On the way to Daily Mass today, I was listening to the version of "Miracles" on the Pentatonix Christmas album. The line of the chorus that always tugs at my heart is, "there can be miracles if you believe, though hope is frail it's hard to kill." During the infamous year of 2020, we have seen many instances of hope showing its fragility. However, hope still thrives and lives on.
One of the ways that I have seen hope is in my neighbors who have started a local grass-roots initiative to provide food and hope to our community. It started out as a large plastic box in their front yard where people could donate non-perishable food for the community. This donation initiative garnered the name, "Be the Good Project" that has grown into a collection of food donations, thousands of sandwiches for Martha's Table, thousands of pounds of food for our local community and has now been established as a non-profit with a new website. Be the Good Project is an example of the miracle of hope in an uncertain world. You can learn more about them by visiting www.bethegoodproject.org
Another miracle that we cannot forget today is the miracle of Saint Maximillian Kolbe. I remember this saint today while I reflect on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Raymund Kolbe was born in 1894 in the Kingdom of Poland during the Russian Empire. In 1910, Fr. Kolbe was given the name Fr. Maximillian Kolbe. During the Nazi invasion in Poland, Fr. Kolbe hid over 2,000 Jews from Nazi capture. Fr. Kolbe was captured by the Nazi's and sent to Auschwitz where he was tortured for his religious views. During the time of his incarceration, Fr. Kolbe was part of a group of men who could choose death by starvation. Fr. Kolbe was chosen and volunteered the place of a man who was a husband and a father. Fr. Kolbe performed the ultimate sacrifice in giving his life for another. Fr. Kolbe later died by lethal injection. Among other patronages, he is the patron saint of journalists and the pro-life movement. It may be strange to reflect on Pearl Harbor, St. Maximillian Kolbe and death under Nazi regime during the time of Advent, but what these events show is that hope can, and will, always flourish, no matter the chaos of the world. People will always choose to do good.
In today's Gospel, we read Luke 5:17-26. This Gospel passage tells of a time when Jesus was teaching and healing large crowds of people. There was a group of friends who lowered a paralyzed man on a stretcher through the roof of where Jesus was, hoping that the ill man would be healed. Jesus knew that the Pharisees were accusing Him, in their hearts, of blaspheming. As always, Jesus knows our hearts. Jesus says to the crowd, "What are you thinking in your hearts? Which is easier to say, 'your sins are forgiven' or 'rise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on Earth to forgive sins' - he said to the man who was paralyzed, 'I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher and go home."
During his homily this morning, my pastor reminded us about the virtue of hope that we see in the friends who lowered the paralyzed man down through the roof on a stretcher, removing the obstacles of the roof shingles and the large crowds. There are always obstacles in life that can sometimes make it hard to confess our sins in the Sacrament Reconciliation, but we must move past the obstacles and take part in the miracle of Jesus' forgiveness. We can always find our hope in the Lord, in His mercy and His forgiveness. I can't think of a better way to prepare our hearts during Advent than by partaking in confession and reconciliation. As we clean and prepare our homes, let us not forget to give Jesus the perfect gift of a clean and contrite heart.
We can always find miracles and signs hope if we look for them- be it in our neighbors, in the saints, or in Jesus' miracles that are still relevant today. Miracles can be found and hope truly is hard to kill. As history has shown us time and time again, hope will always persevere.
"We put our hope in the Lord. He is our hope and our shield. In Him, our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone."
-Psalm 33:20-22 (NASB)
We recently had our kitchen renovated. Our project manager, Mike became quick friends with little Andrew. I learned that Mike is a strong Christian and loves people with Down syndrome. During the course of our kitchen renovation, I had mentioned to Mike about my concern of being able to keep up with Andrew and take care of him when my husband and I grow older. I realize that this might fall on the shoulders of Alexander, Abby and their future families. Mike asked me which of Andrew's two older siblings takes the most interest in Andrew now. My response, both Alexander and Abby - they play with Andrew, love him, read to him, take care of him and defend him. This is what family is all about. Let's explore the importance of another family, one that ruled the nations.
In the daily Mass readings for this week, we read a lot about the foreshadowed genealogy of Jesus. On Tuesday of the first week of Advent, we read Isaiah 11:1-10. This reading talks about a "shoot rising up from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud will blossom." Jesse is the father of King David. Jesus is called "the Son of David" in Matthew's Gospel. What Matthew is doing is establishing a royal lineage for Jesus. When we read about a "bud" blossoming from the root of Jesse, we know that the "bud" is Jesus. Isaiah goes on to explain that the "Spirit of the Lord will be upon Him." As we know, this Spirit is the Holy Spirit, one of the Persons of the Holy Trinity. Establishing Jesus' genealogy is important because it shows His royal succession. Jesse, too, has an important genealogy - that of Abraham, who was promised that his children would "be beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore." (Genesis 22:17) Because Abraham is an ancestor of Jesse and Jesse is the father of King David who is the ancestor of Jesus, we see how Jesus' lineage was established from the very first book of the Bible. The Old Testament foreshadows the New Testament and the New Testament answers the anticipations of the Old Testament.
As St. John Paul II said, "As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live." Family is the backbone of society. My husband and I are raising a child with Down syndrome in a town where we don't have any extended family. We rely greatly on our 10 year old, Alexander and our 7 year old, Abby. This has made Alexander and Abby stronger in character- a strength that will carry them through their lives. When I watch Alexander and Abby care for little Andrew, I am reminded of another family where a young mother and father were taking care of a newborn baby. In this family, the mother was about 13 and pregnant before she married her husband, who became the baby's adoptive father. Of course, I am talking about the Holy Family - Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus.
The Holy Family set the example for families to follow in future generations. From them we learn to defend and protect our family. We also learn of forgiveness and fortitude. We learn to teach and to have patience and love for our families who are knit together by God's design. The actions that we take today and the decisions that we make will teach our children how to cope with life's blessings and disappointments. We must be intentional in loving and instructing our family, just as the Holy Family showed us.
"The first blessing that God gave was for the wellbeing of the family." -St. John Vianney
"If you want world peace, go home and love your family." -St. Teresa of Calcutta
"Families must have the courage to set before young people the radical decision to follow Christ, showing them how deeply rewarding it is." -Pope Benedict XVI
Today's Gospel reading is Matthew 15:29-37. This is a reading where Jesus performs many miracles for three days. He tells His apostles that He is concerned for the flocks of people who have been listening to Him. He is worried that they will collapse on their journey home. The apostles reply that they had seven loaves of bread and two fish. But how can they possibly feed the multitude of people who are there?
We see the same story in John 6:1-5. In this version, St. John tells of a boy who had the seven loaves of bread and two fish. The boy offered them to the Apostles. How tentative this offer must have been. If the boy gave away his food, how would he eat? How would he help his family eat? Yet, the boy trusted in Jesus and His miracles. Sure enough, Jesus turned these seven loaves and two fish into many more, so that two basketfuls were leftover. Let's not forget about this boy.
If the boy had not said "yes" to offering his bread and fish, then the miracle wouldn't have taken place. So many people read these Gospel stories and focus on the miracle, as they should. But the boy is often overlooked. He trusted Jesus, he shared his bread and fish, and he was part of one of Jesus' most famous miracles. All he had to do was say, "yes." He helped to feed thousands of hungry people.
Recently, my family all had COVID. Praise be to God, all of our symptoms were fairly minor and we are thankful that we now have antibodies. On the last day of our isolation, I was cooking dinner and the stove caught fire! I ripped Little Andrew out of his high chair and dialed 911 as I yelled at Alexander and Abby to grab their shoes and run outside. My husband stayed behind and used TWO fire extinguishers to put out the fire right as three firetrucks pulled up. This all happened in our newly renovated kitchen. Ever so busy, our guardian angels made sure that we were all safe and that the only damage was a little smoke damage on the ceiling. We need nothing more than a fresh coat of paint.
While my children and I were huddled outside under a thin blanket, neighbors came over with armloads of blankets. We told them, "don't come near us! We have COVID!" Ever the good Christian, one of our neighbors brushed our sentiment aside and bent over to wrap us in warm blankets. (Thank God it was the last day of isolation and our chance of spreading the illness was very slim.) My neighbor trusted that it would be okay to share her blankets with us. She wrapped us in love. She participated in the miracle of keeping us warm while we waited for the firemen to get the smoke out of our house and make it safe for re-entry.
Isn't this what the Advent season is about? It is about sharing, trusting and caring. We busy ourselves trying to find the perfect gifts. We shop on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. We donate on Giving Tuesday. In all of the business, let us not forget to share something else- our time. All that God wants from us is our hearts and our time. Be sure to carve out a few minutes a day reading Sacred Scripture. Remember to pray throughout your day. Trust in God and share your time.
"And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for which such sacrifices God is pleased."
- Hebrews 13:16 (NASB)
Simplicity. This is not a word that you will hear a parent or teachers use when they describe children. In fact, I can guarantee that no adult can only use only one word to describe children. Children are complex and multi-faceted. They delight and they frustrate. They take time and patience. So, why does Sacred Scripture tell us that we should be childlike?
Children relish in simple beliefs. They are welcoming and non-judgmental. It always amazes me that my children’s friends are so welcoming of Andrew and his extra chromosome. Andrew looks a little different (and is beyond cute!) but these young souls don’t care what he looks like. They just see Andrew as their friends’ younger brother. In the same way, God doesn’t care what you look like, how your hair is styled or what shoes you have on. He loves you because He made you. Afterall, He knit you together in your mother’s womb. All God asks for in return is for you to love Him with a childlike love.
A childlike love of God is simple and trusting. It is humble and reverent. Christ chose to be born as a baby into a poor family – He chose an unwed teenager to give birth to Him! He chose a humble carpenter to be his adopted father. He chose to be born into poverty. He could have chosen riches for Himself; He is the King of the Universe, after all. Instead, He chose to be born in the piercing cold, in a manger where ox and cattle witnessed His birth. Why? Christ chose to be born among the poorest of the poor so that He could be a King for all. If Had chosen to come to the world as a righteous and rich man, then those who were less advantaged wouldn’t feel as if His teachings and love applied to them. Instead, Jesus chose to come into the world as a simple, trusting, humble child.
As children, we too were simple and trusting of the adults in our lives. It is as we grow into adults that we learn cynicism, judgment, and fear. This is exactly what Christ warns us against and why Sacred Scripture is always telling the reader to become, and remain, childlike. Be wary of unrighteous judgment. Steer clear from cynicism. In fact, “do not be afraid,” is in the Bible 365 times; the same amount of days in the year. Coincidence? No, God doesn’t do coincidences.
Love God with an open heart and open mind. Be watchful and ready for when He calls you. This is the whole meaning of Advent. Watch, be alert. When Christ knocks on the door of your heart, open it with a childlike wonderment.
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him, and he with Me." - Revelation 3:20 NASB
I watch my older children, Alexander and Abby, play with their little brother, Andrew. Just this morning Andrew had speech therapy virtually (thanks, COVID) with his therapist's video call on my small phone. As I chased Andrew around the house, trying to keep him in the frame of the video call, Abby and Alexander interjected themselves into the play/speech therapy. As many of you know, Andrew has Down syndrome. As is true with any child, Andrew learns and develops best when he is taught by his siblings. I can instruct, but it's Alexander and Abby who inspire. It is in seeing Andrew respond to the call of his brother and sister that made me reflect and acknowledge another important sibling relationship- the brotherhood of St. Andrew and St. Peter.
Today is St. Andrew's Memorial. It is the day that we recognize St. Andrew in the Catholic church. My husband and I named our youngest child, Andrew Paul after St. Andrew and St. Paul. As such, today is Andrew's namesake day. Andrew was the first apostle. He was the one who first recognized Jesus and introduced his brother, Peter to Jesus of Nazareth. Andrew was a fishermen who left his fishing business to become an Apostle of Jesus and a "fisher of men."
Fr. Donald Haggerty wrote today's reflection for the Magnificat. In it, he says, "When Jesus saw Andrew and Peter at the Sea of Galilee, it was not their first encounter. The initial meeting took place by the Jordan River, an event recounted in Saint John's first chapter. There, Andrew heard the voice of Jesus ask him, "What are you looking for?" That question, we can assume, carved itself where his life might now take him. After Andrew introduced his brother to Jesus, the two went back to Galilee and their fishing. But not for long. Jesus' provocative question soon shifted to the clarity of an explicit summons. Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men. It was the answer finally to the great desire for God burning in the souls of these men. They dropped everything, not in a trance and daze, but seized with certitude, already inspired by the prospect of catching souls for God."
The time of Advent is a time of waiting in anticipation for the coming of God made man. In fact the word "Advent" means "coming" in Latin. Waiting requires patience. Having patience is hard. Having a child with Down syndrome requires loads of patience. But the joy that abounds from that load is beyond amazing and completely worth it.
In Andrew's speech therapy session this morning, his therapist reminded me to allow for the "pause." She was implying to say a word for Andrew, then pause and wait for Andrew to say it. This reminded me that we should allow for the "pause" in all things in life. I have to constantly remind myself to take time and pause to read and reflect on Sacred Scripture. As parents, we need to slow down, pause, and acknowledge the beauty in our children.
One of the ways to "pause" is to pray the St. Andrew Christmas Novena 15 times a day from today until Christmas. I usually say it 5 times each at breakfast, lunch and dinner. The prayer is simple and beautiful, it evokes an imagery of when Jesus was born at a meager stable in Bethlehem.
"Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires through the merits of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen."
Jesus called St. Andrew and St. Peter to follow Him. May we continually answer this call and follow Christ as we await the coming of the Son of God.
“The Rosary is the weapon for these times.”- St. Padre Pio
“If you desire peace in your hearts, in your homes, and in your country, assemble each evening to recite the Holy Rosary. Let not even one day pass without saying it, no matter how burdened you might be with many cares and labors.” - Pope Pius XI
These are just a couple of the thousands of quotes by saints, popes, theologians, etc. about the necessity to pray the Holy Rosary. October 7th is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Additionally, the entire month of October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary. In today’s world and with our current events, I can’t stress the importance of praying the Rosary hard enough. The world needs our prayers. October 7th is the day the Catholic Church has dedicated to thanking Our Blessed Mother for her multiple prayers on our behalf.
I have many protestant friends who believe that we worship Mary. This is incorrect. Catholics do not worship Mary. We pray for her intercession; we do not pray to her. It is the same concept as asking a friend to pray for you. Mary is Christ’s mother and she is our mother because Christ lives within us. The Holy Rosary is scripturally based as we meditate on Christ’s life while praying, it is essentially a Bible study surrounded in deep prayer.
I am always thankful to Christ for His many blessings and I am particularly thankful for our Blessed Mother’s intercession, especially when my son, Andrew was born. Andrew was born with Trisomy 21 and Hirschsprung’s Disease. He was transferred from one NICU to a higher level of NICU. My other two children were 5 and 7 at the time. As students of our local catholic school, they are always learning about Mary. One day, my daughter, who was in kindergarten, brought home a beautiful picture of Mary that she had delicately colored with bright blue crayons for the dress and yellow for Mary’s crown. I immediately praised my daughter for her lovely work and asked if I could hang it in her baby brother’s hospital room. The next day, the hospital chaplain (a Catholic priest) noticed my daughter’s colored picture hanging by Andrew’s NICU crib and assured us that our Blessed Mother would always be with us. This colored picture also helped many doctors and nurses feel comfortable saying that they were praying for us. I am eternally grateful for Mary’s love, prayer and protection over my family.
Among the hustle and bustle of life, many people find it a challenge to find the time to pray the Holy Rosary. I offer the following tips:
1. Start with just a decade at a time. A decade is 10 prayer beads.
2. Focus on the mysteries to motivate you. These are the Joyful Mysteries, the Luminous Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries, and the Glorious Mysteries. You can learn more about these mysteries, and the Rosary in general, by visiting www.rosarycenter.org
3. Pray for an intention before each Hail Mary; this adds up to 50 prayer intentions!
4. Build it into your routine. Even small children can use Holy Rosaries. There are child-safe and teething Rosaries on the market. Don’t be afraid to see your children put the Rosary in their mouth, drop it on the ground, or play with it. It is important for them to become familiar with it. Remember, it is never too late to begin praying the Rosary!
Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, pray for us!
It is all to common to hear women share that they have had the same experience- they were pressured into abortion just because their baby was prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome. Over and over again, I have heard these women share their stories and my own story is the same. I have never figured out why doctors decide to push women into abortion just because of a prenatal diagnosis that is different from a typical pregnancy. This, my friends, is eugenics.
This month is not only Down Syndrome Awareness Month, but it is also Respect Life Month and the month of the Holy Rosary! Coincidence? No, God doesn't do coincidences. He is an intentional God. The purpose of "awareness months" is exactly that - to bring awareness to a certain topic. Down Syndrome Awareness Month is important to me because it provides an avenue in which to drive home the message that Down syndrome is a beautiful gift from God and that people who live with Down syndrome live very typical lives.
When I look at my 2 year old, I don't see Down syndrome; I see my son. His father, big brother and big sister see the same. Andrew isn't going through the "terrible two's." Instead, he's a ball of joyful energy who is learning how to speak and rough house with his brother and sister! Down Syndrome Awareness Month was created to let the world know of the abilities of those living with the extra chromosome. They can do anything that anyone else can do. At Andrew's baptism a couple of years ago, a friend gave me an ornament that said, "I wouldn't change you for the world, but I will change the world for you." This very eloquently explains why Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Respect Life Month, and the Month of the Holy Rosary are so important to me.
I will change the world for Andrew- and all of my children. Through the help of our Blessed Mother, I want my children's worlds to be one filled with love, confidence, and inclusion. Every day I pray that my children are healthy, happy, holy, wholesome, safe and honorable. This prayer isn't just for my children, however. It is for every pre-born child. It is for every mother who is either contemplating abortion or pushed into abortion. This prayer is for an end to abortion.
Every child has the right to life; and those living with Down syndrome are no exception. There is a quote I have seen from an unknown author that says, "the journey may be long, but I love my tour guide." Raising a child with Down syndrome requires a lot of patience. It takes longer than their peers for these kiddos to meet their developmental milestones, but they will meet them. I have to force myself not to compare the development of my son to his peers. Instead, I focus on Andrew and his development, even though it takes him longer to learn how to eat, walk, talk, etc. That being said, he has come a long way and I am very proud of his hard work!
Down syndrome offers beauty that fills the world with light and love. Due to common features, most people recognize a person with Down syndrome right away. In my experience, I have seen those with Down syndrome bring out the best in the people that they encounter through a simple smile or greeting. I call this a superpower- the ability to change another person's disposition!
During the month of October, may we truly have an awareness of Down syndrome, life, and the power of the Holy Rosary. May we never cease fighting for the right to life. May we be advocates for the inclusion of those living with Down syndrome or another different-ability. Relying on the power of prayers and staying active in these causes, may we truly change the world and make it a more meaningful place for our children. In turn, may our children be the ones who make the world better than we leave it.
Mary, our hope seat of Wisdom, pray for us.
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."
It's hard to believe that I let three months pass by without a blog post! Like the rest of the world, COVID interrupted life. Not only were schools shut down and distance learning implemented, but I saw baby Andrew (who is now 22 months old) through his second surgery. On top of that, we packed up a U-Haul and drove across the country for the summer. Sometime during all of this, I spoke to a coach who helps public speakers refine their image and promote themselves.
In our discussion, I told him that about my Thinking Catholic business and that I could speak on any topic from veteran's issues, to the pro-life movement, Down syndrome awareness, or all things Catholic. He told me that I should only stick to one topic and advised me to stay far away from speaking about Catholic topics. He strongly encouraged me not to speak at churches or private schools if I wanted to make any money. I was informed that speaking about Catholic topics wouldn't get me very far and that my business would not be profitable. WHAT!?!
I told him thank you, and hung up the phone. I am a person who is grounded in morals and strongly values the Catholic faith. I cannot go out and speak on anything if I cannot interweave the Catholic faith. I just won't do it. This speaking coach gave me two options. One, choose money. Or two, choose Christ. I have, and always will, choose Christ.
However, maybe I didn't choose Christ after all. Perhaps, He chose me. John 15:16 says, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you." I am beyond humbled to be called to not only write blogs and freelance articles, but to have the opportunity to speak to so many via EWTN shows or on stage. This is definitely not the plan I had envisioned for my life. Good grief, I thought I was going to grow up and become an astronaut! God certainly had other plans for me and I am so grateful. I hope the fruit that I bear is one that will win hearts for God. This is my prayer. This is my mission in life.
When the country shut down because of the Coronavirus pandemic, so did the churches. I remember crying on baby Andrew’s shoulder. Then I remembered that WE are the Church. You and I are called to bring God’s Word into a hurting world. We are called to check on our neighbors to ensure they have enough food - and toilet paper. You and I are called to be Christ’s foot soldiers, acting as He does, by loving and supporting others. When the country shut down, Christ rose up.
Because of the pandemic and concern for others, my neighbors courageously organized a food collection site and delivered thousands of pounds of pantry staples to local food shelters, all while parenting and educating four young children. They also made hundreds of sandwiches and organized an online sign-up sheet for other families to take part in their mission. The sandwiches were delivered to the local Martha’s Table. This is one of the many examples of how I have witnessed Christ taking care of others by inspiring His foot soldiers. My neighbors chose Christ and have established “Be The Good Project.”
"Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." - Deuteronomy 31:6
p.s. Here is more information if you would like to support the “Be The Good Project.”
My friend, Amber, posted this on Facebook.
Welcome new friends!! 👋 Sterling & I started this project in the beginning of June after reading a lot about food insecurity during the pandemic. As the parents of four young kids, we are especially concerned about the impact on families and young children in our area.
All you have to do is Google “food pantry” and you’ll quickly learn that food banks nationwide are seeing an unprecedented surge in need during this crisis, and the burden on children is especially troublesome. Prior to covid, food insecurity affected 1 in 6 children. Feeding America now estimates 1 in 4 children will experience food insecurity in the next year.
In addition to the increased need, there are reports of decreased grocery donations. Stores that can typically donate to food pantries are reporting they can spare less because prices are rising and people are purchasing more groceries while they’re home.
With the help of our generous friends, family, and neighbors, this project has donated almost 2,500 POUNDS of food and water for families who need supplemental groceries in our area. We’re also on track to provide more than 1,800 sandwiches to Martha’s Table in July.
If you’re interested in helping us reach more people who are experiencing hunger in DC and VA, there are a few ways to help!
* We are accepting funds to buy more food in bulk. 💪 Every dollar goes directly to purchase food for families who receive supplemental groceries at local food pantries. https://www.paypal.me/InfiniteJests
* I’m drawing custom doodles for the food drive! Check out Instagram.com/rooscribbles to learn more — all proceeds raised from portraits go to buy more food! ✏️
* We’ll be listing more dates to make sandwiches in August! 🥪 All sandwiches are delivered to Martha’s Table in DC. https://www.signupgenius.com/go/20F054BACA62AAAFB6-sandwich
We are so grateful for your continued willingness to help, and we can’t wait to see how God uses this project moving forward. As a result of your time and generosity, we know that you are directly helping people and their families who are experiencing hunger during this unprecedented time. 🤟💛
The world certainly has dramatically changed over the course of the last week or so. Schools are shut down for an undetermined amount of time. Public Mass and houses of worship are cancelled or closed until further notice. My son's speech therapist and physical therapist are no longer able to do home visits and have switched to tele-health. His feeding therapist's office is closed until further notice. I cancelled my daughter's 7th birthday party before I even had a chance to send out the invites. Restaurants are not able to do dine-in service and have moved to curbside pickup or delivery only. Most major sports, such as the NBA, have been cancelled for the season. "Social Distancing" is a new term in our vernacular and the only social distancing sport that I can think of is golf. With so many indoor play places closed, my family has taken to hiking deserted nature trails, away from people and possibly infected surfaces. All of my speaking engagements have been cancelled, as has my children's after school activities. And the economy.... oh, that economy! It looks as though we are headed into a recession.
Stores are left with bare shelves as consumers have been "panic shopping." 2020 will be remembered as the year that the toilet paper went missing at the same rate that hand washing increased. Online delivery of goods has severely increased and Amazon has said that it will add a huge number of new jobs in order to keep up with the demand. Yet, I still can't find flour or cleaning supplies in-stock on the retail giants website... nor, toilet paper.
We have seen the Coronavirus (COVID-19) shock not just our beloved nation, but the entire world. Italy has all but shut down and other nations are following suit. Who knows how many of our own citizens will lose their jobs because of this virus. It seems as if the world is crashing down around us.
It's God's reset button. There have been other viruses with a greater risk of dying; remember the good ol' flu? How about H1N1? Yet, COVID-19 is different. It is as if God has hit the reset button. He did promise that he would never flood the earth again during the time of Noah. Though not with water, it seems as if our Almighty is flooding the world again. He is forcing us to spend time with our families. He is forcing us to reign in our spending. He is forcing us to die to self so that we can unite as one. We have seen Republicans and Democrats unite. We have seen over 100 countries suffer through the effects of COVID-19 and, for the most part, provide guidance to one another. We have seen families and friends support each other more frequently through group text messages and social media. I have seen my neighbors checking in on each other, all while keeping a distance of at least six feet. Could it be that God has truly reset the entire world?
In my opinion, God has absolutely hit the reset button and is calling us to die to self and to die to sin, all during the time of Lent. Coincidence? I think not. One of my priest friends posted on Facebook, "I didn't expect to give up this much for Lent!" My uncle, also a priest, responded with, "That's okay. Just give up sin." I couldn't agree more. Just give up sin. We may or may not have access to Church and confessionals, but we do have access to our own self-control. We do have the choice to give up sin.
During this challenging time I urge you to give up sin, practice extreme patience, pray for persecuted Christians around the world and put on a brave face of hope and courage. Cling to the virtues, prayer and Sacred Scripture. Remember that this is a time in our children's lives that they will always remember. Help them learn hope and courage. Help them learn self-control and the choice of refusing sin. Allow God's reset button to truly sink in; allow Him to reset your spiritual life so that you may be brought closer to His heart.
My dear readers, I pray that all of you stay strong, healthy, hopeful and full of courage and patience during this trying time. I challenge you to pray a daily Rosary for our world. If you can only manage a decade, then that is okay too. Pray for healing of our world, its people and the economy. Pray that you use God's reset button in ways that you never thought possible.
This is the time that He will transform your life.
"Faith doesn't make things easy, it makes them possible." -Luke 1:37
I was scrolling through Instagram the other day when I saw this image with #Catholic. If you are reading my blog, then chances are that you are dedicated to, or at least respect, the catholic doctrine. This post will shred apart the side-by-side comparison that the creator made of Jesus v. Satan. I will serve the creator of this meme a heavy piece of humble pie. Read on below the image. Before publishing this post, the meme had 5,354 likes. That is 5,354 lost souls.
The figs: Jesus curses the fig tree in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 11. Let’s make it clear, Jesus doesn’t hate figs. He knows that the Jewish people see it as a symbol of themselves. He curses the fig tree that doesn’t bear fruit to mean that he does not approve of the Jewish people who bear no spiritual fruit and are, in return, in spiritual apathy. Hahn’s Study Bible says, “...he announces his curse on the unfaithful of Israel- i.e. those who refuse him as the Messiah and lack the fruits of repentance.” Again, Jesus doesn’t hate figs as this meme creator asserts. Instead, he hates the lack of repentance. He loves us and wants us to be free from our sins. In opposition, Satan loves the spiritual apathy and lack of repentance. Which side will you choose?
Impregnated a virgin without consent: Jesus did not impregnate a virgin without consent. This assertion is barbaric. Jesus is the fruit of the womb from our Blessed Mother. Let's talk about Mary's fiat. "Fiat" is Latin for "Let it be done." When the Archangel Gabriel visited Mary, he told her that God wanted her to bear his Son in the human form in order to save the world. Read Luke 1:26-56. Mary said, "yes." This was her consent. She was not impregnated against her own will. God gave us free will and respects our free will that was given by His grace. Mary consented to bear the Son of God by saying, "be it done to me as you have said." (Luke 1:38) God favored Mary; she is the Ark of the New Covenant. Because of her "yes" the gates of Heaven were eventually opened upon the crucifixion of her only Son. Her "yes" changed the world. Her "yes" was consent to play a major role in salvation's history. Will you say "yes" and open your heart to God?
Boring Robes: Jesus was born into poverty. He is the Son of the Most High King and he is the ruler of Heaven and Earth. Yet, he chose to enter this world as a humble infant in the lowliest of economic welfares. He chose to do this in order to connect with people from all walks of life and to show that he came to save us all. Had he descended from Heaven with flashy robes and crazy pomp and circumstances, then that would have signaled that he was only the savior for the rich and mighty. All three persons of the Holy Trinity are exceptionally humble and full of love. Satan can keep his fancy robes, etc. My savior doesn't need them. They have no place in Heaven. Jesus made friends with the lepers, prostitutes and tax collectors. He shows mercy on all who ask for his forgiveness. Satan only cares for himself and is the sole definition of selfishness and self-love. Which side will you choose? One of selfishness and cool robes or the side of humility, service, love and forgiveness?
Dedicate your weekend to singing hymns: Yes, Jesus certainly does want you to dedicate your weekend, and every other day, to praising him and spreading his Good News throughout the world. "To sing is to pray twice." This quote is attributed to St. Augustine. Absolutely- dedicate your time to singing hymns of praise. There is so much more freedom in this than in "smoking weed" as the meme creator suggests. We can become a slave to our own selfish desires. When we relinquish ourselves to Christ, there is a new found freedom. Personally, I feel as if I can breath better and feel as a weight has been taken off of my shoulders when I choose to follow the straight and narrow path. At times, I have done things without prayerful discernment and it has never ended well. In his letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul tells the people of Thessalonia to "rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
In conclusion, be on your guard and remain aware of the spiritual attacks that Satan presents. He's sneaky. He will show up everywhere and anywhere, including Instagram. Always be at the ready with your own armory of spiritual weapons: attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, praying the Rosary, reading Sacred Scripture, taking part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, blessing yourself with holy water. Satan hates these things. Always have them at the ready. As a veteran, believe me when I tell you that having your armory fully stocked and loaded is the best way to prevent attacks by the enemy. Satan is surely the world's biggest enemy.