If You Want God, You Have to Put in the Effort

No Effort, No Goals

I coach youth soccer. My team is composed of 6 and 7-year-olds, many of whom this is their first time playing organized sports. Unfortunately, today’s kids don’t spend as much time playing sports as previous generations. The reason this is unfortunate is that they miss out on working hard towards something that is a little outside their comfort zone. The other day, my team didn’t score many goals in our game. However, they also seemed uninterested in playing that day. They sort of wandered around the field without that drive or that passion to play their best. They wanted to score goals and win but didn’t want to put forth the effort to make it a reality.

I think adults can often act the same way when it comes to their spirituality. We want to form a deep connection with God, but we don’t want to put in the work needed. We wonder why it feels like something is missing in our lives and why it seems so unfulfilling. Or we look at the terrible news and get depressed or frustrated with the state of the world. But at the same time, we don’t pray, don’t participate in Mass, or receive the Sacraments. We want God to do something, just as long as that “something” doesn’t require extra effort from us.

Effort Rewarded

Let’s look at two women who exemplify what it means to put in effort in serving God and ultimately being rewarded for that effort. It meant that their earthly lives would be upended. They would face ridicule, sorrow, and a lack of earthly freedoms. They had a choice — would they put their faith in God and make the adjustments and sacrifices necessary to find greater joy and happiness? Or would they choose the easier, worldly path?

The first woman who had a choice to make was Bernadette Soubirous, better known as Saint Bernadette of Lourdes. By all accounts, she was just a normal girl from a poor family in France. But she then had an encounter with the Virgin Mary who asked her to return to the grotto where she was appearing and eventually build a chapel there. Whatever plans Bernadette had for her life came to an end when she accepted Our Lady’s requests. She became the subject of ridicule and much scrutiny from church and government authorities. She later entered a convent and died from tuberculosis. Saint Bernadette led a challenging life but she never stopped making an effort to serve God by doing what our Mother Mary asked of her. Like other saints, she put in the effort to form a meaningful relationship with God because she understood the value of doing so.

Full-body relic of Bernadette Soubirous. The photograph was taken at the last exhumation (18 April 1925). The saint died 46 years before the photo was taken; the face and hands are covered with a wax coat.

Think about Mary in the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. On Catholic Exchange, Romano Guardini has this to say about Mary’s decision in the Annunciation:

The lesson of the angel’s message alone should suf­fice for every one of the faithful who reads it aright; it is not the announcement that the divine decree was to be consummated in her, but the question of whether she agreed that it be so. This instant was an abyss before which one’s head reels, because here stood Mary in her freedom facing the very first decision on which all of salvation depended. But what does it mean when the question “Will you help the Savior’s coming?” coincides with the other question, “Will you become a mother?”

Why We Linger on Mary in the Rosary (catholicexchange.com)

I don’t think Mary’s plans included becoming an unwed mother to God. And then after Jesus’ birth, her earthly life wasn’t any easier. It was a life of concern and sorrow that we meditate on when we pray the Seven Sorrows of Mary Rosary. But Mary was ultimately rewarded when she was crowned Queen of Heaven (Fifth Glorious Mystery). She knows the value of doing God’s Will better than any other human. As Queen of Heaven, she is willing to help all of us find that strength to make that effort as she did so that we all may live in the joy of Heaven.

Spirit Willing, Flesh is Weak

When God comes knocking at your door with His plan for you, are you going to reject Him because it is difficult? Has God ever not rewarded those who make the effort to follow Him? If we truly believe that God offers us something 1000x better than anything we could create on our own, why do we have such a hard time committing to Him?

Think about the apostles in the First Sorrowful Mystery. I think we can relate to them. Jesus asked them to stay awake and pray with him and instead they all fell asleep. These are the future leaders of the Catholic Church! And they knew Jesus was the Messiah and yet they still couldn’t muster the effort to pray with him or stand by him when he was arrested. They must have enjoyed being some of the chosen few to journey with Jesus when he was curing people and riling up Pharisees. But when things got tough, they couldn’t follow through. They wanted the honor of being apostles without making the sacrifices.

There’s Still Time

What about us? When God asks us for one hour a week to celebrate Mass, are we too tired or too busy? Do God’s requests interfere with a football, baseball, or soccer match? Are we like the apostles, wanting the benefits of being close to Jesus but lacking the will to do what he asks?

The good news is that there’s always time. The apostles may have shrunk away from Jesus’ calling in the Garden of Gethsemane but they made up for it after Jesus’ resurrection. They went to the far corners of the known world preaching Jesus’ Gospel and most of them gave their lives doing so. So maybe you haven’t mustered the strength to follow Jesus. The beauty of our faith is that Jesus always offers us a way to “get back into the game.” We can always receive Reconciliation, go to Mass, and pick up those rosary beads. Jesus will accept anyone willing to put in the effort whether they have 100 years left in his life or 1 minute.

Establish a Daily Prayer Routine

A new school year is starting. If you know school-age people, hopefully, they are heading back to classrooms. As we start a new term, the principal of my childrens’ school wrote a small article stressing the importance of routine. Students have a much smoother and better experience when they stick to routines regarding how they wake up and get ready for school, how they do their homework, and how they go to sleep. Routines are important if you want a smooth day. One routine that is vitally important is a prayer routine.

My Morning Prayer Routine

My prayer routine involves waking up early before everyone else in the house and praying the Rosary (what did you expect?). This gets my day started on the right foot by making my relationship with God my priority. It centers me and allows God to speak to me through Rosary meditation on what I should focus on during the day. That’s also why praying in a quiet environment is so important. I don’t want God to have to fight through the noise of everyday life, especially my own thoughts which tend to grow louder as the day moves forward.

At some point in the morning, typically with my coffee, I read my Bible. As I said before, I’m reading the Bible in a Year which is a 10-minute read of Old and New Testament readings. I find the Bible so much richer when I read it daily and the books in order. I start to understand the context and narratives of the various books and chapters; something that is lost if you only hear the readings during Sunday Mass.

The simple joy of coffee and Proverbs

After dropping my boys off at school, I like to drop by the church for some silent prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Again, it’s the stillness that’s important. Remember, Jesus is present in the tabernacle. Like the people in the Gospel who flocked to Jesus for teaching and healing, we should flock to Him in the Blessed Sacrament. After all, we believe that Jesus is every bit as present in the Eucharist as he was in the Gospels. I’ll then take a walk in the park listening to audiobooks and, if time allows, I’ll go to the daily Mass.

Look at that routine. Before starting my workday, I have prayed the Rosary, read the Bible, and prayed at church. It’s such a great way to ground myself in my faith and gives me the strength to face whatever challenges come my way. Some of you may read this and think, “wow, that takes up so much time!” But it is time well spent even if I have to make changes to other routines to accommodate it. Morning prayer makes the day more meaningful and joyful because you allow God into your day.

I try to live according to this saying: “Work smarter, not harder.” The smart way to approach your day is to get as much help as you can. Who better to help you throughout the day than God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Mary, and the saints? They will never be in a bad mood or too busy to help you. But you have to approach them. The earlier the better. That’s why starting your day with prayer is so effective. It acts as a preventative measure so that you don’t get overwhelmed by life’s challenges.

The Rosary

Mediate on the Fifth Glorious Mystery of the Rosary and consider Mary’s role as Queen of Heaven. She sits beside her son, Jesus, as our intercessor. She works on our behalf to bring us into God’s grace and find eternal joy in Heaven. She’s there, ready and willing. We just have to ask for her help. And we do that when we consistently pray for her intercession. If you’re having a hard time sticking to a prayer routine, then ask Mary to help you establish one.

Our Heavenly Queen is always a prayer away

Since I talked about the value of praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament, mediate on the Fifth Luminous Mystery. The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is a cornerstone of the Catholic faith. It’s what makes Catholicism special and unique. It’s a gift that Jesus is with us today and not just someone who lived thousands of years ago. Since we have Jesus present with us, make a resolution to visit him by praying in a church, attending Adoration, and going to Mass more regularly.

Awesome Letter for the Archbishop of San Francisco

Lacking Understanding

I’ve been a huge Star Wars fan my whole life. You can consider me your classic Star Wars nerd; knowing all the trivia and details of the franchise. May 4th was Star Wars day (“May the Fourth be with You”, get it?). On that day, many people talked about Star Wars including one of the podcasts I listen to. They confessed they didn’t know much about the series and it showed. They asked many questions that any Star Wars fan knows like “how many movies make up the Skywalker saga? It’s nine by the way. As someone who knows Star Wars, it was a painful podcast to listen to.

I think many of us feel a similar pain when we hear on the news about our “Catholic” president or just about any mainstream news reporting about religion. It’s painful hearing the misinformation about the Church. The media just doesn’t understand the logic behind Catholic teaching. They act like universal truths can just be ignored or revised at will. They think the Church should just bend to whatever the woke cause de jour happens to be.

Listening to the news misreport about the Catholic Church is like listening to clueless people talk about Star Wars. It’s extremely frustrating the amount of misinformation they spread. It’s dangerous in many ways too. First, Catholics weak in their knowledge of the faith may be led astray if they believe that what the media or politicians say about the Church. Second, in this woke cancel culture, mobs can attack the faithful based on a false perception of Church teaching.

Pray that radical progressives stop at only destroying statues

A Clear Voice

That is why it’s so refreshing when someone comes along and lays out the teachings of the Catholic Church in a clear, unambiguous way. I’m talking about the archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone. In his letter on May 1, the archbishop wrote about the sanctity of human life, Communion, and politicians. He didn’t mince words when he says, “the killing must stop.” Here’s what he tells politicians:

To Catholics in public life who practice abortion or advocate for it: the killing must stop. Please, please, please: the killing must stop. God has entrusted you with a prestigious position in society. You have the power to affect societal practices and attitudes. Always remember that you will one day have to render an account to God for your stewardship of this trust. You are in a position to do something concrete and decisive to stop the killing. Please stop the killing. And please stop pretending that advocating for or practicing a grave moral evil—one that snuffs out an innocent human life, one that denies a fundamental human right—is somehow compatible with the Catholic faith. It is not. Please return home to the fullness of your Catholic faith. We await you with open arms to welcome you back.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

The letter is long but is worth reading. Any attempt I try to make to summarize it won’t do it justice. Trust me, I’ve tried writing some bullet points but it never comes together with the same impact as the letter. The letter has several layers that build on top of each other so it must be read in its entirety. I would be no better than the news pundits if I tried to cherry-pick certain lines.

The fact that the letter shouldn’t be cherry-picked for information is what is missing in modern discourse. Complex discussions about the dignity of human life, evil, mortal sin, and the Eucharist take time to express. The Church is guided by thousands of years of teachings from brilliant minds and inspired hearts. The problem is that no one in politics or the media wants to make an effort to understand Church teaching. Understanding takes time. Whipping up a bunch of woke activists takes a Twitter post.

The Rosary “Meds”

When I pray the Fourth Glorious Mystery, I think about how Mary was assumed into Heaven to help guide us to her Son, Jesus Christ. Part of coming to know and love Jesus is knowing and understanding his Church’s teachings. Yes, that can be hard on all sorts of levels. Sorry, but the Catechism or the Bible can’t be expressed in 140 characters and emojis. But making an effort to understand our faith is what we are called to do. We can’t love or hate something without making an effort to learn and understand it. Mary wants us to love her son and hence, wants to help us understand him and his Church.

I urge you to read or listen to the archbishop’s letter. Listening to it takes no more time than most podcasts. If you’re only hearing about politicians’ worthiness to receive Communion from the media, you’re not hearing the entire story.

What the Rosary Teaches us about Preparation

In last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus told the parable about the wedding guests and how one was thrown out because he wasn’t wearing appropriate attire.

But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. 
The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’

For a long time, this part of the parable troubled me. I always felt bad for the guest who showed up only to be tossed out for not wearing the appropriate attire. Here was a king, desperate to have people attend his wedding banquet after the invited guests turned him down. And so someone, maybe out of a sense of pity, agreed to come only to be humiliated and thrown out. Hadn’t the king ever heard the saying, “beggars can’t be choosers?” What did he expect by going out and inviting random people to his banquet?

Like Jesus’ other parables, this one isn’t supposed to be taken literally. It’s not a lesson on the etiquette of first-century wedding attire. Similar to the parable of the workers in the field, Jesus is using a simile about God and Heaven. Like any comparison, it’s not going to line up exactly. It’s the overall message and lesson being taught that is important, not the details used for illustration.

The point Jesus made in this parable was that God invites everyone to His Heavenly Kingdom. But that doesn’t mean we can act however we want and He has to accept us. Let’s look at this parable from a different point of view. Maybe the person without the garment wasn’t someone who could not afford one and maybe he wasn’t driven by pity to attend the banquet. Maybe he figured that because the king was asking everyone, he wouldn’t care how people came. Maybe, it was out of laziness that this person came to the banquet not attempting to make himself presentable. Basically, he was being what we would call a freeloader — someone looking to score a free meal.

I think that is the point of the parable — God won’t accept freeloaders in Heaven. While He desires all of us to be with Him in Heaven, we have to truly want to be there too. And if we want something, we have to work towards it. We can’t be lazy, selfish, or self-entitled. God made the rules quite clear through the 10 Commandments and Jesus’ teachings. Much like how people are expected to know the proper attire for a wedding banquet, we are expected to know and follow God’s laws for entering Heaven.

Preparation in the Rosary

Think about the Third Luminous Mystery, Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and His Call to Conversion. We can think of conversion as us putting on the proper banquet attire and following proper etiquette. Our conversion is us taking off our worldly desires and sinful behavior so that we can appropriately sit at God’s banquet table in Heaven. We should be so excited about that prospect that we prepare ourselves here in this earthly life.

Praying the Rosary and meditating on the mysteries is about preparation. I forget who said it, but there’s a piece of wisdom that says, “if you don’t prepare for all possible circumstances, you haven’t prepared at all.” Well, death and judgment isn’t just a possible circumstance, it’s a certainty. Maybe the person in the parable without the wedding garment had one, but it was dirty. Or maybe he lost it. Whatever the case, he wasn’t prepared when the king invited him to the banquet. Ask yourself, are you prepared to attend God’s heavenly feast? Or are you still clinging to your worldly garments?

I like to pray for those who are close to death and judgment when I pray the Second Glorious Mystery. Jesus ascended into Heaven to make a place for each of us. He is the king making room at the banquet. However, many are not prepared. I pray for those in danger of being thrown out of the heavenly feast because they came before God not adequately “dressed.” Or some may need to wait a long time in Purgatory before being allowed to sit at God’s table. Pray for everyone close to death, especially those who don’t know it because maybe God will call on them suddenly and without warning. Pray that those who need it most receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and that we all make an effort towards conversion. Let’s all have our Heavenly wedding attire close at hand.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Piety

One aspect of parenting I find incredibly difficult is trying to teach my kids to do the right things on their own. I don’t want to have to continually nag them to clean their room, not to interrupt when someone is talking, say “please” and “thank you,” and all those other little things that create peace and pleasantness. It’s an ongoing challenge to instill in them a sense of wanting to do the right thing and to see that it makes life so much better for everyone.

This brings me to the final gift of the Holy Spirit — piety. This is the wanting or longing to do God’s Will. It’s not living the faith out of fear or responsibility, it’s wanting to do God’s Will because we desire to live in God’s grace. It’s wanting to go to Mass, pray, and receive the sacraments, not out of a sense of obligation or under penalty of sin, but because we want a close relationship with God. Piety builds on those other gifts of the Holy Spirit, understanding and wisdom, to know that there is nothing better than living in God’s grace. Piety instills that longing to live in that grace and ultimately, in joy.

I think there’s a reason why we are called God’s children and we call him “Father.” When it comes to our interaction with God, we can act childish at times. We do things because we are told to. We often go to Mass or pray before meals because we feel the Church nagging us into it. Like a child reluctantly cleaning his room, we do these things without joy. We do them begrudgingly because we don’t understand the bigger picture. If we did see it, we would gladly go to Mass, pray, and sacrifice like the saints because we would understand that not living in God’s grace is not living at all. We need this gift of piety to see through the drudgery of spirituality and see it as the path to true joy and happiness.

Piety in the Rosary

Let’s look at St. Simeon in the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. Like many people, I picture St. Simeon as a fragile old man who lived a difficult life. He spent all his time in the temple praying only to finally see the baby Jesus before dying. Many of us might see that as a pointless life. But God is challenging us to see our faith differently in this mystery. We should see Simeon as leading an exceptional life — one that is centered around forming a relationship with God. We should see the joy that comes through piety because it’s a life filled with God’s grace instead of fickle worldly desires. For all we know, Simeon may have come to the temple every day joyful in his encounters with God through prayer. And we too can find joy being with God through prayer.

We should also remember that Mary guides us towards a life of piety. As Queen of Heaven (Fifth Glorious Mystery), she desires everyone to enter into God’s kingdom. That means living in a way that is centered around God. How do we expect to live with God in Heaven if we never make an effort to live in His grace on earth? Fortunately, Mary is constantly guiding us toward God. She bridges the gap between us and God through her messages and apparitions throughout history and her mediation between humanity or Her son, Jesus. When we pray the Fifth Glorious Mystery, let’s remember to lay our struggles living a pious life at Mary’s feet and earnestly seek her help.

Piety is all about saying “yes” to God. This is no better represented in the Rosary than in the First Joyful Mystery. Mary whole-heartedly said yes to God. It wasn’t a “yes” born out of fear. After all, God isn’t some tyrant demanding strict obedience. He gives us the freedom to say “no” but provides us an overly abundant number of reasons to say “yes.” Piety is about having the wisdom and right judgment to weigh a pious life against impiety and see that the pious life wins out in every way.

Piety: The Easier Path

Going back to getting children to do the right thing. Often, I try to show my kids that doing the right thing is easier than doing the wrong or lazy thing. Keeping a clean room means that toys and books don’t get broken or lost. Sharing means that everyone gets more toys and games to play with. Going to bed on time means more rest and more energy.

The same is true with leading a pious life; it can lead to more joy. When we want to follow God, we choose not to follow Satan and fall for his lies. We then avoid a life of sin and avoid vices like greed, gluttony, envy, and anger. All of those choices, while maybe providing short term pleasure, lead to long term unhappiness. In short, it’s a bad investment of our time and energy. Piety is such a small investment but leads to the biggest payoff — a life in God’s grace and an eternity in Heaven.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Fortitude

Two great movies are “Touching the Void” and “Lone Survivor.” The former movie is a documentary about a mountaineer, Joe Simpson, who broke his leg at the summit of a difficult climb, fell off a cliff on his way down, and was assumed dead. And yet he managed to crawl down the mountain on one good leg back to camp where his climbing partner was able to get help. “Lone Survivor” is the story of Marcus Luttrell and a Navy SEAL mission gone bad. He crawled to safety with a broken back after a terrible gunfight with the Taliban killing everyone on his team.

What is remarkable about both these true stories is how hard they fought to stay alive without knowing how their situation would turn out. For all Joe knew, his climbing partner may have broken camp and left the area. His efforts to get crawl down the mountain may have been for nothing if there was no one left to get him to a hospital. For all Marcus knew, he could have crawled into a Taliban camp instead of a village willing to protect him. Both of them didn’t give up fighting although they had no idea whether their efforts were in vain.

That brings us to the next gift of the Holy Spirit — fortitude.  “Fortitude is the virtue that allows us to overcome fear and to remain steady in our will in the face of all obstacles, physical and spiritual. Prudence and justice are the virtues through which we decide what needs to be done; fortitude gives us the strength to do it. It show itself in moral courage against the evil spirit of the times, against improper fashions, against human respect, against the common tendency to seek at least the comfortable, if not the voluptuous.”(learnreligions.com).

I see fortitude as the strength to practice the Catholic faith in the face of uncertainty. We take it on faith that all the prayer, sacrifices, and restraint leads to a closer relationship with God and eternal happiness in Heaven. And while we may know this, it can be hard to muster the strength to practice it on a daily basis. We don’t always feel close to God. It’s this gift that reminds us not to give up doing God’s Will.

Fortitude in the Rosary

Look at Jesus in the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary. I know I’ve mentioned this point several times in the past, but He fell three times and got back up knowing that his situation was never going to improve. Just think about the strength Jesus had to posses to look past his physical pain and see the greater role God had for Him. Jesus knew that God’s Will was not to have Him die on the road. But that meant Jesus had to summon the courage to get up and follow God’s Will to His Crucifixion so that he could triumph through His Resurrection.

We must look at Jesus’ example of fortitude in our own lives. Let’s face it, being a Christian isn’t always easy or fun. We are saddled with our crosses. Prayer doesn’t always seem fruitful. Fasting doesn’t seem beneficial. Following God’s laws isn’t always a joy. Making this more difficult is that we don’t receive immediate feedback. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could see our heavenly scorecard whenever we practice virtue or sin? But it’s the gift of fortitude that allows us to carry on, like Jesus taking up His cross, in the face of uncertainty. When you pray any of the Sorrowful Mysteries, meditate on how faith requires fortitude because we need to do God’s Will without immediate, concrete feedback.

We must also remember that fortitude isn’t just about summoning courage for the “big things.” We all aren’t called to be martyrs or overcome some momentous challenge. We must show fortitude in the small things too. That means remembering to pray every day, attend Mass, receive the sacraments, fast, and live chastely. These aren’t easy. Sure, we may be able to muster the strength on our own some days. But in order to do God’s Will consistently, we need this gift from the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, we’ll just get worn out, dejected, and give up. It’s this gift of fortitude which gives us that “second wind” to keep going even when we think we have nothing left to give.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Knowledge

Some of us, when confronted with a crisis, know what to do. Think about emergency personnel like paramedics, nurses, and doctors. When there is a medical emergency, they jump into action. If they are at a restaurant and someone collapses, they jump in and help. Other people, while wanting to help, freeze up. Will they make the situation worse by getting involved? Are they able to make the right decisions in that situation? It’s not that their inaction means they don’t care. It’s just that they don’t know what to do.

The ability to act correctly, especially in spiritual matters, is another gift from the Holy Spirit — the gift of Knowledge. It “enables a person to judge rightly concerning the truths of faith in accordance with their proper causes and the principles of revealed truth” (Catholic Straight Answers). While the gift of wisdom is the desire to follow God’s Will, knowledge is the ability to do so. If the gift of understanding is the “why” behind following God’s Will, think of knowledge as the “how.” Even more than just knowing what to think, do, or say, knowledge is also the confidence that what you’re doing is in line with God’s Will. I see so many people on the Catholic Answer Forums asking, “Did I do the right thing when I …?” Knowledge reduces that doubt and scrupulosity.

Knowledge in the Rosary

Consider the Third Luminous Mystery of the RosaryThe Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Call to Conversion. With the gift of knowledge, we can see what comes from God’s Kingdom of Heaven and what does not. We then can make good, knowledgeable decisions to embrace what is Heavenly. If our current desires are for what is earthly, then using knowledge to change our priorities is the process of conversion. When you pray the Third Luminous Mystery, ask yourself whether you are seeing what is Heavenly and making decisions to embrace them.

Next, consider the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary — The Carrying of the Cross. Think about how many people stood by and watched Jesus carry His cross. Many of them might have wanted to help Jesus but they didn’t know how or they were afraid of what the soldiers might do. However, Veronica found the inspiration and courage to stand out from the crowd to wipe Jesus’ face, giving Him a moment of relief.

One of the ways the gift of knowledge manifests itself is knowledge of how to help others in spiritual matters. Many times, we want to help others when we see them struggle or when they are in despair but we don’t know what to do. We are like the onlookers during Jesus’ passion. The gift of knowledge will help us know the right things to say or do. We will be like Veronica — inspired to find a way to help others in need.

Finally, consider the Fourth Glorious Mystery — Mary’s Assumption. I’ve always said how the Assumption was a sign of God’s special plan for Mary after her earthly death. And that plan was for her to guide us to her Son, Jesus Christ. She guides us in acquiring knowledge of Jesus and His love for us. God has provided us so many tools so that we may know Jesus — the Mass, the Bible, sacred tradition, and countless documents. And we also have guides like Mary, the Holy Spirit, and the saints to help us better know Jesus.

Inspired by Mary and the saints, we should take the opportunity to better know Jesus. We should read the Bible, papal encyclicals, and the Catechism to cultivate our knowledge of our faith. Our small investment in learning our faith will then be compounded by the Holy Spirit and our Mother Mary. With that knowledge, we will be able to better discern what is Heavenly and what is not and take comfort in the fact that choosing what is Heavenly will lead to ultimate joy and peace in God’s grace.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom

With the conclusion of the Easter season and now well into the Octave of Pentecost, I want to explore the gifts of the Holy Spirit and how they relate to various Rosary mysteries. As you know, I love making connections between various pillars of the Catholic Faith and the Rosary. The Rosary, after all, embodies all aspects of our faith which is why it’s such an important prayer and tool to embrace. Let’s dive into the first gift of the Holy Spirit — wisdom.

I’ll start with a scene from Star Wars, Episode II that explains the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

Wisdom is more than the acquisition and recitation of facts. You could memorize and quote every verse from the Bible. While that certainly makes you smart, it doesn’t make you wise. It won’t necessarily deepen your relationship with God. Knowledge is a matter of brain chemistry, focus, and perseverance. Given enough time and attention, many people could memorize pages in a textbook. But wisdom goes beyond the ability to store data in our brains.

According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, wisdom is both the knowledge of and judgment about “divine things” and the ability to judge and direct human affairs according to divine truth (I/I.1.6; I/II.69.3; II/II.8.6; II/II.45.1–5). I think the keyword is truth. Wisdom is about applying your knowledge to discover truth. Specifically, it’s about understanding the source of truth — God. Furthermore, wisdom forms the foundation of these gifts of the Holy Spirit. Because it’s through wisdom we learn about divine truths, our faith, and eventually God. Without wisdom, there can be no understanding of God’s Will and all the gifts and virtues He gives us.

Wisdom in the Rosary

We’ll first take a look at the Fourth Joyful Mystery, the Presentation. In the Gospel, we are introduced to Simeon and Anna, both prophets. They tell Mary and Joseph about Jesus’ destiny. They are speakers of truth because they have devoted themselves to following God’s Will. They sought out God in their lives through prayer and obtained the gift of wisdom that they could impart to others.

How about you? How devoted are you to follow God’s Will like Simeon and Anna? How much time and energy do you dedicate to learning about God? Are you devoted to prayer and forming a deep relationship with God like Simeon and Anna? Or is your focus solely on acquiring earthly knowledge without the desire to use it to discover God’s truth?

I also like what the Fourth Glorious Mystery has to teach us about wisdom. God assumed Mary into Heaven because He had a special role for her to play in our lives. She’s our guide who desires us to be in communion with God. To be in communion with God, we need wisdom to exercise correct judgment in learning God’s Will. That is no easy task. But God gives us Mary and the saints to help guide us. We aren’t left alone to our feeble minds and will to discover God’s truth like some sort of million-piece jigsaw puzzle. Mary offers us her assistance to acquire this wisdom of divine truth.

Finally, we look at the Third Glorious Mystery which is Pentecost. The fruit of this mystery is wisdom. When the Holy Spirit came to the apostles, he endowed them with wisdom. That wisdom transformed them from scared, confused individuals to brave, determined leaders of the early Church. They received a huge helping of truth at Pentecost which changed the course of human history. We too can tap into the wisdom the Holy Spirit gives as a gift to us to go out and bravely live according to God’s Will.

Wisdom Makes Saints

What makes a saint a saint is that wisdom or understanding of God’s truth. Because when you understand the truth about God, why would you have the desire to do anything the runs against it? We fall into sin because we do not fully possess this wisdom. If we truly understood God’s divine truth as the saints do, we wouldn’t refuse to live according to God’s Will. When we pray the Rosary, let’s ask the Holy Spirit that we open our hearts and minds to the gift of wisdom. This way, we remain in God’s grace which is a powerful defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.

Prayer Sets Us Free

I think by now many of us are coming down with cabin fever. You can only binge-watch so many series on Netflix and Disney+. You can only play video games and read books for so long. Even getting out and taking a walk is starting to feel a bit repetitive. I feel anything but free.

And yet, Pope Francis teaches us that freedom is exactly what the Holy Spirit provides us. In a homily on April 20, Pope Francis said: “The definition of the Holy Spirit that Jesus gives here is interesting … unconstrained. A person who gets carried from both sides by the Holy Spirit: this is the freedom of the Spirit. And a person who does this is docile, and here we talk about docility to the Holy Spirit.”

I like this idea of being docile. We are flexible and open to new ideas. When we listen to the Holy Spirit through prayer, we need to be open to how he guides us. Just choosing prayer over TV, video games, and other media shows the beginnings of openness. You are choosing to block out distractions to try to listen to the Holy Spirit. That’s a great start.

I often complain that one of the hardest things about sheltering in place is the constant noise. Someone is always talking. Of, if you have kids, someone is always shouting or running around. The constant movement and volume is tiring. That is why it’s important to deliberately carve time for prayer. Otherwise, the wisdom of the Holy Spirit gets drowned out by the daily noise in our lives. And that’s how we feel trapped. We can no longer feel the Holy Spirit’s gentle nudge to break us out of our suffocating routines.

If you’re looking for something new, try praying the Rosary. If you already pray the Rosary, try adding more to it like meditations or scriptural passages. Think about the Third Glorious Mystery and how the Holy Spirit came down and inspired the Apostles. Think of how couped up they must have felt hiding after Jesus’ death and resurrection out of fear of the Jews. They were the definition of confinement. And what was it that set them free? The Holy Spirit! What released them from their bondage of fear? The Holy Spirit! And what guided them across the known world teaching in Jesus’ name? The Holy Spirit! In the words of Pope Francis, “With this freedom of the Holy Spirit, you will never know where you will end up.”

https://www.rosarymeds.com/intentions/the-glorious-mysteries/third-glorious-mystery/

Covid-19 is the Opportunity Satan’s Been Waiting For

“Know thy self.” It’s a saying that goes back to ancient Greece and is a fundamental concept in modern developmental psychology. It’s about knowing your strengths and weaknesses and then addressing those weaknesses and building on those strengths. It’s an important time to build up our defenses against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. The Catholic Exchange ran an article highlighting the attacks Satan uses to exploit our weaknesses. They are:

  1. Desolation
  2. Kryptonite: Our major weak point
  3. Social Environment
  4. Demonic Proliferation of Impurity
  5. Devil of Despair

Many of us are under quarantine due to the Covid-19 virus. Unfortunately, this makes Satan’s tools more effective, especially if we aren’t wise about our weaknesses. Many of us are feeling more isolated from others than we’ve ever been. And this can foster a greater sense of despair because we feel so alone and powerless. We may start to question God’s love for us and maybe start believing it’s not as absolute as we’ve been taught. That’s what Satan wants us to believe so he can infect us with his lies and lead us away from God’s grace.

Isolation can also breed unhealthy habits. Many people may feel tempted to visit impure websites and watch trashy television shows out of boredom and a lack of entertainment options. Again, this allows Satan to creep into your life and influence you. The Covid-19 virus is Satan’s once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take possession of unprepared and unsuspecting souls.

For many of us, the lack of attending Mass has weakened us. I know that we’ve all been given a dispensation from attending Mass and physically receiving the sacraments. But still, not being able to physically celebrate Mass has left even the strongest of us in a weakened state. Watching Mass online or on TV is okay, but not a substitute for physically celebrating Mass and receiving the Eucharist. And it looks like we may be locked down through Holy Week and Easter which means that even the casual Mass-goer won’t be receiving their yearly dose of God’s grace.

The Catholic Exchange article goes on to highlight five ways we can protect ourselves from Satan’s increased influence. At their root, it’s knowing your weaknesses and building spiritual defenses through:

  1. Fervent Prayer
  2. Practice of Penance and Fasting
  3. Periodic Spiritual Direction and Transparency
  4. Nunc Coepi—Begin Again!
  5. Mary

This time of isolation can be a blessing if you choose to make it one. It can be a time where you build up your spirituality through prayer and fasting. If your bored or feeling alone, use this time to build your relationship with the Lord. Don’t mindlessly watch YouTube clips and binge watch Netflix. Set aside some time to pray the Rosary and read Scripture and other books to build your faith.

Pray the Fifth Glorious Mystery and ask Mary, our queen in Heaven, for her intercession. She doesn’t live in Heaven for her gratification. She’s there to bring souls closer to her son, Jesus. She wants us to come to her and lay down our worries and concerns at her feet so that she can amplify them and bring them before Jesus. She desires us to know ourselves better so that we learn our strengths and weaknesses. She can then work through her son, Jesus Christ, to increase our desire to live for God’s Kingdom. Our queen doesn’t want to lose any of us to Satan.

Ask Mary, Queen of Heaven, to:

  1. help end the Covid-19 pandemic
  2. help comfort those affected by this virus, either directly or indirectly
  3. help medical and emergency professionals on the front lines of this outbreak
  4. help those who have fallen under Satan’s influence in this time of increased isolation
  5. help us use this time to draw closer to God and trust in His ability to see us through this difficult time.