Category Archives: The Spiritual Life

From Strength to Strength

Bless your people, Lord. You have given us the law that we may walk from strength to strength and raise our minds to you from this valley of tears. May we receive the gifts you have gained for us. 

A Prayer for Our Modern Martyrs

Lord God, you search the hearts of all, both the good and the wicked. May those who are in danger for love of you, find security in you now, and, in the day of judgment, may they rejoice in seeing you face to face.

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We praise you, O Lord, our Savior, inspiration and example for every martyr, for loving us to the end:
We praise you, O Lord.

For incorporating our dead brothers and sisters into your own death today:
We praise you, O Lord.

My Lent 2015

Lent is my favorite liturgical season because I’m a depressing-kind of guy.  The sorrowful mysteries of Our Lord appeal to my melancholic nature, and the sadness during this season counter-balances the joy I feel throughout the rest of the year.

I guess people who know me find it hard to believe that I have a somber nature.  People don’t believe it either when I say that I’m introverted.  The truth is, I get tired around people and I like thinking about my mortality.  Extroverts, I hear, feel energized when they mingle with large groups of people.  They are happy to meet new people.  I dread meeting new people and I would rather talk to one or two friends, if anyone at all.  I prefer to be alone.  Thinking about the shortness of life, and what to do to have no regrets.

Isn’t that weird?  And, I’m a diplomat.  And I do Toastmasters.  And I am involved in Church.  All people-centered activities.  This is how I know the Holy Spirit is alive in my life.  I no longer live, but it is Christ who lives in me.  He allows me to do things that are not really part of my nature.  Grace builds on nature, and God certainly has built much on such a poor foundation.

So, the season of Lent brings me back to my pensive roots.  I am reminded of the cost to Christ for the purchase of my salvation, and the salvation of my brothers and sisters.  I am reminded that we are all pilgrims, trying our best to be faithful, helping where we can.  It’s like we are all on this great big ship going on this incredibly long journey.  The ocean is the world and all its attractions, like the sirens of Greek mythology.  Can you blame us, Lord, for our weakness?  Are you surprised to see us jump ship, only to drown in our slavery to sin?  It takes so much discipline to tie ourselves to the mast of the ship like Odysseus.

"The Siren," by John William Waterhouse, (circa 1900)
“The Siren,” by John William Waterhouse, (circa 1900)

I will celebrate my sixth year as a Christian this Easter.  Lent also reminds me of my time as a catechumen in RCIA.  Oh, how deeply I fell in love with Your Church, Lord.  Your Bride is so beautiful and I was only too happy to be a part of her at Easter so that I could receive You.

I’ve grown so much, but have grown so little.  I grew beyond my selfish spirituality and realized that my mission is to make my whole family holy, not just myself.  If I fail in sanctifying my wife and children, then I fail in my vocation as a husband and as a father.  Being a diplomat is small stuff when compared to the responsibilities I have for the immortal souls of my family.

I grew beyond my selfish religion, where I go to Mass and then go home.  Now, I not only help build up my parish, but identify my spiritual growth along with my whole parish.  So, I do children’s liturgy (aka, Children’s Church) with my wife and daughters; I volunteer at RCIA when Maya is going to religious education classes; I sing in the choir for a second Sunday Mass.

As much as I grew, I have grown little in other areas of my life.  I still do not lead my family in prayer.  My wife is her own island of prayer.  I have my own prayer life that I cling to.  We pray together at meals, at Mass, and sometimes in the evenings before bed.  Leading a family prayer life? No, not yet.

Lent is not just a time to give up something temporarily for forty days.  Giving up something for forty days should help me give it up permanently — but the problem is that I’m not giving up anything that I will not pick up again after Lent.  Coffee? Can’t wait until Sunday, April 5th!  Netflix?  Oh, I can binge watch Season 3 of “House of Cards” with my coffee.  To paraphrase St. Augustine, “Give me self-control, Lord, but not yet!”

Since I can’t give up a bad habit, I can build good ones.  I will try to pray both the Morning and Evening Office in the Liturgy of the Hours.  This is in addition to doing daily Rosary prayers.  In addition to the obligatory days of fasting, I pray to observe days where I only eat bread and drink water.  Even just thinking about it makes my tongue feel bored.  Which means it will be a great mortification for my body — my free will shall be stronger than the passions of my flesh!

Pray for me.  I pray for you.  God bless you during this Lenten season.

Jane Roe of Roe vs Wade, Pro-Life Since 1995!

Norma McCorvey is better known as Jane Roe, the plaintiff in the landmark case in 1973, Roe v. Wade, that legalized abortion.  Did you know that she is a passionate pro-life advocate since 1995?  Her personal history is amazing.  She was a troubled child, an active lesbian and had three children of her own (who were given up for adoption).  In 1995, she had a profound conversion experience.  By 1998, she entered the Roman Catholic Church.  Here is an excerpt from her book, “Won by Love,” co-written with Gary Thomas:

I was sitting in O.R.’s offices when I noticed a fetal development poster. The progression was so obvious, the eyes were so sweet. It hurt my heart, just looking at them. I ran outside and finally, it dawned on me. ‘Norma’, I said to myself, ‘They’re right’. I had worked with pregnant women for years. I had been through three pregnancies and deliveries myself. I should have known. Yet something in that poster made me lose my breath. I kept seeing the picture of that tiny, 10-week-old embryo, and I said to myself, that’s a baby! It’s as if blinders just fell off my eyes and I suddenly understood the truth — that’s a baby!

I felt crushed under the truth of this realization. I had to face up to the awful reality. Abortion wasn’t about ‘products of conception’. It wasn’t about ‘missed periods’. It was about children being killed in their mother’s wombs. All those years I was wrong. Signing that affidavit, I was wrong. Working in an abortion clinic, I was wrong. No more of this first trimester, second trimester, third trimester stuff. Abortion — at any point — was wrong. It was so clear. Painfully clear.

See her testimony in this video produced by VirtueMedia:

 

I’m Just Like Daddy

What a well-written article!  The following excerpt is from The Catholic Gentleman.  I highly recommend reading the full article.

Much of parenting, then, comes down to the example we set. But there is a deeper lesson to be learned from children, and that is the way of our own spiritual advancement.

Many times, we overcomplicate the spiritual life. We want a sophisticated program, involving perhaps copious study of theology and philosophy. We want to pray many prayers and read many books. But while these things are well and good in their place, they are not the essence of spiritual growth. In reality, the program of spiritual progress is very simple: It is carefully imitating God our Father with childlike simplicity.

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children,” teaches St. Paul, for indeed, that is what we are—children of God. In a very real sense, we can call God, “Abba, Daddy.” By the grace of the Holy Spirit, we share his nature, the fullness of his life lives in our souls. And as his beloved sons and daughters, we should aspire to say, “I’m just like you, Daddy.”

The proud in heart reject this simple way of childlike imitation. They see the spiritual life as involving many complex and difficult requirements, as a way for only the strong, mature, and knowledgeable. They have nothing but scorn for those who follow Christ in simplicity. They forget the words of Christ, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

When my little boy looks up with me and says, “I’m just like you, Daddy,” my heart is filled with love and joy. I want him to be like me. What father doesn’t? So to it is with the family of God. God our Father longs for us to be just like him, to radiate his image fully and completely. His fatherly heart greatly desires us to look up at him with love and say, “I’m just like you, Daddy.”

In sum, the Christian life, the Catholic life, is striving after conformity to Jesus Christ, our elder brother in the Divine family. We want to exchange our lives for his, to the point that he lives perfectly in and through us. We must imitate him in every thought, word, and deed, until we can say like St. Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

Knights of Columbus

One year ago, I became a first-degree Knight of Columbus.  This past Saturday (12/06), right before the Vigil Mass for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, I entered the fourth-degree.  I’ve come to learn a lot more about the organization, and I plan to make a series of posts on my Facebook Page to share what I now know.  For this post, I want to share some thoughts on how God is leading me to grow within His Church.

We cannot become holy — the best-version-of-ourselves — in isolation.  Holiness is achieved in community; it is achieved through the Church.  I was reading the early chapters of Cardinal Ratzinger’s (a.k.a. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology, when this truth about holiness resonated in me.  I felt like God was leading me more into the Church, to see the mystery of Christ’s Body.  Imperfect people make up the divine, holy Mystical Body of Christ.  The source and summit of our faith is the Eucharist.  Prayer is the foundation of all my Christian movement – I cannot hope to dance with the Holy Spirit without growing in prayer.  And, as my prayer life grows (a solitary activity), I am led to be more active in the Church (a very social activity).

Knights of Columbus Logo
Knights of Columbus Logo

My involvement in Church itself is a form of prayer.  This is what is different, now.  Before, I saw my Church commitments as, well… commitments.  Was it a burden?  No.  But, commitments are something you keep regardless of how you might feel about it.  I happen to feel good about my commitment to the Church, but still….  Now, the feeling is different.  Being involved with the Church is now infused with a different meaning.  It’s like a red blood cell that suddenly gained individual awareness.  I’m a tiny, tiny thing in the scheme of the whole body, but I play a role in bringing oxygen to the various body parts.  I return to the heart for communion and rejuvenation, and then go out again to fulfill my duties.  Whereas before, it’s what I did as a red blood cell, now I see that I’m part of a very special body.  It’s not just any body.  It’s Jesus Christ.  And to be a red blood cell in the body of Jesus Christ is an incredible privilege.  This is what it means to be active in the Church: I’m a red blood cell in the body of Jesus Christ.  By virtue of our Baptism, we all are.

So, the Knights of Columbus has a special charism that attracts certain types of people.  I never gave it much thought until now, but I guess its charism appeals to me.  God knows I’ve been trying to find a group (an organ) within His Church where I could attach myself and grow.  I looked into Opus Dei.  I thought about the various Third Orders.  Maybe my Good Shepherd has led me to this particular pasture, where I can fatten up and be a fragrant offering when the time comes?

Oh, Lord, I love you.  It is always such an adventure with you.  I trust in you and I know you won’t lead me where I ought not go.  May I persist in prayer, and may I have greater fervor for your Body & Blood with every Communion.  Help me grow in charity; help me bring my family along with me.  Show me my weaknesses so that I can offer them to you, and depend more on you.  Shame me so I can strengthen the bedrock of humility, and build a temple worthy of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Don’t let me slip in my prayer, but help me make everything I do a form of prayer.  As my daughters desire me to be ever-present in their daily lives, so I desire you to be ever-present, watching me, teaching me, smiling at me, and awaken my spiritual imagination.  God, you are my Father; Christ, you are my Lord and brother; Holy Spirit, you are my love.

Novena for Conception and Healthy Pregnancy

Dear Lord,

Remember how I prayed for the couples who were trying to conceive?  Glory be to God, many of them now are parents.  Since that post, many visitors come to this website to see that post (web analytics for your greater glory!)  It inspired me to start a novena for this Advent Season and pray for those people who are praying to have a baby, or praying for a smooth and healthy pregnancy.

I started a Facebook event for this novena.  No one but me plans on going to this event.  That’s okay.  Only a few grains of salt are needed to change the taste of a bite of food.  Let me be that grain of salt.  You know the couples whom I hold in my heart who are still trying to conceive.  If I may be so bold, may I ask the first fruits of these novena prayers go to them?  Including the Vigil Mass that I offered for these intentions this past Saturday?

I know I am weak and that my prayers are imperfect.  Look not on my sins, but on the perfect prayers of St. Gerard Majella.  I am joining my novena prayers to his and I will be asking for his intercessions on behalf of those who are trying to conceive or want a healthy pregnancy.  Thank you, Jesus, for the Communion of Saints.  How lonely would our prayers lives be without our saints praying beside (and for) us!

I humbly ask you, dear Jesus, to grant the prayers of St. Gerard Majella.  Bless those who visit this website, looking for someone to pray for them to conceive.  They have St. Gerard, St. Therese, St. Joseph, St. Thomas More, St. Jose Maria Escrivá and myself.  We pray for them.  Hear our prayers and grant them the joys of parenthood.  We ask this in your name, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

My 5th Advent Season

“How is your prayer life?” is a question I often ask my spiritual friends.  The answer to that question is a good measure of how one has grown in the Christian life.  The quality and quantity of my prayer life is tied to my growth in the virtues, and I can measure my growth in the virtues from the twelve spiritual fruits I see in my interior life, my family life and my professional life.  This Sunday, November 30th, marks the first day of Advent.  It’s a time of waiting.  It’s also a good time to ask myself, how is my prayer life compared to last Advent?

It has improved.  Dramatically.  I pray the Rosary almost daily.  I go to the Sacrament of Confession almost weekly.  I no longer confess mortal or venial sins, but work with God in the confessional to address deep-rooted imperfections.  Although I’ve slipped away from praying the Liturgy of the Hours, my wife has taken the habit to pray the Morning Office, daily.  I’m more at ease in doing spontaneous prayers.  I find myself speaking to God in the morning when I wake up, and thinking about God and His teachings as I fall asleep.  I recently started praying for my Korean co-workers, and I find this a good way to integrate my professional life with my interior life with God.  I may never be U.S. Ambassador, but I can be God’s ambassador right now where I work, where I live.

Last Advent, I discovered my need for a spiritual director.  I’ve been using the same confessor since then.  I haven’t really asked him for spiritual direction since I was primarily trying to get rid of the boulders and rocks in the field of my soul.  Since these have been cleared away, I can see the True Vine of Christ growing in my field.  The tree of virtue is bearing fruit.

This is only my fifth Advent Season.  Oh, the fruits that come from dying to self!  Help me, Lord Jesus… strengthen me for the greater trials to come.  Lead me to die more for You, to die more deeply.  My dear Saints: St. Therese, St. Joseph, St. Thomas More, St. Jose Maria Escrivá, and my Guardian Angel, thank you for not giving up on me.  Thank you for your prayers and all that you’ve done to bring me to where I am, today.  It’s far from over, I know.  There is still so much to do.  You know my weaknesses, dear Saints.  Pray for me.  Help me grow in Charity.  Help me do God’s will.  Dear Holy Spirit, lead me deeper into the life of the Church.  Help me bring my family along with me.  Don’t let me be led astray by the Tempter, the Accuser.  Dear Blessed Mother Mary, help me persist in prayer.  Teach me through the Holy Mysteries of the Rosary how to conform more of my life to Christ.

Devotion to Our Lord’s Shoulder

The Shroud of Turin
The Shroud of Turin

One of the rich aspects of our faith is the great number of devotions available for Christians to exercise their gift of piety.  I was surprised to find this prayer to Our Lord’s Shoulder:

O Loving Jesus, meek Lamb of God, I a miserable sinner, salute and worship the most Sacred Wound of Thy Shoulder on which Thou didst bear Thy heavy Cross, which so tore Thy Flesh and laid bare Thy Bones as to inflict on Thee an anguish greater than any other Wound of Thy Most Blessed Body. I adore Thee, O Jesus most sorrowful; I praise and glorify Thee and give Thee thanks for this most sacred and painful Wound, beseeching Thee by that exceeding pain and by the crushing burden of Thy heavy Cross to be merciful to me, a sinner, to forgive me all my mortal and venial sins, and to lead me on towards Heaven along the Way of Thy Cross. Amen.

The origin of this prayer is Saint Bernard of Clairvaux who, in a moment of contemplative ecstasy, asked Jesus what was His greatest unrecorded suffering.  Jesus told St. Bernard of Clairvaux that it was His shoulder which bore the heaviness of the Cross.

St. Padre Pio

Unbelievers can chalk it up as pious fantasy.  That’s fine.  A devotion is simply that: a devotion, not a matter of dogma.  Nevertheless, it fascinates me!  And to read in this article by Pat Archibold that two other pieces of evidence confirm this wound makes this devotion that much more interesting.  According to a biography written by Stefano Campanella, a young priest by the name of Karol Wojtyla (the future St. John Paul II) had visited Padre Pio and asked him about his stigmata.  Padre Pio confided in the future Pope that it was a wound on his shoulder that was the most painful.  The other evidence was reported in the Vatican Insider.  In a new study, scientists confirm that the “Man of the Shroud”…

underwent an under glenoidal dislocation of the humerus on the right side and lowering of the shoulder, and has a flattened hand and enophthalmos; conditions that have not been described before, despite several studies on the subject. These injuries indicate that the Man suffered a violent blunt trauma to the neck, chest and shoulder from behind, causing neuromuscular damage and lesions of the entire brachial plexus.

Wow.  Whether one regards this information as true is a matter of faith.  I for one, think this is fruitful for meditation and contemplation.

St. John Paul II