Category Archives: Reflections

Resolutions, Failures and the New Year

Resolutions, Failures and the New Year 
Sam Guzman 
The Catholic Gentleman 12/31/14

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set out to remedying them. Every day begin the task anew.” -St. Francis de Sales

If you’re anything like me, you have a love-hate relationship with New Year’s resolutions. Oh, you like the idea of course. Who doesn’t fantasize about completely overhauling one’s life with one simple choice? But as most of us know from experience, it’s not that easy. No matter how strong our resolve, we inevitably fail.

Sure, you can go a few days without binge watching shows on Netflix or eating fatty foods or neglecting to exercise. Maybe even a few weeks or months. But you eventually fail. When it happens, you despise yourself and your own weakness. You renew your resolve and promise to do get back on track. And then you fail again—and then again. Discouragement sets in. It eats away at your resolve. You begin to rationalize your failure, to make excuses, and before you know it, your determination that was so strong only a short while ago evaporates. You give up, and go back to life as usual.

Spiritual Resolve, Spiritual Failure 

Unless you have an iron will and have completely mastered yourself, this pattern probably sounds pretty familiar.

Yet, it doesn’t just apply to New Year’s resolutions. It far too often could describe our spiritual lives. Perhaps we read a good article online about the importance of prayer or the danger of some sin. We resolve to pray the rosary and read Scripture more in the days to come, and our intentions are nothing but good. But no matter how hard we try, we just can’t seem to stick with it. With each failure, our resolve weakens, and before we know it, we have given up.

The same applies in a negative sense with sin. Perhaps you have wrestled with a habitual sin for a long time, even years. You go to confession and resolve to do better with God’s help. But then you fail again and again. You begin to grow bitter and to lose hope of ever overcoming it.

You feel tremendous guilt, and you beat yourself up endlessly. “I’m so pathetic, so weak. God must hate me,” you begin to think. Your spiritual life becomes dominated by fear and shame. Maybe you even begin to resent God for not helping you more and for making the spiritual struggle so difficult. The feelings of failure and bitterness cause you to fall into a spiritual depression of sorts, in which none of it seems worth it. You give up on tending to your spiritual life altogether and the desire to please God you once had dissolves completely.

A Righteous Man Falls Seven Times… 

Does any of the above sound familiar? If so, you probably have a love-hate relationship with the spiritual life, just as I do with New Year’s resolutions. You want to please God and be a good Catholic, but no matter how hard you try, you seem to fail constantly. What do to?

The first thing we need to do is come to grow in self-knowledge. We are fallen beings, and while it might hurt our pride to say so, we are utterly helpless to do anything good on our own. So often we don’t realize this. We look at our failures and are surprised, as if perfection is our normal state of being and sin is an aberration. We think we can overcome our sinful nature with simple willpower.

The reality is exactly the opposite. Sin is our normal mode of existence. There is no sin, no act of depravity which we are not capable of committing. We should rather be surprised that we do anything good at all, and that when we fall, our falls our not more frequent or more grave.

Second, we must embrace the truth about ourselves in humility. As I said above, we think very highly of ourselves and our own abilities. God wants to cure us of this pride and self love, and allowing us to fall is one way of doing this. Without realizing our utter poverty, we will never advance in holiness.

With that in mind, imagine how it would inflate our egos if we were able to become masters of the spiritual life overnight, with a simple resolution and by mere will-power. We would very quickly become spiritual puffer fish, so to speak, in love with our own ability to do good. We would say haughtily like the Pharisee, “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are…”

Let us view each fall as an opportunity to grow in knowledge of our own weakness and in humble dependence upon God. Let us give thanks that we have not fallen more frequently or more gravely. Above all, let us remember that step one in the spiritual life is realizing our utter spiritual poverty. As Christ said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

Third, we must reject discouragement. The discouragement and hopelessness I described above is of the devil, and it is rooted in pride. It is deadly to our souls. When we fall into sin, we should immediately return to God in repentant love. Though we may feel as though our sin has driven God away from us, it is not true. It is never too soon to repent. God is always waiting, like the Father in the story of the prodigal son, to run to us and embrace us with open arms.

Fourth, we must remember that it is love that restores us to communion with God. As St. Maximilian Kolbe teaches us, “A single act of love makes the soul return to life.” When you fall, immediately tell Jesus that you love him, and then seek to please him with a concrete action. This act of love will breathe life into your soul and repair your relationship with our heavenly Father.

Finally, we must begin again day by day. I tend to think making resolutions for a whole year is rather foolish. We live one day at a time, not one year at a time. The masters of the spiritual life all encourage daily resolutions and daily examinations of conscience. This daily approach allows us to progress one step at a time and to pick ourselves up after each fall. It is also much easier to avoid discouragement when we are not looking to the past or the distant future. As King David wisely said, “I pay my vows day by day.”

Do Not Lose Courage

A monk was once asked, “What do you monks do in the monastery?” The monk replied, “We fall and get up again, fall and get up again.”

While we may have illusions that saints are those who never fall, and may long for a day when we will be invincible to failure, this simply isn’t reality. The only difference between the saints and the rest of humanity is that the saints kept getting up again, returning to God in repentance until the day of their death. Fall and get up again—this is the only prescription for holiness. Those who patiently endure will not be without their reward, for in the words of our Lord, “He who perseveres to the end will be saved.”

The Mystery of Christmas

The Mystery of Christmas
Dom Prosper Gueranger

I was given two lines of Machiavelli to be analyzed, which I will do here. They show that even he can say things that are wise, which might surprise some of you. Everything is mystery in this holy season. The Word of God, whose generation is before the day-star, is born in time: A Child is God. A Virgin becomes a Mother and remains a Virgin. Things divine are commingled with those that are human. And the sublime, the ineffable antithesis, expressed by the Beloved Disciple in those words of his Gospel, The Word was made flesh, is repeated in a thousand different ways in all the prayers of the Church.

And rightly so, for it admirably embodies the whole of the great portent that unites in one Person the nature of Man and the nature of God.

The splendor of this mystery dazzles the understanding, but it inundates the heart with joy. It is the consummation of the designs of God in time. It is the endless subject of admiration and wonder to the Angels and Saints. Nay, it is the source and cause of their beatitude. Let us see how the Church offers this mystery to her children, veiled under the symbolism of the Liturgy.

Why the 25th of December?

The four weeks of our preparation are over. They were the image of the 4,000 years that preceded the great coming, and we have reached the 25th day of the month of December as a long desired place of sweetest rest. But, why is it that the celebration of our Savior’s Birth should be the perpetual privilege of this one fixed day, while the whole liturgical cycle has to be changed and remodeled every year in order to yield to that ever-varying day which is to be the feast of His Resurrection, Easter Sunday?

The question is a very natural one, and we find it proposed and answered as far back as the fourth century by St. Augustine in his celebrated Epistle to Januarius. The holy Doctor offers this explanation: We solemnize the day of our Savior’s Birth so that we may honor that Birth, which was for our salvation. But, the precise day of the week on which He was born is void of any mystical signification. … We should not suppose, however, that because the Feast of Jesus’ Birth is not fixed to any particular day of the week, there is no mystery expressed by its always being on the 25th of December.

First, we may observe, with the old liturgists, that the Feast of Christmas is kept by turns on each of the days of the week, that thus its holiness may cleanse and rid them of the curse that Adam’s sin had put upon them.

Second, the great mystery of the 25th of December being the Feast of our Savior’s Birth refers not to the division of time marked out by God himself, but to the course of that great luminary that gives life to the world, because it gives light and warmth. Jesus, our Savior, the Light of the World, was born when the night of idolatry and crime was at its darkest. The day of His Birth, the 25th of December, is the time when the material sun begins to gain its ascendancy over the reign of gloomy night and show to the world its triumph of brightness.

In our Advent, we showed, following the Holy Fathers, that the diminution of physical light may be considered as emblematic of those dismal times which preceded the Incarnation. We joined our prayers with those of the people of the Old Testament, and with our Holy Mother the Church we cried out to the Divine Orient, the Sun of Justice, that He would deign to come and deliver us from the twofold death of body and soul.

God has heard our prayers, and it is on the day of the Winter Solstice – which the pagans of old made so much of by their fears and rejoicings – that He gives us both the increase of the natural light and the One Who is the Light of our souls.

St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Ambrose, St. Maximus of Turin, St. Leo, St. Bernard and the principal liturgists, dwell with complacency on this profound mystery, which the Creator of the universe has willed should mark both the natural and the supernatural world. We shall find the Church also making continual allusion to it during this season of Christmas, as she did in that of Advent.

‘Darkness decreases, light increases’

“On this the Day which the Lord hath made,” says St. Gregory of Nyssa, “darkness decreases, light increases, and night is driven back again. No, brethren, it is not by chance, nor by any created will, that this natural change begins on the day when He shows himself in the brightness of His coming, which is the spiritual life of the world. It is nature revealing, under this symbol, a secret to those whose eye is quick enough to see it, that is, to those who are able to appreciate this circumstance of our Savior’s coming.

“Nature seems to me to say: ‘Know, O man! that under the things that I show thee, mysteries lie concealed. Hast thou not seen the night that had grown so long suddenly checked? Learn hence, that the black night of sin, which had reached its height by the accumulation of every guilty device, is this day stopped in its course. Yes, from this day forward its duration shall be shortened, until at length there shall be naught but light. Look, I pray thee, on the sun; and see how his rays are stronger, and his position higher in the heavens: Learn from that how the other light, the light of the Gospel, is now shedding itself over the whole earth.”

“Let us rejoice, my Brethren,” cries out St. Augustine. “This day is sacred not because of the visible sun, but because of the Birth of He who is the invisible Creator of the sun… He chose this day whereon to be born, as He chose the Mother of whom to be born, and He bade both the day and the Mother. The day He chose was that on which the light begins to increase, and it typifies the work of Christ, Who renews our interior man day by day. For the eternal Creator, having willed to be born in time, His Birthday would necessarily be in harmony with the rest of his creation.”

The same St. Augustine, in another sermon for the same Feast, gives us the interpretation of a mysterious expression of St. John the Baptist, which admirably confirms the tradition of the Church. The great Precursor said on one occasion, when speaking of Christ: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

These prophetic words signify, in their literal sense that the Baptist’s mission was at its close because Jesus was entering upon His. But they convey, as St. Augustine assures us, a second meaning: “John came into this world at the season of the year when the length of the day decreases; Jesus was born in the season when the length of the day increases. Thus there is mystery both in the rising of that glorious star, the Baptist, at the summer solstice, and in the rising of our Divine Sun in the dark season of winter.”

There have been men who dared to scoff at Christianity as superstition because they discovered that the ancient pagans used to keep a feast of the sun on the winter solstice. In their shallow erudition they concluded that a Religion could not be divinely instituted that had certain rites or customs originating in an analogy to certain phenomena of this world.

In other words, these writers denied what Revelation asserts, namely, that God only created this world for the sake of His Christ and His Church. The very facts which these enemies to the true Faith are, to us Catholics, additional proof of its being worthy of our most devoted love.

Thus, then, have we explained the fundamental mystery of these Forty Days of Christmas by having shown the grand secret hidden in the choice made by God’s eternal decree, that the 25th day of December should be the Birthday of God upon this earth.

Preparation for Good Friday

Preparation for Good Friday
Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Tomorrow is Good Friday a day of very special graces. Each Church feast day is accompanied by an effusion of graces that corresponds to the graces the saint received or to the mysteries of the lives of Our Lady or Our Lord that the feast commemorates.

Tomorrow we will consider the mystery of mysteries, the death of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Redemption of mankind. According to a venerable tradition, He died at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Therefore, at that time the Redemption was realized. Our Lord spoke the words, consummatum est, it is finished, and then His Soul left His most holy Body. When He died, the Victim expired, the Sacrifice was made, and the Redemption was accomplished. The human genre, which before that hour was lost, thenceforth received the offer of salvation. At that moment, also, the skies darkened, the earth shook, and God’s wrath was manifested upon humankind.

With this, we were rescued, and tomorrow we can contemplate Our Lord Jesus Christ as the fountain of all graces which opened to us because of His Sacrifice. We can consider that His Sacrifice opened such a torrent of mercy that is truly infinite. We can expect every kind of forgiveness insofar as we are open to receive these graces.

Our Lord Expiring on the Cross

In my opinion the most expressive aspects of Good Friday to contemplate are these three:

First, we should consider Our Lord Jesus Christ expiring on the Cross, His death.

We should meditate on Our Lord’s Heart pierced by the lance of Longinus. Consider how the iron head of the spear pierced the very symbol of His love. In this act the furor of His persecutors reached its apex.

Although there are interpreters who sustain that this act was made by the Roman soldier to shorten His agony – a kind of euthanasia – we know that it was the furor of His persecutors that had placed Him in such a situation, where even His Sacred Heart was pierced. With this, the last of His Precious Blood along with a drop of water poured out for us, indicating His extreme mercy, goodness and consideration for us.

Our Lord on the Lap of Our Lady

Second, consider Our Lord, bloodless, lying on the lap of Our Lady, represented in the well-known scene of the Pietà. It expresses the great compassion she had for Him, the great sorrow she felt because of Him.

Along with her compassion, we can consider the tremendous and admirable solitude of Our Lady that began at that moment. She became Our Lady of Solitude, almost abandoned and without a friend. She had St. John the Evangelist as a son, it is true. But even knowing that he was very good, what a difference between this son and the Son of sons who had died!

Christ in the Sepulcher

Third, consider Our Lord pallid and without life is left inside the Sepulcher, all alone.

Here we should consider that Christ not only died, but He also rose. On many occasions the Holy Church seems dead, but in fact she never dies and, therefore, is incapable of resurrection. She always recovers, however, from her defeats and humiliations. Even amid the worst humiliations and desecrations that she suffers today, it is indisputable that she will be restored and that from the reign of the Revolution where we find ourselves today, the Reign of Mary will come.

The Graces we can ask for

Tomorrow we can meditate on these aspects of the death of Our Lord and ask for a special grace on each one. What grace should we ask for in each meditation?

Considering Our Lord expiring, we can ask for the grace to be converted, to change those parts of our souls that still need to convert to make us like unto Our Lord. There is always something inside of each one that needs to be converted until we reach sanctity. In view of His Sacrifice that ended in His death and in view of His mercy obtained at the price of His infinitely precious Blood, we can ask and expect the grace of a complete conversion.

Let us beg, through the intercession of Our Lady, that Our Lord penetrate our souls and destroy all our resistance to His grace, that He shake us and convert us so that we become what we should be.

Meditating on Our Lord’s pierced Heart, we should recall His love for us. In face of His infinite love for us, we should ask Him to intensify our spiritual life, which is our counter-revolutionary life. We are not only called to save our own souls, but we are called to destroy the Revolution and save the Church from the enormous progressivist infiltration she is suffering. Our love for Him would not be complete if we were only concerned with our individual spiritual progress. We should show Him our love by destroying the enemies of His Mystical Body. This is an important grace to pray for.

Considering Our Lord lying on the lap of Our Lady, thinking of her piety and her sorrow, we should ask them both to help us understand the Passion of Our Lord as she did when she contemplated Him there. Many people meditate on the Passion as a past event without any relation to their immediate lives. On the contrary, we should have it always before our eyes.

In the Stations of the Cross we pray: Impress on our souls the wounds of Christ. This means: Give us solidarity with the Passion of Christ in such a way that His sorrows become our sorrows, and that we live having His Passion before our eyes. The way to do this is to think about the Catholic Church. Today she is passing through a Passion similar to the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We should ask the grace of transcending the sphere of our little lives, our small individual interests, in order to live always having before our eyes the Passion of Holy Mother Church.

Contemplating Christ in the Sepulcher, we contemplate the humiliations and desecrations suffered by the Church today. Nonetheless we know she will recover from this situation, the reign of the Revolution will be destroyed and the Reign of Mary established. Let us ask Our Lady that we always hope and believe in this new Easter that will come.

These are the considerations we can make and graces we can ask for tomorrow on Good Friday.

Rules for a Happy Marriage

Rules for a Happy Marriage:

1. Never both be angry at the same time.

2. Never yell at each other unless the house is on fire.

3. If one of you has to win an argument, let it be your mate.

4. If you have to criticize, do it lovingly.

5. Never bring up mistakes of the past.

6. Neglect the whole world rather than each other.

7. Never go to sleep with an argument unsettled.

8. At least once every day try to say one kind or complimentary thing to your life’s partner.

9. When you have done something wrong, be ready to admit it and ask for forgiveness.

10. It takes two to make a quarrel, and the one in the wrong is the one who does the most talking.