The Philokalia is a collection of writings by ancient spiritual masters of the Eastern Catholic Church. It is a treasure chest of spiritual knowledge from some of the most radically devoted monks who ever lived. (I recommend that every person trying to live a radical catholic life buy the collection.)

One interesting theme in The Philokalia is the battle against forgetfulness. I am sure that I am not advanced enough to understand fully what they mean by “forgetfulness” but I have come to understand what it means in my life.

I often fall because I am just forgetful about what I am striving for. For example if I am trying to fight the sin of envy I may wake up in the morning and not really even think about it until later on in the day when I have already let thoughts of envy rum rampant through my mind. I won’t remember to pray against it. I won’t remember to ask God for the grace to rid myself of it during mass and I wont call on the Blessed Virgin for help against it either.

Another example would be if I have decided to add a certain devotion to my daily exercises but I forget to plan a time for it. Say I am ready to start praying the daily rosary but I don’t do it right when I wake up and I have a really busy day so I forget about it. This kind of forgetfulness gets me all the time.

I know it probably seems silly but forgetfulness can be a serious detriment to us if we are really striving to live a radical catholic life. The Devil will use whatever he can to darw us away. In this day and age forgetfulness is becoming more and more prevalent.

Here are some ways to combat forgetfulness in your life:

  • The “To DO” list: This probably sounds crazy but there is nothing wrong with writing down a few notes about what you want to accomplish the next day. I often will write on a sheet of paper things I do not want to forget the next day and lay it next to my bed so I can’t miss it.
  • Physical reminders: if I am trying to fight a particular sin I may try to make a physical reminder like a post it note. I will put it in my pocket as a reminder through out the day. I have even gone as far as to write the letter E on my wrist so I remember to keep vigilance against envy.
  • Pray for deliverance from forgetfulness: In the Philokalia the Fathers say to pray to God each day for deliverance you from forgetfulness.
  • Live on a schedule: When we have a schedule life is just more organized and less crazy. We are naturally less forgetful when we are more organized.
  • Don’t take on too much: Be methodical and deliberate about your spiritual endeavors.
  • Make each morning a time for preparation: Train yourself to think about the battle each morning. This will eventually become a habit and it will be the time you remind yourself what you are striving for.

You may think forgetfulness isn’t worth fighting against but if you are truly striving then you must fight against it and everything else that can get your eyes off of the final goal. We aren’t just fighting to win the battle of a lifetime we must fight to win each and every second for Christ. Surrender all to Him, even your forgetfulness.

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Penance and Mortification don’t always need to be extreme but they do need to be part of the life of each and every Radical Catholic. There are countless benefits that come from engaging in penance and mortification. As Radical Catholics we must be committed to fighting sin, interceding for the world, and an intimate relationship with God, penance and mortification are integral parts of all those endeavors.

Some reasons for Mortification and Penance are:

  • To atone for the temporal punishment due to our sins.
  • To atone for the sins of the world.
  • To increase the value of our prayers, which are far more efficacious when joined with penance.
  • To obtain graces for others Note: Our Lady of Fatima asked the children to pray and sacrifice for sinners.
  • To strengthen our will power, our will is weak , but penance makes us stronger against temptations.
  • To elevate our mind to heavenly things (Penance helps us pray and meditate better).
  • To increase silence. Mortification helps us to gain silence in prayer. This is especially true with fasting.
  • To demonstrate our love for God (True love entails a willingness to suffer for the person loved).
  • Etc…

Here are some simple mortifications you can practice almost every day:

  • Waking up early.
  • Refraining from frivolous talk.
  • Cold Showers.
  • Fasting from particular foods or even total fasts.
  • Parking farther away from your destination.
  • Not ordering your favorite meal when you go out to eat.
  • Giving up coffee and donating the money saved to the poor.
  • Sleeping without a pillow or with only one if you are used to two.
  • Giving up television
  • Giving up social media for a day or week or month…
  • Giving up certain foods or sweets.
  • Only drinking water.
  • Not using salt, pepper or condiments when eating.
  • Giving up radio in the car.
  • Etc…

If you have not discerned adding penance and simple mortifications to your spiritual start to do so today. I have not ever read of a Saint who did not practice mortification and penance often. It may be the missing link that your interior life needs. Ask Jesus how he wants you to practice penance and mortification. Do it all for Jesus!

The mortified man is able to suck honey from the rock and oil from rugged stones. St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Pride is one of those sneaky but deadly sins. Why sneaky? Pride is sneaky because it because it’s a sin of blindness. All sin blinds us in some way but Pride especially blinds us. You see its Pride that causes us to be blind to our need for deeper conversion. Pride can be so deeply present within us that even after years striving in the spiritual life it can go undetected. I hate pride. I hate it so much because even though I am constantly reminded of my need for deeper conversion there are times when I realize a huge part of my life that needs healing, conversion and change. Pride causes this blindness.

One of the main reasons Pride hurts our spiritual growth is because one of the ways it manifests itself is in a sin called “Presumption”.

The book “The Spiritual Life” by Tanquerey defines Presumption like this:

Presumption consists in an inordinate desire and hope whereby we want to do things which are beyond our strength. It proceeds from too high of an opinion of ourselves, of our natural faculties, of our knowledge, of our strength, of our virtues.

Many people will read this and immediately think something like this, “I definitely know how sinful I am”. What you should say is “Lord show me where I need more conversion”. “Lord, show me how I truly look in your eyes because I know my vision is poor.”

Pride needs to be rooted out of our lives. God resists the proud. He hurries to the humble. Remember Pride can be very sneaky. If you don’t think you struggle with Pride then that is probably a good indication you do.

Here are some ways to help you root Pride out of your life:

  1. Take Prideful thoughts Captive: Identify particular temptations and prideful thoughts that occur regularly and make an effort to take them captive. Use the prayer, “In the name of Jesus I reject the spirit of Pride and I take that thought captive. Amen”
  2. Keep more silence: Try fasting from unnecessary talking. Speak only when spoken too.
  3. Be faithful to daily examinations of conscience: Ask God to reveal those things you don’t see or don’t want to acknowledge.
  4. Pray the Litany of Humility:

Litany of Humility by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val

  • O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
  • From the desire of being esteemed,
  • Deliver me, Jesus.
  • From the desire of being loved…
  • From the desire of being extolled …
  • From the desire of being honored …
  • From the desire of being praised …
  • From the desire of being preferred to others…
  • From the desire of being consulted …
  • From the desire of being approved …
  • From the fear of being humiliated …
  • From the fear of being despised…
  • From the fear of suffering rebukes …
  • From the fear of being calumniated …
  • From the fear of being forgotten …
  • From the fear of being ridiculed …
  • From the fear of being wronged …
  • From the fear of being suspected…
  • That others may be loved more than I,
  • Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
  • That others may be esteemed more than I …
  • That, in the opinion of the world,
  • others may increase and I may decrease …
  • That others may be chosen and I set aside …
  • That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
  • That others may be preferred to me in everything…
  • That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…
  • For the Lord is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he knows form afar. Psalm 138:6

    Jesus is the Reason. Sainthood is the goal. The following is the offical questionnaire the Holy Catholic Church uses to determine sanctity of life for those up for Sainthood. They provide a overview of the tenacity and determination we need become like Christ. Keep in mind: LOVE IS THE GOAL!

    Temperance:

    1. Were denial of his own will and internal mortification characteristics of the servant of God?
    2. Did he restrain the motions of anger?
    3. Did he bear persecution with meekness and patience?
    4. Was he unduly tenacious of his own opinion?
    5. Was he sparing in the use of food and drink?
    6. Did he observe the fasts of the Church?
    7. Did he indulge in long hours of sleep?
    8. Was his bed uncomfortable or comfortable?
    9. Was he anxious to be well clothed and well housed?
    10. Did he neglect the comforts of life?
    11. Did he mortify the senses?
    12. Did he love solitude and silence?
    13. Was he modest in demeanor?

    Fortitude:

    1. Was he strong and faithful in his duty of his office, tireless in his work, patient in persecution, injury, calumny trouble of mind? Has he born all these in a cheerful spirit?
    2. Was he always, himself, not elated by prosperity or depressed by adversity?
    3. Did he despise the honors, riches and pleasures of world?
    4. Did he constantly defend the rites of the church and restrain the immorality of wicked men?

    Justice:

    1. Was he affable and friendly towards others?
    2. Was he subject to parents and superiors?
    3. Did he show himself grateful for favors received and did he strive to excite gratitude in others?
    4. Did he discharge with Justice the office committed to him, avoiding all favoritism?
    5. Did he temper the severity of justice with kindness that no one could ever have just cause of complaint against him?
    6. Did he render unto God due honor and obedience?
    7. Did he pay veneration to the saints?
    8. Did he accept the decrees of the Supreme Pontiffs with proper respect and reverence?
    9. Was he exact in observance of sacred rites and ceremonies of the church?
    10. Did he endeavor to promote the worship of God?
    11. Did he respect rights of all and give what is due to them?
    12. Did he hate usery and fraud of all kind?

    Prudence:

    1. Did he direct all his actions to the attainment of eternal glory as his last end through the necessary and useful means?
    2. Did he love simplicity?
    3. Was he sincere and true in thought and word and did he hate all duplicity and falsehood?
    4. Did he seek the advice of prudent men and act on it?
    5. Were all his acts good and did he first invoke divine aid for there due performance?
    6. Did he have deep hatred of idleness as a source of vice and did he love meditation and solitude?

    Faith:

    1. Did he often return thanks to God for being born in the bosom of the Catholic Church or that he received the grace of conversion to it and pray that all would be brought within Her fold?
    2. Did he burn with the desire of propagating the Faith?
    3. Did he teach truths of Christianity to the faithful and did he teach the Catechism?
    4. Did he rejoice when some erring soul was converted to the Catholic Faith?
    5. Did he grieve when church suffered loss or persecution?
    6. Was the decoration of the house of God dear to him in the observance of the sacred ceremonies?
    7. Did he show a devotion to the blessed virgin and endeavor to propagate it? How?
    8. Did he pray long and frequently in front of the Blessed Sacrament?
    9. Did he show a tender devotion to the Passion of Jesus Christ?
    10. Did he often meditate on this mystery? With what fervor and piety? Did he strive enkindle this devotion in others?
    11. Did he burn with the desire of shedding his blood for the Truths of the Faith?
    12. Did he venerate the Sacred Scriptures and the writings of the Holy Fathers?
    13. Did he obey the laws of the Church and the commands of his superiors?
    14. Did he show honor to the Sovereign Pontiff and all ministers of God
    15. Did he desire to gain indulgences?
    16. Did he hate all bad books and those opposed to the Faith?
    17. Did he frequently approach the sacraments of Penance and the Blessed Eucharist?

    Hope:

    1. Did he firmly hope for salvation from the merits of Christ our Lord?
    2. Did he despise the things of the world and how did he show his contempt?
    3. In trying circumstances did he place his trust in God alone and have recourse to prayer?
    4. Did he show his hope in God by ardent and pious exclamations?
    5. Did he raise up others to confidence in God??
    6. Did he show a desire by word and work to suffer for eternal life?
    7. Did he rejoice that the new life is the beginning of true life?
    8. With what confidence did he practice good works?
    9. In adversity was he resigned to believe the goodness of God and the designs of His providence?
    10. Did he direct his desires and all his actions to God as his last end?
    11. Did he bear cheerfully adversity and persecution?
    12. Did he desire, with St. Paul to be dissolved and be with Christ?
    13. Did he bear infirmity and suffering with a joyous spirit

    Charity:

    1. Did he pray often for the conversion of sinners?
    2. What were his relations towards his enemies?
    3. Did he forgive his enemies, receive them meekly and pray for them?
    4. Did he prevent discord?
    5. Had he at heart the good name of others?
    6. With what frequency and fervor did he offer up prayers for the souls of the deceased?
    7. Did he strive to comfort the afflicted?
    8. Did he excuse, when opportune, the defects of his neighbors?
    9. What was his attitude towards the sick?
    10. Did he love the poor, help them according to his ability and strive to induce others to assist them?
    11. Did he instruct the ignorant and give counsel to those in doubt?
    12. Was he devoted to the spiritual and physical wellbeing of the sick?
    13. Did he admonish sinners and restore peace and concord among the quarrelsome?
    14. Did he hate sin and take care to preserve himself free from every defect?
    15. Did he speak often of God?
    16. Was his mind always fixed on God and in union with God and by what acts, words or aspirations was this union made manifest?
    17. Was his prayer constant and fervent?
    18. Did he remain long in front of the Blessed Sacrament?
    19. Did he lead others to the practice of prayer? How?
    20. Did he often meditate of passion of Christ? By what acts did he show his devotion to the passion?
    21. Prevent the commission of sin and feel sorry for it when committed by others?
    22. How did he show devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary ?
    23. Endeavor to enflame others with charity towards God?
    24. Did he by fasting and mortification bring the flesh into subjection that he might be more pleasing to God?
    25. Had he a supernatural desire for affliction, contradiction, contempt and how did he bear them?
    26. Did he endeavor with all his might to excite others to praise the divine goodness?

    He must increase, but I must decrease.  John 3:30

     

    I can honestly say that most of the progress against sin in my life has come from devotion to Mary. She has a passionate desire to bring us closer to Her Son and because of that her intercession is powerful in helping us rid our life of sin. It wasn’t until I started consecrating myself to Mary daily, that I was able to make progress against a particular stronghold the devil had in my life. When I took up the brown scapular I finally was able to make progress against a “besetting sin” that I had been struggling against for years. She is called the “Refuge of Sinner’s” for a reason.

    Mary tells us so simply in the Gospel, “Do whatever He tells you.” She knows that we can’t do whatever He tells us unless we are free to do so and this means free from our addiction to sin. The more free we are the more fully we can imitate Mary in saying “Yes” to God.

    We recently renewed our baptismal promises at the Easter Liturgy. It’s a great time to renew our battle with Sin and try to come closer to fully accepting the passionate love that Jesus offers us. Renewing or starting a devotion to Mary will help you do this more fully. Start today.

    Prayer of Consecration to Mary

    My Queen and Mother, I give myself entirely to you. To show my devotion to you I consecrate to you this day my eyes, ears, mouth, heart, and whole being without reserve. Therefore, good Mother, since I am your own, keep me and guard me as your property and possession.

     

     

    With your help, as long as there is strength within us,

    we will fight to the last breath.

    So help us O Queen, O Lady, O best and dearest Mother!

    St. Maximillian Kolbe

    The only thing keeping the Isrealites from taking the land of Jericho were the mighty walls of the city. God wanted the Israelites to conquer and inhabit the land so as to live in freedom and in relationship with Him. God wants us to live in freedom and to do that we must tear down the “Walls of Jericho” in our lives.

    Besetting Sins are those sins inside of us that are always tempting us, always ravaging our souls of the innocence God wants for us. They are that one nagging “thing” keeping us from a totally sincere and passionate relationship with Christ. Sometimes it’s not just one; maybe there are three or four sins that are particularly troublesome for your interior life. They could involve the senses like lust or gluttony or they could be something like vanity or gossip. The point is they have become “high walls” to our will and our heart, and even though we don’t want them to be part of our life, we have let them become a stronghold that needs to be conquered to live in freedom and love.

    What are your besetting sins? You most likely have some idea of what they may be. Usually it is the one thing you have confessed over and over again. If it is something physical then it is probably much easier to recognize but maybe not much easier to fight. We need to remember that it could take years to conquer, but if we remain faithful to God, He will cause the walls to crumble and we will gain more freedom and strength for the next battle.

    Here are some thoughts on conquering our “Besetting Sins”:

    1. Identify the “Besetting Sin” that you need to do battle against then write it down and write down a concrete plan to “make the walls fall.”
    2. Don’t keep secrets with the devil. Satan is the prince of darkness and he wants us to keep his work a secret. Tell someone about your struggles. Confess them for the first time if you haven’t already. Remember Ephesians 5:11: “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”
    3. Work on building your will and virtue in less serious struggles of your life. Use other opportunities and temptations to build virtue. We may be weak to certain temptations but we should be ever more aggressive against temptations we aren’t as susceptible to.
    4. Remember God is in control. Remain faithful to God and grow in love. Eventually the “Walls” will crumble.
    5. Remember that the walls of Jericho were nothing to the strength of the Lord. Every time we receive our Lord in communion we must beg Him to push evil out of our heart which is His home.

    Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1

    I had a close friend who on several occasions told me about once a month, on average, he misses Sunday mass. His wife would get really upset about it and he would just tell her that because he went the other 3 Sundays out of the month he would be “okay.” I hate the word “okay” when it comes to the spiritual life. I am always fighting the desire to be “just okay” in my heart.

    As Catholics we aren’t called to be “just okay.” We are called to strive for perfection. This might not be apparent from walking into your average Catholic Church. Most people think that they are fulfilling an obligation not striving for perfection.

    Each and every person is called to strive for sainthood and sainthood is the opposite of being “just okay.” This means you need to live deliberately and take an active role in your spiritual life. You need to actively strive for sainthood.

    Start fighting the temptation to be “just okay” and begin cultivating a Radical Catholic Life. Here are some very simple ideas that may help:

    1. Make the Lives of the Saints part of your daily devotions. You could read about a different Saint each day or even do an in depth reading of the life of one Saint. I recommend starting with St. Francis. You will find they are anything but “just okay”.
    2. Compare yourself to Christ and only Christ. We are called to be perfect like Christ and not “just okay” or even holier than other Catholics. We can’t be striving to do better than other people we know. This will blind you.
    3. Examine, examine, examine. Do not ever think that you are doing “okay”. If you think this then your are not examining your conscience closely enough.
    4. Remember that love is the goal. The Saints loved Jesus and that was the motivation for their journey toward perfection. We need to examine how much we really truly love Jesus. You don’t do things out of obligation if you are in love with someone instead you love generously and show extraordinary devotion.

    You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48

    You shall love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with al your might. Deuteronomy 6:5

    The lives of the Saints are filled with stories of penance, sacrifice, great deeds and the like. You may think, while reading about them, that those deeds are what their lives are about, but you would be totally wrong. When I read about the life of St. Francis (or any other Saint for that matter) I see a passionate love story between a man and His God. Sleeping on the floor, fasting, waking up early, and even more extreme acts of mortification are nothing if they are not done for love.
    St. Francis is the perfect example of this point. Francis was head over heels in Love with God. His extreme acts of mortification weren’t performed as some sort of proof of His love but he waged war on His body and His will, ridding himself of anything coming between him and God.
    Love should be the sole motivation of our whole life. We need to look at our prayer as communication with a lover. We should see our penance as preparing ourselves to give more fully. All for love. God is a jealous lover and He wants ALL of us. There is no room for sin and selfishness. He wants to fill us with Himself. Our love for Him should motivate us to make room for Him. Let us mortify ourselves, let us fast, let us do great deeds but only for love.

     

     

    I the Lord your God am a jealous God. Exodus 20:5

     
     

    I am my beloved’s and He is mine. Song of Songs 2:16

     

     

     

    Silence should be part of every Christian’s life. Unfortunately silence is becoming more and more scarce in our society. It doesn’t come without Cultivation.

    Why is silence so important? Every baptized Catholic has the threefold vocation of Priest, Prophet and King. We cannot fully take up the role of Prophet without first cultivating silence in our everyday life. Why? Being a prophet is more than proclaiming the Truths handed to us from the Church. God speaks to us all individually and we each have a part in His plan and a unique message for the world. We will never hear that message that is deep inside us without cultivating silence in our every day life.

    Its not easy to find times when we can be in solitude to try and work towards that special silence where we can really communicate on a deeper level with God. Solitude and Silence certainly never came easy for me. Before I was married it was pretty common for me to have the television or radio on all day. As soon as I got home I would turn one of them one for some “background” noise. Once I got married I really learned from my wife to cherish silence she hates background noise and rarely ever wants the television or radio on. Now with my busy life (like most everyone else) I have to wake up early to find time for silence. It has to be a priority for me or it won‘t happen.

    Some tips to help cultivate silence in your daily life:

    1. Make it a priority. Set aside time each day to not only pray but listen to God
    2. Make it the same time each day. This builds a habit and shows how important it is to us
    3. Turn off EVERYTHING. (TV, Radio, Cell Phone, Laptop Etc.)
    4. Write down things that are distracting you. For example things you need to accomplish
    5. Work hard to keep your mind on the conversation with God
    6. Use the little times to practice. (In the car, the shower, as you are falling asleep)
    7. Most of all: Ask God for his help. He wants to speak to each one of us. His message is personal.

    “Solitude enables you to make contact with yourself, a necessity if you want to realize yourself- not to repeat like a parrot a few acquired formulas, but to be the prophet of God within you who speaks a unique language to each man”

    A. G. Sertillanges, O.P.

    Oh that my people would listen to me…

    Psalm 81:13

    At the end of St. Francis’ life his body was breaking down. He had fasted and mortified his body so much that he felt the need to apologize to it. Some people may be disturbed even disgusted by this. I think this devotion St. Francis had to mortification and suffering provides perspective. 

    At the hour of our death would we rather feel the need to apologize to our body or to our God? Make this Lent a daring one. Don’t err on the side of caution do something radical but do it for the Love of Christ.

    Dear God as I embark on another Season of Lent I ask for your guidance and direction. My heart has become entangled in the thorny brush of sin, secularism and complacence. Do not be gentle and patient but rip the thorns away to bring me closer to you. Give me a clean heart o God and place a new and right spirit within me.

    Amen