Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1822-1829, 1844 – The Theological Virtue of Charity

clock May 19, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the theological virtue of charity. Supporting material comes from the “Summa Theologica”.

Charity

1822 Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.

1823 Jesus makes charity the new commandment.96 By loving his own "to the end,"97 he makes manifest the Father's love which he receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive. Whence Jesus says: "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love." and again: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."98

1824 Fruit of the Spirit and fullness of the Law, charity keeps the commandments of God and his Christ: "Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love."99

1825 Christ died out of love for us, while we were still "enemies."100 The Lord asks us to love as he does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ himself.101

The Apostle Paul has given an incomparable depiction of charity: "charity is patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."102

1826 "If I . . . have not charity," says the Apostle, "I am nothing." Whatever my privilege, service, or even virtue, "if I . . . have not charity, I gain nothing."103 Charity is superior to all the virtues. It is the first of the theological virtues: "So faith, hope, charity abide, these three. But the greatest of these is charity."104

1827 The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which "binds everything together in perfect harmony";105 it is the form of the virtues; it articulates and orders them among themselves; it is the source and the goal of their Christian practice. Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love.

1828 The practice of the moral life animated by charity gives to the Christian the spiritual freedom of the children of God. He no longer stands before God as a slave, in servile fear, or as a mercenary looking for wages, but as a son responding to the love of him who "first loved us":106

If we turn away from evil out of fear of punishment, we are in the position of slaves. If we pursue the enticement of wages, . . . we resemble mercenaries. Finally if we obey for the sake of the good itself and out of love for him who commands . . . we are in the position of children.107

1829 The fruits of charity are joy, peace, and mercy; charity demands beneficence and fraternal correction; it is benevolence; it fosters reciprocity and remains disinterested and generous; it is friendship and communion:
Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest.108

IN BRIEF

1844 By charity, we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for love of God. Charity, the form of all the virtues, "binds everything together in perfect harmony" (⇒ Col 3:14).

In the “Summa Theologica” (Secunda Secundæ Partis, 23, 3), St. Thomas Aquinas discusses the virtue of charity.

Article 3. Whether charity is a virtue?

Objection 1. It would seem that charity is not a virtue. For charity is a kind of friendship. Now philosophers do not reckon friendship a virtue, as may be gathered from Ethic. viii, 1; nor is it numbered among the virtues whether moral or intellectual. Neither, therefore, is charity a virtue.

Objection 2. Further, "virtue is the ultimate limit of power" (De Coelo et Mundo i, 11). But charity is not something ultimate, this applies rather to joy and peace. Therefore it seems that charity is not a virtue, and that this should be said rather of joy and peace.

Objection 3. Further, every virtue is an accidental habit. But charity is not an accidental habit, since it is a more excellent thing than the soul itself: whereas no accident is more excellent than its subject. Therefore charity is not a virtue.

On the contrary, Augustine says (De Moribus Eccl. xi): "Charity is a virtue which, when our affections are perfectly ordered, unites us to God, for by it we love Him."

I answer that, Human acts are good according as they are regulated by their due rule and measure. Wherefore human virtue which is the principle of all man's good acts consists in following the rule of human acts, which is twofold, as stated above (Question 17, Article 1), viz. human reason and God.

Consequently just as moral virtue is defined as being "in accord with right reason," as stated in Ethic. ii, 6, so too, the nature of virtue consists in attaining God, as also stated above with regard to faith, (4, 5) and hope (17, 1). Wherefore, it follows that charity is a virtue, for, since charity attains God, it unites us to God, as evidenced by the authority of Augustine quoted above.

Reply to Objection 1. The Philosopher (Ethic. viii) does not deny that friendship is a virtue, but affirms that it is "either a virtue or with a virtue." For we might say that it is a moral virtue about works done in respect of another person, but under a different aspect from justice. For justice is about works done in respect of another person, under the aspect of the legal due, whereas friendship considers the aspect of a friendly and moral duty, or rather that of a gratuitous favor, as the Philosopher explains (Ethic. viii, 13). Nevertheless it may be admitted that it is not a virtue distinct of itself from the other virtues. For its praiseworthiness and virtuousness are derived merely from its object, in so far, to wit, as it is based on the moral goodness of the virtues. This is evident from the fact that not every friendship is praiseworthy and virtuous, as in the case of friendship based on pleasure or utility. Wherefore friendship for the virtuous is something consequent to virtue rather than a virtue. Moreover there is no comparison with charity since it is not founded principally on the virtue of a man, but on the goodness of God.

Reply to Objection 2. It belongs to the same virtue to love a man and to rejoice about him, since joy results from love, as stated above (I-II, 25, 2) in the treatise on the passions: wherefore love is reckoned a virtue, rather than joy, which is an effect of love. And when virtue is described as being something ultimate, we mean that it is last, not in the order of effect, but in the order of excess, just as one hundred pounds exceed sixty.

Reply to Objection 3. Every accident is inferior to substance if we consider its being, since substance has being in itself, while an accident has its being in another: but considered as to its species, an accident which results from the principles of its subject is inferior to its subject, even as an effect is inferior to its cause; whereas an accident that results from a participation of some higher nature is superior to its subject, in so far as it is a likeness of that higher nature, even as light is superior to the diaphanous body. On this way charity is superior to the soul, in as much as it is a participation of the Holy Ghost.

Footnotes

96 Cf. ⇒ Jn 13:34.
97 ⇒ Jn 13:1.
98 ⇒ Jn 15:9, ⇒ 12.
99 ⇒ Jn 15:9-10; cf. ⇒ Mt 22:40; ⇒ Rom 13:8-10.
100 ⇒ Rom 5:10.
101 Cf. ⇒ Mt 5:44; ⇒ Lk 10:27-37; ⇒ Mk 9:37; ⇒ Mt 25:40, ⇒ 45.
102 ⇒ 1 Cor 13:4-7.
103 ⇒ 1 Cor 13:1-4.
104 ⇒ 1 Cor 13:13.
105 ⇒ Col 3:14.
106 Cf. 1 ⇒ Jn 4:19.
107 St. Basil, Reg. fus. tract., prol. 3 PG 31, 896 B.
108 St. Augustine, In ep. Jo. 10, 4: PL 35, 2057.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1817-1821, 1843 – The Theological Virtue of Hope

clock May 18, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the theological virtue of hope. Supporting material comes from the “Summa Theologica”.

Hope

1817 Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful."84 "The Holy Spirit . . . he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life."85

1818 The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men's activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity.

1819 Christian hope takes up and fulfills the hope of the chosen people which has its origin and model in the hope of Abraham, who was blessed abundantly by the promises of God fulfilled in Isaac, and who was purified by the test of the sacrifice.86 "Hoping against hope, he believed, and thus became the father of many nations."87

1820 Christian hope unfolds from the beginning of Jesus' preaching in the proclamation of the beatitudes. The beatitudes raise our hope toward heaven as the new Promised Land; they trace the path that leads through the trials that await the disciples of Jesus. But through the merits of Jesus Christ and of his Passion, God keeps us in the "hope that does not disappoint."88 Hope is the "sure and steadfast anchor of the soul . . . that enters . . . where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf."89 Hope is also a weapon that protects us in the struggle of salvation: "Let us . . . put on the breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation."90 It affords us joy even under trial: "Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation."91 Hope is expressed and nourished in prayer, especially in the Our Father, the summary of everything that hope leads us to desire.

1821 We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will.92 In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere "to the end"93 and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God's eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for "all men to be saved."94 She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven:

Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.95

IN BRIEF

1843 By hope we desire, and with steadfast trust await from God, eternal life and the graces to merit it.

In the “Summa Theologica” (Secunda Secundæ Partis, 17, 5) St. Thomas Aquinas discusses hope as a theological virtue.

Article 5. Whether hope is a theological virtue?

Objection 1. It would seem that hope is not a theological virtue. For a theological virtue is one that has God for its object. Now hope has for its object not only God but also other goods which we hope to obtain from God. Therefore hope is not a theological virtue.

Objection 2. Further, a theological virtue is not a mean between two vices, as stated above (I-II, 64, 4). But hope is a mean between presumption and despair. Therefore hope is not a theological virtue.

Objection 3. Further, expectation belongs to longanimity which is a species of fortitude. Since, then, hope is a kind of expectation, it seems that hope is not a theological, but a moral virtue.

Objection 4. Further, the object of hope is something arduous. But it belongs to magnanimity, which is a moral virtue, to tend to the arduous. Therefore hope is amoral, and not a theological virtue.

On the contrary, Hope is enumerated (1 Corinthians 13) together with faith and charity, which are theological virtues.

I answer that, Since specific differences, by their very nature, divide a genus, in order to decide under what division we must place hope, we must observe whence it derives its character of virtue.

Now it has been stated above (Article 1) that hope has the character of virtue from the fact that it attains the supreme rule of human actions: and this it attains both as its first efficient cause, in as much as it leans on its assistance, and as its last final cause, in as much as it expects happiness in the enjoyment thereof. Hence it is evident that God is the principal object of hope, considered as a virtue. Since, then, the very idea of a theological virtue is one that has God for its object, as stated above (I-II, 62, 1), it is evident that hope is a theological virtue.

Reply to Objection 1. Whatever else hope expects to obtain, it hopes for it in reference to God as the last end, or as the first efficient cause, as stated above (Article 4).

Reply to Objection 2. In things measured and ruled the mean consists in the measure or rule being attained; if we go beyond the rule, there is excess, if we fall short of the rule, there is deficiency. But in the rule or measure itself there is no such thing as a mean or extremes. Now a moral virtue is concerned with things ruled by reason, and these things are its proper object; wherefore it is proper to it to follow the mean as regards its proper object. On the other hand, a theological virtue is concerned with the First Rule not ruled by another rule, and that Rule is its proper object. Wherefore it is not proper for a theological virtue, with regard to its proper object, to follow the mean, although this may happen to it accidentally with regard to something that is referred to its principal object. Thus faith can have no mean or extremes in the point of trusting to the First Truth, in which it is impossible to trust too much; whereas on the part of the things believed, it may have a mean and extremes; for instance one truth is a mean between two falsehoods. So too, hope has no mean or extremes, as regards its principal object, since it is impossible to trust too much in the Divine assistance; yet it may have a mean and extremes, as regards those things a man trusts to obtain, in so far as he either presumes above his capability, or despairs of things of which he is capable.

Reply to Objection 3. The expectation which is mentioned in the definition of hope does not imply delay, as does the expectation which belongs to longanimity. It implies a reference to the Divine assistance, whether that which we hope for be delayed or not.

Reply to Objection 4. Magnanimity tends to something arduous in the hope of obtaining something that is within one's power, wherefore its proper object is the doing of great things. On the other hand hope, as a theological virtue, regards something arduous, to be obtained by another's help, as stated above (Article 1).

Footnotes

84 ⇒ Heb 10:23.
85 ⇒ Titus 3:6-7.
86 Cf. ⇒ Gen 17:4-8; ⇒ 22:1-18.
87 ⇒ Rom 4:18.
88 ⇒ Rom 5:5.
89 ⇒ Heb 6:19-20.
90 ⇒ 1 Thess 5:8.
91 ⇒ Rom 12:12.
92 Cf. ⇒ Rom 8:28-30; ⇒ Mt 7:21.
93 ⇒ Mt 10:22; cf. Council of Trent DS 1541.
94 ⇒ 1 Tim 2:4.
95 St. Teresa of Avila, Excl. 15:3.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1812-1816, 1840-1842 – The Theological Virtue of Faith

clock May 17, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the theological virtue of faith. Supporting material comes from “Concerning Faith of Things Not Seen” by St. Augustine.

II. The Theological Virtues

1812 The human virtues are rooted in the theological virtues, which adapt man's faculties for participation in the divine nature:76 for the theological virtues relate directly to God. They dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity. They have the One and Triune God for their origin, motive, and object.

1813 The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being. There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity.77

Faith

1814 Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself. By faith "man freely commits his entire self to God."78 For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God's will. "The righteous shall live by faith." Living faith "work(s) through charity."79

1815 The gift of faith remains in one who has not sinned against it.80 But "faith apart from works is dead":81 when it is deprived of hope and love, faith does not fully unite the believer to Christ and does not make him a living member of his Body.

1816 The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it: "All however must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks."82 Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation: "So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven."83

IN BRIEF

1840 The theological virtues dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity. They have God for their origin, their motive, and their object - God known by faith, God hoped in and loved for his own sake.

1841 There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity. They inform all the moral virtues and give life to them.

1842 By faith, we believe in God and believe all that he has revealed to us and that Holy Church proposes for our belief.

St. Augustine discusses the necessity of faith in his letter, “Concerning Faith of Things Not Seen”.

11. But you, beloved, who possess this faith, or who have begun now newly to have it, let it be nourished and increase in you. For as things temporal have come, so long before foretold, so will things eternal also come, which are promised. Nor let them deceive you, either the vain heathen, or the false Jews, or the deceitful heretics, or also within the Catholic (Church) itself evil Christians, enemies by so much the more hurtful, as they are the more within us. For, lest on this subject also the weak should be troubled, divine prophecy has not been silent, where in the Song of Songs the Bridegroom speaking unto the Bride, that is, Christ the Lord unto the Church, says, As a lily in the midst of thorns, so is my best Beloved in the midst of the daughters. He said not, in the midst of them that are without; but, in the midst of daughters. Whoso has ears to hear, let him hear: and while the net which is cast into the sea, and gathers together all kinds of fishes, as says the holy Gospel, is being drawn unto the shore, that is, unto the end of the world, let him separate himself from the evil fishes, in heart, not in body; by changing evil habits, not by breaking sacred nets; lest they who now seem being approved to be mingled with the reprobate, find, not life, but punishment everlasting, when they shall begin on the shore to be separated.

Footnotes

76 Cf. ⇒ 2 Pet 1:4.
77 Cf. ⇒ 1 Cor 13:13.
78 DV 5.
79 ⇒ Rom 1:17; ⇒ Gal 5:6.
80 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1545.
81 ⇒ Jas 2:26.
82 LG 42; cf. DH 14.
83 ⇒ Mt 10:32-33.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 1803-1811, 1833-1839 – The Human Virtues

clock May 16, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections begin the discussion on the virtues. Supporting material comes from St. Augustine’s “Of the Morals of the Catholic Church”.

Article 7

THE VIRTUES

1803 "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."62
A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.

The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.63

I. The Human Virtues

1804 Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.
The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love.

The cardinal virtues

1805 Four virtues play a pivotal role and accordingly are called "cardinal"; all the others are grouped around them. They are: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. "If anyone loves righteousness, [Wisdom's] labors are virtues; for she teaches temperance and prudence, justice, and courage."64 These virtues are praised under other names in many passages of Scripture.

1806 Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; "the prudent man looks where he is going."65 "Keep sane and sober for your prayers."66 Prudence is "right reason in action," writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle.67 It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

1807 Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the "virtue of religion." Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. "You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor."68 "Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven."69

1808 Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. "The Lord is my strength and my song."70 "In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."71

1809 Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will's mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: "Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart."72 Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: "Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites."73 In the New Testament it is called "moderation" or "sobriety." We ought "to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world."74

To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one's heart, with all one's soul and with all one's efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only (God) (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).75

The virtues and grace

1810 Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace. With God's help, they forge character and give facility in the practice of the good. The virtuous man is happy to practice them.

1811 It is not easy for man, wounded by sin, to maintain moral balance. Christ's gift of salvation offers us the grace necessary to persevere in the pursuit of the virtues. Everyone should always ask for this grace of light and strength, frequent the sacraments, cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and follow his calls to love what is good and shun evil.

IN BRIEF

1833 Virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do good.

1834 The human virtues are stable dispositions of the intellect and the will that govern our acts, order our passions, and guide our conduct in accordance with reason and faith. They can be grouped around the four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.

1835 Prudence disposes the practical reason to discern, in every circumstance, our true good and to choose the right means for achieving it.

1836 Justice consists in the firm and constant will to give God and neighbor their due.

1837 Fortitude ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good.

1838 Temperance moderates the attraction of the pleasures of the senses and provides balance in the use of created goods.

1839 The moral virtues grow through education, deliberate acts, and perseverance in struggle. Divine grace purifies and elevates them.

St. Augustine discusses the virtues in “Of the Morals of the Catholic Church” (1, 25, 46).

46. I need say no more about right conduct. For if God is man's chief good, which you cannot deny, it clearly follows, since to seek the chief good is to live well, that to live well is nothing else but to love God with all the heart, with all the soul, with all the mind; and, as arising from this, that this love must be preserved entire and incorrupt, which is the part of temperance; that it give way before no troubles, which is the part of fortitude; that it serve no other, which is the part of justice; that it be watchful in its inspection of things lest craft or fraud steal in, which is the part of prudence. This is the one perfection of man, by which alone he can succeed in attaining to the purity of truth.

Footnotes

62 ⇒ Phil 4:8.
63 St. Gregory of Nyssa, De beatitudinibus, 1: PG 44, 1200D.
64 ⇒ Wis 8:7.
65 ⇒ Prov 14:15.
66 ⇒ 1 Pet 4:7.
67 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 47, 2.
68 ⇒ Lev 19:15.
69 ⇒ Col 4:1.
70 ⇒ Ps 118:14.
71 ⇒ Jn 16:33.
72 ⇒ Sir 5:2; cf. 37:27-31.
73 ⇒ Sir 18:30.
74 ⇒ Titus 2:12.
75 St. Augustine, De moribus eccl. 1, 25, 46: PL 32, 1330-1331.



10 Things Catholics Must Do Now in the Face of the Next Great Persecution

clock November 7, 2012 14:40 by author John |

Prepare yourself. This might just be the most uncomfortable article you read today, and with the help of Divine Grace, I hope it is uncomfortable in a good way. On this day after the reelection of President Obama, the most pro-death president to govern this land, faithful Catholics are feeling defeated. On Twitter and around the Catholic blogosphere, I am witnessing despair, anger, and sadness over the results of the election, the state of our nation, and the unexpected and disappointing answer that was given to so many earnest and sincere prayers. So many masses, novenas, rosaries, and acts of sacrifice were offered for the election of a leader sympathetic if not invested in the common good. To many, it appears that those prayers have been left unanswered. They were answered, but perhaps not in the way most of us wished.

In the typical human way, people are dwelling on the problems. They are replaying the last few months in their heads. “What went wrong? How did this happen?” They are looking ahead to a future that doesn’t seem bright or welcoming. The unknown lies before us. How the President and the secular progressives will treat the faithful in the next four years is yet to be seen, but that uncertainty is part of the problem. We just don’t know what will become of us in the near future and it scares the daylights out of us.

Many of us are embodying the cliché “People spend 90% of their time worrying and 10% of their time finding solutions.” We of course need to reverse those percentages in order to solve the problems before us. I will attempt to do that as I lay out for you a roadmap to be used in reversing the avalanche of evil and ignorance that is bearing down on us and in some cases crushing us. Here are 10 steps to saving yourself, your family and your culture.

1. Identify the Problem

In the past 18 months, the elections have dominated our news coverage, conversations, and daily life. We have been inundated with statistics, talking points and negative advertising. In a sense, we have been played. We have become spectators. We have allowed the media and politicians to feed us our beliefs. Let’s face the hard reality. A man was elected yesterday who has failed in every major area of social and economic policy from an authentic Catholic perspective. He won roughly half the Catholic vote. If you are not puking right now, perhaps it is because reality hasn’t set in. Take the time now to let it sink in and grab a bucket.

Think about it. This man launched a direct attack on the Catholic Church and half of Catholics willingly and happily supported it. The Catholic citizenry of this nation is in a state of disgrace right now. Shame on those Catholics who abandoned their faith through ignorance in forming their conscience or willful disregard of it.

This is a problem, but it is not the root of the problem. The problem is not the culture. I mean it. The problem is not the culture. Sure the culture is corrupt, ignorant, intolerant of Truth and beauty, and increasingly hostile to our beliefs, but I mean it when I say that the problem is not the culture.

The problem is us, the 20% of Catholics who attend mass each week and even the 4% of Catholics who regularly attend confession. We have failed in our duties. We have not evangelized, catechized, rebuked, and prayed enough. We have let the culture dictate terms to us. We have let our fellow Catholics, Church-going or not live in ignorance and disobedience without fraternal correction. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself this: “Have I done everything I possibly could to convert the culture?” I will answer that question for you: “No”. You are a human. You are not God. You are imperfect. You have failed in some way.

2. Contemplate the Problem and React Passionately to it

Now that we have identified the problem, our focus naturally shifts toward a solution. I propose that we first spend a little time dwelling on it. A little righteous indignation is useful and warranted. Allow the sting of this election, of this cultural rebuke of our faith and our God to sink in. Remember this day. Remember how you feel. Think about the choices we were given in this election. Neither man truly represented an authentic moral ethic. The man who lost was likely the lesser of two evils, but what does it say about our culture that the best two men we could produce to lead this country represent merely 2 evils? Think about the unknown that lies before us. Does it scare you? It scares me and that is alright with me.

God has given us passions. They are a gift to us that when used appropriately are powerful tools which motivate and energize us. If God didn’t intend for you to experience the emotions, He wouldn’t have given them to you. He also gave you a will and an intellect. In the perfect order of things, the passions are subordinate to the will and the intellect. That does not mean that they are useless.

We must use the will and the intellect to drive and direct the passions. Working together, the will, the intellect and the passions are the tools we use to achieve greatness. They propel us toward perfection, which is God. Channel the emotions, the passions, and the pain you may feel right now. Use those passions to drive you toward changing the culture, starting with yourself.

3. Pray for Fortitude

The task ahead of us is not easy. You may be passionate about changing the culture, but once you begin to engage the culture, you will soon meet with resistance. Immediately, in fact. When someone doesn’t like your message, they will attack you. How will you respond? People admire conviction, but they lash out when your conviction compels them to reevaluate their life.

Keep that in the back of your mind. You will need courage when facing the culture, but an even more challenging obstacle lies in your immediate path.  Before you can effectively engage the culture, you must prepare yourself by identifying your own sinfulness and failures. This is the step at which most people turn back. In this step, we perhaps see how we are not so different from those in the culture that personify the moral collapse we are witnessing around us. I am not giving in to moral equivocation here; I am simply telling you that the first step toward purification of the culture is purification of your soul, which I will address in the next item.

Fortitude is part resolve, a product of the will, and part grace, a product of the Holy Spirit. Direct your will to be resolute, unflinching in the face of adversity. Pray for fortitude. You will need it when facing the culture, but it is more warranted when facing your soul. Don’t just pray generally for courage. Pray for the infusion of the Holy Spirit’s most valuable gift: grace. Pray directly to the Holy Spirit, the Breath of God, which came down upon the apostles and empowered them to carry out the same mission you now face. As He enkindled in them the fire, pray that He will ignite your heart to carry out your mission.

4. Clean your soul

The first target of a sinful culture is a hypocrite. Look at the way the culture attacks the Church over the abuse crisis. Do you think abuse is limited to the Catholic Church? No. There are plenty of organizations that have experienced the same failure. The Church was attacked because of the hypocrisy of proclaiming purity while its priests lived in defiance of that call. Do not attempt to convert the culture before you have converted yourself. You cannot give that which you do not have. If you do not have grace in your soul, you cannot work as effectively for the conversion of others. A clean conscience and a spotless soul give you the freedom to proclaim the gospel to others.

Be sure that you have prayed for fortitude because this is the most difficult step in the process. You must be forthright and examine your conscience. Clean your soul. Be ruthless. Be thorough. Many times people will confess a few sins, but out of embarrassment or pride leave out sins that they allow to linger in their lives and which weigh on their consciences. This is a burden these people carry around with them day in and day out. Confess everything. Just do it. Go to another priest for confession if you are embarrassed to confess something troubling to your priest. Go to another parish. Go to another state if you want to. Just confess everything. Make a clean start.

An earnest prayer to the Holy Spirit before a difficult confession will give you the strength you need to make a good confession. Sometimes it is only by this grace that you will be able to truly be free of your sins.

5. Learn your faith

That which you do not have cannot be given. Your knowledge of the faith will be put to the test as you engage people who do not understand Jesus and His Church. Daily reading of spiritual works in necessary to grow your faith and strengthen your understanding of the many difficult requirements of being a faithful Catholic. Do not take this as a suggestion. This is an order. Actively learn the faith daily.

When I say daily, I mean it. Just as your body needs daily nourishment to function properly, so too does your mind need daily nourishment in the ways of the faith to function properly. Without refreshment of the concepts of the faith, the demands of life begin to crowd out the light of spiritual knowledge. Knowledge begets understanding and acceptance of the Truth.

Knowledge provides the foundation upon which we can make our appeal to others. The light of truth can be made known in many ways to people, but essential in any appeal, whether to reason or the emotions, is a firm understanding of the truths of the faith. If you know the faith, its transmission will come more easily.

6. Put God and your faith first

You hear this slogan often. Take it to heart. Our culture is perfectly tuned to place entertainment and work between you and God. If you have a full-time job, it likely takes at least 8 hours – one third of your day. When you factor in a commute, preparing and eating meals, taking care of children, meeting with friends and relatives, hardly any time is left over. The demands on our time do not stop there, however. We have still to satisfy the requirements of entertainment. 

The average household has the TV on in the background for more than 7 hours per day. Where, then is the time for God? How many of us, tired from working sit down after dinner and watch television for several hours, rise exhausted from our chair and go straight to bed, repeating platitudes about just not having the time for anything? We have no time for God because we do not make time for God.

We must place God first. We must make time for Him. I’m not talking about a quick prayer before bed or grace before meals. These are the bare minimum. Make abundant time for Him each day. We must not fear the impression people get when we limit the start of our day at work so that we can go to mass. Who is more important – your boss or the omnipotent and just God? Can you not make time to go to mass at 6:00 in the morning, or during your lunch, or after work each day? It isn’t convenient if you don’t make it convenient. It doesn’t have to be convenient in the first place. God should not be a convenience. He should be the first priority.

Don’t set aside time for God after work. This is the wrong approach. Set aside every other concern and pray to Him with your family. Don’t worry about time constraints, allotting God 15 or 30 minutes each day. Pray to Him and forget about everything until you are satisfied with your prayer; that you have conversed appropriately with Him. Do spiritual reading every day. Read from the Bible, the Catechism, the writings of the Saints, the Liturgy of the Hours. Give God primacy of your time.

You don’t have to give God most of your time, but you should make the time with him first and foremost. Who cares if that means you can’t make an early morning meeting. If your employer can’t respect your time, you have the option of finding another employer who will. Don’t answer calls from work while you are praying. The matter cannot be as important as your relationship with God. Don’t structure your prayer life around work or household responsibilities. Structure your responsibilities around your time for God, leaving adequate buffer so that you don’t feel rushed in your prayer.

7. Get Used to Discomfort and Make Sacrifices

Do you love God? The answer should be yes, and if it is, then you must be willing to sacrifice for Him. Love without sacrifice is shallow. Would you claim to love your spouse, your parents, or friends but refuse to help them in need? Of course not. Love demands placing the object of your love before yourself. God asks us to do difficult things in our lives. You cannot truly love God without sacrificing for Him. A virtuous life requires the pain of sacrifice.

Take sacrifice and discomfort on yourself. Perform works of mercy regularly for others. Pray whether it is convenient or not. Give alms to help the Church and those in need. Fast on a regular basis, not just when the Church mandates it. These things strengthen the will against the urges. If our urges are disproportionate to our will, we become slaves to them. Strengthen your will by making voluntary sacrifices so that when sacrifices are demanded of us, they are but an ordinary part of our life.

If you are not willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, which is your very life, you are not yet perfected in the training and strengthening of your will. Of course not everyone is at the point where they can offer their lives for God, but it should be a goal of ours to perfect our will so that we one day will have that courage necessary to offer it willingly. God loved you enough to be tortured and Crucified for your sins. You should be willing to endure the same for Him. Your reward will not be on this Earth, but in the joy of eternal happiness in Heaven among the angels and saints. Let us hope that it will not come to that in this country in our lifetimes. On the other hand, don’t think it could not happen both here and now. In every age and in every nation of the Church, men and women of faith have been persecuted for their love of God. Why should our age and our nation be any different? Cardinal George, who is a scholar of history, has said,

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”

8. Be Cheerful and Optimistic

Building on the resolve which results from self-denial, we can find everyday sacrifices to be ordinary, and in time, they can even be a joy to us as we realize the benefits of grace. As we grow in virtue, we can even meet extraordinary sacrifices with peace and acceptance. Our sacrifices should never be evident on our faces. We should be cheerful and optimistic to everyone we encounter, as we bring the joy of Christ to them.

This is perhaps a bit of a superficial effort at first, as it takes time to become accustomed to it. After time, true joy will spring up in us as we feed off the reactions of others to simple things like a smile or a positive response to a difficult task.  We should seek to enjoy our reward in Heaven, and by keeping this in mind: that every good deed will be rewarded, every challenge acknowledged, and every wrong righted in this life or the next; we will be disposed to bring joy to every situation.

If given the grace, even the grim foreboding of a religious persecution can be met with composure and dignity. Using the saints as our guide, we can accept the opportunity to sacrifice for God:

Perpetua and Felicitas were exposed to a mad heifer. Perpetua was tossed first and fell on her back, but raised herself and gathered her torn tunic modestly about her; then, after fastening up her hair, lest she look as if she were in mourning, she rose and went to help Felicitas, who had been badly hurt by the animal. Side by side they stood, expecting another assault, but the sated audience cried out that it was enough. They were therefore led to the gate Sanevivaria, where victims who had not been killed in the arena were dispatched by gladiators. Here Perpetua seemed to arouse herself from an ecstasy and could not believe that she had already been exposed to a mad heifer until she saw the marks of her injuries. She then called out to her brother and to the catechumen: "Stand fast in the faith, and love one another. Do not let our sufferings be a stumbling block to you." By this time the fickle populace was clamoring for the women to come back into the open. This they did willingly, and after giving each other the kiss of peace, they were killed by the gladiators. Perpetua had to guide the sword of the nervous executioner to her throat. – From the book, "Lives of the saints, with excerpts from their writings: selected and illustrated" by Joseph Vann, Thomas Bernard Plassmann

9. Be a Saint

By any realistic measure, these works are difficult and fraught with failure. We are prone to error and sin. Our motivation will at times wane. We have competing desires and responsibilities. We must acknowledge our frailties, imperfections, and mistakes. We must constantly evaluate our lives and reorient ourselves toward the right path.

Frequent confession and the daily exercises of prayer, reception of the Eucharist, examination of conscience, acts of contrition, and sacrifices will help us to stay focused on Jesus and promoting His Church. In short, we must be saints. We are all called to it and we must all respond to that call.

10. Evangelize

If we ever expect our culture to improve, if we hope to prevent the next great persecution, we must evangelize the culture. John Paul II called us all to be agents of the New Evangelization. We must take this call as a serious and personal challenge. We must not be afraid to offend people by our beliefs. Their offense is not a result of the truth we convey, but of the improper disposition they maintain toward that which is right and just. We do not have to chastise at every opportunity, but we must teach, catechize and encourage virtue and truth. On an individual level, once a person understands the truth, we can charitably correct them.

This task is not easy. It is not a simple process of spewing facts of the faith and then rebuking someone. It is an iterative process whereby we are constantly teaching, encouraging, loving, and correcting with joy and truth.

Start Today

Start this process today. Do not wait for a convenient moment. Do not wait for someone to invite you. The stakes are high. You do not know what tomorrow holds for you or your ability to practice the faith. Prayer, fasting, penance, sacrifice, and evangelization are our only hope to change the culture and bring about a nation where our beliefs and freedoms are cherished and protected. No one will do this work for you. Take it upon yourself today to change the culture starting with your own soul.

The Truth will be made known to all one way or another. Throughout history, God has allowed tribulations to bring His people back into the fold. Let us work together now so that our culture does not require such stern correction and reminding of the realities of truth and justice.



What Are the 7 Corporal Works of Mercy? (The Catholic Meaning)

clock October 3, 2012 05:45 by author John |

"And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?" He said to them in reply, "Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise." - Luke 3:10-11

The 7 Corporal Works of Mercy are:

  1. To feed the hungry;
  2. To give drink to the thirsty;
  3. To clothe the naked;
  4. To harbor the harborless;
  5. To visit the sick;
  6. To ransom the captive;
  7. To bury the dead.

Faith calls us to follow the 10 Commandment, to receive the Sacraments, and to pray, but it also calls us to practice charity for our neighbors when they are in need. While we know that faith is essential for our salvation, we also know that we cannot be saved by faith alone. As we see in the Book of James:

"You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,' and he was called 'the friend of God.' See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone." - James 2:22-24

These works of Mercy are the more practical and visible ways to exercise our faith to those in need. The first and second of these works are closely related. In contemplating them, we ask ourselves, how often do we help provide for the needs of those who are hungry and thirsty? Do we help out at food pantries; do we donate food or money to buy food for the hungry? Our witness can be extremely powerful by giving "our daily bread" to those who so desperately need it.

We are called to give clothing to the naked. This thought should compel us to consider the excess of clothing that many of us have. How many pairs of shoes do we need? How many pairs of pants and shirts are really necessary for us? Is it possible for us to donate these excesses of ours in order to bring hope to those who need it?

The issue of homelessness is very prominent in our world. Imagine the pain of those who truly have nowhere to go. Are our doors open to those who are in need? Do we offer to take in the homeless? Do we give money to the many Catholic shelters that provide such crucial aid to those who are unable to provide for themselves?

We must visit the sick. In doing so, we uphold the dignity of the human person. Consider the feelings of those who spend so much time in hospitals and nursing homes without the comfort of those they love. How many of our elderly are permanently confined to stark building with little love or attention paid to them? We should freely choose to visit the shut-ins, the sick, and the lonely. We can be a great source of hope in their lives.

Now the sixth work of mercy will undoubtedly perplex many. How many captives do we know? People are not kidnapped in our presence very often. This particular act of mercy is always of some value to us, however. Consider those in places without the right to freely practice religion. The mere act of going to mass likely brings the threat of imprisonment. Do we offer any help to these destitute faithful? Do we offer or even investigate the options available to us in providing help to them? Do we even pray for them? Consider also the possibilities of visiting the imprisoned. Do we care for those in jail? Let us not forget those who are imprisoned, especially those who are held captive because of their love for God.

Finally, the last of the works of the corporal works of mercy urges us to bury the dead. Fortunately, in our society, burying the dead is normally done with the necessary respect. There are situations, however, where this respect is forgotten and we treat the dead with neglect. Consider the cases of cryogenic freezing in the hope of reviving them many years later. Clearly this does not show the proper respect for their bodies. Consider those who turn their loved ones ashes into diamonds or other types of jewelry or who scatter their ashes. Of course there is also the disrespect show to those who are aborted. They are thrown in the dumpster as medical waste. Let us always show due respect for the bodies of those who have gone before us.

In practicing these corporal works of mercy, just as with the spiritual works of mercy, we build up the dignity of the human person. These are opportunities for grace in our daily lives. In exercising the works of mercy, we truly follow the commands that Christ gave us:

"Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'" - Matthew 25:34-40



What are the 7 Spiritual Works of Mercy? (The Catholic Meaning)

clock October 2, 2012 05:30 by author John |

Mercy is a virtue. It compels us to alleviate the suffering of another. The Church presents us with 7 spiritual and 7 corporal works of mercy. These are ways in which we can practice charity to others and thus bring about tremendous good in the world. The practice of these works is required of all of us. These works are binding. Though it may not always be possible to practice them, as the situation does not present itself to perform these works at all times, we should always take the opportunities to live by these works when possible.

The 7 Spiritual Works of Mercy:

  1. To instruct the ignorant;
  2. To counsel the doubtful;
  3. To admonish sinners;
  4. To bear wrongs patiently;
  5. To forgive offenses willingly;
  6. To comfort the afflicted;
  7. To pray for the living and the dead.

The first work is to instruct the ignorant. By this we are called to instruct others in the faith. This involves teaching formally and dispelling misconceptions and fallacies when they arise. How often do we hear people speaking as if they had authority, only to spread false teachings about Christ and His Church? When these situations arise, we must spring to action. We must therefore, be informed about our faith so that we may properly teach it to those who do not yet know the fullness of the truth.

When we encounter those who are unsure of their faith, we must affirm them in it and help them grow. Everyone’s faith is tested, as that is the only way it can grow. Untested faith is a house of cards, waiting to collapse. Our faith must be tested in fire so that it may be strong. There are times, however, when that fire causes the faith to be soft and malleable on its way to solidifying. During these times when our loved ones are suffering loss, persecution, or anger, and their faith is in doubt, we must stand by them and offer show them the way. We must show them the ultimate source of strength, Jesus.

The third of these works of mercy is to admonish the sinner. This can be the most difficult to carry out. We know that sinfulness is a very secretive and explosive matter. The sinner frequently recognizes his sins, but is defensive about them. Neglect of this particular work of mercy has led to our society being so morally relativistic. If the truth is not made known, it will be forgotten. Though it may cause strife at times, we must bear this cross and carry on. We must tell people when they are sinning. They will likely counter with the line “Stop judging me!” Of course we should not judge others, but sins are committed in plain sight, and so they must be addressed. We must not make assumptions about sins that are implied or that might not have taken place, but we must inform people when they are blatantly sinning.

We must bear wrongs patiently. This is also a very difficult task. Our pride gets in the way. We must not be taken advantage of, says our ego. Truly, when others offend us, injure us, attack us, or undermine us, we are called to “Turn the other cheek”. We can do no better than to imitate Christ, the silent victim, who by His patient, courageous endurance of all forms of bodily and mental torture. He was beaten, insulted and killed, yet in His acceptance, He purchased our redemption. How marvelous would our reward be if we could just bear the slightest wrongs with joy and hope in our eternal reward?

Inseparably bound with the patient endurance of offenses, is the forgiveness of them. When our heart is filled with bitterness and grudges, we find no room for the love of Christ within it. Forgiveness requires heroic virtue at times. Mercy dictates that we forgive others’ faults and wrongs, even when it pains us greatly and gives us no temporal satisfaction. Heroism requires sacrifice. Sometimes the greatest heroism stems from the sacrifice of pride. Forgiveness is an eternal virtue, as we will find forgiveness after death to the degree that we showed it to others in this life.

There are times when all we can do is to give a thoughtful word to someone in pain or sorrow. We must comfort the afflicted. In doing so, we help others cope with difficulties. We build up the dignity of our brothers and sisters in Christ when we give them our time and comfort, for those who suffer, sometimes suffer the most painful of ordeals when they find no one who is willing to help them in their struggles. They find their dignity and self-worth crushed. Let us never leave a friend in misery without some heart-felt words or a loving embrace to lift them out of their affliction.

Finally, the greatest and most powerful form of mercy is prayer, for though we can provide physical and emotional aid to our neighbors, the Lord God can provide the greatest aid, which is spiritual. Our prayers are the most important form of mercy we can give. It shows our ultimate dedication to the alleviation of the burdens of others. Our private intercession for our neighbors and for the departed brings us little fame or admiration from others, but in the end, when we stand before God, we will be able to give an account of our prayerful mercy to others, and so Jesus will in turn show us mercy.

These works are not optional. They are indeed binding and necessary for our eternal salvation. We are called to be merciful. The opportunities are frequent and urgent. Let us not pass by the afflicted in their times of trial. Let us love others through these spiritual works so that through our sacrifice, we may bring others to the greatest joy, which is the vision of God in all His splendor in Heaven.



What is the Catholic Meaning of Humility?

clock September 30, 2012 05:47 by author John |

Elisha bade the poor widow “borrow vessels, even empty vessels not a few, and pour oil into all those vessels;” and so in order to receive God’s Grace in our hearts, they must be as empty vessels—not filled with self-esteem. The swallow with its sharp cry and keen glance has the power of frightening away birds of prey, and for that reason the dove prefers it to all other birds, and lives surely beside it;—even so humility drives Satan away, and cherishes the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit within us, and for that reason all the Saints—and especially the King of Saints and His Blessed Mother—have always esteemed the grace of humility above all other virtues. – St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life

 

In the simplest sense, humility is a virtue whereby a person is keenly aware of his shortcomings and deficiencies, has a balanced view of himself and his position in the world, and submits himself to God and other people. It is not necessary for us to practice the virtue of humility by thinking of ourselves as worthless or less important than other people. Humility is being realistic about ourselves. Humility allows us to identify both our God-given gifts failings and their abundance in us in relation to others.

Humility is a component of the virtue of temperance. Temperance rightly orders our desires and expressions. Humility is a virtue that stands against the sin of pride. It is a foundational element of the spiritual life. We cannot aspire to God until we have properly formed our opinion of our place in the universe. In a sense, humility allows us to overcome ourselves in order to seek God.

Jesus spoke of the virtue of humility in His Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land… Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in Heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you. “(Matthew 5:5,11-12).

Humility does not entail welcoming humiliations, though they can be a path to building the virtue of humility, by showing us the errors in our pride. We can in some cases take the virtue of humility too far and in doing so, degrade our worth and even inspire the sin of pride in others. Humility should be practiced in deference to the virtue of temperance, not allowing ourselves to lower ourselves too much, but also not allowing pride to grow in us.



Catholic Cheerfulness

clock September 29, 2012 19:34 by author John |

“May no one read sadness or sorrow in your face, when you spread in the world around you the sweet aroma of your sacrifice: the children of God should always be sowers of peace and joy.” St. José María Escrivá, The Furrow, #59.

 

The old saying goes “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”. It seems like an almost universally accepted truth. If only all of the truth of the Catholic Faith was as widely held. People simply respond more favorably to you when you have a smile on your face and authentic joy in your heart. A joyful person is approachable, inviting, and appealing. Perhaps more importantly, a joyful person is disarming.

It is common for unbelievers and critics to claim that Catholics are a sorrowful bunch. Many times this may be true. Some of us though meaning well simply forget that in God, Joy is abundant. We may take a serious tone in talking with people about the rules and proofs of our faith. They may see us forgoing worldly pleasures and assume that we are devoid of cheer. This of course is because they consider pleasure to be joy. How wrong they are! Nevertheless, we would all do well to be reminded of the joy we profess to others in our faith.

These days it seems like there is so much for us to be cheerless about. There are wars raging in many parts of the world. People are starving in the third world. Throughout history Christians have been persecuted. We were food for the lions in Rome. Our cathedrals were ransacked while our priests were martyred in the “enlightened” days of the French Revolution. Hitler starved us alongside the Jews in his dark days. Perhaps never in history has it been more apparent that a great persecution was looming against Christ and His Church than it is now.

Despite all of that, it is perhaps more imperative than ever that we carry the joy of Christ in our hearts. Though we enjoy many freedoms now, many of us are rightly afraid of the days ahead. When evil begins to gain the upper hand and it seems like the battle is unwinnable; when we have lost those freedoms we have taken for granted, and it seems everything points to sorrow and pain, it is precisely in those moments that we must wear that joy not only in our hearts, but on our faces. Joy may be one of the few things we have left if things continue on their course. Joy is one of those gifts, along with faith, reason, and intellect that no one can take from us unless we give up on it.

If we are cheerful, we can more effectively carry out Christ’s mission for us. Joy lightens the load and makes the journey bearable. Joy can transform the world. More importantly, joy can transform each of us. Joy can lead us to Heaven, and as C.S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of Heaven”