Advice for Catholic gentlemen: You weren’t meant to be ‘a good person’ — you were meant to be a saint

Last night my church had a presentation on the Internet and social media. I attended because I thought my job (and the many hours it requires me to be online) might give me some insights into the subject that may benefit others. The Sacrament of Reconciliation was offered afterward, which got me thinking about a time in my life when I embarrassingly yelled at God — and the lesson that followed shortly afterward.

Roughly six years ago, my life was filled with many personal and professional transitions. There were stresses involved, and on one bad day I pulled the car over to the side of the road and screamed, “What the f***! I’m just trying to be a good person! What the F***! Why are you doing this to me?!”

Without going into details, something I would deem miraculous happened following that outburst, which would lead me to believe the following: We weren’t mean to “just” be “a good person” because we were meant to be saints. We obviously cannot all die as saints, but that is what we must strive to be.

We live in a world where the Internet is omnipresent and the rule of thumb is that it gives us what we want faster … and faster … and faster. Anything you crave, the Internet can provide in a hurry. If you want to be a saint, you have access to all of their wisdom. If you want to explore all sorts of fiendish behavior, then your desire is just a click away. Whatever you want to put into the infinite caverns of your heart, social media can supply — good, evil; love, hate; peace, violence; temperance, concupiscence, and on and on.

The point is that “just” being “a good person” is never good enough, but especially not in a world where technology allows for hyper-exposure to our worst vices. Perverts become hyper-perverts. Partisans become hyper-partisans. Rage is intensified, and flesh’s already-ravenous desire for flesh is awash in images of bodies … and bodies … and bodies.

It is my prediction that in the years ahead you will see a small cadre of rare spiritual pearls emerge within a black sea of ghouls already torturing and raping people live on social media, beheading people in the Middle East and North Africa, and living only for hate.

That is why “just” being “a good person” is not good enough. From all sides you are being bombarded with spiritual blows to sap and warp your will. Invisible sludge is being thrown in your spiritual eyes and shoved down your throat because in time it blinds a man and clogs the arteries of his soul.

The answer to all of this is to strive — every day — to become more like the saints. The process is painful, but it is a good pain. I promise.

Perhaps the best way to explain the spiritual growth that is needed in this time and this place in history, I should point to the old bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Witness the physical and emotional strain he imposed upon himself while sculpting the perfect body and winning the Mr. Olympia title. Anyone who exercises knows that pushing the body — the finite body — to its limits is painful. Now consider doing that to the spirit, which is infinite.

Virtue is something that is very real and tangible, despite being invisible. It paradoxically has a kind of mass and a weight to it even though it’s not something that can ever be measured. The reason for this is because virtue is part of the realm of the infinite. The human heart contains conduits to the infinite  — chambers to the divine, if you will — but your body as a whole is, again, finite. That is why as one grows in spirit it often feels like his body is under enormous strain.

Like the weightlifter who adds more iron to his routine, the man or woman who engages in strenuous spiritual exercise brings themselves to tears. The difference is that instead of muscle breaking down and building up, the soul often feels like it is being torn asunder. In some ways it is, because its worst elements are being ripped off and replaced with that which is good and pure.

If you’re wondering why sin does not produce similar experiences, it is because that behavior produces a kind of spiritual atrophy. Just as a man often does not feel the pain of a slothful lifestyle until diseases like diabetes set in, the soul can shrivel in slow and steady increments.

We are living in a very unique time in history. Every year it seems as though technology improves by leaps and bounds. Each new milestone brings with it enormous potential for spiritual growth or decay. It is my hope that you realize that aiming to be “a good person” is like shooting for the the outer ring of the bullseye in a game of darts — only life is not a game and the consequences of your actions here and now have eternal consequences.

If you push yourself each day to live as a saint, then I have no doubt in my mind that upon your death you will be welcomed home by the one true God who loved you in eternity well before you were cradled, in time and space, in your mother’s arms.

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Thomas Merton’s ‘The Seven Storey Mountain’ a classic for the well-read man of faith

seven-storey-mountain

Not too long ago I was sitting at the kitchen table with my wife after Mass and she told me that I seemed restless. I agreed, and when we started to dig down into the reasons why, one of them was the kind of “dumbed down” Catholicism that Bishop Robert Barron criticizes so eloquently on his YouTube channel.

I sometimes sit in Church on Sunday and listen to our priest deliver the same New York Jets joke that he has used at least three times in the last 18 months. I’ll hear another priest tell well-prepared homilies that seem to concentrate on feel-goodisms (e.g., “Make someone smile and you’ll bring them closer to God”), instead of anything substantive. It’s maddening to know that there is a wealth of intellectual treasures in the Catholic Church, but for some weird reason priests never seem to challenge people in the pews to pick up a good book and read.

It boggles my mind that I have never — in nearly 38 years — heard a priest on Sunday tell me to read Saint Augustine’s ConfessionsC.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Thomas Aquinas, or a whole host of intellectual giants who have helped me over the years to understand my faith on a deeper level — and to cogently share it with those in my circle of friends. I searched out the above-mentioned authors because at some point in time I realized that I had to take as much personal responsibility with my spiritual health as I have with my physical and mental development over the years.

And it is here, dear reader, where Trappist monk Thomas Merton enters the equation. Long story short, his autobiography is a must-read for anyone who has drifted away from the Church because they received too many helpings of “dumbed down Catholicism” without realizing how much stimulating content was within reach.

Regular readers know that I am a huge fan of Saint Augustine’s Confessions and now they know that I fully endorse Merton. But what they don’t know is that one of the reasons these men resonate with me is because the flaws they both acknowledge — their spiritual deficiencies — have been my own.

Merton says:

“Where was my will? ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,’ and I had not laid up any treasures for myself in heaven. They were all on earth. I wanted to be a writer, a poet, a critic, a professor. I wanted to enjoy all kinds of pleasures of the intellect and of the senses and in order to have these pleasures I did not hesitate to place myself in situations which I knew would end in spiritual disaster — although generally I was so blinded by my own appetites that I never even clearly considered this fact until it was too late, and the damage was done.

Of course, as far as my ambitions went, their objects were all right in themselves. There is nothing wrong in being a writer or a poet — at least I hope there is not: but the harm lies in wanting to be one for the gratification of one’s own ambitions, and merely in order to bring oneself up to the level demanded by his own internal self-idolatry. Because I was writing for myself and for the world, the things I wrote were rank with the passions and selfishness and sin from which they sprang. An evil tree brings forth evil fruits, when it brings forth fruit at all,” (Merton, Thomas. 253).

Who knew that a deceased monk could peg me to the wall and make me weep like no man who walks the earth? You exposed me to all the world, Thomas Merton. Touché! But I thank you, because I am better for it.

The point here is not so much to treat this blog as a confessional booth (although in many ways it is), but to point out just how imperative it is to read the best and the brightest that has ever been written. If you really want to see spiritual growth, then you must put in the same type of time and effort that you do with any other endeavor deemed important.

If you are a Catholic or a lapsed Catholic, then I highly recommend Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain. If you are not Catholic but you are interested in exploring this kind of subject matter, then I would start out with C.S. Lewis since it’s easier to step into a warm bath than a brisk pool.

Regardless which route you take, the point remains: Get reading!

Related:

Americans need to read more Saint Augustine and listen to less Mike Huckabee

The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics’: Pay a small price for the work of an intellectual giant

G.K. Chesterton’s ‘Everlasting Man’ — perfect Easter reading

‘Letters to a Young Catholic’: George Weigel hits a literary home run

‘Letters to a Young Catholic’: George Weigel hits a literary home run

letters-to-a-young-catholic-weigel

George Weigel’s Letters to a Young Catholic is a wonderful book, but oddly enough I must begin this review by griping about the title — it’s something that Catholics of any age should read. In fact, the publisher does not lie by billing the book as “a modern spiritual classic,” which is why I recommend it to anyone who is interested in such issues.

Like many Catholic kids, my parents took me to Mass every Sunday growing up. And, like many Catholic kids, I was not exposed to the writings of G.K. Chesterton, George Weigel or other intellectual heavyweights. What I did have access to were kind adults who lacked the ability to articulate the faith in a way that “clicked” for me. I drifted from the Church as a young man and did not come back until I learned many painful lessons. If I were exposed to a book like this as a teenager then it probably would have saved me a lot of lost time, although I admit to having a largely impenetrable chip on my shoulder in those days. (And yes, I know that some of you would argue that it’s still there!)

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Letters to a Young Catholic is that in many ways it doubles as a must-read for those who are wondering why America’s political institutions are crumbling before our eyes. The way in which the author travels the globe, goes back in time, covers essential questions about the Catholic faith that all young people ask, and then ties it into our contemporary political landscape is like watching a gymnast who puts everything out on the floor before the judges — and nails it.

Mr. Weigel writes:

If American popular and high culture could ever agree on a theme song that captured the idea of freedom driving much of contemporary life, it would almost certainly be Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” I did it my way seems to sum up the widespread notion that freedom is a matter of asserting myself and my will — that freedom is really about choice, not about what we choose and why. Suggest that certain choices are just incompatible with human dignity and with growth in goodness, and you’ll get some very strange looks these days, whether on campus or in the workplace.

Catholicism has a different idea of freedom. In the Catholic idea of freedom, freedom and goodness go together. A great contemporary moral theologian, Father Servais Pinckaers, OP, explained all this. […] Learning to play the piano, he reminded us, is a tedious, even dreary business at first: well do I remember my own distaste for a book of technique-strengthening tortures entitled Scales, Chords, and Arpeggios. But after doing one’s exercises for a while, what originally seemed like a burden comes into clearer focus — learning to do the right thing in the right way is actually liberating. You can play anything you like, even the most difficult pieces. You can make new music on your own. Sure, Father Pinckaers writes, anybody can pound away on a piano. But that’s a rudimentary, savage sort of freedom,” not a truly human freedom. …

I did it my way teaches us an idea of freedom that Father Pinckaers calls “the freedom of indifference.” Doing things “my way,” just because it’s my way, is like banging idiotically on the piano or talking gibberish. The richer, nobler idea of freedom the Catholic Church proposes is what Father Pinckaers calls freedom for excellence — the freedom to do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons, as a matter of habit. That’s the truly human way. Because that’s the kind of freedom that satisfies our natural desire for happiness, which itself reflects our desire for God, who is all Good, all the way.  […] What’s all this got to do with democracy? Everything. Freedom untethered from moral truth will eventually become freedom’s worst enemy. — Weigel, George. Letters to a Young Catholic. Basic Books, 2015. 305-306.

A friend of mine texted me on Monday and said she hoped that I would cover the first U.S. presidential debate on the blog. In many ways, the text from Mr. Weigel’s book shown here tells us everything we need to know.

Why is America forced to choose between a woman who should be wearing an orange jumpsuit in a federal prison, and an egomaniac with occasionally orange skin?

Answer: Because America long ago decided it wanted to untether freedom from moral truth.

There really is no way to read Letters to a Young Catholic and not have a crystal clear understanding as to why civil society in the U.S. is unraveling. Our cultural influencers embrace a kind of nihilism “that enjoys itself on the way to oblivion, convinced that all of this — the world, us, relationships, sex, beauty, history — is really just a cosmic joke,” and we are now paying the price.

Mr. Weigel counters that “against the nihilist claim that nothing is really of consequence, Catholicism insists that everything is of consequence, because everything has been redeemed by Christ. And if you believe that, it changes the way you see things. It changes the way everything looks.”

If for no other reason, wayward Catholics should read this book to realize that what they thought was Catholicism growing up was in all likelihood a grossly watered down version of the Faith that denied them knowledge of its true richness and beauty. There are numerous reasons for this, and the author does a masterful job spelling it all out. I found myself thinking, “Finally! Someone who gets it,” and I am sure you will too.

‘Proof of Heaven’: Neurosurgeon turns NDE into fascinating read for skeptics, believers

Proof of Heaven

Skeptics have fascinated me for many years because they will often hear a supernatural story from a trusted source — a long-time friend who no history of mental illness or a reason to lie — and still find ways to dismiss it. Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who also worked at Harvard Medical School in Boston, was one of those skeptics until he contracted a case of E. coli meningitis, which attacked his brain and left him in a coma for seven days.

What makes Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife such a compelling read is that its author a.) was a secular man, b.) is a doctor who specializes in the brain, and c.) knows that his illness attacked the very parts of the brain that give skeptics an “out” in terms of believing that neath death experiences (NDEs) offer proof of the spirit world.

Dr. Alexander’s NDE is important because he isn’t just some random guy who drowned and was resuscitated; it is important because he knows about “endogenous glutamate blockade with excitotoxicity,” the limbic system, the lateral amygdala, N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) “dumps,” cortical function, etc.

In short, he is not a man who can be “out-scienced” because he has dedicated his life to medicine.

Random blog posts by a lucid dreamer who was visited by a floating purple orb can be easily dismissed — but a Near Death Experience by a neurosurgeon with over 25 years experience, who uses science to back his claims, is much more difficult to deny.

Dr. Alexander says at one point:

Depending on whom you talk to, consciousness is either the greatest mystery facing scientific enquiry, or a total non-problem. What’s surprising is just how many more scientists think it’s the latter. For many — maybe most — scientists, consciousness isn’t really worth worry about because it is just a by-product of physical processes. Many scientists go further, saying that not only is consciousness a secondary phenomenon, but that in addition, it’s not even real.

Many leaders in the neuroscience of consciousness and the philosophy of the mind, however, would beg to differ. Over the last few decades, they have come to recognize that ‘hard problem of consciousness.’

Like many other scientific skeptics, I refused to even review the data relevant to the questions concerning these [supernatural] phenomena. I prejudged the data, and those providing it, because my limited perspective failed to provide the foggiest notion of how such things might actually happen. Those who assert that there is no evidence for phenomena indicative of extended consciousness, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, are willfully ignorant. They believe they know the truth without needing to look at the facts.”

For those still stuck in the trap of scientific skepticism, I recommend the book Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century, published in 2007. The evidence for out-of-body consciousness is well presented in this rigorous scientific analysis. Irreducible Mind is a landmark opus from a highly reputable group, the Division of Perceptual Studies, based at the University of Virginia.” — Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven, (Simon and Schuster, 2012), 151-153.

I do not want to spoil any details of the doctor’s experience in the spirit realm, so I will refrain from mentioning them here. I will say, however, that Proof of Heaven is a quick and worthwhile read for anyone interested in the subject matter. The paperback edition is $16 for a new copy, but it is money well spent.

Why does God seem absent at times? ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ explains

Dark Night of the Soul

The questions “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” and “Why does God sometimes seem absent in my life?”  have repeatedly come up in conversations with my friends over the years. Many times people beat around the bush, but the underlying point is always transparent. A stellar resource on this subject — and quite honestly one of the toughest books I have ever read — is St. John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul.

First, it should be noted that if anyone had a right to question why bad things happen to good people, then it was St. John of the Cross. The Spanish mystic and Catholic saint, born in 1542, was once kidnapped (by monks), thrown in a dark jail cell, and beaten for months until he managed to escape.

A man who could have looked at his circumstances and concluded that God does not exist instead found God within the darkness.

Key points to consider when contemplating the dark night of the soul include:

  • Man’s nature is both sensual and spiritual.
  • Man is inclined to judge God by Man’s standards instead of Man by God’s standards.
  • Just as looking into the sun forces a man to close his eyes because it is too bright, individuals often cannot grasp that what they perceive as darkness is actually a reaction to incomprehensible light.
  • Just as a small child becomes anxious when its mother seems to have disappeared, humans are confused when God creates the illusion of distance so that they might spiritually grow.
  • Souls cannot approach God without being purged of imperfections. Trials and tribulations serve a greater purpose.

Given all this, St. John says:

“It follows from this that the greater is the darkness wherein the soul journeys and the more completely is it voided of its natural operations, the greater is its security. […] Hence, at the time of this darkness, if the soul considers the matter, it will see very clearly how little its desire and its faculties are being diverted to things that are useless and harmful; and how secure it is from vainglory and pride and presumption, vain and false rejoicing and many other things. It follows clear, then, that by walking in darkness, not only is the soul not lost, but it has even greatly gained since it is here gaining the virtues.” — St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul.

Astute readers will note that St. John was talking about a spiritual darkness that envelops the soul as it continues on its path towards God, as opposed to physical ailments or obstacles that plague us all. That is true, but the physical and the spiritual overlap. It is often very difficult for an individual to discern which is which, and more so in an age where individuals are conditioned to believe they must be happy at all times or consider themselves broken.

It is incredibly difficult to see the blessings bestowed upon us through mental, physical and spiritual pain, but they are there.

Paradoxically, we must often embrace the darkness to see the light.

Good health, popularity, and financial success may be nice, but much is expected of the individual who has them all. Life’s difficulties are fertile ground for virtue, which is why we must not lament adversity.

If you have questions on the dark night of the soul, feel free to ask below. I’ll do my best to articulate St. John’s message for interested readers.

Scupoli’s ‘Spiritual Combat’: Advice from 1589 for modern men seeking virtue

Spiritual Combat

It has always been my belief that the vast majority of men, if not all men, have seriously wondered at some point how they would fare on the field of battle. War, for all of its wretchedness, offers men a clear picture of their inner virtue — or lack thereof. These “What if?” games are unnecessary, however, as Dom L. Scupoli Apulia’s The Spiritual Combat and a Treatise on Peace of Soul demonstrates.

The Italian author pointed out in 1589 what many men in 2016 fail to realize — bombs are already dropping all around us. Spiritual warfare rages in all directions. A man not only can be a war hero, but he must — his very soul depends upon it.

What men often fail to realize is that they are stuck in a no-man’s land reminiscent of World War I. This is a bad place to be. Man’s rational faculty is called from both sides in the only war that matters: “God moving it by His grace, and the flesh by its appetites.”

Being “neutral” in this war is not an option, and since tomorrow is never guaranteed it is best to pick a side now.

Fully mastering patience, humility, obedience and numerous other virtues is a difficult task. Scupoli details a few of the stumbling blocks we experience:

There are some who are so overwhelmed by their sins that they never even consider the possibility of breaking their chains. Others want to free themselves from this slavery, but they do nothing to accomplish this. Some think they are secure, and for that very reason are very far from being so. Others, after attaining a high degree of virtue, fall all the more heavily.

When the devil has enmeshed the soul in sin, he uses every means at his disposal to distract its attention from anything that would enable it to recognize the terrible condition into which it has fallen.

The devil is not content to stifle every inspiration from Heaven, and to suggest evil thoughts in their place. He endeavors to plunge it into new faults, either of the same or a more vicious nature by supplying dangerous opportunities to sin.

Thus the soul, deprived of Heavenly guidance, heaps sin upon sin, and hardens itself in its evil ways. Floundering in the mire, it rushes from darkness to darkness, from one pit to another, always moving father from the path of salvation and multiplying sin upon sin, unless strengthened by an extraordinary grace from Heaven.” (Scuplio, Dom. The Spiritual Combat and a Treatise on Peace of Soul. Tan Classics, 2010. 89-93)

In many ways the soul is the beacon which directs a man towards virtue. If a man is not careful, a sinful calcification can take place around the soul. It soon becomes difficult, if not impossible, to hear or see the beacon and before long the captain of the ship “rushes from darkness to darkness.”

If you seek to become a virtuous man or woman, then The Spiritual Combat and a Treatise on Peace of Soul is a must-read. If you are a Christian who has ever wondered, “Why do bad things happen to good people? Why does God foist trials and tribulations upon me?” then Scupoli’s work is for you. I would rank it with Francis De Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life and Saint Augustine’s Confessions as an essential addition to your library.

Editor’s Note: I will send a copy of “The Spiritual Combat and a Treatise on Peace of Soul” to the first regular reader who asks.

‘The Imitation of Christ’: Antidote for Media-addicted America

Politicians and pundits use every election cycle to talk about the need for “new” ideas. Increasingly secular yet tech-savvy societies are always looking for the next “new” idea, and yet they wonder why the same old problems persist. The more I read, the more I think that many “old” ideas should be dusted off and embraced.

Take Thomas à Kempis’ “The Imitation of Christ,” written in 1418, for example. Just like our good friend Saint Augustine, it’s been a while since he walked the earth. Regardless, Kempis’ devotional book is one that would be beneficial to Christians and non-Christians alike. Even if one were to weirdly strip out all references to Christ, much of the wisdom regarding the right way to live would still remain.

Atheists say that Christ was not the Son of God, but if you asked them if the man — from a purely historical point of view — lived a life worth imitating, then the vast majority of them would probably say yes.

Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchap. CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC and FOX. Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo. Warner Bros, Sony, Disney, Universal and Netflix. NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and UFC. Amazon, Ebay, Microsoft, Apple and more, more, more always vie for our attention — and we give it to them.

Addiction to the temporal is a horrible thing, but it is hard to recognize because it sneaks up on a man. It slowly slithers around the psyche. Its initially brings warmth and joy, but in the end it’s all a ruse. When it has completely enveloped the whole of a man’s being it constricts like a python and suffocates his soul while he sleeps.

In the addicted man’s waking state he is, on many levels, unaware that the most important part of him is in peril.

He is sad. He is lost. He does not know why he is never complete, and so he turns to the very thing that fills him with venom while he dreams.

Enter Thomas à Kempis, who breaks down the blueprint for a happy life into four parts: 1. Useful Admonitions for a Spiritual Life. 2. Admonitions Concerning Interior Things. 3. Internal Consolation. 4. The Blessed Sacrament.

Ask yourself if there is a reason why politicians never mention “The Imitation of Christ” as one of their favorite books.

“Who is so wise as to be able fully to know all things? Therefore, trust not too much to thine own thoughts, but be willing also to hear the sentiments of others. Although thine opinion be good, yet if for God’s sake thou leave it to follow that of another, it will be more profitable to thee.

For I have often heard, that it is more safe to hear and to take counsel than to give it.

It may also happen that each one’s thought may be good, but to refuse to yield to others when reason or a just cause requires it is a sign of pride and willfulness,” (Book 1, Chapter 9).

Interesting, isn’t it?

“Don’t listen to those ‘old’ ideas, kind voter. Listen to me, [Insert Politician’s Name Here], because I’m never wrong and my ‘new’ ideas will fix all your problems.”

Kempis continues:

“How happy and prudent is he who strives to be such now in this life as he desires to be found at his death.

For it will give a man a great confidence of dying happily if he has a perfect contempt of the world, a fervent desire of advancing in virtue, a love for discipline, the spirit of penance, a ready obedience, self-denial, and patience in bearing all adversities for the love of Christ,” (Book 1, Chapter 23).

It takes just two sentences for the author to give readers seeds that will bear a harvest of joy for all the years of their lives. As a Catholic, I would implore readers not to take Christ out of the sentence, but I will concede that doing so does not negate the rest of the advice embedded in the text.

America faces many challenges in the years ahead. If you are interested in giving yourself mental and spiritual tools for the task, then I highly suggest reading “The Imitation of Christ.”

Editor’s Note: I will send a copy of the book to the first regular reader who asks.

Dylann Roof forgiven by victims’ Christian families during bond hearing; world gets glimpse of God

Dylann Roof forgivenIn a recent blog post I mentioned that God had the power to bring a greater good out of any act of evil. The world is seeing that play out just two days after a massacre that killed nine Christians at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Dylann Roof allegedly said he wanted to start a “race war” by slaughtering the innocents inside, but his actions only gave the world a taste of true Christianity: Family members of the victims have already forgiven him.

CNN reported June 19:

Dylann Roof heard words of forgiveness from families of some of the nine people he’s accused of killing.

His response: A blank expression.

Wearing a striped inmate jumpsuit, the 21-year-old appeared Friday afternoon by video feed at a bond hearing in Charleston, South Carolina. He stood motionless while listening to the anguished words of relatives of victims he allegedly gunned down Wednesday night at a Bible study at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you,” a daughter of Ethel Lance said. “And have mercy on your soul. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people but God forgives you, and I forgive you.”

Watching the reaction of casual observers on social media indicates that many members of the Twitter mob have never really been introduced to true Christianity. If they were familiar with the religion, then they would know that Christians literally have no other choice but to forgive — our very souls depend on it.

Rev. T.G. Morrow talks about this very fact in his book Overcoming Sinful Anger. He says on page 25:

“In the Our Father, Jesus tied our being forgiven to the forgiveness of others ( Matt.6:9-13). And this is the only part of the Our Father that he elaborates on, saying “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses (Matt. 6:14-15).

Forgiveness is one of the most fundamental things we are called to practice as Christians. Unforgiveness is an indication that we are not truly in touch with our faith. Must we forgive immediately? No, but we shouldn’t delay too long to begin the process. It may take time, but in the end, we must do it.”

A national audience of tens-of-millions of people will now be exposed to an awesome power that allows men and women to forgive cold-blooded killers in the blink of an eye. Millions of people whose only introduction to Christianity has been the jabs of light night comedians or the mockery seen on many sitcoms will now step back and seriously ask, “What’s going on here?”

Think of all the rotten behavior you’ve engaged in over the years. Think of every mean thing you have ever said to someone. Think of every act of malice you’ve committed, no matter how small. Think of all the lies and all the deceit that you have contributed to the world. Add all of it up and imagine it as a giant pool with size and shape.

Now consider this: all of it was seen by your Creator, but He is actually willing to forgive you for all of it — if you only walk towards Him with a contrite heart.

Dylann Roof may have wanted to start a “race war,” but at this rate it looks like his plan is going to spectacularly fail. One can only hope that he uses his time behind bars to revisit the faith that allowed his victims’ families to literally forgive him overnight.

‘Lucifer’ targeted by One Million Moms; Satan laughs as giant false idol of technology ignored

Fox showA nonprofit organization is targeting the upcoming Fox show “Lucifer.” The usual suspects in the media responded by mocking the faith-based organization, and guys like me just thought “God bless America! Everyone gets to say their peace and we generally do a good job of not coming to blows in the process.” However, I can’t help but wonder why organizations like One Million Moms focus on a single digital brick in the false idol that is technology. Few people seem to be paying attention to the bigger picture.

The One Million Moms website describes its petition as follows:

The series will focus on Lucifer portrayed as a good guy, “who is bored and unhappy as the Lord of Hell.” He resigns his throne, abandons his kingdom and retires to Los Angeles, where he gets his kicks helping the LAPD punish criminals.

At the same time, God’s emissary, the angel Amenadiel, has been sent to Los Angeles to convince Lucifer to return to the underworld.

Previews of the pilot episode depict graphic acts of violence, a nightclub featuring scantily-clad women and a demon.

How many of those moms obsess over their Facebook feeds? How many of those mom’s have their eyes fixated on cell phones throughout the day? How many of their kids spend hours with their eyes glued on glowing boxes that stream video games, movies, and One Million Moms-approved television shows? The answer in each case is probably “too many.”

Fox’s “Lucifer” is a single show that will actually prompt children to start Googling questions about Christianity, demons, angels, God, Jesus and an assortment of other faith-based subjects. Perhaps I’m wrong, but my guess is that the devil probably doesn’t want young children using Fox television shows as a springboard to an introduction with Jesus Christ. Does God not possess the power to turn any evil into a greater good? Of course he does.

It seems much more likely that the bigger threat to the spiritual well-being of our culture is the cumulative effect of technology that a.) seemingly satisfies every need, b.) encourages narcissism so as to essentially render humility obsolete, and c.) cultivates pride and envy.

The false idol of technology, which seemingly caters to every want and desire, gives birth to the false idol of self (or should we say “selfie”?). The devil doesn’t want individuals thinking about his nature because it is almost impossible to do so without thinking about the nature of Christ. The devil does not want a man to know he is being tempted because knowledge of temptation presents the opportunity to display virtue.

One Million Moms may have their hearts in the right place, but their heads should be more focused the spiritual Trojan Horse before them. The Red Hot Chili Peppers (a band that probably isn’t on One Million Moms’ playlist) had much better advice in 2002 when they sang “Throw away your television.”

The power of prayer: A blueprint for realizing faith’s potential

It is incredibly tough to get those who do not believe in prayer to understand how it works. Even those who do believe in God often pray in strange ways and then get frustrated by the results. Since prayer recently helped me regain my work-related Twitter account after it was unjustly suspended, I will try to use that story to explain how it works.

First, a recap:

  • After I wrote a story on Iran for work, an apologist for the regime Tweeted “I will find you and kill you … death to America.”
  • Twitter said it “could not determine” if that violated its terms of service. When I publicly questioned that decision, my account was suspended. Countless appeals were ignored over the course of one month.
  • The company’s press account ignored my emails and the emails of my co-workers.
  • A Washington, D.C. spokesman for Twitter ignored an inquiry by my employer.
  • Public pressure from countless Twitter followers and a story by WND did nothing to forward the process along.
  • My attempts to get certain conservative media outlets and personalities to take up my cause fell on deaf ears.
  • Well-connected people said they were at a loss as to how to help me. They essentially said my cause was hopeless.

During this whole ordeal I had a conversation with a friend about well-known personalities who did nothing to help me. I told my friend that it didn’t bother me because if God ultimately wanted to use them to help me, then He would. I prayed for an entire month, and last night I prayed throughout most of the night when an idea came to me: I would email Twitter’s CEO. I would make the case that he needed to intervene on my behalf. Then the words came to mind. When work started I didn’t know his email, but I took a chance on what I thought it might be — and I was right. Within 30 minutes of emailing him, my suspension was lifted and I received an apology from Twitter. A friend of mine said that what I did was something straight out of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I must admit, I did feel like the “The Sausage King of Chicago: Abe Froman.”

I nearly broke down into tears, knowing that my prayers had been answered. For someone who writes news for a living, Twitter is indispensable. Six-years worth of contacts and personalized news lists were restored.

Twitter apologyThis is just one story of many that I can tell where prayer has worked miracles in my life. If you’re interested in understanding how I pray and prepare for prayer, then here is the general blueprint:

  • A man’s heart must first be open to the possibility that God exists and that He and His angels hear our prayers.
  • We all have a lot to be grateful for, no matter what situation we find ourselves in. Prayer should take place after acknowledging those blessings. I often try to think about all the things that I am grateful for — to the point where I almost become overwhelmed with emotion.
  • Pray for the ability to discern God’s will and strength carry it out. If you are doing God’s will, then success is guaranteed.
  • Realize that what you may perceive as setbacks or failures on God’s part are never such things. If a man with night-vision was guiding you through a dark path and you occasionally slipped, would it make sense to get angry at him? How foolish would you feel if the path was suddenly illuminated and you realized that without the man’s help you would have fallen into a giant crevasse? In my story with Twitter, what would have happened if I shook my fist in anger and gave up when at least 10 different so-called media allies turned down my requests for help? Answer: I would not have come to a point where I would successfully email an insanely-busy CEO with a net worth of roughly $450 million.
  • Believe that the crosses that you carry are the burdens you must bear. There are very good reasons why hardship exists. With each obstacle we overcome, there are lessons to be learned. You should find a way to be grateful — even for those things in your life that cause pain or, at a cursory level, seem unwanted. Pray for the ability to understand the lessons God is trying to teach you.
  • Work hard. Prepare. Know your God-given talents and then hone them to perfection. Take my situation with Twitter. Imagine that I prayed, “God, if it is your will, please assist me in regaining my Twitter account,” and then sat on my butt waiting for a miracle that seemed to be denied. Now imagine me asking God why he denied my prayer and His response: “I made you a talented writer, but instead of writing to Twitter’s CEO and trusting in me, you took that talent for granted and expected some sort of dazzling light show. That was kind of a weird move on your part, don’t you think?”

I can probably add to this list, but that is a good start. I’m confident that someone who takes this advice will see amazing results over time. It is a humbling experience to see just how prayers can be perfectly answered. Often I reflect on how seamlessly some of them have been answered and cannot help but well up. A passing glimpse at perfection — true perfection — is a thing of beauty, but at the same time it can be emotionally crippling. Perhaps others have had a different experience, but my own brief tastes of infinite knowledge and infinite love can only be dwelt in for mere moments. It is a paralyzing epiphany to realize that on many levels we are comically insignificant beings, yet infinitely loved by our Creator.

If you believe in God, then I hope my prayer blueprint can be of use to you. If you do not believe in God, then hopefully I have given you some worthwhile insight into a Catholic mind that’s been around since 1979. In either case, thanks for reading and know that there’s a good chance that on random nights I am praying for you, too.