Category Archives: The Spiritual Life

Monday, 14th Week in Ordinary Time

I went to confession again, today. This is the third time in seven days. What a wretch I am. The Lord knows I’m a sinner, and I’m ashamed that I have been falling into mortal sin so frequently.

These feelings of shame are counter-balanced with feelings of gratitude. I am grateful for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. What an incredible mercy that God gives us! I commit a mortal sin, deserve to be cast into Hell, despite living an otherwise righteous life, but this Sacrament is here to wipe my sins away, again. Oh, Lord you are so merciful! How can this be? I don’t understand this love you have for me, but I’m grateful.

Inspired by the diary of Saint Faustina, I asked the Lord to be one of His Chosen. He asked me if I knew what I was asking for, and I replied that I do not know but I completely trust in his Mercy and will accept what he gives me. My prayer life was increasing in intensity, and God allowed the old temptations to come back in order to test my resolve.

Obviously, I failed. Yet, God was teaching me that I have yet to rely on his strength. If I want to be one of His Chosen, then I need to turn to him always. I still need to learn how to fight my basic temptations. These old battles need to be fought again before my Lord and Commander gives me more difficult assignments. The Holy Spirit is revealing that my old weaknesses are still there and may never go away. So I need to learn to rely on Christ always. 

The enemy will set traps and I need to be vigilant. The enemy knows my weaknesses, too, and will exploit them. The only way I can defeat their efforts is to struggle with prayer during those moments of temptation. If there Our Fathers is not enough for those temptations to subside, then say a whole rosary. If a whole rosary is not enough, then kneel and do a chaplet of Divine Mercy. I have other spiritual weapons at my disposal and I should familiarize myself with them, as any good soldier would before battle.

I will be mortally wounded, like I was yesterday. Whether the death was by the enemy or by my own carelessness doesn’t matter. There is no need for me to walk around dead, like a zombie. I can be healed in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I can always start over after a mortal “game over” until the power that keeps my physical body alive is shut off. Praise be to God. Have mercy on me. Train me to be a better soldier. I want to do battle for you.

Resolve to Be Grateful

I’m enjoying a Bourbon Pecan Tart on a late Saturday morning in Gangnam, Seoul. A tiny cup of bitter espresso sits finished on its plate, satisfied to have accompanied the sweet tart to its end.

Paris Croissant, Gangnam

I’m pondering why it’s taken me so long to write, again. One month turned into a year, and now… what? Two years or more? I don’t know for sure and I’m too lazy to go check.

It doesn’t matter, though. What matters is that I start, again. With a shot of espresso in my tummy, I feel animated to take a few minutes to reflect: where am I in my spiritual life?

Lent, my favorite liturgical session, started out well but ended in sin. How ironic… having gone into Easter as soiled and broken as I was seven years ago, when I first entered the Church. That condition was fitting, though, since it was a sharp reminder of my spiritual pride. I had believed my increase in piety, my growth in charity and my goodness was intrinsic to my own efforts. My fall corrected me of that notion. The subsequent Sacraments (yes, plural) of Reconciliation were a merciful ladder dropped down by God, and I was able to climb out of my own stinking pit of sin. I wager my Guardian Angel gave my soul a helpful push or two during my escape. Now, I’m still not far from the pit I escaped, but the healing has begun and I feel more resolved to continue on my journey towards holiness.

Are you curious about the nature of my fall? Don’t be embarrassed; it’s only natural to be curious. That curiosity, at its best, helps us relate to one another. So, let’s say the fall was murder, adultery and theft. All of the above. Imagine the most damning sin and I committed it because all mortal sin cuts us off from God.

However, let’s not dwell on sin. There is no evil that God cannot forgive. That is the hope that Christ’s death on the Cross gives all humankind: He already paid our debts. He already suffered our punishment that rightfully should’ve been borne by us. This hope is all the more magnified by the fact that Jesus only needed a single drop of His Precious Blood to redeem the whole universe, but He was gratuitous with His Love and endured the Crucifixion.

A moment’s reflection on that thought is bittersweet. I avoided punishment because He bore it for me; but, I have done little to show my gratitude.

You may have felt the same. The gravity of our sins, and the just punishment we deserve, have been forgiven and forgotten. We are happy, but do we just walk away from Jesus like those lepers who were healed? Or do we come back and learn more about this Healer who saved us? He asks us to follow Him, take up our daily challenges and walk with Him. How well are we doing that?

Let us resolve to love Christ better. Let us pray for each other. Ask the Holy Spirit to give us greater grace to carry our crosses so that, step by step, we gradually understand what it means to be a child of God.

A Meditation on Saint Joseph

Most of us prefer to give our lives over to God by the tablespoon; I certainly count myself among that number. Saint Joseph, patron saint of fathers, the Universal Church, and many other patronages, provides an example of a life that was wholly given to serve God. He did not measure out his life when loving and obeying God. And that is what makes him a remarkable person to emulate.

The Nativity

This Saturday, March 19, 2016, will be Saint Joseph’s feast day. My family will be celebrating by making BBQ L.A. Galbi short-ribs, and we’ll be sharing this meal with other families during a fellowship of parents. For this post, I wanted to share quotes from an article that talks about why Saint Joseph’s character is so important for men and husbands, today:

Father Jacques Philippe, in a wonderful little book called Interior Freedom, reminds us that very often the experience of genuine freedom requires acceptance of that which we simply cannot change. He calls it “the paradoxical law of human life,” which grows out of the recognition that “one cannot be truly free unless one accepts not always being free.” In other words, the moments when we are most likely to mature as human beings—enlarging the scope of our own sanctity, as it were—are precisely the times when room to maneuver and master the situation do not exist. But that since life is primarily a gift, why should it matter that we’re unable to manage things?

How piercing the light of that paradox falls upon the life of St. Joseph. Could he, for instance, have imagined a situation in which he was outwardly less free than the one resulting from the fact that his intended bore him a child that did not belong to him? To submit to a situation not of own making? Speaking lines of a script he hadn’t himself written? Had he no other options? Fr. Philippe tells us that when faced with circumstances we do not choose, especially when they appear dangerous and intrusive, there are three possibilities that present themselves to us. There is, to begin with, the option of rebellion, of brazen refusal and revolt in the face of a summons we did not solicit and are loath to welcome. To recoil from the reality before us, says Fr. Philippe, “is often our first, spontaneous reaction to difficulty or suffering. But it has never solved anything.”

Then there is the posture of resignation, which amounts to “a declaration of powerlessness that goes no further. It may be a necessary stage,” he adds, “but if one stops there it also is sterile.”

That leaves option number three, which is an attitude of receptivity leading to real and lasting assent. “We say yes to a reality we initially saw as negative, because we realize that something positive may arise from it.” And the quality of hope hidden in the gesture, as in the willingness of Joseph to extend himself in trust, becomes the grace that ultimately saves. Fr. Philippe is most adamant about the point, assuring us that “the most important thing in our lives is not so much what we can do as leaving room for what God can do. The great secret of all spiritual fruitfulness and growth is learning to let God act.”

I particularly like the quote in the concluding paragraph, attributed to George Bernanos (1888-1948), a French author: “A saint doesn’t live on the interest of his income, or even on his income; he lives on his capital, he gives all of his soul… To engage one’s soul! O, that is not merely a literary image.” This resonates with me because I often find myself obsessed with my family’s investments. The words remind me that I should not be a miser, but to give my whole self over to serve my family, and through them, God.



Loyalty to God

Routine is often disguised as an ambition to do or to embark upon great feats, while daily duties are lazily neglected. When you see this beginning to happen, look at yourselves sincerely before our Lord: ask yourself if the reason why you may have become tired of always struggling on the same thing, is not simply that you were not seeking God; check if your faithful perseverance in work has not fallen off, caused by a lack of generosity and a spirit of sacrifice. It is then that your norms of piety, your little mortifications, your apostolic efforts that are not reapin an immediate harvest, all seem to be terribly sterile. We find ourselves empty, and perhaps we start dreaming up new plans merely to still the voice of our Heavenly Father, who asks us to be totally loyal to him. And with this dream or rather nightmare, of mighty wonders in our soul, we become oblivious to reality, forgetting the way that will lead us most certainly straight toward sanctity. It is a clear sign that we have lost our supernatural outlook, our conviction that we are tiny children, and our confidence that our Father will work wonders in us, if we begin again with humility.

From “Friends of God,” by St. Josemaria Escriva

Works that Merit a Plenary Indulgence

Have you ever wondered what kind of works would help you obtain a plenary indulgence? The Catholic Church has published an updated handbook (a.k.a. “enchiridion”) on indulgences and lists a number of works that can be performed, in addition to the other requirements (i.e. Confession, Communion, prayers for the Pope, etc.), that will merit a full plenary indulgence.

To save you time, here is a filtered list of works that would get you a plenary indulgence (30 out of 70):

  1. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for 30 minutes.
  2. Visit a Patriarchal Basilica in Rome, pray the Our Father, recite the Creed on either (a) the titular feast of that Basilica, (b) on any Holy Day of Obligation, or (c) once a year on any other day of one’s choice.
  3. Piously and devoutly receive — even by radio — the blessing of the Pope when imparted to Rome and the world (Urbi et Orbi).
  4. Visit to a cemetery and praying for the departed during November 1 – 8. Only applies to souls in Purgatory.
  5. Solemnly assist in the liturgical action of Good Friday at the adoration of the Cross and kiss it.
  6. Reciting “Look Down Upon Me, Good and Gentle Jesus” during Fridays of Lent and Passiontide before an image of Christ crucified.

    Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus, while before your face I humbly kneel, and with burning soul pray and beseech you to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope and charity, true contrition for my sins, and a firm purpose of amendment, while I contemplate with great love and tender pity your five wounds, pondering over them within me, calling to mind the words which David, your prophet, said of you, my good Jesus: “They have pierced my hands and my feet; they have numbered all my bones.”

  7. Devoutly participate in the customary solemn Eucharistic Rite at the close of the Eucharistic Congress.
  8. Spend at least three whole days in the spiritual exercises of a retreat.
  9. Publicly recite “Most Sweet Jesus–Act of Reparation” on the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
  10. Publicly recite “Most Sweet Jesus, Redeemer–Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ King” on the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King.
  11. At the moment of death. This is the only exception where the other three prerequisites are not required (Confession, Communion, Prayers for the Pope’s Intentions).
  12. Using an article of devotion (i.e. crucifix, rosary, scapular, etc.) on the feast of the Holy Apostles, Peter & Paul, that has been blessed either by the Pope or a bishop. Must also include a profession of faith according to any legitimate formula.
  13. Attending a mission, hear some of the sermons and are present for the solemn close of the mission.
  14. Receiving First Communion or those who assist at the sacred ceremonies of a First Communion.
  15. Devoutly assist at the first Mass of a newly ordained priest.
  16. Reciting the rosary in a Church, public oratory, a family group, a religious community or pious association. Regulated as follows: all five decades must be recited continuously, vocal recitation must be accompanied by pious meditation of the mysteries, and customary public recitation according to the place.
  17. During the jubilees of sacerdotal ordination. The priest and those who assist him at his jubilee Mass, celebrating the 25th, 50th and 60th anniversary of his ordination.
  18. Reading Sacred Scripture for 30 minutes.
  19. Assisting at the sacred functions celebrated in the morning or evening at the Stational Churches in Rome as indicated in the Roman Missal for that day.
  20. Reciting one Our Father and the Creed while visiting the Church where a Diocesan Synod is taking place.
  21. Reciting “Down in Adoration Falling” (Tantum Ergo) on Holy Thursday or during the Feast of Corpus Christi.
  22. Reciting “Te Deum” on the last day of the year.
  23. Reciting “Come, Holy Spirit, Creator Blest” on January 1st or during the Feast of Pentecost.
  24. Exercise the Way of the Cross. Regulated as follows: must be done before Stations of the Cross legitimately erected, all 14 stations required, fourteen pious readings/meditations where vocal prayers are added, and movement from one station to the next, (those who can’t walk the stations can fulfill by spending 30 minutes in pious reading/meditation).
  25. Visit to a parochial church on its titular feast or on August 2nd when the indulgence of “portiuncula” occurs. Recite one Our Father and the Creed.
  26. Visiting and reciting the Our Father and the Creed on the day of its consecration.
  27. Visit a Church or Oratory on All Souls Day, and recite the Our Father and the Creed. Applies only to souls in Purgatory.
  28. Visit the Church or Oratory on the feastday of its canonized founder. Recite one Our Father and the Creed.
  29. Assisting at a sacred function at which the Visitator presides during a pastoral visitation.
  30. Renewing baptismal promises during the Paschal Vigil or on the anniversary of one’s baptism.

Superstitious or Supernatural Outlook?

Do I have a superstitious or supernatural outlook? As a Catholic, I know I am not supposed to be superstitious (i.e., lucky rabbit’s foot, bad luck from broken mirrors, etc.) Yet, this article from the National Catholic Register was thought-provoking, especially this paragraph:

With superstition, or what might be called magic, the practitioner is always manipulating the material world in order to manipulate the supernatural world for his own benefit. The magician or shaman kills a black cat to kill the evil powers that threaten. The superstitious person wears a talisman to ward off the evil eye. The superstitious Catholic says prayers and does penance to get God to give him what we wants. [Emphasis mine.] The superstitious Catholic wears a scapular to escape hell—not as a sign of his constant life of prayer and faith.

The passage was thought-provoking because I wondered whether my seeking of plenary indulgences for victims who died from terrorist attacks might be superstitious. Am I doing the requirements for a plenary indulgence in order for God to give me what I want? How do I know whether I am doing my will or doing His will?

This is the challenge of the spiritual life. Do you find yourself with similar struggles? Do you find yourself praying, doing penance or some kind of mortification in order to bargain or manipulate God to give you what you want?

I wonder, in my case, whether it makes a difference that what I want is for the benefit of others. The plenary indulgences I seek are not even for people I know personally. And, I am seeking the help of St. Therese of Lisieux in order to make my indulgent work perfect. I hope that by making the indulgence less about me and more about souls I will one day meet in Heaven, I am conforming to God’s will and growing in supernatural love.

The article goes on to say this:

Supernaturalism, on the other hand, is God’s grace coming to us through the natural world. In superstition we try to impose our will. In Supernaturalism we try to conform to God’s will. In superstition we do something to get our way. In supernaturalism God does something to change us to his way. This is why when we do bring our prayer requests to God we always include the prayers, “According to your will.”

So, that is my hope: God’s grace coming to us through the natural world: bread & wine, acts of contrition, faith, hope and charity, verbal prayer for the Pope’s intentions. If some stain of self-interest remain, then I hope St. Therese will intercede for me and make my offering perfect. I pray that my actions conform to His will, not mine.

Dear Lord, thank you for the Enchiridion of Indulgences. Thank you for allowing us, your humble and useless children, to participate in Your Infinite Mercy. It’s not my actions that merit the plenary indulgences for souls, but the merit of Christ on the Cross. The infinite value of His Sacrifice is stored up in the Heavenly Treasury. In Your Divine Wisdom, we are allowed to participate in Your merciful action; by seeking plenary indulgences, we grow in love for our brothers and sisters who are suffering in Purgatory. We grow in hope that we will one day see them in Heaven and worship You together with them. Amen.

Divine Filiation Deepens through Sacrament of Confirmation

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

The Effects of Confirmation

1302 It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost. (731)

1303 From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace: (1262–1274; 2044)

— it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, “Abba! Father!”;

[Source: Catholic Church. (2000). Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd Ed., p. 330). Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference.]