Today is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. I have always looked to him as the model of Radical Catholic Living. Francis lived his entire life striving to surrender more fully to his God. He had such an amazing personal relationship with Jesus and he was willing to do anything Jesus asked of him. He was never satisfied he always wanted to do more for his God. At the end of his life after all his amazing acts of devotion and works of charity he was still unsatisfied and he turned to his brothers calling them on saying, “Brothers let us rise for until now we have done very little…”

On this great feast let blessed Francis remind us what it means to live a life radically faithful to Jesus Christ.

Francis is a perfect example of Radical Catholic Living. The following are just some of the things we can learn from him:

Humility: Francis was a man of deep humility. When he was mistaken for a gardener by one of the Popes secretaries rather than protest he just went right into the garden to work.

Penance and Mortification: Francis was willing to do anything to get sin out of his life so that nothing stood between he and his Savior.

Prayer: Above all else Francis was a man of deep prayer. Sometimes Francis would stop in the middle of a walk and he would be caught up in prayer for hours and hours. When he and St. Clare were praying together in a Church the town thought that the Church was on fire because it was glowing form the glory of the Lord surrounding them.

Devotion to Holy Scripture: Francis had an incredible reverence for Holy Scripture. His Brothers would pick up paper on the ground in case a word of Holy Scripture could be found on it.

Most High, Glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of our minds.
Give us a right faith, a firm hope and a perfect charity,
so that we may always and in all things act according to Your Holy Will. Amen

My God and My All!

St. Francis of Assisi Pray for us!

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Lately I have been slipping. I haven’t been making it to Mass as often as I could. I’ve started to let some days slip by without praying my rosary and my time for silent prayer has been getting shorter and shorter.

In this blog I write often about different devotions and practices that assist us in the spiritual life. We need to have strong foundations to build on with those devotions and practices. If we look at Radical Catholic Living as a fortress then I would suggest that Holy Communion, The Rosary and Silent or Listening prayer are the foundation of that fortress. We build this fortress for two reasons: to protect against sin and temptation in order to commune more fully with God and also to have a place to launch attacks against the gates of hell in order to win souls.

The Rosary

It is in my opinion the most effective devotion in our battle against sin and our battle for souls. The daily rosary wraps us in Mary’s mantle and protects us from temptation. It is especially effective against sins we are already ensnared in. Have an intention? Place it in the hands of Our Lady though the rosary.

Silent Prayer

Intimacy with God is what we want. Right? We must strive to listen to what messages God has for us. Everything we do we must take to God in prayer. We have to communicate with our Blessed Lord everyday to acheive this intimacy.

Holy Communion

As the Catechism states, “the mass is the source and summit of Christian life. It is where it all comes together. We spend our day trying to surrender and listen to Jesus and finally in Holy Communion we receive him in the most intimate way possible.

Holy Communion, Silent Prayer and The Rosary are the foundations we need to build the fortress of Radical Catholic living. Start laying your foundation today.

                                                                                 The Church’s history is rich with amazing stories of saints and heroes. The link below is to a homily from Audio Sancto.org and it contains one such story about Sts. Peter and Paul. I hope that it will inspire you to fall more deeply in love with Jesus and His bride the Church. We are all called to live a life Radically faithful to the gospel. Let this homily inspire you to start today.

Sts. Peter and Paul pray for us!

http://www.audiosancto.org/auweb/20050703-The-Roman-Pontiff-Courage-of-Saints-Peter-and-Paul.mp3

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.

One day while in a crowd the St. Cyprian was arrested and questioned by a Roman Magistrate. The dialogue goes as follows: (Cyprian in Red)

“Are you Thascius Cyprianus?”

“I am.”

“Our most venerable emperors have commanded you to sacrifice.”

“I will not do it.”

“Reconsider!”

“In so just a cause there is no need for deliberation.”

“It is decided that Thascius Cyprianus should die by the sword.”

“Thanks be to God.”

Cyprian has no need for verbose sermons, responses or pleadings he is about to preach Christ crucified in one of the most profound ways a Christian can. When he is told he will die for his relationship with Christ he responds nobly and simply, “Thanks be to God.” God was calling him to faithfulness and Cyprian was ready. At that moment he had to do only one thing. Follow God’s call.

St. Cyprian was a Bishop who lived within the Roman Empire. He lived at a time when terrified Christians turned away from Jesus and ran to the temples to sacrifice. He did his job as a Bishop and led his people to follow Jesus even unto death.

In that simple brief answer I hear more than, “Thanks be to God.” I hear Cyprian’s readiness to follow God’s will no matter where He leads. Indeed in thinking about that final answer I hear behind his words the mental and spiritual disposition, “I am ready.” This leads me to ask the question, am I ready? Am I ready to accept Martyrdom if it be God’s will?

Am I Ready? Are you Ready? How do we prepare?

I don’t really know how exactly to prepare for martyrdom but I think we can learn a lot form those who have gone before us. Here are just a few points I think we can agree on:

Willingness to fight sin: If we turn away from God in sin for comfort or pleasure or passion then why would we think we would be able to stay faithful to Him when our life is at stake?

Willingness to suffer for His Holy Name: When someone is martyred I am sure that it usually isn’t the first time they have suffered for being a follower of Christ. Each and every day those who follow Christ suffer or are persecuted for just that reason. We have to be a faithful witness in small matters if we are going to be a faithful witness in great matters.

Listening for and waiting on the will and voice of the Lord: When Peter was fleeing Rome he saw Jesus walking back towards the city. Jesus expressed His holy will to be with His people and Peter turned back to the city and ultimately to his martyrdom. We need to train ourselves to hear God’s voice so that when the time comes we are able to discern the will of the Lord.

Holy Courage: Pretty self explanatory. God’s followers need courage. Pray for holy Courage every day.

Devotion to Mary: Mary was at the Cross. She can teach us to follow Christ no matter where He leads.

Passionate relationship with Jesus: In the end it is clear that the martyrs died for the passionate love of a person. They were, above all, head over heels in love with Jesus.

“No On is a martyr for a conclusion; no one is a martyr for an opinion; it is faith that makes martyrs.” Cardinal Newman

“Eighty six years I have served Him, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?” St. Poly Carp

There are many sins that take place solely in our mind:

  • Entertaining thoughts of envy
  • Entertaining impure thoughts
  • Entertaining thoughts of Pride
  • Etc..

There are also many dispositions that our mind can have that are detrimental to the spiritual life:

  • Always living in fantasy (What you wish your life was like)
  • Constant thoughts of the past
  • Loud and distracted
  • Etc..

Most sin begins in the mind. It is a battle field to be won if we are to be successful in the interior life.

Human beings by nature think. You are always thinking about something. When we do not have control of our mind then we are usually bombarded with temptations and thoughts of sin. This ruins our silence and cultivates a barren desert that kills the grace we receive.

One of the best ways to take control of your mind is through the memorization of scripture. I guess the thought is that we fill our mind with holy things and it pushes out the bad. Scripture transforms our minds and makes them fertal ground to receive the grace God gives and prune the weeds of sin and selfishness. Memorizing scripture is like pouring poison on the vermin of sin in our mind. It also is extremely helpful in spiritual warfare. Remember that Christ answered Satan’s temptations with scripture. The evil one will fear a mind that is filled with God’s Holy Word. If you are struggling with bad or inappropriate memories memorizing scripture can be one of the most effective ways to rid yourself of those memories.

Try to conquer your mind today through the memorization of God’s Holy Word. When your mind is filled with scripture your mind is then filled with Jesus. Start by memorizing a verse each week. If you are really struggling with a particular sin then try to find a scripture verse that corresponds to that and memorize it.

Regardless of how you decide to go about it try to memorize scripture often. You will slowly transform your mind into a living bible. Radical Catholics live in Sacred Scripture!

God’s Word is a light to the mind and a fire to the will so that a person may know and love the Lord. To the interior person who lives by the spirit, it is bread and water, but a bread sweeter than any honey from the comb, and water more delicious than milk or wine. St. Lawrence

Every word and deed should be ratified by the testimony of Holy Scripture, to confirm those who do good and to shame those who do evil. St. Basil the Great

St. John the Baptist and St. Francis of Assisi are two perfect examples for those striving to live a life radically faithful to Jesus Christ. Here are some elements from their life and spirituality that we should all imitate:

St. John the Baptist:

Prophecy: St. John’s entire existence was based on preparing the way for Christ and His kingdom. In an evil world he was the one voice crying out against sin and secularism. We all need to take the place of St. John in this day and age and proclaim Jesus Christ!

Silence and Solitude: St. John lived as a kind of “Proto Monk” in the desert. He lived a life of prayer alone with God. We all need to cultivate silence and solitude. Silence and solitude are how Apostles are made.

He battled the evil of the time: St. John exposed the sins of King Herod and died for it. We need to do the same in our culture. Every Radical Catholic has a place in the pro-life movement. We are all called to expose the evil sin of abortion.

Mortification: St. John lived a life of mortification. He wore camels hair and ate locust and wild honey. This helps battle sin, achieve silence in prayer, prepare our hearts for Jesus, and atone for sins.

Incredible Humility: St. John the Baptist was the greatest of the prophets and yet he said he was unworthy to loosen the sandal straps of the Lord. Pray for Humility!

St. Francis of Assisi:

Love of Jesus: St. Francis had the epitome of the personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Anyone who says Catholics don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ has never bothered to read St. Francis. We need to remember that Radical Catholic living is first a foremost a relationship, a love relationship with Jesus.

Battle against sin: St. Francis exemplified the battle against sin and pride and selfishness. His whole life was about the ridding of sin and the gaining of Jesus. He was determined to do whatever he needed to in order to gain victory over sin.

Desire for Martyrdom: Francis wanted to die for Christ’s sake so much so that he went and preached to the Sultan hoping to tempt him into martyring Francis. Francis wanted the chance to die for the One who died for him.

Look to St. John and St. Francis as examples of Radical Catholic Living. We can be confident in imitating them as they followed the Lord radically.

St. John the Baptist and St. Francis of Assisi pray for us!

Living a Radical Catholic Life is all about constant watchfulness and renewal. We need to strive to live each moment totally for Jesus Christ. We can slowly claim every second of our lives for Christ but it takes a spirit of constant watchfulness.

There are two devotions in particular that I consider totally essential to winning this battle to live fully for Jesus Christ, the Hourly Examination and the Spiritual Communion.

The hourly examination of conscience was practiced by many saints because of its effectiveness in fighting against sin. Each hour you need to train yourself to take an account of your conduct during the last hour. At the beginning it helps to set a reminder. For example I had a reminder on my phone set for each hour. At the beginning of each hour I would take just a few minutes to take an account of my sins and failings. This gives us a great look at the sins that plague our life. It even helps to spend a day writing these sins down. We have to be methodical about ridding our life of sin. The hourly examination helps us greatly with this. The hourly examination can be easily accomplished by a quick review of the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes and finally an act of contrition.

The Spiritual Communion is a way to invite Jesus into your heart when you can’t receive Holy Communion. Often through out our day we need to invite Jesus into our heart. It is a source of constant renewal. It also is a major grace in the life of someone who is struggling with serious sin. We should constantly invite Jesus in to our heart. Each time He will claim more of us for himself until we are totally His. St. Alphonsus Ligouri was a great proponent of the Spiritual Communion. The following prayer was written by him and should be used often through out each day.

My Jesus, I believe that Thou art present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love Thee above all things and I desire Thee in my soul. Since I cannot now receive Thee sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though thou wert already there, I embrace Thee and unite myself wholly to Thee; permit not that I should ever be separated from Thee.

The Hourly Examination and Spiritual Communion taken together become a powerful devotion resulting in the slow but sure conquering of sin and total surrender to Jesus. They are essential tools in our battle for total surrender.

We all say different prayers attributed to certain saints. Prayers for everyday, prayers for adoration, prayers before communion and study and so on and so on. The saints wrote these prayers because they tried to make their lives one long uninterrupted devotion. They sanctified every moment by asking for the grace to accomplish God’s will in that moment.

We should all be making each moment a chance to pray for ourselves and our world. We should make our own devotions for each activity of our day. I have friends who always remember to say a prayer to Our Lady every time they drive in their car. I have another friend who has a Hail Mary on his voicemail. Each and every moment can be a time for us to write our own devotional prayers to the Lord. There is something special about writing and practicing your own prayers and devotions. What are the prayers and devotions you have written or practice during the day?

Here are 2 devotional prayers I pray before communion and after confession:

On the way up to receive Holy Communion I pray the following prayer:

Oh Jesus as I approach your table to receive your body and blood I ask that you prepare my heart to receive all that you have for me. I ask that through this Holy Eucharist I will receive every grace, every gift, every look, every touch, every cross, every word, every message, every dream, every hope, every bit of faith and love, every suffering, (I continue until I get to the front of the line) and every good gift you have for me. I humbly ask to receive all of you my Jesus. Amen

After Confession I look upon the crucifix and I say the following prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ I thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I ask you Jesus to come more deeply into my heart today. I know that my heart is over grown with the thorns and brush of sin and selfishness. I ask Lord that right now you rip from my heart the brush and thorns so that you may enter in. Do not be gentle Jesus. Now is the time for you to tear from my heart everything that is not of you. Do not worry about the pain it causes me. I know that my wounds will be comforted by your holy presence. Amen.

Make your lives a devotion

It is important that we arms oursleves with the weapons we need fight the battle that is Radical Catholic Living. Each of us can look to certain things that have helped us fight sin, listen to God and surrender ourselves more fully to Jesus. Books, sacramentals, prayers and exercises can make a big difference in our struggle against sin and our race towards Jesus. God will send you these things as arrows to fill your quiver.

Here are some weapons that may be able to help you live an intense Catholic life:

The Brown Scapular: When I began to wear the Brown Scapular I was finally able to make headway against the besetting sins in my life. It is a constant reminder of Mary’s intercession. It is my badge of courage in a dark age.

The Book Spiritual Combat by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli: This is basically the guidebook for combatting sin. It gives you powerful and practical steps to take in the interior life. Read it slowly and over and over again.

The Spiritual Communion Prayer by St. Alphonsus Ligouri: This is a great way to recommit ourselves often through out the day. It is a reminder to always invite Jesus into our hearts. It also helps us to prepare for real communion at mass.

Scripture memorization: Scripture memorization fills our minds with The Word. This can help greatly in our battle against sin that manifests itself in the mind.

Preparation for Total Consecration by St. Louis DeMontfort: This spiritual exercise is integral to the Spiritual life and is the font of many graces. Try it once and then renew it each year. It will help you abandon yourself more fully to Jesus.

A Good Comprehensive Book on Spiritual Direction: When you are committed to prayer and fighting sin questions will come up and if you don’t have an experienced spiritual director there are a few books you can turn to.  I recommend The Spiritual Life by Tanqueray or a book called The Interior Life by “A Carthusian Monk” (That is the only name given)

Holy Water: Keep Holy water around you. I often claim the Kingship of Jesus in my house and other places by sprinkling holy water. It is like poison to the Evil Spirits lurking.

Deliverance prayer from Pope Leo XIII: Here is a link to the prayer: http://www.catholicdoors.com/prayers/english/p01975.htm

These are things that have helped me substantiallyin striving to living a Radical Catholic life. With the Eucharist, Rosary and confession being foundations of our life these things can help build a strong house of devotion that will help us to surrender more to Jesus and become His. Please leave suggestions about things that have helped you below in the comments.

Ask God to send you arrows to put in your quiver. Arm yourself with the weapons that will help you finish the race and fight the good fight.

Arm yourself in this battle. Fight to the Death.