HE would never walk into a peep show. He would never pick through the racy section of the magazine rack. He would never rent an x-rated video.
But he’s addicted to internet porn…
THE FUNDAMENTAL ATTACK
The truth is, we now live in a pornographic world. It’s in our faces everywhere you look, and thus snaring men and women left and right. For there is nothing in the world that is more of a stumbling block and temptation than forbidden sex. Why is that? Because man and woman are made in the image of God, and the very act of intercourse is a foreshadowing of the love of Christ for His Bride, the Church: Christ plants the seed of His word in the heart of His Bride to bring about life. Furthermore, marriage itself is a reflection of the Holy Trinity: the Father so loves the Son that from their love “proceeds” a Third Person, the Holy Spirit. So too, the husband so loves his wife that their love begets another person—a child.
Therefore, it is a designed attack upon marriage and the family, for through it, Satan indirectly attacks the Holy Trinity.
Whoever attacks human life, in some way attacks God himself. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Evangelium Vitae; n. 10
Is it working? Researchers have found that 77 percent of Christian men between the ages of 18 and 30 view pornography at least monthly, and 36 percent look at it at least once a day.  In a word, yes. Gauging by the letters I receive and the men I meet, yes. Watching the cultural effects upon this generation, yes.
The best way to undermine the family, to undermine marriage, is to destroy the sexuality by which it comes into existence. Marriage and family, therefore, have become the hunting grounds…
THE HUNTING GROUNDS
We are the hunted, brothers and sisters. Everywhere you turn, there is another image, another video, another commercial, another sidebar, another link that invites you to the dark side. It is literally a flood of lust that calls to mind the words of St. John in his description of Satan’s attack on the “woman” of Revelation:
The serpent, however, spewed a torrent of water out of his mouth after the woman to sweep her away with the current. (Rev 12:15)
This fight in which we find ourselves… [against] powers that destroy the world, are spoken of in chapter 12 of Revelation… It is said that the dragon directs a great stream of water against the fleeing woman, to sweep her away… I think that it is easy to interpret what the river stands for: it is these currents that dominate everyone, and want to eliminate the faith of the Church, which seems to have nowhere to stand before the power of these currents that impose themselves as the only way of thinking, the only way of life. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, first session of the special synod on the Middle East, October 10th, 2010
Could truer words be spoken? This flood of lust seeks to completely redefine the purpose and context of healthy and holy sexuality, thus:
Having a clear faith, according to the credo of the Church, is often labeled as fundamentalism.—Cardinal Ratzinger (POPE BENEDICT XVI) pre-conclave Homily, April 18th, 2005
We are the hunted, and the dragon, Satan, is the hunter.  He uses the faculty of the eyes to ensnare  as the eyes are what Jesus calls the “lamp of the body.”
…if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. (cf. Matt 6:22-23)
When God created the heavens and the earth, Scripture says “God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good.”  Since we are made in the image of God, the art of looking is akin to the art of loving. So Satan tempts us to look at forbidden fruit, or rather, to lust that which is the counterfeit, and thereby fill the soul with darkness.
[Eve] saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes… (Gen 3:6)
So the bait in the hunting ground is bait for the eyes. But hardly anyone seems to notice the dangers today. What would have sparked universal anger 60 years ago hardly raises an eyebrow now. You can’t walk down a mall without encountering full-sized posters of women in skimpy underwear. Mainstream news websites have become the haunt of half-naked women and exposés on whoever is the latest celebrity to remove her clothes. The music industry has rapidly degraded into a lurid freak show of lust and the occult. And almost every week now, a new aberration is presented as “normal” on evening television; virtually overnight, sad0-masochism, swingers, orgies, virtual sex, gay sex… it’s all spoken of openly as if it were something completely normal and harmless to explore. (And this is only the tip of the iceberg. As I wrote recently, we have entered a period of time now where evil must exhaust itself,  and so, it’s going to get much worse before it gets better.)
I know good Christian men who are exasperated from being hunted. Their computers, their televisions, their smartphones—these instruments that society frequently requires us to use more and more to communicate, bank, and socialize—are the new hunting grounds. There is a constant lure, a constant opportunity that is two clicks away from sin. Stuff appears on our screens that we don’t want, weren’t looking for, and would rather not see… but there it is, before the eyes. So what can we do? How can we remain “in the world” but not “of the world”?
I have spent the last eight years of this ministry working in front of a computer. I have had to seek out and find thousands of images in conjunction with these writings. Even the most benign searches have, unfortunately at times, inadvertently exposed me to the gutters of depraved minds. And so, the Lord has taught me a few things that have helped me navigate these mine fields, and I share them here with you.
But let me say first: it is time to think really, really hard about whether you need this technology. Do you need a smartphone, or will a simple cellphone that receives texts work? Do you need a computer? Do you need to surf the web, or can you listen to news on the radio? Do you really need it? The words of Christ come to mind:
…if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into fiery Gehenna. (Matt 18:9)
I am sure most of you will say yes, I do need it. Then, let’s read on…
CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT
What is easier, to walk away from a fist fight, or to win it? It’s much easier to walk away than to try and wrestle your opponent to the ground. So it is with our passions. It is easier not to engage them in the first place than to try and wrestle them to the ground. They may try to pick a fight with you, and there’s nothing you can do about that, but you don’t have to enter it.
Curiosity killed the cat, as the saying goes. If we are the hunted, it is our curiosity that Satan tries to bait. This is the strategy behind websites like YouTube and other sites: watch one video, and a whole list of others pops up in the sidebar, and all of a sudden, the cat is curious! The problem is that evil exploits this constantly… exploits our curiosity. Let’s not be naive. You know that the web and television commericals and movie trailers etc. are going to have smut. So you need to be prepared what to do…
A PARABLE OF MISGUIDED CURIOSITY
A man’s wife is gone for the weekend and so he decides to go for a walk. His path takes him near a street where he knows there is a strip club. He gets a sudden impulse out of nowhere to “walk by.” But he simply decides to take a different route home. His passions declared war, his curiosity was tweeked, but he won the battle because he refused to enter the fight.
The next night, he goes out for another walk. This time he decides to go past the end of that street… just curious how many guys actually go to those things, he tells himself, no harm in that. But the night’s early, so he walks around the block again. This time he’s compelled to go down the street, but on the opposite side (reminding himself, of course, how disgusted he is with these establishments). Soon enough, he circles round again, this time walking right by the front entrance. His heart is pounding now (she’s not home). The door opens and closes while laughter and heavy music floods the street; he catches glimpses of lights, smoke and glistening poles. Ah, just one more time, he thinks, then I’ll go home. He walks by again, this time following behind a couple of “normal” looking guys. As he reaches the door, he says to himself (or so his “sound” reasoning tells him), Ah, it’s about time I learned what the heck goes on in these bloody places… and walks in with them.
That night, he sits by his bed with his hands in his face, totally ashamed, shocked, and loathing himself.
WHEN IT’S BLOCKS AWAY…
The point is this: it is much easier to walk away from a temptation when it is “blocks away” than when it’s dancing in your face. But the choice has to be made right away. And that means discipline.
At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it. (Heb 12:11)
Now, you can install plugins to remove unwanted ads or even accountability software that lets others see what you’re seeing online. Fine. But if you don’t deal with the curiosity cat, then you’re not tackling the root issue here: the need for discipline. Ah, hate that word, eh? But listen, this is what Jesus meant when He said, Pick up your cross and deny yourself.  “Sure,” we often say, “I will lay on the cross—but those nails and thorns have got to go!”
Discipline seems bad to those going astray; one who hates reproof will die. (Proverbs 15:10)
Yes, you will feel a cost in your flesh, a nail piercing your desires, a whip scourging your emotions whenever you make the choice not to reach for forbidden fruit.  This is Satan’s moment: he will lie to your face telling you that you need to see this image, you need to know what this body part looks like, you need to see this actress in this outfit or on that beach or in that sex tape, and that you need an outlet, you need, need, need it.
There is a scene in the movie War of the Worlds where the father does everything he can to keep his son from going over a ridge into a war-zone where alien ships and army tanks are battling it out. But the son pleads over and over again: “I need to see it!” So the father reluctantly lets the son go… and moments later, the entire ridge is engulfed in flames.
Do you really need to see porn? The question at this point isn’t what you need, but what do you really want? Peace, joy, happiness, innocence? Then you can’t begin down Curiosity Street; you won’t find what you’re looking for down there. The notable thing about sin is that, not only does it leave us unsatiated, but it leaves us even hungrier than we were before. That’s the story of porn retold a billion times a day all over the world. Ask Adam and Eve if the fruit they ate satisfied… or if it was filled with worms. On the contrary, the will of God is food that satiates beyond words,  and keeping His laws brings true joy. 
THE ANATOMY OF TEMPTATION
A teenager told me how when he saw pornography for the first time, he wept. He wept, he said, because he knew instinctively how wrong the images were that he was seeing, and yet, how powerful a draw they were going to be. That was the time for him to walk away from Curiosity Street. But he didn’t, and he regrets those lost years of innocence.
St. James describes the anatomy of temptation that begins with curiosity:
Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death. (James 1:14)
I am a red-blooded male as much as anyone else. I think God’s most remarkable and stunning creation is the woman—and Adam would agree. But I also realize, in God’s design, that I am not made for every woman, but only my woman, just as Eve was meant solely for Adam and vice versa.
Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Gen 2:23-24)
Outside of this arrangement—the union of a man and a woman in marriage—there is no other life-giving sexual intimacy. There may be fleeting pleasures, there may be physiological rushes, there may be counterfeits… but there will never be the supernatural life of God that is, in fact, the very bond between a man and woman in marriage. Just as the moon is held in orbit by the law of gravity, so too, our hearts are held in the orbit of grace (which produces our interior peace) by obeying the law of marriage. I can tell you that after nearly 24 years of marriage, I am neither tired nor bored because God is the center of our marriage. And because He is infinite, our love knows no bounds.
So, when an image pops up on the side of a news story or a woman walks by on the street, it is completely normal to recognize beauty—just as Adam and Eve would have acknowledged the beauty of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden. But when the look turns into lust, then the poison of the forbidden fruit already begins to seep into the heart.
I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matt 5:28)
And thus, the Old Testament’s wisdom is as pertinent today as ever:
Avert your eyes from a shapely woman; do not gaze upon beauty that is not yours; through woman’s beauty many have been ruined, for love of it burns like fire… Do not awaken, or stir up love until it is ready… I will not set before my eyes anything that is base. (Sirach 9:8; Solomon 2:7; Ps 101:3)
In other words, keep moving on; don’t linger; don’t click that link; don’t start down Curiosity Street. Another way of saying this is to “avoid the near occasion of sin.”  You’re not going to win otherwise because you’re not wired to win that battle. You are made to find fulfillment in one woman (or man). That’s the grand design. Trust that. And so St. Paul nails it when he says:
…make no provision for the desires of the flesh. (Rom 13:14)
I’ll tell you this right now without a hesitation: pornography would destroy me. It’s either my marriage and my eternal soul, or the quick thrill. Therefore, there is one path ahead… the way of the Cross.
THE ANCIENT LIE
The ancient lie is that God is keeping something from you; the Church is restraining your happiness; go on, take a bite…  How many times do you have to eat the apple and still feel empty?
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (John 6:35)
No Christian man nor woman will ever grow in holiness, will ever advance in the spiritual life, until they resolve to resist the lure of Curiosity Street. I would say the majority of the Christian Church today is stuck on this street: the saints of God dazzled by neon lights, video games, mindless videos, and yes, pornography. And so the world does not believe our Gospel because we look like them. Instead, we need to take the lane called “Fear of the Lord”, as in a childlike trust in His way, not ours. The payoff is out of this world:
The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord… (Prov 9:10)
You can believe the liar, or you can believe the Lord:
A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
There is a cost though! There is a cost to following Jesus! And it is conversion. There is no alternate route around Calvary; there is no shortcut to Heaven:
The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2015
Somehow, I think these words, though they may be sobering, are also bringing you a sense of purpose… that there is something greater awaiting you than just living in the compulsive moment. The truth will set you free. You see, you were created to be holy, created to be in control, created to be whole. This is why what I am saying here, what the Gospel says, is irresistible and will leave you utterly restless your whole life—until you rest in it.
Listening to Christ and worshiping Him leads us to make courageous choices, to take what are sometimes heroic decisions. Jesus is demanding, because He wishes our genuine happiness. The Church needs saints. All are called to holiness, and holy people alone can renew humanity. —BLESSED JOHN PAUL II, World Youth Day Message for 2005, Vatican City, Aug. 27th, 2004, Zenit.org
Want to be one of them?
PREPARING FOR BATTLE
But listen, you and I cannot set out upon this Way, this narrow way that so few people are willing to walk…. and walk it alone. Jesus does not expect us to, nor want us to.
To “be a man” today is really to become a spiritual “child.” To say to God: I can do nothing without You. I need You. Be my strength; be my help; be my guide. Ah, it takes a man to pray like this; it takes a real man to become this humble.  So what I’m saying is only real men get to Heaven:
Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 18:3)
But it takes more than simply crying out this prayer, though it’s a great start: it means entering into a personal relationship with Christ in which He can feed, strengthen and teach you every day how to become a man of God. Let these words of Jesus echo in the very depths of your soul:
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
Let’s go back again and read that entire phrase by St. Paul:
Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh. (Rom 13:14)
We need to “put on Christ,” that is, put on His virtues, His example, His love. And here’s how: through a life of prayer, frequent reception of the Sacraments, and going beyond yourself to others.
You will see many things begin to change in your life when you become a man of consistent prayer. This means setting aside time each day to read the Scriptures, speak with God from the heart, and let Him speak back. More than anything in my life, prayer has changed me because prayer is an encounter with God. 
II. The Sacraments
Make Confession a regular part of your spiritual life. Padre Pio and John Paul II both recommended weekly confession.  If you’re struggling with porn, then this is a must. There, in the “tribunal of mercy”, not only are your sins forgiven and your dignity restored, but there is even a deliverance from spirits of impurity that you have let through the door.
Once you’ve emptied the garbage out of your house, you need to fill it through prayer and the Eucharist. Cultivate a love for Jesus hidden there in the diguise of bread. Take His Body into yours so that His flesh can begin to transfigure yours into the purity and chastity that is proper to your state of life.
III. Look beyond yourself
A lot of guys get into trouble because they’re wasting their time aimlessly staring into smartphones and computer screens. That idle time is akin to standing on the corner of Curious Street just waiting for temptation to walk by. Instead of wasting time, become a servant in your home, in your parish, in your community. Become available again to your children to play and talk with them. Fix that thing you’re wife asked you to months ago. Use that time to read spiritual books and pray, to be present to your wife, to be present to God. How many of us bury our “talent” in the ground because we’re killing time instead?
It’s pretty hard to surf porn when you’re not on the web.
Porn is not only a problem for men, but increasingly for women as well. Remember, it was Eve who was tempted first by how good the fruit looked… Is not 50 Shades of Grey, read now by millions of women, even Christian women, a sad parable of our times? What I’ve said above applies to women as well in terms of making no provisions for curiosity. Prayer, the Sacraments, service… they are the same antidotes.
Nor is the above an exhaustive means of dealing with porn addictions. Alcohol, lack of sleep, stress are all things that can wear down your natural resistance and resolve (so it’s better to stay away from computers when your tank isn’t full). Understanding spiritual warfare, having a close relationship with the Blessed Mother, and tapping into other resources are part of the bigger picture as well:
- Jason Evert has a great ministry dealing with porn addiction.
- St. Joseph Covenant Keepers can help you in becoming a better man, husband and father.
- There are plenty of articles on my website to help you develop an authentic Catholic spirituality. See the sidebar (and my sidebars are safe).
Last, as I finished writing this, I suddenly remembered that it is the Feast of St. Joseph, the “most chaste spouse” of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Coincidence? St. Joseph is invoked as the Protector and Defender of the Church as well as the “terror of demons.” It was he who sheltered Mary and Jesus in the desert. It was he who carried them in his arms. It was he who sought out Jesus when He seemed lost…. And so, this great Saint will likewise shelter you who invoke his name; he will carry you through his intercession; and he will seek you out when you have become lost, to bring you back to Jesus. Make St. Joseph your new best friend.
We are all the hunted now… but through Christ, we are more than conquerors.
St. Joseph, pray for us.
Blessed is the man who perseveres in temptation, for when he has been proved he will receive the crown of life that he promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)
O LORD, my God, in you I take refuge;
save me from all my pursuers and rescue me,
Lest I become like the lion’s prey,
to be torn to pieces, with no one to rescue me.
First published March 19th, 2015 on the Solemnity of St. Joseph.
My Joseph, by Tianna (Mallett) Williams
SOLEMNITY OF ST. JOSEPH
SPOUSE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
AS a young father, I read a chilling account many years ago that I’ve never forgotten:
Consider the lives of two men. One of them, Max Jukes, lived in New York. He did not believe in Christ or give Christian training to his children. He refused to take his children to church, even when they asked to attend. He had 1026 descendants—300 of whom were sent to prison for an average term of 13 years, some 190 were public prostitutes, and 680 were admitted alcoholics. His family members cost the State in excess of $420,000—thus far—and they had made no known positive contributions to society.
Jonathan Edwards lived in the same State at the same time. He loved the Lord and saw that his children were in church every Sunday. He served the Lord to the best of his ability. Of his 929 descendants, 430 were ministers, 86 became university professors, 13 became university presidents, 75 wrote positive books, 7 were elected to the U.S. Congress, and one served as the Vice-President of the United States. His family never cost the State one cent, but contributed immeasurably to the common good.
Ask yourself… if my family tree began with me, what fruit might it bear 200 years from now? —God’s Little Devotional Book for Dads (Honor Books), p.91
Despite our culture’s best attempts to emasculate manhood and eradicate fatherhood, God’s designs on the human family will never be thwarted, even should the “family” pass through a grave crisis. There are natural and spiritual principles at work that can no more be disregarded than the law of gravity. Not only is the role of men not obsolete, it is more crucial than ever. The fact is that your sons and daughters are watching you. Your wife is waiting for you. And the world is hoping for you. What are they all looking for?
Those two words conjure up a lot of images, and most of them fall short: muscular, strong, bold, determined, fearless, etc. And you’ll see among youth today a much more severely flawed image of a “real man”: sexy, techy, owner of big toys, frequent use of the “f” word, virile, ambitious, etc. In fact, while many Christian movements have done a lot to help men become men again, there can also be a temptation to work the crowd into a kind of warrior, Christian soldier, go-take-on-the-world froth. While defending life and truth are noble, this too falls short of real manhood.
Instead, Jesus reveals the pinnacle of manhood on the eve of His Passion:
He rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist… So when he had washed their feet [and] put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “…If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (John 13:4-15)
At first, the imagery might seem emasculating, even offensive. It certainly put off Peter. But if you really begin to live what Jesus modelled, then you quickly realize the raw strength and willpower necessary to lay down one’s life…. To put down your tools to change a diaper. To shut down the computer to read a story to your children. To pause the game to fix a broken tap. To set aside your work to make a salad. To keep your mouth closed when you’re angry. To take out the garbage without being asked. To shovel the snow or mow the lawn without complaining. To apologize when you know you’re in the wrong. To not curse when you’re annoyed. To help out with the dishes. To be gentle and forgiving when your wife is not. To go to Confession frequently. And to and get down on your knees and spend time with the Lord every-single-day.
Jesus defined the image of a real man once and for all:
You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; (Matthew 10:42-43)
And then He laid down on a Cross and died for you.
Here is the key to why His life of service was not about being some kind of divinized doormat:
No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. (John 10:18)
Jesus was not forced to serve: He chose to become a slave to reveal authentic love.
Though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave… (Phil 2:8-9)
Though you may be the priest of your home and the head of your wife, imitate the humility of Jesus. Empty yourself, and you will find yourself; become a slave, and you will become a man; lay down your life for others, and you will find it again, as it should be: remade in God’s image.
For His image is also the reflection of a real man.
While we have no recorded words of St. Joseph in Scripture, there is a pivotal moment in his life when he indeed became a real man. It was the day his dreams were crushed—when he learned that Mary was pregnant.
An angel appeared to him in a dream and revealed his future path: to lay down his life for his wife and her Child. It meant a serious change in plans. It meant certain humiliation. It meant total trust in Divine Providence.
When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. (Matt 1:24)
If you wish to become a real man, then not only imitate Jesus but take Mary into your home too, that is, your heart. Let her mother you, teach you, and lead you on the path toward union with God. St. Joseph did. Jesus did. So did St. John.
“Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (John 19:27)
Consecrate yourself to this Woman, as they did, and she will truly help you to become a man of God. After all, if she was deemed worthy enough to raise the Son of God, she’s certainly worthy enough for us guys too.
St. Joseph… St. John… Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.
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A fresh blanket of snow. The quiet munching of the herd. A cat on a hay bale. It’s the perfect Sunday morning as I lead our milk cow into the barn.
Cats and dogs sit nearby, licking their lips as sweet milk sprays the sides of my pail. Stella, our new milk cow, is just getting used to the routine. She’s quiet, but as she finishes her pail of oats, she starts getting a bit restless. Just as well. I have enough milk now as my hands begin to cramp.
And then it happens. She lifts her tail and lets it go. Fresh manure hits the straw and sprays in every direction. And there it is—melting like a chunk of butter in a pot of rice—poop in my pail.
My perfect morning was shattered. Instantly grumpy. I led her back to the corral, washed my bucket, and plumped myself down in my office to pout for a minute. But what I read next changed my mood in a hurry—a word allegedly from Momma earlier today:
Dear children! My earthly life was simple. I loved and I rejoiced in small things. I loved life—the gift from God—even though pain and sufferings pierced my heart. My children, I had the strength of faith and boundless trust in God’s love. All those who have the strength of faith are stronger. Faith makes you live according to what is good and then the light of God’s love always comes at the desired moment. That is the strength which sustains in pain and suffering. My children, pray for the strength of faith, trust in the Heavenly Father, and do not be afraid. Know that not a single creature who belongs to God will be lost but will live forever. Every pain has its end and then life in freedom begins there where all of my children come – where everything is returned. My children, your battle is difficult. It will be even more difficult, but you follow my example. Pray for the strength of faith; trust in the love of the Heavenly Father. I am with you. I am manifesting myself to you. I am encouraging you. With immeasurable motherly love I am caressing your souls. Thank you. —Our Lady of Medjugorje to Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo, March 18th, 2018 (annual apparition)
A good and holy reminder: true peace is not the fruit of the absence of suffering, but the presence of faith.
Our Lady reveals something crucial here. You see, every day, there is going to be poop in the pail. Another big bill. A pile of dirty dishes. An annoying co-worker. A new car repair. Another illness. Another disappointment… Faith is what says, “God has given these to me as a gift to see, first, what kind of a person I am (patient or not, charitable or not, humble or not…. etc.); and second, to test whether I really trust in Him.” Because it is not a perfect day that increases our communion with the Holy Trinity, but a death to our self-love, self-will, and a desire to be God—to control everything around us.
Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. (Today’s Gospel)
When we respond in childlike faith and trust (which is to die to wanting to fret, control, and reject the suffering), God is ready to bless that:
…God’s love always comes at the desired moment. That is the strength which sustains in pain and suffering.
Many times, we miss those little graces of strength that the Lord wants to give because we’re too busy griping, throwing a fit, or feeling sorry for ourselves. But here’s the deal:
…he is found by those who do not put him to the test, and manifests himself to those who do not distrust him. (Wis 1:2)
Our Lady goes on to say:
My children, your battle is difficult. It will be even more difficult, but you follow my example. Pray for the strength of faith; trust in the love of the Heavenly Father.
Our prayer should not be for more patience, humility, or self-control. Rather, it should be for faith. Because faith, hope, and love are the roots from which all the other virtues (patience, humility, self-control, etc.) grow. Even if I were a starving man, and the cow poops in my pail, I ought to say: “Jesus, I trust in you, even though this was to be my only meal today.” That is the kind of faith that moves mountains, even if it is faith the size of a mustard seed!
The graces of My mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is-trust. The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive. Souls that trust boundlessly are a great comfort to Me, because I pour all the treasures of My graces into them. I rejoice that they ask for much, because it is My desire to give much, very much. On the other hand, I am sad when souls ask for little, when they narrow their hearts. —Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1578
So, when life poops in your pail, say to God again: “Not my will, but yours be done.”  See that trial immediately as a gift, even if your emotions are telling you the opposite. Recognize that God is nudging you to, once again, fix your eyes on eternal matters and not to fret about the temporal ones. 
I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I am came to this hour. Father, glorify your name. (Today’s Gospel)
Yes, trials and temptations are unsettling and disturbing. But Jesus’ trust in the Father teaches us what to do:
Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess 5:16-128)
This Scripture is either true or insane. Who rejoices or gives thanks when there’s poop in the pail? The one who has faith that all things work to the good for those who love God. (Rom 8:28)
My children, pray for the strength of faith, trust in the Heavenly Father, and do not be afraid.
THERE are five simple steps toward full reconciliation with God, our Father. But before I examine them, we need to first address another problem: our distorted image of His fatherhood.
Atheists like to make a case that the God of the Old Testament is “a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, a misogynistic, homophobic racist, an infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” But a more careful, less overly-simplified, theologically correct, and unbiased reading of the Old Testament reveals that it is not God who changed, but man.
Adam and Eve were not mere tenants of the Garden of Eden. Rather, they were both material and spiritual co-operators in the ongoing creative act of the universe.
Adam reflected God’s image in his capacity to invest all things with divine light and divine life… he increasingly participated in the Divine Will, and “multiplied” and redoubled the divine power in all things. —Rev. Joseph Iannuzzi, The Gift of Living in the Divine Will in the Writings of Luisa Piccarreta, Kindle Edition, (locations 1009-1022)
Subsequently, when Adam and Eve disobeyed, darkness and death entered the world, and with each new generation, the effects of disobedience multiplied and redoubled sin’s destructive forces. But the Father did not give up on humanity. Rather, according to man’s capacity and free-will response, He began to reveal the path toward the restoration of the Divine Will in us through a series of covenants, revelations, and eventually, the Incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ.
But what of all that Old Testament violence, etc. that God apparently tolerated?
Last year, a young man approached me after one of my Advent missions. He was distraught and begging for help. The occult, rebellion, and several addictions littered his past. Through a series of conversations and exchanges, I have been helping him back to a place of wholeness according to his capacity and free-will response. The first step was for him to simply know that he is loved, no matter what his past. God is love. He does not change according to our behaviour. Next, I led him to renounce his participation in the occult, which opens doorways to the demonic. From there, I have encouraged him to return to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and regular reception of the Eucharist; to begin eliminating violent video games; to get a job one or two days a week, and so on. It is only in stages that he has been able to move forward.
So it was, not only with the People of God in the Old Testament, but with the New Testament Church as well. How timely is the message allegedly from Our Lady of Medjugorje yesterday:
How many things I desire to teach you. How my motherly heart desires that you be complete, and you can be complete only when your soul, body and love are united within you. I implore you as my children, pray much for the Church and her servants—your shepherds; that the Church may be such as my Son desires—clear as spring water and full of love. —given to Mirjana, March 2nd, 2018
You see, even the Church has not yet arrived at what St. Paul calls “the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ.”  She is not yet that bride “in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”  Since the Ascension of Christ, God has been slowly revealing, according to our capacity and free-will response, the fullness of His plan in the redemption of mankind.
To one group of people he has shown the way to get to his palace; to a second group he has pointed out the door; to the third he has shown the staircase; to the fourth the first rooms; and to the last group he has opened all the rooms… —Jesus to Luisa Picarretta, Vol. XIV, November 6th, 1922, Saints in the Divine Will by Fr. Sergio Pellegrini, with the approval of the Archbishop of Trani, Giovan Battista Pichierri, p. 23-24
The point is this: it is we, not God, who are fickle. God is love. He has never changed. He has always been mercy and love itself, as we read in the Old Testament today (see liturgical texts here):
Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance; who does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency, and will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt? (Micah 7:18-19)
He pardons all your iniquities, he heals all your ills… Not according to our sins does he deal with us, nor does he requite us according to our crimes. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he put our transgressions from us. (Psalm 89)
This is the same Father in the New Testament, as Jesus revealed in the parable of the prodigal son in today’s Gospel…
FIVE STEPS TO THE FATHER
Knowing that your Heavenly Father is kind and merciful, we can return to Him at any moment in five simple steps (if you do not remember the parable of the prodigal son, you can read it here):
I. Decide to come home
The only really terrifying thing about God, so to speak, is that He respects my free-will. I want Him to push me into Heaven! But that is actually beneath our dignity. Love must be a choice. Coming home is a choice. But even if your life and past are covered in “pig slop,” like the prodigal son, you can make that choice right now.
Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. —Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 699
Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”. How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. —POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 3; vatican.va
You can make the song below your own prayer:
II. Accept that you are loved
The most extraordinary twist in the parable of the prodigal son is that the father runs to, embraces, and kisses the son before the boy makes his confession. God does not love you only when you’re perfect. Rather, He loves you right now for the simple reason that you are His child, His creation; you are His son or daughter.
So, dear soul, just let Him love you.
The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. —POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 3; vatican.va
III. Confess your sins
There is no genuine reconciliation until we reconcile, first with the truth about ourselves, and then with those whom we have injured. That is why the father does not stop his prodigal son from confessing his unworthiness.
So too, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation when He told the Apostles: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  So when we confess our sins to God through His representative, the priest, here is the promise:
If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. (1 John 1:9)
Were a soul like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint, there would be no [hope of] restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. Oh, how miserable are those who do not take advantage of the miracle of God’s mercy! —Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1448
Sometimes Evangelical Christians say to me, “Why don’t you just confess your sins to God directly?” I suppose I could kneel beside my bed and do so (and I do every day). But my pillow, cab driver, or hairdresser do not have the authority to absolve me of my sins, even if I confess to them—while an ordained Catholic priest does: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven…”
The moment of absolution is the moment when God reclothes me in the dignity of His image in which I am created—when he removes the stained garments of my past that are covered in the pig slop of my sins.
Quickly, bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. (Luke 15:22)
While the first three steps depend upon my free-will, the last two depend upon God’s kindness and benevolence. Not only does He absolve me and restore my dignity, but the Father sees that I am still hungry and in need!
Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast… (Luke 15:23)
You see, the Father is not content to merely absolve you. He desires to heal and restore you fully through a “feast” of grace. Only when you allow Him to continue this restoration—that you choose to “stay home” to obey, learn, and grow—it is “then” the celebration begins.
…we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found. (Luke 15:23)
You are loved.
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Bless you and thank you!
I thought I was a Christian, till He revealed myself to me
I protested and cried, “Lord, it cannot be.”
“Be not afraid, My child, it is necessary to see,
that to be My disciple, the truth must set you free.”
Burning tears descended, as shame rose in my heart
I realized my deception, the blindness on my part
So rising from true ashes, I made a brand-new start
On the pathway of humility, I began to chart.
Standing ahead, I saw, a barren wooden cross
No one hung upon it, and I was at a loss
“Be not afraid, My child, at what it’s going to cost
To find the peace you long for, you must embrace your cross.”
Into darkness, I entered, leaving myself behind
For only when you seek Him, will you truly find
Nails and thorns, they pierced me, as I transformed my mind
So that appetites that bound me, began now to unwind.
I thought I was a Christian, till He revealed to me
The one who is His follower hangs also on the Tree
“Be not afraid, My child, trust what you cannot see,
For the grain of wheat that dies, will rise in eternity.”
THERE are three levels of humility, and few of us get beyond the first.
The first is relatively easy to see. It is when we or someone else is arrogant, proud, or defensive; when we are overly-assertive, stubborn or unwilling to accept a certain reality. When a soul comes to recognize this form of pride and repent, it is a good and necessary step. Anyone striving to “be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect,” will quickly begin to see their faults and failings. And in repenting of them, they might even say with sincerity, “Lord, I am nothing. I am a miserable wretch. Have pity on me.” This self-knowledge is essential. As I have said before, “the truth will set you free,” and the first truth is the truth of who I am, and who I’m not. But again, this is only a first step toward authentic humility; the acknowledgment of one’s hubris is not the fullness of humility. It must go deeper. The next level, though, is much harder to recognize.
A genuinely humble soul is one who not only accepts their interior poverty, but also accepts every exterior cross as well. A soul who is still captured by pride may appear to be humble; again, they might say, “I am the greatest sinner and not a holy person.” They might go to daily Mass, pray every day, and frequent the confessional. But something is missing: they still do not accept every trial that comes to them as the permissive will of God. Rather, they say, “Lord, I am striving to serve you and be faithful. Why do you allow this to happen to me?”
But that is one who is not yet truly humble… like Peter at one time. He had not accepted that the Cross is the only way to the Resurrection; that the grain of wheat must die in order to bear fruit. When Jesus said that He must go up to Jerusalem to suffer and die, Peter balked:
God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you. (Matt 6:22)
Jesus rebuked, not only Peter, but the father of pride:
Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do. (6:23)
Well, just a few verses before, Jesus was commending Peter’s faith, declaring him to be “rock”! But in that following scene, Peter was more like shale. He was like that “rocky soil” upon which the seed of the word of God could not take root.
Those on rocky ground are the ones who, when they hear, receive the word with joy, but they have no root; they believe only for a time and fall away in time of trial. (Luke 8:13)
Such souls are not yet authentically humble. True humility is when we accept whatever God permits in our lives because, indeed, nothing comes to us that His permissive will does not allow. How often when trials, sickness or tragedy come (as they do for everyone) have we said, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing should happen to me! Am I not your child? Am I not your servant, friend, and disciple?” To which Jesus replies:
You are my friends if you do what I command you… when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher. (John 15:14; Luke 6:40)
That is, the truly humble soul will say in all things, “May it be done to me according to your word,”  and “Not my will but yours be done.” 
… he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave… he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2:7-8)
Jesus is the incarnation of humility; Mary is His copy.
The disciple who is like Him refuses neither God’s blessings nor His discipline; he accepts both consolation and desolation; like Mary, he does not follow Jesus from a safe distance, but prostrates himself before the Cross, sharing in all His sufferings as he unites his own adversities to Christ’s.
Someone handed me a card with a reflection on the back. It summarizes very beautifully what has been said above.
Humility is perpetual quietness of heart.
It is to have no trouble.
It is never to be fretted, vexed, irritated, sore, or disappointed.
It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me,
to feel nothing done against me.
It is to be at rest when nobody praises me,
and when I am blamed and despised.
It is to have a blessed home in myself, where I can go in,
shut the door, kneel to my God in secret,
and am at peace, as in a deep sea of calmness,
when all around and above is troubled.
Finally, a soul is abiding in true humility when it embraces all of the above—but resists any kind of self-satisfaction—as if to say, “Ah, I am finally getting it; I’ve got it figured out; I’ve arrived… etc.” St. Pio warned of this most subtle enemy:
Let us always be on the alert and not let this very formidable enemy [of self-satisfaction] penetrate our minds and hearts, because, once it enters, it ravages every virtue, mars every holiness, and corrupts everything that is good and beautiful. —from Padre Pio’s Spiritual Direction for Every Day, edited by Gianluigi Pasquale, Servant Books; Feb. 25th
Whatever is good is God’s—the rest is mine. If my life bears good fruit, it is because He who is Good is working in me. For Jesus said, “without me, you can do nothing.” 
Repent of pride, rest in God’s will, and relinquish any self-satisfaction, and you will discover the sweetness of the Cross. For the Divine Will is the seed of true joy and real peace. It is food for the humble.
Bless you and thank you!
Last night was a beautiful and powerful evening.
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