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.

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.

Strength Comes From Humility

Balancing humility and pride can be difficult. On the one hand, many of us desire confidence and independence. As an adult, you strive to provide for both yourself and maybe a spouse and family. In the family or at work, you need to be dependable. People need to have confidence in you. You need to project a sense of strength. But you can’t go too far down that road and fall into the sin of pride. You need to keep in mind that you can’t do everything on your own and that you’re part of a greater community made up of people who can make their own contributions.

Humility is seen almost like a negative trait because it conveys a sense of weakness. It requires you to admit that you can’t do everything. You must admit dependence on others. And yet, it’s through humility that God pours his grace on us. One of the best examples is the Holy Family. In her article, Grace is Given to the Humble, Debra Black quotes Fr. John Tauler about Mary:

She became one spirit with God, and she was taught by Him; for she resigned herself as a fitting instrument to His dear Will, in fervent love for His glory. She was poor in spirit, and always bore herself in God with deep humility and self-annihilation; for she had no desires, no will, and was as passive, as though she were uncreated. And thus an entrance was made for God into her spirit, soul, and body. 

Fr. John Tauler (14th century)

Mary was an empty vessel filled only with God’s grace, both spiritually and physically through giving birth to Jesus Christ. Her humility was a complete dependence on God. But that total submission didn’t make her weak. On the contrary, God was able to work through Mary and raise her up as Queen of Heaven and our Mediatrix. Mary shows that it’s through humility, not pride, that one achieves true greatness.

Also notable for his humility is Saint Joseph. Little is said about him in the Gospels. As a husband and father, he was the traditional head of the family. And yet, he was humble enough to understand that God had made special plans for his wife and child. Saint Joseph needed to show strength to step aside and have Mary and Jesus take center stage in God’s great plan. While there’s no mention of this in the Bible, I would have to imagine this would have been hard for Joseph to give up a role society expected him to have.

The Rosary Connection

Lessons in humility abound in the Rosary. And they all have to do with people letting go of their pride and earthly desires to allow God to work through them. First, look at the Visitation. Mary could have acted like a worldly queen upon learning that God chose her to bring the Messiah into the world. I’m sure many of us would flaunt how we were God’s chosen one. But Mary goes out to help her cousin Elizabeth. Mary’s first act as the Mother of God was to be in humble service to someone else.

This role of service carries on through the Fourth and Fifth Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary. Mary is Queen of Heaven. But the focus of that exultation isn’t Mary, but Jesus. In her many apparitions, Mary’s focus isn’t on herself but on her Son. She desires all of us to form a close and loving relationship with God through Jesus Christ and is willing to help us however possible. Again, Mary’s greatness is not through what she does herself, but through which her humility allows God to work through her.

Finally, consider the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, the Presentation in the Temple. Think about both Simeon and Saint Joseph. Simeon shows great humility and patience. He devoted his life to serving God and for that, he was able to hold the infant Jesus before his death. Also remember Joseph, the silent protector in the background of Mary and Jesus’ life. He may not have been “showy” as the head of the family but he was humble enough to accept God’s role for him.

What do We Learn?

God gives great strength to the humble. Because humility leaves room in our hearts for God’s grace. In a way, humility is us actively setting aside room for God. We make a choice to put aside pride, greed, our busy schedules, our worries, and our earthly desires for God. We admit that there are things that only God can provide. We can’t find them on Amazon.com or any store. But leaving room for God means we are leaving room for that which will ultimately make us the strongest, most confident, and happiest.

Pride and personal holiness mix about as well as oil and water. Where our ego is, little if any room is left for God. What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ but to be someone who fills himself totally with God in order to bring him within the reach of everyone. But what union, grace or friendship with God can there be in a proud soul? What fervor, what degree of holiness? There is no possible compromise between God and a proud soul – either the soul would have to let go of itself, or God would have to stop being God.

Regnum Christi

Fighting Temptation Through the Rosary

I came across these three articles over the last few weeks. And while they focus on different topics, they are interconnected. They paint a picture of a world falling into Satan’s hands because many of us do not prioritize practicing our faith to defend against temptation. We leave the door wide open for Satan to enter our hearts when we should be letting in our Mother Mary and the Holy Spirit.

The first article discusses the results of a worldwide survey about people’s view of religion. Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, a large number of people think religion plays a less important role than it did 20 years ago. And while that view was held by only 37% of the total respondents, it was much larger, and even a majority, in some regions. 58% of Americans and nearly 50% of Europeans all said that religion’s importance has declined in the last 20 years. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find whether the question was asked regarding the role of faith to people personally or if they were asking about what people observe about society in general.

In another article, an exorcist explained that temptation, not possession, is the most common and dangerous form of demonic manifestation. Here is his advice to fight temptation.

“To resist temptation is simple,” he encouraged, although it might not always be easy. “You must avoid the occasions of temptation, of course, and you must have a Christian and spiritual life. You must pray, you must try to behave correctly, and to love the people you meet every day and the people with whom you live.”

In the third article, Connie Rossini quotes the Catechism that prayer is a battle — one fought against Satan and ourselves. Battles are not easy and they are fraught with danger. We must put ourselves in the right frame of mind and prioritize our spiritual needs just as much, if not more, as our physical and mental needs.

Pray like your life depends on it.

When these three articles are put together, it paints a rather stark picture of the state of many people’s souls. Prayer is hard so people don’t prioritize it. Without prayer, religion and spirituality play a less important role in people’s lives. And without a focus on prayer, people are more susceptible to temptation. In other words, a world without prayer is a world where Satan has greater influence.

As I’ve said multiple times, we must pray the Rosary every day. Numerous saints and scholars have said that the Rosary is our best defense against Satan. It’s our defense against temptation and Mary provides her protection to all who pray it. So please prioritize the Rosary. When you meditate on the Fourth Glorious Mystery, think about how Mary was assumed into Heaven and is there now wanting to help you.

Think of what Jesus said in Matthew 24:42:

 “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. 43 “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44 “For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.

Be on alert and prepare for the battle you wage every day against Satan and the temptation to sin. We may not know when God calls us to stand before Him in judgment. But we do know that Satan will be trying to tempt us every day. It’s a battle that we need not lose given the amount of guidance and protection Our Lady offers us. All we need to do is realize the serious threat Satan imposes. Then we need to get serious about defending ourselves. There’s no time to wait, pick up the rosary today!

Don’t Lose Your Moral Bearings in the Darkness

Imagine you’re a pilot flying alone on a completely dark night with no instrumentation.  Envision how hard it would be to know your altitude, your level, and whether or not you’re about to crash into something.  In total darkness, with no visibility and landmarks for reference, there is a good chance the airplane will crash and burn.

Keep that airplane analogy in mind as you read this article about the Glamor of Evil by Dr. Gregory Popcak.  We all know about how we should avoid committing sin. That’s Catholicism 101; easy stuff. But you can also be seduced by sin without actively participating in it.  He writes:

Evil is glamorous, not only in the sense that it can be hard to resist being drawn into it, but also in the sense that it can be hard to look away from it. If you aren’t careful, it’s tremendously easy to stare at it, and stare at it, and stare at it, until you can’t see anything else. Until everything good, and godly, and righteous, and beautiful has been drained from view, and all that is left is outrage, and anger, and indignation, and disgust.

Like the pilot alone in the dark, when we fixate on all the evil, darkness, and problems in this world we lose our moral bearings.  We can become disoriented in the darkness and start to lose hope, joy, and our faith.  We can no longer see the differences between good and evil because we’ve lost our spirital point of reference.  Our actions no longer seem to matter because we don’t see any goal or point to them.  Does it really matter what I do if everything is falling apart around me?

Being lost and aimless doesn’t usually end well.

Dr. Popcak tells us that we can’t let negative thinking completely envelop us.  Our faith and relationship with Jesus Christ should act like a shining beacon, even in our darkest hours.  The beauty and goodness of our faith can provide all the guidance we need to find strength, peace, and maybe even happiness, even when our world looks nonredeemable.

When Good Things Turn Us Bad

I’m going to go one step further. It’s not just evil that can completely block us from whatever is good and godly. Neutral activities can also do the same. Consider social media and the 24/7 cable news cycle. On their own, there’s nothing sinful about them.  They allow us to stay updated on recent events and connect with each other. But for many of us, these seemingly harmless pastimes can consume 100% of our attention leaving room for nothing else. And when your world is completely consumed by Twitter, Facebook, Fox News, and MSNBC, you can stop seeing the genuine good in the world. You will either see a carefully curated goodness that isn’t real or you will just see everything as bad and hopeless and fall into despair.

As we enter the season of Advent and Christmas, it’s important to not allow ouselves to fixate on what is ultimately unimportant. I know we want to buy presents, decorate our homes, and participate in all the other traditions associated with Christmas. But we can’t let the commercial side of Christmas blind us to the true meaning behind it. Because when you obsess over what to buy and what you want to receive, you leave yourself open to the sins of greed, envy, and even wrath. Want an example?  Look no further than the annual chaos around Black Friday and how people lose their moral bearings fighting over TVs and toasters.

The Rosary Connection

Look at the Fourth Luminous Mystery, The Transfiguration.  I’m talking about darkness and the light in this article.  Well, in this mystery you see Jesus’ clothes literally become dazzling white (Mark 9:3).  And that, of course, got the apostles’ attention.  When you meditate on this Rosary mystery, ask yourself, is Jesus a dazzling beacon of love, hope, and goodness in your life?  Does He shine brighter through the darkness keeping you morally oriented toward His teachings?  If not, maybe you need to turn around or take off your blindfold.  Jesus is always present in our lives.  If you don’t see that “light” in the darkness, ask Mary for guidance when you pray the Fourth Glorious Mystery, Her Assumption.  She wants nothing more than to guide you through the darkness to Her son.

Also, when you pray the Third Joyful Mystery, think of the wise men traveling through the desert to pay homage to Jesus.  They would have been wondering around aimlessly and hopelessly if it weren’t for a star to guide them.  Again, you have a point of light, a referrence point, which guided the three wise men to Jesus. Are you following the signs in your life which lead you to Jesus?

Better Serve God by Avoiding “Media Morality”

As many of my regular visitors know, I try not to bring up fleeting political topics in my writing. The way I see it, when we get into the outrage of the day type of politics, we become like the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus warned us about. We can get self-righteous about the details of an individual’s actions or some political decision and we start seeing those who disagree with us as our enemies, not our fellow brothers and sisters. We get so wrapped up in being right (or convincing others that they are wrong) we forget about Jesus’ call for us to live in loving service of one another.

I see this quite often from those who consume the 24/7 news cycle whether it be MSNBC, CNN, or Fox News.  Once someone establishes an opinion on a particular political or social topic, validating the correctness and righteousness of that position becomes their priority at any cost.  Gone are the days where people could respectfully disagree.  Now it’s an attitude of “if you’re not with me, you’re against me.”  This thinking throws up walls between us as we cut people out of our lives because we see them only as the sum total of their political opinions.  Many of us choose to be miserable by dwelling and even hating those who hold different views.

Is this really how you want to spend your life?

It doesn’t help that we find ourselves in a world the promotes relative morality.  When we throw out the teachings and logic of theologians and philosophers we are left with moral confusion and chaos because there is no doctrine or logic backing up someone’s view.  I see this all the time in the news where someone is wrong, bad, and even evil for no other reason than having a different perspective.  As a society, we’ve moved away from the idea that there are moral truths.  Has pretending that those truths don’t exist made us any happier?

I think the Fourth Glorious mystery of the Rosary, Mary‘s Assumption, is a good place to reflect on how we treat others.  Think about Mary’s mission since her Assumption into Heaven.  She wants nothing more than for us to follow Jesus’ teachings and imitate His actions.  She asks us to pray and read the Bible and really understand how Jesus wants us to live.  She wants us to know the moral truths behind the Church’s teachings so that we can live free instead of falling victim to the unhappiness moral chaos brings.

Jesus, while perfect, didn’t cut people off because they were imperfect.  He didn’t look down on the tax collectors, the poor, and the sick like the Pharisees.  Quite the opposite, Jesus reached out and helped them.  Mary calls on us to pray and help those who are particularly struggling to know Her son, Jesus ChristPope Francis’ May intention of the lay faithful promoting the faith echoes Mary’s mission.  We all should be helping those who have cut themselves off from God‘s grace and embraced a morality that is only as valid as the media or politicians deem it valid.

It’s important to understand that while Jesus didn’t cut off sinners He also didn’t give people an excuse to continue to sin.  He still maintained and reinforced God’s laws.  We aren’t called to be pushovers either.  But to help those who may have swerved from God’s path, we need to understand God’s truths through the lens of prayer and scripture.  Prayer gives us the perspective to focus on the big challenges that are important to God and not on the day-to-day controversies whipped up by the media.  So for your spiritual health and sanity, turn off the TV and pick up that rosary!

How the Rosary Helps Us Understand the Pope’s May Intentions

I had the privilege of attending a First Holy Communion Mass last weekend.  The Mass was great; all the children were in their fine attire and super excited, parents and family packed the church, and everyone went home to big parties.  I asked my relative who attends the parish how many of those families attend Mass regularly.  More specifically, how many of these families will be at Mass next Sunday.  He guessed about 20%.  I was saddened but not shocked when I heard that low number.

I would think that emphasizing the importance of regular Mass attendance would be a core tenant of preparation for one’s First Communion.  We can’t really blame the second graders for not coming to Mass every Sunday.  After all, they depend on their parents to take them to church.  The responsibility lies almost entirely on the parents to make sure their children attend Mass.  If parents do not attend Mass regularly they convey the message that Mass isn’t that important.  More broadly, they convey that practicing their faith isn’t all that important.  This message creates a cycle where the kids grow up thinking that Mass and receiving the Eucharist is something unimportant and optional which they will pass to the next generation of Catholics.

See the source image
Plenty of first communicants, not many second ones though.

With this scenario in mind, listen to Pope Francis’ intention for the month of May:  That the lay faithful may fulfill their specific mission, by responding with creativity to the challenges that face the world today.  The pope is asking all Catholics to actively live and promote the Catholic Faith.  Promoting the faith cannot fall solely on ordained priests and nuns.  They only make up a small fraction of the Catholic Church.  For the Church to remain thriving, it requires the active participation of the lay faithful who make up 99% of the Church.  Remember, Jesus didn’t select the Pharisees, scribes, and scholars to spread His message.  He chose fishermen and a tax collector as His apostles.  From the start, the foundation of the Church was the laity.

As the lay faithful, we of course need to set a good example.  We need to attend Mass and avoid sin.  And that’s a good start because that can help break the cycle of indifference.  But God wants more from us than just the bare minimum.  He doesn’t want His Church to just survive; He wants it to flourish!  God desires all of us to one day join Him in Heaven and so we need to be active promoters of the faith.  This doesn’t mean pestering and annoying people into conversion.  As the pope says in his May intention, we need to be creative in our approach.

The Rosary Connection

As you pray the Rosary in May (Mary’s month), remember the pope’s intention.  Think about how you can be a more active champion of the Catholic Faith and lead others to realize the peace that comes from God’s grace.  Here are how some of the mysteries relate to the pope’s call for greater laity involvement in the Church.

The Visitation (2nd Joyful Mystery) — This account immediately follows the Annunciation in the Bible.  Note that God did not direct Mary to go visit her cousin Elizabeth.  Mary went on her own accord to help someone who needed it.  This should remind us all that upon receiving God’s grace we should all be moved to use that grace in helping others in whatever creative way God calls us.

English: Statue of the Visitation in the Churc...
English: Statue of the Visitation in the Church of the Visitation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Ascension (2nd Glorious Mystery) — This mystery is about Jesus’ final human appearance before going into Heaven.  He left behind dedicated disciples to carry on His mission.  Today’s lay faithful are descendants of those early disciples.  We have just as much of a responsibility for spreading the teachings of Jesus Christ as those disciples.  Ironically, we find ourselves in a similar world; one that does not know Jesus.  We need to be the ones showing others that our desire for true happiness only comes through Jesus, not by fulfilling all our worldly desires.

The Assumption (4th Glorious Mystery) — Mary is our guide who desires nothing more than for us to know Jesus’ love for us.  We can call on Her when we have a particularly difficult time living and spreading the faith.  Mary will help us and intercede for us if we ask.  God isn’t asking the lay faithful to spread His Word alone.  We can always rely on Mary to assist us.

I hope you have a joyful and glorious month of May.  Honor Mary by praying the Rosary and contemplating the pope’s intention.

The Rosary is God’s Newsfeed

Did you read about what President Trump said?  Did you see that meme about Nancy Pelosi?  Did you know that the Russians are secretly colluding with the tobacco industry to put nicotine into flu vaccines because a Saudi billionaire is shorting the British pound which is closely tied to Big Pharma?  Junk!  All of it.  It’s not informative or educational.  It doesn’t really raise any awareness of anything substantial.  We consume this junk every day and for what?  Has social media and newsfeeds made us happier and more at peace?  Are our lives better because of it?

Perhaps it is time to break out of the cycle of negative, vindictive, and manipulative newsfeeds and social media posts.  I recommend subscribing to God’s social media feed and making that the first thing you read every morning.  You won’t see any fake news, advertisements, memes, or cat videos.  You’re not going to find Him on Facebook, Youtube, or Twitter.  You don’t even need a computer or smartphone.  God’s newsfeeds are scripture, rosary prayer, reflection, and meditation.

Facebook has become a medium for people to vent their frustrations, share their joys, and ask questions.  God’s feed through prayer offers similar functionality but with more benefits.  In prayer, you can vent your frustrations, share your joys, and receive feedback and assistance.  Why vent all your frustrations to people who will just ignore you, argue with you, or give you generic responses when you can receive honest, sincere feedback from God?  There is nothing you can tell Him that will cause Him to block, ban, or unfriend you.  God is your ideal friend who will always listen as if you’re the only friend on His feed.

Not only is God’s feed informational, He also offers a lot of services.  Okay, so Heaven doesn’t stream videos or offer two-day shipping.  But God does offer us much greater gifts through the Sacraments.  You can be instantly forgiven of sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  You can receive Jesus’s Body and Blood through the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  You receive healing and graces through the Anointing of the Sick.  These are exclusive to God and His Church.  Amazon, Facebook, and Google will never be able to provide these services.

I have this suggestion for subscribing to God’s newsfeed.  Every day, after you wake up, make talking to God the first thing you do.  Make prayer, reading the daily scripture, a Rosary decade, or some moments of reflection the requirement for opening your email, Facebook, WhatsApp, or Twitter account.  Focusing on God first thing in the morning is much better and positive than reading some reposted meme about why some public figure is the worst person since Hitler.

I think the Fourth Glorious Rosary Mystery, Mary’s Assumption, best exemplifies a Heavenly newsfeed.  Mary has a special role in Heaven as our intercessor and guide.  She calls us to love Her Son and follow His teachings.  She has appeared to many people throughout history preaching the importance of prayer, fasting, and the sacraments.  She has provided many “posts” throughout the last 2,000 years and has given us great tools for living in God’s grace.  Namely, She gave us the Rosary prayer which is our best conduit for learning what God desires for us.  The Rosary is God’s newsfeed.  Are you subscribed and following Him?

How the Rosary Helps Us Avoid The Unforgivable Sin

Last Monday’s Gospel reading contains a verse that has always disturbed me:

He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come (Matthew 12:22-32).

I never liked this idea of an unforgivable sin. I was always taught that there was nothing you could do that God could not forgive. Jesus‘ entire ministry focused on redeeming those that Jewish society labeled unredeemable — tax collectors, prostitutes, Romans, and criminals. And while Jesus forgave all these people, He taught that there was a sin that He was unwilling or unable to forgive. That didn’t seem right to me.

Jeromebosch1503
Ummm… no thanks!

I did some digging on this verse and came across an article on EWTN titled THE UNFORGIVABLE SIN written by James Akin. It’s a long read but worth it for an in-depth analysis of Jesus’ words. But Mr. Akin summarizes the unforgivable sin like this:

Jesus asserts (v 30) that one must ally with him or be opposed to him and “through this” he tells us (v 31) that the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Blaspheming the Spirit is thus a failure to repent and ally oneself with Jesus. Since this can always be done during one’s life (cf. 20:1-15), blasphemy against the Holy Spirit must be a final refusal to repent, or final impenitence.

When one refuses to ask for forgiveness, those sins remain unforgiven. The unforgiveness does not come from Jesus as He is always willing to forgive. It comes from us refusing either to acknowledge our sins or refusing to ask for His forgiveness. The comforting fact in all of this is that there are two ways to escape the trap of the unforgiven sin:

1) Do not commit any sins. Unfortunately, this is impossible for any human outside of Mary and Jesus. Everyone from the most devout popes to every saint fell into sin at various points in their lives.
2) Ask for forgiveness. Penitence is the only realistic way to avoid committing the unforgivable sin of impenitence.

There is one more aspect to this topic that I’m hesitant to mention because of its immense risk. Even if you die with unforgiven sins, that does not mean you’re automatically damned.  After all, many good people do die with unforgiven venial sins and the Church teaches that they can go to Heaven. God does have infinite mercy which He can show to anyone. But, as I heard one theologian put it, don’t gamble you soul on God’s mercy when receiving genuine forgiveness is so simple.

Repentance and reconciliation are themes found throughout the rosary. The Fifth Joyful Mystery shows just how far many of us can move away from Jesus and not even realize it.  It is only when we come back looking for Him with a sorrowful (aka, remorseful) heart that we find Him again.  Jesus echoes our battle with sin, a cycle of falling and finding the courage to get back up, in the carrying of the cross in the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery.  Finally, let’s remember that Mary, assumed into Heaven in the Fourth Glorious Mystery, has constantly taught in her apparitions to approach her Son with a repentant heart.

The unforgiven sin is a serious and scary prospect.  However, avoiding it is completely within our power.  It’s called the Sacrament of Reconciliation.