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Want to change the world? Here are some simple tips
The lecturer in Church History at our local seminary asked his first-year seminarians to name the best year in the Church’s history. The fresh faced young men, only just embarking upon their vocational journeys, fidgeted in their seats.
As each suggestion was judged incorrect, the seminarians began to wonder if it had been a trick question. Eventually the lecturer conceded that it had been something of a trick because the Church has never experienced a perfect era.
Every age brought its own fresh challenges to the Christian faithful – everything from violent persecutions, scandals, and rifts within the hierarchy, to dangerous ideologies and heretical teachings, to present day secularism.
The Church and her faithful have weathered these storms, bruised but not beaten. Saints and martyrs and holy men and women stood up in the midst of those storms and carried on bravely. And while we might feel as though our present age is bleak, that the Church we love is constantly attacked, persecuted, and betrayed in many ways, we can take comfort in the knowledge that the Catholic Church has withstood it all before. And will do so again.
But as we strive to trust and endure, we can also seek ways to change the world around us and walk a path that leads to sanctification. We might never be recognised as canonised saints, but we can become saints nonetheless and spend eternity with God. Here are some simple starting points for a journey to holiness:
1.Practice the Ordinary
We might feel the urge to do something heroic but feel incapable of doing anything to strengthen the faith of the world. But heroic feats for Christ is not what most of us are called to. For many of us, our vocations and apostolates are much closer to home and are on a much smaller scale. Saint Thomas More, a great defender of the Church and her teachings, understood this reality well. “The ordinary acts we practice every day at home,” he said, “are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.”
It may very well be our simple, everyday witness to our faith that influences others, planting seeds in them that we may never get to see bear fruit. Our homes, parishes, and communities are where we can cultivate our faith, the faith of others, and the overall health of Christ’s body the church.
2.Connect with the Extraordinary
The life of faith appears radical to our secular society. Many do not grasp the supernatural and assign religion to the realm of make-believe and fairy tales. But living an authentic Catholic life as befits our individual circumstances takes extraordinary faith and trust in God and, above all, a love that compels greater reliance on Him. Mother Angelica put this very succinctly when she said: “Faith tells us that God is present when we pray, and hope tells us that He listens, but only love makes us continue to pray when darkness, boredom and even disgust fill our souls.”
So, pray, trust, love, and pray again. What might seem like routine spiritual acts, in fact, connect us with the extraordinary—the sublime, supernatural presence of our Heavenly Father; His only Son, our Saviour and Redeemer; and the Holy Spirit who endows us with gifts of awe and understanding.
3.Practice Holy Stubbornness
None of us are perfect and we are all prone to sin, so it goes without saying that we are going to make mistakes. In fact, we’re likely to make a lot of mistakes and often the same mistakes, over and over again. But it is important that we do not give in to discouragement.
Saint Josemaria Escriva spurs us on: “Don’t forget that the saint is not the person who never falls, but rather the one who never fails to get up again, humbly and with a holy stubbornness.” Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and step forward with a holy stubbornness that perceives that the path to sanctification is worth pursuing.
“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society,” says Saint Francis of Assisi. To me, this has always seemed easier said than done, given my sinful human nature and the enormity of the task. But just because this seems an unrealistic goal, does not mean that we cannot achieve it. Jesus tells us very clearly that what is impossible for us is not impossible for God (cf. Matthew 19:26).
Make sure you establish and remain faithful to your daily prayer life. Practice the virtues, and undertake a nightly examen to better understand yourself and your spiritual progress.
5.Hold onto Hope
Saint Padre Pio regularly encouraged people to “pray, hope, and don’t worry.” Our world is not perfect. It is often chaotic and riddled with tension. But this must not disturb our spirit. Padre Pio’s comments on the storms of life are very consoling: “God will never permit anything to happen to us that is not for our greater good. The storms that are raging around you will turn out to be for God’s glory, your own merit, and the good of many souls.”
So, do not lose hope amidst the storms in your life and in the world. These are the times in which God has placed us, and it therefore follows that these are the times that can make us holy. We just need to carry on bravely until we come to rest in God’s Heavenly kingdom.'
Tips to help you stay focused!
We had just arrived at the chapel attached to our local diocesan seminary. As I tried to encourage my pouty four-year-old to more appropriate behaviour, my two-year-old daughter quietly slipped out of our pew and wandered towards the altar.
She was almost at the foot of the altar before she turned back to look at me, pointing at the tabernacle and shouting: “Look Mum, it’s Jesus. Jesus is there.”
Of course she was absolutely correct. Jesus was there. In my haste to get the children seated and settled, I had neglected to remind myself of Jesus’s True Presence in that chapel. Instead I had entered the chapel on autopilot, guiding the children through their genuflection and unpacking and distributing a few books to keep them occupied.
These practical aspects of being a mother are certainly important. I was there, after all, to make use of the Sacrament of Confession and undertake spiritual direction afterwards. But I was distracted by the practical aspects of the morning that lay ahead of me.
Grasp the Infinite
When my daughter focused my attention on the Tabernacle I felt myself duly reprimanded. To be honest, I envied her simple faith. It is beautiful to watch my children engage with Jesus and our faith in their individual ways. One has a particular affinity for Saint Michael and his defeat of Satan. Another has a strong devotion and affection for Our Lady.
Above all, they seem to grasp the infinite, whilst I’m often preoccupied with the finite.
And I couldn’t help but reflect on Chapter 18 of Matthew’s Gospel:
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:1-5)
Unless you change and become like children… Easier said than done perhaps, but here are some starting points for all of us:
1. Practise humility
Children accept that they don’t know everything. They trust that the adults will have the answers to their questions, the wisdom to guide them in tricky situations, and an unconditional love that is endless. Accepting that we don’t have all the answers and trusting in God’s wisdom and mercy is essential.
2. Keep it simple
We can read a multitude of spiritual tomes, blogposts and articles, but unless that reading is followed by meditation and prayer to discern its personal application by God’s grace, we might make little progress in our spiritual lives. One of the best ways to really grow in holiness, to foster our childlike faith, is to sit in quiet and meditative prayer and call God’s presence to mind. Spending this prayer time in His True Presence is even better.
3. Call to mind His Presence
We can do this over the course of the day in our structured prayer times but also in the regular humdrum parts of our day. Hanging out the washing with increasing monotony? Peg each item with an accompanied “All for You Jesus, all for You.” Thank Him when we’re happy, confide in Him when we’re struggling. Short, simple and spontaneous, and straight from the heart.
4. Ask for help
If you’re finding life a bit rough at the moment, then approach a good, holy priest or religious for help and spiritual direction. Or trusted friends and family who share your faith might be able to offer support and guidance for whatever you might be struggling with. In fact, they might even admit to having experienced something similar. Hearing the tale of their battles to cope with adversity and reach a place of peace, may imbue you with the hope that this time of suffering will ease for you too.
5. Above all, trust in Him
If you’re like me, relinquishing control is not easy. But it is precisely when we accept and welcome God’s will into our lives that we make the most spiritual headway. Learning to put God’s will ahead of ours, or accepting it when it’s the complete opposite of what we want can feel excruciating. God knows what is best for us, and if we can let Him take the lead, who knows what we can achieve for Him?
May God give us all an increase in faith, trust and hope so that we might truly call ourselves His children and experience heaven, where we belong:
“Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” (Matthew 19:13-14)'
When I become too serious
Make me smile Lord
When I become too anxious…
Make me smile Lord
When I become too envious…
Make me smile Lord
When the journey is long and boring…
Make me smile Lord
When people are cold and uncaring…
Make me smile Lord
When I’m tired and my strength is failing…
Make me smile Lord
When I’m burdened with work and deadlines…
Make me smile Lord
When I’m stressed with money and finances…
Make me smile Lord
When I have to adjust to unforeseen changes…
Make me smile Lord
When I feel like shouting and complaining…
Make me smile Lord
When people around me become irritating…
Make me smile Lord
When I experience
Make me smile
When I don’t feel
Make me smile
When I don’t know and
I don’t care…
Make me smile Lord
And when I don’t feel like
Make me smile Lord
O Often we encounter people who can be mean, rude, obnoxious or troublesome. Though we are called to love one another, admittedly it can be very difficult. Worry no more! Saint Therese of Lisieux is here with 3 beautiful suggestions for how to love difficult people as Jesus would.
“ There is, in the Community, a Sister who has the faculty of displeasing me in everything—in her ways, her words, her character, everything seems very disagreeable to me. And still, she is a holy religious who must be very pleasing to God.”*
So how did Saint Therese confront this Sister?
1. Through Charity expressed not in feelings, but in works.
“ Not wishing to give in to the natural antipathy I was experiencing, I set myself to doing for this Sister what I would do for the person I loved most.”*
2. Through Prayer
“ I prayed to God for her, offering Him all her virtues and merits. I felt this was pleasing to Jesus; for there is no artist who doesn’t love to receive praise for his works!”*
3. By not arguing, but smiling and changing the subject.
“ I wasn’t content simply with praying very much for this Sister who gave me so many struggles, but I took care to render her every service possible, and when I was tempted to answer back in a disagreeable manner, I was content with giving her my most friendly smile, and with changing the subject of conversation.”*
One day at recreation, the Sister asked in almost these words: “Would you tell me, Sister Therese of the Child Jesus, what attracts you so much toward me; every time you look at me, I see you smile?”*
What attracted Saint Therese was Jesus hidden in the depths of that Sister’s soul–Jesus who makes sweet what is most bitter. Let us learn the art of responding to coldness, rudeness, gossip, and insults with active loving kindness and inner compassion.
*Excerpt from “Story of a Soul”: Autobiography of Saint Therese of Lisieux. A new translation by John Clarke, OCD'
Saint Augustine of Hippo is known as one of the greatest saints of all time. However, he lived very sinfully in his youth and subscribed to pagan philosophies like Neoplatonism and Manichaeism. Despite his mother’s fervent pleas for repentance, he continued to live with a woman out of wedlock, eventually fathering a child with her.
So, how did one of the greatest Saints of all time, a Church Father, convert to the One True Faith from a life mired in sin?
The answer: The Word of God.
In Confessions, Saint Augustine explains that his conversion to Catholicism was not instant. Though he had a strong desire to become a Catholic, he struggled to observe some of the Church’s teachings—especially that of chastity. He wrote that he asked God to make him chaste, but not yet.
One day, Augustine’s frustration came to a head. He pleaded with God to fully convert his heart. He wanted to become a Catholic and fully embrace the Church’s teachings, but he felt it impossible to detach himself from sins of the flesh. Augustine retreated to a garden for deep contemplation of his soul. He writes in Confessions that he heard a child’s voice implore him to “take up and read” the copy of Sacred Scripture he had brought into the garden with him. Immediately, Augustine opened the book of Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans, 13:13-14, which read:
“Let us live righteously as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in dissension and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
After reading those words, Augustine knew it was time to change his life.
We are all called to conversion of heart, but for most us it is not easy. However, we can learn from Saint Augustine’s story that the Word of God speaks directly to our restless hearts and offers us a road map to come home to Him.'
How can hardship itself be a teacher—from the loss of simple freedoms, like leaving your house, to the most tragic loss of life?
Can we refer to the Holy Mass as ‘The Mundane Miracle’? This Catholic oxymoron could describe the beautiful sacrament of the Eucharist. After all, we are able to receive Our Risen Lord in this sacrament daily. Catholics, in a state of grace, can receive this extraordinary gift by simply joining the Communion line, after fasting for at least an hour. No admission ticket or proof of authenticity is needed, just our conscience telling us we are free from serious sin. Thus, the God-given miracle of Himself is received mundanely. Then, Covid-19 entered our world.
In your wildest imagination, did you ever think that churches would be ordered to close their doors by our government? That there would not be Sunday Mass, not to mention daily Mass in our parishes? But, thanks be to God, technology enabled our brave and resourceful priests to live-stream Masses. My kitchen table became my sacred space where the Word of God was heard from my phone. Our priests preached their homily, consecrated the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of our Lord and allowed us to receive spiritually all in our own domestic churches or homes.
But the days became months and a hunger developed. It was a longing for the sacramental reception of the Eucharist that could not be satisfied. For the first time in my life, and I daresay yours too, we became aware of just how the absence of the Eucharist could affect us. The mundane miracle became the missed miracle.
Though restaurants were closed, take-out food could be ordered. Slowly, under strict state guidelines, indoor eating was allowed. More wonderful than that, daily Mass, then Sunday Mass resumed with masked and socially distanced churchgoers. After eighty-eight days of not receiving the Eucharist sacramentally, I was starved for our Risen Lord. I, along with many others, received the Eucharist with teary eyes and a longing that was finally satisfied. I was so grateful to be reunited with my dear Friend who laid down His life for me. Just a few short minutes meditating on His gift of the Himself to me in the Eucharist melted away our time of separation.
Then I realized the greatest lesson from Covid-19: the Eucharist was the greatest take-out food ever. Fully received and fully consumed, the Eucharist satisfies a hungry heart who walks out into the world at the end of Mass. And this take-out food was meant to be delivered. I pray to God that I will give Him to others in the ways He prompts me. Again and again, the process can be repeated: receive, take out and deliver to our hungry, needy world.
After the priest gives the final blessing, we are “good to go.” No correction. We are “God to go”—ready and able to deliver the best take-out food ever. So be ready to deliver a smile, a kind word, a helping hand, a necessary gift of food, comfort and heartfelt help. He will help us see where the special delivery needs to go. It’s funny how we learn from the strangest life events. Or perhaps, in the darkest of days, we search as hard as we can for the light and He shines His understanding upon us.'
Growing up in a large family of ten children with ten quite different personalities, our home was often loud and chaotic, but also full of deep faith and love. I have vivid memories of me and my siblings bombarding our dear mother almost daily with tattling and disagreements.
Very often my mother simply replied to our quarrels by reciting the Beatitude in her quiet, calming voice: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” Hearing those words, we would retreat and make a firm resolve to compromise and forgive. Over the years, so many of my mother’s insightful words have become my inner voice. That voice is particularly loud now, given the tumultuous world we live in.
Strangely enough, the world today is not entirely different from the home I grew up in. This world, too, is loud and chaotic, but yet full of faith and love. Even with clashing personalities, different ideals, and conflicting thoughts, I nonetheless believe there is a communal desire for peace, and an underlying love for one another.
My father’s favorite prayer was the simple but beautiful peace prayer of Saint Francis which has become more meaningful to me as I have grown older. It is a perfect prayer for the times in which we live. Not merely a prayer for peace, it is a prayer that seeks a way to become a vessel for spreading peace.
It asks that we forsake ourselves in order to care for others and heal this world that is profoundly bruised and hurting. As I reflect on the heartening words of this touching prayer, I cannot help but feel a mingling of compassion and empathy for those who are injured, and a sincere desire to help heal, give comfort, and bring peace where I can.
What a different world this would be if we all embraced the gentle words of the gentle saint of Assisi and implemented them in our lives:
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
Divine Master, Grant that I may not
so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.'
Plastic? Covered with dust? Not this guy!
A Strange Inkling
At one time, I thought saints were plastic and covered with dust, like too many of the old statues I had seen. What could they know or care about me and my world? But over a period of time, I began to get an inner ‘sense’ that Saint Joseph wanted my attention. I had no idea why. But this impression would not go away. I would sometimes kneel before his statue at church and shoot up little conversational leads like, “Hello, Joseph, I don’t know you. Are you really wanting my attention?” I never heard answers. But still, I could not shake the notion that he was trying to connect.
I am a single woman with no knack for malfunctions—mechanical or digital—who often becomes wildly frustrated when such things occur. As an experiment, I began asking Saint Joseph’s help with these situations and I noticed he seemed to respond in a variety of creative ways. I was impressed. After a few years, I grew convinced that Saint Joseph truly was on my team. I smilingly began telling friends, “He’s my main man!” Saint Joseph went on looking after me, in matters big and small. But recently, he protected me even before I asked, when I did not know I needed protection.
My friend Kathy had left a message asking me to cover her hour of adoration the following day. Since I could not respond in time, I just showed up the next day as she had asked. Unaccountably, I parked in an area of the parking lot where I do not usually park—at the far north end rather than the south end of the enormous parking lot. In church, as I sank down on the kneeler, I glimpsed my friend Andy walking past. But he did not walk past. He leaned into my pew and whispered that my driver’s-side rear tire was going flat. Surprised, I thanked Andy, shot up a quick prayer asking Saint Joseph to take charge, and put the tire out of mind. As I was finishing my hour, Andy suddenly re-appeared. This time his voice was urgent: “I wouldn’t drive on that tire at all. I have a device that can inflate your tire. I’ll run get it. Be back in ten minutes.”
Outside as I awaited Andy’s return, a friend came by. She and I mulled over my tire and agreed it did not look all that flat. I was certain no harm would result if I drove the two miles to my tire shop. But I had no way to contact Andy and I could not take off and leave him while he was going out of his way to help me. Plus, I had this little niggling thought, ‘Andy’s a ‘car guy’ by trade. He just might have a better “car eye” than I do.’ Sure enough, when Andy attached his gadget to my tire, the pressure registered at 6 pounds rather than the 30-35 pounds it was supposed to be. My tire could have been trashed had I driven on it. Yikes! While Andy was inflating the tire, I mentioned I was there that morning at Kathy’s request. To my surprise, so was he! It seems when Kathy was unable to reach me, she also asked Andy to cover her hour. Who knew that the two of us would both show up?
A Heavenly Scheme?
At the shop a nail was removed and my tire repaired at no charge. As I drove home, thanking God for His care, Saint Joseph popped into my mind. And questions started popping into my head: Was Saint Joseph part of a heavenly scheme to protect me that day…or to protect me from a possible blow-out later that week when I would be traveling on the highway?
Andy and I both showed up at adoration and I parked on the north side that day, when usually I park on the south. And in that vast parking lot Andy, with his keen mechanic’s eye, just happened to pull up right next to my car where he could readily spot my near-flat tire.
Were all these coincidences? I won’t know for sure this side of Heaven. But I do know for sure that the saints are not far away and sometimes they really do get involved in our nitty-gritty matters, both big and small. And sometimes—even when we have not asked—their invisible heavenly fingerprints appear in the darndest places. I know Saint Joseph is not plastic, not by a longshot. This powerful guy with heavenly clout demonstrates over and over that he really does have my back. Not only does he help me navigate treacherous roads anytime I ask, but sometimes he extends his proactive care even when I haven’t a clue that I need it.
O Saint Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong and so prompt before the Throne of God, I place in You all my interests and desires. Assist me by Your powerful intercession that I may always seek God’s Holy Will. Be my protector and my guide in the way of salvation. Amen.'
One afternoon, Padre Pio sat alone on the veranda, just outside his cell. His assistant, Father Alessio felt it would be a good opportunity to review some of the letters asking for his advice, but he was surprised at his response. “I am very busy right now,” Padre Pio replied. “I cannot answer your question at this time.”
Father Alessio was confused. It was obvious to him that Padre Pio was not busy. He was sitting alone with Rosary in his hand, but he always held his Rosary. Later Padre Pio explained: “There have been many guardian angels here today bringing me messages from my spiritual children.” Over the years, Father Alessio personally experienced mysterious knocks on his door, or whispers in his ear from Padre Pio’s guardian angel, calling him to Padre Pio’s aid when he could not walk without assistance.
Every human being is assigned a guardian angel who always sees the face of God. Their task is to guide us into His presence, to the places that God has prepared for us in Heaven. Whenever you are in need, call upon your angel to help you. Send your guardian angel to comfort a friend in distress. Remember that there is always a witness to your deeds.
Angel of God my guardian dear to Whom His love commits me here; Ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen'
Have you heard of the open-source Linux operating system known as Ubuntu? Released in 2014, it is now one of the most-used operating systems on the planet. Ubuntu is widely used in the world’s fastest supercomputers, runs on most of the web servers around the world and is even behind the technology used by Google’s self-driving car!
Do you know what “Ubuntu” actually means?
The story goes that an anthropologist once proposed a game to some African tribal children. He placed a basket of sweets near a tree and had the children stand a few hundred feet away. Whoever reached the basket first would get all the sweets.
When he said ready, steady, go … do you know what these small children did?
They all held each other’s hands and ran toward the tree together, divided the sweets and enjoyed them equally.
When the anthropologist asked them why they did that, they said “Ubuntu”—which to them meant “How can one be happy when all the others are sad?”
It turns out that the word “Ubuntu” represents a South African ethical ideology that focuses on people’s allegiances and relations with each other. The word comes from the Zulu and Xhosa languages and is regarded as one of the founding principles of the new republic of South Africa.
A rough translation of the principle of Ubuntu is “a belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all of humanity.” Interestingly, the logo of Ubuntu represents three friends holding hands.
Let us always carry this attitude of “Ubuntu” within us, to spread happiness by sharing with others wherever we may go. I am because we are.
“Keep the joy of loving God in your heart, and share it with all you meet, especially your family.”: Saint Teresa of Calcutta
The simple and tender words of Jesus instructing us to “love one another as I have loved you” have taken on a deeper meaning for me over the past few weeks as the coronavirus has spread throughout the globe.
I have witnessed love of neighbor in action from every end of the earth, and in my own backyard. And if this love had a sound, that sound would be silence: quiet classrooms, empty offices, and desolate parks. The silence is powerful. It is the sound of love. It is the sound of Isolation, sacrifice, and self-denial for the health and safety of humanity. What a beautiful movement in a defining moment.
Odd as it may sound, there is an immeasurable amount of beauty in all this suffering we face. As I look in my daughter’s closet and see her dresses for prom and graduation hanging up, now never to be worn, I can’t help but feel a twinge of pain and sadness for the memories she and so many others will never create. But she is living in a moment she will never forget. A moment that none of us will ever forget –when the world came together and love spread faster than a virus. That is the most extraordinary memory to keep. That is what makes this time of pain and loss extraordinarily holy.
Like many people, I hope that when love and prayer and science conquer this pandemic, life does not return to normal. I pray kindness and compassion will continue to overflow this earth. I pray the pain, sacrifice, and hardships we are all enduring softens us – softens our hearts, our actions, our thoughts. I pray that each of us will appreciate our blessings in life a little more, that our faith will become a little deeper, that our love for each other will grow a little stronger. My hope is that the little things in life become the bigger things in life, as our appreciation for everything around us flourishes. I pray that we fully understand what it means to love each other as Jesus loves us and actively live this love, because we are all in this beautiful life together.'