How to Keep Going: Three Steps
How to Keep Going – The Morning Offering
As mentioned last week my approach about how to “keep going” is not bound by or to COVID19. It is for always. As St John of Arc said a long time ago: I was born for this time; I am not afraid; God is with me.
The fist part of our needed plan to keep going is the way we start the day. We all know the saying “the wong side of the bed.” You and I want to get out of the bed “on the right side” which is not the right or left but with a proper attitude. This is where I begin because it is where the day begins.
Getting up on the “right side of the bed” beings with three steps:
Getting up immediately – this is the “Heroic Minute” of the day. Why immediately? It is the first victory of the day and it sets the pace. For some people this is easy while for others it is like climbing Mount Everest. Suffice it to say that we need to overcome ourselves in the first moments when the alarm goes off or you know it is time to get up.
The second thing to do is make the Morning Offering. If you can get on your knees and thank God for waking up and the day ahead. Do this whether you feel great or not so great. This doesn’t need to be very long. It can be a spontaneous prayer or one that is a set vocal prayer. Here is an example:
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in thanksgiving for your favors, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all my relatives and friends, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father. Amen.
Whatever form this offering takes the important thing is to actually pray it. It is like setting the trajectory of your day.
Saint John Mary Vianney taught: “All that we do without offering it to God is wasted.”
Finally – to highlight the importance of staring the day in this way I will give a teaching from no less than the Catechism of the Catholic Church: The Christian begins his day, his prayers, and his activities with the Sign of the Cross: “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” The baptized person dedicates the day to the glory of God and calls on the Savior’s grace which lets him act in the Spirit as a child of the Father.
The third thing I would recommend to “keep going” is to Make Your Bed. Ya – make your bed. You might think I’m being too picky or too chore oriented or “whatever is negative” but there it is a good way to start your day. If you want to watch a very good talk on “Making Your Bed” I encourage you to watch this YouTube Video.
So, whether we are in the Pandemic or not it is important to know that you can begin you day in such a way that it keeps you going and will set your day in a trajectory towards God. It doesn’t mean that everything will go great or even well but it does mean that you will have a solid foundation upon which you can face whatever comes your way. You and I are not alone so we need to start the day in this knowledge and recall it throughout the day. How we do that will be the subject of future writing.
To Recap – 3 things: HM, MO and MB and off you go. Do it every day no matter what.
How To Keep Going?
We here in British Columbia have just heard that our “lock down” has been extended to February 5th. This is a cause of everything from discouragement to despondency, perhaps even depression and anger for some … perhaps many. Others could be dealing with this fairly well.
This post will try to lay out some key and I hope simple ideas to help and assist you in getting through this and coming out the other end of the Pandemic and lockdowns with a positive outlook.
For that matter – what I am going to write here is something I hope will help you no matter what circumstance you find yourself in. My approach or plan applies to pre-COVID-19, in-COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 times. Here I go:
The overall key is that we human beings need routine. What is important is that it is not mindless routine. In other words we think about it and review it from time to time.
Within our routine we need structure and discipline. I specify this because our routine can be messy and very unproductive. Our bad routine could very well be 3 or 4 hours in front of the TV or computer screen.
I will be general at first and then perhaps with the next blog or blogs get more specific. We need what I would call a “Plan of Life” or “Regiment” or “My Plan for the Day.” Call it what you will but I hope you get my point.
The plan of life should give us a framework from the time we get up till the time we go to bed. It is not meant to “box us in” or confine us. These points that make up our plan and can help us through all times.
I will lay out here some points. You may not agree with all of them; you may not want to do all of them. No problem. My only suggestion is that you make your own Plan and strive to follow it — diligently, faithfully.
Find a regular time to go to bed and then to get up. The average person needs 6 to 8 hours of sleep. If you cheat on this, you are going to pay for it and others around you will pay (negatively) as well. Don’t mess with your body and soul in this way.
When you get up make a morning offering. I will devote more to these points in later blogs but essentially it is a prayer to begin the day with God. Thank him for the fact that you are alive and ask him to help you offer your entire day to his honor and glory.
Other points sprinkled throughout the day include prayer (meditation) for 15 minutes. Yes, you can do it.
Read the New Testament 3 minutes a day. Start at Matthew and just continue. That is 18.5 hours a year.
Pray the Angelus at Noon.
Think of Jesus in the Tabernacle at 3pm: Jesus, thank you for being there. I love you!
Try – if you can – to pray the Rosary (even one decade to get the devotion started).
Begin a plan of spiritual reading. This has made saints so why not you! 10 minutes a day. This will feed your mind, nourish your soul inflame your heart. I can recommend books to people.
Try to spend time with family or even zoom with friends (Google Meets) rather than watching too much TV or the computer.
Bedtime – really strive to be regular! Before getting into the bed try these three simple things:
a) blessing yourself with holy water;
b) 3 Hail Mary’s for holy purity;
c) brief examination of conscience. I will expand on this later but essentially it revolves around these question: i) what did I do wrong; ii) what did I do write; iii) what specific thing – 1 thing – can I do to improve tomorrow.
I hope that this is not overwhelming. You don’t have to do all of it but to focus on the overall idea: you and I need a healthy routine that is structured.
Remember – God loves you!
A New Year Upon Us: Closer to Heaven!
There is a lot of “natural stuff” coming at people as they begin this New Year. One of these “natural things” are the COVID updates that occur regularly.
There are the regular reports about the effects of the pandemic on the economy, family life and our personal lives.
We cannot ignore these things – or we shouldn’t ignore them. We need to pay attention to what is going on around us and also what going on inside of us — i.e., in our mind and heart.
This post is going to give some different input. While all this other “stuff” is coming at us and we are trying to process it we also need something to help us either make some sense of it or give us strength to put it into perspective. This is why I have titled this post: A New Year Is Upon Us: Closer to Heaven!
Yes, we are entering a New Year. It is important that we Christians remember that Jesus is Lord of 2021. Every year when we celebrate the Easter Vigil we put for numbers on the Paschal Candle in what is called the Ceremony of Light. We proclaim that:
“Christ yesterday and today;
the Beginning and the End;
the Alpha; and the Omega;
All time belongs to him;
and all the ages;
To him be glory and power;
through every aga and fore ever. Amen.
This Easter Vigil we will put the numbers 2021 to proclaim that Jesus is Lord of every year, of all time!
It is very easy to forget this, so we need to remind ourselves of this foundational truth in our lives.
Further to this truth is that each day we arise from our beds and years year comes upon us is a day and a year that are closer to eternal life and let us pray that means heaven for us.
I’m sure this is not your typical “news item” that you’ll read at this time of the year but it is – I believe – very important for us to read it, hear it and let it penetrate into our hearts, our minds and our very souls.
This truth – that Jesus is Lord of all time (of 2021) will give us courage and serenity to live one day at a time knowing full well we are stepping closer to eternity.
If we live with this awareness we should deepen in serenity, with deeper confidence and resolve to wake up every day and do our very best to please God in whatever we do.
Every day we awaken God has already prepared new graces for you and me – God has had these ready from all eternity because he knows what we are going to face as we live today in this New Year and as we step closer to eternity.
God who is faithful will not shortchange us. God will provide the grace that we need to keep humble if we are doing really well; God will provide grace that we need if life seems like it is tanking on us and we are walking through the “dark valley.”
Whatever happens to you and me throughout this year – and things will happen – it is so important that we remember Jesus is Lord is 2021.
I want to encourage everyone to begin their day with a morning offering – offer your day to God. Thank him for waking up because that means God wants you in this world to do “his work.” Ask him – in your own words” to help you remember that you, with each step you take, approach eternity so you want to “walk well.”
Each day is so precious because it is our day, my day, your day and Jesus is Lord of it.
So walk well
Forgive if you need to do it well
If you really strive to love God well then you will love others around, you even better
Let us ask St Joseph to help us live this year as best as we can, trusting in the Father to help us take our steps with confidence as we approach him.
Have a blessed New Year of 2021!
New Year’s Resolutions? No! One a Day!
This year of 2020 is coming to a close and a veritable tsunami of material is being loaded onto the internet regarding the end of one year (all the good and bad that went with it) and dawn of the new year to come (with all the good and the bad that will come with it).
The year 2020 will soon be gone and many people will be glad it is gone. I get this and there is a part of me that will be glad to see it go as well.
This is not a secular blog though so I am going to inject a critical element into this writing and one that will help us – that being of faith.
Faith does not have us ignore that bad stuff of life; faith has see how God is working the bad stuff of life as well as the good. We can all too easily conclude that God has “gone on vacation” as the world and perhaps our own life goes into something akin to a tailspin.
Each of us – I submit – needs to see all things through the eyes of faith. This does not mean that you or I will have all the answers (I don’t!). What it will allow us “to see” is that God has foreseen 2020 from all eternity. There are no oops with God!
God has has provided – from all eternity – the grace that we need to grow in holiness.
God has foreseen the lockdowns; God has foreseen all of our difficult days and our good days. God could not be, cannot be and would never want to be absent from any of it.
There is no perfect time to become a saint AND there is no worst time not to become a saint. All times are foreseen by God and therefor it is possible to become a saint anytime in history.
So, as we say goodbye to 2020 it is important that each of spend time in prayer thinking about the many blessings that God has granted to. We need to give thanks to God for all of them (know and unknown to us).
We also need to spend time in prayer thinking of the many lost opportunities that God made available to us during this past year. It could be that we know very well we should have prayed more but did not. Perhaps we lost valuable opportunities to reach out of friends or family during COVID19. Perhaps we subjected ourselves to negative news and forget the good things happening around us. Remember – there is no perfect time to become a saint – the time is now!
With all of this I tend to dismiss making “New Year’s resolutions” as a lot of them go by the wayside all too quickly.
The saints teach us to make resolutions every day – even one – and it can be a very small resolution, but they need to be made every day.
Smiling at an annoying worker with sincerity. This may not change them – but it might! – but it will change you. Change up the resolutions but keep doing “the one” and do it intentionally. Do not underestimate the importance of small things done with love for God and others around you.
As we enter 2021 let us resolve to make that “one resolution” every day. Be intentional about this “one resolution.” There can, of course, be more but start with “the one” and build from there.
I tell people – if you start reading the New Testament for 3 minutes each day (no more and no less) you will have read 18.5 hours of the bible by the end of the year. How many people read the Bible for 18.5 hours every year? I don’t know but I suspect it is very few people.
But with 3 minutes every day (a small action) you will accomplish a big 18.5 hours (a big action) by the end of the year.
May we all look to the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, as her Solemnity brings in the New Year of 2021. Whatever it holds for us remember that God has foreseen it from all eternity and God has grace available – just waiting – for you and me to help us grow in holiness, to becomes saints!
That “one resolution” each day will help us take a step closer to being a saint.
Fr Bruce-John Hamilton
Let the Baby Draw You In
We are entering into the week leading up to Christmas. It is, I suspect, the case that many people do not feel much like Christmas. There is a whole host of reasons for this, but it most likely revolves around one reality: COVID19. Many have lost their lives and that means there are those mourning and grieving who are left behind; many have lost their jobs; many people are stressed out; many people are anxious, and the list goes on. To be sure – there are also those who are looking forward to Christmas – hoping and praying that it will be that “ray of hope” that is so badly needed.
To the former group I want to – I hope to – write something to encourage you. I want to, right up front, acknowledge what you are experiencing. I also want to encourage you not to allow what you are going through due to COVID or anything else, to define you. This may sound easier said than done but this is not just a motivational talk or motivational writing. Rather this writing is more of a finger pointing in a certain direction or more accurately it is pointing to a certain person. That person is now in his mother’s womb and will be in “that crib” that is the focus of so much attention at this time of the year.
There are many reasons for anyone of us to “look in” — that is to kind of sink into ourselves and feel lost or isolated and lonely. We need to “look out” and look to the one who has always thought of us – he actually willed us into existence through our parents – who thinks of us and will always be with us, who always loves us and that is Jesus Christ, True God and True man.
This last week before the celebration of Christ’s birth there will be many things that draw us in. The malls will certainly not be as full as they were last year; so-called “Boxing Day” which is for us Catholics the Feast of the Martyrdom of Saint Stephen will be much quieter (and while I want businesses to succeed there is a ‘madness’ about the day after Christmas that is not good for people!).
We need a quieter Saint Stephen’s Day. It is a day to not only reflect on what we have just celebrated – to let it really sink in and enjoy it – but we need to remember that this “little baby” is here for a purpose and that purpose it not to live but to die. Sounds horrible doesn’t it? It is not if we get serious about our faith and really look at that child – let Him draw us in – and realize that the Shepherds are worshiping him; Mary and Joseph are worshipping him; Angels are announcing his arrival with the greatest of jubilation. This little child is here for war – yes, my brothers and sisters … this child is here for war!
CS Lewis said that “Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.” (Mere Christianity). Why disguise – because Satan would never attack God head on – he knows he cannot win that battle. But Satan would attack someone he saw as being human even though “holy and righteous” and so on. And so, the King came cloaked in the guise of human nature.
So this is Christmas – it is the beginning of a supernatural, cosmic D-Day and the number of the allies who are going to take on the enemy is One and that “One” lays in a crib looking helpless, needing food and swaddling cloths to keep warm and food to sustain his mortal nature. He looks so helpless — his disguise is so complete. The baby is here to fight for us, for you and for me. This baby loves us so much he is going to lure the enemy into a trap making him think that he is going to be victorious and thus will the victory be accomplished.
St Stephen was the first of his “red witnesses” (Martyrs by blood) showing us that the words of the child truly transform a human heart and give one the courage to what he will do “lay down your life for the Truth and those you love.”
Let us allow this baby – Jesus Christ – to draw us in; let us open our heart to Him so that we may have union with him, friendship wit him and thus be transformed by him. Let us be willing and wanting to be his “white martyrs” (Martyrs by daily witness)
Greater love no man has than to lay down his life for his friends. This child will not only speak these words but live these words. If we live them, we will experience the same victory that he did.
So – as many things compete for your attention and seek to “draw you in” – into yourself, into buying, into too much eating or drinking or screen time – listen to him, look at him and let him draw you in. Fall in love with him for his love is the only worthy love of our entire heart, mind, body and soul.
Let the child draw you in and if you do – no matter what you have or don’t have – you will have a blessed, holy and merry Christmas. You will know that you are loved and no one can take that away.
Fr Bruce-John Hamilton
Something New – This Blog
There are so many blogs on the internet so why another one. There are many answers but my answer is actually a few points: 1) in this so-called digital age it is important that if people are looking on the net and very few are not then I want to do what I can to put something “out there” that people can be encouraged by, formed well by and generally just be lifted up; 2) People find it very hard to connect what they hear from the pulpit or read in the Bible with their every day life. I want to at least try to help people bridge that reality. Scripture is packed with the greatest of all wisdom – from Genesis to Revelation. There is so much wisdom that we are all too often oblivious to and therefore we often feel like we are behind the proverbial eight-ball in our day-to-day living.
My intentions are somewhat ambitious but that seems to “be me.” I hope and pray that this helps even one person and maybe more. I may hop from subject matter to subject matter as I am impressed upon or affected by what I hear, see and read. This first blog has to do with a virtue that is in short supply these days and is badly needed: Patience! Everyone feels that lack of patience at times and all too often we hear ourselves losing our patience through grunts and groans and perhaps even through words than we would not want children to hear or put into social media posts where they will be for “virtual eternity” and may very well come back to embarrass and haunt us.
Patience – I’m going to tackle it and I hope to give you something to help you grow in being patient with God (yes, that is right … with God), yourself and others.
How often have you heard yourself saying to yourself or in confession “I have no patience” or some form of this —- ‘I have to be more patient with that person or this situation’ or ‘I have less and less patience as I get older’. Sometimes this is said quite flippantly but in many cases the person is quite disconcerted about this as the lack of patience – reflected in bad temper, giving up ventures and a whole host of things is really affecting them. It is helpful to talk about what patience is, what are the enemies of patience and how can we strive for patience.
I believe it to be true that when many people say ‘I really have to be patient with this person’ what they are thinking is that they have to have some sort of control over the irritation or anger that this person seems to cause within us. Hence – we tend to think of patience as some sort of serenity: the power of enduring trouble, suffering inconvenience, without complaining.
Or we might think of patience as some capacity to bear the delay of goods which do not come as fast as we would like: “I have to be patient before I save enough to buy a car.” This notion refers to the capacity to bear sacrifices for a long time until we attain a certain joy. Patience, here appears as the ability to wait for results, to deal with problems without haste.
There are attitudes about suffering that we have to be aware of but also be aware that they are attitudes that are false. The stoic attitude is one of endurance but only because it considers suffering inescapable no matter what you may do. The Buddhist attitude is one of eliminating suffering by killing any desire and thus any frustration or suffering. The attitude of apathetic inertia is that of the lukewarm person who prefers to remain in his situation because he thinks that any change will demand some effort or that he or she might end up in a worse situation. All of these lack something to make them virtuous because the subject does not endure suffering for the sake of an objective good, which is the goal of any virtue.
From a human point of view, patience is necessary for any person. Definitively, patience has to do with suffering. Patience – as a human virtue – could be defined as the capacity or habit of enduring evil, adversity, or pain with fortitude or courage. Patience as relate to fortitude adds serenity to the soul so that emotions can be controlled. Two elements basically define patience: the lasting or persistent presence of suffering and the serenity to endure it without giving up or getting angry.
Now it is important to unveil – or define – what is characteristic of Christian patience. What is important to understand for the Christian are the following:
• From the kind of evil that is endured
• From the power used to endure and,
• From the motivation of the person enduring evil.
The human virtue of patience encounters suffering as anything contrary to one’s liking. Christian patience faces the suffering that comes from being or acting as a genuine Christian.
In human patience we rely on sheer will power or self-control of negative emotions to overcome difficulties. A person moved by Christian patience relies also on the power of God’s grace. This supernatural power enables us to take with serenity whatever long suffering may come or be demanded in order to accept or carry out God’s will. And so real patience is not merely a passive disposition but more of an active disposition to accept God’s will and God’s ways.
The motivation of human and Christian patience is also different. In human patience a person is motivated by the hope of obtaining a certain natural good or joy. Christian patience is motivated by the three theological virtues, faith, hope and charity. The person wants to please God and attain Him or his blessings.
And so we can state the definition of Christian patience to be: a part of the virtue of fortitude – is the virtue that enables a person to bear physical and moral sufferings, trying circumstances, and obstinate personalities without sadness of spirit or dejection of heart, but with equanimity born of love of God.
Patience is not something that comes all at once. There are degrees to this virtue. Five main stages can be distinguished in a person who is growing in patience:
1) Resignation without complaint or impatience with respect to the crosses that the Lord sends us or permits us to endure
2) Peace and serenity in the face of affliction, without the sadness or depression that sometimes accompany mere resignation.
3) Acceptance of God’s will and God’s ways, which lead us to desire and accept whatever cross comes our way.
4) Total and complete joy for being associated with God in the mystery of the Cross.
5) The folly of the Cross, which made St. Paul feel strong in his suffering while preaching Christ crucified; what looks as foolishness to men, is really the wisdom of God:
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God … For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Cor 1:18, 22-25)
The enemies of patience are basically twofold: 1) falling into discouragement and sadness; b) falling into anger. By the first we stop from pursuing the good, by the second we try to get rid of a necessary suffering in the wrong way. In pursuing the good – trying to do the right thing – we all have to face the three enemies of the soul: the world, the flesh and the devil. Thus, facing failure, one needs the virtue of patience to react at once against sadness, and avoid drifting into discouragement.
A person may also respond to a present evil by over-reacting and getting angry with everyone; anger is another outlet for impatience. Impatience triumphs when we allow the trials of everyday life to dominate us; thus, we resort to grumbling, complaining, constant bickering, and to fits of bad temper.
How to Grow in Patience
As with any other supernatural virtue we need the light and power of grace along with our human effort in order to grow in patience. And so we need to pray (the prayer of petition) in order to receive God’s grace and strengthen our resolve to acquire patience.
As well we need meditative prayer in order to discern with the Lord whether He wants us to change or solve the cause of suffering, or instead, to accept it; this is meditative prayer. Then we have to ask the Lord either for courage to change the cause or patience to endure the suffering we cannot change. Think about the Serenity Prayer here.
In the case of persons who resist our efforts to help them change, we need also reflective prayer on the meaning of Christian suffering and how to go about it. We need to reflect on God’s patience with sinners, on the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We can also learn from the saints as to how they dealt with difficult situations in their lives. Reading a good article of a biography of a saint can do more good than you might imagine. It has brought about the conversion of many people – e.g., Edith Stein, Ignatius of Loyola.
We all know – or should know – that none of this (patience) is or will be possible unless we have a resolve, a determined effort to beseech God for his grace and use the sources we have in order to do that (the different kinds of prayer, scripture, the saints) along with a persevering effort on our part.
If we are willing to do this then we can be assured that we will grow in patience and the very fact that it will not come all at once will prove that we are determined to grow in this all important virtue – of patience.
Sourced from Charles Belmonte, Patience: The Path to Victory