Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Counsel

Spiderman has a superpower called “spidey sense.” He can sense danger before any of his physical senses detect anything. This allows him to quickly move out of harm’s way and he looks like he can move at supernatural speeds. This power is akin to a Star Wars Jedi having lightning-quick reflexes because they can use the Force to see things moments before they happen.

The Holy Spirit gives us a spiritual superpower through the gift of Counsel. Counsel allows us to judge rightly what to do in a particular circumstance. It’s our spiritual “spidey sense” that tells us if something seems right or wrong morally. Counsel truly is a supernatural gift because we can sense right and wrong at a young age before we can explain them. For example, most of us haven’t read or memorized every law in the Catechism. And yet, we know what is good and what is evil without this academic knowledge. That’s the gift of counsel working in our lives.

God imprints a natural law onto everyone’s heart. Natural law is our ability to intrinsically deduce morally correct behavior. And while we all may have the natural law imprinted on us, the gift of counsel amplifies it. It takes a sense that we all have and makes some of us more aware of the moral dangers around us. And when we are more aware of them, we can use the gift of wisdom to act correctly.

Counsel in the Rosary

When you pray the First Luminous Mystery, Jesus’ Baptism, remember to pray for all of those who are born again in Christ but maybe need to be reminded of what it means to be Christian. Their awareness of natural law may be diminished. We need to pray that they receive the gift of counsel. Or maybe, God is calling us to evangelize more to our brothers and sisters that may have fallen away from their faith.

Likewise, praying the First Luminous Mystery is a good time to also pray for all our brothers and sisters who have not been baptized. God has imprinted His natural law in their hearts as well. They too could use the help of the Holy Spirit in the gift of counsel. After all, when more people, regardless of religion, have a better sense of right and wrong, we all benefit. We can all live in a world that is more peaceful with people who are more pleasant to be around.

Remember the gift of counsel when you meditate on the Second Joyful Mystery, the Visitation. Remember how counsel is an almost supernatural ability? Think about how Elizabeth, without being told, knew that Mary carried Jesus, the Savior, in her womb. All she did was hear Mary’s voice and she “was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:42). Counsel not only gives us the ability to sense what is wrong but also heightens our ability to feel God’s presence in our lives and respond joyfully.

Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the gift of counsel. It will help you move to follow God’s Will on a more instinctual level; almost automatically. We already have so much to remember and worry about in our lives regarding work, family, health, finances, etc. Wouldn’t it be nice if following God was something we did more naturally? Wouldn’t it be great if instead of wondering, “Is this the right thing to do?”, we knew it is the right thing to do. That’s what the Holy Spirit gives us through counsel.

Catholicism: Benefits Outweigh the Burdens

I came across this article about how priests are held to higher moral standards than a layperson. Because a priest is Jesus’ representative here on Earth via his vocation, he needs to be held to a higher standard. But I want to take this one step further. Are Catholics in general held to a higher moral standard than a secular person? Doesn’t that seem unfair? Why would someone want to practice a faith that adds more burdens to his life?

The Catholic Exchange article, The Holiness of Priests Makes the Entire Church Holy, talks about how priests are in persona Christi—in the person of Christ. This grants them great power. But to quote Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. A priest must be that much more devout because he’s a greater target for Satan and he’s responsible for the sins of his congregation.

St. Anthony Mary Claret said it would be better to leave a town without a priest than to have one who is unworthy. “If God does not send me men who are truly called, God himself will have to take care of the men and souls by means of his angels. A call is God’s gift. I must not bring the unworthy into the sheepfold to destroy it instead of tending it.”

When we pray the First Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, remember to pray for priests. We promise to follow God when we’re baptized. But priests have a responsibility to guide us in our journey. They have an awesome responsibility to lead us in the right direction by teaching God’s Truth. A priest that doesn’t take that duty seriously or abuses his position not only harms himself but harms those he leads astray. Priests need our support and prayers.

What about laypeople? Do we also have more of a burden of holiness than a secular person? After all, we skip Sunday Mass and we’ve committed a sin. But someone of a different religion is not committing a sin when they don’t go to Mass if they were never taught that rule. Other religions can essentially follow God’s natural law while Catholics have to follow all these other additional rules. Doesn’t that seem a bit unfair?

This question over Church rules relates to my previous article about the “Nones” who reject traditional spiritually because they just see it as a collection of rules, burdens, and responsibilities. Why follow a religion that tells you that everything you want to do is wrong? Isn’t it better to find a religion (or create your own) that doesn’t punish someone for being who he wants to be?

What the Nones miss, either when talking about the additional responsibilities of a priestly vocation or being a practicing Catholic, are the tremendous benefits of Christianity. God bestows His grace on you. He lays out a path for you to eventually spend eternity with Him in Heaven. Everything about God is about finding joy. And that’s something that magic crystals, breathing exercises, and new-age spiritualism can’t match.

To find joy in any relationship, you have to follow some rules. You can’t have a meaningful relationship with a spouse if you’re selfish, uncaring, manipulative, or abusive. You have to put forth the effort to make the relationship flourish even if that means taking on some additional responsibilities. And the same goes for Catholicism. To have a meaningful relationship with God, you have to make an effort to make the relationship work. And that means committing yourself to follow God’s laws and understanding how they lead to eternal happiness.

When you pray the Third Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, remember that Jesus proclaimed God’s kingdom of Heaven. Finding joy in Heaven should be our main goal in life. We acknowledge that it will have its burdens and challenges but we ask our Heavenly Mother Mary for guidance and intercession. We pray the Rosary so that we may see how God’s grace is well worth any sacrifices we make or burdens we bare.

When you pray the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, remember that even Jesus was scared of doing God’s Will. He asked God to change the plan. But Jesus also understood that God’s plan would ultimately lead to joy, not just for Jesus in conquering death, but for all humanity. We have been redeemed by Jesus’ sacrifice and the gates of Heaven are open to us all. Jesus shows us how we must focus on God’s Will and not become discouraged by the relatively small burdens it places on us.

The Nones Don’t Get It and It’s Our Fault

I read an article from the LA Times titled How millennials replaced religion with astrology and crystals. And it made me angry, both with society and also how we, the Church, have failed to connect with a generation of young adults yearning for authentic spirituality. The article discusses how the under-40 crowd has replaced traditional religious practices with astrology, crystals, and tarot cards. Not only is this a shallow replacement, but it’s also a dangerous one since these practices lead towards the demonic and occult.

“This is a worldwide, but certainly American, trend toward heterodoxy — toward individuals cooking up their own spiritual or religious stew and cooking it up their way,” Burklo said. “You’re seeing an aggregation of disaffiliation, people coming up with their own meaning-making and their own personal spiritualities.”

— Jim Burklo, senior associate dean of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life at USC

Religious stew? Cook it up your own way? To me, this sounds like code for “I want to do what feels good and everyone has to accept it.” This is like a child saying he wants to only eat candy and drink soda and his parents must agree that it’s a healthy choice. Look, I would love it if we could do whatever made us feel good. But that’s not how the world really works.

The food equivalent of new-age spirituality — sweet but not good for you.

The Church knows how the world, and what lies beyond this world, really works. And that is why it teaches a very specific doctrine. This doctrine has its root in God and been interpreted over centuries by great scholars. I’m sorry, but when it comes to defining good and evil, I’ll take Saint Thomas Aquinas over what some 20 year old chooses to believe. Yes, much of what the Chruch teaches is hard to believe and even harder to follow. But that doesn’t make it any less true. Telling your child he needs to eat a balanced diet may sound harsh to him, but it’s what any loving parent would do.

At its best, these new forms of spirituality are shallow and pointless. The article talks about someone who puts on 90-minute breathing and meditation classes that many see as a cross between yoga and therapy. So, are all those people praying the Rosary and meditating in front of the Blessed Sacrament holding their breath? Prayer can have every bit of the calming and relaxing aspects of these breathing classes but it also has an extremely powerful element — God. God is listening, He is responding, and He is reaching out to you. He wants to form a close and loving relationship with you. It’s not just you breathing into a void. Given the choice between diving inward into my own thoughts through new-age breathing or venturing outward towards God through prayer, I choose God every day of the week.

Worse, these new-age, DIY spiritualities are incredibly dangerous. They are Satan’s means for luring you away from the truth; away from God. He wants people to put their faith in anything but God because he knows they’ll be weaker and more susceptible to his influence.

Think about the soldiers in the military. Their drill instructors are hard on them because they know the seriousness of the job. If the instructors let recruits do whatever they felt like and made them “happy” by telling them soft, sweet words of affirmation, those recruits wouldn’t be ready for combat. The same goes for us in the spiritual battle we take part in every day. The Chruch can be hard on us but it’s for our own good. It’s so we harden our defenses against Satan.

Worse yet, we as a universal Catholic Church need to take some responsibility for the rise in the “Nones” — those yearning for something spiritual but turning away from traditional teachings. The article talks about how people moved to new age spirituality because they didn’t like the binary aspects of traditional religion. They didn’t like how the Church told them that certain aspects of their lifestyle were wrong and sinful.

But this is our failing because that means they were never explained why certain actions are wrong, dangerous, and ultimately lead to great sorrow. They just heard “don’t do that” without context. In a way, we as a Chruch haven’t put in the required effort to explain that just because we sin doesn’t mean we aren’t loved. We haven’t shown them the vast array of tools the Church has to keep them on a path of joy such as the Rosary, the intervention of our Mother Mary, the intercession of the saints, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, etc.

Holy Spirit, guide us in bringing the “Nones” back home to God’s grace

Let us turn to the Holy Spirit and ask for guidance when we pray the First Luminous Mystery of the Rosary. We meditate on Jesus’ Baptism and recall our baptism. We recall the baptismal promises that were made and we renew at Mass. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to open the hearts and minds of those who do not believe the Church has what they yearn for. We pray for priests; that they make an effort to teach the truth and reach out to those who don’t understand the Church’s teachings. And we pray for the strength to go out and live and share Jesus’ teachings so that we may also convert those who have fallen away from greatness, beauty, comfort, and joys of the Catholic faith.

Human Life is Sacred Because We are an Ark of God’s Laws

Many of the religious apps and websites I use provide commentary and meditations on the day’s Gospel reading.  And they are great and worth reading.  However, I too often skip or race through the readings from the Old and New Testaments usually because I don’t understand them and many sites don’t explain them to the degree they explain the Gospel.  This is especially true of the Old Testament readings that often use different prose that can be difficult to parse.  I want to try to start focusing more on the non-Gospel readings and tie them to the various mysteries of the Rosary.

Last Sunday’s Old Testament reading came from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah (unless you were using the Year A readings).

The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel
and the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers
the day I took them by the hand
to lead them forth from the land of Egypt;
for they broke my covenant,
and I had to show myself their master, says the LORD.
But this is the covenant that I will make
with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD.
I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts;
I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives
how to know the LORD.
All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD,
for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.

As you know, the law God gave the Israelites was the stone tablets containing the 10 Commandments.  They stored them in the Ark of the Covenant.  The Israelites carried the Ark through their wandering in the desert and set up a sacred tent and later a temple to house them.  And while sacred, the law was something physically inscribed on stone tablets and regarded as external constraints imposed by a distant God.  You see this throughout the Old Testament through the Israelites disobeying God.  In fact, by the time Moses came to deliver the 10 Commandments, the Israelites had already broken God’s law by worshiping a golden calf idol.  Worshiping the God that brought them out of slavery in Egypt didn’t come naturally to them and they had to be explicitly told to follow God as one of the commandments.

English: The Ark of God Carried into the Templ...
English: The Ark of God Carried into the Temple Español: El Arca introduciéndose en el Templo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The prophet Jeremiah provides a preview of what is to come through Jesus Christ when he talks about the new law being written in people’s hearts, not on stone tablets.  This connects Jesus’ teaching that He came to fulfill the law, not abolish it.  Jesus did not invent a new law but reminded everyone of the law that was always there inside of us.  And since God’s law is imprinted on our hearts, that makes each of us a sacred ark similar to how the Ark of the Covenant was sacred because it contained the 10 Commandments.  That is just one more reason why Catholics consider human life sacred and fight so hard to protect it.

Since God’s law is imprinted on all our hearts, Jesus calls everyone to be His disciple.  This means that God’s law transcends religions, nationalities, genders, and customs even if some people don’t know it by the name “Christianity.”  This is known as the natural law that God calls everyone to follow.  It is the law that theologians and philosophers have teased out over the centuries to arrive at fundamental moral truths that belong to all of us, not a specific group.  This law binds us all together and that is why all people are brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Rosary Connection

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jo...
Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River by John. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When we pray the First Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River should remind us of our baptismal vows.  These vows are a verbal acknowledgment of the law that God has imprinted on all our hearts and by which we should live.  And while this law applies to the baptized and the unbaptized alike, it’s good that we understand them so that we can always try to live by them.  When you pray the First Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, I suggest that you recall your baptismal vows and examine your conscience.  Are you living up to the promises you made at your baptism and renew periodically during Mass?

  • Do you renounce sin, so as to live in the freedom of the children of God?
  • Do you renounce the lure of evil, so that sin may have no mastery over you
  • Do you renounce Satan, the author and prince of sin?
  • Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?
  • Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered death and was buried, rose again from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father?
  • Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
  • And may almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given us new birth by water and the Holy Spirit and bestowed on us forgiveness of our sins, keep us by his grace, in Christ Jesus our Lord, for eternal life.

 

What’s in a Name? Cecil the lion and the Natural Law

I tried really hard to avoid writing about Cecil the lion. Like many people, I don’t really see the point in big game hunting. But I also don’t understand how this one case escalated to international news.  I don’t know the statistics, but I assume big game hunting (legal and illegal) goes on all the time.  Why this case got so much attention beats me.  I then came across an article that summed up why maybe this lion story touched such a collective nerve.

Over at CatholicAllYear.com, Kendra wrote an article titled Why We Feel Better if We Care About Cecil the Lion.  She recognizes the human need to acknowledge universal truth in a world that tries hard to suppress it.  She writes:

A huge segment of our population has been struggling ever since they reached the age of reason to reconcile a personal disgust with the idea of abortion, with the loudly trumpeted demands that we all must recognize that it’s NONE OF OUR BUSINESS and we’d better just pipe down. Choice. My body. Reproductive freedom. It’s not really a baby. All of it has been shouted in the streets until two generations now honestly can’t tell right from wrong or good from evil.

The same goes for other evils we’re supposed to celebrate as choice: like euthanasia, and free love, and conceiving children in such a way as to necessarily deprive them of one or both of their parents.

Moral relativism denies a fundamental part of our Truth-seeking human natures. As human beings, we crave moral absolutes. We know somewhere deep down that there IS such a thing as wrong, such a thing as evil. And we want so badly to be allowed to point a finger at it, finally, that when poor, not-actually-all-that-important-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things Cecil the lion comes along, we can barely contain ourselves.

Here’s my take.  People are upset because unlike other animals killed by hunters, this lion has a name and a history.  Like we do with our pets, we personify Cecil so his killing strikes at the same parts of our emotions as a human being’s murder.  This personification is why we cry watching Old Yeller and the lack of it is why most of us don’t give a second thought to the thousands of animals that are killed every day for food.

This lack of identification is also why we don’t bat much of an eye over the evil of abortion.  Because it’s evilness becomes strikingly obvious when you realize that every abortion is a life lost.  Does the fact that the aborted life didn’t have a name or a history make it any less tragic when he/she is killed?  Are we as a culture so short sighted that we don’t understand that an aborted life would have had a name and history if we let him/her grow?  We’ve murdered millions of Alisons, Margarets, and Jakes.  We’ve murdered many successful doctors, writers, engineers, and scientists that the world will never know.  We’ve murdered millions of best friends, husbands, shoulders to cry on, mentors, and co-workers.  It’s shocking what something as simple as attaching a name to a life does to the perceived value of it.  In one case, attaching a name to an animal raises international outcry while not attaching a name to a human being allows the murder of thousands every day.

Early ultrasound
Dr. Sam Livingston, a promising young physician, killed and harvested for his organs

The RosaryMeds Prescription

Whenever the issue of abortion comes up as it is with the release of these shocking videos from The Center for Medical Progress and debates within the halls of Congress, the Second Joyful Mystery seems like an obvious mystery to meditate on.  Elizabeth exclaims how the baby in her womb leaped for joy at the sound of Mary’s greeting (Luke 1:44).  It’s not “the tissue moved” or “some cells divided”, but a baby leaped out of joy.  This mystery reminds us just how precious life is at every stage of development and that we are infused with a soul at the moment of conception.  We must pray for the conversion of souls and the conversion of our culture to acknowledge the inherent dignity of human life at all stages.

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

But let’s dive deeper.  What about this craving for universal truth that the CatholicAllYear article mentions?  What rosary mystery speaks to the importance of knowing what is right and wrong?  The First Luminous Mystery comes to mind.  When I meditate on this mystery, I remember that not everyone is baptized into the Catholic Church and yet everyone does have the God given gift to know what is inherently good and what is evil.  This is often referred to as natural law and it’s something God inscribes in all our hearts; both the baptized and the unbaptized alike.

We live in a culture that tries so very hard to deny this natural law and reject this gift from God.  When we pray the First Luminous Mystery, let’s remember to pray for the conversion of those who struggle in life because of their denial of truth.  We must also pray for the conversion of our world to one that lives in acknowledgement of natural law, not in denial of it.


 

Notice anything different on the RosaryMeds home page?  More news on the new Meditations link coming soon.

Rosary Prayer: Keeping Your Soul Out of Trouble

I have a two and a half year old toddler.  Anyone who has raised kids that age knows that you have to watch them like a hawk.  He will find a new and creative way to either hurt himself or destroy something the instant you turn your attention elsewhere.  I’ve seen water cups poured on tables because he wanted to create a swimming pool for his toys.  Crayons, pens, and markers rarely stay on paper.  Sharp objects on kitchen tables that used to be out of reach are suddenly reachable.  Kids just have the sixth sense of knowing when they aren’t being watched.

Why do I bring this up?  Is it to vent about the challenges of raising kids?  Okay, maybe that’s partially it.  But this isn’t a blog about parenting.  It’s a blog about faith and rosary prayer.  And I see a lot of parallels between practicing the faith and raising a toddler.  Chiefly, if you turn your attention away from your faith, even for a second, trouble will fill the gap.  Like a parent who has to constantly watch a toddler, you have to be constantly aware of your faith and how God’s calls you to live so that you will avoid falling into sinful behavior.  What that means is that you have to routinely pray the rosary so that it will serve as a small check up on the health of your soul.

The more you pray the rosary the more in touch with your faith you will be.  Going back to the child analogy.  Will a child that is checked on every few minutes get into less trouble than the one checked on every few hours? Probably.  Similarly, the soul that is “checked on” more often will less likely fall into sinful behavior.  In one of my original posts on the First Luminous Mystery I said how rosary prayer is a lot like brushing your teeth and going to the dentist.  You need to brush your teeth regularly and see a dentist so that your teeth remain in the best health and problems can be corrected when they are still small.  Similarly, you need good spiritual hygiene of routine prayer — daily prayer if not more often.  That allows you to recognize and correct faults and weaknesses while they are small before they escalate into major problems.

English: A little girl has her first visit to ...
The rosary — it’s your soul’s little dentist visit.

Another aspect to keeping a toddler out of trouble is actively engaging them.  While sometimes I wish my son would entertain himself with his toys and all I need to do is occasionally correct him if he starts doing something wrong, that is not how raising a child works.  Keeping my son out of trouble usually means interacting with him through playing, reading, singing, etc.  Sitting down with my son with a bucket of Lego bricks has proved infinitely better at keeping him out of trouble than millions of passively said “no’s”, “don’t touch that”, “and take that out of your mouth.”

The rosary is also something that works best when you’re actively engaged praying it.  When you break out of thinking of rosary prayer as a mechanical uttering of words you also forge a more meaningful relationship with God.  Rosary prayer isn’t a passive activity, at least it’s not if you want to get something out of it.  Like the toddler that needs your engagement more than he needs to hear your rules, the rosary requires active participation to be truly effective.  It is your opportunity to really interact with God and lay out your petitions, sorrows, and thanksgivings.  It’s not about fulfilling some todo item to make God happy but is your chance to actually learn God’s plan for you.

I understand that making time for rosary prayer is difficult.  It’s probably even more difficult than interacting with a toddler.  Last time I checked, a rosary doesn’t take a box of crackers out of the cupboard and empties it out on the kitchen floor when you don’t pray it.  A rosary can be easily forgotten.  After all, bills need to be paid.  You need to go to work.  You need to sleep.  You need to clean.  You need to keep your children from painting on the walls.  I get it.

I learned in college that you always make time for the activities that are priorities.  There are just some activities you cannot ignore because your health, finances, or relationships depend on you making time for them.  My challenge to you is to elevate your spiritual well being as a priority in your life and make praying the rosary a routine.  It’s Advent now which means it’s a new church year.  Make rosary prayer your resolution.

The Pope Said What Exactly?

The mainstream media made a lot of hay over a non-event recently.  As many of you have heard or read, Pope Francis gave a very candid 80 minute interview when he was flying back from World Youth Day in Brazil.  The media ran with the pope’s statement about homosexuality.  He said:

When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem … they’re our brothers.

And so World Youth Day, when literally millions of Catholics publicly celebrated their faith, was unfortunately overshadowed in the media by a few sentences in an interview.  The mainstream media basically buried an event where nearly three million Catholics attended Mass on the last day of the week-long celebration and young Catholics from around the globe excitedly displayed their faith.  The press thought that they heard a change in Catholic teaching regarding homesexuality when all the pope was doing was stating what the Church has taught for centuries — hate the sin, love the sinner, and it’s no one’s place to judge but God.  Maybe, if the press actually covered and fairly analyzed World Youth Day, they would have realized that what Pope Francis said in that interview was exactly the teachings millions celebrated that entire week.  I’m not going to go into more details over the way the mainstream media misreported on the pope’s comments.  If you want to read about that, you can see a good summary in the National Catholic Register.

3 million people celebrated Mass with the pope just in case you didn’t hear.

The media’s misunderstanding and misreporting on the Catholic Church shows just how important it is to continually learn about your faith.  So many people disagree or criticize the Catholic Church, not on what it teaches, but on what they think it teaches.  And many Catholics either fall away or become disengaged (that’s code for Christmas and Easter Catholic) from the Church on a false premise.  And who can blame them?  Late night TV hosts, comedians, politicians, and the media are the ones who paint the picture of the Catholic Church for most people.  Are they presenting the Church that was on full display on World Youth Day or the one out of a Dan Brown novel?  No wonder so many people fall away or attack the Church when they learn more about it from John Stewart or Jay Leno than the pope, their priest, or the parish community.  Our silence on the authentic teachings of the Church creates a vacuum that the modern media and entertainment companies more than happily fill with their agenda.

What RosaryMeds Do I Need?

English: Modern Baptism in a Catholic Church

Society suffers from a severe case of falseteachingitis.  The main symptom is hallucinations of a Catholic Church that doesn’t really exist.  It’s very dangerous because those hallucinations prevent people from receiving regular doses of God’s grace.  It’s a vicious downward spiral where confusion leads to hatred which in turn leads to more confusion and more hatred about the Church’s teachings.  The antidote is rosary meditation and prayer especially on the First Luminous Mystery — Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan.  We must remember that we promised (or someone promised for us) to faithfully follow the teachings of the Catholic Church.  That implies that we must learn those teachings.  And by learning, I don’t mean watching a special on the History Channel about someone who think he knows where the Ark of the Covenant resides.  I’m talking about actually sitting down and reading the Bible (or listening to it), participating in (not just attending) Mass every Sunday, receiving the sacraments, and reading the Catechism and other Church documents.  In short, we honor our baptismal vows by centering our lives around our faith instead of pushing it off to the side.  When we actively learn, pray, and participate in our faith as a community, we leave no gaps in understanding that others can fill with falsehoods.

Here are our baptismal vows.  They are similar to the Apostle’s Creed we recite at the beginning of every rosary or Nicene Creed we recite during Mass.  But often we may say the words on auto-pilot without really thinking about what they mean.  We shouldn’t make any promise lightly, especially one we make before God.  Read and meditate on this prayer.  Ask yourself how well you are living up to this promise.  And are you publicly living these vows so that others witness the true Catholic Church?

Do you renounce sin, so as to live in the freedom of the children of God?

I do.

Do you reject the lure of evil, so that sin my have no mastery over you?

I do.

Do you reject Satan, the author and prince of sin?

I do.

Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?

I do.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered death and was buried, rose again from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father?

I do.

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?

I do.

And may almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has given us new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and bestowed on us forgiveness of our sins, keep us by his grace, in Christ Jesus our Lord, for eternal life.

Amen.

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Are You Feeding Your Soul Junk Food?

Summer is here which means it’s county fair season. For me the county fair bring two treats — watching my son see farm animals that he has only seen in picture books and indulging in some fattening foods. This year I tried a fried Twinkie for the first time. For those who don’t know, it’s a Twinkie (actually, an off-brand imitation since Hostess has not restarted production yet) dipped in batter, fried, and then covered in powdered sugar. It was like eating a freshly made donut with warm cream filling only it’s the size of a corndog. And as good as it tasted at the time, my body paid for it later. First, it sat like a brick in my stomach and I just felt sluggish and tired.  Later I experienced a total sugar crash followed by the guilt that I really didn’t do my body any favors partaking in that temporary culinary indulgence.

A Real Deep-fried Twinkie
Fried Twinkies… so bad and yet soooo good.

My fried Twinkie experience reminded me that God designed the human body to expect a certain type of food for energy. He didn’t design the body to gracefully process mountains of fat, sugar, and chemicals that is certainly present in foods like my fried Twinkie. Eating unhealthy food is actually a double-whammy health-wise because you are not only dealing with the insurgence of fat and sugar, but you’re also missing an opportunity to give your body something beneficial. When you treat your body in a way contrary to how God intended for you to use it, you (sugar) crash and burn.

Much like how our physical bodies are designed to act a certain way, so are our souls. And when we move outside the limits of a healthy spiritual diet we also crash and burn by losing God’s grace. First of all, what is a healthy spiritual diet? I see it as a life centered around living key virtues such as chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility. We find the strength to live those virtues by centering our lives around prayer and meditation because those are the times we dialogue with God and learn His will. A healthy soul is one that lives according to the golden rule and is motivated to do good works out of a love for God and others.  A healthy soul needs periodic feeding through prayer and attending Mass.

Unfortunately, similar to how much of society suffers from a physical health epidemic, we also have a societal spiritual decay. Vices such as lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride fuel this spiritual decay. And we see these vices everywhere in society as we’ve normalized pre-marital sex, single parent households, pornography, cheating, stealing, killing, abortion, euthanasia, illegal drug use, excessive drinking, and just a general disregard for treating others respectfully and the dignity of the human person. Much like a donut occupying space that could otherwise be filled with vegetables, all these vices occupy space in our souls and leave no room for God’s grace. Many of us are consuming spiritual junk food that is destroying our soul’s health. And we aren’t eating our spiritual “vegetables” that keep our souls strong and healthy. Just look at the empty pews at Mass, the short lines at the confessional, and society’s general apathy and hostility towards anything spiritual. Like how fast food has replaced a balanced meal, vices have replaced virtues as a normal way of life for an increasing number of people.

What RosaryMeds Do I Need?

I have a feeling fighting the spiritual obesity epidemic will need prayer and meditation on all 20 mysteries of the rosary. The rosary walks through the Gospel and the Gospel is Jesus and Jesus’ love is what our souls crave. Praying any mystery and taking its message to heart is a step towards God’s grace and a step away from sin. You can’t be both sinning and living virtuously at the same time. So the more time you spend doing things that are virtuous, the less opportunity you have to sin. And what could be more virtuous than praying relentlessly and then letting those prayers manifest into good works?

Medjugorje : Confession as it should be.

But for those who really need a specific mystery to meditate on, try the First Luminous Mystery, Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan. We should remember two important aspects about the Sacrament of Baptism. First we should remember our baptismal vows that we periodically renew during Mass — to reject sin and to believe in the Holy Trinity. Acting virtuously and spiritually isn’t something reserved for priests and nuns, but something all Catholics profess and promise to live by. Secondly, baptism is about renewal and getting a clean start. No matter how badly and often we sin, we can always get a second chance through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Using the diet analogy, we sometimes fail to eat healthy foods and give into moments of weakness. After all, who can resist picking up a little treat at the market or a fried Twinkie at the fair? But just because you have those moments of weakness doesn’t lock you into a lifetime of eating nothing but junk food. You can always reset and refocus to live and eat healthier. The same goes for our faith. We may have moments of weakness and sin, but that doesn’t prevent us from confessing them, getting a clean slate, and trying to live more virtuously in the future.

So pray vigorously, avoid sin, and for Heaven’s sake share fried Twinkies with friends because they are just too much for any single person. Your soul and your body will thank you.

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