Sunday, October 15, 2017

OVERCOMING OUR GREATEST ENEMY

There is more value in a little study of humility and in a single act of it than in all the knowledge in the world. (St. Teresa of Avila)

Get the one-page leaflet or executive summary here or here (PDF).  

Why is pride an enemy, even our greatest enemy?

  • Pride, “inordinate self-love, is the cause of every sin.” (St. Thomas) If sin is our enemy, the only real evil, and pride its cause, then pride is the greatest enemy within us we have to overcome.
  • Pride was the sin of Adam and Lucifer.  It is “the chief cause of suffering in every nation, in every family since the world began.” (C.S. Lewis)
  • Pride is the trickiest, most devious enemy. It blinds us, so we can’t see our own pride. The proud man thinks he is humble and the others proud. Not himself.
What is pride, so I can fight it?

  • Pride is inordinate or disordered love of our own excellence. (St. Thomas).
  • If "humility is truth", then pride is falsehood. The falsehood that I am the center of the universe and of everybody else's attention. Not God. Thus, pride is “playing God”. (Peter Kreeft)
  • Pride is essentially competitive. (C.S. Lewis)  You treat others as rivals, and put them down, so you can go up.
What are the benefits of not being proud, of being humble, of living in the truth?


  • Divine help. “God resists the proud and gives his grace to the humble.” Only an open, empty glass can be filled with new wine.
  • Greatness. Mary, the greatest person after God, attributes all her greatness to her “lowliness”. “Those who humble themselves as little children are the greatest in the Kingdom of God.” (Jesus)
  • Overcoming sins. If pride is the cause of all sin, then overcoming pride helps us overcome our other sins, such as lust, avarice, dishonesty, sloth (repulsion to God who is Joy and Goodness).
  • Real nobility. “Humility is the most important virtue,” (St. Bernard) “the foundation of all the other virtues. If humility is not in a soul, he does not have any virtue, except mere appearance.”  (St. Augustine)  
  • Deep peace. Pride is the root of gloom. “90% of our personal problems come from thinking too much of ourselves.” (St. Josemaria)  While humility brings tranquility: “rest for your souls.” (Jesus)
How can I know if I am proud, since pride is hard to spot? (This list is mainly based on the teachings of St. Josemaria)
  1. Preferring your own excellence over your neighbor's. Making your thoughts and concerns revolve around yourself; not around God and others. Thinking too much of how others think of you
  2. Being touchy. Easily taking offense at the slightest hint of criticism which might not even be directed towards you. Resenting anything that brings down others’ opinion of you.
  3. Being vain. Thinking yourself better than what you really are. Having an undue esteem over your appearance or achievements
  4. Not recognizing the truth of your personal defects and deficiencies. Making excuses when corrected. Hiding some humiliating faults from your spiritual director or life coach. Being sad over not having certain possessions, and good qualities
  5. Thinking of yourself as better than others. Thinking that what you do or say is better than what others do or say. Mentioning yourself as an example. Being hurt that others are praised.
  6. Being arrogant. Having an exaggerated sense of your own importance or abilities. Refusing to carry out menial tasks
  7. Being domineering. Always wanting to get your own way. Quarreling when you are not right or when you are, insisting stubbornly or with bad manners
  8. Looking down at others and putting them down. Despising the point of view of others. Being ready to reveal defects of anyone who stands out (crab mentality). Insulting and ridiculing others
  9. Seeking yourself and seeking attention for yourself. Avidly going after praise. Boasting and making undue public display of one’s own achievements. Faking pain, illness and sadness to get attention. Speaking badly about yourself, so that others may form a good opinion of you, or contradict you. Letting drop hints of self-praise
  10. Not having a deep awareness of yourself, as sinner and a creature totally dependent on God. Not acknowledging that everything we are, do and own come from God, and will disappear without God’s conserving power. Not acknowledging that you are unworthy of all honor or esteem
What virtues are not really pride, and go with humility?


  • Magnanimity, striving to do great things that bring great honor
  • Responsibility and courage, sticking to do good despite discomfort
  • Care for the body with good posture and dignified clothes.
How can I overcome pride and become humble?

  1. Always relish these most basic truths, especially when you do good:  I came from nothing, apart from Christ I can do nothing, I am God’s most beloved child, and I am his instrument in his work.
  2. Make humility a priority. Only God can overcome sin, but we have to do our part. Go often to Jesus’ healing sacraments. Beg him for humility, walking in the truth of our littleness and greatness as God’s kids. See the conquest of pride as “the best of the best” of your daily mortifications, (Cf. CPB 9)  prizing unperceived sacrifice.
  3. Know yourself. Practice self-examination. Be exacting in detecting acts of pride with the help of the list above. Crucial is Jesus’ humble tax collector’s prayer: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
  4. Think often of your inevitable death.  And your rotten, forgotten corpse after death. Both “human” and “humility” come from humus, meaning earth, ground, soil and dirt.
  5. Be happy to say “My mistake, I’m sorry!” Be grateful for humiliations and criticisms. Even saying inside: they will say worse things if they knew my thoughts. The gauge of true humility is “when you are humbled by others and you bear it for Christ.” Sing: “I more gladly boast of my weakness, that the power of Christ may rest in me. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:19)
  6. Forget yourself. “A person wrapped up in himself makes a small package.” (H.E. Fosdick) While humility is the ecstatically joyful self-forgetfulness of the mystics focused on God. (Cf. P. Kreeft)
  7. Trust God and not yourself.  And learn to ask for help. The proud Pharisee “trusted himself”. Pride grows when we trust our abilities.
  8. Serve and make others great. Be upbeat and encouraging when they do good. See their defects as opportunities to serve them. “To give oneself sincerely to others is so effective that God rewards it with a humility filled with cheerfulness.” (St. Josemaria)
  9. Enjoy putting God’s tender love (not yourself) at the center of all moments of the day, especially at prayer. Thank him for all and offer all glory to him. Heed Jesus’ invite:  Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.  Make your heart and mind revolve around the utmost act of humility and love, Jesus’ sacrifice.
  10. Submit and embrace God.  Clearly, you are not God. And so your mind, body and, above all, your will need to “embrace” God. Humility is the submitting embrace of God who is Love that liberates from within, as we absorb his divine life: prayer, penance, chastity, and obedience. Jesus’ embrace that saved all is “Not my will but yours be done.” This key attitude, too, will save us from our sins --from pride, their cause-- and make us an active protagonist in Jesus’ work of saving all men from their sins.

Get the one-page leaflet or executive summary here or here (PDF).  

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Opus Dei Prelate: Intensify apostolic work with young people

After mentioning the next Synod's  topic Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment, the Prelate in his last pastoral letter said, "encourage you to consider how we can intensify this primary concern of our Christian vocation" which is "the apostolic work with young people". 

The Vatican's preparatory document for the Synod contains many helpful ideas: 

The Prelate emphasized St. Josemaria's teaching that 90% of a child's vocation come from his parents. Because of the parents' vast, preponderant influence, parents should be helped so that they can, as the Prelate stressed, (1) love their children, (2) demand from them, (3) put them in contact with suffering, (4) help them become "souls of prayer." (See free ebook on parenting; Strategies for a Great Family, Pope Francis' Most Important Advice to Your Family)

For a quick overview of the contents of the preparatory document, below are key excerpts:

Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment: Preparatory Document


Introduction

The Church has decided to examine herself on how she can lead young people to recognize and accept the call to the fullness of life and love, and to ask young people to help her in identifying the most effective ways to announce the Good News today.

For each person, the vocation to love takes concrete form in everyday life through a series of choices. The purpose of vocational discernment is to find out how to transform life choices, in the light of faith, into steps towards the fullness of joy to which everyone is called.

The strength and beauty of young people: the ability to rejoice at the beginning of undertakings, to give oneself totally without going back, to pick oneself up and begin again in search of new conquests.

I. YOUNG PEOPLE IN TODAY’S WORLD

International studies on some characteristic features of young people in our times.

(1) Belonging and Participation. Young people do not see themselves as passive recipients of pastoral programs or policies. Many wish to be an active part in the process of change taking place at this present time.
Young people, on the one hand, show a willingness and readiness to participate and commit themselves to concrete activities in which the personal contribution of each might be an occasion for recognizing one’s identity.
Besides passivity, a lack of confidence in themselves and their abilities can manifest itself in an excessive concern for their self-image and in a submissive conformity to passing fads.

(2) Personal and Institutional Points of Reference. Young people have a need for persons of reference, who are close-by, credible, consistent and honest, in addition to places and occasions for testing their ability to relate to others (both adults and peers) and dealing with their feelings and emotions.
The role of parents and families is crucial yet sometimes problematic. The older generations often tend to underestimate young people’s potential. They emphasize their weaknesses and have trouble understanding the needs of those who are very young. Parents and adult educators can also be aware of their own mistakes and know what they would not want young people to do. However, oftentimes they do not have a clear idea of how to help young people focus on the future. In this regard, the two most common reactions are preferring not to say anything and imposing their own choices. Absent or overprotective parents make their children more unprepared to face life and tend to underestimate the risks involved or are obsessed by a fear of making mistakes.
The young oftentimes nourish mistrust, indifference or anger towards institutions; They would like the Church to be closer to people and more attentive to social issues
Though young people are not in open “opposition”, they learn to live “without” the God presented by the Gospel and “without” the Church and to rely on alternative and minimally-institutionalized forms of religion and spirituality or to take refuge in sects or religious experiences with a strong affiliation

(3) Towards a Hyper-Connected Generation. Younger generation is characterized by its relationship with the modern technologies of communication and what is normally called the “virtual world”, which has very real effects.

Young People and Choices

Within this fluidity and insecurity, the transition to adult life and the building of a personal identity increasingly require a “reflective course of action.”
They have a conception of freedom as the possibility of having access to ever-new opportunities is emerging: “Today I choose this, tomorrow we'll see.” In affective relationships as in the world of work, the horizon consists of options which can always be reversed rather than definitive choices.
In this context, old approaches no longer work and the experience passed on by previous generations quickly becomes obsolete. Thus, Pope Francis asked: ‘How can we reawaken the greatness and the courage of comprehensive choices, of the impulses of the heart in order to face academic and emotional challenges?’. The phrase I use very often is: take a risk! Take a risk. Whoever does not risk does not walk. ‘But what if I make a mistake?’ Blessed be the Lord! You will make more mistakes if you remain still”

II FAITH, DISCERNMENT, VOCATION

Some ideas will now be presented regarding accompanying young people

1. Faith and Vocation

Faith is seeing things as Jesus does (cf. Lumen fidei, 18). Faith is the source of vocational discernment. If the vocation to the joy of love is the fundamental call that God has placed in the heart of every young person so that each one’s existence will bear fruit, faith is both a gift from on high and a response to feeling oneself chosen and loved.
The Bible has numerous accounts of young people receiving a vocational call and their making a response.
Human beings cannot easily recognize the concrete form of that joy to which God calls each one. Human beings are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start, despite their mental and social conditioning

2. The Gift of Discernment

Vocational discernment  is  the process by which a person makes fundamental choices, in dialogue with the Lord and listening to the voice of the Spirit, starting with the choice of one’s state in life
How does a person live the good news of the Gospel and respond to the call which the Lord addresses to all those he encounters, whether through marriage, the ordained ministry or the consecrated life? Where can a person’s talents be put to good use: a professional life, volunteer work, service to the needy or involvement in civil and political life?

The three verbs in Evangelii gaudium, 51, used to describe discernment, namely, “to recognize,” “to interpret” and “to choose”, can be of assistance in mapping out a suitable itinerary
Recognizing:  requires making emotional richness emerge. Meditating on the Word of God mobilizes the passions and offers the possibility of making them emerge. Ability to listen and on one’s feelings and emotions, without avoiding the arduous effort of silence, a critical step in personal growth
Interpreting: to understand what the Spirit is calling the person to do through what the Spirit stirs up in each one. Requires patience, vigilance and even a certain knowledge; requires an honest confrontation, in light of God's Word, with the moral demands of the Christian life, always seeking to apply them in the concrete situation; seek a way to make the most of one’s gifts and possibilities; carried out in an internal dialogue with the Lord; assistance of an experienced person in listening to the Spirit is a valuable support
Choosing: Promoting truly free and responsible choices remains the goal of every serious pastoral vocational program. Discernment is the main tool which permits safeguarding the inviolable place of conscience, without pretending to replace it (cf. Amoris laetitia, 37). A decision needs to be proven by facts to see whether it is a right decision

3. Paths Towards Vocation and Mission

Vocational discernment is not accomplished in a single act; a long process unfolding over time, during which one continues to monitor the signs used by the Lord to indicate and specify a vocation that is very personal and unique.
Every vocation is directed towards a mission; Accepting the mission implies the willingness to risk one’s life: to travel the way of the cross, in the footsteps of Jesus, who firmly set out on his journey to Jerusalem (cf. Lk 9:51) to offer his life for humanity. Only by giving up being selfishly occupied with one’s needs does a person become open to accommodate God’s plan
Contact with poverty, vulnerability and need are of great importance on the road to vocational discernment

4. Accompaniment

Three basic beliefs underlie the process of discernment: First is that the Spirit of God works in the heart of every man; Second belief is that the human heart, because of its weakness and sin, is normally divided because it is attracted to different and even contrary feelings; The third belief is that every way of life imposes a choice
The Church’s spiritual tradition emphasizes the importance of personal accompaniment:  it is a question of fostering a person’s relationship with God and helping to remove what might hinder it. (cf. Jn 3:29-30).

III PASTORAL ACTIVITY: How does the Church help young people accept their call to the joy of the Gospel?

1. Walking with Young People

Accompanying young people requires going beyond a preconceived framework, encountering young people where they are, adapting to their times and pace of life and taking them seriously.
The task involves learning to allow for something new 

(1) Going Out: primarily, by abandoning the rigid attitudes which make the proclamation of the joy of the Gospel less credible; leaving behind a framework which makes people feel hemmed-in; and by giving up a way of acting as Church which at times is out-dated.
The young will find the Church more attractive, when they see that their unique contribution is welcomed.

(2) Seeing: willingness to spend time with them, to listen to the story of their lives and to be attentive to their joys, hopes, sadness and anxieties; all in an effort to share them.

(3) Calling: means awakening a desire and jarring people from what blocks them or from the complacency which slows them down. Calling means asking questions which have no ready-made answers (See article on Factors for a vocation to celibacy)

2. Agents

All Young People, Without Exception.  Each community is called to be attentive to young people
A Responsible Community. The entire Christian community should feel the responsibility of educating new generations; needs to give major importance to young people’s involvement in the structures of participation; devise and offer young people significant experiences of growth and discernment
The aspect of planning shows signs of unpreparedness and a lack of skill, a situation which needs to be avoided by more earnestly undertaking the task of thinking, realizing, coordinating and implementing the pastoral program for young people in a correct, consistent and effective manner
People of Reference. The role of credible adults and their cooperation is basic in the course of human development and vocational discernment. This requires authoritative believers, with a clear human identity, a strong sense of belonging to the Church, a visible spiritual character, a strong passion for education and a great capacity for discernment
Even providing them with major pedagogical skills. Being close to young people
Parents and Family: the irreplaceable educational role played by parents and other family members needs to be acknowledged 
Teachers and other Persons in Education: many Catholic teachers are involved as witnesses in universities and schools in every grade and level. Responding generously to one’s proper vocation is the primary way of performing pastoral vocational work.

3. Resources. 

The Means of Expression in Pastoral WorkWe sometimes have a difficult time finding the proper language and expressions to speak to young people; sports are an educational resource, because they offer opportunities in many ways. Music and other artistic expressions are in themselves a privileged means with which young people can manifest their individuality.
Educative Care and the Path of Evangelization. Get accustomed to the fact that the ways of approaching the faith are less standardized, and therefore we must become more attentive to the individuality of each person. The challenge for communities is to receive everyone, following the example of Jesus
Silence, Contemplation and Prayer. Finally and most importantly, no discernment is possible without cultivating a familiarity with the Lord and a dialogue with his Word. In particular, Lectio divina is a valuable method.  In an increasingly noisy society, one fundamental objective is to provide the young with opportunities to enjoy the value of silence and contemplation and to receive formation in understanding one’s experiences and to listen to one’s conscience.

4. Mary of Nazareth

Each young person can discover in Mary’s life the way to listen, the courage that faith generates, the depths of discernment and dedication to service. 

QUESTIONS: Evaluating the Situation

What kinds and places of group gatherings of youth, institutionalized or otherwise, have a major success outside the Church, and why?
How are families and communities involved in the vocational discernment of young people?
How do schools and universities or other educational institutions (civil or ecclesial) contribute to young people’s formation in vocational discernment?
In what manner are you taking into account the cultural changes resulting from the development of the digital world?

The Vatican document can be found here