Friday, December 11, 2015

A Mad Queen and Her Unhinged Army

Johann Heinrich Fussli: attribution

The undisputed queen of The Seven Deadly Sins is pride. We often see the words pride and vainglory used interchangeably when the deadly sins are listed but according to St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Gregory the Great, pride is the "mother" of all sins and not in its own right one of the seven deadly sins. St. Thomas substitutes vainglory for pride when enumerating the seven deadly sins. Pride spawns the seven deadly sins since she is the mother of these. All sin ultimately has its beginning in pride.

Whenever we consider sin and its roots, it helps to keep in mind that the purpose of the seven deadly sins is to oppose virtue. By opposing virtue, the "mad queen" and her "unhinged army" lead people into an ever increasing downward spiral of  malice and licentiousness.

Why do I call pride the "mad queen" and the deadly sins her "unhinged army"? Because these sins, when firmly in place, attack sound reason. They attack the virtue of wisdom leaving the person unable to discern the true reality of things.  Have you ever wondered why so many people can't see the spiritual battle taking place in the world today? It's because their intellect has been darkened by the deadly sins and they no longer have the light to see what so clearly surrounds them. They live (to one degree or another) in an illusory world of their own making pursuant to the degree in which the deadly sins have displaced the virtues. You might call it a "spiritual madness" since the things of the spirit have been subjugated to the flesh to such a degree that the person no longer recognizes the true order of things. Without this recognition, chaos results since the divine order is displaced by disorder and charity displaced by malice.

This idea of "spiritual madness" is important to keep in mind as we look at the chaos that surrounds us in the world today. St. Thomas calls this dullness of sense "folly" and  it comes about through man's "plunging his sense into earthly things, whereby his sense is rendered incapable of perceiving Divine things". According to St. Thomas the quickest descent into this spiritual blindness is through the deadly sin of lust, which is probably why satan loves to tempt people in this area. Lust immerses itself in the flesh to the neglect of the spirit.

Pride sees itself as the center around which all things revolve. Wherever there is sin, pride's hand is there. It is a distortion of one's position in the world - a spiritual aberration that results in a skewed perspective of God, self, and others. Whereas charity looks at others though the lens of mercy, pride opposes mercy and deeply aligns itself with presumption, which is a mockery of mercy in that there is no justice in it. In other words, presumption is a mercy without justice, a love of the sin instead of the sinner. Presumption destroys justice and defaces mercy.

We see in our day a strange reluctance to call sin what it is. As a matter of fact, those who call sin what it is are despised, looked down upon and accused of lacking love for others. And, (this shows that something diabolical is at work) people who were once considered moral, upright, and holy are now considered evil. The entire moral compass of society has flipped, the axis of good has been tipped over completely to the point where a man who would have been upheld as a saint and a hero seventy years ago is now often thought of as a villain.

This "upending" of the divine order of things to the point where good is considered evil and evil considered good effects a type of anti-kingdom. And one with its very own upside-down gospel and commandments. For instance, a person who has given himself up to the Seven Deadly Sins, though he cannot see this anymore, will still follow a set of commandments though ones which oppose the true commandments. And they will believe that these are good because of the eclipse of sound reason. Thus, a person in obeisance to this unholy kingdom will usually show various traits or "signs" that manifest this bondage. The seven deadly sins are the doors which open a person, family, or country to this type of bondage. The outward signs we see in society today are simply the visible marks of an inward homage to the one who is behind the anti-gospel of our day.

It's very difficult not to lose hope when we see society disintegrating before our eyes but we must keep in mind that God is always in control, even when it seems that every which way we turn we are confronted with displays of evil that shock us to the core. There is always hope and our prayers are never in vain.

Humility is the virtue that opposes pride. If you want to quickly grow in virtue pray for humility because it puts to death pride and removes the obstacles that prevent us from acquiring the virtues. It opens up a path for them. Our Lady is the perfect model for the structure of virtues built upon the base of humility. Without some degree of humility it is almost impossible to conquer the seven deadly sins and acquire the virtues. Humility opens the heart, enabling God to pour down His graces upon us.

Now the virtues are in truth infused by God. Wherefore the first step in the acquisition of virtue may be understood in two ways. First by way of removing obstacles: and thus humility holds the first place, inasmuch as it expels pride, which "God resisteth," and makes man submissive and ever open to receive the influx of Divine grace. Hence it is written (James 4:6): "God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." On this sense humility is said to be the foundation of the spiritual edifice. Secondly, a thing is first among virtues directly, because it is the first step towards God.    
                                                                                                                  St Thomas Aquinas

Technically, charity is first among virtues and St Thomas does state this, but charity and humility are intimately entwined and you really can't have one without the other. In this way, humility is the first step in that it lays a solid foundation for spiritual growth. The greater our humility, the greater our growth in charity and all the other virtues as well.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Healing Balm for the Soul

An Allegory of Man
 From my archives:

What is the cure for the soul that is weary? What is the antidote to a world stricken with vice? The remedy for the soul overwhelmed by despair?

What "sweetens" the crosses we bear?

The answer is one and the same for all of the questions above.

Virtues. Those God given helps for the soul. The beautiful "coat of many colors" the soul needs to be cloaked in. The armor that God yearns to cover its nakedness, its poverty, with so it doesn't walk about the world completely exposed to that which seeks to harm it.

In the painting above, "An Allegory of Man", Man is being attacked by the Seven deadly Sins and Death, but is shielded by the Seven Virtues. We have really given wide berth to studying and practicing the virtues in the past century and this loss is becoming more noticeable each day as the proliferation of every kind of sin and vice sweeps across humanity. Sometimes it's hard to believe that we can be so obdurate in our unwillingness to see what is as plain as the nose on our face:

The world is drowning in the Seven Deadly Sins. We all struggle with them but millions have given themselves over to them completely.

The loss of the practice of virtue in this world has had tragic repercussions. One of the marks of the deadly sins is that they do in fact have a deadening effect on the soul. The soul grows numb and weary. It cannot function properly in the manner that it was created to - as a clean and holy temple of the Holy Spirit. It loses its sense of being closely connected to God. The soul falls asleep, you could say.

We are a people who are snoring their way into oblivion. An oblivion where no one exists except me, myself, and I. The ultimate dreamworld where the only god that exists is the god of self. A world where people have forgotten both God and neighbor. (Oh, wait, so sorry...I forgot that this "dreamworld" actually has a name. Hell, I think it's called. )

The virtues on the other hand "wake up" the soul. They have a vivifying effect on it because their source is God. When the soul is not coated in virtues it feels their absence because the spiritual state of man depends on the virtues. We have lost our understanding of the protection virtues give us, a truth which the people of past centuries understood well.

When our physical bodies are ill they manifest clear symptoms so that we know something is wrong. It's the same for our souls - they too manifest spiritual symptoms so that we may take note and apply the remedies needed to cure its ills.

And God has given us so many remedies.

 One of the greatest is Confession, which purges the soul of the poisons within it. Once the poison is cleared, the virtues have the necessary room to take root, flourish and grow. Not confessing our sins is like trying to plant a seed in rocky soil, the plant has no room to grow because the soil (of the soul) is so poor. Confession removes the rocks and preps the soil.

Prayer is the conduit through which the soil is watered.

Holy Scripture and the Eucharist feed it. (Anyone who likes gardening knows soil needs to be fertilized to produce anything worthwhile.)

The virtues protect it and cause the soil of the soul to produce fruit abundantly.

Let's turn the tide of sin and despair in our world today by praying for and practicing the virtues.

Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.
                                    St Francis of Assisi

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Portrait of Sloth: The Tumble into Despair

Johan Tobias Sergel: Plunging into Despair

 Sloth, often considered one of the lesser deadly sins in our day, needs to be unmasked so that we can recognize the terrible marks it leaves on our souls. Entire nations have been inoculated with this death-producing vice and we cannot fight an enemy that we can't even see. For this reason, we bring it into the light of God.

All the deadly sins are capable of producing despair but there are two especially noted for it. I always thought pride was the vice most likely to lead to despair and pride certainly can be the breeding ground for despair, but the top two vices that spawn despair as its offspring are lust and sloth.

St. Gregory the Great says that sloth gives birth to six daughters: malice, spite, faint-heartedness, despair, sluggishness in regard to the commandments, and wandering of the mind after unlawful things (see Morals on the Book of Job, xxxi 45). All the vices have "daughters" but St. Thomas Aquinas states that sloth gives birth to despair in a special way. It even beats lust as the top producer of despair. That, not one, but two Doctors of the Church considered sloth to be very deadly indeed should cause us to stand up and take notice.

What is it about sloth that leads people to despair? What is it about sloth that makes it so lethal to the soul? Can we elaborate on St. Thomas' words "in a special way"?

I think we can. When we understand how each of the deadly sins works, it opens a path to a greater awareness of how they operate and what we can do to prevent them from embedding their roots into our souls. In the case of sloth, we know that it slowly drains you of your love for the Lord. Imagine a siphon whose sole purpose is to draw out the love of God in your soul and inject it instead with sadness and hopelessness and you'll get a grasp of sloth's  "job description in the unholy annals of Hell", to put things bluntly. As this love is leached out it draws along with it the joy and awe which are the companions of  holy love. Soon the soul, instead of experiencing joy in the Lord and for the things of the Lord, feels sadness (or repulsion). Left unchecked, this sadness leads to the loss of hope, which, when taken to its full measure, results in despair. This is how sloth has gained the top, albeit blighted, honor as the number one architect of despair.

It helps if we keep in mind that the Seven Deadly Sins oppose, either directly or indirectly, the Three Theological Virtues and the Four Cardinal Virtues. They seek to strip the virtues from us and replace the "holiness" of the virtues with the "hellishness" of the vices. The virtues, when firmly in place, protect us from the onslaught of the deadly sins. But we have to do our part.

In the battle against sloth, the key would be to pray for an increase in the virtues of hope and charity while practicing diligence in the things of God. Hope opposes despair, and since spiritual joy belongs to charity, these counteract the sadness in the presence of eternal or spiritual goods and God Himself.

What may be useful, is to understand that sloth directs its opposition against the top three of The Ten Commandments, the commandments that form the basic structure of a loving relationship with God. When these are broken, the entire edifice of a holy life tends to collapse in on itself, enabling other deadly sins entrance into the temple of our souls. So, in the case of this particular vice, your counterattack would be to firmly resolve to honor God by keeping these commandments and loving the Lord  "with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Mt 22:37).

The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men’s activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity.   (The Catechism of the Catholic Church)

(Other posts in this series: The Seven Deadly Sins in the Moral Decline of America and A Portrait of Sloth - Pt 1)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Portrait of Sloth - Pt 1

Jean-Baptiste Oudry : The Wolf and the Lamb

Here's a theory I'd like to put forth:

What if the reason so few people attend Mass (or services if you are not Catholic) is because they aren't aware that certain of the Seven Deadly Sins produce a spiritual repulsion (or apathy, a sense of boredom, sleepiness, etc...) at the idea of attending Mass?

I'm not simply suggesting this from the top of my head. There is good reason to believe that this just may be the case. The same goes for reading the Bible.

When I research the Seven Deadly Sins I often come across interesting information that sheds light on how these sins work to deter us from seeking a closer relationship with God. Not only do they deter us, they try to repel us, to repulse us to the point where people "feel" better if they don't go to church. They feel relief if they avoid God. Unfortunately, this feeling doesn't last too long once the deadly sin sinks its roots in.

Did you know that sloth, in Catholic tradition, is considered "the sin against the sabbath"?  (St Thomas' Summa Theologica, see Pt II-II - you can find the Summa here.)  The reason for this is that one of sloth's first modes of attack is an attempt to "cull the individual sheep from its flock" because if it manages to do this, it knows its chances are greater for inflicting a deadly wound on both the "sheep" and the "little lambs" that follow it.

Yes, sloth attacks families in this manner. A reader commented on my post The Seven Deadly Sins in the Moral Decline of America and I asked her if I could share it. It gives folks a mini "snapshot" of the effects of sloth's "culling skills":

"I certainly never saw sloth from so many angles. And yet, when I look back on my life, my childhood, I see how sloth has marked the family I came from, and how it slowly had God replaced, and ultimately killed the joy of the Lord. I knew it was the work of the devil; just didn't know the name it went by: sloth. I'm glad you posted on it. It is insidious and it creeps up on you. It's certainly something we must watch out for."

I couldn't help but think of how her words encapsulated sloth's manner of operating.

First sloth "marks" a family. It usually does this by attacking one of the parents first. Sloth will offer a temptation such as: "The kids have soccer practice, then a game - we won't have time to attend Mass." Or, "I have to work on a big project for work - I'll just drop the kids off at Mass and pick them up after."

Its next step (in this example) might be to continue offering reasons why "surely it is okay if we don't go to Mass this week with everything else we have on our plate".  Eventually, this becomes a pattern and sloth has managed to sink its claws into the fabric of this family. The kids also begin to believe that skipping Mass is just fine because they are following the example of their parents.

Unfortunately, sloth doesn't stop there. What began as an offering of a perceived good (soccer practice and a game in this case) that took precedence over going to Mass, begins to turn into something more. Sloth begins to insert itself into the heart of the family itself. Sacraments fall to the wayside, prayer becomes a burden, Scripture is boring, and on and on the list goes.

"Besides, we can worship God outside of church too, can't we? You know, the world is his altar."

Sloth then begins to suggest that maybe, just maybe, God is not so good. A numbness for the things of God begins to replace the love that was there. Then a mild repulsion sets in.

Soon sloth has succeeded in culling an entire family from the flock of Christ. The family begins to lose its joy and awe, which are the byproduct of a close and loving relationship with the Lord.

 Sloth has also left an entry point in which to insert a deeper poison.

And that poison would be "despair".

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Cure for "Double Yoke Syndrome"

Hope in a Prison of Despair

I have 2 posts that I am publishing within the next few days on the deadly sin of sloth and how sloth is the number one producer of despair. Sloth steals your joy, steals your peace. It seems fitting that before I publish these posts I should first post this article from my archives on how important the virtues of faith, hope, and charity are in protecting the soul from despair in general. Where faith, hope, and charity thrive there is no room for despair. These three Theological Virtues, along with the Cardinal Virtues form a "protective armor" around the soul, defending us from the vices. 

When you read Jesus' words, "for my yoke is easy and my burden light" does "oh no, Lord, your yoke weighs a ton" automatically pop into your mind? No matter how hard you try to push the thought out or ignore it? If so, this post is for you:

The food we feed our minds and the things we tell ourselves make a great deal of difference in whether our cross feels light or heavy. Half the problem with feeling doubly yoked is what we believe about ourselves and others mixed with what we may not believe nor trust about God. I joked around in a previous post about people feeling doubly yoked but there's a great deal of truth mixed in with my rather lame attempts at humor. Many people do feel overwhelmed and weighed down, but the truth is that feeling heavily burdened is often the result of a lack of hope.

Despair is the heaviest thing in the whole universe. Even a little bit is hard to carry.

What we believe or disbelieve about ourselves can leave us locked into patterns of living that make it more difficult to respond to God's freely given grace. If we don't believe that we, or others, or even a situation, can change we have the tendency to slam the door on grace. Very often there are hidden areas of hopelessness in our lives that God yearns to touch deeply with his grace but because of the things we believe about ourselves and others we keep the door closed through our own hardness of heart. A strong and stubborn belief can be a hard obstacle to remove. It can be done but we have to ask God to open up these painful wounded areas to hope. As in "Lord, please pour your hope into this area. I have difficulty believing I can/she can/he can change and I hand it over to you. Touch this part of my life with your grace. May the light of  hope cast its rays on the dark corners of my heart and may your love be the balm that heals this brokenness within me. "

Basically, when we don't trust fully in God or his word, we end up with hidden areas of despair in our hearts. We discount grace. We believe in a cheap grace that is not powerful enough to effect change in ourselves or others.

Hope is a "power" virtue and a "living" virtue. Without hope touching every aspect of our lives parts of us crumble and die inside. The easiest way to destroy someone? Strip them of their hope. Anyone who has ever lived in a state of despair can understand the debilitating effects of a lack of hope. Hope grows things... hope nourishes faith and love and brings about their full flowering.

Those of you who are gardeners have probably heard of "companion planting". This is when we group certain plants together to increase their strength and ability to survive and bear fruit. The same is true in the garden of your heart: faith, hope and charity work together to nourish the soul. These are virtues that God has infused in our hearts. Here on earth, they work in tandem. Strip one away and the others begin to fail.  When virtues fail like this we leave space in our hearts for the Seven Deadly Sins to set in. They are the "weeds" in our gardens and if not removed tend to take over the whole thing.

When I began praying for hope to light up all the areas in my life I felt hopeless about I began to see huge changes in my life. It doesn't matter the size of the issues you are despairing over, large or small He wants to open these areas to the light of hope.

"For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe, plans to give you a future full of hope."              Jer. 29:11

"And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us."               Rom 5:5

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Cause and Effect

The Ripple Effect: Agustin Ruiz

Something I hear all too often lately is that people feel overwhelmed, an intensifying "spiritual pressure", if you will, that leaves folks feeling helpless and hopeless. They feel ill equipped to tackle the mountainous problems facing families, communities, and nations today. I mean, how do you change a society so permeated with spiritual rot that sin has become the norm rather than the exception?

The truth is that change begins with the individual and then spreads outward from there. With the help of God's grace, everyone can effect change.

The strange thing is that if people were aware of how much their individual actions, words, and prayers affected others, the world, and the spiritual realm, they would drop to their knees in shock. Because most of us don't immediately "see" these effects, we believe there aren't any.

Oh, but they are there. Always. Just as everything we do marks the physical world, everything we do has spiritual ramifications as well.

Don't ever believe the lie that one person cannot make a difference.

Nothing could be further from the truth - this is another of satan's great deceptions. Satan knows very well the difference one person can make and this is why he mounts attacks against every single person created in the likeness and image of God. Too many people have forgotten that they are body, soul and spirit and because of this spiritual aspect of our being, everything we do also affects the spiritual realm to a lesser or greater degree. During our judgment we get to see every single bit of this  tapestry of life in all its intricacy and if there is genuine repentance, we also get to see the mercy written into every strand. Satan loves to take someone out of "commission" because the souls in this person's care  are then placed in danger.

That is how much you matter. Everything you do matters. For good or for evil, it matters.

You have a purpose. One so critical that when you abandon your post you leave a great "hole" for the invading army to lay siege to those in your care.

Some folks confuse their lack of position in the eyes of the world with a lack of "position" in the spiritual realm and so they feel that what they do or don't do is of no importance in the great scheme of things. Thus, they don't try. They think it's a sign of humility to not take a stance because they are "of no importance" when in many cases it is simply apathy and a pride in the disguise of false humility. It is critical that people understand that things are not what they seem. Can you imagine if Our Lady refused to give her "Fiat" because she felt "there was just no way God could have possibly chosen her" as Mother of Our Lord? Or if St. Therese didn't bother with her little way of trust and love "because, after all, how could one nun who never left the convent grounds possibly make a difference?" Never would you have heard such a thing from either of them. Both had total confidence and trust in the Lord. They trusted His power.

And in these days of raging spiritual warfare so must you.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Seven Deadly Sins in the Moral Decline of America


Apathy: lack of interest or concern, especially regarding matters of general importance or appeal; indifference.

Do you ever ask yourself why folks are so apathetic about God these days? And why is it so hard to make a dent in this apathy? What spawned the apathy and indifference we face in America today?

The word apathy comes from the greek apatheia, "freedom from suffering" or "impassibility".

Interesting. Freedom from suffering and impassibility. (Keep this in mind.)

Some of its synonyms are spiritlessness and  (this is a big one) acedia.

Okay, now we are getting somewhere.

 Acedia is the "real" name of one of The Capital Sins. These days we call it sloth.

 People today tend to think of sloth as a kind of "not-so-deadly sin". As if it were on the level of mere laziness or a bit of sluggishness.

Nothing could be further from the truth. "Mere laziness" is more of a "mere accident" of sloth than a definition of it. Sloth in its fullest meaning is very deadly and rightfully holds its honored place in the hierarchy of "worst possible sins ever". It is a root sin out of which many other sins sprout. Sloth is against God, against joy. Sloth pits itself against life itself by not acknowledging the very importance of life. It receives its power from the way it deeply intertwines with several other deadly sins and this is what makes it exceptionally hard to remove. It is also the reason for the words: “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth."

Sloth is "fundamentally a sadness in the presence of eternal or spiritual goods, and ultimately God Himself."

Yes, you read that right. You know how  "spiritual envy" sorrows over another's relationship with God? Well, sloth sorrows over God Himself. Or as Peter Kreeft, in his book Back to Virtue states:

""Sloth is the most depressing thing in the world. It is hell on earth. It finds our very highest joy - God himself - joyless. If Joy himself is joyless, where can we find joy? If salt has lost its saltiness, how can it be restored? If the very light in us is darkness, how great is that darkness?" 

 But why? Why is sloth just so darn bad?

Because it is so uncaring that it does nothing in the face of evil. (Nor does it do much in the face of good, for that matter.)

If the deadly sin of anger spits at the foot of the Cross, sloth walks by the Cross without ever even acknowledging it is there. Sloth isn't the nails driven into the hands of the Savior, nor the mockery of the soldiers who scourged Jesus. No, it's the apathy of a people who know Christ died for their sins but simply do not care. 

And it is the sin of our generation.

Remember when I said to keep in mind the Greek root apatheia as "freedom from suffering"? This is why:

 Sloth in its most heart-hardening form results in the absolute refusal to acknowledge the crucified Christ on the Cross, along with the utter refusal to pick up one's own cross and carry it. Sloth avoids suffering. It also avoids those who suffer.

When dealing with the current anti-christian stance we see pervading our society today, we should note that  the deadly sin of pride directly opposes Christianity, while sloth, on the other hand, simply undermines it every chance it gets. We often believe we are facing off with pride when we are actually seeing sloth unfold itself behind the scenes in all its unholy majesty as well. Thus, the failure to protect Christians today while glorifying evil of every sort. There is nothing quite so ugly as pride and sloth working in tandem.

Sure, pride may be known as the deadliest of the deadly sins but sloth takes no notice of that. No, no. Sloth hides behind other deadly sins. You'll often find sloth creeping behind gluttony or walking in the shadow of greed as well.

But do you know what the oddest thing is? The sadness that is sloth's intimate partner is one of the heaviest burdens of all. It is a heart so estranged from God that in its full measure the person becomes utterly enclosed in himself. He or she cannot feel joy or awe. This is why we have to be diligent in avoiding the things that can open us to this particular deadly sin.

What many of us are coming up against in this secular society is the deadly sin of sloth. Those blank eyes when you mention God? Sloth. The failure to speak up or to make waves? Sloth. When good men/women stand around and do nothing when faced with evil? Sloth. A people who could care less whether they go to church or not? Sloth. Have you heard the phrase,"spiritual but not religious"?  Sloth loves to prevaricate.

A most unusual thing about sloth is that it can mask itself as virtue. It is not uncommon for a workaholic to suffer from sloth. It often disguises itself as humility as well.

And you know that crazy, exaggerated form of political correctness we face daily in our society? The one that makes people afraid to speak up in fear of offending anyone?

Yes, you can lay this at the feet of sloth. Sloth loves to avoid direct confrontation.

The problem with The Deadly Sins is they all make gods of something other than God. Pride makes a god of self, greed makes a god of money, gluttony of food. Sloth is an odd one though. Sloth makes a god of many things since the true God brings him nothing but sadness. You can find sloth at the root of the panoply of "strange gods" we find ourselves confronted with today. The New Age Movement with its umbrella of strange and unusual gods comes to mind here, along with its avoidance of giving the true God His due. Rather, the Lord is swept to the side to take His place among "lesser" gods. It's a very odd thing and one could say it's one of the trademarks of sloth. Sloth is written all over the face of the New Age Movement. This is also why we see such confusion and disorder in this movement. You will always find this confusion and disorder when confronting sloth.

I tackled sloth first in this series because it is the most misunderstood of The Deadly Sins.

Yet, its effects are everywhere today.

(For more on sloth, its signs and symptoms and how to recognize it: see The Joy Thief)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Blind White Martyrdom

Wilhelm von Kaulbach

If we could see what was going on in the spiritual realm that surrounds us I guarantee our attention would quickly shift away from our present troubles to the real culprits wreaking havoc on our society these days. There's a far more serious battle going on behind the scenes than the day-to-day problems the world is facing.

It's THE war for souls.

It's the battle for the souls of our families, friends and countrymen.

And it is raging like never before in the history of man.

It is the battle for the souls of our children.

The all out, no holds barred, battle for the immortal souls of our loved ones

And WE are the soldiers in the front line.

Yes, we are it.

Little Davids fighting Goliaths the likes of which we have never seen before and never will again.

What is the cost of being part of this front line defense?

Everything you know or think you know.

Or as Dr. Peter Kreeft so succinctly puts it in his article, The Winning Strategy:
T.S. Eliot defines the Christian life as: “A condition of complete simplicity/Costing not less than/Everything.” The price is everything: 100%. A worse martyrdom than the quick noose or stake: the martyrdom of dying daily, dying to all your desires and plans, including your plans about how to become a saint. A blank check to God. 

A blank check to God.

The hardest thing we will ever be called to do because white martyrdom can be more difficult than red. Living can, at times, be more difficult than dying.

I am not downplaying the seriousness of the various crises that the world is facing right now, by any means. We have to address those as well.

But, there is more at stake here than the loss of our physical lives.

Eternity is at stake.

 And the most frightening thing is:

 Half of the people here on earth aren't even aware there is a war going on.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"Depart from me, I do not know you."

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This is how the story went
I met someone by accident
Who blew me away
Blew me away
And it was in the darkest of my days
When you took my sorrow and took my pain
And buried them away, buried them away
           (lyrics: Hiding my Heart by Adele)

There are little truths, small truths in life that we accept about ourselves, others, and the world around us because they are facts. Facts we can easily prove.

For instance, we know that bee stings hurt. Ouch. (Well, you may not know this but my arm knows this and assures you it's true. My hand knows this too, unfortunately.)

And then, there are TRUTHS.

You know, those TRUTHS that are so huge we can barely wrap our minds around them, and so...

... we prefer to ignore them most of the time.

But ignoring them doesn't take away the truth of them. We can ignore them all the day long but the time will come when we have no choice but to face them.

This happened to me. I came face to face with the fact that I wasn't who I thought I was and the life I was living in NO WAY resembled the life I was meant to be living. Not even close.

My life was a sad caricature, a mockery if you will, of what I was created for.

Can you imagine seeing your real true self and then realizing that you somehow created a false persona that didn't really even exist in the eyes of the Lord? And that you walked in this false self for fifteen years?


This is what sin does to a person. It shrouds you in a cloak of filth that makes you nearly unrecognizable to the Lord.

And, sadly, it was extremely hard to let this false self go because it fit better into the "mockery" we've made of this world.

A world that should be readying  people for heaven but is instead, prepping them for hell.

Because, the truth is, the world as we see it right now resembles hell more than heaven.

Billions are living lives that are a parody of who they really are.

These seem like harsh words but they are true, nonetheless.


The moment you were conceived in your mother's womb you were born into eternity.

 You will exist forever.

You don't have to wait until you die to stand in eternity.

No, no, you are standing in it already.

Heaven exists.

But only the REAL YOU can get in there.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Gardening and the Poor Souls

Yep, you are ugly my friend. Even St. Francis thinks so.

(Noah, did you just shout, "MY BAD" ?)

Bet you never thought you'd see a gardening post here, did ya?

At ease, folks, the "zucchini queen" has laid down her weapons (temporarily).

Yes, that means YOU, my dear neighbor who put the "DANGER! MINE FIELD!" poster up on my lawn, may freely step out onto your front porch once again without fearing a zucchini apocalypse.

Though, do be aware I planted some fall crops.

Just giving you a heads up.

But who really worries about tripping over spinach and sugar snap peas, right? It's the zucchini that folks run away from most of the time and here in the Northeast zucchini season is winding down. (Except for this ONE massive zucchini plant that WILL NOT DIE. It's kind of spooky actually.)

Have I told you that the souls in Purgatory LOVE people who garden?

Yep, they do. They LOVE 'em. Especially *squeamish* Catholic gardeners.

Really, you have to hand it to the Catholic Church:

NOTHING goes to waste.

And the poor souls just love it.

I mean, they get a "twofer" when I have to pluck BOTH slugs AND tomato hornworms out of my garden.

Tomato hornworms make me shudder. From a distance they look like little green puffed up cartoon character caterpillars but up close they are like something out of a B rated horror flick. Fat, gushy, and twice the size of a grown man's thumb.

The souls in Purgatory are tickled when I come face to face with Mr. or Mrs. Godzilla T Hornworm.

Me, I simply close my eyes, reach out a gloved hand, and PLUCK.

Pluck, yuck, offer up.

 Pluck, yuck, offer up.

There's a sacred rhythm to it, my friends.

I can still hear the echo of the poor souls now:

 "Bean beetles coming up next! And there are thousands! Yee haw!Fling those gates open, St. Peter!"

P.S. (Yuck! I mean, SHEESH, did you SEE the HORN on that thing?! And it looks like it has dozens of eyes on its sides to boot! God should count them as a "threefer", don't you think?)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Trusting God with St. Therese - A Book Review

I love reading books about Catholic spirituality and every once in a while I'll come across one that stands out from the rest. Trusting God with St. Therese by Connie Rossini is THE best book I've read all year and the one that has been most helpful to me spiritually. Which is saying a lot since I've felt somewhat "stuck" spiritually these past few years.

Well, this book "unstuck" me. It helped me examine my level of trust in the Lord and I soon realized that I didn't trust the Lord as much as I thought I did. This book has helped me immensely in this area. Over the past year I had been questioning the Lord as to why it seemed as if I was not making much progress in my spiritual life and I feel that Connie's book was an answer to prayer for me. She asked me to be a beta reader for Trusting God with St. Therese so I was able to really immerse myself deeply into the book and  I can't get over how greatly it has enriched my spiritual life.

One of the things that really struck me as I read Trusting God with St. Therese is the amount of spiritual ground Connie Rossini covers in this book. She makes it very easy for the reader to grasp the spirituality of "The Little Way". I'm not sure I've ever read a book quite like this. The format is unique in that it not only leads us through defining moments in the lives of both St. Therese and the author's but also shows us how to incorporate the way of "trust and love" into our own lives. The book breaks away from formats used in traditional saint and spirituality books while at the same time giving the reader a big glimpse into the life and spirituality of one of the greatest saints in the Catholic Church. There are many books on St. Therese out there BUT NONE LIKE THIS. The chapters in this book cover areas such as: the three spiritual stages, the importance of the early years in the development of trust, signs of a lack of trust in God, despair and how to overcome it, forgiveness, suffering, dealing with emotions, scruples, presumption, etc...

I can't count the number of times over the years I have read a book on Catholic spirituality and at the end have felt as if I am still in the dark as how to integrate what I have learned into my own life. Not the case with this book. I found the "Questions for Reflection" and "Practical Suggestions" at the end of each chapter extremely helpful. (This would be a great book for book clubs!)

Trusting God with St. Therese may possibly be the most spiritually significant book I have read in years. I highly recommend it.

You can find Trusting God with St. Therese on (paperback and Kindle edition) and at (paperback).

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Holy of Holies - Christ's Merciful Heart

The Confession of Saint Longinus

I have a great devotion to the pierced side of Christ and the Divine Mercy. When I started this blog I decided that the URL and the name of this blog would not be the same. On purpose. I thought people would automatically see the connection between the two but many don't and I am often asked why they are different. I thought I'd explain a bit since some may find it interesting.

 I wanted to point to the first two instances of Divine Mercy during the 3 o'clock hour after the Crucifixion.

The first takes place when Jesus dies. In Luke we read that at 3:00 in the afternoon when Jesus dies the "veil of the temple was torn down the middle". Mark says: "The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom" (see also Mt. 27: 51). They are making a connection here to the temple in the Old Testament. So, Jesus' death rends the veil that barred people from entering the Holy of Holies,  the inner sanctuary of the temple where none but the high priest could enter on the Day of Atonement in the Old Testament. In the inner sanctuary of Solomon's temple was the Ark of the Covenant with the Mercy Seat covering it. John, however, doesn't mention the veil like the other three gospel writers. Instead he says this, "But one soldier thrust his lance into his side and blood and water flowed out."

The Centurion who pierced Jesus' heart was the first to receive Christ's Mercy in the three o'clock hour. The veil of the Temple of God was rent and blood and water flowing from His side converted the soldier.

The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous; the red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the depths of my most tender Mercy at that time when My agonized heart was opened was opened by a lance on the Cross.... Fortunate is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him. (The Diary of St. Faustina)

This soldier, without understanding what he was doing, opened the floodgates of mercy upon the world.

His wounds are the gates by which we enter into His Mercy. Especially His Heart wound.

From all My wounds, like from streams, mercy flows for souls, but the wound in My Heart is the fountain of unfathomable mercy. From this fountain spring all graces for souls. (The Diary of St Faustina)

The second instance was the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate of the temple:

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple area for the three o’clock hour of prayer. (It was a Jewish tradition to pray at certain hours of the day. This included the 3 o'clock prayer hour. Today,we continue this sanctifying of the day in the Liturgy of the Hours.)

 And a man crippled from birth was carried and placed at the gate of the temple called “the Beautiful Gate” every day to beg for alms from the people who entered the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, [rise and] walk.” Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong. He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God. (Acts 3:1-8)

While I was praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet one day, the words, "My wounds correspond to the gates of the temple," popped into my mind. So, thinking this had likely come into someone else's mind as well, I decided to Google it and found this link: Enter His Gates. If you scroll over the picture you will see how the gates line up with His Wounds and how the Heart Wound lines up with the Holy of Holies.

Therefore, brothers, since through the blood of Jesus we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is his flesh, and since we have "a great priest over the house of God," let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. (Heb. 10: 19-22

The Crucifixion of Our Lord is superimposed upon this world across space and time. When the Heavenly Father looks down upon us, He sees us through this superimposition of Christ's great sacrifice. I guess you could say, He sees us through the wounds of Christ. Through his Blood. This means everyone has access to God's mercy unless they turn away from it. It cannot be taken away unless we give it up. Because of Christ, mercy is the rule not the exception. Christ does not walk away, we do.

To get an idea of what I mean, take the sun for example. The earth is always in the presence of the sun, even during the night. We may not be able to see it because of the earth's rotations. Yet, it is always there. We could not exist without it.

So it is with Jesus. He is the "Holy Covering" of poor, sinful humanity.

 I saw a great light, with God the Father in the midst of it. Between this light and the earth I saw Jesus nailed to the Cross and in such a way that God, wanting to look upon the earth, had to look through Our Lord's wounds. (The Diary of St. Faustina)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Beauty for Ashes - Pt 3

Artwork Source: Wikimedia Commons

To appoint to them that mourn in Zion, to give to them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.              Isaiah 61:3

Until my experience in the presence of Jesus' mercy I hadn't realized that God would (or even could) step into someone's life in such a way.  Despite my Catholic upbringing, I had never heard of this happening to anyone and didn't know what to make of it. Since then, I have heard many other beautiful conversion stories and they are all miraculous to me. Some of stories that others told me included "visible" manifestations of God's love, some "invisible", but all are miraculous in that they transformed the very heart of the person.

When God returned my soul to my body, I was dumbfounded. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. You mean God wanted ME? Despite all the sin and the years away from Him?

Yes, He did want me. He loves sinners and now I understood that this love for sinners included me. I had wanted to go to Confession for quite some time but was afraid. Afraid that my sins were too numerous, too ugly, TOO MORTAL to be forgiven. I had been taught by the nuns when I was young that those who committed mortal sins went to hell. I had committed mortal sins and was going to hell. Period. (Hey, I was probably out with one of my "fake" bellyaches on the day they explained that even mortal sins could be forgiven so don't blame the nuns.)

One of the fruits of the time I spent in His Presence was the overwhelming urge to go to Confession. It was a pressing, burning desire to go. So I did go. The very next day. Only to hear, "I am sorry but I can't absolve you until you get the problem with your marriage fixed." The priest was very nice and I could tell he felt bad but it hurt because I wanted that absolution more than anything in the world right then.

One of my friends spoke to her Pastor about my situation and made an appointment with him for me. (She actually called me said, "You're going to see him and that's that!") Best thing that could have happened to me. When I spoke to him, he explained that I could go to Confession and receive absolution (with certain conditions met ) and that we could attend marriage classes at his parish.

And let me tell you...that Confession was the best ever.  This was an elderly priest and I'm sure I burned his ears off that day but he never batted an eyelash. He took me through the commandments one by one and never even flinched at my muttered, "Errrr...that would be too many times to count, Father. I can't give you an exact number. Can we just say numerous times? God knows I lost track."

When I was finished we were both crying. He told me that I made his day and that THIS was the reason he became a priest.

Thank God for our priests. And thank God for good friends who don't listen to your arguments and do what is best for your soul instead.

I love you, P.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Beauty for Ashes - Pt 2

I was in sorry shape.

I was caught in the grips of the Seven Deadly Sins.

I was sick of the way I was living my life but sin had such a strong hold on me that I didn't see a way out.

And I despaired. Oh, did I despair. The despair was so great that it overwhelmed me. My life lay in ashes all around me. If you read the link in my last post maybe you know what I mean. It was one of those shocking moments that lays bare the truth of your life (who and what you are, at least at that point). It was an ugly "snapshot of my life". 

One evening while my husband was at work I sat on the edge of my bed and cried out to the Lord, "Jesus, I am fed up with my life!"

Instantly, I was in the presence of a great light. There was no bedroom, no bed anymore. I think my soul was plucked from my body but I have no real way of knowing. All I know is that I was in the Presence of great Love and Mercy and that it was the Heart of Christ. This was not conveyed to me with words but through an instantaneous knowledge. Rays pierced my soul and I received an immense healing. I could not SEE His Heart only the rays that pierced my soul from every side. The soul doesn't see as it sees here on earth - I could see completely around me all at once. Above, below, and around. There were rays of two distinct colors - a deep, rich red and a paler color, an extremely pale pink. I say pink but pink isn't really the right word to call it. There isn't really a color here on earth that describes it. Neither color was a color I had ever seen before. I don't think they exist here. It was as if the pale color was slightly tinged with blood giving it the pinkish cast. There was no blue at all like you see in some  Divine Mercy pictures.

I didn't know about St. Faustina, her Diary, or the Divine Mercy picture at the time. I remember how stunned I was the first time I saw it.  Her Diary shocked me even more because I immediately understood what Jesus was trying to say to the world through St. Faustina. I understood the messages in a way that's hard to convey sometimes but it is something I am going to attempt to do on my blog, God willing. I have no doubt that the mercy I received came through the intercession of St. Faustina and the prayers of those here on earth who prayed for me and I have no doubt that Jesus is calling all sinners to
trust in his mercy. 

I'm not  exactly sure where to start when speaking of Jesus' Mercy so I want to say that this particular Divine Mercy Sunday is a very special one and we should all open our hearts to Jesus' mercy like never before. 

There are no coincidences with God.