Category Archives: Holy Spirit

Fighting Fear

One of the most difficult struggles in my life has been a fight with self worth. Over the years, I’ve suffered with body image and anxiety. I have suffered with negative body image and anxiety for years, especially during my fragile high school years. I was afraid of not being enough for people, and anytime I felt that I did not suffice, I would cave in on myself.  It eventually lead to a deep , private depression.

It wasn’t until not long ago that I finally saw that it was a spirit of fear that was constantly attacking me.  It was even making me question myself as I prepared for marriage. I  was afraid of just about everything: what family and friends would think of me, how I was going to cope with being married and living in a city where I didn’t really know many people, and I was even more afraid of the wedding night, particularly of my body being seen and being rejected for not being beautiful. It was painful to be so afraid of the vocation I had tried so hard to prepare myself for.

Looking back at everything I can see that Satan was and still is trying to steer me away from true freedom that is only found in Christ. He has tried to make me feel worthless in the eyes of those that I love, and even in my own eyes. He had tried to push me into the ground and has kicked me down over and over again. I had been fooled by the world that I wasn’t beautiful, and that I wasn’t going to be enough for my friends, my family, or society.

But why should I be afraid? Is it not true that God did not give me a spirit of fear, but of love? In his letter to Timothy, St. Paul urges the church in Ephesus not to have fear:

For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. ( 2 Timothy  1:6-9)

Do not be afraid to be who you are; not in the sense of who you are in and to the world, but who you were made to be in Christ: Holy.  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” It is easier for us to run away from the challenges in our lives; but God gives us strength to take on those challenges.

The spirit of fear will make us afraid of redemptive suffering, which is so incredibly powerful. He seeks to hold us back from true freedom, which is total reliance and trust in the will and plan of God. Fear of God’s divine love and mercy can lead to sin, and eventually destroy us.

We must pray for an exorcism of the spirit of fear whenever it should try and enter our lives. Pray to St. Michael and to your guardian angel for protection. Pray to our Blessed Mother who will protect you under her mantle. Offer up your suffering to Christ so He may use it to give you strength. I pray for all of those who deal with fear on a day to day basis. Please pray for me too.

Love,
Catholic Ruki
Enjoy this Family Force 5 video, which recently has been a song that really hits home calling on Christ as our Saviour.

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Love Revealed in Fatima: A Honeymoon Story

 

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As many of our readers may know, on May 31st, Mike (aka anotherepigone) and myself were married. It was a joyful day, filled with laughter, tears of joy, and an overwhelming experience of the grace of God.  After years of prayer and a deep love for the sacrament of marriage and everything that comes with it, I was finally able to enter into my vocation. I could feel the presence of Christ in my heart, and I felt the graces giving me strength where there was weakness, and courage where there was fear. All of these things in just one day. What I couldn’t expect was how He would reveal Himself time and time again on our honeymoon in Portugal.

We had already been in Portugal for about a week before we were finally in Fatima for the last few days. It was all coming to a close, and we wanted to end our honeymoon on the perfect note as well as to return to our home with hearts that were in the right place. We got to our hotel and got settled, then set off to finally go to the Chapel and go to an English mass that would be happening shortly.

Up to this point, we had no idea that we had coincidentally arrived in Fatima on Portugal Day. So, when we arrived expecting English mass, there was a rosary being said, followed by a mass. We had no idea why, but we were content to be there and see what the Lord had in store for us. Mass continued on, my heart dancing out of just the excitement alone that I was where Our Lady had appeared.  In addition to Mass, they had a full Eucharistic procession from the chapel and then around the courtyard. We had been standing at the back with a small crowd, but during the procession, we were right behind the priest as he carried the Monstrance. The entire crowd was silent. All we could hear were the hymns. The reverence in the silence among all the people was astounding.

They continued up the stairs of the new basilica, and we stopped at the steps, kneeling with several others as there was Benediction. Then the Monstrance was removed, taken into the basilica. Mike and I were overjoyed that we were there, with front row seats, not even expecting such a magnificent celebration in Fatima. Jesus wasn’t finished with us yet, though.

The next day, we had prepared ourselves to pray the Rosary on our knees along the path that lead to and around the Chapel of the Apparition.  To me, it was what I looked forward to doing most in Fatima, more than seeing anything else, but just to pray the rosary. I had been looking forward to it the whole honeymoon. We didn’t know what was going on in the chapel, as usually there was always a crowd there for one reason or another, and often a priest would lead the rosary. We focused on our present task.

As we finished reciting the rosary, we found ourselves directly in front of the chapel. My heart skipped as I looked over to behold the Priest raising up the consecrated host. I was frozen. I grasped Mike’s hand tightly. We starred in awe, and bowed as the priest did before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament . How beautiful that Jesus would meet us at the end.

We were so blessed to see Jesus reveal Himself during our Honeymoon as we begin to live out our vocation. Something that has been on my heart is that while Mike and I now have each other, Christ must still remain the prime focus. By loving Him, we will be able to love one another better.

God will provide all that we need in our vocations. He may allow us to struggle, but only to help us become holier. He will provide for us in His own time, and in His own way. The greatest gift that He gives us is the gift of Himself. It is His love that will sustain us and He will be our manna in our good times, but also in the deserts in our life ahead.

May God bless all of you as you seek to know and live out your vocations.
Love,
Catholic Ruki

Confirmation and an Honest Heart

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It’s that time of year again! Lent is a sure reminder to all of us that the celebration of Easter is not too far away.  With the coming of Easter is also the coming of a very special sacrament for many youth and adults: Confirmation. At a recent Confirmation Mass I witnessed, the retired Bishop (who lives in residence at my parish) laid out the fact that while it was nice to see everyone there, he knew he wouldn’t see many of them again until next Easter or Christmas, or perhaps not at all.  It was a sad truth, but I was glad that he pointed it out. It acted almost as a reminder that if you aren’t going to commit, don’t say you will and then not fulfill your promise. I was honestly surprised when I didn’t see anyone walk out of the church. Perhaps it is just me, but there seems to be a misconception about the Sacrament, namely that it is only a rite of passage instead of a God-given Sacrament of Initiation.

When I was confirmed as a teenager, I put a lot of thought into it. I prayed to God to help me select a Saint. I knew what it meant to be confirmed, and I was happy I did it. I was accepting the teachings of the Church and asking for God’s help and the intercession from Saint Joan of Arc to help me grow into a holier person. Unfortunately, I witnessed many people be confirmed and only come back to Mass for Christmas and then the following Easter, or never again. In retrospect, I realize that often kids feel pressured to be confirmed, likely because it is jammed down their throats that they have to. Many parents feel they have to have their children confirmed or be looked down upon.

It is important to be encouraging, but it is also important to make sure that those who are preparing for Confirmation are actually informed about the Faith. There must be a true desire from the confirmand and their sponsor to want to know and love Christ and His Church and be fully Catholic. This sacrament is a reaffirmation of the vows made on the behalf of the confirmand at their Baptism. To receive the great graces given by God through the Sacrament of Confirmation, the receiver must be truly open. It must be a declaration from the heart to accept all that the Church teaches, and that the individual will strive to pursue and live the faith. To be confirmed with only the ‘rite-of-passage’ mentality abuses the sanctity of the Sacrament. It is like a man saying ‘I do’ on his wedding day because he felt pressured to do it by his parents, and then not remaining faithful to his wife the way he promised.

If a teen feels pressured to do something, often the first moment they can run, they will. Even if they don’t run, they may just never mentally engage the faith they are superficially practicing. I’m sure most of us know someone who stopped going to mass as soon as they left home. Many people, after being forced by their parents to participate in church have left. For them, Confirmation was just another thing they did while attending a Catholic school and nothing more.

Most parents want the best for their children. Many so-called catholic parents want their children to have some semblance of faith. I submit, however, that pushing faithless teens to be confirmed doesn’t achieve this end. The truth is that in order to grow in faith and knowledge of the truth, and in love with Christ, the True Faith must be practiced at home first. It is not enough to just have the Sacraments of Initiation and not practice the faith. To not accept joyfully the Commandments and the Teachings of the Catholic Church and still claim to be a Catholic is false advertising to the world and spiritual suicide. It may mean your child is not confirmed this year, or for several years, or perhaps at all. The question is, how much more joyful will it be for them if they truly want to be confirmed and grow in love for Christ and His church when the time comes to choose.

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The disciples all submitted to Christ so that they could follow Him.

Confirmation is not a pre-graduation religious ceremony that all the kids do with their classmates for fun.  It is not a passage into manhood or womanhood like a bat mitzvah or bar mitzvah. To be Confirmed in the faith is a fulfillment of our baptism.  It is much more than a rite of passage, and parents and relatives need to treat it as such. Don’t use Confirmation as a superficial, gift-giving celebration. Don’t give porcelain crosses, but instead give them a crucifix where they can see Christ’s declaration of love for every single person. Don’t give them money, but give them spiritual bread that can be found in the scripture and in prayer.  My grandmother gave me a Bible, and I dived right into it. I still have the Bible today and I read it almost every night. Give the confirmand something that will help them grow spiritually rather than superficially. They may not appreciate it now, but by God’s grace, they will one day.

I pray for all those being confirmed this Easter, and all year round, that the Holy Spirit may be with them always.

Love,
Catholic Ruki

PS: If you are interested in how to update your parish’s Confirmation Prep program, we encourage you to check out this amazing resource!

Resources:
http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c1a2.htm
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04215b.htm
http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=582
https://orthodoxcatholicism.com/2012/06/02/series-on-the-sacraments-confirmation/

I am a Hypocrite (Presumption and the Importance of Penitence)

I am a hypocrite.

This is true. I cannot get around it. I fall countless times a day.  I fail at my commitments constantly. My need for God’s forgiveness increases with every moment. I have not earned Heaven, nor am I guaranteed it if I remain in sin. I am a sinner and I need God’s mercy more than my next breath!

Why do I say this? It is because it is something that I have to remind myself of constantly. I wish to echo St. Paul who says that “if I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness (2 Cor. 11:30). Though I recognize that I am a sinner, ever since this past Divine Mercy Sunday, I have been drawn back to the question, “Am I presumptuous of God’s gracious mercy for me?”  The answer for me is oftentimes “yes”.

This attitude toward’s God’s mercy is known as the sin of presumption. It is where we presume to believe that God’s mercy is ours for the taking. It is, in essence, connected with the sin of our first parents; believing that we can sit on the judgment seat over our lives, and usurp the throne of God.

“There are two kinds of presumption. Either man presumes upon his own capacities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God’s almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit).” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2092)

This mindset can happen very easily for us. We can tell ourselves that, “God will totally forgive me if I _________, therefore I’ll just do it because He is merciful.” This attitude can be very subtle, yet it has the ability, if left unconquered, to lead us into eternal perdition.

The journey to Hell begins with one step…

preparationfordeathIn St. Alphonsus Ligouri’s “Preparation for Death”, he speaks of the delusions which the Devil suggests to the minds of sinners. One of them is the presumption that even if we sin, we can just hop over to confessional and God’s hand will be forced to forgive us. St. Alphonsus lays the hammer to this mindset saying:

Tell me, if you had a jewel worth a thousand crowns, would you throw it into a river, saying I will make a diligent search for it, and hope to find it? You hold in your hand the precious jewel of your soul, which Jesus Christ has purchased with his blood, and you voluntarily cast it into hell (for in punishment of every mortal sin, you are condemned to eternal fire), and say; I hope to recover it by a good confession. But should you not recover it, what will be the consequence? To recover the divine grace, true repentance, which is the gift of God, is necessary. Should God not give you the grace of repentance; should death overtake you, and not allow you time to go to confession, what will become of you?

Presumption of God’s mercy is known traditionally as a “sin (or blasphemy) against the Holy Spirit”.   In all three of the synoptic Gospels we read that, “‘whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” (Mk. 3:29; Mt. 12:32; Lk. 12:10).  Why is presumption unforgivable? St. Alphonsus again explains:

God pardons sin; but he cannot pardon the will or the determination to sin. St Augustine says, that he who sins with the intention of afterward repenting, is not a penitent, but a mocker of God’s majesty. But the Apostle tells as that God does not allow himself to be mocked. Be not deceived. God is not mocked (Gal. 5:7). It would be a mockery of God to insult him as often and as much as you please, and afterward to expect heaven.

The Catechism tells us that, “there are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit.  Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss” (CCC 1864). The more we try to manipulate God’s mercy to our own whims, the more we become desensitized to those things that hurt the heart of God and that damage our souls. It is kind of like drinking coffee. At first when we take a sip, it is bitter. When those with well formed consciences first fall into a sin, they tend to feel within themselves a tug or grab at their heart. There is, in that moment, the invitation to repentance and never to do that action again. They are confronted with a choice.  Similar to regularly drinking coffee, the more we do it, the easier it is to do. Once we get used to coffee, we can drink it all the time. We love it. When we begin to fall into a sin frequently, we in essence, put tape over the mouths of our consciences, and feel no regret for our actions any longer. We love our selves instead of God. By our presumption, we redefine “what is true for us”, instead of submitting to God and His Church.

“What is true for me matters most” is the battle cry of this generation against moral absolutism. This type of moral presumption is actually moral relativism, which is running rampant in our current culture. Relativism has found its way into the minds and hearts of so many people, including many Catholics. This is a deadly virus for any human being, but for the catholic, it can be quite catastrophic.

I believe that relativism is closely connected to the sin of presumption, which has incredibly dire consequences. One of the greatest catholic philosophers and apologists of our time, Peter Kreeft states that, “you can’t repent if you don’t believe in sin to repent of, and you can’t believe in sin if you don’t believe in a real moral law, because sin means disobeying that. Moral relativism eliminates that law, thus sin, thus repentance, thus salvation.”  Presumption, like relativism hardens our hearts to the reality of sin. This, as stated previously, leads to final impenitence (final rejection of God), and will separate us from the loving and merciful heart of the Father.

The journey to Heaven begins with one step…

crucifixWhat are some practical ways of rooting out presumption?

1. Daily Examination of Conscience
It does not take long. Most people will do it an the end of their day. Pray to the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Mother to shine the light upon your heart and mind to see in what ways you fell that day. Pray an act of contrition after you see how you fell that day.
2. Regularly attend the Sacrament of Confession. 
You can’t cure the sickness without going to the Doctor. Jesus waits for us in the person of the priest in the Confessional. Prepare your heart properly and excite within your heart a true sorrow for sin then go and be cleansed of the dirt that clings to your soul.
3. Remember your death
Take time to meditate upon your impending death. Check out St. Alphonsus Ligouri’s Preparation for Death. Seek to remember consistently that what you do here affects what happens in eternity.

We are sinners. We must be willing to acknowledge that but also recognize that Jesus wishes to pour out His Divine Mercy on us, if only we would come with repentant hearts. The “Jesus Prayer”, which is held in high regard by our Eastern Rite and separated orthodox brethren is a great prayer to say regularly to remind us of this fact: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  I pray that we can be vigilant against the sin of presumption, and that we will truly cherish the gracious gift of Divine Mercy given to us by Christ through the Sacraments. May we never grow tired of begging our Lord for mercy.

Click on the following link for a Prayer Against the Sin of Presumption.

  

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