I'm coining a new phrase - Personal Mercy Warrior ("PMW").  I came up with it to juxtapose another phrase most of us today are all too familiar with - Social Justice Warrior ("SJW").  I think I'd rather be a PMW than a SJW.  Let me explain.

SJW's are all the rage these days (no pun intended).  Turn on the TV or log on to the internet for five minutes, and you'll see countless stories about protests, marches, and speeches against various societal inequalities in the areas of sex/gender, race, economics, etc. Many of these SJW's devote their entire existence to correcting these inequalities solely through group identity and macro, governmental solutions.  From their media-built pulpits, they scream about how men are oppressing women, whites are oppressing people of color, and the rich are oppressing the poor. "Justice," the SJW's say, demands radical change and action!.

One thing you rarely hear at a SJW rally, however, is any serious discussion of mercy.  That is a shame, because justice and mercy cannot exist without one another.  They are two sides of a coin.  Without mercy, justice becomes tyrannical. Without justice, mercy becomes mushy, sentimental and, in the end, incomprehensible.  For many SJW's, however, mercy has been subsumed within--even swallowed up--by justice.

I've been thinking and praying a lot about God's mercy lately. The depths of God's mercy are unfathomable.  When you boil it down, the entirety of Sacred Scripture (both the Old and New Testaments) is really just one long distillation of God's mercy towards us.  As part of that exercise, I've been reading St. Pope John Paul II's 1980 Encyclical Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy).  It is a beautiful exploration of God's Mercy and how both the Church and each individual can manifest that mercy in the world.  I think it is safe to say that when he wrote the encyclical in 1980, the future Saint had never heard the term "social justice warrior."  But you would never know that from reading the document.  Like most Saints' writings, Pope John Paul II's thoughts here are timeless and prophetic.  Several passages address the interplay between justice and mercy, at times as if he was writing directly to the modern SJW crowd.

First, the Saint recognizes that justice, in and of itself, cannot bring about meaningful change in the world:

The experience of the past and of our own time demonstrates that justice alone is not enough, that it can lead to the negation and destruction of itself, if the deeper power, which is love, is not allowed to shape human life in its various dimensions."

Shortly thereafter, he explains how modern "human opinions" misunderstand mercy in both idea and practice, therefore leading to the exclusive focus on justice:

These [human] opinions see mercy as a unilateral act or process, presupposing and maintaining a certain distance between the one practicing mercy and the one benefitting from it, between the one who does good and the one who receives it.  Hence the attempt to free interpersonal and social relationships from mercy and to base them solely on justice.

I have no doubt that today some SJW's see their efforts as a work of mercy.  And, to be sure, helping those that are oppressed can be a great act of mercy.  But by focusing on group identity and large-scale, government solutions--to the exclusion of the individual--it becomes all too easy, as John Paul II says, to maintain "a certain distance between the one practicing mercy and the one benefitting from it."  No matter how much I may identify or sympathize with a victim group, I can truly love only a person. I can only show mercy to an individual.  Yet, "true mercy is, so to speak, the most profound source of justice." Building on that, the Saint then goes on to discuss what many SJW's today fail to understand:

Mercy that is truly Christian is also, in a certain sense, the most perfect incarnation of 'equality' between people, and therefore also the most perfect incarnation of justice as well . . . However, the equality brought by justice is limited to the realm of objective and extrinsic goods, while love and mercy bring it about that people meet one another.

Equality!  Now there's something we can all get on board with (SJW's especially). But, as John Paul II explains, the pure justice practiced so often today limits equality to "objective and extrinsic goods."  Again, only mercy and love allow us to meet another person face to face--to see the image and likeness of God within, and treat the person with the dignity flowing from that.  The Saint then concludes:

Thus, mercy becomes an indispensable element for shaping mutual relationships between people, in a spirit of deepest respect for what is human, and in a spirit of mutual brotherhood.  It is impossible to establish this bond between people if they wish to regulate their mutual relationships solely according to the measure of justice.

To be clear, I'm not saying that certain inequalities and victims thereof do not exist. Nor am I saying that the idea of "social justice" (at least as understood and developed within the Social Doctrine of the Church) is not a necessary and often useful endeavor. What I am saying though, and truly believe, is that only through showing mercy and love to the individual, rather than seeking solely justice for a group, can we bring real change to our fallen world.  Of course, St. John Paul II expresses this better than I can:

Society can become ever more human only if we introduce into the many-sided setting of interpersonal and social relationships, not merely justice, but also that 'merciful love' which constitutes the messianic message of the Gospel.

So, through the inspiration and intercession of St. Pope John Paul II, let us be PMW's instead of SJW's, especially during this time of Lent.  May we personally (P) seek out the downtrodden and less fortunate in our midst instead of simply decrying social wrongs.  May we show mercy (M) to each individual we encounter instead of demanding merely justice for a group.  And may we be warriors (W) for this personal mercy, fighting to win souls for Christ, rather than faux warriors for bumper sticker justice.

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."  (Matt. 5:7)

Saint Pope John Paul the Great, pray for us!

God love you.

(Pictured above, Image of Divine Mercy from St. Faustina Kowalska, painted by Eugene Kazimierowski)

Readings for Friday of the First Week in Advent: Isaiah 29:17-24; Psalms 27; Matthew 9:27-31

"But they went away and spread his fame through all that district."  Matthew 9:31

Jesus, in today's Gospel reading, miraculously restores sight to two blind men.  As he often did after performing a healing miracle, Jesus told the two men not to tell anyone.  "See that no one knows it,"  He "sternly charged them."  (Matthew 9:30)  But, as was also often the case, the two men didn't follow his instructions, and told anyone who would listen what Jesus had done for them.

Certainly there are reasons why Jesus told the recipients of his miracles not to tell anyone about them.  His "hour had not yet come," as he sometimes said.  But as He was God, Jesus had to know that, like the two blind men, most of the people he healed would "spread his fame" anyway.  Really, how could they not?  If you were blind, and a man--with the simple touch of his hand or words from his mouth--opened your eyes to sight, wouldn't you tell it to the whole world?  Posting in on Facebook and Twitter, telling your co-workers, the waiter at lunch, even that homeless guy on the corner every morning?

Those two blind men were desperate to tell people about Jesus because they realized He had given them a gift that they did not deserve, and for which they could never repay.  This quote from G.K. Chesterton comes to mind:

The whole secret of the practical success of Christendom lies in the Christian humility, however imperfectly fulfilled.  For with the removal of all questions of merit or payment, the soul is suddenly released for incredible voyages.

Shouldn't we have that same sense of humility and gratitude every second of every day, with the same desire to share with the world the reason for our hope?  For Jesus has restored our sight too, but in even a more spectacular way.  He has opened our eyes to the light of His Truth; given us the gift of faith; given His very self in suffering death so that we might have eternal life with Him.  Once we accept that gift and truly come to realize its magnitude, we simply cannot keep it to ourselves.  Go out this Advent and share it.  Incredible voyages await.

God love you.

Readings for Wednesday of the first week in Advent: Romans 10:9-18; Psalm 19; Matthew 4:18-22

But How are men to call upon Him whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless sent?  Romans 10:14-15

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle.  The Gospel reading recounts how Jesus first called Andrew and his brother, St. Peter, telling them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."  (Matthew 4:19)  Without hesitation, Peter and Andrew "left their nets and followed him."  (4:20)

It seems fitting this first week of Advent to remember the Apostles and to realize that without their living out Christ's great commission to "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19), none of us would be preparing to celebrate Christmas this Advent.  For as St. Paul explains in his letter to the Romans from the first reading, we cannot believe in Jesus and call upon Him unless we have heard of Him, and we would never have heard of Him without preachers (the Apostles) who were sent.  So St. Andrew and the other Apostles went forth to the ends of the known world in the first century A.D., preaching the Good News of Christ crucified and raised from the dead, knowing that their spreading of the Gospel would more than likely get them killed one day. Indeed, like all the other Apostles (except St. John), St. Andrew was martyred for the faith, crucified on a "crux decussata" (an X-shaped cross) in Patras, Greece.

Yet despite the Apostles' martyrdom, the Gospel continued to spread like wildfire, and the Church grew without the aid of anything resembling modern forms of communication or travel. Century followed century, one person passing on the Good News of Jesus Christ to another, and that person to another, sharing the wondrous story of God becoming man through the womb of a virgin named Mary.  And at some point, from the seeds first planted by the Apostles as commissioned by Christ, that story reached you and me--whether from a parent, a friend, or even a stranger.  So now, just as St. Andrew did, we must proclaim the Gospel through our lives this Advent.  Let us leave our nets, follow Him, and become fishers of men.  Our witness will make Advent possible for future generations.

St. Andrew, ora pro nobis!

God love you.


"Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied."  (John 14:8)

I've heard it said that, at some level, each of us has a "father wound."  The meaning of that phrase applied individually likely varies from person to person, but the truth of it goes to the unique impact a father--or lack thereof--has on each of our lives.  What we today call "the West" (and for over 1500 years knew as Christendom), undeniably is suffering from a father wound--earthly and heavenly, both coerced and self-inflicted.

Fatherlessness in America has reached epidemic proportions.  The statistics are equal parts shocking and sobering.  A staggering 33% (24.7 million) of children in the U.S. live in a home absent their biological father.  Of children between the ages of 1st and 12th grade, the percentage increases to 39%.  Jesus once told his disciples "what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?"  (Matthew 7:9-10)  Sadly, for 1 in every 3 children in this country, the father isn't even around for a child to ask him for such things.

The negative effects the lack of a father has on a child are well documented and equally horrific.  These include vast increases in the risk of poverty, teen pregnancy, behavioral problems, alcohol and drug abuse, high school dropout and incarceration.  Two statistics in particular illustrate the father wound: (1) 63% of youth suicides come from fatherless homes; and (2) 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes.  Of course, none of these statistics take into account those fathers that are physically present in the home, yet who are physically or mentally abusive, indifferent, or simply emotionally absent.  To be sure though, there are some fathers who qualify as “physically absent” from the home but who nevertheless are able to find the time and means to still be present in the lives of their children. But, in reality, these “absent but present” fathers are likely a rarity. Being a devoted father, after all, is a full time job, and physical and emotional presence in the home on a daily basis is almost always a necessity.

I share these statistics not to paint a hopeless picture or demean most fathers.  Far from it.  Many of us were and are blessed with wonderful, loving fathers who played active roles in our lives.  I'm also fully aware that numerous individuals overcome the absence of a father to reach lofty heights.  I personally know many such examples.  But neither is my intent to issue a get out of jail free card to those who have suffered from a physically or emotionally absent father. At some point, we all have to take personal responsibility for our lives, our decisions, and our sins.

But what these statistics above show--and what our own experience tells us--is that we each have a deep desire for the love of a father; a love without which things inevitably go wrong.  There is a hole in our hearts that only a father can fill.  Why?  How is it that nothing else can seem to fill the void a lack of the father creates?

The answer, I believe, lies in the apostle Philip's plea to Jesus: "Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied."  (John 14:8)  We do not know what Philip's relationship was like with his earthly father, but we can hear the longing in his voice for the Father's love.  That love we all seek.  It is that same yearning that caused St. Augustine to cry out "our heart [O Lord] is restless until it rests in You."  Because a father's love here on earth is but a dim reflection of the love of our Heavenly Father--the Creator of every star in the universe who decided to create you and me too.  We want to know Him, to see Him, to feel His love in the same way every child craves his or her father's love and attention.

So when Jesus responds to Philip's question, his answer echoes throughout the ages to each one of us: "He who has seen me has seen the Father."  For that, in a nutshell, was Jesus's mission--to show us the Father's love through his life, death and resurrection.  And only by becoming man, taking on our human flesh, could God fully reveal himself as the loving Father he has been for all eternity.  As Scott Hahn explains in his recent book The Creed:

"Father.  There, in a word, is the Christian revolution.  There is the word that set Christianity apart from any religion that has appeared on earth, before or since the birth of Jesus.  [A] Father whose love, it seems, is so great as to be unimaginable apart from his self-revelation in the Son."

Life is hard when our earthly father has been absent from our lives, but it is even harder when our Heavenly Father is absent.  But whereas it is almost unheard of for a child actively to seek separation from his or her earthly father, more and more adults in the United States have either completely or partially banished God the Father from their lives.  As of 2012, 20% of all adults in the United States described themselves as either atheist, agnostic, or having "no religious affiliation."  The very latest statistics from the Pew Research Center continue to paint a bleak picture, showing that half of Americans who have left Christianity no longer believe in God at all.

Even among those who still self-identify as Christian, over 60% infrequently or rarely attend worship services.  Sadly, among Catholics, it is even worse, with less than 25% attending Mass at least once a week.  So, although there still is a large segment of the population who retain some cultural identity as Christian, in reality, they practically are indistinguishable from non-Christians.  In both groups, God plays as little role in their day to day lives as those absent fathers cited in the statistics above.  If you've read any of my first few posts from this blog, you know I speak from experience.

This heavenly fatherlessness comes with a price.  One need not look long at the state of affairs in the West to see the effects of moral decay: the systematic slaughter of the unborn, the tossing aside of the sick and elderly through the faux compassion of increasingly accepted assisted suicide laws; the denial of reality through the redefinition of marriage and radical gender ideology; a steep decline in the protection of religious liberty; unprecedented moral relativism; the elevation of "science" as the only means by which truth (if there even be such a thing) can be known; and a general apathy, if not hostility, toward anything that makes moral demands on one's life or interferes with the ultimate god of pleasure.  The list could go on and on.  Next time you are sitting in traffic, or in line at the grocery store, or walking through the mall, look around at people's faces.  Overall, you're unlikely to see the joy and hope that comes from knowing God the Father as revealed by his Son, Jesus Christ.

It is long past time for us, as Christians, to take personal responsibility for this; for not showing others that the hole in their heart, which nothing else can fill, is the absence of God the Father.    In short, It is time to restore Christendom; not physically or collectively, but spiritually and personally.  As the late Christian historian Warren Carroll once wrote:

"Christendom . . . grows with that courage and profession, and above all by the silent impetus of prayer and example.  It fades with timidity, indifference, apostasy, and lack of holiness."

And for that, there is no better model than Mary, the Mother of God, whose "soul magnifies the Lord" and whose "spirit rejoices in God my savior."  (Luke 1:46-47)  Like so many earthly mothers who make up in love for the absent earthly father, so Mary points us to her Son so the Father will no longer be absent from our lives.  For unlike her, too often we turn the lens around, magnifying ourselves and not God, while rejoicing in the temporal but not the eternal.  We would do well to listen to the advice of St. Francis of Assisi, who said that "the deeds you do may be the only sermon some people will hear today."  That frame of mind, combined with radical conversion to holiness, is what it will take to show the world the Father.  As always, Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen sums it up better than I ever could:

"The Heavenly Father has a Son Who is the fullness of all the perfections of the Father, and yet from all eternity He has decreed that other children should be born to Him and be admitted to the glorious privilege of adoptive sonship in which they can say 'Our Father.'"

May we bring God the Father back into all of our lives.

God love you.



"Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me."  (Matthew 16:24)

"[A]nd whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me."  (Matthew 10:38)


When I went to bed the night before, I really hoped it wouldn't be there the next morning.  But sure enough, there it was.

The morning started like most: a way too early alarm clock signaling the dawn of a new day.  (If it's not the alarm clock, it's the pitter patter of little feet followed by "Daddy I want some juice" that wakes me up.)  I fumble for my phone, turn the alarm off, sit up, and look to my left.  It's lying on the floor leaning up against the wall.  I think to myself, "How am I possibly going to carry this thing again today?"

You see, my cross is a massive, unwieldy, burdensome beast--fifteen feet high and eight feet across.  Physically, the only way to carry it is by putting the long beam across my shoulder, just below where the two beams intersect, and dragging the monstrosity behind me.  And so I get out of bed and commence the chore.

My shoulder and back are still a little sore from the day before, but I manage to carry the cross into my study.  Fortunately, the room has double doors, so I'm able negotiate the cross through.  As I drag it across the room in the darkness, it slips off my shoulder and lands on the floor with a loud thud.  Surprised that it didn't wake up the rest of the house, I decide to leave it where it lays.  As I stare at the cross on the floor, I look up and notice that the top of the vertical beam is pointing directly towards a crucifix hanging on the wall nearby.  In an instant, I'm reminded that the Eternal Son of God had to carry his cross too prior to being nailed to it.  I light some candles near the crucifix, get down on my knees, and spend some time in prayer with the Creator of the universe who became man and died for me.

Before I know it, the sun is starting to rise outside.  As much as I would like to stay here talking to my Savior, fatherly and work duties call.  I end my prayer, blow out the candles, and turn around to pick up my cross.  Miraculously, it's almost weightless.  What had been heavy and almost immovable when I woke up now seems light as a feather.  I turn back to the crucifix with a smile and hear Him say to me "my yoke is easy, and my burden light."  (Matthew 11:30)  I mutter to myself, "Why do I always forget that?"

With the suddenly light cross in tow, the rest of the morning routine at home goes smoothly.  I meet my two oldest children (6 and 4) in the kitchen and get them cereal.  I'm able to stand the cross up against the kitchen counter almost effortlessly.  My children never notice the cross, despite its massive size.  I have noticed though that on mornings I skip my prayer time with Him, they sense that daddy is carrying something heavy.  From there, I'm able to get myself and the kids ready to leave for school and out the door.  As if it were a small piece of driftwood, I toss the cross into the bed of my truck, load up the kids, and take them to school.  I'm at peace.  More importantly, I'm thankful that the cross is so light today.

After dropping the kids off, I pull into the parking lot of my office building.  As I lower the tailgate to retrieve the cross, a sense of uneasiness comes over me.  I go to pull it towards me and onto the ground, but the cross is heavier than it was when I left home.  This often happens.  I really don't like taking the cross out in pubic for everyone to see.  In fact, some days it seems easier just to leave the cross at home altogether, but I know that's not an option He gave me.  Besides the obvious physical challenges in getting the cross into my office (through narrow doors, tight corners and all that), its the way others look at it (and me) that's really unnerving.  Some people laugh out loud, mockingly asking "where are you going with that ridiculous thing?"  "Following Him," I reply.  Some of them become interested and ask more questions, some don't.  Other people look at it with brief curious fascination, then go about there own business as usual.  Still others avoid--at all costs--even looking at the cross, immediately diverting their eyes downward when it comes into sight, or sometimes, fleeing the room or building all together.

But there is a fourth category of people I encounter, both in my office building and anywhere else I take my cross: those carrying their own crosses.  Admittedly, its a much smaller group than the other three, but numerous enough to see them almost anywhere I go.  I'm always fascinated by the different sizes of the crosses they carry--some much smaller, some even larger--than mine.  Many of them have radiant smiles on their faces, reflecting an almost other-wordly joy at the privilege of carrying their cross.  Some are much more somber, and you can see the weight of their cross has them stumbling, sometimes even falling.  Without fail, however, when this happens, one or more of the other cross bearers will come to the aid of the struggling person.  "Here, let Him help you," I often hear them say, as they help the struggling person to his or her feet and share the burden of the cross--all while carrying their own as well.  More times than I can count, one of these selfless individuals has come to my aid when my cross had me at the breaking point.  A few have told me that their name was Simon.

I finally arrive at my office and set the cross against the wall facing my desk.  The rest of my workday proceeds in routine, uneventful fashion.  Some days, I get so distracted with work, stress and the anxieties of life that I never remember to look up at the cross,  despite its size and the fact that it is right in front of me.  Other days, even those when I'm really busy, I'm constantly reminded of its presence by taking brief pauses to lift my heart to heaven and thank Him for carrying His cross so that mine doesn't have to be so heavy.  On the former days when I don't do this and ignore the cross, it always seems even heavier when I go to leave the office for home.  This day, however, I stayed close to Him, so the cross isn't nearly as hard to carry as I depart.

I arrive home to beautiful children happy to see daddy.  Some play time, dinner, baths and bedtime follow in that order--all with my cross in tow that the little ones aren't aware of.  We kneel down at the edge of one of their beds for prayer time before they get tucked in.  We recite the prayers they have memorized, then each says what we are thankful for that day.  We end the prayers by telling Him that we love Him and make the sign of the cross.  As my son crawls into bed, I rub my shoulder.  "Did you hurt your shoulder today, daddy?" he asks.  "No son," I reply, "I just had to carry something today."  "What?" he asks curiously.  "A cross like the one Jesus had to carry," I answer him.  "Why?" he asks.  "Because Jesus asked me to," I tell him.  As I turn out the lights and kiss him, he asks, "Is it heavy?

"No buddy, it's not.  Not anymore."


"Jesus carries the Cross for you: you . . . carry it for Jesus."  (St. Josemaria Escriva)

How big is your cross?  How heavy is it?

Although it sounds paradoxical, in many respects, being a disciple of Jesus Christ might be easier if each of us did have to carry an actual, physical cross around with us everyday.  First, it would allow us always to be aware of the immense weight we carry from our own sin and the trials, tribulations, anguish, and anxiety of life.  More importantly, it would constantly remind us that our Blessed Lord carried his cross so that our's is not so burdensome.  Instead, all too often, we internalize our pain and suffering, bearing our crosses in misery while never asking for His help, or the help of those Simons he puts in our life to pick up our cross when we drop it.  This is not to say that carrying our cross should be or will be easy, for Jesus never promised us that.  Carrying our crosses means not only denying ourselves, but dying to ourselves.  The good news, however, is that He provides us the tools (prayer, fasting, almsgiving, frequent reception of the Sacraments, etc.) necessary to carry it with joy, despite the self-sacrifice it requires.  Jesus expects us to carry our crosses willingly.

Second, hauling an actual cross around would be a constant reminder of how much Jesus suffered carrying his cross.  I've already written about the immense suffering caused by the crowning with thorns.  Consider that by the time He was given His cross to carry on the way to Golgotha, He had been: (1)  beaten severely; (2) scourged to within an inch of His life, His mangled flesh hanging off His body; and (3) had a crown of thorns driven into His scalp, resulting in major trigeminal neuralgia, which caused indescribable pain from any minor movement.  As he dragged the cross behind him, every time it hit a rock or hole in the ground, the wounds on his back would have been reopened, and the crown of thorns would have caused sharp knives of pain throughout his body.  I've always thought that this clip from the Passion of the Christ is a great depiction of Jesus carrying his cross.

Finally, although in reality our crosses our invisible, people should still be able to see them.  Moreover, they should see us carrying them with joy and not despondent sorrow.  Otherwise, our faith looks unattractive, even miserable.  Jesus says to us "Why are you terrified?  Do you not have faith?"  Being His disciple and carrying our cross can be terrifying.  But like he did on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus calms the winds and storms of our lives.  (Mark 4:40)  He then gives us supernatural grace to do things we never thought possible.

A couple of weeks ago I spent some time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.  The tempest of life had me down a bit, and my human weakness was at the forefront of my thoughts.  I opened Sacred Scripture and turned to St. Paul's second letter to the Corinthians.  As if Jesus had touched me on the shoulder to get my attention, I read this:

"Therefore,  I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:10)

Our weakness is our strength in Christ.  Carrying our crosses often results in hardships, persecutions, and restraints, but Jesus is there with us every step of the way, carrying His cross too.  His was much bigger and heavier than ours.  So, as Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen often said, "Go into the world and tell every person you meet that there is a man on the cross!"

God love you.





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One of the many great things about being a new Catholic is getting to know the saints.  Those heroic men and women, who through their lives of obedience and uncompromising love for God, give us a blueprint for becoming holy and growing in our faith and love for Jesus Christ.  The witness of the saints' lives--as well as their writings--contain vast treasures just waiting to be discovered.

Over the past several weeks, I've been reading St. Josemaria Escriva--a wonderful twentieth century saint from Spain.  A biography or summary of his life would take up the entirety of this post, so here are two links (http://www.josemariaescriva.info and http://www.escrivaworks.org) that contain a plethora of information about St. Josemaria.  Of his writings, St. Josemaria is perhaps best known for three books: "The Way," "Furrow" and "The Forge."  I've been reading and reflecting on The Way most recently.

As point of reference, The Way is broken down into individually numbered paragraphs, each containing short, concise thoughts and words of wisdom from Josemaria on a variety of topics, all regarding life in Jesus Christ.  His prologue summarizes the point of this style better than I can:

"Read these counsels slowly.  Pause to meditate on these thoughts.  They are things that I whisper in your ear--confiding them--as a friend, as a brother, as a father.  And they are being heard by God.  I will only stir your memory, so that some thought will arise and strike you; and so you will better your life and set out along ways of prayer and of Love."

I have no doubt that I will return to many of St. Josemaria's "counsels" throughout the life of this blog, but one in particular jumped out at me so much that, after some prayer and reflection, I knew it would be the topic for my first post.  It is a term (or idea) that I had never heard used before reading it in The Way:  Holy Shamelessness!

So what is it?  Something that every Christian should have.  Indeed, St. Josemaria describes holy shamelessness as a characteristic within "the plane of sanctity our Lord asks of us."  (¶ 387)  Simply stated, "[i]f you have holy shamelessness, you won't be bothered of what people have said or what they will say."  (¶391)  As such, it is "characteristic of the life of [a] child[]," who "doesn't worry about anything" and "makes no effort to hide his weakness . . . even though everyone is watching him."  (¶389)  Thus, a Christian with holy shamelessness should "[l]augh at ridicule.  Scorn whatever may be said. [And] see and feel God in yourself and in your surroundings."  (¶ 390)  Although St. Josemaria doesn't touch on it directly in The Way, it seems clear to me that holy shamelessness should compel us as Christians to live our faith visibly and publicly so that all those we come into contact with can see the joy and true happiness that an encounter with Christ brings.

Reading St. Josemaria's words though, it didn't take long for me to realize that for most of my life, I've had anything but holy shamelessness.  In fact, I've usually had just the opposite--I'll call it "worldly bashfulness" (purely my term, not St. Josemaria's).  Far too often--both in my youth and as an adult--I've been embarrassed to visibly live my faith in a way that made Christ's role in my life evident.  For example, several years ago, I had a co-worker (who is now a close friend and brother in Christ) tell me that he assumed I was an atheist because of certain language I used in emails  Sadly, none of my other actions or words (or lack thereof) while in his presence had given him any impression that I was a Christian.

But why?  Because I was too worried about what people might say or think of me if I wore my faith in Christ on my sleeve.  I was consumed with worldly bashfulness instead of holy shamelessness.  I was more concerned with people thinking I was weird, a "Jesus freak," "bible thumper," "one of those people," . . . the list could go on and on.  Instead of laughing at ridicule, I was more worried about being ridiculed.  Being cool and being liked took precedence over proclaiming the truth of the eternal Son of God.  Perhaps you can recall similar instances from your own life.

Of course, the idea of holy shamelessness--not being ashamed of God--is firmly rooted in Sacred Scripture and the words of our Lord himself:

  •  "And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me."  (Luke 7:23)
  • "No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lamp stand so that those who enter may see the light."  (Luke 8:16)
  • "Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels."  (Luke 9:26)
  • "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters."  (Luke 11:23)
  • "Nevertheless, many, even among the authorities, believed in him, but because of the Pharisees they did not acknowledge it openly in order not be be expelled from the synagogue.  For they preferred human praise to the glory of God.  (John 12:42-43)
  • "In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast in what pertains to God."  (Romans 15:17)
  • "Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord."  (1 Corinthians 1:31)

I could list many more passages, but the point is clear--we should aspire to have holy shamelessness because our Lord demands it!  The popular secular notion (even believed by some Christians) that faith is a private affair that should be kept mostly to oneself is simply unbiblical.  Indeed, being too bashful to acknowledge Jesus, concealing the light of our lamps, preferring human praise all are incompatible with a living out the love of Christ .  Yet all too often we do just that, succumbing to worldly bashfulness so that we don't stand out from the crowd.

Perhaps this will help put things in perspective.  Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge sports fan--football, basketball, baseball, you name it.  I root for my teams with reckless abandon.  Fan, of course, is short for fanatic.  Tune into any football game on Saturday or Sundays in the Fall and you will see thousands of fanatics crammed into stadiums.  Most of these fanatics scream at the top of their lungs continuously for 2-3 hours trying to influence the outcome of a game that will have no real impact on their lives.  Many of these fanatics paint their faces and/or bodies is various ways to support their team.  All of these fanatics, however, have one thing in common: they are not "bothered by the thought of what people have said or what they will say" (¶ 391) about their fanatic behavior.  They are shameless about being fanatics.

I use this example not to belittle sports fans (of whom I am one of the biggest), but to illustrate the dichotomy.  We are afraid to talk about God, to make any public pronouncement of faith for fear of ridicule or offense.  But when it comes to something as trivial as a children's game played by adults, we will go to almost any lengths to make our fanaticism known.  Think about that for a second and imagine a world where we converted only a tiny fraction of that shamelessness into holy shamelessness--to proclaim Christ crucified and raised from the dead in our everyday lives.

So let us be fans for Jesus Christ!  As the great philosopher and theologian Peter Kreeft says, "what the world calls fanaticism, the saints call fidelity."  The good news is that each and every day God presents us with opportunities to grow in holy shamelessness.  It doesn't have to be anything large or grandiose.  Start small.  For "[h]e who is faithful in very little things is faithful also in much."  (¶ 243; cf. Luke 19:17)  For example, pray before meals in public; incorporate phrases like "God bless" and "have a blessed day" into your everyday greetings and salutations; talk openly about all the ways God has blessed your life and how thankful you are for Him.  Most importantly, let the joy of Christ show on your face!  Jesus has conquered sin and death through his precious blood.  What better news is there than that?!  Any maybe, just maybe, somebody will notice one of these small gestures of holy shamelessness and ask about the reason for your joy.

God bless and have a great weekend!

In Christ,