Nothing Yet All

Scholars have explained the human person as a phenomenon because he bore within himself the spiritual and the physical. Through our body, we reach down to the lower elements and are one with the animals and minerals; through our mind, we reach upwards to God and the angels.

jesus holding manWe know this is true instinctively; on one hand, we can enter into the depth of ourselves through silence and prayer, becoming as much like the angels as possible. On the other, we experience instincts and emotions that often get the better of us. as long as we are journey in this life, we struggle to strike a perfect balance between these two realities.

So, man is a mystery, a puzzle that generations have been trying to understand, but he still remains a depthless enigma incapable of being deciphered through and through; he is a paradox. He is simple yet complicated, straight yet crooked, lighted yet darkened, easy yet difficult. He often operates on the extreme; hence the need for direction. He can exalt himself as the absolute measure of all things or debases himself to the point of despair. Man needs help because he is split within himself. We tarnish the work of art that we are and destroy our inner beauty when we don’t control our divided self. We need God and that’s the truth. As Ecclesiastes shows and Blaise Pascal observes, “man without God is in total ignorance and inevitable misery.” The contrary is not true; God does not need us. we are completely contingent on him. What is man compared to God?

God could have left us in the lowliness of our choice, but like a mother who could not stop mothering, he intervenes. Why does he? After all, says Pascal, “what is man in nature? A nothing in relation to infinity, all in relation to nothing, a central point between nothing and all and infinitely far from understanding either….” our lives are less than a speck of dust lost among the solar system of the galaxies. Why does he have to intervene when live or die, it makes no difference? While we think we are the indispensable actor in the unfolding documentary of our lives, in God’s eyes, we don’t have to matter; we come, we live, we play, then we die. After a few years, no one remembers that we were here. While we think we are the most important, and our lives enfold before the camera of God, only one kind of things is recorded, those done for love. we are an empty show unless we marked our space through charity. Veni, Vidi, Vici we like to say! This is false unless God takes notice of us. We are great insofar as we get his attention.hqdefault

There’ s only one way to do that. Embrace love! That’s the only part that his camera records. We had better keep this in mind as we are developing new episodes for the documentary. That’s the very reason why he broke into the scene. He wanted to teach us how to love. When we finally grasp the profundity of this, we will go speechless. We may even have to say like job: “I have heard of you by words of mouth, but now my eye has seen you; therefore, I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

 

Saying Yes to Joy!!

What are you looking for?

Is there anything you’re looking forward to?

What drives you? What gets you out of bed on a daily basis?

What is one thing you’d do even if you wouldn’t get paid for?

If you have an answer to these questions, then you’re a happy joyful, full of life person.

If you don’t have an answer, if you’re actively looking for an answer, I’m glad you’re here. This talk should put you on the right path. It will at least point the right way.

This talk is entitled “the joy of saying yes”. Before we get to say yes, we need something or someone to say yes to.

To get you that point, you don’t have the luxury of simply going with the flow. You can’t simply do what you’re told without asking questions.

SteubenvilleEast_CPineo-21.jpg

point one—You can definitely not be indifferent.  Rev 3:15 I know your works.  You’re neither hot nor cold. Lukewarm. Indifferent.

Jesus alluded to this in Mt11:16-17— “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: We played the pipe for you and you did not dance. we sang a dirge and you did not mourn. When you live for nothing, even God gets tired of you. When you don’t care, what are we to do with you?”

When you live for something or someone, life becomes exciting. No fear. Bold. Joyful. Future is filled with adventure.

Look at the apostles. They started as frustrating fisherman or tax collector or simple men to boldly testify later “we mst obey God rather than men”. Jesus has been raised from the dead. That means something for everyone and we cannot not tell people about it.

If you want to experience joy, you have to make a choice. It’s a choice for joy happiness, abundant life.

Rev 3:20 behold, I stand knocking at the door

John 10:10- Jesus says: I have come to give you life and to give it abundantly.

Second point. John 1:35– what do you seek? Come and see. Be ready to be surprised by joy. When God calls, he gives you everything and takes nothing away. He does not make you less yourself. He allows you to be yourself and then some. stdas0374-1.jpg

Are you just surviving? You were made to thrive, to live life to the full. You were made to live in communion and deep intimate friendship with your creator. When that happens, you are completely happy.

Don’t you sometimes feels like something is missing? You have everything (job, car, career, good supporting family and friends, even money and popularity sometimes etc.) and yet something is missing?

If that ever happens to you, God is calling to Luke 14:10 come higher.

It’s when you come to what God is calling you to, that’s when you thrive. It’s when you ask God to help you discover what you were here for, that’s when you live life to its fullness.

It’s unthinkable that God created you for nothing.

In Jer. 29:11 the Lord says:  “I know the plans and thoughts  I have for you, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster to give you a future and a hope”.

Are you thriving where you are? Would you do what you’re doing even if you don’t get paid? Does what you’re doing get you out of bed every morning thinking man I can’t wait to start…?

If the answer is no. You have an opportunity for a new beginning.

Third point: Isaiah 55:10 purpose. Everything has a purpose. Explain this.Isaiah_55-8.jpg

Now the million dollars question is this: how do you find your purpose? It’s much easier to find God’s plan for things, but how do we find out what God’s Plan for us?  not easy, but there is a way.

Sit before the Blessed Sacrament in the classroom of silence with phone off, and ask the One who created you to tell you what he created for. “Lord, what do you want me to do with my life?” Thats how I’ve found my purpose in life, and I am a person of joy consequently.

I can guarantee you he will answer. He loves you too much. He cares about you too much to ignore you. He wants you to thrive. There’s no thriving outside of his plan. That’s the beauty.

So stop looking for stuff in TV, iPhone, there’s no ‘App’ for Gods plan for your life. No one but he can reveal to you what he wants for you. So be still. Turn to the lord with your whole heart. And he will turn to you with his whole love.

The fourth point. Don’t say you’re too old or too young. Jeremiah was under 20 when called to give an unpatriotic message to Israel. Moses could not even speak when he was called to speak to the most powerful king of Egypt. St. John the evangelist was 16 when Jesus called him.

Therese of Lisieux was 21 when he discovered the little way. A genius way and simplified way to live the gospel.

St. Jean Marie Vianney was 33 when he was sent to one of the worst parish in France. He transformed the town and the parish to one of the holiest known part of the world.

Tiger Wood was 3 when he first broke 50 on a nine holes of golf.

Mozart was 5 when he wrote his first symphony.

Bill gates was 19 when he cofounded Microsoft.

Winston Churchill was 65 when he became Britain’s prime minister and picked a fight with Hitler. A much needed fight.

Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born.

Mary was 13 or 16 when she said ‘yes’ to become the bearer of the most important and greatest thing that has happened to our world.

Mother Teresa was 40 when he began the missionaries of charity. She is worth dwelling on. How did she begin? Silence in front the Blessed Sacrament. Then boom! Her calling becomes clear like a noonday sun. She discovered exactly what to do with her life. There was never a day she questioned that call.

There can be tough moment, but when God calls, nothing is too difficult. There’s nothing you cannot handle. No fear can restrain you.

Find what God is asking you to do. Then you will find joy. Lasting joy.

Empty Shell Without!

Man has a natural inclination for peace even if he is engaged in all sort of malfeasance. Man naturally needs a foundation to lay his head though he is soaring high like an eagle in the sky. Though most powerful, he needs a rescuer. Though he renders an account to no one, he needs truth, honesty, true freedom, and love; he needs someone or something to put him in touch with his inner life, his conscience. No one was yearning for these more than the character named ‘Unnamed’ in Alessandro Manzoni’s masterful work, The Betrothed. Although he had power, wealth and security, his life was empty until he was converted to Christ who offers the best way to live.

lllAfter the peasant and naïve girl Lucia was kidnapped, she fervently turned to our Blessed Lady for help. Being a merciful mother, she helps her not directly, but by changing the lion heart of her captor (the Unnamed) into a little lamb. That is the only reasonable explanation behind his tormenting heart once he accepted the task of kidnapping her. He gets angry with himself for accepting; a sort of remorse and disquiet settle in his heart; the memory of past crimes start to emerge.[1] This man is not an ordinary personality. He was like “the godfather” of his time. He is above the law, feared by all, judge and master of the affair of others, and notorious for the number of crimes.[2] His castle is a veritable hotbed of murderous crimes.[3] He is thought of as a strange, ferocious, legendary, and barbarous figure. The villagers are so afraid of him, they don’t ever dare use his name. so they call him the Unnamed (l’Innominato in Italian).[4] Yet, the moment Lucia claims that “God will forgive his multitude of sins for one act of mercy”[5], he was filled with hope and the desire to hear more. This can be seen as the encounter that sets him on the path to conversion. How was this possible other than by the powerful intercession of Our Blessed Mother giving birth to a dead soul? This good news is the rescuer he was looking for, though unknowingly.

bbbAn encounter with God is life-changing and ensues a better future. As pope Benedict puts it, “one who has hope lives differently [because he] has been granted the gift of a new life.[6] Before this encounter, the Unnamed was conscious of his great vigor and confidence, no thoughts of the future poisoned his memories of the past, the non-stop spectacle of violence, revenge, and murder used to fill him with pleasure; after the encounter now, the idea of judgment… has revisited him every often. A glimpse of Lucia’s cart fills him with inexplicable depression, horrifying feeling of loneliness, ceaseless terror, and a little voice inside of him does not cease crying: “yet I am”.[7] Hope of the mercy of God can transform the most wretched heart into the most docile one. Seeing Lucia only increased his torment, and her begging softens him and moves him to compassion. Consequently, he orders a woman to care for her, entertain her, and ensure that nothing harmful happens to her.[8] This is the most brutal of men, yet encountering Lucia is turning him into a “softy”. After seeing Lucia, his conscience does not stop speaking; he spends the whole night ruminating his past crimes; he even thinks of suicide; he longs to escape from his thoughts; he lies awake the whole night; He longs to hear further words of hope and comfort from Lucia.[9] “When the feeling of compassion overpowers a person, [the latter] loses his manhood until he follows through”, Manzoni believes.[10] So we see before he enjoys that newfound hope, he went through a sort of “dark night of the soul”. At the end of these dark nights, he is motivated by the hope of a future where he can undo the past insofar that’s possible, and embrace the beginning of a new life, which is precisely what conversion entails.

The encounter with the saintly cardinal Borromeo reinforces the Unnamed’s desire to embrace Christ. That’s the contagious power of holiness; that’s the arresting beauty of truly embracing the gospel. The cardinal’s dignified and majestic bearing, his serious and yet lively eyes, his magnificent simplicity of his purple robe, and his penetrating gaze help welcome the Unnamed with the utterance: “… I am most grateful to you for taking your admirable decision to come to me, …although there should have been many times… when I should have come to you.[11] Unsure whether the cardinal is truly familiar with his notorious exploits that he (the Unnamed) had performed, the latter is surprised that he is so well received—“Did you say you should have come to me. Do you know who I am”[12], he exclaims. The cardinal points out to the Unnamed that the obvious pleasure he feels at seeing him could only be inspired by the visit of a man whose reputation he knows too well.[13]

bbbThe cardinal suggests that this visit could only be good news that God has touched his heart. However, the Unnamed asserts that there cannot be good news when hell is raging in his heart. “Where is that God anyway”.[14] The cardinal confidently reminds him that God is near him, agitates his spirit, allures him, gives him a foretaste of the hope of tranquility and happiness, so if he so chooses he can find real peace.[15] Then the Unnamed was dubious whether or not God will welcome him back— “There is indeed something oppressing my heart…, what do you think God can do for me”.[16] The cardinal authoritatively and paternally reassures him of God’s ocean of mercy— “Who are you to think that your wretchedness… can outweigh God’s goodness”.[17] It is God who stirs him to seek him…. He does not rejoice that thousands abhor his actions… God will be glorified when he acknowledges his sins.[18] Hearing these good news, that iron fist, the strong, the unbroken, the brave that is the Unnamed breaks into weeping.[19] That’s a powerful sign the Unnamed had turned around and touched by Christ. After all, we know that God is a father who is always waiting for the return of his prodigal sons or daughters. The good shepherd did leave the 99 to seek out the one lost sheep. Everyone matters in God’s eyes. So as an instrument of God, the cardinal gives thanks to God, though unfaithful steward and neglectful shepherd that he is, he is found worthy to witness a so happy a miracle[20] i.e. the conversion of a most wretched soul.

mmmIn conclusion, in case we forget what the church does, this conversion is how the church relates to the world. She is a mother who never disowns her children regardless of how low they have fallen into sin. As long as they turn around and return home, her arms are wide open waiting to hug them. That’s what the church does for every sinner; he should seek them out. That’s what the new evangelization is about—seek the lost, and if she does not, when they return, her doors are always wide open. The sins of one sinner affect the whole. So when one sinner is converted, the whole benefits. The bigger the sinner the more beneficial it is for the common good. The whole benefits when one person decides to embrace a holy life. Although it is the task of the state to establish peace and security by means of power, conversion of heart is the most powerful way to establish peace and security. Only the church can establish it in such way. The cardinal had thus done well to receive the Unnamed with such open arm given the threat he was for society at large. He was saved and I suspect many of his household will also be saved with him.

[1] Alessandro Manzoni, , The Betrothed, transl. by Bruce Penman, Penguin Books, 1st publ in London, 1972, 369.

[2] Ibid 361

[3] ibid 363

[4] Ibid 364-6

[5] Ibid 386

[6] Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Spe Salvi, 2

[7] Ibid 370

[8] Ibid 379

[9] Ibid 395

[10] Ibid 392

[11] Ibid 414

[12] Ibid 415

[13] Ibid

[14] Ibid

[15] Ibid

[16] Ibid 415-6

[17] Ibid 416

[18] Ibid 416

[19] Ibid 417

[20] Ibid 417

Where we Stand in This!!!

We strive by an indirect approach to lessen evils, but we know we will not win the war.[1] Our future lies beyond this world.[2] “We work toward a brighter and more humane society… yet [we know] that our daily efforts… either tire us or turn into fanaticism, unless the great hope that cannot be destroyed even by small-scale failures or historical breakdown” radiate within us.[3]Caritas will always prove necessary; …no State can eliminate the need for a service of love”.[4] These are the mindset behind Catholic Social Doctrine. It is from this leitmotif that we are to understand pope Benedict XVI’s work on catholic social doctrine regarding church and state, and the human person.

bbbb

Charity is an essential element of the church’s life; pope Benedict holds it to be on the same par as the sacraments and the proclamation of the Word.[5] In fact, he understands that while it is the fundamental norm of the state to create a just social order, it cannot flourish without upholding the principle of subsidiarity, which demands the coordination of society’s activities according to the needs of the community. In this sense, the church must not sit on the sidelines in the effort to build a just society, even if the latter remains the domain of the state.[6] That is where church and state need to cooperate, although they constitute two distinct entities. This perspective can be deemed pope Benedict’s fundamental contribution to catholic social doctrine.[7]

The church reinforces the state’s effort to build a just society. The State must inevitably answer what justice is.[8] If practical reason is to properly answer that question, it must be purified. Faith is that purifying force. Faith liberates reason from its blind spots; …it enables reason to do its work more effectively. To achieve this, faith and reason i.e. church and state must cooperate. So while it is not the church’s task to build a just society, it is her role to form conscience and stimulate greater insight about justice. While the church cannot and don’t intend to replace the state, she cannot remain on the sidelines without offering her position. The state obviously benefits when its citizens’ actions are born of a pure, virtuous, and moral conscience. But the church is right institution that can make that happen.[9]

Why is the church so needed? Here’s why: despite how well a society is organized, there will always be a need for love. So we don’t need a state that hugs all powers. We want a state that guarantees religious freedom and harmony between the followers of different religions.[10] We want a state that allows the principle of subsidiarity thrives. A State that attempts to absorb everything into itself would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy. The state can never eradicate loneliness, suffering, cry for consolation, and material need.[11] That’s where the church intervenes.

CongressGovernments cannot solve the world’s suffering. Despite the scientific and technological advancement, material and spiritual suffering will always linger (ibid 30a). Through the inescapable sense of solidarity, through their commitment to love, both material and spiritual sufferings are alleviated. Church agencies can especially serve as a reference point and inspiration for civil society on how best to serve the poor. Through this cooperation, it becomes clear how faith enlightens reason in its work all the while remaining above politics. Consequently, Christian charitable activity is free of parties and ideologies.[12] It is not proselytism for love is free, and must never be practiced as a way of achieving other ends.[13] Thus church personnel are guided by the faith working through love.[14]

Another major contribution of Pope Benedict to catholic social doctrine concerns construing the greatness of man to the modern world. They believe that our redemption no longer lies in faith in Christ, but through “the newly discovered link between science and praxis”.[15] Faith, in this newly built kingdom, becomes “a purely private, otherworldly affair, and irrelevant”.[16] Hope, the ‘known unknown’ of eternal life that drives our desires to look beyond this world[17], is envisioned as faith in progress.[18] They presumed that progress toward perfect freedom and the rules of reason could be the dominant force behind the human race and the sole guarantor of a perfect human community.[19] They believed that scientific development is the answer to our problem, but they forgot something.

They forgot who man is. They ignore that economic power does not solve man’s inclination for evil. “Man’s freedom always remains freedom for evil”.[20] They forgot that technical progress dissolved from man’s inner growth is actually regression. They forgot that human freedom and reason need a rule of law in order to fulfill their nature and mission. Again, while reason is great, it needs the saving forces of faith in order to differ between good and evil and look beyond itself.[21] Economic power, freedom of choice, and rational capacity severed from God are man’s greatest threat. Social structures devoid of charity would demean man of his greatness.[22] It is the indirect duty of the church to purify man’s inclination. …[23]

Pope BenedictMan’s greatness is intrinsically bound to God. Man cannot be redeemed by science for he cannot be rebuilt from outside.[24] Man can only be redeemed by unconditional love.[25] Therefore, new generation can engage in the search for the right moral order by drawing upon the moral treasury of the whole of humanity while seeking to build itself anew.[26] New generation needs to be stimulated by new conviction that freedom can be won over for the cause of goodness[27], and that “the moral well-being of the world cannot be guaranteed through structures alone”.[28] That’s what it means to establish a convinced structure of freedom. This innate understanding is what redemption means.

True dignity lies by setting our hope on God, the great hope. He is the only one who can create the right structure that results in good moral order. This new vision should free us to live life in communion with God and neighbor, who free us from attachment to all material goods.[29] It allows us to accept our limitations to solve the problems of the world. It opens us up to believe that God alone can eliminate suffering, to accept our own suffering, and that of others.[30] In fact, the true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. It is cruel for a society to refuse to accept and share the suffering of its members.[31] The fundamental elements of humanity are the capacity and willingness to suffer with the other and for others, for truth, justice, and love.[32] That’s what it takes to become a person.

[1] Thomas More, Utopia, book I

[2] Augustine’s City of God, book XIX, Ch. 17

[3] Spe Salvi 35

[4] Deus Caritas Est 28b

[5] DCE 22

[6] ibid 28a

[7] Pope Paul VI’s address at the United Nations on October 4, 1965 about what the church desires in relationship to the state is arguably a wrong turn. Pope benedict can be said to correct that view in his unique understanding of CSD.

[8] DCE 28a

[9] DCE 28a

[10] ibid 28a

[11] ibid 28b

[12] ibid 31b

[13] ibid 31c

[14] Ibid 33

[15] Spe Salvi #17

[16] ibid

[17] ibid 12

[18] ibid 18

[19] ibid 20

[20] ibid 21

[21] ibid 23

[22] DCE 28b

[23] ibid 29

[24] Spe Salvi 25

[25] ibid 26

[26] ibid 24, 25

[27] ibid 24b

[28] ibid 24a

[29] ibid 28

[30] ibid 37

[31] ibid 38

[32] ibid 39

Laughter, Mirror of the Soul

The world speaks one language called laughter. It is the shortest distance between people. It is the place where people of every continent, race, religion, and culture meet. Mark Twain got it perfectly when he said: “The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.” It brings people together. It is the one irresistible phenomenon that connects and opens the most distressed of hearts. Laughter is a powerful medicine. No one can do without this medicine for too long. A perfect dose of it creates a healthy and well-balanced person. While God remains the Prime Mover over the universal, laughter is the prime connector wherever there are people. Those who can tactfully handle the “serious” world and the “funny” world simultaneously rule the world. Laughter is the master key; it opens all doors. No heart is too grim; no person is inaccessible.Closeup portrait of a group of business people laughing

Laughter reveals the truth about the human person. Although the manner a person carries herself, speaks, acts, thinks, cries, what he believes, and gets involved in reveals a great deal about that person, laughter is the quickest way to know that person. Through laughter, the innermost secrets of the person’s soul are revealed. It is the mirror of the human soul. It touches the deepest layer of the soul. While a smile only touches the lips, laughter bursts forth from the soul, overflows, and bubbles around. Many trust and judge others by their laughs. Fyodor Dostoyevsky went so far as to say: “If a person laughs well, he’s a good person”. That means if he/she lets the heart expresses itself, the real self comes out. Our true color is a beautiful reality that is fundamental good. Laughter brings it out.

lllA sincere, genuine, effortless laughter is irresistible. Who does not like a person with an easy laugh? Who can be unmoved before the laughter of an innocent child? Who does not throw a smirk when he sees or hears a loud, deep, joyful laugh? It can bail a person out of anything. Ingrid Betancourt, a French journalist who was held in captivity for 6 years by the Columbian guerillas, asserts “I knew of no instruction manual for reaching a higher level of humanity and a greater wisdom, but I felt intuitively that laughter was the beginning of wisdom, as was indispensable for survival”. Apparently laughing was the only antidote to her misery in the jungle. She chose laughter in the midst of darkness and light was found. So laughter can empower us. In this sense comedian Craig Ferguson is right: “You gotta laugh because if you didn’t, you’d cry”. Laugh! It will change your interior disposition and your thoughts. Laughter gives rives to a new you—new world, new perspective, and new horizon. Learn to laugh and do it often. Cultivating a cheerful disposition is the most conducive mean to laughter.

brighter-smile-contest

It is universally accepted and scientifically proven that there are many social and healthful expediencies to laughter. Just being around people who laugh often causes laughter and creates a better atmosphere. It is very contagious. Laughter is attractive. A good sense of humor is part of the top three features women look for in men. Having a good humor should be everyone’s priorities. Everyone knows how people who laugh easily create us by their laughter. As victor Hugo puts it: “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face”. No one enjoys winter. Laughter is beneficial for relationships. Research shows that people who use laughter and smile when discussing a sensitive subject feel better in the immediacy and report higher levels of satisfaction in their relationship. Happier relationship means longer relationship.

If only we could always laugh. Life requires us to be serious. Those who laugh too much are not taken seriously. This is where the ancients’ view of laughter makes sense. From Plato to Aristotle to Kant, laughter is seen as disgraceful. They saw it as an emotion that overrides self-control. The Stoics and Aristotle concur with Plato; they believe that laughter should be permissible, but ordered. In this vein, St. Basil the Great wrote “raucous laughter… is indication of a disordered soul, and a lack of self-mastery”. All other theories are a footnote of Plato’s view of laughter. It is only in the last century has laughter accorded so great a value. So although it is a necessity, it is the sign of a good life, it must be exclaimed virtuously.

mI hope this did not start a negative view of laughter in your mind. I only wanted to present both sides. As you know, nothing good exists without a good rule. Self-control is the rule by while laughter is measured. A cheerful and joyful heart is a peak into the eternal chamber of God. God has a good sense of humor as we often say. It is believed that if we could grasp the universe as it truly is, we would have to laugh because it would be interesting seeing the divine wisdom behind it all. That’s why holy people who get a privileged glimpse into God’s mirror always have a good sense of human. They see purely and it is humorous.

In conclusion, while laughter is beneficial to the soul and a sign of happiness, it needs to be done with control and under the right circumstances. So when Dostoyevsky says that laughter reveals the man, he is right after all. It tells you what moves that person. So do laugh, but do it appropriately.

Behold Joseph the Man!

famThe Mother of God is elevated to the highest pedestal attainable by a human being. She deserves this because her life on earth matches the blueprint in God’s mind; she is, and deservedly so, the highest honor of our race and the mother of our salvation. This honor is due to her fiat and her intrinsic connection to the divine Son of God. She is Theotokos— God’s bearer—and the mother of all mankind. However, something would be amiss if the Son of God was deprived of a father. Thus Joseph occupied a pivotal place in the economy of salvation. He is the second greatest saint in the eyes of the church. He was handpicked to fulfill a primordial role.

 

His role was indispensable in helping Jesus develop into mature manhood. He taught him what it means to be man; as any father should, he must have taught him to pray the psalms, the Jewish’s devotional prayers, how to behave in synagogue, and in temple; he must have taught him how to sit at table, comport himself in public, how to deal with his peers etc. many of Jesus’ mannerisms must have been Joseph’s; it is difficult for a young boy not to imitate his father. Any father trying to figure out how best to father, look to Joseph. He had to learn to fall in love with his vocation and assignment. He learned to love the holy family as God loves them without counting the cost. Through this new finding, Joseph was able to discover and appreciate the great gift he has been given to care for the greatest thing that has happened to the human race.

jjjHowever, this role was not a walk in the park. Like Mary, he was not given a special grace from birth to be the father of God. He was a sinner striving to be virtuous. So it was not easy for him to deal with mystery, so he must have struggled to accept the angel’s annunciation to him. Someone being pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit is mind blowing and unprecedented. Although a man of faith, he could not have swimmingly accepted this occurrence. To make things worse, out of all the possible mediums, God chose a dream to announce the greatest of news. Sheer madness, however that’s God’s madness. Madness that comes from God is much more beautiful than wisdom of human origin.  Despite all the researches done on dream, we still don’t know how best to take dreams. So human that he was, he struggled to decipher what was being asked of him. When things come to light however, he cooperates wholeheartedly. That’s a lesson for all of us. It is reasonable to struggle to figure out God’s plan for our lives, but once evident, leave no room for doubt. Commit as if there had never been any doubt.

Although scripture presents him as a just, pure, gentle man, he was real. When he learned that his fiancée was carrying a child, he sought to end the relationship, silently. It’s worth pondering how he chose to do that. Knowing that she would be stoned to death, he wanted to leave without scandalizing her. That’s love. That’s a great example for all men trying to find a good person to marry. It may happen that things don’t work out; no matter how it ends, that does not call for humiliation, insults and the likes. Remember that person was going to be the love of your life. So end it while keeping her dignity intact. The same is true for women. It may hurt I know, but your reaction shows your true identity and character. Let Joseph be your model.

rest

He is the perfect model for all young man aspiring to be a biological or a spiritual father. Every man should have a devotion to him because he is the man that every woman is looking for and the one they espouse in ideal when marrying a man. He does not speak; he is a man of action. He is the man that every man wants to become when he seriously scrutinizes himself. He is the desire that all gentlemen want to cultivate in secret. He is the model that all men want to imitate due to his commitment and to his vocation. He is the man that all women wish their husband were. Every young woman being courted is looking for an exemplary love that exceeds any sort of egotism. Joseph’s life incarnates this kind of love. Those who put themselves at his school will discover how best to espouse this ideal love in their love life.

He is the ideal for priest and spiritual leaders as well. He serves Jesus and Mary with great diligence although she was his wife only in ideal and his son by adoption. When the Lord asks him to flee to Egypt, he does so readily, promptly, and obediently. He left in the middle of the night and went through dangerous impasse to reach Egypt. Out of concern for his family and as a matter of prudence, at his return from Egypt, he stationed in Nazareth instead of Bethlehem. He cooperates with this mysterious role knowing God is at work in him. Doesn’t a priest do the same? He is the father of the community he serves only in ideal, yet he would lay down his life for them if necessary; he is readily available for them as a husband to his wife in labor.

ppMoreover, Joseph teaches the priest how to deal with mysterious phenomena. Joseph was human dealing with God’s mystery (Jesus) and the greatest human (God’s spouse). The priest is a human being dealing with God (the Eucharist) and fragile souls that he must save. As eli the prophet once remarked when his sons were mishandling the sacrifice of the temple: “If a man sins against another man, God can mediate for the guilty party. But if he sins against the LORD, who can intercede?” (1 sam. 2:25).

If you have not yet had a devotion to St. Joseph, begin one. That’s the best spiritual gift you can give to yourself. He silently teaches us how to serve our family, church, and country. You can never go wrong following in the footsteps of Joseph. He always leads to his Son.

Devotion to St. Joseph starts this year on January 28. It’s a simple devotional prayer that is prayed every Sunday for seven weeks that ends on March 19, which is the Feast Day of St. Joseph. Then find a good prayer to St. Joseph to pray daily.

Here is the one I pray daily:

Remember, O most illustrious Patriarch St. Joseph, on the testimony of Saint Teresa, thy devoted servant, that never has it been heard that anyone who invoked thy protection or sought thy assistance has not obtained relief. In this confidence I come to thee, my loving protector, chaste spouse of Mary, foster father of the Savior of men and dispenser of the treasures of His Most Sacred Heart. Despise not my prayer, but graciously hear and answer my petition.

 

Holy Innovation

Holiness is the birthright of the church’s life. The nearer a person is placed to the church’s reservoir of sanctity, the more that person is obligated to live it according to how the church conceives it. One’s sanctity is confirmed in, by, and for the church; otherwise, it is madness. An individual is not left to choose the way in which he will lay down her life for Christ outside the circle of the revealed truth. However, the church unabashedly urges the faithful to pursue their vocation because she believes that each person is unique and made for a unique vocation. As Von Balthazar puts it, “for each Christian, God has an sublime, unique, and personal Idea and fixes his place within the membership of the church”.[1] The fulfillment of God’s will is to enter into this plan; that’s the gateway to the happy life insofar that’s possible in this life.

Observing the life of the church through the way the saints had lived it, two types emerge. On one hand, we have the typical type who lives the Christian revelation through the normal, ordinary, and unspectacular way. They blossom in the garden of the church and adorn her with their fragrant and eloquent beauty without adding new colors. Most of the saints belong to that category. On the other hand, we have the big guns, bigger than life. They don’t follow the status quo, and yet they are not heretics. They were handpicked as a vessel of election for something unique, spectacular, and unprecedented. What these big fish do left the “small” saints stagnate in mediocrity as if they have done nothing. Their mission flashes across the dome of the church like lightning from heaven and lights up some specific and unique aspect of revelation unknown beforehand. History and time confirm their works as a necessary rock to the edifice of the church. What they do and say are irrefutable, beyond question, and they are prime members. We call them doctors of the church. There are only 33 of them.

aaLet’s look at St. Therese of Lisieux for example. Died at 24, never went to college, cloistered at 14, yet was canonized only 25 years after her death, and now stands as a doctor of the church. She displays the marks of a very defined and exceptional character. Though she had never left the cloistered walls of Carmel, in 1927, she is declared the patroness of Missionaries alongside a towering figure like St Francis Xavier, who brought the Gospel in Central America. In the homily declaring her a doctor of the church, John Paul II states, “when the Magisterium proclaims someone a doctor of the Church, it intends to point out to all the faithful that… the doctrine professed and proclaimed by that person is a reference point. That means it not only conforms to revealed truth, it also sheds new light on the mysteries of the faith, and gives deeper understanding of Christ’s mystery” (3).

What did St. Therese do worthy of being the patroness of missionaries? What is the doctrine upon which she shed light? After receiving a special grace on Christmas Eve 1886, she became animated with a great zeal and ardent desire for souls. “Like His apostles,” she writes, “I have fished all night and caught nothing. [At last], more merciful to me than the disciples, Jesus took the net. He made of me a fisher of souls. I experienced a great desire to work for the conversion of sinners, a desire I hadn’t experienced so intensely before”.[2] So when she was asked why she is entering Carmel, she answered, “I came to save souls and to pray for priests”.[3] She will spend the rest of her life in contemplation of the cross of the Lord, and so doing beg the Lord to save and convert sinners. However, it is how she conceives her time in heaven that bestowed the worthy name of being the patroness of missionaries. It is that same understanding that makes John Paul say that she “shed new lights of the mystery of faith”.

What is heaven for St. Therese? She has always been absorbed in the present moment of God’s grace. She lives out of love, through love, and for love; she lives a love that’s not her own. She participates in the very love of God. love is not bound by time. Consequently, she has no difficulty interpreting the laws of the next world in the term of the circumstances surrounding her love in this world. There’s no difference between her mission in this world and that of heaven. It will be similar when she’s in heaven. Out of love she was praying for priest and the salvation of souls, so that same love will spur her on in heaven. She vowed not to take rest in heaven. “When I die, I will send down a shower of roses from the heavens, I will spend my heaven by doing good on earth”. That’s how she will take care all souls and missionaries scattered throughout the world. Wait! Is heaven not eternal rest anymore? For her, the good God would never inspire her with this desire unless he meant to fulfill it after her death. Clearly, she cannot do it before her death. It has got to be in heaven. As von Balthazar puts it, “it is as though heaven is a garment that has to fit her”.[4] She knows the measure of her unconditional love. The next world must be compatible with it. She is convinced that she will not be inactive in heaven. On her deathbed, she asserts that if “I am leaving the battlefield, it is not to seek repose”.

deathAlthough that may sound unorthodox to pious ears, this understanding of heaven as restlessness echoes some of the church Fathers’ view. We must not be selfish; in heaven, we are no longer wayfarers, so we can focus on helping those striving to get there. The idea that heaven is eternal happiness where all movements cease and we rest in God after the restlessness of this world does not fit the infinite depth of God. As she saw it, heaven is eternal love not eternal happiness because love, which is infinitely richer and deeper than happiness, more fittingly defines God’s being.[5] The greatness of this claim resides not because it comes from a great saint, far from it, it gives us food for thought because she had lived it herself.

It is within this backdrop that she is made patroness of missionaries and doctor of the church. That signifies that if she actually follows through with her plan, all missionaries under her tutelage will be successful. If they are successful, that’s something we had never thought was possible. That’s a breakthrough for us in our effort to understand the exhaustible economy of revelation. If all the above are true, she deserves all titles she receives.

[1] Von Balthazar, Therese of Lisieux, intro p xii

[2] John Clarke, the autobiography of st therese of lisieux, 3rd ed. P98-99

[3] 149

[4] von Balthazar, therese of lisieux, 31

[5] Von Balthazar, 33