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!

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.)

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