The Difference Between Freedom and License

The Lost Art of Self-Control

I recently listened to a podcast produced by The Art of Manliness website titled What Happened to the Idea of Self Control? It was an interview with Daniel Akst, author of the book Temptation: Finding Self-Control in an Age of Excess. He brought up interesting points about how we’ve forgotten the benefits of self-control as a society. Instead, we now have this notion that resisting temptations and showing self-control are somehow contrary to exercising freedom.

When I listened to this podcast, I couldn’t help but think of the Israelites in the Old Testament. Countless times, their lack of self-control led to God punishing them. As I said in previous articles, I bet the “punishment” was just the logical consequence of a society acting immorally. When self-control is no longer valued or promoted by a culture, chaos results. The 10 Commandments and other moral laws don’t exist to inhibit peoples’ freedoms. It’s quite the opposite. They remind people of the foundational moral code that allows freedom to flourish.

Freedom vs. License

Let’s review the difference between freedom and license. Freedom is having the ability to freely choose how you want to live as long as it’s compatible with the common good. License, on the other hand, is doing whatever we feel like doing. We tend to confuse these concepts. True freedom results from people considering the consequences of their actions and how it affects others. Freedom is being able to choose between multiple good or neutral options. Choosing to do harm or evil isn’t exercising freedom, it’s taking license. We can never willingly choose evil under the name of freedom, free choice, or free will.

Elections and Freedom

The United States is entering its midterm elections. We’re not electing a new president, but we are electing members of Congress and voting on various laws. Abortion is a big topic now that the Supreme Court overturned federal abortion laws. You hear many pro-abortion politicians talk about the “freedom” to choose. Some even go so far as to promote radical abortion policies while holding rosaries or displaying religious imagery. They paint pro-life advocates as wanting to take away a woman’s freedom. But abortion is gravely immoral. Promoting abortion can never be an exercise of freedom. It’s an exercise in taking license.

Teaching people the evil of abortion and pushing for an abortion-free society does not impede people’s freedoms. A free society is not one where anything goes. That mindset inevitably leads to chaos and disorder. Look at many progressive cities in the United States like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, and Chicago. They are enshrining license in their laws by not enforcing laws against drugs, theft, and even certain violent crimes. This is in the name of “freedom”, “equity”, and numerous other buzzwords. However, these cities have become less free because law-abiding citizens are not safe to lead the life they want. Their freedom to choose the good is restricted so that others can exercise license.

How the Rosary Teaches Freedom

When I think about following God’s laws, I meditate on the First Luminous Mystery. I recall the Holy Spirit coming down on Jesus and God saying “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). God is telling everyone to listen and follow Jesus. And that really is the core of practicing the Catholic faith — listening to Jesus. We affirm this in the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. Freedom comes down to listening to God and doing His Will out of a love for Him. Even for those who aren’t baptized Catholic, God still speaks to them through the natural law He created. We are all born free because everyone has the ability to know God and follow Him. We all intuitively understand the difference between good and evil and can make free decisions honoring God’s moral laws.

When you examine your conscience (which you hopefully do regularly), ask yourself if you exhibited freedom or license during the day. Did you allow God to guide you in your interactions with people? Look at some of your political views, politicians, and laws that you support. Do you support them because they are morally sound or because they are convenient? There are so many people who will see our world crumble as long as they get to stay on top. They do that by selling license disguised as freedom. Be smart, pray the Rosary, and see through the lies.

Shia LaBeouf’s Inspiring Testimony on Catholicism

I usually yawn and move on when I hear of a Hollywood celebrity discovering Catholicism. That sentiment doubled when I heard that celebrity is Shia LaBeouf, probably best known for his role in The Transformers movie franchise. However, he gave an insightful interview with Bishop Robert Barron about his encounter with Catholicism while preparing and filming a movie about Saint Padre Pio. Even if you’re not a big fan of LaBeouf, it’s worth listening to. Just imagine Bishop Barron interviewing a recent convert’s observations about the Catholic faith.

Padre Pio’s Influence

I have to give this disclaimer, LaBeouf never actually confirms whether he is converting to Catholicism. It sounds like he is, but at the same time, it’s hard to know what that means. Are we hearing LaBeouf the person or LaBeouf the actor? I hope he won’t be someone who approaches Catholicism as something that has some interesting, therapeutic aspects to it but then promotes ideas that conflict with the Church’s teachings like president Joe Biden or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

I’m going to give Shia LaBeouf the benefit of the doubt and just take his words at face value. His description of his experience living with friars, learning about St. Pio, praying the Rosary, and attending the Traditional Latin Mass are inspiring. If you are a long-time cradle Catholic, you can often forget just how great and powerful our faith is.

Shia Labeouf was at a low point in his life and career when this opportunity to play Padre Pio came to him. Labeouf is known for embracing his roles in his post-Transformers career. In Fury, he enlisted in the National Guard, removed a tooth, and lived like someone on a WWII tank crew while filming the movie. For the Padre Pio movie, he lived with Capuchin friars and learned about Catholicism. However, all that preparation for the film deeply affected LaBeouf. Unlike other movies where he returned to normalcy after filming, this experience changed what normal is for him.

Seizing Opportunity

It took living with friars, visiting Italy, and filming a movie about one of the great mystics of our time to change Labeouf’s heart. Not all of us have that opportunity. Or do we? You would be amazed at the transformative power of reading books from the Ignatius Press catalog, attending Mass regularly, praying the Rosary, and getting involved in parish or archdiocesan events. We have so many opportunities to better know God through our Catholic faith that we often don’t take advantage of. We cheer when we hear conversion stories like Labeouf’s. But we also have the ability to write our own conversion story too.

The next step in your faith journey may be one book away

Pray and meditate on the Third Luminous Mystery — Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and His Call to Conversion. He calls us to a life of conversion; changing our worldly ways into his spiritual ones. We don’t need to hit rock bottom in our lives and have a miraculous intervention to convert. We have opportunities to convert every day. That may mean increasing the amount of time we pray, letting go of certain sins or unhealthy habits, and making an effort to better learn and embrace the Catholic faith. If you feel detached or apathetic to your faith, ask Mary while meditating on the 3rd Luminous Mystery to help inspire and guide you in your personal conversion journey.

Remember to Honor the Eucharist

By now, many of us have heard about the uproar over Archbishop Cordileone telling Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, that she cannot receive Holy Communion as long as she clings to her pro-abortion views. I think now is a good time to review the criteria for receiving Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Here’s a good article on Catholic Exchange on what one must do to worthily partake in Communion.

I appreciate how seriously Archbishop Cordileone takes the Eucharist. He’s been a champion of promoting the Real Presence of the Eucharist. It’s unfortunate that so many Catholics think the Eucharist is just a symbol of an event that took place 2000 years ago. It’s no wonder that Mass attendance is down. People don’t realize the miracle that takes place when Jesus comes to us through Holy Communion.

There has been a lot of talk of politicizing and weaponizing the Eucharist. But it isn’t coming from bishops despite what uninformed media are saying. It’s coming from radical, pro-abortion groups vandalizing churches and desecrating the Eucharist over the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade. The Archbishop invites all of us to pray with him this Thursday in a Litany of Reparation for Abuses against the Most Holy Eucharist. It’s virtual over Zoom so anyone can participate.

Join the Archbishop to honor the Blessed Sacrament

Thursday is a good day to pray this litany as it’s also when we traditionally pray the Fifth Luminous Mystery — The Institution of the Eucharist. When we pray this mystery, we should remember how the Eucharist we receive today is every bit as real and miraculous as what the apostles received at the Last Supper. We are connected through time, space, the physical, and the metaphysical to Jesus Christ through Holy Communion. This is the cornerstone of our faith. Without it, Catholicism is basically a record of some good advice Jesus gave long ago. Pray that we worthily receive Jesus and for the conversion of those who harm the Church by intentionally desecrating the Eucharist or receiving it unworthily.

Find Joy by Rediscovering “Awe” of God

Walking Alone

This article is my commentary on these interesting articles. I suggest reading these articles first and then finishing up with mine.

The central message in both of these articles is that many of us choose to walk through our lives without God. We work, eat, sleep, and find various leisure activities but it’s all in a very secular way. We fail to acknowledge God’s influence on our lives throughout our day. Not living with God results in a bleak worldview because we see nothing beyond what can be seen, heard, and explained.

Ignoring God at Our Peril

When we seek answers but then deliberately ignore God’s response, we often receive an inaccurate view of reality. We get information through the lens of politics, media, and big business; all of which have their own interests. Their interests usually don’t include providing you peace, truth, and joy. For example, we may have fears about climate change or Covid. But listening solely to the media or government mouthpieces will give you a distorted view of how you should respond. If you want peace, perspective, and truth, you need to include God in the conversation through prayer.

I’m not saying that you completely ignore all worldly sources of information. Science does a good job of explaining the nature of the physical world around us. Engineering, technology, mathematics, etc. have given us wonderful inventions and improved our standard of living. But there is so much more to our lives than what these fields can explain. We may know the science to create a Covid vaccine or engineer an iPhone. But science and secular psychology can’t show us how to live with true joy. For that, we need to have God in our worldview.

God helps us navigate our fears, anxieties, and all the other aspects of our modern lives. Science may be able to explain Covid and even treat it, but God helps us manage our fears and concerns around it. I think many people are so fearful of Covid, climate change, or the issue of the day because they don’t listen to any higher authority than their social media feeds. They don’t want to listen to God and hear His guidance for navigating our lives amidst these challenges. Take God’s voice out of any current issue and you’re left with a bleak outlook on the world governed by whoever is yelling the loudest.

Finding our Daily “Awe of God”

If you’re looking to bring God into your daily life, pray the Fourth Luminous Mystery of the Rosary — The Transfiguration. When I think of Jesus rising into the sky and turning a dazzling white, I envision the sense of awe St. Peter, James, and John must have felt. I think we need to have a sense of awe of God (traditionally known as “Fear of God”) throughout our day. We need to acknowledge God at work in the very large and the very small.

This is becoming a theme in my posts, but I’m saddened by the drop in regular Mass attendance in my parish since the Covid lockdowns. I think there is a strong correlation between the drop in Mass attendance and the increasing unhappiness many people are feeling. Secularism doesn’t give people a very good means of finding joy. Ever wonder why babies and small children are so happy? Everything in their world has a sense of awe to it. When Jesus said we should be more like children (Matthew 18:3), perhaps he is calling us to regain some of that childlike awe regarding our faith. I think attending Mass and praying will help us find that awe as we start to acknowledge God at work in our lives.

Joy is Following God’s Truth, Not Attacking it

Spinning Plates

Have you ever seen the circus or carnival act where someone attempts to spin multiple plates on sticks? It starts out easy enough but as more plates start to spin, the harder it is to prevent them from crashing down. By focusing on certain plates, others are neglected and fall. It’s only by running around frantically that you keep them going. Even a small miscalculation sends them crashing. It’s difficult to micromanage so many objects taken out of their natural state that will just follow the laws of physics without your constant intervention.

I feel like our society is spinning plates right now on multiple levels whether political, economic, or social. Many of our politicians and their supporters insist on abortion on demand. But we then have to deal with the social impact of life being seen as an inconvenience, not something worth protecting. We have to spin the plates of suicide, euthanasia, broken families, and health issues just to name a few. You can’t just demand freely available abortions and pretend they will happen in a vacuum. Devaluing human life has a chain effect of many undesired consequences.

We see this spinning plate scenario play out in many other areas. We want to legalize all sorts of drugs and behaviors citing “personal freedom.” But then we need to deal with the side effects of people needing to feed their addictions. Society doesn’t want to lock people into marriage and raising families. But then we need to address issues brought about by single-parent households. Lately, we don’t even want to acknowledge basic biology. We then wonder why young adults are so confused and retreat to their phones. After all, isn’t easier to bury your head in Tik-Tok videos than face all these societal messes?

Catholicism: A Solid Foundation

The beauty of Catholicism is that her doctrine avoids the spinning plate problem. Instead of life being a tumult of spinning plates, it’s a nicely set table. Acknowledging the truth about the sanctity and dignity of life avoids the issues and tragedies of promoting a culture of death in the name of freedom or privacy. Following the 10 Commandments leads to people treating each other with respect, peace, and harmony instead of everyone doing whatever they feel like. Knowing that there is the Truth of God sure makes life a lot less confusing than the mess woke progressivism has made.

Catholic doctrine has been pondered and refined for centuries by some of the greatest human minds. Just think of the great works and logical arguements of Saint Thomas Acquinas or Saint Augustine for example. Think about the brilliant encyclicals of the popes. These weren’t politicians looking to boost their re-election chances by catering to their base. They looked at Jesus and his disciples’ teachings and made logical, sound arguments about their validity.

Don’t get me wrong, following Catholic teaching doesn’t lead to a utopia. After all, we are sinful people who can easily be led astray by Satan. But Catholicism has answers that don’t lead to more dispair and unhappiness. It might create more work in the short term whether that be finding a loving home for an unintended pregnancy, fighting addictions, and generally nudging people towards what is good. But, work and effort are not the same as being unhappy or unfulfilled.

I think one of society’s largest problems is that we’ve stopped nudging people to do what’s morally good. Instead, we allow them to do what feels good. As a culture, we indulge peoples’ wants instead of helping them seek what they need. As a Church, we’ve stopped emphasizing the need to regularly attend Mass and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. How do we expect people to do what is right if they no longer hear the Truth and pray to follow it? How can we expect people to reform and convert if they don’t understand the saving power of Reconciliation?

God’s Truth isn’t necessarily a prescription for a specific economic, social, or political system. Although, I’m sure we can all think of political systems that deliberately attack religion and how the countries that embrace them turn out. While the details may be different, systems based on Truth certainly lay a solid foundation for a stable society. I said this in a previous article about how the Bible said God repeatedly punished the Israelites for disobeying Him. I pointed out that the Israelites were probably bringing punishment upon themselves by stealing, lying, murdering, and coveting. A society that embraces the opposite of God’s Truth will inevitably collapse into chaos.

Seeking Truth in the Rosary

I think this is a good time to reflect on the Fourth Luminous Mystery — The Transfiguration. I love the image of Jesus appearing between Moses and Elijah. You have Moses, the bringer of the Law. You have Elijah who challenged and won against the followers of Baal — a pagan God the Israelites repeatedly worshiped and led to much suffering. The Transfiguration is this image of the unification of the Old and New Testament laws and rejection of actions that are anti-Truth. We need to keep this image in our heads when we’re confronted with current issues. Are we following and promoting the laws and practices preached by the people present in the Transfiguration? Or are our “causes” running counter to the Truth?

I also like the Fourth Joyful Mystery when contemplating these topics. The fruit of the Presentation in the Temple is obedience to the law of God. Mary and Joseph faithfully followed Jewish laws and customs. Simeon and Anna, who were praying in the temple, also devoutly followed the law. We too must follow the laws of God even if they create challenges and inconveniences in our lives. Going to Mass, confession, adoration, and prayer services may not be fun compared to video games, movies, and parties. But being aware and obedient to God’s laws is what gives us that moral foundation that will lead to true happiness. It’s a happiness that can only be realized when we embrace God, not fight Him.

The Miracle of Individual Conversion

Conversion is a Process

I find inspiration and hope in the conversion of St. Paul. It makes me realize that God has a plan for all of us, even for those who we deem “lost.” And let’s face it, there are plenty of lost people in this world right now. We live in a post-truth, woke, relativistic, manipulated, fearful, easily offended, snowflake, whipped-up world. It’s easy to feel lost amongst the media noise and competing agendas. Like Saul, who thought he was protecting the Jews from these crazy Christians, people are fighting for all sorts of “causes.” This often ends in people feeling angrier and sadder. Yet, even in all this chaos, God’s plan is at work. Maybe it’s not as dramatic as St. Paul’s conversion, but individuals are converted all the time.

Conversion isn’t usually a one-time event surrounded by blinding light and a voice in the sky. It’s a process of gradual change. For many, conversion is opening their hearts and minds to God’s voice. You may find yourself more motivated to pray, read scripture, and attend Mass. That could evolve into receiving the sacraments, especially Reconciliation. You might find yourself letting go of an old grudge and forgiving those who wronged you. It’s a process of taking a few steps forward and maybe a few steps back.

Conversion in the Rosary

Conversion is a central theme of the Third Luminous Mystery, The proclamation of the kingdom of Heaven and Jesus’ call to conversion. Jesus calls all of us to come to him with our imperfections and ask for his help to convert them. But we should not only pray that we convert our own earthly ways into heavenly ones but for others’ conversion as well. The world feels torn apart right now with the war in Ukraine and various ideologies, ones that have caused so much tragedy, taking hold once again. We need to pray for those individuals who are lost that they may find Jesus Christ and convert to living for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Convert Souls, Not the World

I think we should focus on the changing of individual souls and not praying that the whole world changes. It’s not that praying for world change is a bad thing. I just think it’s a bit of a cop-out. It’s like we want to wake up tomorrow and see that God fixed everything and made our world a utopia. We lost our utopia when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. The world will never be a perfect place. That’s what God wanted, but we choose differently. While the world may never be perfect, God still reaches out to each individual soul offering him a chance to start living for His kingdom.

Gains are made one soul at a time. Sometimes those converted souls can have a large impact on others. Look at Saint Paul’s conversion again. Not only did he stop persecuting Christians, but he went on to write letters that make up a good-sized portion of the New Testament. But a meaningful conversion isn’t one that has a large worldly impact. Finding God’s mercy and grace mean the world to the converted soul. Imagine the near-infinite joy of a single soul, one possibly headed for Hell, finding salvation in Heaven because he converted.

I’m not saying we give up on our world. But the world will never be perfect regardless of what leaders we elect and what laws we pass. It will always be broken until the end of time when God establishes a “New Jerusalem.” There will always be sadness, hardship, and tragedy. But the world and our lives are temporary. Our souls are eternal. Investing in our soul’s well-being is the wiser, long-term investment.

There’s a Little “Doubting Thomas” in All of Us

Poor Saint Thomas. I always felt like he got a bad wrap being forever known as Doubting Thomas. All the apostles had their faults, but Saint Thomas and Saint Peter’s are probably the best known along with Judas Iscariot. How unfortunate that his moment of weakness came to define him. He’s like the kid at school that picked up an unflattering nickname based on doing something silly on his first day.

Why did Saint John include this story about Saint Thomas? All the Gospel writers had good reasons for removing or including certain content. Saint John even went as far as providing editorial notes saying that he intentionally left out many of the acts Jesus performed (John 20:30, 21:25) But he included Saint Thomas’ doubt. That story made the cut. What’s so important about it?

We Can’t Put Our Hands in Jesus’ Side

I think Saint John included this story about doubt knowing that everyone reading it for ages to come would relate. Future generations would be like Saint Thomas — being told of Jesus’ resurrection without actually seeing him. We have the Church telling us that Jesus rose from the dead, but we can’t actually place our hands in Jesus’ nail marks. In the lack of physical evidence, will we doubt or believe?

Before we’re too hard on Saint Thomas, ask yourself if you would have acted differently. Jesus rising from the dead was an extraordinary claim. It wasn’t hardened by thousands of years of Church history. Remember, the apostles at this time were still trying to make sense of Jesus’ teachings. They didn’t have centuries of teachings and theologians to help guide them. I think Saint Thomas’ reaction was reasonable. And it was one that many of us still exhibit today.

Many of us have moments of doubt about our faith. We’re just lucky that we don’t have someone recording our doubts and putting them into the most widely distributed book of all time as Saint Thomas did. I think there are times when we want more proof from God. We want to know that the prayers, fasting, almsgiving, etc. are all necessary and ultimately beneficial. Our doubt manifests itself in various ways such as:

  • Not going to Mass or not paying attention during Mass
  • Not believing in the Real Presence of the Eucharist
  • Delay receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation
  • Not praying
  • Acting in ways that are contrary to Church teaching
  • Committing sin

Sin is Doubting God

It’s that last one, committing sin, that I would like to focus on. Sin is demonstrating a lack of faith. It’s knowing what Jesus wants out of us and then doing the opposite. If we were 100% faithful to Jesus with no doubt in him or his Church, we wouldn’t dare do anything contrary to his teachings. And yet, we all show our doubt when we sin. We implicitly say, “I’ve heard the Church’s teachings, but I don’t fully believe them.” We wouldn’t dare commit a sin if Jesus was physically standing in front of us. But he is always there with us but our doubt blinds us to his presence.

Here’s the good news and why Saint John included Saint Thomas’ story in his Gospel. He knew that future generations, billions of people, will not have the advantage of seeing proof of Jesus’ resurrection like Saint Thomas and the apostles. John’s Gospel says, “Blessed are those who have not seen but believe” (John 20:29). That’s us! This account, while at Saint Thomas’ expense, is meant for us. It is a call for us to have faith in Jesus Christ for all time after Jesus physically left this world in the Ascension.

Fighting Doubt with Rosary Prayer

When I’m looking to fight doubt and have faith, I turn to praying the First Joyful Mystery, The Annunciation. Mary, while confused and puzzled by the Angel Gabriel’s announcement, didn’t doubt God’s plan. Likewise, Saint Joseph, while having concerns of his own, also put his faith in God when he stood by Mary’s side instead of divorcing her. They didn’t demand proof or challenge God like Saint Thomas. Rather, they humbly accepted God’s Will. When we pray this mystery, let’s also ask God for humble faith in His divine Will.

I also think about the Third Luminous Mystery, The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Call to Conversion. The Kingdom of Heaven is real. But how much faith and confidence do we have living for it instead of earthly delights? Again, when we sin, it shows our doubt in the reality of God’s heavenly kingdom. And that is why Jesus calls us to conversion. Conversion means having more faith and less doubt in God’s plan for us. It means trying harder to live for something we cannot immediately see instead of demanding God to prove himself.

Unfortunately, Saint Thomas can’t escape his Doubting Thomas label. But Saint John included his account in his Gospel for our benefit. Are you striving to live in God’s grace and have faith in God’s plan? Or are you wasting valuable time demanding proof before living for God’s kingdom?

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.

God: King of the Very Large and Small

Isn’t it amazing that God chose you to live at this particular time and place? Of all the billions of years the universe has existed, of all the years people have roamed the earth, of all the cultures, you happen to live now. You can read this web page, pray the Rosary, and appreciate the Real Presence of God in the Eucharist. Cosmically speaking, we are in a very small group of people who can do all that. God is the king of both the very big and very small. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He created all that there is and ever will be. But he also humbled himself to become one of us through His son, Jesus Christ.

The Vastness of Space

I once heard an astrophysicist say that when it comes to space and the universe, whatever large size and distance you think objects are, you’re probably 10,000 times off. For example, our Milky Way galaxy is slowly headed on a collision course with the Andromeda galaxy. Both galaxies are made up of billions of stars. And yet, when they collide billions of years from now, the chances of two stars colliding are infinitesimally small. And to think that our galaxy is one of the billions of galaxies. It boggles the mind how large our universe is.

In this great vastness are sets of rules and laws that govern everything. God engineered a universe where there are causes and reasons on how everything fits together from massive black holes, to the movement of waves in the sea, to the interaction of subatomic particles. As we discover more about how our universe works, it makes God all that more impressive. He is a creator of such a complex universe and yet everything works in harmony. Nothing happens arbitrarily. To compare, most software developers can’t write more than a few lines of code without introducing a bug or vulnerability. And yet God designed a universe of near-infinite complexity.

The Smallness of Humanity

But God is also the king of the very small, namely us. In this interstellar stew of galaxies, stars, black holes, and nebulas, we exist. And not only do we exist, but we have the gift of knowing God through His son, Jesus Christ. The universe is billions of years old. We hit the galactic bullseye that of all the time and places, we have the honor and privilege of knowing Jesus. For billions of years, the universe was just gasses and rocks in a vast emptiness. Generations of humans went through their existence without being able to experience Jesus.

The Awe of the Transfiguration

When we pray the Fourth Luminous Mystery, The Transfiguration, let’s thank God for giving us the gift of knowing Jesus and his Church. God’s design didn’t need to include Him taking human form. Imagine the great humility that the God who created this vast universe wanted to become human so that we may know him better. And not just “us” in that universal sense, but he wants a special relationship with each one of us individually. The Transfiguration should remind us of just how much of a gift Jesus is to humanity. Put yourself on that hill with Peter and John and marvel at God’s compassion for us.

When you go to Mass, just think of everything that God made happen to put you there in His presence. Of all the billions of years of the universe’s existence, of the trillions of stars spread out millions of light-years, of all the generations of humanity, you can sit in a Catholic church with Jesus through the Eucharist. And like how the laws of physics align to make the universe, God’s design aligns to put you into a church on a specific day celebrating Mass. Take advantage of this remarkable gift.