Saturday, July 9, 2016

4 Building Blocks of Catholic Hope

Dear Theophilous,

As Catholic-Christians the greatest treasure we have is hope. The hope we hold, however, is vastly different from the hope that the world offers. The hope the world offers entails buying a lottery ticket and hoping that our numbers come up; this is no more than wishful thinking. The hope we hold as Catholics is our desire for eternal life with our Lord. The two are polar opposites.

The wishful thinking of worldly hope takes our destiny out of our own hands. It requires the cooperation of others and a little bit of luck. Worldly hope has its eyes on worldly goods, its desire no greater than our ambitions.

On the other hand, our Catholic hope, our desire for eternal life, sets its sights firmly on God. We look beyond ourselves to the life that is to come - to bigger and better things. With our Catholic hope we take our destiny into our own hands; we can make it happen.

There are four integral things we can do to make our Catholic hope in eternal life with God happen: Prayer, Mass, Reconciliation and Almsgiving. Like building blocks, one leads to another, with their combined support raising us towards heaven. These four actions that will bring our Catholic hope to fruition are intrinsic to the growth of any Catholic’s faith life, whether one is already a deeply devout Catholic looking to expand their spiritual life, or a lapsed Catholic or convert to the Catholic faith looking to reboot their life in Christ.


It’s difficult to be in a room with someone we don’t know. The conversation can be disjointed and the silences awkward. We don’t seem to know where to begin, how to break the ice; unfortunately sometimes we don’t even try. We need to build a relationship. How do we get beyond this awkward phase in a relationship? We do it through discussion, dialogue and conversation.

Prayer is the discussion, dialogue and conversation we use to develop our relationship with God.

Prayer can seem daunting, however, especially if one hasn’t been in the practice for some time. Not to worry, though, because prayer is much like the conversations we have with family and friends, changing to meet the circumstances we find ourselves in. Remember, God always loves us, we are the ones on a spiritual journey of hope and He will encourage us on every step of our journey; whispering to us gently with each prayer.

Our prayers can be quite simple. For those returning to the faith, it would be enough to say, “God, I am looking for You. Help me to find You.” As our relationship with God grows, so will our dialogue with Him. As our faith deepens our prayer life can become more complex, involving daily devotions such as the Rosary or the Liturgy of the Hours. Even for those who have developed a strong prayer life, there are times when a simple “Jesus, I trust in You!” is all that is needed.

In prayer, just like all conversations, however, we need to remember that it is a conversation and not a monologue. Samuel’s, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening,” needs to be on our lips in prayer. The Lord knows our prayers before we even speak them, if our relationship with God is to grow; we need to listen to His reply.


Once we are comfortable in our relationship with God through prayer, we will naturally want to nurture the love we have for Him. This is why we have the Mass. This is why all those who have realized our deep longing for eternal life with the Lord can’t seem to get to Mass enough.

Mass is the ultimate prayer.

In the Liturgy of the Word, we can come to know and understand God’s plan for us – Salvation History. Listening attentively, we can hear God speaking to us through Sacred Scripture; not only to the ancient Hebrews or the Jews of the Roman Empire, but to us personally. There may be times when the priest’s homily is necessary for us to connect the dots between the readings, there will be other times when the link to our lives is as plain as day, and there will be other times when, like Mary, we will need to ponder these things in our hearts. The important thing is to listen.

In the Liturgy of the Eucharist God comes to us – personally, tangibly, physically. With the words of consecration, Jesus comes into our midst – body, blood, soul and divinity. It has been said that if we truly understood what was happening in the Eucharist, firstly, we would not be able to stay away from Mass; and, secondly, we would drop dead from the sheer magnitude and majesty of what we have before us.

When we desire to grow our relationship with someone, we look for every opportunity to spend time with them. God offers us His presence in the Eucharist. If our Catholic hope is to spend eternity with our Lord, we can catch a glimpse of this in the Eucharist.


When we look for opportunities to be with someone we love, we also make sure that we’re ready to be with them. When dating, future spouses will make sure they are showered, dressed to impress and groomed to perfection. How much more should our attention be to these kind details when it comes to spending time with our Lord? Being ready to spend time with the Lord isn’t just about appearances (though this does make a statement about our inward commitment to our relationship with God) it has all to do with our spiritual readiness to spend time with Him.

The sacrament of Reconciliation, the confession of our sins, our fessing up to God to restore our relationship with Him is what it takes to get our soul ready to spend eternity with Him. If our Catholic hope, our ardent desire, is to spend our eternal life with the Lord, then we need to make sure we are ready for it. Unfortunately, Reconciliation is probably the sacrament that Catholics fear the most, even those who are in the regular habit of making their way to the confessional. After a long absence, Reconciliation can seem overwhelming, but not only God, but the priest will rejoice in a lost lamb’s return, helping take the baby steps necessary to make a good confession.

To receive the most our of God’s grace through Reconciliation, it is important to prepare oneself to make a good confession. Making a thorough examination of conscience is key to the process. Look deep into your soul, God already knows all, but He needs you to do the cleaning yourself. Reconciliation is always a difficult task that takes humility, but it does get easier with practice. Once a good confession made, and one is reconciled to the Lord, they need to get back to Mass to be able to fully participate in the Eucharist.


This fourth aspect of making our Catholic hope become a reality flows naturally from the first three. When one has a strong prayer life and has developed the habits of frequent Reconciliation and participation in the Eucharist, a change comes over them. Reconciled to Christ, they become more Christ-like. In washing the feet of His disciples, Christ showed us the mission to serve, and this service is almsgiving.

Typically, when we think of almsgiving, we think of giving money to the poor – and yes, this is a part of the almsgiving that leads to our Catholic hope. In a material world with material needs, most Catholics balk at the traditional notion of almsgiving as tithing (giving 10% to the Church). Tithing is important, doing without for others is the humility needed to present oneself before the Lord, but it does not entail cutting a cheque for 10% to the Church at tax time.

It is important to provide monetary support to the Church to keep the lights on, pay salaries, and to offer all of the other support services that the Catholic Church provides, but that the world seldom sees (think St. Vincent de Paul). Tithing can also involve other forms of giving too, such as directly helping charities with monetary or material aid, as well as volunteering personal time to help out where needed.

Our Catholic hope goes beyond what this world has to offer; it is firmly set in our desire to spend eternity with God. Our Catholic hope is unique, in that we hold in our own hands the ability to make this hope a reality. The four building blocks of Prayer, Mass, Reconciliation and Almsgiving are what we can use to develop our relationship with God, bringing us to spend more time in His presence.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

There's a "Catholic" App for That

Dear Theophilous,

As the speed of life ramps itself up to an alarming pace, there has been a growing trend to turn even more often to technology to keep one’s self afloat – never mind being ahead of the game. Over the past couple of years, whenever one has felt the pressure of keeping up with the times, when there has been a sense of floundering in the current of the world, the answer to the problem has been a pat: There’s an app for that. A quick perusal of iTunes or the Google Play Store confirms this to be true – there is an app for everything, including our Catholic faith.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit of a Luddite when it comes to the techno world. For the longest time I resisted the siren song of assimilation. My wife and I shared a flip-phone until only a couple of years ago, and the smart phone I have now is probably woefully out of date… but it works. Frankly, I’m sure I use my phone and laptop to about 1% of their capacity – my laptop really isn’t much more than a glorified typewriter (if you can remember what that is).

This all said, I have found that my smart phone has helped me to deepen my faith, simply because There’s an app for that. Actually, there are many Catholic apps out there, and I’ll honestly admit that I haven’t researched them all, but I have found 3 Catholic apps that I use almost daily.


Billed in the Google Play Store as the #1 Free Catholic App, Laudate lives up to the hype. Comprehensive, yet concise, this app has it all, but is streamlined for quick and easy use. I use the Laudate app daily for my morning offering, the saints of the day, as well as for the daily readings. I have also used the app sporadically to find prayers that are outside of my daily routine, to search out particular Bible verses, the Catechism or Vatican documents, as well as for its Examination of Conscience. The app also has other features such as the Liturgy of the Hours, Rosary/Chaplet, daily reflections, Stations of the Cross, Latin Prayers, EWTN, two Bible versions (NARE, Douay-Rheims) and access to a variety of Catholic media. Like I said, it has it all. Best of all, there is a Bookmark function that allows you to keep favourite aspects of the app at the top of the home page, saving you from having to hunt them out with 3 or 4 clicks. There is also an iPad version of the app, which my students have found to be very helpful in the classroom.

Honor your Inner Monk

This app is produced the Brothers at Saint Meinrad Archabbey to help the laity develop their daily prayer life, to discover their Inner Monk. I (try to) turn to this app twice a day for the morning and afternoon prayer. The prayers are short and to the point (never taking more than a minute), and with reflection are often very appropriate for whatever is going on in my life that day. One of the key elements of this app is your prayer tracker; like the tracker on your treadmill, you can watch your red line grow as you complete your prayers each day, ending with either cheers or jeers at the end of the month. In all honesty, each month my morning bar is usually a bit longer than my afternoon bar. The Inner Monk app has some other cool features including other short Catholic prayers, which you can use to accumulate bonus accolades, as well as a series of Gregorian Chants by the monks at the archabbey.

The Pope App

Admittedly, I don’t use The Pope App very often (but a good friend of my swears by it). This app is put out by and is for Francis junkies. The Pope App provides video, audio and text of just about everything the Pope does. This app goes beyond news releases and brings the user the words of Francis from his public audiences, homilies and exhortations. It is even possible to live stream Papal events or pick up his Twitter feed (@pontifex).

I have a few other Catholic apps on my phone, which I really haven’t discovered yet. Perhaps the summer holidays will give me the chance to find a new favourite, or at least an app to come back to from time to time. These include Lighthouse Catholic Media, Shalom World, and DivineOffice. I would also be very curious if you have any other suggestions of Catholic apps for my smart phone, so leave them in the combox below.