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Sanctification in Daily Work
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Prioritizing Faith and Health

As a University of Florida graduate I was as shocked as anyone to hear about head football coach, Urban Meyer, announcing his resignation yesterday. Now it sounds like he may just be taking a leave of absence. In any case, it sounds like he’s doing it for the right reasons and I’m hoping his players and fans will learn from it. He’s at the top of the game but decided his health and faith were more important than the job. Stress apparently plays a key role in the decision.

I know it’s easy to say that your health and faith are more important than your job but it isn’t easy to actually do something about it. I respect his decision and hope more people will make one like it.

We’re living in a society that seems to place constant pressure on people: to make money, to succeed, to buy things, to look a certain way and on and on and on. The reality is that none of that is as important as your faith and I think taking care of your health goes right along with it. God gives us our life and our health. I look at it as something to take care of as a way to honor Him. I’m also as guilty as anyone for not taking good care of my health and I’ve suffered from stress so I know what this is like.

My wife and I have our own business. We’ve had some good success with it and we’re very grateful for that. This year has been stressful. As we’ve become more successful with the business it has impacted our time and schedules. This summer I had to deal with a major health problem. So, we’ve been talking about it and making decisions based on it. Basically, we started the company to get away from the stress of corporate life. We don’t want to create our own. So, it’s time to look carefully at what we’re doing, how and why.

The new year promises to be a good one and my prayer is that we make good decisions and I pray the same for you and Coach Meyer.

Living a Holy Life in Today’s World

I was asked today about how to live a holy life in today’s world. The implication being that it is difficult to do in a society that seems bent on removing religion from our everyday life and being focused on wealth and possessions while finding someone else to blame for everything without accepting personal responsibility.

Yes it does seem difficult. It makes me think of a saying you see printed along with an image of Jesus that goes, “I never said it would be easy. I only said it would be worth it.” I’m not sure where that phrase comes from but I have thought of it often when trying to do something I know is right even when it isn’t easy. Like going to daily Mass when I’m traveling and in a city that I’ve never been to before and have a tight schedule due to the work that I’m doing. It is often not easy to do but after Mass I can truly say it was worth the effort!

As a cooperator of Opus Dei one of the key elements that drew me to it to start with is centered in this concept of “Sanctification in Daily Work.” To sanctify is to make holy and that’s what we are called to do as lay people in “the middle of the world.” So to me, the idea of living a holy life involves doing what is right and I look to my faith to teach me that.

I also think it’s necessary to work at becoming or being holy in the world today and fortunately our faith provides us with a number of tools to help us. Here are the things that I think are necessary:

  • Daily prayer done at specific times (first thing in morning and last at night). This can consist of the Rosary, morning offering, thanks before and after meals, etc.
  • A short reading from scripture, especially the New Testament.
  • A few minutes of mental prayer.
  • Daily Mass if possible.
  • A visit to Jesus in the Tabernacle.
  • Frequent confession.
  • Daily spiritual reading.

St. Josemaria says this in his book Friends of God:

You should not let them become rigid rules, or water?tight compartments. They should be flexible, to help you on your journey you who live in the middle of the world, with a life of hard professional work and social ties and obligations which you should not neglect, because in them your conversation with God still continues. Your plan of life ought to be like a rubber glove which fits the hand perfectly.

Time is a Treasure

“Time is a treasure that melts away. It escapes from us, slipping through our fingers like water through the mountain rocks. Tomorrow will soon be another yesterday. Our lives are so very short. Yesterday has gone and today is passing by. But what a great deal can be done for the love of God in this short space of time!”

~St. Josemaria, Friends of God: Time is a Treasure

Do You Really Want to Follow Jesus Christ?

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps. (1 Peter 2:21)

Crucifixion

Archbiship Chaput has a wonderful reflection on what it means to follow Christ that we should think about this Good Friday, from his book Render Unto Ceasar:

Jesus accepted every measure of suffering on the cross. He did it freely. He chose it. The Father made this sacrifice for us through his Son because he loves us. There is nothing weak or cowardly or life-denying about that kind of radical love – and any parent who has suffered along with a dying child instinctively knows it. The question we need to ask ourselves, if we call ourselves Christians today, is this: Do we really want to follow Jesus Christ and love as he did, or is it just too inconvenient? We can choose differently. We can choose the kind of routine, self-absorbed, halfhearted anesthetic Christianity for which Nietzsche had such contempt. It is certainly easier. It also costs less…

[R]eal discipleship always has a cost. We can’t follow Jesus Christ without sharing in his Cross…Discipleship demands more than reading about the Catholic faith or admiring the life of Jesus. Christ didn’t ask for our approval or agreement. He doesn’t need either. He asked us to follow him – radically, with all we have, and without caveats or reservations.

Following Christ means paying the same price out of love for others that Jesus paid to redeem us. (pp.39, 45)

    Crucifixion

Ave verum Corpus natum
de Maria Virgine:
Vere passum, immolatum
in Cruce pro homine.

Cuius latus perforatum
fluxit aqua et sanguine:
Esto nobis praegustatum
mortis in examine.

O Iesu dulcis!
O Iesu pie!
O Iesu fili Mariae.

English:
Hail, true body,
born of the Virgin Mary:
Truly suffered,
died on the cross for mankind:

From who pierced side
flowed water and blood!
Be for us a foretaste
of death in the last hour!

O gentle Jesus!
O holy Jesus!
O Jesus, Son of Mary!

Other Good Friday related posts:
The Paradox of the Cross
Christ Teaches Us How to Die

The Dictatorship of Relativism

This is a phrase Pope Benedict XVI used in a homily prior to being elected as Pope. So what is relativism? I heard it on my annual retreat and realized that I couldn’t define it easily even though I have heard it often. Here’s a definition you can find on Wikipedia:

Relativism is the idea that some elements or aspects of experience or culture are relative to, i.e., dependent on, other elements or aspects.

Basically its an idea that says there aren’t any absolute truths. Kind of like saying, “What’s true for you many not be true for me.” Looking at our society in America today you can see this exhibited by the fact that we allow the legal murder of innocent human beings while agonizing over what color cars should be (California is considering outlawing black cars to “save” energy). How can we be so concerned about something as meaningless as the color of an automobile while we allow and I dare say, some even encourage, taking innocent life?

Getting back to Pope Benedict, here’s the text out of which the title of this post comes:

How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves ¬ thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Eph 4, 14). Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and “swept along by every wind of teaching”, looks like the only attitude acceptable to today’s standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires. However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Being an “Adult” means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today’s fashions or the latest novelties. A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth.

There are absolute truths that we can’t deny. I think it’s very interesting that so many people today profess the need for “tolerance,” which I think is a way to hide their belief in relativism, but then they become very intolerant of you when you believe differently than they do. They are acting irrationally by saying and doing the very thing they claim you shouldn’t say or do.

There is such a thing as a natural law and a natural moral law. Faith is real and so is God. He made us and we need to trust in Him. That is why a regular reading of sacred scriptures is so important. To get to know Him better and do our best to follow His truth.

Examination of Conscience

An effective daily examination of conscience should include questions we ask of ourselves. It doesn’t need to be a long list that would take hours to work through. However, a few at a time done daily will cover a lot of ground. If you’re at a loss for what to ask then there are plenty of resources online. Here are a few questions you’ll find in one of the documents on confession available from the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Have I gone to Mass every Sunday? Have I participated at
Mass or have I day dreamed or been present with a blank
mind?

Have I prayed every day (15-20 minutes)?

Have I read the Bible? Have I studied the truths of our faith
and allowed them to become more part of the way I think and
act? Have I read any spiritual books or religious literature?

Have I told God that I want to love him with my whole heart,
mind and strength? Do I hold any resentments toward God?

Have I recognized my need for Jesus and his salvation? Have I
asked the Holy Spirit to empower me to live the Christian life,
to be a proper husband/wife and parent?

Have I been financially generous to the Church? Have I
participated in parish or religious activities?

Have I held resentments toward the Church or Church
authorities? Have I forgiven them?

Evening of Recollection

Exposition at Immaculate Conception ChurchI just completed an evening of recollection at Immaculate Conception in Dardenne Prairie, MO. I’ll add a photo later since I’m posting this from my phone on the way home.

Fr. Jay Alvarez gave two meditation talks on St. Paul’s call to be an Apostle and proclaim the Gospel, something we’re all called to do.

Post update: Fr. Jay was taking points for his talk from the Holy Father’s General Audience of last September 10. Here are some key points from Pope Benedict’s remarks:

Therefore, according to St Paul’s conception, what is it that makes him and others apostles? In his Letters three principal characteristics of the true apostle appear. The first is to have “seen Jesus our Lord” (cf. 1 Cor 9: 1), that is, to have had a life-changing encounter with him. Similarly, in his Letter to the Galatians (cf. 1: 15-16) Paul was to say that he had been called or chosen, almost, through God’s grace with the revelation of his Son, in view of proclaiming the Good News to the Gentiles. In short, it is the Lord who appoints to the apostolate and not one’s own presumption. The apostle is not made by himself but is made such by the Lord; consequently the apostle needs to relate constantly to the Lord. Not without reason does Paul say that he is “called to be an apostle” (Rm 1: 1), in other words, “an apostle – not from men nor through human means, but “through Jesus Christ and God the Father” (Gal 1: 1). This is the first characteristic: to have seen the Lord, to have been called by him.

Read the rest of this post…

In Need Of A Spiritual Bailout

While jogging at the YMCA this afternoon I saw on a tv monitor that the home construction industry is now asking for a bailout. Seems to me like another group that wants a free handout. Let’s face it, lately all we’re hearing about is the supposed handouts from the government (banking, auto, etc.) and lately for everyone (economic stimulus). Let’s not even get into who’s going to pay for all this. Let’s not even get in to who’s to blame and what’s caused it (greed, living beyond your means, corruption, ignorance, lack of faith).

This made me think about how much people in our society need to focus internally and develop their interior life and consider the long term view. I think this applies to all societies around the world too. Besides only living materialistically there is a constant attempt to blame everyone else (but yourself) and look to the government to “bail you out.” I always remember this saying, “When you point your finger, there are 3 fingers pointing at you.”

So, rather than look for financial bailouts maybe we should be looking for spiritual bailouts. We know that God forgives. Actually, in order to receive forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation you need to have contrition for your sin, go to confession, and make satisfaction for your sin. So it’s not as simple as a handout. You have to actively do something. I don’t think that’s any different than in the materialistic world either.

Avoiding Discouragement

How often do you get discouraged? Maybe things aren’t going well at work or you fail at a resolution you’ve made. At this time of year a lot of people are making resolutions and many won’t keep them. This is where a developed interior life comes in to play.

I know I have lots of discouragements and many of them are my own responsibility. In fact, by doing a good daily self examination it’s easy to see how much I am responsible for things that go wrong or how I could have done things differently.

One of my resolutions has been to be more diligent in my devotions and that includes my daily prayers and spiritual reading. In the “Soul of the Apostolate” Chautard has a chapter on the danger of the active life without the interior life. The last section deals with discouragement and how a well developed interior life is a defense against discouragement. It’s really difficult to be discouraged when we speak directly with God and spend time with Him. I know that’s hard for anyone who hasn’t done so to understand.

One of my prayers for people today is that they will take time to meditate more on their life and their relationship with God. Then I believe they won’t be so discouraged.

Love the Holy Spirit

Great meditation from Christ is Passing By:

Love the Thirst Person of the most Blessed Trinity. Listen in the intimacy of your being to the divine motions of encouragement or reproach you receive from Him. Walk through the earth in the light that is poured out in your soul. And the God of hope will fill us with all peace, so that this hope may grow in us more and more each day, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

You are Not Alone

Our LadyThis was a great source of comfort to me during my adoration earlier this week:

You’re not alone. Suffer tribulation cheerfully. It’s true, poor child that you don’t feel our Mother’s hand in yours. But have you never seen the mothers of this earth, with their arms out-stretched, following their little ones when, without anyone’s help, they venture to take their first shaky stems? Your not alone: Mary is beside you. The Way ~900

And Christ, our Lord, is with us, even to the end of time (Mt. 28:20):

What we cannot do, our Lord is able to do. Jesus Christ, perfect god and perfect man, leaves us , not a symbol, but a reality. He Himself stays with us . He will go to the Father, but he will also remain among men. He will leave us, not simply a gift that will make us remember him, not an image that becomes blurred with time, like a photograph that soon fades and yellows, and has no meaning except for those who were contemporaries. Under the appearances of bread and wine, He is really present, with His body and blood, with His soul and divinity. Christ is Passing By, essay on the Eucharist

The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven

In today’s Gospel reading our Lord encourages us to have childlike confidence in and dependence on God:

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven (Mt. 18:3-4)

Not only did Christ tell us to enter the Kingdom of heaven as little children, he showed us the way by litterally becoming a little child himself – even an infant in the womb, completely dependent on His mother for everything.

nullThis is how St. Therese articules what she called her “Little Way” of spiritual childhood (from Story of a Soul):

I look upon myself as a weak little bird, with only a light down as covering. I am not an eagle, but I have only an eagle’s EYES AND HEART. In spite of my extreme littleness I still dare to gaze upon the Diving Sun, the Sun of Love, and my heart feels within it all the aspirations of an Eagle.

The little bird wills to fly toward the bright Sun that attracts its eye, imitating its brothers, the eagles, whom it sees climbing up toward the Divine Furnace of the Holy Trinity. But alas! the only thing it can do is raise its little wings; to fly is not within its little power!

What then will become of it? Will it die of sorrow at seeing itself so weak? Oh no! the little bird will not even be troubled. With bold surrender, it wishes to remain gazing upon its Diving Sun. Nothing will frighten it, neither wind nor rain, and if dark clouds come and hide the Star of Love, the little bird will not change its place because it knows that beyond the clouds its bright Sun still shines on and that its brightness is not eclipsed for a single instant…

Jesus, I am too little to perform great actions, and my own folly is this: to trust that Your Love will accept me as a victim. My folly consists in begging the eagles, my brothers, to obtain for me the favor of flying toward the Sun of Love with the Divine Eagle’s own wings!

Read more

The Effects of True Devotion

Our LadyI am in the middle of renewing my Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary this year so I was pleased to find this passage in The Way recently:

The love of our Mother will be the breath that kindles into a living flame the embers of virtue that are hidden under the ashes of your indifference. ~St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way n. 492

When we give ourselves completely to Mary she gives herself completely to us in return, sharing with us her own glorious virtues. She purifies all of our good works and intentions offered to her in confidence, offering them in turn to Christ who never refuses what is given to him from the hands of His Holy and Immaculate Mother (True Devotion – book, online – nos. 144, 146, 149).

Feast of St. Martha

St. MarthaFrom a sermon by St. Augustine – out of today’s Office of Readings:

Our Lord’s words teach us that though we labour among the many distractions of this world, we should have but one goal. For we are but travellers on a journey without as yet a fixed abode; we are on our way, not yet in our native land; we are in a state of longing, not yet of enjoyment. But let us continue on our way, and continue without sloth or respite, so that we may ultimately arrive at our destination.

Martha and Mary were sisters, related not only by blood but also by religious aspirations. They stayed close to our Lord and both served him harmoniously when he was among them. Martha welcomed him as travellers are welcomed. But in her case, the maidservant received her Lord, the invalid her Saviour, the creature her Creator, to serve him bodily food while she was to be fed by the Spirit. For the Lord willed to put on the form of a slave, and under this form to be fed by his own servants, out of condescension and not out of need. For this was indeed condescension, to present himself to be fed; since he was in the flesh he would indeed be hungry and thirsty.

Thus was the Lord received as a guest who came unto his own and his own received him not; but as many as received him, he gave them the power to become sons of God, adopting those who were servants and making them his brothers, ransoming the captives and making them his co-heirs. No one of you should say: “Blessed are they who have deserved to receive Christ into their homes!” Do not grieve or complain that you were born in a time when you can no longer see God in the flesh. He did not in fact take this privilege from you. As he says: Whatever you have done to the least of my brothers, you did to me.

But you, Martha, If I may say so, are blessed for your good service, and for your labours you seek the reward of peace. Now you are much occupied in nourishing the body, admittedly a holy one. But when you come to the heavenly homeland will you find a traveller to welcome, someone hungry to feed, or thirsty to whom you may give drink, someone ill whom you could visit, or quarrelling whom you could reconcile, or dead whom you could bury?

No, there will be none of these tasks there. What you will find there is what Mary chose. There we shall not feed others, we ourselves shall be fed. Thus what Mary chose in this life will be realised there in all its fullness; she was gathering fragments from that rich banquet, the Word of God. Do you wish to know what we will have there? The Lord himself tells us when he says of his servants, Amen, I say to you, he will make them recline and passing he will serve them.

Open the Door to Your Soul

From St. Ambrose in today’s Office of Readings:

My father and I will come to him and make our home with him. Open wide your door to the one who comes. Open your soul, throw open the depths of your heart to see the riches of simplicity, the treasures of peace, the sweetness of grace. Open your heart and run to meet the Sun of eternal light that illuminates all men. Indeed that true light shines on all; but if anyone closes his shutters against it then he will defraud himself of the eternal light. To close the doors of your mind is to exclude Christ. Of course he is capable of entering even so, but he does not want to force his way in or seize you against your will…

You see that when the Word of God knocks hardest on your door, it is when his hair is wet with the dew of the night. In fact he chooses to visit those who are in tribulation and trial, lest one of them be overwhelmed by distress. So his head is covered with dew, with drops, when his body is labouring hard. It is important to keep watch so that when the Bridegroom comes, he is not shut out. If you are asleep and your heart is not keeping watch, he will go away without knocking; but if your heart is alert for his coming, he knocks and asks for the door to be opened to him…

It is the soul that has its door, it is the soul that has its gates. To that door Christ comes and knocks, he knocks at the door. Open to him, therefore: he wishes to come in, the Bridegroom wishes to find you keeping watch.