The Virtue of Patience

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We all know that patience is a virtue and for some of us it can be one of the hardest to follow. Like now for example. I have been out of work for three weeks now and have been working to get my freelance business going. But the work is slow coming in.

I know I need to be patient and use that other virtue, perseverance, to make it go. It is kind of like the parable of the sower and the seeds that fell on the fertile ground. They need to be watered and nurtured; it takes patience for them to grow. (Luke 8) The same goes with my little business.

As I think back over my life, I have not always been patient, especially when I was younger. I knew everything there was to know and no one could tell me any different. I knew more than my sisters, I knew more than my mother, I knew more than my wife and I certainly knew more than my father. It’s funny how as I got older they all got so much smarter. I think of my dad each and every day, things he said to me, things he taught me. Someday I am hoping to see him again so I can tell him I am sorry I didn’t listen and thank him because I am listening now.

I bring this up because one of the reasons I am patient is because my father made me realize what truly is important in life. It wasn’t money, it wasn’t stuff, it was family, it was love, it was being surrounded by the ones you love. My father wasn’t always one to say he loved us very much, and he never said he was glad we were around, but we knew he was. One day, a little while after my mother passed away, I remember him telling me how he never realized how much his family loved him and what great kids he had. That meant more to me than anything else he ever said to me.

Okay, okay, back to patience. Because my father taught me, maybe more showed me, what was important in life, I am now much more patient than I ever was. Even though it is going to be tough for a little while, we will make it. We just need to hang in there, be a little more budget conscious and trust in the One who has never let me down before.

I don’t know what my father’s dreams might have been. I don’t know if he never pursued them or attained them, but somehow I think if I reach mine that will make him happy. And with the help of God and patience, it will happen. If not, it won’t be for lack of trying.

A person is prudent not because he never makes a mistake, but because he corrects his errors. He shows his prudence in preferring to miss the mark twenty times rather than give in to an easygoing ‘do nothing’ attitude. He won’t rush into things foolishly or behave with absurd rashness. He will run the risk of his decisions. Fear of failure will not make him give up in his effort to do good. As we go through life we find ourselves coming across people who are objective and know how to weigh things up, who don’t get heated or try to tip the balance towards that which favours them. Jose Escriva, Founder Opus Dei

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A Light on a Hill

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light of the world

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast called “The Epiphany of the Lord.” Pope Benedict XVI called it the “mystery of the manifestation of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, to all peoples” (Angelus, 1/6/12). This is the day the Magi visited Jesus in the manger bringing various gifts. (Imagine “We Three Kings” quietly playing in the background for the rest of this post.) These wise men from the east, left everything they had to follow the star to where Jesus lay, to see the “newborn king.”

God provided the light for the wise men to follow, just as He provides us with that same light. Some of us (I was certainly one) cannot see the light, or if we do, we choose not to follow it. (You know that whole following the narrow path thing again.) We stay in the darkness. We know that Jesus is the light of the world.

The problem today is that it is hard to see that light, there are so many clouds, the light has trouble breaking through them. We live in a world where other, dimmer, lights have taken over. Things are more important to many of us than each other. Money, status, possessions, have all become new gods that we worship. Not only do these distract us from the light, but so don’t others who don’t want us to follow the light. Christians are persecuted all over the world because of their beliefs. Even in our country, once thought of as the “shining light on the hill” those who openly profess their faith are ridiculed and demeaned. “Keep your religion in church where it belongs” we are told.

 For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. –  John Winthrop, First Governor of Massachusetts, 1630

I think we may still be a shining light, I just am not so sure if it is the same light.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Now as you may know, (as you would if you read my past entries), I recently lost my job. Prospects aren’t all that great when you are closer to sixty than 40. I am going to try to make it work by editing, proofreading and writing. You can help me out in two ways: If you or anyone you know needs any work done, you can contact me either through Elance by clicking here or via my email: thewaywardcatholic@gmail.com  No job is too big or too small. Thanks!

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Do we need to make mistakes?

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As I talked about a few posts ago, I lost my job and am currently unemployed. However, that doesn’t mean I am not working. Besides doing some freelance editing work, I am also trying to get my writing into gear, as you may be able to tell by the frequency of my posts this is one way.

The day I lost my job, I had tweeted about it and had mentioned that now I would have time to pursue my dream of writing. There was a reply asking what I would write about. I replied to the reply that maybe I could help others to not make the same mistakes I did. Then there was a reply to the replied to reply, saying “Just remember, everyone has to make their own mistakes.” And of course, this started me thinking:  “Really?”

Do we really need to make our own mistakes? If there are people who an help us to not make mistakes, wouldn’t the prudent thing to do be to listen to another’s advice? There is an old saying “If I knew then, what I know now”, and another is “As you get smarter, your parents get smarter.” What are these saying? As you get older, you get wiser. You learn things, most of the time the hard way. If you knew then what you know now, or if you knew what the results of the decisions you made would be, you would have made different choices. The same as when your parents would try to advise you about something, you would do the opposite, failing to realize that they more than likely made the same mistakes.

Now, I know we can’t undo what has been done, we can only move forward, but if someone can guide you through the journey of life, you might be advised to listen. Of course, there is a problem, one I am facing as I think about writing a book with some of the things I wish I knew then that I know now. How can you prove things would have been different? Since you cannot change what’s done, and as usually is the case (at least in my life anyway) one poor choice can lead to many others, how can you share this credibly?

After falling off the back of that truck and seriously thinking about lots of things, I know what my first mistake was, and it led to many others and significantly changed the course of my life. But how can I prove that? And to go back to the original statement, am I really better off because I made that mistake? Obviously I think not, well in some ways I am. Therefore, it isn’t best to make your own mistakes.

Now, as I have said before, everything happens according to God’s plan. Maybe this was His plan for me, to mess up my life so I would come back to Him. (This opens up a whole different theological can of worms however, like, if I hadn’t made bad choices, I wouldn’t be where I am now, and hence not following God’s plan.) I also feel it could be part of that plan for me to write and help others.

So as I sit in my little house on the lake, listening to the cold wind blow and watching the fire burning in the stove, this is what I am thinking about. How can I tell my story?

Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell

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Warning: We are about to get into some pretty deep theological discussion, well at least deep for me. As I wrote in my last post, my sister passed away last week and as one who has to analyze everything on different levels (maybe over analyze would be a better way to put it) I began thinking about Purgatory. As far as I know, I believe this is a uniquely Catholic belief.

Let me give you the textbook definition of Purgatory, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.  The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.

Basically we can look at Purgatory as being somewhere between Heaven and Hell, this is the place where our sins are washed away before we can get into Heaven. Of course in order to go to Purgatory, we have to profess our belief in God, even if it is on our deathbed. We have three choices of places to go after death:

  • We can go directly to Heaven
  • We can go directly to Hell
  • We can stop in Purgatory on the way to Heaven.

Once in Purgatory, we may stay there for awhile, but from what I have read and heard, we will eventually get to Heaven.

Alright, so what was I thinking about regarding Purgatory and my sister? Is it possible for us to be in Purgatory while we are still alive? As I had mentioned in my last post, my sister suffered from mental illness. For the last 35 years or so, her life (at least as I see it) wasn’t all that good. She suffered from Paranoid Schizophrenia, with all the attendant symptoms, delusions, hearing voices, paranoia. For the record, she wanted nothing to do with me for the last ten years, so I don’t have first hand knowledge of this, but I don’t imagine she was very happy or that her quality of life could have been all that good. Again, this is an assumption om my part.

Therefore, if this were in fact true, could this have been her Purgatory? If she were suffering, was this the suffering she needed to go through in order for her to get to Heaven? We as Catholics are taught that only Saints go directly to Heaven, everyone else has to go through Purgatory, but is it possible that my sister had her Purgatory while she was alive?

We always hear that God has a plan for all of us, and I believe that, but I wonder what His plan for my sister was? It wasn’t her fault she had this illness, yes, some of her actions may have contributed to it (a subject of debate between my siblings and I) but it certainly wasn’t something she chose. We all have the free will to sin or not sin, but we don’t have the choice on whether or not we suffer from mental illness.

I don’t know the answer for this, at least not yet, but I will continue looking into it. If anyone has any input, please feel free to leave a comment.

Some resources on Purgatory:

The Divine Comedy: Volume 1: Inferno (Penguin Classics)
The Seven Storey Mountain
The Biblical Basis For Purgatory

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Until We Meet Again

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It’s said that God has a plan for all of us, and I believe it. Sometimes you may not know what He is up to, or why he does what he does, but there is a plan. I think I especially wonder when bad things happen. I ask my self why? Why does God let this happen?

This week one of my older sisters passed away. She had suffered from mental illness for about forty years. It made for some tough times for us, especially when we were younger when we didn’t understand what was happening to her. And needless to say it was even tougher for my parents. Interestingly enough her illness and some of the things that went with it led to my rejection of the church, but that is water under the bridge as they say.

Why she was struck, only God knows. They say it is in the genes, so I guess it could have been any of us.

Since her passing, I have been wondering what her life would have been had she not been struck with her illness. It happened after she had graduated High School, she was unable to go any further. She worked for awhile but even that was difficult. In and out of institutions, she finally found place where they were able to help  her to eventually live on her own, with only minimum supervision.

I’ll remember her as she was, the girl in the neighborhood who always good outrun everyone else, even the boys. I’ll remember her loving the all things Beatles and how she (like fifteen million other teenage girls) was going to marry Paul. Her love of animals, especially dogs and horses, and her long, blonde hair that she had to brush at least 100 strokes a day. I have a picture of the four of us when we were quite young. She was smiling, happy, bright, that is the sister I will remember.

I only saw her sporadically in the last fifteen years, she wanted nothing to do with her family, other than one of my other sisters. She preferred to be left alone with the demons which were inside of her. At least she didn’t die alone, my sister and I were with her, I, right to the end. I asked her to forgive me and hopefully I will see her again.

This time I am not alone

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I guess I saw it coming. This morning I lost my job. First time I have ever been discharged from anywhere. So now what? I look at it like this, losing a job is not the worst that can happen to someone. I am certainly in a better position than I was the last time I was out of work, and for one reason. I am not alone.

Not only do I have the woman I love with me, but I also have Jesus alongside of me. I guess my last post was kind of prophetic now that I think about it. So the question becomes what next? I believe everything in this life is ultimately controlled by God, so I know this is part of His plan. I just wish I knew what His plan is. Is He trying to tell me it is time to move forward with my writing? Maybe ramp up the freelancing things I am doing?

Most High, glorious God,

Enlighten the darkness of my heart,

And give me right faith,

Certain hope,

And perfect charity,

Wisdom and understanding,

Lord, that I may carry out

Your holy and true command. Amen.

It’s No Yoke

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From Panoramia

 

Anyone who grew up in New England probably took a fourth grade field trip to Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. It is a recreation of a village from the 1830’s with original buildings and artifacts from a time where day-to-day life was, well although not easier, certainly less complicated. As part of this outdoor museum there is a working farm, and on this farm there is a duck, e-i-e-i-o, wait that is another farm. There are oxen on this farm which are used for many purposes, they were pretty much the precursor to modern day tractors.

I remember watching the farmer work a pair of the oxen through the fields, pulling the mower or the tiller or sometimes a wagon. The oxen wore a yoke. This yoke helped the oxen work as a team. Back in the time of Jesus, these yokes would have been made from wood, and hand crafted especially for the ox who would wear it. When you put the yoke on each ox, it would release the burden from the other, this way, the load would be lighter. As the saying goes, two oxen are better than one.

In Matthew 11: 28-30 Jesus tells us that when we are burdened we should take his yoke, and he will help relieve our burdens. And since it is Jesus who is making the yoke, it will fit perfectly and we won’t even know it is on.

How many times do we feel overwhelmed by life’s burdens and wish we would have help? I know this is where I was for most of my adult life. I know I was burdened every day, worrying about how to pay the bills, my kids, my marriage, all the things that modern culture tells us we need to worry about. My life was all about things and getting more or them, after all I wouldn’t be happy without them, again because our culture said so. I never asked anyone, especially not Jesus to help lighten the burden. I never took the yoke Jesus was offering me and my life greatly suffered from it. Not that my life was all that bad, but as those of you who have read this blog know, I definitely believe it could have been a lot different and better.

I also remember those oxen would also wear blinders, so they couldn’t see what was going on around them, these blinders would eliminate distractions. They might not even realize there was another ox helping them. Now sometimes we shouldn’t be wearing blinders but there are also some times when we do need them. In my case, whenever I write, I have a problem getting distracted. I tend to have either the radio or the TV on, or am talking to the woman I love, or have the internet going and start surfing. This is why I need blinders, to keep me focused. In fact, they might help me stay on topic when I write, like now.

Like with the oxen, blinders will not let us know that there is another in the yoke with us. We won’t even know Jesus is there for us, working with us. He is always there but unless we ask, he won’t help us, well okay, indirectly he still does, I can attest to that, but our burdens won’t be lighter. Until I understood that Jesus was there, right next to me, and more than happy to help, I struggled. When I finally woke up (have I told the story about falling off the back of the truck?) and asked Jesus for his help, my life changed. I am still struggling, but at least I can see the forest for the trees. I know that God has a plan for me, I don’t know what it is but I know there is one, and I am doing my best to discern what it is. As I have written before, I also know what the end goal of life is, I know what I hope is waiting for me, and I am working towards that goal. Whether I reach it or not I don’t know, but I am giving it my best shot.

Jesus said to the crowds: “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest,
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” – Matthew 11:28 -30

If you go to Old Sturbridge Village, be sure to visit Saint Anne’s Shrine and Parish, maybe I’ll see you at Mass.

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