Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Keep the Faith - It Makes Life Easier

Hello everyone! Recently I took a bit of a break from writing as my life has been quite busy. But as I go through life now being 22, I can't help but think up more article ideas for my beloved blog. Being a young adult can be challenging, but if the Faith is by your side, I can assure you that life will go more smoothly. I remember being in high school at a traditional Catholic school, and seeing my friends either grow in the Faith, or start dropping it. The idea that once you move out of your parents house you can be as immodest as you want and don't have to go to Mass every Sunday may have been tempting to them at the time, but I can assure you that dropping the Faith will only make you more miserable.

I moved out of my parent's house recently, I have a full time job, and am engaged to my best friend. If I have everything I need, wouldn't it be easy to sweep the Faith under the rug? As time goes by, and the older I get, I find forgetting the Faith would be fatal to me, and make my life a very difficult one. One of the reasons for this is the example around me. Those I work with talk about love being just a "chemical reaction" and wonder confusingly what "thought" is. Since they don't believe in a soul typically, life is just a random coincidence and we have no idea what anything is outside of what we can see. I'm not sure about you, but if I believed this, I would be unbearably depressed. The thought that there is nothing after this life, that the intellect is a mystery, and that all we can ever look forward is solely material sounds horrific. What about the angels that keep us company? Or Our Lord lovingly sitting in the tabernacle waiting to see us at Mass? All of that is uprooted and we are left on our own to wander this earth alone.

I would like to go more in depth about proofs to hold onto when you're questioned about the Faith, but if you only have time to read this article, here are some. Firstly, if you are ever tempted to doubt, hold on to Our Lady of Fatima. She is the patron of our times, and wanted to give us an unshakeable miracle when people of the world criticize our beliefs. If she can make the sun spin and make even the atheistic reporters see it,  why would we doubt her? She is there to strengthen us, take advantage of her power. A second concept to cling to is the proof that there is a God. Many people don't believe in God, and those who do aren't really sure what is up there. The fact that they are more ready to believe that a random explosion from nothing created everything, rather than the fact that there is a creator, shows that people want to live without consequences or needing to answer to a higher Being. There has to be an original maker, just as a flower needs a gardener to plant it. Material objects cannot make themselves, so why are we any different? One more concept, that I will definitely be writing about more deeply, is how powerful people who practice Satanism are, and why this can also confirm us in the Faith. Yes, that escalated quickly! But seriously, the spells these Satanists use are real, extremely harmful, and absolutely terrifying. They offer sacrifices to the devil, can become extremely successful because of it, and are unshakeable in their beliefs. And yet, if there spells are so powerful, why do we ever doubt the power of prayer? Prayer is so much more powerful, and we often find ourselves falling asleep at our bedside trying to fit our night prayers in. Catholics need to understand the position they hold, and the immense help they have from Our Lord. We are not Catholic because it is a choice we made for comfort, or because it makes us feel fuzzy, but because it is the only Truth. Period.

So to those who are younger, when you get into the world and want to drop the Faith, trust me when I say there is nothing out here that is worth giving up God. God knows what is best for us, He is our creator, and only He can lead us to happiness. If prayer and the Mass are boring for you, realize the immensity of their actions and see they aren't just a rambling of words. We hold the key as Catholics to everlasting peace, and guidance on this earth. We just need to believe it. 

Thursday, 1 February 2018

St. Philomena: Glory in Innocence

Many Traditional Catholics know of St. Philomena, the martyr. But do we truly know and appreciate her story? Firstly, the name Philomena means “daughter of light” – a name which she certainly lived up to in her lifetime, and now in Heaven. She was the daughter of Greek royalty, and at a young age vowed her virginity to Christ. One day her parents were called to Rome to see Emperor Diocletian, who wanted to start a war on their island. As soon as he saw Philomena, he fell in love, and asked for her hand in marriage. Because of her vow she would not take his offer, and after many tries to win her over, Diocletian was enraged and threw her in prison. Many only think she was drowned with an anchor, but her martyrdom was much more painful than that. The following is taken from CatholicTradition.org:
“She was bound to a pillar, and like Christ before her, she was savagely scourged. Seeing that she was one gaping, agonizing wound, the Emperor had her brought back to the prison to die. Two bright Angels appeared and poured Heavenly balm on her wounds and she was cured. The Emperor was astonished. Because she still refused his blandishments, he was enraged and gave orders that an iron anchor should be attached to her neck and that she be thrown into the Tiber to drown. But Christ, once more to confound the tyrant, sent two more Angels to cut the cord of the anchor which fell to the bottom of the river and became embedded in the mud. Then the Angels brought her back to the bank without a single drop of water touching her garments. Several bystanders were converted. But Diocletian became more obstinate than ever, declared her a witch and ordered her pierced with arrows. Again Heaven saved her from the death planned for her. On hearing of this new miracle, the Emperor was so infuriated that he ordered the torture to be repeated until death came, but the arrows refused to leave the bow. So he had the arrows heated with flames from a furnace; again it was to no avail, for these last archers were slain by Heaven. More conversions occurred and the people began to show serious signs of disaffection towards the Emperor and even reverence for the Holy Faith. She was beheaded at last and ascended to glory in Heaven. It was 3 PM in the afternoon, of a Friday.”
Before we reflect on any life lessons that she has left us in her story, let us try to place ourselves in the shoes of this heroic saint. St. Philomena was only thirteen years old when she made the decision to sacrifice her life for the Faith. She was not on this earth long enough to have many life experiences and adventures, but was willing to give up everything for the Faith and her sacrifice of virginity. Would we be willing to make sure a sacrifice? With all our smart phones and time on social media, do we ever take the time to appreciate what she has done for us?
Imagine how she felt in the moment of her martyrdom. She calmly offered her life for Christ and the salvation of our souls, while she was shot with arrows, had an anchor tied to her neck, and was finally beheaded. Though she was young, she faced the pain bravely and won for herself the title of “martyr” for all eternity. It may not be comfortable for us to consider, but it is the reality of what many saints have done for us; in our day and age, it is easy to forget the courage and perseverance of the martyrs. Dear God, inspire us to always remember the martyrs and cherish the sacrifices they have offered for our wellbeing and salvation!
St. Philomena can inspire us in many ways, one of them being her innocence as a child saint. Even though she only lived a few years on this earth, she soaked in as much of God’s love as possible. This would later on strengthen her, to give her life for Him. We should also soak in as much of God’s love as we can, whether it be when we are at Mass, socializing with friends, or even taking a walk. We need to learn to see what life truly is when we go about our duties from day to day. The very ground we walk on every day was created from all eternity just for us in that moment. Every molecule that makes up the concrete that holds us up was created by God, with infinite love, so that we may get from place to place.
St. Paul of the Cross once said: “Let all creation help you to praise God. Give yourself the rest you need. When you are walking alone, listen to the sermon preached to you by the flowers, the trees, the shrubs, the sky, the sun and the whole world. Notice how they preach to you a sermon full of love, of praise of God, and how they invite you to proclaim the greatness of the One who has given them being.”
Every tiny piece of life has been made up into a beautiful act of God’s love for us. At times we may feel alone or lost, but how can we be lost when everything around us was created lovingly by our Heavenly Father? St. Philomena knew of this reality, and learned of the goodness of God, but also had a detachment from all worldly things as well. Our surroundings may be very beautiful, but are only a foretaste of what is to come in Paradise. If God asks us to make a sacrifice here on earth (and it is probably not to be drowned by an anchor), we should rejoice at the opportunity to prove our love and gain merit which will last forever.
Another lesson we can take away from her story is her unshakable clarity and persevering purity. Saint Philomena didn’t have books of devotions she said privately, or worry about the future or the end of the world as we do now. She was Catholic, and simply stayed pure, no questions asked. There is no need to complicate the Faith: all we need to do is perfect the performance of our daily duty, and stand up for the Truth. St. Philomena’s purity is also something that should inspire us. Our Lady of Fatima said that the main sin that is bringing souls to hell in our times are sins of the flesh. Our world makes it far too easy to sin this way now, so let us pray fervently to St. Philomena that she keep us pure and thriving in the grace of God.
St. John Bosco once said: “Holy Purity, the queen of virtues – the angelic virtue – is a jewel so precious that those who possess it become like the angels of God in Heaven, even though clothed in mortal flesh.” Purity is so precious because it guards our hearts from lust, and helps us to see sacred mysteries more clearly. Let us especially pray for the grace of purity and innocence, so that we can preserve our souls in this tarnished world.
St. Philomena, thank you for the sacrifice of your life that you offered to God. Let your memory forever be in our minds so that we can follow bravely in your footsteps, and one day, reach eternal bliss in Heaven with your assistance. For it is in sacrifice that we gain, in humility that we grow, and in perseverance that we obtain our eternal reward.

St. Charles Borromeo and Billiards

In Treasury of Catechism Stories by Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik, SVD, we read a very inspiring
story of St. Charles Borromeo:
“Engaged in a game of billiards one day with two clerics, Charles Borromeo was asked by one of the priests, ‘What would you do, Your Eminence, if you were told that in five minutes you would drop dead? Would you get on your knees and pray, or would you run off to confession?’ The saint smiled and answered, "I would quietly continue this game of billiards. I began it with the intention of offering it all up to God’s honour. And if my action is for God, why should I stop even if that action happens to be recreation?"
This story can teach us many things in the spiritual life, especially concerning our daily duty and the sacredness of doing all for God. We may not feel in the moment that we are doing great things for God’s glory, but if we offer everything to Him as an act of love and adoration, our everyday tasks will become sanctified. This is why so many of the saints recommended, that as soon as we wake up in the morning we should fall on our knees and offer up our day to God.
St. Anselm of Canterbury once said: “Awake, my soul, awake! Show thy spirit, arouse thy senses, shake off the sluggishness of that deadly heaviness that is upon thee, begin to take care for thy salvation. Let the idleness of vain imaginations be put to flight, let go of sloth, hold fast to diligence. Be instant in holy meditations, cleave to the good things which are of God: leaving that which is temporal, give heed to that which is eternal. Now in this godly employment of thy mind, to what canst thou turn thy thoughts more wholesomely and profitably, than to the sweet contemplations of thy Creator’s immeasurable benefits toward thee?”
Because we are human, it can be very difficult to stay focused on the presence of God throughout the day. If we forget Him at its very beginning, the rest of our day will be a struggle as we try to focus on God once more. But, if we direct our attention to God straight away, He will give us the graces necessary to purify our day and become more perfect as the day goes on. St. Charles Borromeo did just this. He sanctified every action, whether it be prayer, work, or relaxation, and used everything as a step to Heaven. So also should we not fear the end of our lives, but live the Catholic Truth faithfully in order to perfect our souls and give glory to our heavenly Father.
Another lesson we can draw from this story is the attitude that St. Charles had about death. Many traditional Catholics are convinced that they are far too sinful to have such a calm disposition towards death, yet if we look at the saints and how they treated the topic of death, it should be thought of with hope and peace!
St. Basil the Great gives us an example of this kind of confidence, “As the Lord thought good, so it came to pass. Let us adopt those marvelous words.  At the hands of the righteous Judge, they who show like good deeds shall receive a like reward… he whom we love is not hidden in the ground; he is received into Heaven.  Let us wait a little while, and we shall be once more with him.  The time of our separation is not long, for in this life we are all like travelers on a journey, hastening on to the same shelter.  While one has reached his rest another arrives, another hurries on but one and the same end awaits them all.”
Because St. Basil lived according to the Catholic Faith, he did not fear the idea of death, but looked forward to the day when he would rest and be perfectly happy for all eternity. So too should we live, persevering in the grace of God, and meriting Paradise after a good and holy life. God will provide us with everything necessary for spiritual perfection; we must cooperate by putting away the distractions of the world and opening our hearts to Divine grace. What are the pleasures of this earth compared to the glory of Heaven? We were never made for this world, but a world of continuous bliss with God. Death should be a gateway to this bliss, and hell should never be an option.
Finally, St. Charles shows us the importance of having good entertainment. Prayer and work are very important, it is true, but again – since we are humans – we need time to relax in order to do our work well. It may seem more meritorious to pray all day, but what are hours of prayer if we become over-tired and our minds drift elsewhere? Is it not better for our souls to pray to God, work for God, and rest for God wholeheartedly? There is great humility in accepting our weaknesses and giving ourselves time to put down our crosses, for a breather. God expects this of us, since He knows we are limited and live in a struggling world. If we truly live as Catholics, all things will give glory to God – including a billiards game – and we will get the relaxation we need to recuperate and continue working out our salvation.
Let us, then, always have confidence in God and make the most of life in His presence; because the Catholic Faith is meant to improve our lives, rather than be a burden to us. The world tells us that religion keeps us from fun and excitement, when in reality, it is the pathway to eternal bliss in Heaven.

Prayer through Intercession

Prayer is incredibly essential in the spiritual life, as it helps perfect the soul and give God the honor and glory He deserves. St. Ignatius of Loyola had a burning love for prayer, and says, “We must speak to God as a friend speaks to his friend, servant to his master; now asking some favor, now acknowledging our faults, and communicating to Him all that concerns us, our thoughts, our fears, our projects, our desires, and in all things seeking His counsel.” Prayer reminds us why we were put on this earth, and makes God seem closer to our hearts, rather than a distant Creator. But because we are human and are so weak, it can often feel like our prayers are not strong enough to obtain from God what we seek. 
We pray Rosary after Rosary, worrying that everything we do will never be enough. But if God is our heavenly Father, would He not help us even with prayer? “Our Lord loves you and loves you tenderly; and if He does not let you feel the sweetness of His love, it is to make you more humble and abject in your own eyes," St. Padre Pio reminds us. God understands the hardships of life that we are going through far more than even we do! If He understands all this, would He not understand our want for perfection in our prayers? God fully knows all our desires, and if we desire perfection, He will give us all the means we need to attain it. He has set up ways of intercession for us when we pray, through His angels, His saints, and even Himself. 
Remember the Holy Angels 
Firstly, prayer can be purified and perfected if we call upon the Holy Angels to help us. We can entrust our intentions to them, who have never sinned, and be confident of their power when they lovingly present them to God. Their tender eyes can implore the Almighty to help us in all the ways we need. The Angels are incredibly eager to help us, so it is a shame we often forget about them in our busy world! 
St. John Bosco was very devoted to the Angels and told us, “When tempted, invoke your Angel. He is more eager to help you than you are to be helped! Ignore the devil and do not be afraid of him: he trembles and flees at the sight of your Guardian Angel.” How much more will God, Who already burns with the desire to assist us, have compassion for our souls when He sees them being carried in the arms of the angels to Him?  
Call Upon the Saints 
We can then call upon the intercession of the Saints. They know very well our struggles since they lived with them, as well. They desire just as much as the Angels to take our prayers to the heavenly throne of Christ. How many friends we have in Heaven that can help purify our prayers! We can also grow in our devotion towards them, depending on what we are asking for. For example, we can strengthen our devotion to St. Joseph if we ask him to help us with our courtship, or St. Philomena with purity. God gives us so many ways to help us perfect our souls. All we need to do is ask, seek, and knock! Oftentimes we feel alone on this earth, unable to attain the perfection we seek. Yet we have so many friends constantly waiting for us to lift up our eyes to them so that they may help us. Let us also never forget the greatest of saints, Our Blessed Mother, Who also waits lovingly for us to call upon Her. 
The means of perfecting our prayers is endless, there is no need to ever worry that our prayers are not enough.
Our Supreme Advocate
Finally, Our Lord Jesus Christ came down from Heaven to be our supreme Advocate with His heavenly Father. He shed His Blood, suffered through the worst torments, and emotionally drained Himself to the point where on the Cross He asked God the Father why He had abandoned Him. He did all this to save us, but also because He never wanted us to say that He didn’t know what it felt like to suffer. And in stepping into our shoes in the most loving and self-sacrificing of ways, He merited all we need to be perfect. 
Let us then do all we can to place our intentions in the hands of our loving Savior, through the intercession of His Blessed Mother and the angels and saints, and stop worrying so much about the impossibility of being perfect. Perfection is not attained in a day, but by God’s grace can be attained in a lifetime on earth for an eternity in Heaven. 
Aids for Prayer 
Below are two prayers that can help us begin asking for intercession from Heaven. It is as simple as a couple sentences to ask for great assistance from above:  
“Almighty Father, I place the Precious Blood of Jesus before my lips before I pray, that my prayers may be purified before they ascend to Thy divine altar.”  
“O Blessed Archangel Gabriel, we beseech thee, do thou intercede for us at the throne of Divine Mercy in our present necessities, that as thou didst announce to Mary the mystery of the Incarnation, so through thy prayers and patronage in Heaven we may obtain the benefits of the same, and sing the praise of God forever in the land of the living. Amen.” 
God cares for us continuously, and never wants to make it impossible for us to reach sanctity. The devil often tries to persuade us that the will of God is too difficult to follow, since we are so weak. But what are temptations and weaknesses to an army of saints and angels, as well as Our Lady Herself standing in the front victoriously? All things are possible with God (see Matt. 19:26, Mark 10:27). He simply asks that we try.

Courtship - Discerning through Tribulation

In my last article, I mentioned a few points that will help a couple build a good foundation for marriage. And yet, no matter how strong our foundation is, we will always run into trials and tribulations. When we are in a courtship, how do we properly discern whether a person is good for us and could be “the one”, or if they may not be the person God wills for us to marry? It can be a very difficult process, but with the assistance of prayer and the advice of those around us, the journey to the sacrament of marriage can be a peaceful one. If we are willing to conform to the will of God by using tact and common sense, the road to marriage will no longer be paved with worry and anxiety. Below are a few guidelines one can follow while courting, in order to find the person who will help us one day get to Heaven.

Putting Religion First

Venerable Fulton Sheen once told us, "You will never be happy if your happiness depends on getting solely what you want.  Change the focus.  Get a new center.  Will what God wills, and your joy no man shall take from you.” If we do not put God and our salvation with our partner first in a relationship, what is the point of anything? What is the purpose of living on this earth and indulging in sinful ways, all to later perish forever? We must make sure that our first priority is taking the Catholic Faith seriously.
If there is anything to consider first, it is if our partner lives for Christ and His Church. We need to ask ourselves important questions in order to discern if this person will be beneficial to our souls. Do they inspire us to be a better person? Will they help us get to Heaven? We may not realize it now, but if we end up courting someone who is indifferent to the Faith, or even against religion, there will be more difficulties in the future. There is a principle that those who we spend time with will always influence us and help form our character. If we want to keep our Faith when married, and our spouse keeps questioning us and refusing to go to Mass, it will affect us in some way.
If the person does have the same religious beliefs as us, we need to look for necessary qualities that pertain to every good practicing Catholic. They should help you grow closer to God and sanctification, as well as treasure the Faith as much as you do. St. Bernard tells us, "Thus understanding and love, that is, the knowledge of and delight in the truth, are, as it were, the two arms of the soul, with which it embraces and comprehends with all the saints the length and breath, the height and depth, that is the eternity, the love, the goodness, and the wisdom of God." Let us then put God first and try our best to find someone who will help us grow closer to Him.

Respectful in All Things

A second point that is very important when discerning who to marry is if the person is considerate of your emotions and respectful of your wishes. Traditional Catholics can often get too scrupulous when it comes to feelings and emotions, which leads them to discredit their importance. Though it is true that feelings are fleeting, God has given them to us for many reasons. They help us persevere with a spirit of joy, discern the will of God throughout our lives based on our needs, and teach us to be considerate of other's feelings. It is essential in a marriage to build a foundation of consideration towards the other person, not because life revolves around emotions, but because we owe it to them in charity.
Our Blessed Lord had feelings just like we do, and recognized His need for an angel to be by His side in His agony in the garden. Questions need to be discussed such as: Does this person care when they have offended or hurt you? Do they respect your wishes to stay pure in preparation for marriage? Of course, there will be times where one person will upset the other, or a disagreement will occur, but this is inevitable in our fallen state. Nonetheless, common sense and tact must be employed. God will always bring greater good out of such suffering, as St. Ignatius of Loyola shows us: "If God gives you an abundant harvest of trials, it is a sign of great holiness which He desires you to attain. Do you want to become a great saint? Ask God to send you many sufferings. The flame of Divine Love never rises higher than when fed with the wood of the Cross, which the infinite charity of the Savior used to finish His sacrifice. All the pleasures of the world are nothing compared with the sweetness found in the gall and vinegar offered to Jesus Christ. That is, hard and painful things endured for Jesus Christ and with Jesus Christ." Pray for the grace to find someone who will care for you, just as Our Blessed Lord cares for you always.

Goals for the Future

A final important point we need to consider when looking for a spouse is if their goals for the future are beneficial ones and complement our own. "Future goals" is a very large topic, but there are some basics for which we must look. When a courtship has been established, the picture of the future should be discussed between the two. For example, both parties should be open to as many children as God wills, not fixing a number and opening the door for sins of contraceptives and the like. They need to agree on where they will live, and if there is going to be enough income to cover everything as time goes on. All the different aspects of marriage in the practical sense must be taken into consideration, in order not to be rash and end up in a tricky situation. There is no need necessarily for a lengthy courtship (St. Alphonsus Liguori said one year maximum), but a courtship with the proper goals is essential. In preparation for marriage, prayers should be said for all of these intentions in order to have a happy life with the one you love.
Let us pray to God for guidance and inspiration in discerning who our future spouse will be, since if we follow His will He will never fail to provide for us in everything we need. And in praying to God, may we always pray through Our Lady who will never leave our side.
"In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not Her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may obtain the assistance of Her prayer, neglect not to walk in Her footsteps. With Her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking Her, you shall never lose heart; so long as She is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while She holds your hand, you cannot fall, under Her protection you have nothing to fear; if She walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if She shows you favor, you shall reach the goal." (St. Bernard of Clairvaux).

Courtship: The Importance of Sacred Kindness

Courtship is a very important subject for young Catholics, especially in the times in which we live. In a world where dating is “just for fun,” the idea of a serious courtship can seem confusing to us. Thus, we offer a series of articles on courtship, since it is such a vast subject to cover. It is also one that can be greatly misunderstood. On the one hand, we have young people being influenced by the world to date with a shallow attitude; on the other hand, we have the older generations not always taking seriously those in a courtship because of all the worldliness they see around them. But before going into different important aspects that should be kept in mind, what is a proper courtship?
According to traditional Church teaching, the best kind of courtship is when two Catholics, who are both of the age to get married, spend time together in a good and wholesome way in order to develop a strong relationship, and later to marry and have children for the greater glory of God and the salvation of their souls. It is a beautiful union that will strengthen the sanctity of the couple, and later on sanctify the children they raise together. It may seem to the young couple who hears this that this is a far too serious definition, and that they are not ready for such a commitment. But think of it this way: If we are not courting for marriage, we are setting ourselves up for sin and heartbreak. The world romanticizes dating in such a way that it catches our eye, and we forget the emptiness of it all. Let us then begin with a few reminders that will help us if we are in a courtship, and put our minds at peace.

The Importance of Taking Courtship Seriously

Too many times, I’ve seen a young couple courting and those around them seem not to take their relationship seriously. They’re young, they have young love, and the realities of life will hit them one day. If we are going to encourage the youth to have a fruitful courtship, this is not the way. Perhaps the couple enjoys laughing together and having good times. We should encourage prayer and good works, but also the lightheartedness that comes with the beginning stages of a relationship. For those courting, never lose that balance of spirituality and joy. On one side, you can forget the spiritual aspects of the relationship, and on the other you can get too caught up in worries and scrupulosity. Adulthood is not about being cold and overly serious, but rather growing in the spiritual life with joy and practicing virtue in our daily lives. If we are preparing for marriage, we must be mature in our decisions, but also be lighthearted and happy with those around us.
In The Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis tells us, “Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing stronger or higher or wider; nothing is more pleasant, nothing fuller, and nothing better in Heaven or on earth, for love is born of God and cannot rest except in God, Who is above all created things.” God created us to love Him directly, and also to love those around us for His sake. This is a very serious thing, but just because love is serious does not mean it has to be unfeeling. We should then pray to have this balance, in order to grow with the other person and give the good example all around us of a Catholic relationship. When you are young, people might not always take you seriously, but use these opportunities to grow in humility, maturity, and always with a peaceful and childlike disposition. There is a reason Our Blessed Lord loved the children He came across so much when He was on earth. He loves especially to be honored with simplicity, sincerity, and always with a smile.

Genuine Kindness and Wonder

In order for a courtship to be fruitful, we must realize what the vocation to marriage means for us. When we read up on vocations, we find material on nuns being brides of Christ, and priests having the sacred place of offering to God Himself the same Sacrifice He offered on earth, but material on marriage is oftentimes lacking. If we truly think about it, God has called us to offer everything we are to another person, in order to serve Him and fulfill His holy will. This is an incredible calling, since it involves true self-sacrifice. We must learn and pray for the grace to see God in the eyes of the one we love, which will help us treat the other with a sacred kindness and charity in everything we do. When we see Our Blessed Lord’s sacred Eyes in those of the one we hope to marry, it helps us to be more charitable, more patient, and teaches us how holy the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony really is. In the period of courtship, growth in all these virtues is especially important since they will be used regularly throughout married life, which will no doubt be difficult at times. However, if a relationship has grown under the guidance of God, it will be far easier and give everything a joyful light. If trials come our way, we can look into the eyes of our beloved and offer it all up for their benefit. Sorrow is then turned to joy, and God can actively make every trouble a greater good.

Seek Wise Counsel

One final point for this introductory article on courtship is that we should trust in the advice of others. For generations, couples have been getting together and learning all the ins and outs of a holy courtship and marriage. Young people can often struggle with listening and asking for advice, but this does not always have to be difficult. We should be open to learning from the older couples we know and trust, and ask them for advice and counsel. They have experienced the fullness of life, and though we want to be mature and independent, their help will always benefit us. In asking for help, we grow in humility as well as wisdom for the future. If we find that those around us are not giving holy or beneficial advice, we must seek out those couples who lift us up and challenge us to pursue holiness in our courtship.
May God watch over all those preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage, so that they can grow in sanctity and peace. God always wills true peace for our souls, especially when preparing for such a holy union. St. Catherine of Sienna is a great model to follow as she understood so well the sanctity of charity: “Charity is the sweet and holy bond which links the soul with its Creator: it binds God with man and man with God.”
May all the Saints and Angels watch over the young, for they are extremely loved in the eyes of God, and can do great things for the Church.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Advent - A Time for Peaceful Contemplation

In the Old Testament, the Jews waited hundreds of years for the coming of the Messiah. They watched, prayed, and hoped one day Our Blessed Lord would come to the earth. I am sure at times, with all the trials they faced, the years could not go fast enough and Jesus' coming seemed it would never be a reality. They went through an immense amount of suffering and tribulation, and finally, when the time was right, Our Blessed Lord came down from heaven and was born in a manger.

Advent will soon be upon us, the time in which we will prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ, just as the people of the Old Testament did. Yet unlike the Jews who did not know Our Lord, we know Him! We know Him in all His miracles, in His resurrection from the dead, and all the proofs we need to know He is the true Lord. The Jews had none of this, all they had was hope and anticipation for Our Lord. They clung to the prophecies of His coming, but could hardly imagine the immensity of good He would bring through His life. And yet, we not only have proofs, but Jesus Himself sits within our tabernacles waiting for us! If the Jews could see into the future, I’m certain they would be shocked. When God would come down for them, only a single High Priest would be able to go into the Holy of Holies to see Him. God wanted to prove after His coming how merciful He is after His coming. His Sacred Heart burns with the desire to make His presence and grace available to all who seeks it. Let us then remember a few simple points to help us keep the spirit of Advent.

The Old Testament was a time of justice and order. After the fall of Adam, God wanted to show the human race that through His will, all good things would flow from. Men were hard in their ways, and God had to use His justice in order to help men return to Him. Yet in the New Testament, when our great God came down to earth as an innocent baby, He wanted nothing more but to embrace tenderly the human race, in order to show His infinite love and mercy. In our modern times, He rests in the tabernacle, sits in the confessional, looks down from heaven waiting for our gaze to fall upon Him. Yet because our world can be so distracting and noisy, and God is so forgiving, we can often forget all these amazing realities. Life becomes tedious and boring, and we forget we are under the gaze of a God that is far more beautiful and wondrous than we could ever imagine! Do not let the world convince you God is not present, but remind yourself every day that He is watching. He watches, not in wrath and anger, but in a love we will only be able to comprehend in heaven. Let us then do our best to make our morning offering, say our prayers through the day, and try our best to stay in the presence of God. It may

seem like a chore at first, but when you realize all you’re doing is staying in the presence of your dear Father and best Friend, your perspective will change. Advent is a time for preparation for the Messiah, for the coming of Our Lord who can heal any ailment, and forgive any sin. Bring all your troubles to the crib of the Infant Jesus, for He is fully capable of granting you all that you need.

The other error we can commit in comparison to forgetting Our Lord during the day, is becoming too fixated on the mortification side of the Faith. We must consume ourselves with penance and root out the evil, until there is nothing left and we surrender completely to God. In truth, surrendering to God is the goal, but what the meaning of surrender is can often be confused in our minds. We have this picture of denying ourselves to the point of not caring for ourselves mentally and physically. We have a duty to our bodies and minds, just as we do to our soul. Penance is good, but is never the focus. The focus is always God, and the greater good He can pull from what we give him. It is as if we have a beautiful patch of grass. We hope to grow flowers from this patch, so we begin digging it up until there is nothing but a deep hole. We could keep digging and digging, in order to root out everything, but the digging is not the point. We won’t get anywhere if we don’t plant the flower and make it beautiful again. Let us pray during Advent for the grace of joy, so that the Devil cannot overwhelm us with discouragement or pride because of the magnitude of suffering we put ourselves through. Our true end is joy, and the message of Advent is the coming of this joy! Let us do all things with a spirit of peace and happiness, just as God intended.

As Advent quickly approaches, we still have a few more days to examine our souls, dust away any traces of worry and discouragement, and look towards the hope of Christmas. The hope of Christmas brings grace and consolation, and will later on bring the sheer joy of the Resurrection and triumph of Our Lord and the Catholic Church.

Find this article also on the new Catholic Family News Website: https://www.catholicfamilynews.org/blog/2017/12/7/cfn-youth-blog-advent-a-time-for-peaceful-contemplation

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The Importance of the Christmas Novena - November 30th

On November 30th the St. Andrew’s Novena, also known as the Christmas Novena begins. It is a great way to place any important intentions at the feet of the Infant Jesus, with confidence and hope in His intercession. This prayer is said 15 times a day, from November 30th until December 24th, and goes as follows,

“Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.”

 What a beautiful way to salute our Blessed Mother as a preparation for Christmas! Our Lady is always very watchful over our souls and knows exactly what we need. Yet at times our prayers of petition can seem to be left unanswered. But we always must remember that God only answers prayers that are good for our souls. What a great blessing this is! Imagine all the prayers you used to say as a young teenager had been answered. At the time you asked for these favours from God, you did not know the future and all your needs as an adult. The youth often see the world with all its bells and whistles, and forget that some of the things that are offered are often harmful for our souls. Fame and success come with a price, so our heavenly Father shields and protects us in every way He can. God knows all our needs, and carefully plans out everything for a greater good during our entire lives, not just one portion of it. God cares for us far more than we care for ourselves, and desires nothing but peace and happiness for us in this life and the life to come. St. Alphonsus de Ligouri tells us, "God wills only our good; God loves us more than anybody else can or does love us. His will is that no one should lose his soul, that everyone should save and sanctify his soul: ‘Not willing that any should perish, but that all should return to penance.’ ‘This is the will of God, your sanctification.’ God has made the attainment of our happiness, his glory. Even chastisements come to us, not to crush us, but to make us mend our ways and save our souls."

At times though, God leaves prayers unanswered for a period of time in order to test our confidence in Him. This is when the power of a novena comes into play. St. Teresa of Avila tells us that the prayers that truly matter are those of perseverance, "The most potent and acceptable prayer is the prayer that leaves the best effects. I don't mean it must immediately fill the soul with desire . . . The best effects are those that are followed up by actions, when the soul not only desires the honor of God, but really strives for it." Perhaps we need a curing of a family member, or need assistance with our financial position, all these intentions can be laid at the feet of the Infant Jesus with humility and hope. The St. Andrew's novena is especially important to say since it is a longer novena and helps us prepare for Christmas during Advent.

But why does St. Andrew have such significance in this novena? The reason is that the First Sunday of Advent is the closest Sunday to his great feast day, and therefore we commemorate him. He helps us offer our prayers to Our Blessed Lord, just as he offered his own life for the greater glory of God and for our salvation through his martyrdom. Oftentimes when we pray to the saints, we feel they are far from us in heaven, instead of remembering they were just like us here on earth. They had their struggles, their temptations, and victoriously won in the end. St. Andrew the apostle is a great example of this. He was a humble fisherman who served God as best as he could through his daily duty. And even though his humble life did not show any spectacular works to those who saw him, Our Lord saw the greatness of his heart and called him to be one of the twelve apostles. St. Andrew is known as one of the apostles who was very close to Our Blessed Lord's heart. In John 6:8, he is known to be the apostle who found the little boy with his loaves and fishes, and later on would be known as the apostle who was crucified on an 'X' shaped cross. Though St. Andrew was just an ordinary man, he became an incredible saint that we can honour and look up to. Because this novena begins on his feast day, he can take our prayers and purify them before presenting them to Our Lord. It is always a fantastic idea to call upon a saint or angel to give our prayers to God instead of giving them to Him directly. The particular saint that we choose can use their merit and sanctity in heaven to present our intention to our heavenly Father, and plea alongside us for the intention.

 Let us then ask St. Andrew to assist us and help us grow in all the virtues we need to be perfect in the eyes of the Infant Jesus. Because once we allow God’s grace to work in our souls and stop doubting that He wants what is best for us, our lives will open up with endless possibilities and we will no longer need to feel troubled or lost. In God we will be able to find the peace we so desperately seek, because, as St. Augustine says, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”

Monday, 13 November 2017

Perseverance in Courtship

There is an idea in our modern world that you need to date as many people as possible to make sure you find the perfect match. The Catholic Faith slowly becomes less and less an essential part of this perfection, and therefore you find yourself going on dates from online finds, from dating apps, from the bar down the street, the list goes on. And if in this process you are trying to find your vocation, it can become discouraging at times. After all, it can be very difficult to persevere in the Faith when the person you're in a relationship with sees no point in persevering in Catholicism at all.

This is why people older than us tell us to marry Catholics if we are  in the stage of preparing for marriage. No matter what we say, that we'll convert them later on, that no one else is out there (which is far from true), or that they're good people, just not religious, it will be difficult to stay faithful to your beliefs. The people we spend time with always have a certain kind of influence on us, never mind the person we desire to marry! We place ourselves in a tricky place, where we want to treasure and appreciate their ideas, and yet their ideas do not meet on the one thing that really matters - salvation. 

But this article is not meant for those dating non-Catholics, but those who have been wise and blessed enough to find a young man, or young woman to court who is Catholic. When I was younger, I did not like the word, "courtship." It seemed cold and formal to me, but now that I'm older, I understand it's significance. If we are in a healthy courtship, it is good to keep these points in mind. The world fills our minds with silly standards for a partner, and forgets the important aspects.

Forgiveness of Faults - I have heard multiple times from non-Catholics that marriage is a waste of time because most of them end up in divorce. And why is this? I understand some of the time a separation is necessary if the marriage was not valid, or abuse is happening etc., but most times it's because the worldly couple cannot work with each other's differences. Everyone has faults, everyone has troubles, and a couple needs to understand that about each other. I see so many people being passive aggressive, or getting into petty fights for the smallest thing. I'll just say, if you have the nerve to be passive aggressive to the person you're so called in love with, you really don't appreciate all that person has done for you. And never mind all the forgiveness God has given you as well! No one is innocent, and everyone needs forgiveness. A couple should be kind, patient, and gentle with each other. There will always be differences, but differences can be talked out. If you truly want to be perfect and master charity, turn down the yelling, or even worse silent treatment, and forgive the person. If differences become too much, and you realize you are not a good match, so be it. But a marriage needs to be built on understanding and self sacrifice, not anger and texts about how you didn't get that pair of shoes you wanted him to buy you.

Realizing the Sacred - If you are preparing for marriage, you are preparing for a sacred union with another person. If you are a woman, your husband will be a symbol of Our Lord, and if you are man, your wife will me a symbol of the Church. Through your union, more souls will be created for God, in order to live on earth and one dayenjoy everlasting happiness in heaven. Once we realize how sacred this is, courtship will become much more deep and serious, lessening the need of dwelling on the petty things as I mentioned above. This will lead to a deep appreciation in the relationship, and the future children that, God willing, will come along in the future, will see. You cannot hope for a perfect marriage if you put no effort into the beginning courtship. Habits take time, and if it is your habit to hardly pay attention to the person you're courting, rather than treasuring their company, marriage will be just as hard. So pray for the grace to always see sacredness in God's creations, and courtship will become easier and more beneficial to our souls.

Making Each Other Saints - What better way to get to heaven, then to have a companion assisting you down the narrow path? When God created Adam, He saw that it was good to give him Eve. We were created as social creatures, and marriage is the perfect example of that. We should prepare ourselves in this way to use our relationship to help further each other's sanctity and holiness. In our courtship, we should take the time between fun outings and romantic dinners, and look over each other's spiritual well-being. What can we improve? How can we strengthen our prayer lives together? How can we stay pure in our courtship? All these can help us become saints, and make our spiritual lives less dry and lonesome. Heaven becomes easier to attain with someone holding our hand and keeping us company on the way. How kind God is to bless us with this!
Let us thank God for creating such a beautiful world where He desires to find someone to love and care for us, and in turn love and care for them back. The world tells us just to have fun, when really they are missing out on a fun so much deeper than they could ever dream. 

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Halloween and Haunted Houses - Some Thoughts

As we approach the end of October, Halloween will soon arrive. In this article I don't want to focus specifically on Halloween, but more specifically these haunted houses that pop up everywhere. It may seem trivial for an article, but I'd like to expand the points into something bigger.

Some traditional Catholics cut out Halloween all together and call it the Devil's feast, while others see no problem with little children going door to door for candy. I understand those that are strict with the holiday, but never judge the others that go trick or treating. After all these innocent five year old's dressed as kitties and dogs excitedly gathering treats have no fault in trick or treating. They don't know any history, perhaps their parents don't know either. So any readers who would like to debate about the evils of this day, I understand, but there are some that take some good out of the day, and make it a fun time for their children. There is nothing wrong with that. Now that I have covered that, we can move to the point I want to make - if people want to celebrate Halloween innocently with candy and treats, why does there have to be this occurring theme of violence?

People may argue this is because of Halloween having satanic roots, but I speak more specifically of a holiday that has been very commercialized and watered down in order for it to become the family friendly holiday that it is. And yet there is always that side of Halloween that I can never agree with. Haunted houses start appearing, and the youth pile in to as many as they can. It's the principle of people using terror and violence to be entertained. It may be all fake and simulated, but why would a soul choose to see bleeding bodies and murderers chasing after you as their choice of fun? Some of these children's houses may be harmless enough, but I speak of those for adults that display the worst kind of torture and horror.

It is a culture of violence that our generation is growing up in. Whether it be these houses, or extremely violent video games, or violence on social media, we have been taught to treat the shock factor as entertainment. Our minds begin to get used to all this, and we become desensitized to it all. Nothing scares or effects us anymore, so we need more and more violence to appease our desires. This numbing of the soul can lead to people no longer caring about the effects of evil. We lose that sense of shock at the sight of a dead body, or the remorse at the idea of sin. The list continues, and the effect is anything but healthy for our souls.

I may seem petty, but firmly believe that the generations on the earth today need to relearn what entertainment is, and why we need to regain a repugnance to violence. After all, if it isn't so repugnant, why be gentle and kind to our neighbours? The fun does not lie in charity, but in shock! God never intended us to live this way, He wanted to use our desire for entertainment for the benefit of our souls. These forms of fun do not have to be reading the Bible all day, or saying tons of rosaries. It could be relaxing with friends, fostering a passion we have for an art form, learning an instrument, going on hikes, anything and everything you could possibly imagine! We don't need blood and gore to satisfy ourselves, and if we do need it we need to reevaluate things. Because once Halloween is done, what will we search for next if this is what we desire?

I will then say I understand Catholics that cut out Halloween for these reasons, and encourage them to shield themselves from a culture of death and terror. But those who go out trick or treating, there is no need to judge their carved pumpkins and treat bags. All I want to put out is that we should always shield our eyes from violence and chaos, and do our best to form our minds and desires around the good and enlightening. 

Friday, 29 September 2017

Fearing Comfort

All of us can say that we have struggled in our lives. Whether it be with our jobs, our family, or just trying to discover our vocation in life, suffering comes to all of us. Millenials especially, though they are hardly taken seriously, have a very difficult time themselves. They are trying to build a future in a world that seems to be ending. They can become accustomed to a pessimistic view of life, and lose the sweet taste of consolation. Those especially who suffer from depression and anxiety can fall into this category, a category where the soul flees from light and comfort, simply because they are convinced it will be taken away again. They begin mastering sacrifice and mortification, yet slowly begin forgetting all these tribulations are for a greater good that will never leave. If you find yourself in this category, as I do at times, these tips may help.

Stay in the moment - In the moment you are sitting at your desk sipping a hot chocolate. Your mind wanders off and you begin feeling all the anxiety of what is to come in the day. Try your best not to be anxious and worried, but rather thank God for the present peace you have. The Devil can take away such pleasant things with the darkness of the future, so thank God for the warmth of your sweater and comfort of your drink. In doing this we centre ourselves and reteach our souls to enjoy the goodness God gives us. 

Stop focusing on pain - I am going to use an interesting example, so bear with me. When we are about to be slapped, the majority of the pain usually is not in the slap, but rather the anticipation of being slapped. The hand goes up, and we wince in fear at the idea of what it will be like. So it is when we anticipate the future pain we will experience in this life. God did not create us to suffer, we need to stop thinking like that. Suffering is for the greater good, and one day we will feel that greater good! Therefore live for the present, and let future suffering go. Because less than half of the pain that we anticipate won't ever come to fruition. 

Love yourself - How are we ever supposed to love ever love our neighbour if we never take the time to love ourselves? If we balance sacrifice with caring for our bodies and souls, we will be able to help our mind accept suffering as it is, and consolation as it is. Life is all about balance, we don't have to kill ourselves by being victim souls to become saints. To become a saint we must take all that God gives us, the trials as well as all the beautiful consolations, and offer them back to Him in thanksgiving. He gives us far more comforts than we realize, we just forget how many we have!

So stay strong my dear reader, and do not flee the light with the fear that it will leave you. You were made for the light, that is why you have such an attraction to it. And one day, in Paradise, nothing will take it from you.