Amoris Laetitia is a document written by Pope Francis that has become somewhat infamous among certain parts of the Catholic Church. Most of this attention is over Chapter 8 of an otherwise quite long work. What is interesting as Bishop Barron points out are the Chapters 7-9 which give attention to Virtue. What is virtue? Virtue is those good things which we practice over and over again such as a 'good habit'. To grow in virtue one must be patient and hopeful in completing a particular good deed over and again with the aid of God's grace.
This video is definitely worth watching a few times, but it is a good reflection on Virtue and our modern age.
For many of us, we make God small. We make God like a police officer, a banker, or a doctor. That God should immediately come to our aid only when we have urgent emergencies. Or that God should listen to our prayers as we store them up like a bank. Or even that because we pray we ought to be immediately healed of all that is ill.
In point of fact God is much bigger then all of these small considerations. In many ways I call these the three versions of ‘pop Theology’. It certainly feels good, and it certainly makes one not have to think too hard or listen in their hearts to God too hard.
Yet, what is missing from this ‘pop Theology’ is the consideration that God is bigger then our wildest imaginings. I once listened to a very old monk who had become blind who shared that he was thankful that he was blinded, he said: “it must have been for the good of my soul that I became blinded”. How wise indeed it is to see that the ways of God are so far beyond our own and that our pilgrimage here is but a short blink in our life of eternity with God on the New Earth and New Heavens. As God says in Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways—oracle of the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
Another author who comes to mind is Frank Sheed who in his book Theology and Sanitywrites that the truth that God is must be believed not only as mystery but also as he has revealed himself. A mystery in the theological sense is something that has yet to be fully revealed by God and which is impossible to fully deduce without further revelation. To not believe in God is insanity because it is a rejection of reality, a rejection of the world and universe as it truly is. I would argue it would be just as insane to put God in the box of a police officer, banker, or a doctor as discussed above.
What this means is that we must give our hearts entirely to a God who we may not at times understand which undoubtably can be scary. At times we may be angry or frustrated with a God who can at times seem to remain silent even in the midst of tragedy. In the end we are grateful for having been given the strength and grace to figure out our problems or with the aid of others create a stronger community build in righteousness. As it says in one of my many favorite psalms: “The valiant one whose steps are guided by the LORD, who will delight in his way, May stumble, but he will never fall, for the LORD holds his hand. Neither in my youth, nor now in old age have I seen the righteous one abandoned or his offspring begging for bread. All day long he is gracious and lends, and his offspring become a blessing.”
God doesn’t only reveal himself as he did to Moses in the burning bush but he reveals himself in the whisper as he did before Elijah on the mountain.We need to be like Elijah, constantly seeking out the Lord in the midst of our troubles as the ineffable. Giving God our very hearts and offering him our deepest sorrows. Only when we give ourselves fully can we truly be open to a God who not only has revealed himself but also is a mystery.
Frank Sheed, Theology and Sanity(San Francisco; Ignatius Press, 1978).
1 Kings 19
Social Networks are part of Pope Francis' intention for June, that they may be used as a means of connection. Inclusiveness is key in our communications and connections with others. Let's pray and act to create a space for everyone!
If you’re like me silence is hard. Most of us today can’t really handle more then five minutes of it, other then the fact that it’s tough to find a moment of quiet. What is also interesting is the resurgence of ‘mindfulness’ and meditative spiritual practices that have made their way to public domain in a way that they weren’t previously. Case-in-point there are hundreds of meditation apps and software available as well as various school programs built to benefit from ‘mindfulness.’
The term ‘mindfulness’ has a certain amount of ambiguity as does it’s origins, as much due to popular culture as well as various moments in Buddhist circles. This isn’t to say that it is evil in-and-of-itself but rather that in our Christian tradition there are even more fruitful practices to re-acquaint ourselves with. Mindfulness in my understanding which is taken from various sources including mindfulness.org and onbeing.org essentially is the practice of simply put an embrace of the quiet which is within while at the same time being fully present. The distinction in our case with practices like Lectio Divina (quiet prayer steeped in Sacred Scripture) or simple contemplative practices is that we use it at the same time as an opportunity for prayer. To Contemplate or to be contemplative is an interior opening of the mind or heart to God without the necessity of constant dialouge. Contemplative prayer is not imaginative or even particularly inspired other then the Holy Spirit working within our very beings. These are only a few words on what is otherwise a very deep and rich practice that takes time to develop and appreciate.
Most Catholics are intimately familiar with vocal prayer which is the short or sometimes even long memorized prayers said vocally. Of course it also is possible to pray inspired prayers vocally as well. A smaller portion of Catholics also practice mental prayer which is talking to Jesus from the heart and in the heart. Those coming from older generations may recall the various memorized “ejaculations” or quick memorized prayers which flow from the heart with ease such as “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” or “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, pray for us” or even my favorite “Adauge Nobis Fidem.”
At any rate, Contemplative prayer is the practice of being open and receptive to God’s presence and God’s whisper like that of the prophet Elijah who didn’t find God in the earthquake but in the still small voice on Mount Horeb. One may find slowed breathing helpful, a comfortable posture or even kneeling helpful. The obvious benefit over mere ‘mindfulness’ is that not only is one assuming a restful and even refocusing activity, but one also is reunited with the creator God. As St. Paul says we are to pray always and taking moments to contemplate or to even live in a contemplative manner throughout the day has not only remedy for the body but also the soul. God is waiting for you in the silence of your heart, how will you answer?
Join Pope Francis in prayer for 'The Mission of the Laity' this month in your daily prayer! Comment below any special intentions you may wish to share for us all to pray for.
If you're like me, sticking to that resolution is a challenge. This is the time of the month where we start to feel the stress of sticking to something. Sometimes we give in, but does that mean we give up? How do we keep consistent? I think God places like Fr. Mike says, a vision in your life. We all receive a vision of a better self at one time or another. I think what is key is to hold onto that vision in hope and act in faith with consistency. How is this achieved? Well, Fr. Mike is really good at explaining so I'll say no more! Just watch: (five minutes tops)
We mark the beginning of our new year with the selection of goals and ideals. We look at the old and wish for the new. We see the changes we wish for and the changes that are yet to be made in us. We wish to grow but realize we are still very much the same person from the last January 1st. Many of us become negative or pessimistic about resolutions, in that way we won’t later be hurt by our failures. But why is it as humans we desire so deeply to be better?
I think in many ways we are drawn to the holiness of God which is a simplicity as well as a deep complexity. There is a pureness to God in which we all strive to be like as we are made in his image and it is our innate desire to be like him. It is a God given hunger for his life and goodness in ourselves and others. For example: We wish to be better at using our time, we wish to be better for others, we wish to bring about goodness for others and for ourselves.
If it is one resolution that I may suggest to you it would be a grateful heart. Don’t turn off just yet! I know that this becomes a symptom of a sappy post but to be very real with you gratefulness is something that has been identified scientifically as well as spiritually as something that is enriching. All of Christian life is summed in one eternal event of gratitude which is entered into through Holy Mass, the summit of which is the Eucharist meaning ‘thanksgiving’ in greek. Not to mention the endless song the Church sings by praying the psalms at every hour is one of thanksgiving.
I think many times we select many resolutions which cause us failure in the new year. There are times as well we experience great success. But if I may be so bold to suggest one for you it is one that will bring about blessing to you and your family.
How do we practice gratitude in daily living? Just watch this short 5 minute clip:
How to be happy? That is often a question. There is many times those who feel 'blue' during the holidays for a number of reasons. In my youth I remember a certain feeling of 'blue' during all of the holidays, particularly those of Christmas and New Years. Sometimes it is an upset in a regular schedule or even the missing of a particular loved one. This makes the holidays particularly difficult in striving to keep or hold onto this sense of happiness.
How to be happy? Br. David Steindl-Rast is a Benedictian Monk who has deeply examined this connection between Gratefulness and Happiness. It is a blessing to listen to his words and to engage a little bit of gratefulness each day that we may become truly happy, even with a little bit of blue.
TED Talk: Want to be happy? Be grateful | David Steindl-Rast
"In the solitude and silence of the wilderness..., for their labor in the contest, God gives his athletes the reward they desire: a peace that the world does not know and joy in the Holy Spirit."
Husband & father of four, graduate from Quincy University and currently a grad student at Franciscan University. Director of Faith Formation & Youth Ministry for All Saints Parish since January 2012.