Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ready For The Storm by Rich Mullins

The Curse is Real (And So is the Cross)

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:


Not many people are offended by the message that God loves them. They might find it old-fashioned or naïve, but usually not offensive. Almost everyone, however, is offended by the message of Christ crucified. It implies we are all sinners. Regardless of how good we are, what kind of salary we make, what kind of education we have, the cross says we are all sinners who need a Savior.
A startling claim of Catholicism is that we are born under a curse. The idea doesn’t exactly imbue the warm cozies, does it? But we will never feel the truth of the Gospel unless we feel the truth of the curse. If we hope to catch even a glimpse of glory in the light of the crucified and resurrected Christ, we need to feel the truth of the curse. It’s not enough to admit that all creation is good or that Adam and Eve were made to bring God praise. We need to own up to the fact that sin has entered the scene.

We are in pieces

What is humanity but a lavish outburst of the beautiful, unfathomable, all holy greatness of God. What a God he must be! But how miserable and wretched is humanity because of pride and disobedience. How pitiable we must be! Because of sin, God’s original design for male-and-female creation is warped and confused. Humanity is a broken institution. We are in pieces. Broken people get married and become broken parents who make broken kids. Broken people run countries, work for employers, manage companies, and cook dinner. Because of sin, being human is a broken thing.

Read the rest here.

Triumph of the Cross


Today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross or Triumph of the Cross. The following comes from the Women of Faith and Family site:

On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (or Triumph of the Cross) we honor the Holy Cross by which Christ redeemed the world. The public veneration of the Cross of Christ originated in the fourth century, according to early accounts, beginning with the miraculous discovery of the cross on September 14, 326, by Saint Helen, mother of Constantine, while she was on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem -- the same day that two churches built at the site of Calvary by Constantine were dedicated.

The observance of the Feast of the Exaltation (probably from a Greek word meaning "bringing to light") of the Cross has been celebrated by Christians on September 14 ever since. In the Western Church, the feast came into prominence in the seventh century, apparently inspired by the recovery of a portion of the Cross, said to have been taken from Jerusalem the Persians, by the Roman emperor Heraclius in 629.

Christians "exalt" the Cross of Christ as the instrument of our salvation. Adoration of the Cross is, thus, adoration of Jesus Christ, the God Man, who suffered and died on this Roman instrument of torture for our redemption from sin and death. The cross represents the One Sacrifice by which Jesus, obedient even unto death, accomplished our salvation. The cross is a symbolic summary of the Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ -- all in one image.

The Cross -- because of what it represents -- is the most potent and universal symbol of the Christian faith. It has inspired both liturgical and private devotions: for example, the Sign of the Cross, which is an invocation of the Holy Trinity; the "little" Sign of the Cross on head, lips and heart at the reading of the Gospel; praying the Stations (or Way) of the Cross; and the Veneration of the Cross by the faithful on Good Friday by kissing the feet of the image of Our Savior crucified.

Placing a crucifix (the cross with an image of Christ's body upon it) in churches and homes, in classrooms of Catholic schools and in other Catholic institutions, or wearing this image on our persons, is a constant reminder -- and witness -- of Christ's ultimate triumph, His victory over sin and death through His suffering and dying on the Cross.

We remember Our Lord's words, "He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake shall find it." (Mt 10:38,39). Meditating on these words we unite ourselves -- our souls and bodies -- with His obedience and His sacrifice; and we rejoice in this inestimable gift through which we have the hope of salvation and the glory.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Lament by Audrey Assad


I'm Mary and I'm Martha all at the same time;
I'm sitting at His feet and yet I'm dying to be recognized.
I am a picture of contentment and I'm dissatisfied.
Why is it easy to work and hard to rest sometimes?

I'm restless, and I rustle like a thousand tall trees;
I'm twisting and I'm turning in an endless daydream.
You wrestle me at night and I wake in search of You...
but try as I might, I just can't catch You
But I want to, because I need You, yes, I need You
I can't catch You, but I want to.

How long, how long until I'm home?
I'm so tired, so tired of running
How long until You come for me?
I'm so tired, so tired of running

How long, how long until I'm home?
I'm so tired, so tired of running
How long until You come for me?
I'm so tired, so tired of running
I'm so tired, so tired of running
I'm so tired, so tired of running

God Desires Your Love

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:
Some time ago, while on a train from Washington to New York, I became engaged in conversation with a young man. He was a graduate of a Catholic college, proud of the fact, and quite determined that the Faith was to be his guiding star through life.
A friend had recently given him a copy of the autobi­ography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. What surprised him most, he said, was the ease with which this young nun talked of her intimate friendship with God. Oh, he had learned in school that we are in this world to love God, but he had never known that this love could be an inti­mate, personal friendship. In his prayers, he was always most formal with God. He had always believed that he was loving God in the only way expected of him when he tried to observe the Ten Commandments and the precepts of the Church.
His relation to God had been one of duty and honor, like that of a soldier to his country. He found it quite natural to praise God. He enjoyed singing “Holy God, we praise Thy name,” and one of his regular prayers was “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.”
But he had never been taught to love God as a child loves his father. After all, God is a spirit, and it is not easy to think of Him as a Father. Prayers based on filial relationship seemed exaggerated. He had never realized that it is possible to fall in love with God — to think of Him continually, to try to please Him in all one’s actions, as one thinks of and tries to please a person he loves. It had even seemed to him that intimate conversations with God were either expressions of pure sentimentality or pleasures to be enjoyed only in the next world.
I explained that falling in love with God is no mys­tery to those who are schooled in the saints or who are acquainted with some of the more ardent souls in reli­gious life. It is the ideal of priests, brothers, nuns, and many devout laypeople. To say that falling in love with God is impossible is to deny an obvious fact: countless souls have done precisely that.
I ventured to say that perhaps he had never analyzed the full meaning of love. But I learned that he, like most young people, prided himself on knowing something about it. He believed in love, he told me — human love that occupies the whole mind and heart of the lover; love that becomes so much a part of a man that his thoughts turn continually to his beloved; love that tugs at the heartstrings and makes itself felt whenever the mind has a moment to itself.
When I smiled skeptically to show that I was not at all sure he knew what true love was, he quickly added that he was not considering only the emotional kind of love. He knew what true love is. It lasts forever, he said, even after the beauty and freshness of youth have vanished. You can see it in the eyes of the mother who spends sleepless nights watching over her sick child. You can see it in a husband who for years has devoted himself with amazing kindness and patience to an invalid wife. It is written on the haggard face of a young soldier as he drags his wounded comrade back from the front lines.
He had the right idea. He was not confusing love with emotionalism or sentimentality. Love can express itself through the emotions; it may manifest itself in the happiness and joy of a newly wedded couple or in the sadness that shrouds a family that has just lost its mother. It is clearly found in the life of Jesus. When He was told that Lazarus was dead, Jesus wept. And the people, seeing this, said, “Behold how He loved him.” True love can break forth and express itself in deep emotion, but it can also be externally cold — as unemotional as paying the income tax or washing dishes.

Saint of the day: John Chrysostom


The following comes from Communio:


Today’s saint of the Eastern Church, Saint John Chrysostom (c. 347-407), a fourth century bishop and Doctor of the Church, known as an eloquent speaker and teacher of the faith hence beings nicknamed the golden tongue of the faith. His homilies, as you will note below, are insightful. Because of the tensions with the political leaders John was exiled several times and ultimately died of exhaustion. Among the churches, Saint John has four different feast days.
One his meditations on the Gospel of Matthew found in the Office of Readings follows:
Would you honor the body of Christ? Do not despise his nakedness; do not honor him here in church clothed in silk vestments and then pass him by unclothed and frozen outside. Remember that he who said, ‘This is my Body’, and made good his words, also said, ‘You saw me hungry and gave me no food’, and, ‘in so far as you did it not to one of these, you did it not to me’. In the first sense the body of Christ does not need clothing but worship from a pure heart. In the second sense it does need clothing and all the care we can give it.
We must learn to be discerning Christians and to honor Christ in the way in which he wants to be honored. It is only right that honor given to anyone should take the form most acceptable to the recipient not to the giver. Peter thought he was honoring the Lord when he tried to stop him washing his feet, but this was far from being genuine homage. So give God the honor he asks for, that is give your money generously to the poor. God has no need of golden vessels but of golden hearts.
I am not saying you should not give golden altar vessels and so on, but I am insisting that nothing can take the place of almsgiving. The Lord will not refuse to accept the first kind of gift but he prefers the second, and quite naturally, because in the first case only the donor benefits, in the second case the poor gets the benefit. The gift of a chalice may be ostentatious; almsgiving is pure benevolence.
What is the use of loading Christ’s table with gold cups while he himself is starving? Feed the hungry and then if you have any money left over, spend it on the altar table. Will you make a cup of gold and without a cup of water? What use is it to adorn the altar with cloth of gold hangings and deny Christ a coat for his back! What would that profit you? Tell me: if you saw someone starving and refused to give him any food but instead spent your money on adorning the altar with gold, would he thank you? Would he not rather be outraged? Or if you saw someone in rags and stiff with cold and then did not give him clothing but set up golden columns in his honor, would he not say that he was being made a fool of and insulted?
Consider that Christ is that tramp who comes in need of a night’s lodging. You turn him away and then start laying rugs on the floor, draping the walls, hanging lamps on silver chains on the columns. Meanwhile the tramp is locked up in prison and you never give him a glance. Well again I am not condemning munificence in these matters. Make your house beautiful by all means but also look after the poor, or rather look after the poor first. No one was ever condemned for not adorning his house, but those who neglect the poor were threatened with hellfire for all eternity and a life of torment with devils. Adorn your house if you will, but do not forget your brother in distress. He is a temple of infinitely greater value.

Braveheart: Giving Your Life To Something Greater

Friday, September 12, 2014

Jesus Painting by David Garibaldi


David Garibaldi: Jesus Painting from Thriving Churches on Vimeo.

Nada Te Turbe - A Virtual Choir of Carmelites

Flannery O’Connor’s Letter to a College Student Losing His Faith Still Relevant

The following comes from The Cardinal Newman Society:
A college student in the 20th century wrote a letter to a Catholic writer asking for advice because he felt like he was losing his faith.  Flannery O’Connor, who was born in March of 1925, responded with a letter of encouragement that is still applicable to college students today.
O’Connor told the student, “If you want your faith, you have to work for it” and continued by stating that “[Faith] is a gift, but for very few is it a gift given without any demand for equal time devoted to its cultivation.” 
She suggested that the college student read a book that presents the Christian worldview for every book that he read that was “anti-Christian.”  O’Connor wrote:
One result of the stimulation of your intellectual life that takes place in college is usually a shrinking of the imaginative life. This sounds like a paradox, but I have often found it to be true. Students get so bound up with difficulties such as reconciling the clashing of so many different faiths such as Buddhism, Mohammedanism, etc., that they cease to look for God in other ways. Bridges once wrote Gerard Manley Hopkins and asked him to tell him how he, Bridges, could believe. He must have expected from Hopkins a long philosophical answer. Hopkins wrote back, “Give alms.” He was trying to say to Bridges that God is to be experienced in Charity (in the sense of love for the divine image in human beings). Don’t get so entangled with intellectual difficulties that you fail to look for God in this way.
… What kept me a skeptic in college was precisely my Christian faith. It always said: wait, don’t bite on this, get a wider picture, continue to read.
… Even in the life of a Christian, faith rises and falls like the tides of an invisible sea. It’s there, even when he can’t see it or feel it, if he wants it to be there. You realize, I think, that it is more valuable, more mysterious, altogether more immense than anything you can learn or decide upon in college. Learn what you can, but cultivate Christian skepticism.  It will keep you free – not free to do anything you please, but free to be formed by something larger than your own intellect or the intellects of those around you. I don’t know if this is the kind of answer that can help you, but any time you care to write me, I can try to do better.
Source: The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor
Read more at A Priest in Chatham.

Catholic Answers: Is purgatory a physical place?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The House I Live In by Frank Sinatra

How to Hear God Speaking to You

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The following comes from Fr. Healy at the Catholic Exchange:

Many people never listen to God because they are not aware that He speaks to them. Yet, God does speak. One way to live in His presence is to acquire the habit of recognizing His voice when He speaks. If we do not know that God wishes to communicate with us, or the ways He has chosen, then our passage through life will be devoid of the most perfect of guides.

When does God speak to us? He speaks at all times, especially in prayer. Prayer is a conversation with God. But it is not a monologue. When we pray, then, we should also listen, because a good conversationalist is also a good listener. We do not pray well when we recite ready-made formulas quickly and distractedly. We act as if God has only to listen to us, and that we have no need to listen to the thoughts and desires that He wishes to communicate to us. He has promised, “If thou wilt hear the voice of the Lord thy God, and do what is right before Him, and obey His commandments, and keep all His precepts, none of the evils that I laid upon Egypt will I bring upon thee.”
Unfortunately, many of us have never trained ourselves to listen to His voice. But, if we are to know God’s will, we must listen to Him and obey Him when we recognize His commandments.
But how does God speak to us? God is a pure spirit. Unlike man, He has no voice. If He wishes to speak to us, He must use some means outside of Himself, adapted to our nature, by which He can communicate ideas. He may use things we can see and hear in order to stir our imagination, or He may enter directly into our thoughts.

God speaks to you personally

Does God, then, speak to man? How can we ever doubt it? How foolish it is to read all types of books and neglect the word of God! The Scriptures were not meant only for particular groups of people; they were meant for all men at all times. God is eternal; His words are eternal. Although He speaks to all men, He speaks to us personally.
This does not mean that every person should take the Bible and interpret it according to his own fancy. No, the Church alone is the divinely appointed authority to guide us in the correct interpretation  of the Bible. The Church encourages us to read it, because she knows that the word of God can enter into our minds and that God, in His own mysterious way, can teach the true way of life, the way of love and intimate union with Him.
St. Ignatius of Loyola felt that God was speaking directly to him, when, on his sick bed, he read the words:
“For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?”
But, we ask, is this prayer? It is at least the beginning of prayer. We listen to these words of Christ; we ponder over them; they awaken thoughts and desires within us. We begin to believe, to hope, to love. Our will becomes inspired, and we break forth in ardent affections, calling on Christ to help us, begging forgiveness, expressing gratitude, performing little acts of adoration — and surely this is prayer.
We often read of visions, apparitions, and revelations in which God spoke to the saints. St. Paul on the road to Damascus is a classic example. And we read in the life of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque that, while she was engaged in prayer, Jesus often spoke to her of the devotion to His Sacred Heart.
Such conversations with God are not rare in the lives of the canonized. But must we in our conversation with God await the appearance of Jesus, of some heavenly voice or extraordinary apparition, some heavenly manifestation from God? Absolutely not. It is true that God does single out some chosen souls to whom He speaks directly and who actually experience the divine power working in them, but these are very few; it is not the way that God ordinarily uses. We should not even desire that God speak to us in this extraordinary manner. We should not expect it. Visions and revelations are not necessary for us to grow in deep love for God. We may fall deeply in love with Him and practice faithfully the presence of God, yet never receive any extraordinary manifestations from Him. These are special gifts, and God gives them to whom He wills, and when He wills.

God speaks to your mind and to your heart

Nevertheless, God does speak to all of us without exception in a more direct way than we have yet mentioned. It is a hidden way, by which He enters directly into our thoughts and desires. Our most hidden secrets are not secrets to Him. He comes right into our mind. Our thoughts are not only our thoughts; our desires are not only our desires — they may also be God’s thoughts and desires. We know we can do nothing without God. Even such ordinary things as eating, breathing, and walking cannot be done without the ordinary help that God gives us. But, in this instance, we are presupposing this natural help of God and are referring to a greater and more noble assistance from Him.
Does God help us in a special way to think good thoughts and to desire holy things? He most assuredly does. For we are living in a supernatural order and destined to a supernatural end, the Beatific Vision. To attain this end, God not only gives us the principle of supernatural life, sanctifying grace, but He also gives us actual graces that help us to perform supernatural actions and thus to grow in the grace of God. These actual graces are, especially, the holy thoughts and desires that God creates in us.
God does not have to use external words and signs to attract our attention  and convey ideas to us. He enters our minds directly. He speaks secretly, noiselessly, as befits the Divinity. It is only by faith that we know He is working in us. For example, God once spoke in a special, hidden way to St. Peter, who then confessed Jesus to be the Son of God. “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona,” said our Lord. “For flesh and blood hath not revealed this to thee, but my Father in Heaven.”
St. John tells us that we will know all things from the Holy Spirit: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.”St. Paul says that God enters our very thoughts: “Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.”
God also enters our hearts and inspires us to holy desires. “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God, was listening; and the Lord touched her heart to give heed to what was being said by Paul.”
Thus, the Scriptures and the Church tell us that God speaks to us in the silence of our minds and hearts. He speaks to all men, but all men do not hear Him. God speaks to our mind and heart when we kneel to meditate or to adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament. He enters our mind when the passing things of time excite our thoughts. It is He who gives us holy thoughts to conquer our temptations. It is He who stirs up within us the desire to persevere against all adversaries.
Perhaps we have never realized that God is illuminating our intellect and inspiring our will. Yet He does just that. That is why we are told not to do all the talking in prayer. For, if we continually recite vocal prayers without pausing now and then to think, we will stifle the thoughts and desires that God wishes to excite in us.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux tells us how she listened to the voice of God. “I know and have experienced that ‘the Kingdom of God is within us,’ that our Master has no need of books or teacher to instruct a soul. The Teacher of teachers instructs without sound of words, and though I have never heard Him speak, yet I know He is within me, always guiding and inspiring me; and just when I need them, lights, hitherto unseen, break in upon me. As a rule, it is not during prayer that this happens, but in the midst of my daily duties.”
But we are not only to listen; it would be folly to remain in a state of mental blankness, waiting for God to speak. No, prayer is a loving conversation, and, when the Holy Spirit moves us, it is time to begin our part of the colloquy.
One way, then, to practice the exercise of the presence of God is to listen to God, to be aware that He speaks to us, to be ever conscious that God can use all things to communicate with us.
The was excreted from Fr. Healy’s Awakening Your Soul to the Presence of God, which is now available from Sophia Institute Press. 

A Prayer for Our Nation


We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope N., the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance. To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

(Bishop John Carroll, First US Bishop)

Ronald Reagan: A Soldiers Pledge

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I Can Only Imagine by MercyMe

Pope Francis: Mercy is a Gospel Essential

(Vatican Radio) Mother Church teaches us works mercy are essential for our salvation, said Pope Francis at his general audience on Wednesday , but “it is not enough to do good to those who do good to us. To change the world for the better we must do good to those who are unable to reciprocate, as the Father did with us, in giving us Jesus".

And once again he had a special thought for the persecuted Christians of the Middle East. In his greeting to Arabic speaking pilgrims and in particular to those from Syria and Iraq, Francis said that "the Church, following the example of his Master, is a teacher of mercy: She faces hatred with love, defeats violence with forgiveness; responds to weapons with prayer! May the Lord reward your fidelity, instill courage in your fight against the forces of evil and open the eyes of those who are blinded by evil, so they may soon see the light of truth and repent for their mistakes. May the Lord bless you and protect you always”.

Speaking to the thousands of pilgrims who crowded St Peter’s Square for the appointment, the Pope said the Church does not teach us about mercy through theoretic lectures but through the actions of the saints who have visited those in prison, of mothers who teach their children to share what they have with those in need, through women like Blessed Teresa of Calcutta who held the hand of the abandoned so they would not die alone. “This is how the Mother Church teaches her children the works of mercy. She has learned this path from Jesus, she learned that this is essential for salvation”.

The Pope was continuing his catechesis on our Mother Church. "In our previous catechesis, we reflected on the Church as a Mother who nurtures us in the faith, guides us on the way of salvation, and protects us from evil. Today, I wish to reflect on the Church as a Mother who teaches us the works of mercy".

"A good teacher does not get lost in the details, but points to what is essential so that the child or student can find meaning and joy in life. It is the truth. For the Gospel, what is essential is mercy God sent his Son, God became man to save us, that is, to give us His mercy. Jesus clearly says, summing up His teaching to His disciples: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6:36). Can there be a Christian who is not merciful? No. The Christian must necessarily be merciful, because this is the heart of the Gospel. And true to this teaching, the Church can only repeat the same thing to her children: "Be merciful," as the Father is, and as Jesus was. Mercy”.

He continued: "And so the Church acts like Jesus. She does not give lectures on love, on mercy. She does not spread a philosophy, a path of wisdom throughout the world. ... Of course, Christianity is all this, but as a consequence, in reflection. The Mother Church, like Jesus, teaches by example, and uses words to illuminate the meaning of her gestures. The Mother Church teaches us to give food and drink to the hungry and thirsty, to clothe the naked. And how does she do this? With the example of many saints who have done this in an exemplary manner; but she also does so with the example of so many mothers and fathers who teach their children that they must give what they do not need to those who lack even the basic necessities. It is important to know this. Even in the simplest of Christian families rule of hospitality has always been held sacred: may there always be a place at the table and a spare bed for those who need it".

Moving from his scripted speech, the Pope added: "Once a mother told me, in the other dioceses, that she wanted to teach this to her children and told them to help and give food to the hungry. She had three. And one day at lunch – the father was out at work, she was with her three children, little ones, 7,5,4 years or so – and there was a knock on the door and a gentleman was there who asked to eat, and the mother said: ‘Wait a minute'. And she went back in and told her children: 'There is a gentleman out there who is asking for something to eat, what should we do? '-'Give him some, Mom, give him some! '. Each of the children has a steak and fries on their plate: 'Very well, each of you take half of your dinner and give it to him'- ‘Ah, no, Mom, that’s not fair!'-'That’s the way it is you have to give him what you have’. And so this mother taught their children to give of their own food. This is a fine example that has helped me so much. 'But, I haven’t got any extra – ‘No you have to give some of what you have! '. This is what Mother Church teaches us. And you, all of you mothers here today you know what you have to do so that your children learn to share their things with those in need”.

Some Hard Spiritual Truths That Will Set You Free

The following comes from Msgr. Charles Pope:


I have written before on Five Hard Truths That Will Set You Free. In this post I would like to ponder Some Hard Spiritual truths that will set us free.
In calling them “hard truths,” I mean that they are not the usual cozy bromides that many seek. They speak bluntly about the more irksome and difficult realities we confront. But, if we come to accept them, they have a strange way of bringing serenity by getting us focused on the right things, instead of chasing after false dreams.
For it sometimes happens that a person can spend his whole life being resentful that life isn’t peachy, forgetting all the while that we are in exile, that we are making a hard journey, we pray,  to a life where, one day,  every sorrow and difficultly is removed, and death and sorrow are no more. But not now.
There is a kind of unexpected serenity in living in the world as it is, rather thanresenting the world for not being what we want it to be. For now, the journey is hard and we have to be sober about our obtuse desires and destructive tendencies. And that is why there is a value in calling these insights, “hard truths that will set us free.”
In the very opening section of his Spiritual Canticle, St. John of the Cross lays out a presumed worldview that the spiritually mature ought to have attained. And because he presumes it of his reader, he states it only briefly.
Yet, for us who live in times not known for spiritual maturity, we ought to slow down for a moment and ponder these truths which are not only poorly understood, but even actively resisted today by many who call themselves wise and spiritually mature.
Remember now, these are hard truths, and many today wish to bypass the harder teachings of God. Thus we do well to pay special attention to a Spiritual Master who is deeply immersed in Scripture, as a remedy for the soft excesses of our modern times.
Lets first look at the quote from St. John and then, by way of a list, examine his points. With this preamble of sorts, St. John begins his Spiritual Canticle:
The soul… has grown aware of her obligations and observed that life is short (Job 14:5), the path leading to eternal life constricted (Mt. 7:14), the just one scarcely saved (1 Pet. 4:18), the things of the world vain and deceitful (Eccles. 1:2), that all comes to an end and fails like falling water (2 Sam. 14:14), and that the time is uncertain, the accounting strict, perdition very easy, and salvation very difficult. She knows on the other hand of her immense indebtedness to God for having created her solely for Himself, and that for this she owes Him the service of her whole life; and because He redeemed her solely for Himself she owes Him every response of love. She knows, too, of the thousand other benefits by which she has been obligated to God from before the time of her birth, and that a good part of her life has vanished, that she must render an account of everything – of the beginning of her life as well as the later part – unto the last penny (Mt. 5:25) when God will search Jerusalem with lighted candles (Zeph. 1:12), and that it is already late – and the day far spent (Lk. 24:29) – to remedy so much evil and harm. She feels on the other hand that God is angry and hidden because she desired to forget Him so in the midst of creatures, Touched with dread and interior sorrow of heart over so much loss and danger, renouncing all things, leaving aside all business, and not delaying a day or an hour, with desires and sighs pouring from her heart, wounded now with the love for God, she begins to call her Beloved…
Let us look at these hard but freeing spiritual insights one by one.
The soul has grown aware of her obligations and observed
1. That life is short (Job 14:5).
More than any other age we entertain the illusion that death can be easily postponed. It cannot be. We are not guaranteed the next beat of our heart, let alone tomorrow! It is true that with advances in medical science, sudden death from lesser causes it not as frequent today. But too easily this leads us to entertain the notion that we can cheat death. We cannot.
Life remains short, and we do not get to choose when we will die. Both my mother, and sister died on a sudden, were swept away in an instant. They never got to say goodbye. You do not know if you will even finish this sentence before or article before death summons you.
This is wisdom. It is a hard truth that gives us an important perspective. Life is short and you don’t have a calendar to know how short.
What are you doing to get ready to meet God? What are you getting worked up about and what are not concerned about? Are your priorities rooted in the truth that life is short? Or are you waging bets in a foolish game where the house (death and this world) always wins on its terms and not yours?
There is a strange serenity and freedom in realizing that life is short. We do not get as worked up about passing things, and we become more invested in lasting things, and the things to come.
2. The path leading to eternal life constricted (Mt. 7:14) 
Another illusion we entertain today is that salvation is a cinch, that it is a done deal. The “heresy” of our time is a kind of universal salvation that denies the consistently repeated biblical teach which declares: Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matt 7:13-14 inter al).
In parable after parable, warning after warning, Jesus speaks with sober admonition about the reality of hell and the closing reality of judgment. No one loves you more than Jesus, and no warned you about Hell and Judgment more than Jesus.
Salvation is not easy, it is hard. Jesus said this, not me. This is not because God is mean, it is because we are stubborn, obtuse and prefer the darkness to light. We need to sober up about our stubbornness and our tendencies to prefer “other arrangements” to what God offers and teaches. In the end, God will respect our choice and there comes a day when our choice for or against the Kingdom and its values will be sealed forever.
This is a hard saying, but it sets us free from the awful sin of presumption, a sin against hope and instills in us a proper priority for the work that is necessary to root us in God. Accepting this hard truth will free you from silly and baseless presumption. It will make you more serious about your spiritual life and aware of the need for prayer, sacraments, Scripture and the Church. It will help you have better priorities that are less obsessed with passing worldly things and people, and be more rooted in what it eternal. It will make you more evangelical and urgent to save souls. It will turn you to Jesus and away from Belial and passing pathetic worldly things.
3. That the just one scarcely saved (1 Pet. 4:18) 
Here is a further truth that sets aside modern errors about an almost universal salvation. The fuller context of the quote is this: For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (1 Peter 4:17-18)
And yet, despite this and many other quotes and teachings like it, we go one presuming that almost everyone will go to heaven. We set aside God’s Word, for human errors and wishful thinking. We substitute human assurances for God’s warnings. We elevate ourselves over St. Paul who said that we should work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil 2:12) and spoke of disciplining himself, lest, after preaching to others, he should be lost (1 Cor 9:27). Are we better and more enlightened that Jesus? Than Paul, Than Peter?
Salvation is hard. This is not meant to panic us, but it is meant to sober us to the need for prayer, Sacraments, Scripture and the Church. Without these medicines we don’t stand a chance. And we must persevere to the end.
This hard truth sets us free from illusion and sends us running to the Lord who alone can save us. Smug presumption roots us in the world, Godly fear and sober awareness of our stubborn and unrepentant hearts sends us to Jesus and this frees us.
4. The things of the world vain and deceitful (Eccles. 1:2)
Such a freeing truth. First that the things of this world are vain. That is to say, they are empty, passing, and vapid. We so exult power, popularity, and worldly glories. But they are gone in a moment. Who was Miss America in 1974? Who won the Heisman Trophy in that same year? If you know, do you really care and does it really matter? Empty show, glitter and fools gold, yet we spend billions and watch this stuff forever.
And even though we should fight for justice, for the sake of the kingdom, even here the Scriptures counsel some perspective: I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree. But he passed away, and behold, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found. (Ps 37:35-36).
And how deceitful is this passing world.! The main deceit of this world is to say, “I am what you exist for, I am what matters, I am what satisfies.” Lies and deceptions on all counts. The form of this world is passing away. It cannot supply our infinite desires. Our hearts were made for God, and only being with him one day will satisfy.
Yet so easily do we listen to the world’s seduction and lies. Too often we want to be lied to and prefer to chase illusions, vanity and indulge deceit.
How freeing this truth is, if we can lay hold of it. We learn to make use of what we need, but begin to lose our obsession with vain and passing things, and our insatiable desire for more. Yes, perhaps you can live without that granite counter top.
This is a very freeing truth if we can accept its hard reality. And becoming more free a deeper serenity finds us.
5. That all comes to an end and fails like falling water (2 Sam. 14:14)
The world is passing away. It can’t secure your future. The world cruel lies that it can supply you is on display in every graveyard. So much for the world’s empty promises: “You can have it all!” Yes, and then you die.
Meditate on death often. Indeed, every night the Church bids us to rehearse our death in night prayer by the reciting of the Nunc Dimittis.
Scripture says, For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come (Heb 13:14). Do you have your sights fixed where true joys are? Or are you like Lot’s wife?
Let this truth free you to have proper perspective. Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God (Col 3:1).
6. And that the time is uncertain. 
You got plans for tomorrow? Great, so do I. Only problem, tomorrow is not promised or certain. Neither is the next beat of your heart. Another hard, but freeing truth.
7. The accounting strict -
Jesus warns,  But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken (Matt 12:36). St. Paul says, He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart (1 Cor 4:5). And adds, So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Cor 5:9-10). And James chillingly says, So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy (James 2:12-13) What he says is chilling since so many are without mercy today.
If God judges us with the same strict justice we often dish out, we don’t stand a chance. The accounting will be strict, so don’t pile on with unnecessary severity and wrath toward others.
Here is another freeing truth that helps us take heed of the coming judgement.
8. Perdition very easy - I wonder why he might have repeated this? I just wonder….!
9. And salvation very difficult - Hmm… look he repeated this too! I wonder why? Maybe repetition is the mother of studies.
10. [That we are often and strangely ungrateful and unmoved] She knows on the other hand of her immense indebtedness to God for having created her solely for Himself, and that for this she owes Him the service of her whole life; and because He redeemed her solely for Himself she owes Him every response of love. She knows, too, of the thousand other benefits by which she has been obligated to God from before the time of her birth, and that a good part of her life has vanished,
Here is a sober truth that calls us to remember. What does it mean to remember? To remember means to have present in your mind and heart what the Lord has done for you so that you are grateful and different. 
And yet we live so many years and hours of the day in ingratitude. We get all worked up resentful about the smallest setbacks, and almost totally ignore the trillions of blessings each day.
In a sense our ingratitude is obnoxiously massive because of the easy manner with which we mindlessly receive and discount incredibly numerous blessings, and magnify every suffering setback or trial. So much of our life passes in the complaint department. And so commonly we are stingy with even a simple “Thank you Lord, for all your obvious and hidden blessings, thank you Lord for creating, sustaining and loving me to the end, and for inviting me to know, Love and serve you.“
11. That she must render an account of everything – of the beginning of her life as well as the later part – unto the last penny (Mt. 5:25) when God will search Jerusalem with lighted candles (Zeph. 1:12) - Did he repeat himself again? Now why do you suppose he does that?! You don’t think he considers us stubborn, do you?
12. and that it is already late – and the day far spent (Lk. 24:29) – to remedy so much evil and harm. Repetitio mater studiorum
13. [That the unrepentant will experience the wrath to come] – She feels on the other hand that God is angry and hidden because she desired to forget Him so in the midst of creatures,
The wrath of God is really in us, not in God. It is our experience of discomfort before the holiness of God. It is like being used to a dark room, and suddenly being brought into the bright afternoon sunlight. We protest and say the light is harsh. But the light is not harsh. We are incapable of tolerating the light due to our preference for and acclamation to the dark. In the same way God is not  “mad” He is not moody or harsh. He is God. And God does not change.
Thus St. John teaches here, the hard but freeing truth that God is holy and no one is going to walk into his presence unprepared. If we prefer the world and its creatures to the Creator, we thereby prefer the darkness and cannot tolerate the light. Heaven is simply not possible for those who prefer the darkness. And thus Jesus says, And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil (John 3:19) – That’s right, just three verses after John 3:16
And while the sinful soul may “feel” that God is angry and hiding himself, the problem is in the sinful soul, not God.
The freedom of this hard saying comes in reminding us, and urging us to get ready to meet God. He is not going to change. He can’t change. So we have to change, and by his grace, become the light of his holiness.
14. [We Need to Call on the Savior] - Touched with dread and interior sorrow of heart over so much loss and danger, renouncing all things, leaving aside all business, and not delaying a day or an hour, with desires and sighs pouring from her heart, wounded now with the love for God, she begins to call her Beloved
And yes, here is the real point of all these hard truths: to make us love our savior more, learn to depend on him, and run to him as fast as we can. Only when we know the hard truths are we really going to be all that serious.
After all, who goes to the doctor? One who is convinced he has no cancer (even though he does). Or the one who knows he’s got it bad and that ain’t good? The answer is self evident.
Bad sadly the answer is self-evident enough to this current generation where, even in the Church, there are so many who don’t want to discuss any of the hard and sober truths we need to lay hold of before we get serious.
A steady diet of “God loves you and all is well, no matter what…” has emptied our pews. Why? Well, who goes to the spiritual hospital if all they hear is that nothing is wrong and that their salvation is secure, almost no matter what?
The good news of the gospel has little impact when the bad news is no longer understood. What does salvation mean if there is no sin and nothing to be saved from? Now of course the bad news should not be preached without pointing to the good news. But the point is that both are needed.
Thus, St. John’s hard truths are not meant to discourage. They are meant to sober us and send us running to the doctor.
Now look,  you’ve got it bad and that ain’t good. But the Good news is, there is a doctor in the house. Run to him now, he’s calling you!