The Extraordinary Strength of the Catholic Church

Catholic All-Stars

The movie, The Exorcist, is loosely based on the true story of the demonic possession of a boy known as Roland Doe (not his real name). Father Spitzer, in his book, Christ Versus Satan in Our Daily Lives, chronicles the details of the actual events showing the reality of demons and evil. Roland and his family were actually protestants. When the possessions started occurring they initially went to their pastor. However, the pastor couldn’t match the strength of Roland’s demon and referred his case to Catholic priests. After years of struggle, the Catholic priests exorcised the demon. Later, Roland converted to Catholicism.

I find it interesting that when faced with a powerful evil, the Catholic Church is the only institution that can defeat it. I like the fact that the Church is the all-star team or the special forces of the spiritual realm. When Satan is vigorously attacking us, the Catholic Church has the best defense against him. If someone were to ask me why I’m Catholic, part of my answer would include that the Catholic Church, Mary, and the Rosary are the few entities that Satan actually fears. Why wouldn’t I want the strongest protection against evil?

Sacrificing it All

It’s not easy being one of the elite. An all-star athlete needs to continuously train and make sacrifices. They need to follow workout routines and diets. They need to have laser-sharp focus. Special forces soldiers need to put up with discomfort and know how to handle their fears and perceived limitations. The same is true for Catholics. We need to be highly disciplined and focused, make sacrifices, and follow routines as we combat Satan and face our own doubts and fears.

We train to combat temptation, sin, and evil through Mass attendance and prayer. Serving God needs to be always on our minds. Like athletes needing to focus on their sport, we need to focus on our faith. We may not have the determination of a saint, but that doesn’t mean we can be lazy and half-hearted. We still need to practice our faith the best we can. The good news is that God will help us and fill in our deficiencies when he sees we have a genuine desire to serve Him.

Dumbing Down the Catholic Church

Unfortunately, many of our Catholic brothers and sisters seem to no longer want to put forth the effort required by Jesus Christ. They want to choose that easy life of sleep-in Sundays and moral flexibility. And that may seem fine and even beneficial, for a little while at least. If all is going well and we’re comfortable, we may not see our need for God. But eventually, we all come up against that monumental challenge, temptation, or tragedy. One day, Satan may set his sights on you. And if you haven’t prepared, you won’t be strong enough to stand up and defeat him.

There is a huge need for strong faith in our world that is becoming ever more devoid of morality and allowing Satan more influence. And that is why I get so concerned and scared when I hear about the Church relaxing or not emphasizing many of her teachings. Great sports teams aren’t made through laziness nor are great Catholics. We need to understand that the threat is real and that is why the Church has traditionally set the bar so high. She is only echoing the teachings of Jesus who asks us to sacrifice everything for Him.

Further Reading

If you can, read these articles about why the Catholic faith needs to be challenging and demand so much of us. In embracing our faith, we not only find the strength to reject Satan but more importantly, find joy and peace in God’s grace. I hope these articles will inspire you to start or continue praying the Rosary, receiving the Sacraments, and living according to Catholic teachings.

You have to excuse the long delay in writing new articles. I’ve been so busy lately working, coaching soccer, and participating in different parish ministries. I really wanted to write more about each one of the above articles. Hopefully, I’ll have more time in the future to deep dive into those articles.

What to do with the Time God Gives Us

Lord of the Rings

Continuing my movie insights, the next movie I want to look at is The Lord of the Rings. Now, finding the religious significance of this series is a bit of a cheat. J.R.R Tolkein was a devout Catholic and LOTR is chalked full of religious symbolism and philosophy. Hopefully, I can find some fresh ground to tie to Rosary prayer.

The scene I am going to focus on in this article comes in The Fellowship of the Ring. The fellowship is deep in Moria and they have already encountered multiple challenges. Frodo, the ring bearer, laments that he wishes the ring never came to him and that none of these challenges ever happened. Gandolf, the wise wizard, answers that we don’t get to choose our circumstances; we only have to decide what to do with the time given.

The Grass is Not Greener on the Other Side

We often act like Frodo and lament our circumstances and wish they were different. Maybe our family life is difficult with our spouse, kids, parents, or siblings. Maybe we have health or financial issues. Perhaps our work situation is unpleasant, non-existent, or stressful. We can all look at parts of our lives and wish they were different.

This “grass is greener on the other side” mentality is a bit misleading. Often, we wish for a time or a world that has never really existed. Has there ever been a “good time” on earth? Most of human history has been a struggle to survive and find meaning. People suffered before Jesus came into the world, during his earthly ministry, and afterward. Jesus didn’t eliminate pain and suffering, wars, famines, and difficulty. He did not usher in good times.

Jesus gave us a way of deciding what to do in the narrow band of human history we happen to live through. He taught us how to love God and love each other. He showed us God’s Will and His grace. The Catholic Church has led humanity throughout history on what to do with the time given to us. It hasn’t changed whether you were a surf in medieval Europe, a pilgrim settling in North America, an English baker experiencing a German bombing in WWII, or an Uber driver today.

The Rosary

Think of the Third Luminous Mystery — The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and Jesus’ Call to Conversion. This mystery puts forth the question, whose kingdom will you live for in the time given to you? Will it be the Kingdom of Heaven or the kingdom of this world? Jesus proclaimed God’s kingdom and taught us how to live for it in his ministry and now through the Church. But it’s up to us to answer that call and choose to convert our earthly ways to God’s heavenly ones.

Consistency of Catholic Teaching

You have to love the consistency in the teaching of the Church. As I said earlier, core Catholic teachings have remained the same for thousands of years. That is very encouraging knowing that they have been tested in just about any situation we may find ourselves in whether that be times of war, peace, abundance, or famine. We’re not left to try to figure things out on our own. That should bring us comfort that we walk a well-trodden path when we decide to live for God’s kingdom.

When you pray, ask yourself what you’re going to do with the time given to you. If you don’t know, ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance to help show you the path. We have plenty of resources to help us live meaningfully — the Bible, the Catechism, countless books, apps, and podcasts, etc. We have the wisdom of the greatest Catholic thinkers who ever lived. They will show us the way in the time God provides us.

The Dangers of Making Assumptions

The Right Stuff

For those who don’t know, I’m a big fan of movies and television. I worked in visual effects and feature animation for close to 20 years. It’s almost a family business as I have ancestors that worked both in front of and behind the camera throughout the 20th century. I’m going to look at certain scenes in movies and see what they can teach us about practicing our faith.

I’m taking a look at The Right Stuff. It’s a classic about the Mercury space program which put the first Americans in space and tested the science, math, and engineering needed for the Apollo program. You may recognize names like John Glenn and Alan Shepard and you certainly can’t forget those dazzling reflective space suits.

In one scene in the movie, the astronauts’ wives meet each other for the first time.  They talk up a storm with a lot of small talk.  Everyone that is, except John Glenn’s wife, Annie.  After the meeting, one of the wives commented to her husband about how unfriendly and snobby Annie is. Some thought that Annie just sat there silently as if she was better than everyone else and the pleasantries were beneath her.

What the wives didn’t know was that Annie had a speech impediment and stuttered.  She was very self-conscious in social situations, so she remained silent.  She was shy, not snobby.

The Danger of Assumptions

This scene from The Right Stuff reminds me of how we so often make assumptions about others. Our assumptions aren’t always true.  Someone who is short-tempered may be so because he didn’t get any sleep the night before because he needed to deal with a family emergency.  Maybe someone drops out of an event at the last minute for personal reasons, not because they didn’t like who was attending or how it was planned.  Perhaps someone didn’t talk to you after Mass, not because he’s mad at you, but because he has to be somewhere else soon. People have many reasons for acting as they do and they may not be for reasons you assume.

Contemplate on the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. Mary became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. That stretches all believability. I’m sure Mary and Joseph caused quite a scandal in their village and everyone probably had their version of the story which probably didn’t include a virgin pregnancy. Even Joseph had a hard time believing in the truth and was ready to divorce Mary before an angel intervened.

Imagine an alternate reality where Joseph divorced Mary or she was stoned to death for being pregnant outside of marriage. It would have been a reality where Jesus, as we know him, did not come into the world. You see, this is what happens when we assume too much about people — we spin off into this alternate reality based on our false narrative. How many times do you dwell on something someone said or did without knowing the facts? We may destroy a desirable outcome by filling in what we don’t know or understand with a false narrative.

Let God Fill in the Blanks

At the same time, we can’t always assume the best. Some people are naturally ill-tempered, mean, flakey, or dishonest. People do bad things. We are all sinners after all. And this is where prayer comes in. We have to ask God for help to help separate reality from our own fiction. It’s okay if we don’t understand people and their motives and circumstances. God will steer us in the right direction if we come to him in prayer and humbly ask for his help when we don’t know how to deal with certain individuals.

God may not answer us as dramatically as he did with Saint Joseph in the form of an angel in a dream. But he does talk to us and may nudge us into the right action. It may be something subtle like you asking someone if everything is okay instead of being angry with him. It may require you to take a step back and cut someone a little slack. When we don’t know something, it’s best to ask God to help fill in the blanks.