A New Year, A New You

New year’s resolutions are gaining a full head of steam. More people are deciding to seek the devout Catholic life. Weight loss may still reign at the top of many lists, but it’s very admirable for someone to add to their list to become a better Catholic. To commit fewer sins, to go to Mass on a regular basis, to frequent the confessional more often, or have a better prayer life.

With change comes discipline and the act of the will. This involves breaking old habits and forming new ones. Habits can be changed in a matter of weeks. The will acts as a beacon. A person that wants change in their life wills it. When a person decides to take their faith more serious and become a more devout Catholic, there are so many avenues one may venture.

While the list may go on within such prayer avenues, it’s the obvious approach people tend to miss. There are prayers and practices that fills the soul and are easily accessible. This simple approach to the devout life doesn’t involve a “feel good” conference for a quick “Jesus jolt.” An effective approach to the devout begins with ancient Liturgy.

The Traditional Latin Mass is the gateway to the devout. A reverent Eucharistic sacrifice is the foundation. People that take the Liturgy seriously are more likely to take their faith seriously.

“When we receive Holy Communion, we experience something extraordinary – a joy, a fragrance, a well being that thrills the whole body and causes it to exalt.” –St. John Vianney

Eating healthy and exercising promotes a healthy side effect–weight loss. The same goes for attending a reverent Liturgy such as the Latin Mass. Mass that is taken seriously and treated reverently could itself net a healthy side effect–the intent to take the faith seriously. A genuine attempt to live the Christian life as God wills.

Lex orandi, lex credendi is a Latin phrase that refers to good Liturgy championing good theology. Not only that, but beautiful, reverent Liturgy can lead to a devoted prayer life. The Latin Mass is an accessible approach to a bona fide spiritual growth.

“The heavens open and multitudes of angels come to assist in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” –St. Gregory

Soul-satisfying Liturgy from the Latin Mass can be the momentum needed to devote oneself into deeper prayer outside of the Mass. The Rosary is a most powerful prayer. It is a mighty weapon against Satan and his minions. Sinful temptations may also falter. The Rosary is also a chance to spend silent time meditating on the Mysteries of Christ through the Blessed Mother.

“The greatest method of praying is to pray the Rosary.” –Saint Francis de Sales

One may also choose to pray the Rosary in Latin. It is the liturgical tongue of the Church. There are good reasons for praying the Rosary in Latin. There is less distraction while meditating on the mysteries. Moreover, the devil hates Latin; he loathes Latin. The evil one is fully aware how powerful and rich praying (or speaking) in Latin is to Catholics. Latin in the Liturgy dates back over a thousand years, and some believe that the earliest Masses were offered in Latin. The traditional Rosary in Latin is a personal preference. The Most Holy Rosary offers the Rosary in both Latin and English.

“The Rosary is the most excellent form of prayer and the most efficacious means of attaining eternal life. It is the remedy for all our evils, the root of all our blessings. There is no more excellent way of praying.” –Pope Leo XIII

The Divine Office, or in Latin Divinum Officium, is a most important prayer that the Church offers using a liturgical book known as a Breviary. Traditionally these prayers are chanted by monks and nuns, but may also be recited by devout Catholic faithful. The Divine Office is made up the 150 Psalms that are spread throughout the week, and also incorporates readings from Sacred Scripture, commentaries from the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and short accounts of the saints lives. A beautiful aspect of the Divine Office is that it follows the traditional liturgical calendar of the Church. One can easily incorporate the Divine Office morning prayer (Laudes) and evening prayer (Vespers) as part of their daily routine.

The Traditional Latin Mass, Rosary, and Divine Office are three obtainable methods to live a robust, healthy, and devout life with Christ in His Church.

by John Connor

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Liturgy You Deserve
Getting to Know the Mother of Jesus
Born to be Magnificent

Battling Sin

Temptation can manifest from the “three enemies of the soul,” the world, the devil, and the flesh. There is an on-going spiritual war happening. Our soul’s eternal destination is at stake. We all have a choice to make. The Beatific Vision and eternal joy in Heaven, or eternal separation from God (i.e. Hell). God does not send us to Hell. Because we have free will, we can ultimately determine our fate by whether or not we cooperate with God’s Love.

From the residue of original sin, human beings have a tendency to sin by even the most subtle temptations. In order to battle these temptations, we have to be more aware of what tempts us, causing us to sin. We can win this spiritual battle.

It is time to put on the full armor of God.

“Finally, brethren, be strengthened in the Lord, and in the might of his power. Put you on the armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. Therefore take unto you the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of justice, And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace: In all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. And take unto you the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God). By all prayer and supplication praying at all times in the spirit; and in the same watching with all instance and supplication for all the saints.” –Ephesians 6:10-18

Reminding ourselves of personal sinful struggles is not easy. In fact, it’s easier to hide from them or pretend they don’t exist. Satan will try to convince you that you are a “good person.” Why? Because “good people” believe they’ve “run up a very favorable credit-balance in God’s ledger,” but they risk committing the sin of pride. There is always a need for God’s love and mercy. The devout life is obtainable to anyone who seeks it.

On the opposite end of the spectrum of pride, there is despair. Despair occurs when you think you’re sins are too numerous for God to forgive. Hogwash! There is no sin too great or great in number that God cannot forgive you. The only sins that cannot be forgiven are those that you do not confess to Christ in the confessional. Ask for forgiveness with a contrite heart and your sins will be forgiven when the priest, through Christ, absolves you.

The closer you become to living a saintly life on earth, which is possible by the way, the more aware you become of those particular temptations and sins. It is like shining a light on your “blemishes.”

The saints are great examples of how to live a devout life. They were not born saints. And some were downright scoundrels before they found their conversion. Take St. Augustine of Hippo for instance, before his conversion he lived a very worldly life, even by today’s standards. It was through the prayers of his mother and saint, Monica, that he was transformed anew. Augustine made a choice, and that choice was to live his life for God. He is now a saint and doctor of the Church.

“There is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future.” –St. Augustine of Hippo

You take a big step forward by admitting you are a sinner in need of God’s love and mercy. God, along with the angels and saints, are on your side in this spiritual war. Christ did not die on the Cross and then leave it up to you to figure out how to conquer sin. Hardly. Christ, whether spiritually present, or physically present in the Eucharist, is leading the charge.

First and foremost, be authentic. Men, do not shy away from your masculinity. We live in an emasculated secular world. Look to Christ as an example of how to be authentic, masculine, Catholic men. Your role is to protect the women around you, both physically and spiritually. Ladies, your femininity is a gift from God. Do not hide from it either. Allow the Blessed Virgin Mary to be your role model of authentic Catholic femininity.

Avoid the near occasion of sin as best you can. Your eyes are the “gateway to the soul.” Custody of the eyes helps to avoid lust in particular. Socialize with other traditional Catholics. Socialize in places that will not lead you to sin, nor be tempted. Sometimes it’s helpful to keep yourself occupied. An idle mind can be dangerous. There are moments where you could feel spiritual dryness as if God has deserted you, or you may fall into depression. Do not let this deter you from living your life for God.

“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.” C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters

The Church has given us great weapons to battle sin and lead us to victory. Start with daily prayer. The Rosary is one of the greatest weapons against evil. Another very powerful prayer is the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. If I’m going into a spiritual battle I want St. Michael at my side. Pray it daily. Praying the Divine Office (Divinum Officium, 1960 Rubrics) is also very spiritually beneficial. Prayer is our communication with God, whether we’re talking or listening to Him. This assures us that God is part of our lives. There’s also mortification. Sometimes denying yourself of something you want can strengthen your soul. You may start with turning down dessert after dinner, or praying the Rosary in place of your favorite television program.

Be aware of your temptations. The spiritual attacks are often subtle. A venial sin can grow into a mortal sin before you know it. You have what it takes to battle the temptations and sins of the world, the flesh, and the evil one, Satan. If you commit a sin, go to Confession. Not only will you be forgiven, but you’ll receive graces to overcome the temptations next time. Then you’ll be prepared to get back into the fray. You can win this spiritual battle.

by John Connor

How To Avoid Distractions and Live a Devout Life

You strive to live a good Catholic life, but you find yourself being bombarded with distractions at the most random moments. It can impede living a devout Catholic life.

We live in a modern world that is full of distractions in the form of electronics. Sometimes distractions can be a means to temporarily escape from your busy life in order to relax. Anybody that owns a television, computer, tablet, or smart phone knows how easy it is to be distracted.

Distractions from God can be dangerous to your spiritual life. “And this I say for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is seemly, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.” (1 Corinthians 7:35)

Because of original sin we have a natural tendency to focus on our own needs, rather than what God wants from us. Spiritually speaking we are like children that seek attention. We have to fulfill our basic physical needs, to eat healthy and get plenty of rest, but then we fall short on our basic spiritual needs–to spend time with our Lord, to adore Him, and to give him thanks every day.

The distractions are there. They are real. You’re familiar with what distracts you. Thankfully you also notice your need to spend time with Christ every day. Father Larry Richards says, “we are called to be people of prayer, and we are called to be people of love.”

We spend time with Christ at least once a week at Mass. This is the most opportune time for you to push aside all distractions and encounter Him in the Liturgy. If at all possible, arrive early so you can procure some quiet time and prepare for encountering Him in the Eucharist. You will get the most out of the Mass by this preparation. Yes, that means arriving at church early. This is a simple act of love on your part, by giving God more of your time. Also, spend a few minutes after Mass in silent prayer offering thanksgiving to Jesus for allowing Him to come and nourish your soul in the Eucharist. You can never spend too much time in the presence of our Lord at church.

Mass is about active participation. Not just an external participation with liturgical responses and singing, but there is a deeper, rather, supernatural participation that happens within. An internal, contemplative participation that reaches the depths of your soul. Your connection to the Mass uses all five sense that resonates to your inner participation. Whenever your distracted by one of your five senses, it interrupts your internal participation. Distractions come and go. Focus your eyes on what’s happening at the altar. That’s where the Lord makes Himself physically present in the Eucharist, and you want to receive all the graces you can to nourish you physically and spiritually.

Prayer is life-changing. It’s how we communicate with Christ and to deepen our relationship with Him, but we usually do all the talking. There are times in prayer where we need to listen to Him speak to us. In addition to praying the Rosary or other recited prayers, include silent prayer in your prayer regiment. Silent prayer (e.g. Ignatian Examen; Lectio Divina) is a deep and rich way to encounter Christ. Turn off all electronic devices when in silent prayer. You will find silent, contemplative prayer methods will enrich your prayer life.

We cannot completely get away from distractions. Our mind can be our worst enemy because it wanders from here to there. Ask Christ to help you. To shift your focus from yourself onto Him. He will guide you to a more devout life.

by John Connor

Related articles:
How to Become a Better Weekday Catholic
Patience is a Virtue
Lord, I’m Not Worthy

Getting to Know the Mother of Jesus

 

I encountered Christ in the sacraments for the first time when I became Catholic, and I’ve also had the opportunity to get to know His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our relationship with Jesus is sacramental. It is a covenant, family bond. Mary does not get in the way of you and I having a familial relationship with Christ, hardly, Mary works as in instrument, pointing the way as if to say “I want to introduce you to my Son.” Mary encourages us to get to know Jesus. Momma knows best.

“When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother.” (John 19:26-27) Through baptism we become part of God’s family as adopted sons and daughters (Galatians 3:26-29). God our Father, Jesus our Brother, and Mary our Mother.

If we are to grow closer to Christ in the Eucharist through His Mother, how do we make that happen? It starts by praying the Rosary.

“The greatest method of praying is to pray the Rosary.” – Saint Francis de Sales

When we pray the Rosary not only do we receive blessings and graces from it, we grow closer to Mary which then leads us closer to Christ. Praying the Rosary is also sacred because we’re giving glory to God in this prayer.

It is a beautiful gift to God to desire to pray the Rosary, but it’s not about how perfect you pray this prayer, rather, how much you want to please God through prayer.

The Rosary should not be part of a to-do list. If we have the intent to pray and we’re sincere, then God accepts that and we’ll receive graces.

Nobody wants us to fail more than satan. He will put into your mind that it’s too hard to pray the Rosary or how much time out of your day it’ll take to pray the Rosary. Satan will use any diabolical scheme, often times subtle, to discourage you, because he knows how much of an impact spending time with Mary in the Rosary can have on our lives.

Sometimes we get distracted when we pray the Rosary. We think about work, what’s for dinner, sports. Our minds have a tendency to wonder.

“Never walk away from the Rosary feeling discouraged.” – Dr. Edward Sri

God looks at your heart and He sees that you are trying. Even though we may get distracted after a long day, as a loving Father, God sees that we’re giving our best to Him.

What about “vein repetition”?

Repetition is pleasing to God. Revelation 4:8 says “And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” Another example of repetition that is pleasing to God is Psalm 135, “for his mercy endureth for ever” is repeated in every verse. (Douay-Rheims)

“If you say the Rosary faithfully unto death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins, ‘you will receive a never-fading crown of glory’ (1 St. Peter 5:4).” – Saint Louis de Montfort

The Rosary is centered around the Hail Mary. The Hail Mary prayer is all about Jesus. Even though the prayer is addressed to Mary it’s still about Jesus. The Hail Mary is also Biblical. “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee” (Luke 1:28); “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (Luke 1:42). The first half of the Hail Mary is about praising God.

In the second half of the Hail Mary, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death,” we ask Mary to pray for us and to bring us closer to Christ.

In the middle of the Hail Mary prayer we say the Holy name of Jesus (i.e. “blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus”). St. Pope John Paul II called this the “center of gravity of the Rosary” or the “hinge of the Rosary.” Sometimes we can pray the Rosary so fast that we lose sight of the Holy name of Jesus in the middle of the Hail Mary prayer. Instead it should be the focal point. Praying the Rosary with devotion helps us grow closer to Christ.

St. Pope John Paul II also said we should “view the repetition of the Rosary in the context of a relationship of love.” It’s as if you’re repeating “I love you, Jesus” over and over.

As we pray the Rosary we meditate and contemplate the life of Jesus. We enter a deeper and closer relationship with Jesus as we pray these prayers, especially the Hail Mary. We’re getting to know Jesus on a more personal level by doing this.

Spending time with Mary in the Rosary can and will help you develop a more personal relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist, and in your daily life too. This can lead to daily Scripture reading, Eucharistic Adoration, daily Mass, and a deeper prayer life. It will strengthen you as a Catholic, help you avoid the near occasion of sin, and give you the graces you need. It starts by getting to know our Blessed Mother.

“The Rosary is a powerful weapon to put the demons to flight and to keep oneself from sin…If you desire peace in your hearts, in your homes, and in your country, assemble each evening to recite the Rosary. Let not even one day pass without saying it, no matter how burdened you may be with many cares and labors.” – Pope Pius XI

by John Connor