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Posts Tagged ‘God’

By: Natalie Plumb

When it rains, it pours.

Sometimes multiple opportunities are thrown at you at the same time. Sometimes zero are. But when you have more than one option, decision-making becomes overwhelming. You begin to think that God is testing you. There has to be a “right” answer, doesn’t there? What is His will? What’s the right choice, and what’s the wrong choice?

A lesson I’ve started to learn as my years add up is that God gives us options; each comes with a unique price. The consequences for each choice will be different, and you have to deal with those consequences. Neither will be all good or all bad.

prayer-2When I’m in the midst of discernment, and considering two positive choices (neither is sinful, nor is an occasion of sin), one against the other, I choose.

That’s it: I choose.

It’s difficult to understand, but as long as you pick one and act on it, God’s will is there. After all, nothing can happen unless it is His will. Don’t make one of those wishy-washy half choices – just pick one. It won’t hurt.

It sounds crazy, but after a while of balancing the pros and cons of each, asking multiple people their opinion, and going through mid-life-crisis mode, indecision starts to become not only unhelpful, but unhealthy.

A priest at Theology on Tap a few years ago in the Archdiocese of Washington said something like this about deciding between two positives: “Choose. Act on that choice in your mind; acting in reality isn’t necessary yet. If your choice was actually wrong, your conscience will tell you because you’ll start to panic and feel uneasy.”

It sounds a bit like the flip-a-coin rule, doesn’t it? Each choice is a head or a tail. When you flip it, you might find that you’re wishing for it to land on one side or the other – there go your heart’s true desire.

When we follow this rule, and quit worrying so much, the question then becomes, ever increasingly, more about your conscience, and less about whether choice A is more “right” than choice B for you.

You should check your boxes: Ask for advice. Weigh the pros and cons. Pray. But when nothing seems to tip the balance after a while, do what the priest suggested and just choose. It makes life a lot simpler.

Jesus, my Light and my Guide,

You are Creator of the universe. You, above all, understand the little actions I make, and how each will affect me and my future.

Guide my footsteps, and mold my conscience. Replace my heart with Yours. Help me to desire what You desire. Help me to see as You see. Help me to know my circumstances. Shine light on all that I need to know to make a prudent decision.

Reveal to me Your will. And if you don’t, grant me the patience and wisdom to make a choice, and discern whether it is good in my heart. Settle my soul when the choice is right. Shake it when it isn’t.

Supreme Power of the Universe, I trust in You. I trust You to guide me. Be my Guide, now and forever.

Amen

This is the final installment of Natalie’s mini-series on prayer in dryness, doubt and discernment.

Natalie writes on Thursdays about faith, dating, relationships, and the in between. May her non-fiction stories and scenarios challenge you. May they help you laugh, cry, think and wonder.

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By: Erin Healy

When I was a child, my greatest fear was the darkness. I could not walk through a dimly lit room or fall asleep without the comfort of light. Now, when my prayer life falters, I often experience similar feelings and that is when I know I need to set apart more time for the Lord.

There are many distractions in the world that keep us from turning to God. Yet, we know that God is the only One who can fulfill our deepest longings. During these summer months, if you find that you’re too busy to pray and your focus is no longer on God… Take time to reconnect: Consider attending the young adult silent retreat weekend on August 1-3 at San Damiano Spiritual Life Center.

Led by Fr. Rich Dyer, Parochial Vicar at Blessed Sacrament in Alexandria, this weekend retreat will offer talks (guided by the spirituality of St. Therese of Lisieux), time for Adoration, Confession and spiritual direction. The weekend will address suffering, how to distinguish and carry our crosses, pride, how to truly pray for humility, and more.

YASilentRetreat

The cost for the weekend is $285. This will cover your materials, room, and board. The retreat is filling quickly! Register online at: www.arlingtondiocese.org/yamretreat. Questions? Contact Erin at (703) 841-2549 or yam@arlingtondiocese.org. Scholarships are available.

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By: Natalie Plumb

I thank God every day that He is truly a God of justice. And I thank God every day for Purgatory, too: I like to believe that He will not base your fate on what you did at the very moment you die. He loves to give us one million second chances. I think His justice will prevail above all, and your whole life will be laid out before you as you knock on the gates of Heaven. I firmly believe that.

Allow that to be encouragement when you doubt His sovereignty, will, justice, love, peace…. Doubt can be an overwhelming emotion. It can quickly lead to despair.

Despair is quite possibly the most dangerous emotion to have. It lacks hope. It lacks trust. It lacks faith. It completely lacks virtue. It digs, deep into your feelings, and comes out with “I doubt,” and never “So be it.”

Ben1Though I am a naturally optimistic person who believes all things are foreseen by our Creator, I have had many moments in my life when I’ve doubted that, and Him. And I’ve acted on that doubt frivolously. Do yourself a favor: Try not to change your mind concerning a decision when you doubt His goodness. Do not change the course of your actions when you are in the midst of despair. Pray to get out of the hole first, so that you can see light shedding on your circumstances in order for you to discern – something we will talk about next week.

Most recently, I’ve struggled with doubt in the form of having faith in God’s divine providence. I am an ocean away from the man I love. He lives in France, and I in Washington, D.C.

Long distance relationships are naturally at risk of being full of doubt and despair. That’s a pretty common reason for their not working: Where is your hope? In seeing the person soon? In moving eventually? It is a hard question to answer in the moment, when your fullest emotions – love, desire, hope, and so many more – mercilessly insert themselves into your will.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize how much stronger the distance we’ve experienced as a couple has strengthened our relationship more than I think it could have been strengthened had we been in the same country for the last half year (and then some).

Astonishingly, we haven’t grown further apart, but closer, because we rely on God to move us and to change us. In getting closer to Christ, we are closer to each other. When we can’t talk to each other (you know, that silly 6-hour delay thing) we must talk to God.

lovetriangleThink of the triangle: Each of you and God is at one of the intersections. As each of you grows closer to God (and His point on the triangle), the closer you as a couple get to each other. Your segment gets shorter. Amazingly (and oh so joyfully!), the sins we had before, both individually and as a couple, in the same country, are no more.

God knew that all along. He knew that distance would help us to grow spiritually on an individual level. We needed to be apart long enough (seven months, and counting) to become better persons for the other.

Cliché statements like “There is light at the end of the tunnel” and “The darkest hour is just before the dawn” are really not cliché at all, but true. Periods of doubt, as with periods of dryness, which we discussed last week, are there to form you into the person God wants you to be.

The truest version of you as a Child of God is waiting to be formed. And you will never stop growing, even if your circumstances make you doubt His plan. That is exciting, not despairing.

Dearest Jesus,

We know in our heads and in our hearts that You are here and that Your will is just. We know that You wish the best for us, and that nothing comes to be before being filtered through Your hands. But our circumstances are pulling at us to lose faith and to make unwise choices.

Pull us back, Christ Jesus. Pull us back into Your arms. Pull at the strings of our hearts to trust you again. Give us the virtues that we need to honor Your will, trust in Your providence, and have faith in Your works.

Grant us faith, and no more doubt. But if it be Your will, grant that the doubt that we do have might change us and form us, and inspire us to grow only deeper in the carrying of our crosses. Let this journey be speedy and light, if you will it. And never leave our side.

Praise be to You, for every cross we bear! We know it is no heavier than the one you carried for us.

Amen.

Next week, I’ll write about discernment, my final post on prayer in dryness, doubt and discernment.

Natalie writes on Thursdays about faith, dating, relationships, and the in between. May her non-fiction stories and scenarios challenge you. May they help you laugh, cry, think and wonder.

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By: Mark Herrmann, Chancellor of the Diocese of Arlington

Practicing law in Virginia, in the course of mundane legal research, one occasionally runs across a historical gem. Reprinted below, from the 1855 case of Commonwealth v. Cronin (2 Va. Cir. 488), is the statement read into the court record by a Richmond priest, Fr. John Theeling, explaining his refusal to testify about matters disclosed to him in the confession of a dying woman:

Confessional“It is due to this honorable Court to state briefly my reasons for not answering the question proposed by the Counsel for the defense and to hesitate to do so, would argue a contempt for the majesty of the law and the dignity of this Court, the dispenser of the law.  Were I asked any question which I could answer from knowledge obtained in my civil capacity or as a private individual and citizen, I should not for a moment hesitate, nay more, I would consider it my duty, to lay before this honorable Court all the evidence I was in possession of, being mindful of the precept of the apostle, ‘Let every soul be subject to higher powers, for there is no power but from God and those that are ordained of God; therefore he that resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God and they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation,’ Rom. 13, chap. 1 and 2, v.  But if required to answer any question in the quality of a Catholic Minister of the sacrament of penance, when I believe God himself has imposed an inviolable and eternal secrecy, I am bound to be silent, although instant death were to be the penalty of my refusal.  The question proposed by the counsel for the defense affects me in the latter capacity and hence I must decline to answer it.  Whilst in so doing, I must respectfully disclaim any intention of contempt or disrespect directly or indirectly to this honorable Court.  Is a Catholic priest ever justified under any circumstances in revealing the secrets of the sacramental confession?  I answer, No. That no power on earth civil or ecclesiastical, spiritual or temporal can ever, under any circumstances, dispense with this perpetual obligation of secrecy, so that were pope Pius the IX in this Court, and if I can suppose for a moment, he should so far abuse his sacred authority and in the plenitude of that authority, as my first spiritual superior on earth, should request, admonish and command me to answer the question proposed, my answer would be to him what it was to the prisoner’s counsel.

“I can say nothing about the matter.  The law which prohibits me from revealing what I learn in the sacramental confession, Catholics believe to be divine and emanates from our Lord himself.  It is a tenet of the Catholic Church, that Christ instituted seven sacraments, neither more nor less. Con. Florent. in Decret’s ad Armenos. Con. Trident., Sess. 7, Can 1.

“It is also an article of Catholic faith that penance is one of those sacraments instituted by Christ for the remission of sins committed after baptism. Con. Trident., Sess. 14, Can. 1.

“And that sacramental confession forms an essential and component part of this sacrament.  Further, that the obligation of secrecy is especially connected with the divine institution of confession.  For if it would be lawful to a catholic priest in any case to reveal what was certified to him in confession, the divine precept of confession would become merely nugatory, and there is no person who would be willing to disclose to a priest an occult sin, which could be made public and blacken his fair name.  Such a revelation, if permitted, would be destructive of the divine precept of confession.

“But as we cannot suppose that Christ, the eternal Wisdom of the eternal Father, would pull down with one hand what he had erected with the other, and as we Catholics believe he instituted sacramental confession; and for the practice of confession, secrecy is absolutely necessary, we conclude that inviolable secrecy is commanded by our Lord in the obligation of confessing our sins.  If then, I were so forgetful of the solemn obligations not arising simply from ecclesiastical but from the divine law, not from man but directly from God – as to answer the question proposed, I should be forever degraded, rendered infamous in the eye of the Catholic church, shunned by every Catholic, and I believe by every honorable man; no matter how far his religious opinions and mine might differ.  Shunned and rendered infamous as a sacrilegious wretch, who had trampled on his most holy and solemn obligations and violated the sacred laws of nature, of his God and of man.  I would be forever deposed from the sacred ministry and where the Canon law forms part of the civil law, be condemned to perpetual imprisonment in a monastery, there to repent during my life the horrid crime I would have committed. 4 Con. Lateran., Can. 21.  But what is still more than all, I would violate the dictates of my conscience, that stubborn monitor whose voice would forever whisper to my soul black and dire sacrilege.  I might endeavor to smother its cry, but all my attempts would only add strength to its terrible reproaches and warnings.  You have committed sacrilege of the deepest dye – sacrilege to be punished forever, by the eternal vengeance of a just and offended Deity.  I have endeavored thus to state my reasons as clearly as I could for not answering the question proposed.  I thank this honorable Court for the kind and patient hearing which it has extended to me.  Whatever may be its decision, I shall receive it with respect.”

The judge in the case, the Hon. John A. Meredith, ruled that Father Theeling did not have to answer the question.

Mark Herrmann is the Chancellor and General Counsel of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington.

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By: Natalie Plumb

I hesitate to call anything “normal.” But some things simply are. We are all different, but we are all sinners. We are all unique Children of God, but we all fall. The same is true with prayer.

Bulleted lists and “three simple steps” are corny, but I think this most important of building blocks to our faith merits a “formula of difficulties” if what you need is a jump start, a pick-me-up from the rut of dryness, doubt or discernment.

360_mother_teresa_0820Over the past few weeks, I’ve attended a fantastic set of prayer talks led by seminarian Matthew Fish at Epiphany Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Washington. From those talks, I took a lot. From it, in coming weeks, what I hope to share with you most is a particular set of periods we all go through in prayer. I’ll seek to break them down, and apply them to my life (which shouldn’t prove too difficult). This will be as much a relieving exercise for me as it is vulnerable. Hopefully through that, it will be revealing to you in your prayer life, giving you relief if you are struggling, and hope if you are on the brink of despair.

So here goes…

I quite possibly never recovered fully from my “honeymoon with God.” I used to kneel every day in front of my bedroom window, and just talk to my Savior. I had a true relationship with Him. I never missed a night in front of that window, looking up at the sky, and for the star that I just knew was winking at me.

Distractions of the world consumed me starting sometime in high school, and they became stronger in college. My prayer life began to dwindle because I “wasn’t feeling anything.” I started to crave the consolation of prayer desperately. And in a lot of ways I still do.

Prayer can make us feel good. Prayer can give us sensations of euphoria. It can give us satisfaction. Essentially what we begin to fall in love with after a while, until God inserts change, is “what we want” out of prayer (read: prayer is not a substitute for happy gas), even without giving us “what we need.” So that’s when God begins to pull away. He says, Come closer, my Child.

In reality, dryness in prayer is a call for you to deeper holiness, and deeper sacrifice of time, thought, body, and mind.

If prayer isn’t giving you consolation, take consolation…basically, you’ve progressed in your prayer life so far that God wants you to graduate to the next level, and to take it up a notch.

When life has you on your knees, you’re in the perfect position to pray. If prayer isn’t giving you consolation, and the feedback you think you “need,” remember that God knows exactly what and how much you actually need, and abandon yourself to His Divine Providence. If prayer isn’t giving you consolation, take consolation in the fact that you’ve hit a bump in the road – basically, you’ve progressed in your prayer life so far that God wants you to graduate to the next level, and to take it up a notch. So don’t give up. Pray through the storm.

Here’s a short and sweet example of a prayer I might say (often enough), in times when I’m dry, and I feel as if I’m receiving little consolation and feedback from my Father:

Dearest Jesus,

You hold my heart. You have it close to You. I want to proclaim Your name to all the earth. But my lips are dry. My heart feels stale. My body aches for some sort of sign that I am still being held by You.

I will pray through this. I cannot fail. You are Christ. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

When I am down, I am in no better position than to pray. I need periods of dryness so that I can see that consolations are only Yours to give.

Help me to face this period of dryness with the humility and the fierce strength of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

Amen.

In coming weeks, I’ll discuss doubt in prayer and discernment. Mother Teresa, pray for us!

Natalie writes on Thursdays about faith, dating, relationships, and the in between. May her non-fiction stories and scenarios challenge you. May they help you laugh, cry, think and wonder.

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By: Michael J. Donohue

The Third Person of the Holy Trinity has always held for me a certain mysterious fascination. Within the profoundest of all mysteries, the Trinity, there exists the Holy Spirit. No mere creature, or lesser part, the Holy Spirit, if we can but know it, is what a short book I read at college called “Our Greatest Friend.” (To be completely accurate, the edifying little book is titled, “The Holy Ghost—Our Greatest Friend,” available from TAN Publishers…one of those great devotional booklets for the layman left out of print and nearly lost in the early post-conciliar period.)

I am just old enough to have first thought upon the Holy Spirit as the Holy Ghost. One of my earliest memories, at the age of three, perhaps four, is of my Irish grandmother teaching me the Sign of the Cross. In the name of the Bartolomé_Esteban_Perez_Murillo_003 - Holy Trinity Holy FamilyFather, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen. That traditional first, innocent step into the greater reality of existence, guided by a loved one blessed with faith. Along with Grandma Ella’s tutorial in her wonderful brogue (which had been softened I’m told only marginally after decades in her adopted country) naturally came the shamrock and Saint Patrick’s metaphor of the Trinity. I accepted it, of course, as a child does and because my grandmother told me. However, for a long while, my understanding of the Holy Spirit never really advanced much beyond that simple, happy acceptance.

To some degree, this reflected a certain willingness in me to accept teachings passed to me by those who formed my faith, learned priests, devout family members, and like-minded friends. But in the case of the mysterious Holy Ghost, this left a bit of weakness in my understanding of a central teaching of our faith. For that matter, for many of us, I think the Holy Spirit manifests last of the Three Persons in our intellectual and devotional lives. Perhaps this is fitting given the great work He stands ready to help us realize.

“After Pentecost the Gospel began to be proclaimed by the Apostles, notably by Peter, who spoke in their midst and in their name. Chosen by Jesus during his public life, invested by him with an official mandate, they had received full powers to bear witness to the saving event of the resurrection and to discuss in God’s name the conditions under which men could receive its effects. But it was only after Pentecost that, filled with the Holy Spirit, they began to exercise these powers” (The Christian Centuries, Volume I, Jean Danielou).

We are all called, baptized, and confirmed  to be worthy vessels of the Holy Spirit and do great things, whether seemingly large or small, public or private. The Church was born at Pentecost, and the Third Person of the Trinity, our Comforter, Advocate, and Helper, the Paraclete, was sent by the Father and entered formally into all our lives, as Jesus Christ had told his disciples. It is certainly worth our time to learn more about Him, incorporate Him into the understanding of our faith and our purpose, and yes, pray to Him, “Our Greatest Friend.”

I commend to you our great bishop’s two-part column series this month in the Arlington Catholic Herald on the Holy Spirit and Pentecost, and which was published on the Encourage & Teach blog. Bishop Loverde’s motto as a bishop is this blog’s eponymous Encourage and Teach with Patience, which perhaps is quite apposite when it comes to the Holy Spirit. But as the good pastor, teacher, and spiritual father that he is, Bishop Loverde wants us to fully share in the Love of God. “So, just as the Word of God is the Son of God, so the Love of God is the Holy Spirit” (Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed, St. Thomas Aquinas).

Mike is the Director of Communications for the Diocese of Arlington and Bishop Loverde’s spokesperson. A native of New York, he holds a BA in Political Science from the George Washington University. Mike and his wife have two sons and live in Washington, D.C., where they attend Church of the Annunciation.

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By: Natalie Plumb

On Hallmark Cards, Inc., in this day and age, as a recent Washington Post piece puts it, “Dad will be portrayed as a farting, beer-obsessed, tool-challenged buffoon who would rather hog the TV remote, go fishing or play golf than be with the kids.”

Dad can’t have sunk that low, but that is certainly the stereotype. Such stereotypes seem to have become the reason for a lot of new media actually promoting fatherhood.

I was listening to NPR the other night, and Paul Raeburn came on to talk about his new book, “Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked.” My first thoughts were that maybe, just maybe the media would allow someone to admit that a father, complementary to a mother, plays a vital role when it comes to raising a child.

At first, I was highly pleased. Raeburn claimed that “fathers and mothers do different things…I don’t think there’s any question about that.” Raeburn mentioned examples — a father’s involvement with his daughter can lead to a reduced risk of early puberty: “The problem with early puberty is that’s also linked to higher risk of risky sexual behavior, higher likelihood…of teenage pregnancy; it just can put daughters on a bad road.”

Raeburn also went on to say that the father is so important that a single mother should find a father figure for her child, whether that be a cousin, a brother, a neighbor or a close friend.

But then, inevitably, the conversation shifted.

After a handful of people had called in to give stories about how their fathers had positively impacted their lives, Raeburn tangentially remarked that gay couples can adapt to the roles of father and mother, and that, therefore, “Those kids do just fine.”

Huh? Isn’t that completely contradictory? What was the whole point of anything else you said in the podcast, Raeburn?: Oh, sure, men and women play vastly different roles that are vital to raising healthy and happy children, but – because I’m too afraid to admit otherwise for fear of not being P.C. – yes, sure, gay couples can do the same thing (sort of).

Let’s say — disregarding any evidence to the contrary — that those children do do “just fine.” Is “okay” truly the model we want to promote? Now, I know the answer to that. So do the many protesters who marched on the National Mall today to stand for traditional marriage. The Catholic Diocese of Arlington had a pretty good showing of Chancery staff and even a few of our seminarians! Click on the photo below to see the full album.

Photo Jun 19, 12 21 48 PM

Click to see a full photo album!

Do fathers matter? The question sounds absurd. Of course they do. Just as family is the building block of society, so are man and woman – together – the building blocks of family. We have flourished this way for centuries. We have filled the earth. Let’s not regress by denying that men and women are biologically set apart to be with one another, and that no other combination is possible. To claim that any distortion of the union of a man and a woman is just, right or even equal is not borne out by common sense, logic or reality.

Fathers are imperative. My father taught me to dress like it’s always winter (insert guffaw). He taught me to go on dates in public places. My father showed me how to use my computer. He taught me how to say no and how to stand up for myself. My father, too, was the tall guy in the back at every one of my ballet recitals.

10447101_10106629738737314_2887896166518955492_nThe role my father played in my life is priceless. He cannot be summed up in those few sentences. What he did is unique. He did things for me that my mom was not equipped to do. He is, just as is my mom, irreplaceable. (Dad, consider this a second “Happy Father’s Day!”)

Tell your positive story. No set of parents is perfect, but each parent gives very unique – female and male – contributions to the raising of their children. Please comment below with your stories. How did your dad change your life? How did your mom influence the way you live? How did having both present in your life make you a better person? Silence on this topic changes nothing. Simply by telling your story to the world, you can change it, too.

Natalie writes on Thursdays about faith, dating, relationships, and the in between. May her non-fiction stories and scenarios challenge you. May they help you laugh, cry, think and wonder.

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By: Deacon Marques SilvaSilvawedding2

Twenty years ago today, I married my beautiful bride Christine Lynn.
We dated for two and a half years, after which I proposed, and waited a year until we were married in Libertytown, Md., at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church. We now have four children: Nicholas, 19, Hannah, 16, Victoria, 13, and Noah, 10, to whom we have committed to live long enough to spoil their children.

This morning, I found myself staring at the ceiling in the early morning hours (1 a.m. to 3 a.m.). I took some time to reflect on the last 20 years to discover what has made this marriage successful. For all those engaged couples, I thought I would share 20 insights for 20 years in no particular order except for the numero uno. And to all the married couples who are reading this: can I get an Amen!?

  1. Invite the Lord to play an active role in your marriage – Life is difficult enough and the blending of two lives needs all the grace it can get if there is a chance for the marriage to succeed. The family that prays together, stays together.
  2. Don’t expect to change your spouse – It doesn’t work and it only fills both hearts with bitterness and betrayal. What you see is what you get. And let’s be honest, who is crazier – the one who is crazy or the one who married the crazy spouse? Date to marry, but date long enough to know who you are marrying.
  3. Have kids early – There is never a right time or enough money
    to prepare for children. With every baby comes a bread basket, as the saying goes. The virtue that you two see in each other will only deepen your love.
  4. Laugh together – A lot. Being able to laugh at ourselves and the crazy situations we find ourselves in is an important key to success.
  5. Fight fair – Yep, I said. Fights, or as we have always called them, “growth sessions,” happen when two totally different people occupy the same space (I feel like there is a law of physics that applies here). Just remember, there are rules to having a civil and productive “fight” – obey them.
  6. Say “I love you” daily – It has been my practice to at least say I love you to all of my kids and my wife daily as I am going to bed. If you two are having a growth session, gentlemen, man up and say it anyway.
  7. Never discuss finances in bed or when you are tired – It has been a rule of our marriage to never discuss finances in bed or after 9 p.m. It never ends well, and if you do discuss it, remember to refer back to number five.
  8. Remember you are married to each other – Sounds easy right? Well, when the kids come along and you invest all your time and energy in providing for them, raising them, etc., sometimes it’s easy to forget that they are an expression of your love and not your spouse. Always leave time for each other. Purposefully plan at the beginning of your day to set the time aside – the house will still be a mess tomorrow and the homeowners association will just have to deal with tall grass for another day.
  9. Share your marriage with your friends – Love always unifies and diversifies. While it draws the two of you together, it also makes room for others to experience that gift of love that the Lord has blessed you with.
  10. Never say “I’m sorry;” always ask for forgiveness – I’m sorry is a hit-and-run tactic. Forgiveness, on the other hand, must be extended and received. There must always be the possibility of rejection and the option of saying: “No, I need more time before I can receive you in forgiveness.”
  11. Celebrate your anniversary – We may not be able to afford extravagant gifts or to go on cruises (She hates boats and told me once that if I bought her a ticket, it would be clear I was having an affair), but we do go out every year for a really nice dinner. We always give an over-the-top tip so someone else may benefit from our celebration (No, I’m not telling you where we are going tonight).
  12. Eliminate the “d” word from your vocabulary – My wife and I once heard that there is an archaic word and practice from the past called divorce. The practice seems crazy so we chose never to learn how to say or spell it. Seriously, we understand that in rare circumstances that it may be necessary. But for the most part, it should not be a word we ever use in our marriage.
  13. Choose mentors – My wife and I are blessed to have Mr. and Mrs. Bob Chronowski as our mentors since the beginning of our marriage. Too often, my wife and I witness young couples receiving bad advice from their non-married friends or from friends whose marriage is still way too new to be the basis of advice. Pick a couple who loves the Lord, the Church, each other, and who have proven themselves over time to have a strong marriage and family. Thanks Mr. and Mrs. C, for laughing with us, crying with us, and giving me a swift kick in the rear when I need it (which is often).
  14. Dream together – One of our favorite scripture verses is from Psalm 37:4: “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.” Desires are placed in our hearts by the Lord. Remember though, his time and his way — but always dream together.
  15. Pray that your spouse becomes a saint – Let’s be honest: Two different personalities under the same roof with a brood of kids makes for so much potential for holiness. Pray for each other and you will find you are growing quickly, too.
  16. Trust your wife and your children’s discernment – I am a permanent deacon because I first heard the possibility of this vocational call through my wife and kids before I heard it from the Church. Remember, even if we disagree initially, the Lord tends to use our family. In fact, in the Benedictine tradition, they always let the youngest have the last word…that would be you, Noah!
  17. Learn to compromise – It is a lost art. We should always strive for a win/win in our decisions unless it involves sin.
  18. Buy two tubes of toothpaste – I know what I just said about compromise but seriously. She is one of those crazy people who squeeze the tube in the middle! Twenty years later, there is peace in our house due to his and her toothpaste.
  19. Make salsa, not babies – A phrase we love to use in our house with engaged couples. The person you are marrying is worth waiting for so when temptation strikes: “Make salsa not babies.” Additionally, we practice NFP to not only ensure open communication in our marriage (contraception is a lie we tell with our bodies), but to ensure each other’s health and well-being. When there are those times to abstain, you can always cook.
  20. Waste time with each other – Do you remember when you had to be around them so you took the long way home or ran to the hall corner as they came out of class just to bump into them? How about stealing a SMEC (Secret Moment Eye Contact) or a smile? Northern Virginia thrives on the necessity of always doing something or going somewhere to be somebody. We need to relearn how to waste time with each other. Your spouse loves you just the way you are. So, have a food fight (Yes, at my house – sometimes monthly). How about a water gun fight (My dad’s 60th birthday party – it was great)? Maybe just catch a sunbeam on a lazy Sunday afternoon together. Whatever you do, just waste time with each other doing nothing so you two have time to remember all the silly things you have done together…and smile.

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By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde

This is part one of a two-part series on the Holy Spirit and Pentecost by Bishop, published in the Arlington Catholic Herald.

As Pentecost nears, we pray repeatedly:“Veni, Sancte Spiritus. Come Holy Spirit!” Who is the Holy Spirit? How do we know this?

At the Last Supper, on the night before His Passion, the Lord Jesus shared the most explicit and intimate revelations about the relationships among the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity, including revelations about the Holy Spirit. It must have amazed and frightened the Apostles celebrating Passover in the Upper Room when Jesus said: “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (Jn. 16:7).

How could it possibly be good for the Apostles that Jesus would go? It would take Jesus’ death and resurrection, prayerful waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit, and finally the fiery outpouring of the Spirit’s presence upon them, before they would know how good it was to receive the Holy Spirit!

This is important for us because in reflecting upon the Three Persons of the Merazhofen_Pfarrkirche_Josephsaltar_Altarblatt_PfingstwunderTrinity, it is the Holy Spirit who is so often the least understood as a Person. We know the familiar signs and images of the Holy Spirit — fire, breath, wind, and dove — each pointing to some quality of this Third Person of the Trinity. It can be easy, though, to cling to the images while losing the dynamic reality of the Person to whom they point.

When Jesus told the Apostles on that first Holy Thursday that He and the Father would send the Holy Spirit, He spoke of the Third Person of the Trinity as “another Counselor.” This meant that Jesus Himself was the “first Counselor” whom they had known familiarly in daily life.

Why the name “Counselor”? This term that Jesus used, in Greek parakletos, in the language and culture of the time means a “defense lawyer”! Obviously, the term in Aramaic means the same. St. John Paul II in his encyclical The Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World, offers a splendid reason for this, saying: “It is precisely this Spirit of truth whom Jesus calls the Paraclete — andparakletos means ‘counselor’ and ‘intercessor,’ or ‘advocate’” (No. 5). The name points to the immediate and effective presence of a divine guide and protector.

In speaking of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles as the One who would guide and teach them, Jesus also said that the Spirit would enable them to remember what He had told them. Jesus promised something incredible: “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (Jn. 16:12f). What the Spirit would “hear” would be the inner Trinitarian communication among the Three Divine Persons.

No wonder, then, that the Holy Spirit is known by other titles that describe a Divine Person Who carries forward through history what Jesus gave in His total self-gift as Bridegroom of the Church! The Mystery of Christ, taken as a whole, demands faith, said St. John Paul II. To be faithful witnesses to this Personal Mystery requires the help of the Holy Spirit, supreme guide and light of the human spirit. The Church, then, also calls the Holy Spirit by the intimate names of “uncreated Love-Gift,” “Person-Love” and “Person-Gift” (No. 10).

The Catholic Church is sometimes accused of being staid and narrow. The Holy Spirit, however, dwells in the Church and in Her believers, to offer the possibility of making the Good News permeate the entire world, of making all things new and vibrant with redemptive love. That is why fire, wind, and bird-flight are such apt loving terms for the Third Person of the Trinity.

In a recent homily, Pope Francis said: “The Holy Spirit is the living presence of God in the Church. He keeps the Church going . . . .The Holy Spirit with His gifts guides the Church. You cannot understand the Church of Jesus without this Paraclete whom the Lord sends us for this very reason.” (Homily on May 12, 2014).

In my next column, I want to share with you the particular significance of Pentecost for us this year, and what the always-new coming of the Holy Spirit can mean for us at this moment in the life of the Church. So that we may receive this Divine Person with open hearts, let us pray often “Veni, Sancte Spiritus, Come, Holy Spirit!”

Paul S. Loverde is bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. A new edition of his pastoral letter on pornography, Bought with a Price, and his recent letter on the new evangelization, Go Forth with Hearts on Fire, are available at Amazon for Kindle and at www.arlingtondiocese.org/purity.

This homily first appeared in The Arlington Catholic Herald. View it here

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By: Natalie Plumb

Maybe the media is just doing its job, but a massive number of things seem to be happening all at once right about now. Recently, there was a mass shooting in Santa Barbara where seven people died. A group on Harvard University’s campus declared free speech when they proposed celebrating a “black mass.”

GodisuptoSomethingI don’t know about your week, but I had food poisoning on Monday. People I’ll miss are retiring. On and on…

But just when I think that God’s hand is nowhere near holding me, you and our world, He proves me wrong with, of course, the little things.

I woke up just like on any other workday on that Monday that went so unexpectedly wrong. Food poisoning isn’t appetizing. (Ha! Terrible joke.) But I’ll tell you what else: Being bedridden for a whole day (and then some) when you are Type A could make you want to scream and file a lawsuit. Or, if you take a chill pill, surrender to His grace, and surrender to your circumstances, good can come of it.

Really?

I was surprised by what came of having food poisoning. (It sounds ridiculous to say that.)

I slowed down. I don’t need to say twice how important a bit of rest and relaxation is, especially when you’re OCD.

I was taken care of. I’m a do-it-yourself kind of gal. It’s entirely mortifying to me to be “served.” But you have to let yourself be served sometimes. You will not always be 100 percent. You will lose your faculties eventually. You need to let people love you. Receiving is a human need.

I know I’m completely guilty of thinking, “Where are you God?” when I’m at my worst, when I feel depressed or hated or worthless. But we have to remember, instead of getting mad, that He is right there. Maybe what needs some cleaning are our hearts and our ears. Not God’s sense of justice. Remember who He is?

It’s easy to say all that when you’re not in the thick of it. But on Monday I was. I felt useless, tired, irresponsible, lazy… Right before leaving work, after lasting a few miserable hours, my coworker popped in with a cheery, “At least your worth isn’t based on what you do!” And how true is that?

I remembered (again – God, how many times do you have to tell me?) that my worth is not based on what I do, but rather on who I am. I am a beloved daughter of God. You are a beloved Son or Daughter of God. You are handcrafted by God. Shaped and sewn, stitch by stitch, in your mother’s womb.

Your circumstances are there because He trusts you with them. You are given the gift – yes, gift – of your struggles because God knows that greater good can come from what you do with them. You. Not Louise, Jeff or Molly. You. No one else will do what you will do and no one else will be who you are. You, beloved Son or Daughter of Christ, you are entrusted with the prize of your life and its circumstances.

Will you embark on His adventure?

Natalie writes on Thursdays about faith, dating, relationships, and the in between. May her non-fiction stories and scenarios challenge you. May they help you laugh, cry, think and wonder.

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