All posts by techdecisions

a heart like His…


-Sacred Heart in baroque oil painting – Museo Nacional del Virreinato – Tepotzotlan – Mexico

The center of human emotion, it hurts right where the organ is, for some reason, known only to God, currently. But, the center of human emotion is meant to be broken, to be given away. It is its raison d’etre, with full knowledge of that most painful risk. Otherwise, what value in the gift? Otherwise, where else would the good come from that comes from broken hearts? Praise Him. His designs are perfect and good.


-by Br Hyacinth Grub, OP

“You’re always hurt most by those closest to you. The sharpest knives are wielded by family, religious brothers, [Ed. those of the Church,] or intimate friends, for they have a particular access to our hearts that is born of the strength of the bond between us. [Ed. They know us so well, they know just where the buttons are, and how to exquisitely push them, often without thought or effort.] Through familial ties, religious profession, or the affection of friendship, we have given our hearts to imperfect men and women. Being imperfect, they will not take care of the hearts given to them—those hearts will bleed because of carelessness or ignorance or malice.

There are, of course, two easy solutions to this hurt. Either jealously guard the heart, refusing to give it away, or harden the heart so that it cannot be hurt. It isn’t difficult to refuse the bonds of family and religion and friendship, or to keep those bonds shallow and superficial. The heart locked in an iron chest is certainly safe from harm. But it is also isolated and alone, and that’s not how man is meant to live; Aristotle wrote that one who can live without society “must be either a beast or a god,” but not a man.

It’s also easy to harden the heart beyond the possibility of hurt. Bitterness and cynicism can drain the vitality out of life. A zealous stoicism can do the same, albeit with a more noble appearance, by denying the reality or importance of pain and hurt in the soul. You’ve heard the advice to simply “let it go”—but it’s impossible to always let go of the hurt without eventually letting go of the heart as well. In the end, a hardened heart is impervious not only to the hurts and evil of life, but to its joys and goodness as well.

We cannot refuse to give our hearts away, nor can we harden our hearts in preemptive defense. Both choices are self-defeating and leave us without the vitality we set out to protect. There is only one path forward—to give our hearts generously to men and women who we know will not take care of them, and to bear the wounds that inevitably follow. In this very action we are made like Christ—for what is the essence of the Sacred Heart except to be pierced by those He loved, and loved until the end? Bleeding and wounded with swords wielded by those whom we love with Christ’s love, to whom we have not hardened our hearts nor refused the gift of ourselves, our hearts become like unto His.”

Love,
Matthew

Spending time w/God

They say we proclaim our priorities inaudibly by how we spend our time. How do I spend mine? What place should that MOST important relationship, the one for eternity, be? If you find yourself not growing in your spiritual life, consider what you are or are not devoting to it, first. Analogies w/human relationships are an excellent place to begin in evaluating that MOST important relationship in our lives. 🙂

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Lord, grant that I may always live in Your presence with my interior gaze fixed on You.

MEDITATION

The life of continual prayer becomes easier as the soul succeeds in preserving within itself, throughout the day, the awareness of the presence of God. We already know that God is always present within us, that we live, move, and have our being in Him; but while we try during the time of prayer to become more and more aware of this great truth, our consciousness of it gradually fades away in the course of our daily occupations, and we are often surprised to find ourselves acting as if God were no longer present within us.

The practice of the presence of God really consists in making strong efforts to keep God always present in our mind and heart, even when we are engaged in our daily tasks. We can do this in various ways: we can use external objects, such as an image or a crucifix which we wear or put on our worktable, the sight of which will often remind us of God; we also can use our imagination to picture “interiorly” the Lord near us. For, if the humanity of Jesus is not physically present, it is nevertheless always exercising an influence over us—even a physical one—in the communication of grace; so we can truly “represent to ourselves” this action of Jesus within us. We can also keep a very vivid remembrance of God by using some truth of faith.

For example, I can cultivate the thought of the continual presence of the Trinity within me, and try to perform all my actions in honor of my divine Guests; or else I can consider my duties as so many manifestations of the will of God, and so unite myself to this divine will as I perform them. Further, I can make it a practice to view all the circumstances of my life in the light of faith, and therefore, arranged by divine Providence for my good. This will incline me to accept them and to repeat continually to my heavenly Father: “I am content with everything You do for me.”

COLLOQUY

“Lord, may my motto be: Thou in me and I in Thee! How beautiful is Your presence within me, in the inmost sanctuary of my soul. May my continual occupation be to retire into myself, that I may lose myself in You, and live with You. I feel You so vividly in my soul, that I have for post on the practice of the presence of God only to become recollected to find You there within me, and in that, I find all my happiness.

“O Lord, let me live with You as with a friend! Help me to live in the awareness of faith always, in order that I may be united to You no matter what happens. I bear heaven in my soul, since You, who satiate the blessed in the Beatific Vision, give Yourself to me in faith and mystery.

“Grant, O my God, that my soul may be a little heaven wherein You can rest with delight. In order that I may attain this end, help me to remove everything that might offend Your divine eyes, and then permit me to live always with You in this little heaven. Wherever I am or whatever I do, You never leave me alone; grant that I, too, may always remain with You. At every hour of the day and night, in joy or sorrow, in every work and action, may I always know how to find You within me!

“O my God, Blessed Trinity, be my dwelling, my rest, my Father’s house which I shall never leave. Let me abide in You, not for a few fleeting minutes or hours, but permanently, habitually. May I pray in You, adore in You, love in You, suffer in You, work and act in You alone. Let me remain in You to offer myself to others through You, to attend to all my duties, while always penetrating further into Your divine depths. O Lord, grant that every day I may advance along the path of the abyss that leads me to You, that lets me slide down this slope with a confidence full of love” (cf. St Elizabeth of the Trinity, Letters – First Retreat, 1).”

Love,
Matthew

Cheerfulness cultivates Joy – The Hidden Power of Kindness

Cheerfulness is a very great help in fostering the virtue of charity. Cheerfulness itself is a virtue. Therefore, it is a habit that can and should be acquired.

Cheerfulness is perhaps best represented in the word affability. St. Thomas Aquinas places affability under the general heading of the cardinal virtue of justice, the virtue that prompts us to give to others what is their due under any sense of duty or obligation. You are obliged to help and not hinder others around you in the world on their way toward Heaven. Not only are you to help the needy by your alms, and the erring by your advice, but you are also to help all whom you know or meet by your kindliness, pleasant­ness, and affability of manner.

Cheerfulness of attitude and manner is a great help to those who come into contact with you. If you are a sour, unsociable, gloomy-looking person, you will make people feel uneasy, and you will in­tensify your own temptations to give way to sadness. On the other hand, if you are cheerful, you will lift the spirits of people, invite their confidence, and increase their hope of serving God well.

If you consistently present a gloomy attitude toward life and everybody around you, it may be because you are suffering from a case of self-pity. You let your sorrows and misfortunes overwhelm you. Or you may be prompted by envy to refuse even an effort at being cheerful because you are thinking of the many good things others have that you are denied. Or you may be a victim of your feelings. Temperamentally you may be inclined toward sadness, and you take the position that you should let your temperament rule you.

Avoid false cheerfulness

You are not really cheerful when you lack seriousness when it is time to be serious, so that you cannot give serious attention to the important duties of life. It is dangerous and misguided cheerfulness to make light of your serious sins, to avoid all thoughts of judg­ment and Hell, and to be giddy and distracting to others in church or on other serious occasions. You are not really cheerful when you lack sympathy. It is a great defect of cheerfulness in your character if you cannot sympathize with the sorrows of people, if you avoid people who are suffering, or if you manifest by your attitude that you are not going to permit yourself to be disturbed by their sorrows.

You need not express your cheerfulness by smiles and laughter or jokes and light-minded chatter. In the presence of sorrow, you can adopt a serious mien and show signs of sympathy, but at the same time you can express your cheerfulness in the solid motives for hope, fortitude, and patience that God has provided for all whom He asks to suffer. You will not refuse to permit any of your friends to face facts that are a cause of sorrow, nor will you try to think up exaggerated reasons for not grieving or making light of the grieving of others.

You are not really cheerful if you are cheerful only at times, but at other times give way to sadness and melancholy. This would indicate that you are ruled entirely by your feelings. It would be even worse if you had the habit of being cheerful in the presence of some of your relatives and friends, but gloomy in the presence of others, especially your own family. You cannot afford to have one attitude toward your family and another toward those with whom you mingle outside your home.

You must learn to rise above your feelings, even though the control of feelings is most difficult. There is no hypocrisy in being ruled by the will rather than by the feelings. Try to live up to the ideal of being always the same toward everyone: kindly, affable, sympathetic, encouraging — in a word, cheerful. This ideal will be recognized by all, and you will spread the sunshine of joy around you.

You are not really cheerful if you must depend on dangerous stimulants of one kind or another. Drink is often an escape from reality and makes people boisterous, foolish, and degraded.

There are three important virtues that make people cheerful in the true sense of the word: hope, fortitude, and fraternal charity.

Cheerfulness is founded on hope

Hope is the virtue by which you keep your eyes fixed on Heaven as the goal of your life, made certainly attainable by the merits and promises and fidelity of Jesus Christ. Since you always have something wonderful to look forward to, you are cheerful. Hope is a supernatural virtue infused at Baptism, but it requires ef­fort and repeated actions to become effective.

You cannot be cheerful if you succumb to the vices opposed to hope, such as despair, which is a surrender to the thought that Heaven cannot be attained and that the sufferings of Hell are in­evitable. St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus used to say, “We can never have too much confidence in the good God. He is so mighty, so merciful.”

Worldliness urges people to capture every possible delight here and now. It leads to sadness, because there are no delights in this world that can fully satisfy the human heart.

Worldliness also leads to envy, avarice, impurity, and all such causes of sadness.

Fortitude allows you to face the sorrows of life

Fortitude is a basis for cheerfulness. Fortitude induces you to face the inevitable sorrows of life and, above all, death itself, in the service of God with courage and patience. You will look to the suf­ferings of Christ for inspiration. You will look to the happiness of Heaven with a heart full of hope, and you will count even the greatest sufferings as a small price to pay for that reward. There­fore, try to overcome cowardice, self-pity, and lack of confidence in the goodness of God — faults that prevent you from being cheerful. As a result of these faults, you may find yourself con­stantly grumbling against God and everybody around you because of the sufferings you have to endure.

Do not take yourself too seriously. You have to learn not to be dismayed at making mistakes. No human being can avoid failures.

The important thing is not to let your mistakes and failures gnaw away at you. Regret is an appalling waste of energy. You cannot build on it.

Instead of wasting priceless time and energy in regret or self-reproach, the wise thing is for you to swing into action once more. People give little sympathy to those who feel sorry for themselves. If you experience misfortune, other people will not usually harden their hearts toward you. They have responsibilities to face, tasks to be done, and pleasures to be enjoyed. They expect you to take your troubles in stride and to rebound into the daily round of living. Such expectations are sensible.

When you go forward to grapple with your problems coura­geously and hopefully, you cannot help having a beneficial influ­ence upon other people. Courage and hope are contagious. Spread these virtues among the persons whom you encounter; you will be rendering them and yourself an inestimable service.

Doing good brings joy

By the virtue of charity for the love of God, you love and want to help all your neighbors, especially those whose lives are in some way associated with your own. One way of helping others is by an attitude of cheerfulness.

Joy is the reward of charity. This intimate joy of the soul is dis­tinguished from all other joys by its purity. The joy that is the fruit of charity is abiding. All earthly happiness exhausts itself, except the happiness of a loving heart that knows how to share the joys and sorrows of others. The joy born of charity is one of the few joys that support you at the hour of death.

In the hour of farewell, the divine Master declared that He desired His joy to be in His disciples: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Thus your joy at doing good springs from the fountain of Him who is the essence of all love, from the fountain of God. From the waters of joy that flow in the heart of God, fountains of joy will spring up in your heart if you strive to imitate God’s great love in at least a small measure, like the fountains of which our Lord speaks: “The water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

If your heart thirsts for joy, do good to others. You will satisfy your thirst in the fountain of God’s own bliss. You can find your happiness only in possessing God. St. Augustine says, “Our hearts were made for Thee, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in Thee.” You can find happiness in making other people happy if your efforts are motivated by a sincere love of God.”

Love & joy,
Matthew

Teaching the Bible to atheists made me Catholic – Don Johnson


-by Don Johnson

“I clearly remember the moment I became a Christian. I don’t recall how old I was exactly, probably six or seven, but it was a Sunday afternoon and I had been to church that morning. Something about Sunday School must have made an impression on me, because I asked my mother to come to my room to talk to me about getting saved. She graciously led me in a prayer of repentance and faith. As we finished, I felt great joy and relief sweep over me. I knew that I was going to get into heaven because Jesus had died for me.

If you had asked me at the time what it meant to be “saved,” I’m not sure what I would have told you. However, as I think back now to the theology of my youth, several images come to mind. For one, I considered salvation as a type of fire insurance. To avoid hell, make sure you sign on the dotted line by doing whatever the preacher says you need to do (“believe,” “repent,” “have faith,” “give your life to Jesus,” etc.) and then rest easy, knowing that you are covered. Your papers are in order, and when that fateful day arrives, everything will be just fine. In more familial and relational terms, I thought of becoming a child of God as a one-time transaction in which I got a new legal guardian, but one with whom I didn’t get to live. It’s like I was an orphan who got adopted, but then had to stay in the orphanage, even though I was now assigned a new name and even guaranteed an inheritance at some point in the future.

One of the unfortunate consequences of this view was that I lived a rather pathetic spiritual life as a youth. By that I mean I wasn’t really any different from any of the unbelievers I knew. I was enslaved to the same sins, beset by the same character flaws, and guided by the same materialistic priorities as everyone else. I didn’t pursue a life of radical righteousness or intimacy with God because I didn’t think it ultimately mattered. I was going to get to Heaven regardless. God didn’t take into account my sin and worldly ambition; He only saw the “Jesus covering” He had placed on me. I may not actually have been righteous, but God saw me as legally righteous, so everything was all right.

However, as a young adult my view of salvation began to change. I became heavily involved in ministry and started to study the Bible intensely. I was particularly interested in the Gospels and their relationship to the Old Testament. As I dug into Exodus, for example, I saw how it prefigured the entire story of God’s redemption. I became convinced that legal forgiveness is only one part of the equation. God doesn’t just purchase sinners while leaving them essentially unchanged. He doesn’t just take legal guardianship of children and cover their sins. Rather, He creates new children that are in intimate union with Him. God doesn’t just look at a believer “as if” he were a new person; he is actually a new person. The old person is dead, a new person is alive.

This birth is just the start of the Christian life, however. I now saw that salvation is a process by which we strive, by God’s grace, to become ever more like him. It is not simply a legal transaction in the past, but an ongoing journey to be finished and a battle to be won. My theology had been missing these truths. As I now started to understand and live them out, my relationship with God was taken to a much deeper level. It also turned out to be my first step toward the Catholic Church.

I was interacting with many skeptics in those days, and I noticed that their objections to Christianity were often based on the false view of salvation that I had come to reject. My childhood beliefs regarding salvation, and the spiritually weak Christians it produces, are a huge stumbling block. Unbelievers, particularly, simply can’t abide the notion that God doesn’t care what kind of person you are. They can’t understand why God would forgive some people and let them into heaven ahead of those who have lived morally better lives based on something as seemingly capricious and silly as saying a prayer, intellectually assenting to certain propositions, getting confirmed, or jumping through some other seemingly arbitrary hoop. It seems terribly unjust.

As my view of salvation shifted, I found myself agreeing with these atheists. If that view of God’s plan is correct, it is unjust. However, I was now convinced that that view was false. So I started teaching my new theology through my ministry and sharing it with the skeptics. And frankly, most of them were eating it up. The Evangelical churches I was speaking at greatly enjoyed my messages, and I was making good headway with many atheists and agnostics.

But not everyone appreciated my “insights.” I faced objections on two fronts. First, I was taken to task by an individual at one church, who claimed that I was contradicting the official doctrinal statement of his denomination. Frankly, I had never read it, and no one had ever asked me to. However, when I did, I realized that he actually had a case. There, in black and white, was the proposition that salvation was a one-time legal transaction that should be understood as separate from any call to ongoing holy living.

Secondly, the skeptics I was sharing with, while generally receptive to my understanding of salvation, often ended the conversation by saying something like this: “That’s nice, Don, and if God really was how you portray Him, and if His plan of salvation actually did work that way, I might accept it. But that’s just your opinion. The pastor down the street says something different, and I can find any number of Christian leaders who would offer any variety of opinions, and they all use the same Bible you do. Why should I believe your interpretation?” I had to admit they had a point.

In response, I started to dig into church history. Specifically, I started studying the history of various local denominations and the history of the doctrine of justification. That led me directly to the Reformation. Curiously, I had never really studied the Reformation. I had just assumed that it was a righteous movement that restored the Church to its biblical roots. However, as I analyzed what actually had happened, several startling facts jumped out at me, none of which aligned with my presuppositions.

First, the understanding of salvation that I had accepted as a child but now rejected as unbiblical was actually an articulated doctrine of several Reformers. (Today it is often called “forensic justification.”) Indeed, it was a key point of disagreement with Rome and a foundational element of much of Protestantism. It was a shock to me that, in many of my sermons, I was actually attacking one of the cornerstone doctrines of the movement that led to the very churches in which I had been speaking.

So the question naturally arose: Was the doctrine of forensic justification something new with the Reformation, or was it a renewal of the early Church’s teaching? In other words, were the beliefs that I now rejected held by the early Church Fathers — in which case I would have to re-think my stance — or were they developed fresh by the Reformers — in which case I could feel justified in rejecting them.

After extensive research, the answer was clear: the idea of forensic justification was new with the Reformation. Before that, the Church had been unanimous and unwavering in its understanding of salvation as a process whereby Christ’s life makes us new, and we are formed to be like Him. My “new” understanding of salvation, based on my personal interpretation of Scripture, turned out to be simply the historical orthodox teaching of the Catholic Church.

That truth dovetailed nicely with another fact I discovered: the Reformation notion of sola Scriptura was also new, and the crisis of authority that I faced in my evangelism work was its direct result. The idea that the Bible alone should guide us had never been accepted within Christianity before 1517, and its introduction led only to doctrinal chaos. Without an authoritative interpretive guide, people could — and did — teach and believe anything.

As I now realized, Jesus never intended such confusion. That’s why He left us a Church. He didn’t drop a book from the sky and say, “Do your best to find your own way based on your own interpretation.” He appointed Apostles and gave them His authority to lead in His name. I now had an answer to the skeptics who claimed that my theological views were just my opinion: No, my views are simply the teaching of the Church that Jesus founded.

Faced with the beginning of a clear biblical, historical, and philosophical case for the Catholic Church, I started to panic. This was going to cause a huge disruption in my life! But the more I studied, the more reasonable and attractive Catholicism became. I read authors like Scott Hahn and Jeff Cavins. I even enrolled in the MA Theology program at Franciscan University of Steubenville and became enthralled with the writings of Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, as well as scholars such as Jean Danielou and Louis Bouyer. One by one my various objections were answered.

The last stumbling block was the Sacraments. I had been raised in a very non-liturgical, non-sacramental church culture, and I was having trouble getting comfortable with the idea that God would use matter as a means of grace. However, here again, my study of Scripture and the Reformation, as well as my work with skeptics, was a great help.

First, I realized that the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist had been universally accepted and practiced from the early Church until the Reformation. Its rejection in the 16th century represented something novel in the history of Christianity. If the Reformers were right, it meant that everyone from the very first disciples of the Apostle John had been wrong. That made no sense to me.

Secondly, having already been making the case that the New Testament was the fulfillment of the Old, I applied this interpretative principle to passages such as John 6. What could Jesus possibly have meant, and how would His Jewish followers have understood Him? I began to understand that the Eucharist was the fulfillment of the Passover celebration and those early Christians, who were almost all Jews, would never have understood it after my gnostic manner. They would instead have understood it according to the sacramental worldview they had always held; they would have seen it as the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus.

Finally, my work with skeptics helped me to come to a revelation about the Sacraments. My approach to atheists and agnostics, especially those who tend towards a materialistic view of the world, is to suggest that there might just be more to the world than they’ve been led to believe.

I then asserted that their worldview is reductionist, and that there might be dimensions to reality that they hadn’t really taken into account. By ignoring these, they were missing out on a lot of really good, true and beautiful things that God was offering. Their skeptical worldview was a handicap for them, it was reducing their understanding of reality and constraining them from living life to the fullest.

Then, a question began to arise within my mind. What if there was more to the world than I, too, had been led to believe? What if there were dimensions to reality that I hadn’t taken into account, and that by ignoring them, I had been missing out on a lot of really good, true and beautiful things? What if, I asked myself, not only did Jesus love me and long for me to live a joyful life, but that He had made possible an even more abundant life than I had imagined by offering His very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist? Could it be that my Protestant worldview was equally reductionist and gnostic in a way similar to the atheist viewpoint?

My answer was yes. I realized that I had been guilty of unjustified skepticism towards Catholicism in the same way that unbelievers are unjustifiably skeptical towards Christianity in general. I also realized that I longed for the Eucharist and the intimacy with Jesus that it promised. That was the final piece of the puzzle, and I was received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil, 2015.”

Love,
Matthew

Aridity (spiritual dryness) & (spiritual) progress

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Lord, help me to seek for You and to unite myself to You, even through the aridity and powerlessness of my spirit.

MEDITATION

Even without the presence of the physical or moral causes which we have mentioned before, it is possible to pass from a state of sensible fervor to one of absolute aridity. This happens by the direct work of God which makes it impossible for the soul to pray with the help of the imagination, or to practice acts of sensible love as before. The fact is that, whereas meditation or affectionate converse with God was formerly made with ease and comfort, the soul now finds it impossible to connect two ideas. Thoughts or reading which once moved the soul now leave it indifferent—the heart remains cold and hard as a stone. Even though watching over itself carefully in order to be faithful in mortification and generosity; even though intensifying its preparation for prayer and fervently beseeching the Lord for help, it no longer succeeds in wringing one drop of devotion from its heart. Then the poor soul worries and is afraid, thinking that the Lord has abandoned it because of some fault or other.

What she does not realize is that this kind of aridity conceals a great grace—the grace of purification and of progress in the ways of prayer. In fact, by means of aridity, the Lord intends to free it from childish feelings and to raise it to the purer, firmer level of the will. When it was experiencing so much comfort in prayer, the soul, unknown to itself, was becoming somewhat attached to these sensible consolations. Hence it loved and sought prayer not purely for God, but also a little for itself. Now, deprived of all attraction for prayer, the soul will henceforth learn to apply itself to it solely to give pleasure to the Lord. Furthermore, finding no help in beautiful thoughts and sweet emotions, it will learn to walk by strength of will alone, exercising itself in acts of faith and love which, it is true, are wholly arid, but are all the more meritorious because they are more voluntary. In this way, its love for God will become purer, because it is more disinterested; and stronger because it is more voluntary.

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, blessed be Your Name forever because You willed me to suffer this tribulation. I cannot escape it, so I have recourse to You, that You may help me to profit by it. O Lord, I am deeply afflicted, my heart can find no rest, and it suffers much on account of this hard trial. What can I say to You, O beloved Father? I am in anguish; Lord, save me! This happens to me in order to glorify You by my very humiliation, but later, You will deliver me. May it please You to deliver me, O Lord, for alone and wretched, what can I do or where can I go without You?

“Give me once more the grace of patience! Help me, O God, and I shall fear nothing, even if the burden is heavy. And now, what shall I say in all these misfortunes? Lord, Your will be done. I well deserve the tribulation which is crushing me. I must bear it. May I do so patiently until the storm is past and calm re-established” (Thomas à Kempis, Imitation of Christ III, 29,1.2).

“O my Jesus, nothing from You but dryness. But I am very happy to suffer that which You want me to suffer. I am happy to see that You show me that I am not a stranger by treating me like this.

“O Lord, make my darkness serve to enlighten souls. I consent, if such is Your will, to continue walking all my life in the darkness of faith, provided that one day I arrive at the goal of the mountain of love.

“I am very happy to have no consolation, for thus my love is not like that of the world’s brides who are always looking at their bridegroom’s hands to see if they bear a gift, or at his face in the hope of glimpsing a smile of love to enchant them…. O Jesus, I want to love You for Yourself alone…. I do not desire love that I feel, but only love that You feel” (Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Letters, 51, 90, 93, 89).”

Love,
Matthew

Peace of Soul & Humility – Roses Among Thorns

-by St Francis de Sales

“Nothing troubles us so much as self-love and self-regard. Should our hearts not grow soft with the sentiment we desire when we pray and with the interior sweetness we expect when we meditate, we are sorrowful; should we find some difficulty in doing good deeds, should some obstacle oppose our plans, we are in a dither to overcome it, and we labor anxiously. Why is this? Doubtless, because we love our consolations, ease, and comfort. We want to pray as though we were bathing in comfort and to be virtuous as though we were eating dessert, all the while failing to look upon our sweet Jesus, Who, prostrate on the ground, sweat blood and water from the distress of the extreme interior combat He underwent (Mark 14:35; Luke 22:44).

Self-love is one of the sources of our anxiety; the other is our high regard for ourselves. Why are we troubled to find that we have committed a sin or even an imperfection?

Because we thought ourselves to be something good, firm, and solid. And therefore, when we have seen the proof to the contrary, and have fallen on our faces in the dirt, we are troubled, offended, and anxious. If we understood ourselves, we would be astonished that we are ever able to remain standing. This is the other source of our anxiety: we want only consolations, and we are surprised to encounter our own misery, nothingness, and folly.

There are three things we must do to be at peace:
– have a pure intention to desire the honor and glory of God in all things;
– do the little that we can unto that end, following the advice of our spiritual father [director];
– and leave all the rest to God’s care.

Why should we torment ourselves if God is our aim and we have done all that we can? Why be anxious? What is there to fear? God is not so terrible to those who love Him. He contents Himself with little, for He knows how little we have. Our Lord is called the Prince of Peace in the Scriptures (Isaiah 9:6), and because He is the abso­lute master, He holds all things in peace. It is nevertheless true that before bringing peace to a place, He first brings war (cf. Matthew 10:34-36) by dividing the heart and soul from its most dear, familiar, and ordinary affections.

Now, when our Lord separates us from these passions, it seems that He burns our hearts alive, and we are embit­tered. The separation is so painful that it is barely possible for us to avoid fighting against it with all our soul. Peace is not lacking in the end when, although burdened by this distress, we keep our will resigned to our Lord, keep it nailed to God’s good pleasure, and fulfill our duties cou­rageously.

We may take for example our Lord’s agony in the garden, where, overwhelmed by interior and exterior bitterness, He nonetheless resigned Himself peaceably to His Father’s divine will, saying, “not My will, but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42, Douay-Rheims). And He maintained this peace when admonishing three times the disciples who failed Him (Matthew 26:40-45). At war with sin and suf­fering bitterly, He remained the Prince of Peace.

We can draw the following lessons from this consid­eration:

The first is that we often mistakenly think that we have lost our peace when we are bitter. If we continue to deny ourselves and desire that everything should be done in accord with God’s good pleasure, and if we fulfill our duties in spite of our bitterness, then we preserve our peace.

The second is that it is when we are suffering interiorly that God rips off the last bits of skin of the old man in order to renew in us the “new man that is made according to God” (cf. Ephesians 4:22-24). And so we should never be disturbed by such sufferings or think that we are disgraced in our Lord’s eyes.

The third is that all the thoughts that give us anxious and restless minds are not from God, who is the Prince of Peace; they are, therefore, temptations from the enemy, and we must reject them.

We must in all things remain at peace. Should interior or exterior pains afflict us, we must accept them peacefully. Should joys come our way, they must be received peace­fully, without transport. If we must flee evil, we must do so calmly, without being disturbed; otherwise, we may fall in our flight and give the enemy the chance to kill us. If there is good to be done, it must be done peacefully, or we will commit many faults through haste. Even penance must be done peacefully. “See,” says the penitent, “that my great bitterness is in peace” (cf. Isaiah 38:17).

As to humility, this virtue sees to it that we are neither troubled by our imperfections, nor in the habit of recalling those of others, for why should we be more perfect than our brothers? Why should we find it strange that others have imperfections since we ourselves have so many? Humil­ity gives us a soft heart for the perfect and the imperfect: for the former out of reverence and for the latter out of compassion. Humility makes us accept pains with meek­ness, knowing that we deserve them, and good things with gratitude, knowing that we do not. Every day we ought to make some act of humility, or speak heartfelt words of humility, words that lower us to the level of a servant, and words that serve others, however modestly, either in our homes or in the world.

How happy you will be if while you are in the world you keep Jesus Christ in your heart! Remember the principal lesson He left to us, and in only a few short words, so that we would be able to remember it: “Learn of Me, for I am meek, and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29, Douay-Rheims). It is everything to have a heart that is meek toward our neighbor and humble toward God. At every moment give such a heart to our Savior, and let it be the heart of your heart. You will see that to the extent that this holy and considerate friend takes up a place in your mind, the world with its vanities and trifles will leave you.”

Love,
Matthew

Jun 20 – Bl Dominic Collins, SJ (1566-1602) – Religious & Martyr

Dominic Collins was born in the seaport town of Youghal, in County Cork, Ireland. His family was well established and respected and both his father and brother were mayors of Youghal. It was in the time of Queen Elizabeth and Anglicanism was the official religion and Irish Catholics were subjected to persecution from time to time.

Although the situation was not yet critical in Youghal, Dominic felt that he did not have much future in the town. Like many others, he decided to leave Ireland and make a better life in Europe. So at the age of twenty, Collins arrived in France. He had dreams of joining the cavalry but for that he needed a horse so he worked for some time in various hostelries in Brittany, north-west France. Eventually, he was enlisted in the army of the Duke of Mercoeus, who was a member of the Catholic League fighting against the Protestan Huguenots in Brittany. Dominic had a distinguished military career lasting nine years.

He was promoted to captain of the cavalry and later military governor when he managed to recover land from the Huguenots.

Although he had a good pension following his service to the King of Spain, he began to realize that being a soldier was not the future he wanted. In the Lent of 1598, he met an Irish Jesuit, Thomas White, who introduced him to the Jesuit superiors in Salamanca, Spain, after hearing Dominic’s desire to do something better with his life. Although he was now 32 years old, the Jesuit provincial thought it was wise to delay his entrance, perhaps to test the strength of his vocation. There were doubts too about his sufficiently educated to become a priest but he was willing to be a Jesuit brother. He entered the Jesuit novitiate in Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain in December 1598. When the Jesuit College was struck by a plague, Dominic tended the victims, nursing some of them back to health and comforting the others in their last hours. A report from that time describes him as a man of sound judgement and great physical strength; mature, prudent and sociable, though inclined to be hot-tempered and obstinate. He was allowed to profess temporary religious vows in the Society in February 1601.

Soon after his profession, an expedition was organized by King Philip III of Spain to assist Hugh O’Neill and Red Hugh O’Donnell in their attempt at revolt against English rule. Seven months after his profession, Brother Dominic Collins was assigned as companion and assistant to Fr James Archer, an Irish Jesuit who was being sent by the king as chaplain to the expedition. Fr Archer has specifically asked for Collins as his assistant due to his extensive military background.

The two Jesuits sailed in September 1601 on different vessels which became separated during a storm. When Bro Collins finally reached Ireland in December, two months after Fr Archer; Castlehaven in southwestern Cork on 1 December, the main squadron with Fr Archer having reached Kinsale more than two months earlier.

The Irish attacked Kinsale at dawn on Christmas Eve but were defeated. Bro Collins was reunited with Fr Archer in February 1602 and together the two Jesuits proceeded to Dunboy Castle, which the Irish had recently regained. Some months later Bro Collins found himself (Fr Archer had left for Spain to persuade the king to send reinforcements) besieged inside Dunboy Castle with 143 defenders. With the landing on 6 June of huge English forces, Dunboy Castle fortifications began to crumble under the heavy bombardment. Many of the Irish defenders were killed and the Castle surrendered. With the exception of Dominic Collins and two others, all the remaining 77 defenders were executed by hanging in the castle yard.

Dominic was later imprisoned in Cork, tortured for three months, and, despite several offers to spare his life if he would divulge information about Catholics and to renounce his vocation as a Jesuit and join the established Church, he flatly refused. He also rejected the offer of an honorable position in the English army and Protestant offers of ecclesiastical preferment if he would renounce his Catholic faith. Even his own relatives tried persuading him to renounce the faith publicly while inwardly remaining faithful to Catholicism. But this he would not do.

He was finally condemned to death and on 31 October 1602 he was taken to Youghal, his hometown and hanged. Before climbing the scaffold, he spoke to the crowd in Irish, Spanish, and English, saying he was happy to die for his faith. He was so cheerful that an English officer remarked, “He is going to his death as eagerly as I would go to a banquet.” Bro Collins overheard him and replied, “For this cause I would be willing to die not one but a thousand deaths.” So moved was the crowd that the hangman fled and a passing fisherman was forced to do the job.

Blessed Dominic is remembered for his constancy in the faith. Though freedom and advancement were set before him, he chose to “endure the cross, despising its shame” (cf. Heb 12:2).

Dominic’s martyrdom is commemorated in a carving at St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh, Co. Cork. Liturgically his feast is celebrated on 20 June, or 30 October (in the Society of Jesus). Today a Jesuit residence in Dublin is named for him.

Left hanging on the gallows, the rope eventually broke and Dominic’s body fell to the ground. Under cover of darkness, local Catholics took his body away and buried him with respect in a secret place. From that day he was venerated as a martyr in Youghal and his fame quickly spread throughout Ireland and Europe. In the Irish Colleges of Douai and Salamanca the Jesuits showed his portrait and many favors and cures were attributed to his intercession. Although used to the rough life of the army camp, Dominic always kept a strange innocence and gentleness. He is one of the most attractive of all the Irish martyrs.

All powerful and ever-living God, You gave us an example of marvelous courage in the blessed martyrs Dominic and his companions. For the joy that was set before them they endured the cross, despising its shame. Grant by their prayers that, faithful to Your commandments, we may bring forth the fruits of unity and peace.

Love,
Matthew

Mary’s humility…

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Mary, humblest of all creatures, make me humble of heart.

MEDITATION

St. Bernard says: “It is not hard to be humble in a hidden life, but to remain so in the midst of honors is a truly rare and beautiful virtue.” The Blessed Virgin was certainly the woman whom God honored most highly, whom He raised above all other creatures; yet no creature was so humble and lowly as she. A holy rivalry seemed to exist between Mary and God; the higher God elevated her, the lowlier she became in her humility. The Angel called her “full of grace,” and Mary “was troubled” (Luke 1:28, 29). According to St. Alphonsus’ explanation, “Mary was troubled because she was filled with humility, disliked praise, and desired that God only be praised.” The Angel revealed to her the sublime mission which was to be entrusted to her by the Most High, and Mary declared herself “the handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1:38). Her thoughts did not linger over the immense honor that would be hers as the woman chosen from all women to be the Mother of the Son of God; but, she contemplated in wonder the great mystery of a God who willed to become incarnate in the womb of a poor creature. If God wished to descend so far as to give Himself to her as a Son, to what depths should not His little handmaid abase herself? The more she understood the grandeur of the mystery, the immensity of the divine gift, the more she humbled herself, submerging herself in her nothingness. Her attitude was the same when Elizabeth greeted her, “Blessed art thou among women” (Luke 1:42). Those words did not astonish her, for she was already the Mother of God; yet she remained steadfast in her profound humility. She attributed everything to God whose mercies she sang, acknowledging the condescension with which He had “regarded the humility of His handmaid” (Luke 1:48). That God had performed great works in her she knew and acknowledged, but instead of boasting about them, she directed everything to His glory. With reason St. Bernardine exclaims: “As no other creature, after the Son of God, has been raised in dignity and grace equal to Mary, so neither has anyone descended so deep into the abyss of humility.” Behold the effect that graces and divine favors should produce in us: an increase of humility, a greater awareness of our nothingness.

COLLOQUY

“O Virgin! glorious stem, to what sublime height do you raise your corolla? Straight to Him who is seated on the throne, to the God of Majesty. I do not wonder since you are so deeply rooted in humility. Hail, Mary, full of grace! You are truly full of grace, for you are pleasing to God, to the angels, and to men: to men, by your maternity; to the angels, by your virginity; to God, by your humility. It is by your humility that you attract the glance of God, of Him who regards the humble, but looks at the proud from afar. As Satan’s eyes are fixed on the proud, so God’s eyes are on the lowly” (St. Bernard).

O Mother most humble, make me humble so that God will deign to turn His eyes toward me. There is nothing in my soul to attract Him, nothing sublime, nothing worthy of His complacency, nothing truly good or virtuous; whatever good there is, is so mixed with wretchedness, so weak and deficient that it is not even worthy to be called good. What, then, can attract Your grace to my poor soul, O Lord? “Where will you look, but on him who is poor and humble, and contrite of heart?” (cf. Isaiah 66,2). O Lord, grant that I may be humble; make me humble, through the merits of Your most humble Mother.

“O Mary, had you not been humble, the Holy Spirit would not have come upon you, and you would not have become the Mother of God …” (cf. St. Bernard). Similarly, if I am not humble, God will not give me His grace, the Holy Spirit will not come to me, and my life will be sterile, unfruitful. Grant, then, O Holy Virgin, that your humility, which is so pleasing to God, may obtain pardon for my pride, and a truly humble heart.”

Love,
Matthew

Questions from friends…


-by Trent Horn

Questions From Friends

When I was considering joining the Catholic Church I sat down with some of my non-Catholic friends to see if they could talk me out of my decision. They were Christians, but they didn’t consider themselves to be “Protestants.” Instead, they called themselves Evangelicals or just “Christ-followers.” Regardless, their response to my decision to become Catholic surprised me.

One of the girls said, “As long as Catholics believe in Jesus then I don’t think it’s a big deal.” Another chimed in, “I mean, we’re never going to know which church is the right church or even if there is such a thing, so why worry?”

That answer didn’t satisfy me so I asked them, “Don’t you wonder if one of the churches that exists today can be traced back to the Church Jesus founded? Don’t you wonder which church Jesus wants us to join?”

The First Christians

My question was met with a collective shrug and a simple recommendation that I just “believe in Jesus,” but that wasn’t good enough for me. How did my Evangelical friends know we only have to believe in Jesus to be saved? What does it mean to believe in Jesus? Do we have to be baptized to believe in Jesus? Do we have to receive Communion? If I stop believing in Jesus will I lose my salvation?

I wanted the answers to these questions so I decided to study what the very first Christians believed. These were the believers who lived just after the apostles. If there was one church I wanted to belong to, it was their church.

In the time of the apostles believers were called “Christians,” but the Church was not called “the Christian Church.” It was simply referred to as “the Church,” as is evident in Luke’s description of what Paul and Barnabas did in the city of Antioch. He said, “For a whole year they met with the Church, and taught a large company of people; and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians” (Acts 11:26).

A few decades later St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote a letter to Christians who lived six hundred miles away, in the coastal city of Smyrna (located in modern Turkey). He said, “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”

An Old Baby Photo

“How can today’s Catholic Church with all of its traditions and rituals be the same the humble Church we read about in the New Testament?” It’s a good question, but it’s sort of like asking, “How can that fully grown man be the same little boy whose diaper had to be changed decades earlier?” In both cases the body being described grew and developed over time without becoming a different kind of being.

The man, for example, has many things he did not have as a baby (like a beard he needs to shave). But he also has many of the same things he did have as a baby. This includes the same DNA that guides his growth and gives him features like “his father’s nose,” which can be seen in his old baby photos. In the same way, the Catholic Church, which St. Paul calls the Body of Christ (Eph. 5:23), has the same “DNA” as the Church of the first century: the word of God. This word is transmitted both through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition and you can see its effect in one of the Church’s “old baby photos.”

One particular “photo” comes from the second century, when St. Justin Martyr wrote about how when Christians gathered to worship, they “offer hearty prayers in common for ourselves and for the baptized person, and for all others in every place.” After that, they “salute one another with a kiss,” the presider at the service takes bread and wine and does the following:

[He] gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen.

Justin’s description corresponds to the prayers of the faithful, the exchange of peace, the offering of bread and wine, and the “great amen” that are still said at Catholic services today. Justin goes on to say that the bread and wine at Mass are not mere symbols of Christ’s body and blood, but are instead “the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” This doctrine, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, is one the Catholic Church still teaches and defends.

Here are some other examples of what the first Christians believed. Can you see the resemblance to what Catholics believe today in these other “baby photos”?

  • Submit to the bishop as you would to Jesus Christ.—St. Ignatius A.D. 110.
  • Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life.—Tertullian, A.D. 203.
  •  The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants.—Origen, A.D. 248.
  • Of how much greater faith and salutary fear are they who . . . confess their sins to the priests of God in a straightforward manner.—St Cyprian, A.D. 251.

Why We Believe: The Catholic Church

  • Jesus established a Church built on the apostles that included a hierarchy, or sacred order, that included deacons, priests, and bishops.
  • Only the Catholic Church can trace its authority back to the apostles and their immediate successors.
  • The Catholic Church has maintained in her current teachings the ancient doctrines of Christ, the apostles, and the early Church.”

Love,
Matthew

Gentleness…


-by Servant of God, Archbishop Luis M. Martinez

“Who would find this easy to believe: that mildness is just as necessary as force, perhaps even more so, to become a saint? Mildness is not weakness; rather, it is an indication of strength. Weak souls do their works with noise and show; the strong operate with marvelous gentleness. Life is as strong as it is gentle; love is as powerful as it is deli­cate. Hence, the action of God upon nature, in history, and on souls is infinitely mighty and infinitely mild.

The action of God upon His saints is most gentle. How He respects our liberty! How He condescends to our weak­ness! He does not run or jump or act violently. We, being weak creatures, rush; but God works slowly, because He deals with eternity. We bewail the passage of minutes; but God serenely watches the flow of years. We wish to achieve the goal of our desires with a single rush; but God prepares His work gently, nor does our inconstancy weary Him, nor do our failures startle Him, nor do the complicated vicissi­tudes of human life overturn His eternal designs.

Conversions are prodigies of gentleness, such as was St. Augustine’s. The long stages necessary for union are prodigies of gentleness, such paths as St. Teresa traveled. Great missions from God are also prodigies of gentleness, such as was St. Margaret Mary Alacoque’s. If we knew how to study the divine action in every saint, in every soul, we would be astonished, perhaps more at the gentle­ness than at the power of the sanctifying action.

Gentleness is indispensable for us if we are to become holy; and this we frequently forget. Undoubtedly many souls do not sanctify themselves because of a lack of power; but many also, indeed very many, fail to do so because of a want of gentleness.

The human soul is precious and delicate. It came forth from the divine lips as a most gentle breath. It is cleansed and rendered beautiful with the divine Blood of Jesus; and it is destined to be united with God Himself to participate in the life and in the ineffable mystery of the Most Blessed Trinity.

Such an exquisite jewel must be handled with con­summate delicacy. That is how God treats it, and that is how we should treat it. What an atmosphere of purity of mind, of peace, and of delicacy ought to surround a soul for it to achieve its sanctification! When the soul is borne to another atmosphere, how it pines, how it laments! It is like those beautiful and delicate flowers which a strong wind withers or the heat of the sun discolors and parches.

I think that the greater part of the spiritual ills of souls who seek perfection comes from a lack of gentleness.

Gentleness is needful to these poor, ever-disquieted souls. Desirous of holiness, they wish to achieve it all at once. They cannot countenance their own miseries, they grow angry at their weaknesses, and with an over-refinement of ingenuity, they continually worry and grieve themselves.

Unknowing and proud, they have not discovered the secret of mildness, the daughter of love, which is patient and benign. If they possessed this secret, they would un­derstand that one arrives at perfection by paths that are strewn with imperfections, which must be borne with hu­mility; that when a soul falls, it does not arise with agita­tion, but gently places itself in the merciful hands of God by means of humility and trust in Him; that God does not ask for the perfection of our conduct, but for the perfec­tion of our heart, as the wonderfully mild St. Francis de Sales so admirably teaches us.

Mildness is necessary to these souls who are so strict with themselves, even to the point of excess. They have forgotten the pages of the Gospel wherein we are told about mercy and love; they see in Christ only the severe countenance of a judge, without remembering that He is also Friend, Father, Spouse, and, above all, Savior, Who came to heal our miseries. They do not know that the sweet honey of love achieves more with the poor human heart than the bitter gall of severity. It seems that they still live on Sinai, that they have never placed their foot in the Cenacle, and that they have never uttered the con­soling and victorious cry of the beloved disciple: “And we have known, and have believed the charity, which God hath to us.” They do not believe in love.

Mildness is required in the desolations of spirit of those souls who would free themselves violently, without think­ing that in this way they only increase their pain. Gentle­ness is needful in prayer, for there are souls who become angry at distractions, and who wish at all events to travel by the road that pleases them, whereas they ought to allow themselves to be borne gently by the Spirit, who inclines where He wills, and whose comings in and goings out we do not understand. Gentleness is needful for recollection, seeing that one would try to obtain it with violence, whereas the imagination is restrained and the powers of the soul are brought to concentration only by a delicate gentleness.

Mildness is necessary in order that the soul may know itself, seeing that the very gifts of God are not recog­nized — shameful ingratitude! — out of a fear of falling into pride, as though humility were not truth itself, ac­cording to the happy phrase of St. Teresa. Gentleness is necessary, but why go on? Enough has been said to open these consoling vistas to souls who have need of them.

The soul is a delicate thing: a reflection of God, a breath of the Most High. Let it be treated as it deserves, so that, poised on the strong wings of might and of mildness, it may ascend to the holy regions for which it was born, that it may soar up to the bosom of God, Who is infinite might and infinite mildness.”

Love,
Matthew