The Way

One of the most commonly used analogies for life is a journey.  It makes a lot of sense, really.  We’re traveling from this life to the next, with a bunch of pit stops and flat tires along the way.  Anyone who takes road trips at all knows that there are a few extremely important things you need to bring for the long ride ahead.  Among these items are food, caffeine, entertainment for young passengers, and most importantly, a map.  Without food everyone is going to starve sooner or later.  caffeine will keep you awake, entertainment will keep the kids from screaming, and a map will keep you on the right path.  On the spiritual journey, I like to think of food as prayer.  Without prayer, sooner or later you’re gonna drift away into lukewarmness or even disbelief.  Caffeine is like the Holy Eucharist.  It charges you up for those long days when you feel like you got run over by a truck.

I know personally, books are among my favorite types of entertainment.  I think on the spiritual road trip, it’s the same thing.  Books about spirituality or apologetics will teach you not how to be entertained, but how to be engaged with the faith.  And lastly, a map.  Don’t you hate it when you tell Siri you want to go somewhere, and by the time she says “you have arrived”, you’re like ten miles away from the place you wanted to be?  It’s because she didn’t know the way to get there and acted like she did.  I know I do that a lot.  During my Freshman year I was in Marching Band.  I barely knew how to play my instrument, so sometimes I would move my hands randomly to make it look like I was actually playing the music.  Since no one knew I had a problem, no one helped me fix it, so I needed up as an alternate pushing stuff around instead of actually marching with my saxophone.  The same thing can happen in any other circumstance.  Anyway, you have to know the way to get where you’re going if you ever want to get there.  And if you ever want to get there, you’re gonna have to leave where you’re at.

So, we need to find a way to get there, but here’s the catch.  Our goal is to get to Heaven, right?  To be with God in eternal joy.  Here’s what Jesus said about that.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

It seems pretty clear to me that all the other roads that have the green signs saying “Heaven, 10 miles” are fake.  So, we know what to bring, we know where we’re going, and we know the way to get there, what else?  Getting on the way and saying on it. If Heaven is a castle, Jesus is the drawbridge, and we need to figure out how to get to Him.  Remember what I said earlier about a map?  I never really explained what that was, did I?  Well, the map is the Church.  Not the Siri map that always messes up, or a conventional map.  It’s like Google Maps, (For me at least) it’s always spot on.  It tells me where the way is and how to get there, and where all the Sonic Drive-Ins are along the way.  It also tells you what exit to take, when not to take one.  You also need to make sure you have the right “Maps” app.  The world will try to give you false maps and fake paths, like Siri.  You need to find the real one.  How do you do that?  Well, in the description of the real map, it has four marks, kind of like a tag on WordPress.  The marks on the actual map are One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.  Sound familiar?

Does anyone own an absolutely perfect car?  Does it have the top speed of a Bugatti, the efficiency of a Mazda and the looks of a Lamborghini?  No?  Okay, so none of our cars are perfect.  Eventually they’re going to run out of gas or get a flat tire.  That’s when we make a pit stop at the gas station.  Same thing with us humans.  Since we’re not perfect, eventually we’re going to sin and we need to go to Confession to fix ourselves up.  God doesn’t care about how many times you run out of gas or even get in a wreck.  He cares about how many times you go to fix it and keep on driving,  Since none of us are perfect, Confession is a must on the road trip to Heaven.

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There is one last thing I haven’t told you yet about they way.  The more people you caravan with along the way, the harder it is to get lost.  Of course they can’t be drunks or kids without a license, they have to want to get to your destination.  If you caravan with someone else who doesn’t want to get to Heaven, it’s going to be much harder for you to arrive at the correct destination.  But, like I already said, the more people you caravan with that have the same goal, the likes are the trip will be much easier.

Now that you know the way, it’s time to get going.  Like J.R.R. Tolkien once said,

“It’s the job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.”

And here is one last bit of advice:

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That’s it for today.  God Bless!

Some People

Pope-meme

I feel like this so often.  On the reader page of WordPress, I follow the “Catholic” Tag.  Sometimes people will post Anti-Catholic stuff on there with that tag.  There was one about how no devout catholic could ever be a good parent.  Annoyed sigh.  It is always nice to see and actual Catholic post under the Catholic Tag.  It’s even better when Catholic Memes comes out with a new post.  Ah, that site is awesome.  Anyway, it’s a lot easier to deal with the anti-Catholic comments in real life.  I feel much more at home in a face to face conversation.  Even not discussing it, but just taking the blow is easier in real life.  I don’t feel alone because I have a couple of really good devout Catholic friends that always have my back.  Elsewhere, I feel a lot more alone, helpless even.  I know I’m never alone with God, but I still get that feeling.  I have a “Catholic” friend who will usually take the wrong side of an argument and say something weird.  He’s all for that “all religions are equal” stuff.  He claims that the Catholic Church isn’t correct, it’s just the closest to being right out of all the beliefs in the world.  Whenever that happens, I’m just like:

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It’s usually pretty funny to see his argument collapse after the relentless barrage of sound theology from me and my friends.  I know that kid well, so I can have serious conversations with him from time to time without his dismissal of logic.  I always try to remember my own advice from the post the Apostolate of Friendship.  I have a hard time doing so.  The point that I am trying to say is that without those few select Catholic friends I have, I wouldn’t be wrighting this.  I would probably be just remain quiet on religion.  You know, keep your religion to yourself and all that.  I was like that at the start of my Freshman year.  Some of my friends were talking about abortion and they asked me how I felt about it.  I, a confirmed catholic, who has every responsibility to defend and share the truth, said I didn’t really care.  Looking back, I can’t even see how I let myself do that.  Then I met a couple of Catholic friends who had been in the apologetics business longer than I (I was homeschooled for a couple grades).  They gave me the courage to speak up.  Together with my friends, we all wore Yes on 1 buttons during the 40 days for life.  I have to admit, half the time I wore a jacket over my button during a few classes.  I didn’t want to face harsh criticism from people I didn’t know.  It was a really big learning experience for me.  Fast forward a couple months, and I write a blog about Catholicism.  I wear a Catholic t-shirt like every other day.  This isn’t me bragging, it’s me bragging about my friends.  All this is because of them.

Of course, with anybody, they do have their negative sides.  One of them is super philosophical and hurts my brain all the time. One of them is less traditional than I am, and we joke about his Church’s newer Worship music compared to my church’s classical chant and hymns.  But they are some of the best kids I have ever met.  They continue to change my life and keep it on the narrow way towards Jesus.  So this post is for them, and for all those heroic teens out there taking a stand for the truth.  For all those courageous souls bringing others closer to Jesus.  This is for you also, my brave reader.  Yes, Pope Francis, it’s for you too.  Don’t excommunicate me or anything, okay?  Thanks for reading and God Bless!

7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit

For all of us who took a Religion class during school or attended Sunday School now and then, we all remember the last-minute scramble to get the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit memorized.  I remember almost failing that quiz because I forgot to study.  Anyway, few of us actually took the time to understand what the gifts were, rather than cramming it into our heads just to barf it back up on a quiz.  It’s a shame, really.  These are some of the coolest things you receive from God, and few people actually know what they mean.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the Gifts “complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.” *

In short, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit make it easier for you to be Holy.  You are more able to receive the will of God and act on it.  You get these gifts every time you are in the state of Sanctifying Grace, like when you receive the Holy Eucharist worthily.  Every time you do that, you are infused with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  And without further ado, the Gifts.

1. Wisdom

Wisdom is inseparable from charity.  In a way, it is also closely linked to faith.  As Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., notes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, “Where faith is a simple knowledge of the articles of Christian belief, wisdom goes on to a certain divine penetration of the truths themselves.”  Wisdom is the ability to correctly judge things of a supernatural nature, such as the existence of God.

2. Understanding 

Understanding is very often confused with Wisdom and Knowledge.  After all, their meanings in our language are often very similar.  Understanding is the ability to comprehend the meaning of the teachings of the Church.  Without Understanding, you could have memorized a term and its appropriate definition, but you would never realize what it actually means.  This might have been a little confusing, but it takes some time to fully understand this gift (no pun intended).

3. Counsel

While Wisdom was the perfection of faith, Counsel is the perfection of prudence.  Prudence can be practiced by anyone, but counsel can only be gained as a free gift from God.  Like the cardinal virtue of prudence, counsel helps us to judge what to do in any given situation.  What separates it from prudence; however, is that counsel can make the decision quickly and without a second thought.  Think of it as your Holy Instincts.

4. Fortitude

Probably the most well-known, Fortitude is the courage to stand up for what is right.  It’s not rashness, but always reasonable.  Fortitude would help you to stand up for your Faith in conversation, or as the martyrs did, even die for it.

5. Knowledge

Knowledge is, as the Archdiocese of Washington puts it, “a supernatural habit infused by God through which the human intellect, under the illuminating action of the Holy Spirit, judges rightly concerning created things as ordained to the supernatural end.”  Like the other gifts, it builds on human nature.  Knowledge helps us to judge things in perspective to the ultimate goal of someday reaching heaven.

6. Piety

Piety is the perfection of justice towards God.  CatholicCulture.org says that piety “produces an instinctive filial affection for God and devotion toward those who are specially consecrated to God“.  Piety would help you to be perfectly contrite of your sins (being sorry because you offended God, not because you are afraid of eternal punishment) and to love others because you can see God in them.

7. Fear of the Lord

Most of you reading probably already know this, but for of those who don’t, it’s not being scared of God.  Rather, it is the perfection of hope.  It is a profound respect for God, and a strong desire not to offend him.  Not like a slave fearing his overlord’s punishment, but a child wishing not to offend his parents.  It is also a firm belief in his mercy and confidence in His power.  Again, fear of the lord is not dread, but a filial respect.

These Gifts are so amazing in the fact that they don’t have to be earned.  That’s why they’re called Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

 

* (Libreria Editrice Vaticana (2011-11-02). Catechism of the Catholic Church (Kindle Locations 11167-11168). United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Kindle Edition.)

In the First Ever apostolic Draft, the 11 Have Chosen…

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picture from catholicmemes.com

Today is the solemnity of the Ascension, as well as the feast of the Apostle, Saint Matthias.  After Judas hung himself, the apostles thought it would be fit for them to appoint a twelfth as Jesus first appointed them.  St. Peter set the requirement for candidates.  They must have witnessed Jesus’ entire ministry, and be able to witness to the events that took place during that time.  They voted, either Barsabbas or Matthias.  One of them would become one of the twelve.  And the first pick of the NFL (National Faith League) 33-ish AD Draft is…Matthias!  Okay, there wasn’t actually a draft.  The apostles prayed to the Holy Spirit for guidance, much as the cardinals do when electing a new Pope.  The point is that the Holy Spirit will always guide the church through rough times and back on to the correct path.  When the Papacy was moved to Avignon, the Holy Spirit inspired Saints to move him back to Rome where he belongs.

Today’s Gospel for the feast of St. Matthias is also very inspiring.  The Gospel from usccb.org:

Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.”

I thought this reading was amazing.  Earlier on in the gospel, before Pentecost (the Confirmation of the Apostles), Jesus told us to love your neighbor as yourself.  Now he has commanded us to love each other as He loved us, to the point of death as Jesus explained.  No greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for his friends.  This is mostly meant in a non-literal sense.  Sure, he is telling you to be willing to literally die for your faith, but He rarely requires it of the average person.  He does want everyone to die to themselves so that others may flourish.  Put your neighbor’s needs before your own.

Jesus also said that He calls us friends, no longer slaves.  It was not us who chose Him, but He who chose us.  This ties back to my earlier post The Mission.  A young man does not decide he wishes to become a priest or a married man, God gives him the great mission of that vocation, and the man follows through with it.  You did not decide to be in the place you are in right now, good or bad.  To some extent your actions brought you here, but nevertheless, God has you right where He wants you.

Jesus’ last statement in this reading is to love one another.  It wraps up all He just said.  Your mission is to love one another as God has loved you.  Love everyone you see everyday.  That super annoying guy at the lunch table that won’t stop spitting over all your food when he talks?  Love him.  That one guys at the movie theatre that kicks your seat from behind?  Love him.  That one guy at McDonald’s that gives you the wrong meal twice?  Guess what, love him too.  You have so many opportunities love others, so, what are you waiting for?

Apostolate of Friendship

Neighbors

Today was one of those days.  It started out okay, but it didn’t last.  There are always those people who don’t like you and actively try to make your day worse.  Sometimes I don’t realize that I act like them at times.  I may do the same to them or even something worse.  I can deal with those kinds of people like I have always.  The real killer is my friends who disagree with me on tough moral issues.  Some of them are even Catholic, almost all are Christian.  It’s the way they talk about religion though that really annoys me.  They pull up an issue and say something wrong, and don’t want me to say anything.  It’s like a drive-by shooting.  I have discovered in my short years of life that my personality has three main aspects:  Catholic, brother, and jokester.  When I am in Catholic mode, I relentlessly defend the faith and try my best to be kind.  Brother mode is like protection mode.  Being the oldest brother of a family of 8 kids, I know how to defend others.  Jokester mode speaks for itself.  When I am talking to these kinds of people, most often I find myself in brother mode.  Their my friends, and I know they are holding on to beliefs that are contrary to the truth, and often teach others the same.  I lose some of the qualities the Catholic mode has, like compassion.  The most important thing is to save their soul, not to win the argument.  It’s really hard for me to do this, especially when I am concerned about what they will spread to others.

This all ties into the theme of this post: The Apostolate of Friendship.  St. Josemaria Escriva has an entire chapter dedicated to this in one of his three books.  The apostolate of friendship is basically winning should to Christ by just being a good friend.  This doesn’t mean being quiet when a touchy issue comes up.  Defend the faith with kindness, like a shepherd would compassionately lift his sheep up before it falls.  Most importantly, just be a good friend.  If you are a general, and want another country to help you in a battle, it is much easier to be allied with that country than to force it do help.  No one is gonna listen to you unless they think there is a good reason to do so.  I struggle with this tremendously.  They see me as “the Catholic” that wants to force his religion on others, all because I was more focused on winning the argument than winning a soul.  Be Christ to others, so that through you, they may come to know the truth.  After all, we all need someone to lean on.

God Bless!

On Confession

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One of my non-Catholic friends asked me earlier today, “Hey, why do you like going to confession so much?  Whats so great about that you go to it every week?”.  I told him after some thought, “Actually, I hate going to Confession”.

My friend was surprised and asked why I go at all if I don’t like it.  I told him that it’s not going to confession that I love, its receiving absolution and getting out of confession that I like.  No kid likes taking a bath, they just like getting done with it and being clean.  It’s the same thing.  I mean, if anybody actually enjoys sharing their faults with another person by itself, I would be surprised.  We humans don’t like others to know about our defects, and we certainly don’t want to tell them.  I explained this to my friend, along with a short summary of why the priesthood has the power to forgive sins.  If you want more on that subject, comment about it and I’ll expand on that subject further in a later blog.

I especially don’t like it when I know the priest well.  I always think he’ll judge me right as I get in the line.  I started to realize that it might not be a coincidence, me getting that feeling right before I go to Confession.  If you were the devil, when would you attack humans the hardest?  Right before they are about to deal a large blow to you and your work, right?  That’s what he’s trying to do.  Same thing with prayer.  Ever wonder why it’s so hard  to concentrate when you’re praying the Rosary?  When you notice yourself feeling scared or nervous before Confession, just push through it and know that it isn’t a priest behind the screen, its Our Lord speaking.

If you have never seen the movie or read the book, Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I highly encourage you to watch it.  For those of you who have, you’ll get this analogy.  Eustace has been transformed into a dragon by trying to take Dragon gold.  Later on, still a dragon, the ship arrives to the island of evil, which they must defeat.  Eustace spots a sea serpent, and flees his companions.  He flies until he falls onto another island.  Aslan the lion approaches him, and scrapes the sand.  Eustace can feel the dragon scales going away, but it came with horrible searing pain.  Aslan then roars, and Eustace has been transformed back into a boy again, and transported back to an island where he can help defeat the evil.  This is almost a perfect analogy.  He sinned when he took the gold, which transformed him.  When we sin, it changes our souls.  When he fled, it took him off the battleground.  Aslan forgave him, and gave his body back to him.  When we go to confession, it transforms us back to who we really are, sons and daughters of the living God in Jesus Christ.

You see, confession isn’t fun, but it is one of the most powerful spiritual tools you have access to.

“The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.”

           – Saint Augustine

Coexisting, and why its not an option

You might be wondering, “I thought coexisting was a good thing?”.  And you’d be right, depending on the definition.  If you mean we should coexist by not killing each other over race, or being able to work together with people of different religions or backgrounds, that’s fine. But when I say coexist, I mean the concept that all religions are fine and should be treated as such (AKA Religious Indifference). Many people think this is a viable option.  After all, why can’t we all just get along already for Pete’s sake?  Others say that you should “stop forcing your religion on others”, or “you believe what you want to believe, and I’ll believe what I want to believe”.  However, there is one large gap in this philosophy.  One religion has to be correct, others flawed in areas of great importance, and some are just flat-out wrong (and sometimes scary).  Every religion is different from all the others, or else they would be the same religion.  eventually two religions will take different stands on a moral topic, and one is right, and one is wrong.  Let’s pretend there are two religions, each with strand of DNA.  They could be the same up until the end, but even that makes the two religions different. The Catholic Church teaches that we should love our neighbors as God has loved us.  Love is the willing of good to someone else, possibly even at your own expense.  St. Paul tells us that love is the single most important virtue, and that it is required of us as Christians to show it.   That gives us the duty to share the truth with others.  If you knew a blind man, but had a lotion that would cure him and didn’t give it to him, how bad would that be?  Or maybe you knew that your friend had a million dollars in his attic, and you didn’t tell him about it.  That would be stupid, wouldn’t it?  Now multiply that by infinity, literally.  We’re talking about eternal life here!  This is what coexisting is asking us to do, and why we cannot comply. In a nutshell, Catholics cannot coexist because we will not keep the truth to ourselves while we watch our brothers and sisters possibly lose their chance at eternal life.  As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said in Verbum Domini,

“We cannot keep to ourselves the words of eternal life given to us in our encounter with Jesus Christ: they are meant for everyone, for every man and woman. … It is our responsibility to pass on what, by God’s grace, we ourselves have received.”