or foolish? He knew Jesus was the Messiah, but perhaps he had some hesitancy or timidity proclaiming it. He was going out on a limb not knowing how his statement would be received. After all, just moments later Jesus rebuked Peter (Matthew 16:23). So it’s possible that the apostles knew they had to weigh their words carefully because Jesus might take them to task on what they said.

The apostles seemed to ebb and flow in their convictions. Sometimes they would confidently proclaim their beliefs in Jesus and other times they were quite timid. I picture them huddled together in a room right before Pentecost, scared and confused. They lacked confidence in their beliefs and just sort of found safety being together as a group. I think this describes many of us at Mass — together as a group, but all trying to keep a low profile. But after Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the confidence to go out alone into the world to boldly teach others about Jesus. The weak “we” became the confident “I.”

Who is Jesus to You?

When you’re at Mass or deep in prayer, reflect on whether you are saying what our faith expects you to believe or what you truly believe. Are you just trying to hide amongst the congregation and going through the motions because you don’t firmly believe who Jesus is? Is Jesus and the Catholic Church more like a prophet to you; someone giving you well-meaning advice on the nature of God? Or do you truly believe in Christ Jesus, wholly present in the Eucharist at Mass? Who do you, not others, say Jesus is?

My 2022 Lenten Plan

As we start Lent, I think it’s a good idea to put into writing how I’m going to fast. When I was young, I would often pick 3-4 things to give up knowing that I would fail to follow through on about half of them. I was hedging my bets as it were. Of course, if you come into something with a defeatist attitude, you’re going to be defeated. Now that I’m older and a little wiser (very little), I’m approaching Lent with more conviction. You have to plan for success if you want to be successful.

Here’s my plan for a successful Lent.

  1. No alcohol.
  2. No sweets — candy, cookies, donuts, ice cream, etc.
  3. No wasting time on pointless streaming video. You know the ones — the five minute “10 things you didn’t know about Star Wars” type. Important/relevant videos are okay.

That’s it. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Trust me, these three things will be hard enough. And more than just giving things up, I really want to focus on making this a spiritual time of increased prayer and focus on my faith. Happy Lent everyone!

Ending the Day with Meditative Prayer

Stuck in a Rut

As you may have noticed, I haven’t written many new articles lately. While I strive to write one article each week, lately they’ve come out every three weeks. I’ve run into a bit of writer’s block; I just can’t find topics to write about. I usually read articles that inspire me. But I haven’t come across anything that spurs me to write.

I’m in a bit of a rut. I think we can all relate — we want to accomplish so much but we lack the energy to work on them. Instead, we fall into our patterns of work, relax, sleep, repeat. And usually, that relaxation time is spent on low-quality entertainment such as vegging on streaming video. For example, I know I should be working on my next book (yes, I do have another Rosary book in the works). But after a long day of work, I often can’t muster up the energy to write.

Why Streaming Videos?

Now that I acknowledge this shortcoming, what am I going to do about it? I’m a solutions person — I always want to fix things that aren’t working. How am I going to fix the wasted weeknights? First, I need to identify why I turn to watch videos as mental comfort food:

  1. They are familiar and comforting
  2. They are relaxing and regenerative
  3. They are easy to jump into
  4. I can set how much time I want to spend watching them

A Better Alternative

Are there other, higher-quality activities that can meet these same characteristics? Of course! Otherwise, why would I be telling you all of this? I should integrate prayer into my evening routine. The Rosary is familiar, relaxing, comforting, and regenerative. And it’s definitely a better use of my time than watching YouTube videos.

I realize that I tend to front-load my daily prayer. I wake up early to pray the Rosary and read Scripture and the Catechism. But then I go through a busy workday and home life without much prayer and meditation. I should end the day the same way I start it — with God. Starting now, I’m going to spend time in contemplative prayer when the house quiets down.

I’m not saying that I’m going to completely stop watching videos. After all, there are some good movies and shows worth watching. We need rest and relaxation in non-sinful activities. But I’m going to better diversify those activities by mixing in more quality time with God.

What about you? Do you have any low-quality relaxation routines that need adjustment? Try adding more prayer. Let me know how that works for you.

God is Unchanging Truth

What is Truth?

The teachings of the Catholic Church are universal. They are the same regardless of time, place, or cultural trend. This is one of the key aspects I’m learning as I read the Catechism this year. The source of everything, including truth, lies with God. God is not only the source of truth, He IS truth. And the mission of the Catholic Church is to reveal that truth to everyone.

This is why calls for the Catholic Church to change her teachings to conform to cultural trends frustrate me. People want to take God’s truth and change it. They probably aren’t aware that they are trying to change God Himself. The Catholic Church seems inflexible because it won’t change her teachings. But she can’t! We need to have the humility to know that we can’t change God. And we should strive to have the faith in God’s truth even when we don’t completely understand it.

Hard to Accept != Hateful

Currently, one of the more divisive areas of Church teaching is that on gender and sexual orientation. Because the Church teaches that homosexuality is sinful, people immediately jump on the Church as being “outdated” or “hateful.” They basically want God to get with the times. People act like we can tell Him that his creation took a vote and we decided to override some of His decisions.

The mistake that many of us make is that we equate unpopular or hard to accept with hateful. It doesn’t help that we hear this day and night from various politicians who desire votes and donations. Of course, they will promote what is popular, not necessarily what is true because it’s popularity, not the truth, that gets them votes.

Look at Jesus. Did he ever promote hate? On the contrary, he directed us to love everyone, even those who we don’t like. But, did he equate love with acceptance of sinful behavior? Never. He forgave sins but never endorsed them. He called people to a life of conversion. It wasn’t he that needed to change, it was the people he called to follow him. His unwillingness to alter Truth is what led him to his crucifixion. The Church, from its very start, embraced Truth over popularity.

Fear of God is a Good Thing

And this is what makes this manifesto from the German Catholic bishops so frustrating. They are demanding that the Catholic Church change its teaching on sexuality. They even have a catchy tagline — For a church without fear. Probably in addition to the term hate, fear is another one of those words that tend to be thrown around in an attempt to score political points.

Maybe a little fear is a good thing. It shows an understanding that some of our actions conflict with truth and we have some remorse. We’re afraid because we know, at some deep level, that what we are doing conflicts with God’s design for us. By not embracing truth, we don’t embrace God. We should be afraid of our actions separating us from God’s grace.

Rather than demanding that God changes, perhaps we should find the humility to change our views and actions. Even when we don’t understand the truth, God asks us to have faith in Him. And having faith in God means having faith in the truth. When you pray the Rosary, look to Mary as the ultimate example of humility and accepting God’s truth even when we can’t completely understand it. And pray that these Geman bishops also have the humility to look past their politics and remember the Truth they are called to teach.

When you pray the Rosary, meditate on the ideas of God and Truth when you pray the Third Luminous Mystery — The Proclamation of the Kingdom Heaven and the Call to Conversion. It is our duty to learn God’s truth and convert our hearts and minds to honor Him. When we fear God, we’re on our way to understanding Him. When we desire truth, we desire God.

The Miracle at Canna: Choosing the Best in Life

We are all Religious

One way or another, we’re all religious people. God infuses us the instant we’re conceived with an innate wanting to draw closer to Him. We have a need to seek Him out. Unfortunately, the noise in our lives often drowns out or confuses this longing for an authentic relationship with God.

We can’t escape our need for God. Even agnostics, atheists, and “Nones” are going to find something greater than ourselves in their lives. Unfortunately, we tend to substitute the real God with pale imitations. We put our trust in people or world institutions that are deeply flawed or self-serving. Far too many people treat their political party as their church and politicians as their high priests. They stake their happiness and well-being in these institutions. They settle for a lesser life when they could have so much more.

I listen to a podcast called the ZDogg MD Show. He’s an interesting person who takes what he calls an alt-middle stance on things. He freely admits that his positions draw ire from all sides. By not preaching a “this side good, that side bad” dogma, many people think he’s either not supporting or outright attacking their beliefs. What’s refreshing about his show is that he acknowledges how damaging this “us vs. them” mentality is and how it leads to so much unhappiness.

The Religion of Covid

In one of his recent episodes, ZDogg talked about how those who claim to be secular have actually created their own religion out of Covid. Their language cast a rather religious tone. Those who are unvaccinated are deemed “unclean.” Or those who are against vaccine mandates are “heretics” that need to be “excommunicated” from society. Or those who are vaccinated or wear masks are “tainted” or “marked.” As much as people may claim they don’t adhere to a religion, many of them sure do talk with religious zeal.

It may be easy to dismiss these people with their faux religions. If some people want to elevate Dr. Faucci as their pope, why should that matter to me? The reason why it should be our concern is that we know they are substituting a real God for fake ones. They are living shallower, less meaningful lives as a result. And that should sadden us that so many of our brothers and sisters aren’t living an authentically joyful life. We are seeing people make bad decisions and engage in a self-destructive lifestyle. Shouldn’t we want the best for everyone?

Choosing the Best

Last Sunday’s Gospel was about the Miracle at Canna which we pray in the Second Luminous Mystery. I think about how the bridegroom’s family served the lesser wine after people had their fill of the good wine. And even the lesser wine ran out until Jesus performed a miracle creating even better wine.

I feel like our world right now is embracing the “lesser wine.” We are choosing cheap substitutes for happiness. We put our faith in corrupt or weak politicians. We find shallow joys in Netflix and NFL football. We find comfort by arguing with “the others” on Twitter. Many of us readily consume this lesser life because it’s easy and immediately gratifying. But it’s not the good stuff. It will run out leaving us ultimately unhappy.

At the wedding at Canna, the best wine came from Jesus. Similarly, he will provide the best life. He provides authentic joy and happiness. We’ll find a connection with a real God, one that is all-loving and cares about each and every one of us. But in order to get the best “wine” in our lives, we need to come to Jesus first and ask for his help. And he will freely give us help, especially if we go first through Our Mother, Mary, through the Rosary.

When you pray the Rosary and meditate on the Second Luminous Mystery, look where you are consuming the lesser “wine” in your life. Where are you putting your faith? Where are you finding joy? Are they the source of true joy and happiness? Challenge yourself to replace these lesser aspects of your life with the best ones that only come through the true God, our Heavenly Father.

Free Will and the Nature of Suffering

I’ve read many articles lately about suffering. It’s probably the cold, dark January weather that makes people dwell on the nature of suffering. Perhaps it’s the ending of Christmas celebrations that depress us a bit. Or maybe it’s that we’re going into year three of Covid craziness. Suffering is confusing. Why does suffering exist? Couldn’t God have created a universe where no one suffers?

I break down suffering into two broad categories. There’s the suffering brought about by nature often referred to as Acts of God. Think earthquakes, hurricanes, and typhoons. Or illnesses like cancer or Covid. Perhaps it’s more mental like depression or severe anxiety. I discussed this type of suffering in a previous article. We essentially attach ourselves so deeply to earthly comforts and the status quo that we suffer when something unexpected occurs.

Suffering By Our Actions

The second type of suffering is that brought about by decisions that either we or other people make. This type of suffering is essentially cause and effect such as:

  • Over eat = get sick
  • Don’t get enough sleep = feel tired
  • Get punched in the face = ouch!
  • Drive recklessly = crash
  • Insults and taunts = hurt feelings and sadness

Why did God give us free will knowing that such freedom would lead to self-inflicted suffering? Sometimes it feels like our lives would be better without so much freedom. How nice would it be if we couldn’t do anything that would hurt ourselves or others? But God didn’t do that. In His infinite wisdom, God made free will an essential part of His plan although He knew that it would lead to some suffering. He preferred a world with free will and some degree of suffering to one with no suffering and no free will at all. God’s perfect plan involves us to live in an imperfect world.

God desires us to be free above all else. He wants us to use that freedom and intellect to understand what is right and wrong. God set up the world so that we can see what is right and freely choose that course of action. God does not desire us to be slaves with no choice but to obey Him. Historically, it’s often the weak kings and leaders that resort to totalitarianism to keep people in line. But that is not what God desires. Good kings set up a kingdom where people will want to follow them. God, being King of the Universe, wants us to choose to honor and follow Him without coercion.

Unfortunately, we too often ignore what is good and use our free will to do the opposite. And that is where suffering creeps into our lives. We don’t follow our God-given intellect and commit sin. Suffering is the result of us choosing sin over following God.

Fortunately, our freedom swings both ways. We may choose to turn away from God but we can choose to return to Him, first through the Sacrament of Confession and then through the other sacraments. That is the beauty of free will — when we choose to honor God after choosing sin, He will always welcome us back. He doesn’t reject our choice to follow him nor does He hold a grudge.

Suffering in the Rosary

Let’s look at our 2022 featured Rosary mystery — The Crowning of Thorns. We have a choice to make every day — how will we honor God? Will we use our free will to make good decisions that bring us into closer communion with Him? Or will we dishonor Him through sin causing suffering? Jesus physically suffered when the Roman soldiers dishonored him by placing a crown of thorns on his head. We cause suffering when we dishonor Jesus by not seeing him in our brothers and sisters.

We need to choose our actions wisely. Much of the suffering in this world comes from peoples’ choices. With so much suffering at the hands of so many, it seems futile to think we can reduce it. I know I’ve said this story before, but when a fellow monk asked St. Francis what he could do to make the world more peaceful, St. Francis asked him to close the door softly. Basically, St. Francis was teaching that it’s the small choices and actions we make every day that affect our world. A world with less suffering starts with us choosing to honor God in all that we say and do.

Adam and Eve

Some of you astute Biblical scholars may ask what about the case of Adam and Eve? God designed a paradise for them. Wasn’t His design to have humans live with no suffering? I would argue that a world without suffering was the intent, not the design. For Adam and Eve to truly have free will, there would need to be a choice to make. Without choices, could one really claim to have free will? Furthermore, God created a world outside of the Garden of Eden; a world of hardship and toil. I think that God’s design included free will and consequences for not honoring His commandments as Adam and Eve unfortunately demonstrated. He didn’t desire Adam and Eve to suffer no more than he desires us to suffer. But like physics, our actions have reactions. Sin brings forth suffering. Virtue brings forth grace.

You had one commandment!

2022: The Year of the Third Sorrowful Mystery

I’m going to try something a little different with my Rosary prayers starting this year. In addition to my daily Rosary prayers, I’m going to dedicate this year to a single mystery. I’m going to pray that decade every day. Each year, I’ll change the dedicated mystery. That means I’ll have a different mystery to pray for the next 20 years! And who knows, maybe some future pope will introduce more extending my run.

I see dedicating a year to a particular Rosary mystery like how the Church dedicates years to a particular theme. For example, 2021 was the Year of Saint Joseph. As someone who loves the Rosary, I think each year should be dedicated to a particular mystery and thereby providing an opportunity to dive into deeper contemplation. Approaching a mystery every few days is great, but reliving the same mystery every day is even better.

The Third Sorrowful Mystery

This year, I’m choosing the Third Sorrowful Mystery, The Crowning of Thorns, as my dedicated Rosary mystery. I think it’s important to ask myself every day, “How will I honor Jesus in my words, thoughts, and actions?” The soldiers crowned Jesus with scorn, contempt, and mockery in this mystery. This is how they “honored” Jesus.

I think this year is a good time to reflect on what I say and do. Do I honor God and not mock Him or make light of His importance? How am I treating others? Am I seeing Jesus in everyone and treating others with dignity, respect, and tolerance? Or am I like the Roman soldiers and choose to honor people with scorn and contempt?

Seeing God in Others

Honoring Jesus by treating others in a Christ-like way is difficult because people are difficult. Often, we want to respond to people in a similar fashion to how they treat us. Yelling begets yelling back. Insults breed more insults. Anger spawns anger. The key to living the Third Sorrowful Mystery is to not respond in the manner we are being treated, but in the manner Jesus would respond. Watch this short clip and see how Jesus responded to people who hated him.

Is it easy to act in a Christ-like way? Of course not. And that is why I’m contemplating the Third Sorrowful Mystery every day in 2022. I’m going to ask myself where I succeeded in seeing Jesus in others and where I fell short. Did I repay hatred with more hatred in thoughts and actions? Or did I make an effort to understand why someone may have acted a certain way in a difficult situation and let go of any thoughts of rage or retribution?

I invite you to join me in this year of contemplation of the Third Sorrowful Mystery.

Bible in a Year

After a year of effort, I finished reading the entire Bible. I had purchased Bible in a Year in late January. For those not familiar with this particular Bible, it’s laid out as follows. The book is dived into 365 sections. Each section contains two excerpts from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament. The first Old Testament reading follows the overarching, chronological narrative starting with Genesis. The other Old Testament reading is non-narrative like Psalms, Proverbs, Sirach, etc. The New Testament flows in chronological order. Each day ends with a small explanation and meditation. Let’s jump into my thoughts on this year-long experiment.

What I didn’t like

  1. The Old Testament is repetitive! Maybe this is the software engineer in me, but I like concise language that gets to the point. The Old Testament prophets seem to go on for multiple chapters about how good or how bad the Israelites had been. I get it; they turned away from God and were punished but God still chose the Jews as His people.
  2. Too many details! Reading about the exact layout and dimensions of the temple and Arc of the Covenant or how various rituals were to be performed caused my eyes to glaze over. It made me wish that the Bible had an appendix that included all those details.
  3. Little context. This has more to do with my understanding of the Bible, but I wish this particular series had more of an overview of each book or an overarching summary of the Old and New Testaments. It was often hard to place exactly what was happening into a historical or narrative context.
  4. The commentary comes at the end. This ties into my previous point. I found that reading the commentary first helped me understand the text slightly better. I got a small primer on what to look for in the text.
  5. Psalms! I just don’t understand them. To me, they’re poetry. Nice poetry, but poetry all the same. I have a hard time using Psalms for prayer and meditation. There’s nothing wrong with them, they just aren’t my thing. I mostly skimmed these.

What I liked

  1. Broader context. When you hear readings at Sunday Mass, they don’t make too much sense because they are read out of context. Reading the Bible daily helps establish a narrative. It’s a rich, complex narrative that you really don’t hear if you only listen to 52 snippets on Sunday.
  2. It’s epic! We just saw the 20th anniversary of the initial Lord of the Rings movie. So epic stories are on my mind. And we tend to forget just how epic the Biblical saga is. Leaders, heroes, villains, triumphs, downfalls, redemption, wars, love — it’s all there.
  3. There’s an app. Only recently, I discovered the Amen app which contains the Bible in a Year as audio recordings. Not only that, but they have daily readings, the rosary, and more as audio with pleasant background music. In fact, it has meditations for anxiety relief and falling asleep. It has become one of my favorite religous apps in the short period of time I’ve used it.
  4. There are others. While I read a physical book, there is also a podcast series with Fr. Mike Schmitz. It’s a different series separate from the Bible in a Year series so you can’t mix and match. The few episodes I listened to were nice as Fr. Mike Schmitz does provide more explanation and context around each reading.

What’s next?

Catechism in a Year! There’s no official book by that name, but I’m going to apply the same principle as the Bible and divide reading the CCC over the course of a year. My copy has 756 pages. That’s about 2.1 pages per day which is completely doable. If I can read the Bible in a year, I can certainly read the Catechism too.

This year, I encourage you to take something large like the Bible or Catechism and get through it by breaking it down into small, digestible chunks. I get it, we’re all busy with work, family, and hobbies. It’s just a matter of choice. Is reading the Bible important enough to you to make time for it? It was for me. Are you in?