Fight the New Drug

Fight the New Drug Video: My porn recovery story

***To see my featured talk "How Love Defeats Porn" given at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C. click here. ***

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Two Sustainable Ways to Pray: Examen and Lectio Divina

There's no one way to pray.  Here are two sustainable options we try to teach our college students at the Catholic Student Center  to have on their spiritual arsenal.

Daily Examen: Reviewing your day in God’s presence

  1. Pray for Light.  Ask God for the grace to pray and see in His Light.
  2. Give Thanks.  Look at your day in a spirit of gratitude.  Everything is a gift from God.
  3. Review the Day.  Guided by the Holy Spirit, look back on your day.  Pay attention to your experience and look for God in the details.
  4. Receive God’s Mercy.  How did I fail to see God in others?  Ask God’s forgiveness for your faults and to show you how to grow.
  5. Have Resolution.  Ask where you need God in the day to come.  Close with an Our Father. 

Lectio Divina: Latin for “Divine Reading”, this is a way to pray with Scripture.  Use a Bible, app, or usccb.org to find the Gospel for today’s Mass.
  1. Read. Slowly read the passage.  Ask what words or phrases jump out, connect or have meaning to you?
  2. Reflect.  Ask why did that word or phrase jump out to you.  How is it relevant to your life right now?
  3. Respond. Have a conversation with God about your prayer.  Share your thoughts, feelings, questions, etc.
  4. Rest. Be still and allow God to speak to you.  Ask Him what He wants you to do with your reflection today.


Friday, March 13, 2020

What's keeping my peace undisturbed during this Corona craziness

The Contradiction of a "Crucified Messiah"
Photo Courtesy: Thinkstock
              As I prayed early this morning, today Friday the 13th, 2020 has an aura of the original Good Friday to me.  It was a day in history that, to the early Apostles, probably felt like the end of the world---a day where their Jesus became absent in their life.  After the announcement last night from our Archdiocese of Washington proclaiming all public Masses---our primary access to Jesus in the Eucharist---to be cancelled, today feels as close to that first Good Friday as anything I’ve ever experienced.
           No school.  OK. No sports, wow.  No Mass? OK, COVID-19, you got my attention.  For Lent, I’ve decided I’m giving up Coronavirus, too.
Despite the hysteria, my wife Mimi has told me to remember that there are actual people who have died, or are physically suffering, and/or are in real financial crisis.  There are real people who have predisposed physical symptoms, including her, who are legitimately scared because catching the virus could mean their life.
With that said, I could not shake this morning that still there is a peace in my heart that has yet to be disturbed.  Am I weird?  Not empathetic enough?  Maybe the fact I avoid reading the news?  This morning I asked God, “Why?” So here are a few thoughts.
“What a great opportunity”
           What kept coming up in prayer was this line: “What a great opportunity….what a great opportunity….what a great opportunity.”  I think what God is saying to me is what a great opportunity to not take our faith for granted.  I remember not too long ago when Sunday and daily Mass was my only time for prayer in my day.  I figured that was enough. Then I read the Soul of the Apostolate by Fr. Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O and realized that although the Eucharist is the Source and Summit of our faith, I also need to have a personal prayer life outside of Church.  
After that book, I decided to double down on my commitment to show up every morning for silent prayer for an hour or more, whether I wanted to or not.  Doing this for the past few years has, I believe, been the greatest game changer in my entire life. This practice unleashed the fruits of joy, peace, conviction, and total surrender that I strive to give to Our Lord.
           During this same time, I was reading Fr. Jacque Philippe’s book Searching for and Maintaining Peace, which has a line that turned my view of spiritual warfare on its head.  He says, “The first goal of spiritual combat…is not to always obtain a victory (over our temptations, our weaknesses, etc) rather it is to learn to maintain peace of heart under all circumstances, even in the case of defeat.”    Wow, to “maintain peace of heart under ALL circumstances”---what clarity!  
Fr. Ciszek also lived in a time of no public Masses
Furthermore, I later read He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter Cizcek, a story of a priest who kept his faith during difficult and strenuous times in Soviet-Russia where Catholic Mass was forbidden.  He writes, “What can ultimately trouble the soul that accepts every moment of every day as a gift from the hands of God and strives to do His will?” 
           During those months I reflected a lot about the Book of Job and Job’s life.  Everything was going great for this guy, and then,everything suddenly was taken away---his crops, his fortune, and the death of his wife and children.  It was a test from God because the Evil One told God that Job only loved Him because He the Lord had been so good to him (Job 1:9-10). Take away everything, the Evil One challenged, and he would surely turn away (Job 1:11).  So God allowed it. And what was Job’s response when all he loved and cared for was lost?
           “[He] arose…and fell to the ground and worshiped.  He said,
                          ‘Naked I come forth from my mother’s womb,
                                        and naked shall I go back there.
                          The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
                                        Blessed be the name of the Lord!’
           In all this Job did not sin, nor did he charge God with wrong.”
                                                                           Job 1:20-22 (emphasis added)
This man, who has lost everything, blesses and praises the name of the Lord.  This is the faith and great opportunity the Lord invites us to and I desire it, as well.
           Then around that time our chaplain Fr. Rob at our Catholic Student Center said something at Mass that I initially thought was odd.  He said, “Even Jesus was joyful on the Cross.”  Respectfully, I thought what was Frob smoking?  Of course, it challenges our preconceived notions of joy, which is not mere happiness.  I went digging and was taught that before our Savior’s last breath, this happened: 
           “And at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachtani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” 
Mark 15:22
           Many, including myself for a long time, misinterpret these words as Jesus expressing abandonment from His Father.  It’s quite the opposite. He is referencing Psalm 22 which begins with the same line, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Psalm 22:2).  Read the entire Psalm. It begins as prayer from a man in desperation, in suffering, begging God to stay near him. But beginning on Psalm 22:23 it takes a turn:
Source: Getty Images

           Then I will proclaim your name to my brethren;
in the assembly I will praise you.
           You who fear the Lord, give praise!
                     All descendants of Jacob, give honor;
                          Show reverence, all descendants of Israel! 
           For he has not spurned or disdained
                          the misery of this poor wretch,
           did not turn away from me,
                          But heard me when I cried out.
           I will offer praise in the great assembly;
                          My vows I will fulfill before those who fear him.
           The poor will eat their fill;
                          Those who seek the Lord will offer praise.
                          May your hearts enjoy life forever!

           All the end of the earth
                          will remember and turn to the Lord;
           All the families of nations
                          will bow low before him.
           For kingship belongs to the Lord,
                          the ruler over the nations.
           All who sleep in the earth
                     will bow low before God;
           All who have gone down into the dust
                          will kneel in homage.
           And I will live for the Lord;
                          My descendants will serve you.
           The generation to come will be told of the Lord,
                          that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn
                          the deliverance you have brought.”                       
Psalm 22:23-32 (emphasis added)
           Our Lord and Savior, after emotional agony in the Garden, after being scourged with indescribable pain and crowned with thorns torn into his skull, after carrying a cross digging into his bloody shoulders, after having large stakes nailed through His flesh, after hanging in cold air in complete naked humiliation…after all of it, He praises the Father. 

A deeply personal story
           This leaves me with a deeply personal story I have not shared with anyone beyond my wife and a few friends.
           During this time of committing myself to daily prayer in my house and reading about Job and Jesus’ praise on the Cross, my heart was beginning to turn to another level of intimacy for Our Lord.  And not too long after these revelations, my life was threatened.
Source: Wallpaperflare.com

           I received a text early one Thursday morning from someone I knew.  Someone that I have shared many one-on-one conversations with and someone I called a friend.  Out of nowhere, with no warning, I received a violent text message from this friend threatening to harm me.  He cursed me, he mocked me, he made fun of me and made fun of my wife. Although there were no actual words that said, “I’m going to kill you”, my life and my family’s safety felt jeopardized.  We called law enforcement. I had to go into the police office late that night to write up a report. Mimi was freaking out. It made me incredibly angry that someone had caused my wife to feel this emotionally fragile. 
           That Friday we received a Court Order to confront our friend the following Monday for a hearing.  We did not feel safe in our own house. My oldest was three, the next was one and a half, and Mimi was eight-months pregnant with our third.  We did not want to stay in our home for the weekend. Feeling like a modern-day St. Joseph, I packed up the family and fled. With a van filled with luggage, we had no plan but to go to daily Mass and figure it out from there.  We confided in our pastor who offered to help. We decided to call one of my best friend’s dad with whom we were also close, explained what was going on and received a no-hesitation reply, “Come on over.”
           After our forever grateful stay in our second family’s basement, we returned home Sunday evening.  I showed up to court the following Monday morning. The judge pressed no charges as there was not enough evidence in my friend’s message to show actual decision to harm or kill.  I confronted my friend outside the courtroom. He profusely apologized, explained the hard times in his life that’s been happening that lead to the message, and apologized again for taking it out on me.  He told me he was getting spiritual and professional psychological help and means no harm to my family then and now. I forgave him on the spot and told him I loved him. We embraced and departed.
           Since receiving his message and throughout that weekend I was level headed, mostly to stay stable for my wife who was losing it at moments.  An emotional roller coaster of fear, anger, and confusion took our family those few short days. “Why did God allow this?”, I asked myself.
           The following Tuesday morning I showed up to prayer, early before the children woke.  Months of reading Chautard, Philippe, Cizcek and reflecting on Job’s life and Jesus on the Cross, I showed up once again in my office upstairs in my house to spend deep silent time with our Lord.  And I finally lost it.  I cried the hardest I ever cried in my life.   Halfway through my bawling and face in my hands on my desk, kneeling from my chair, I asked God what was the source of my tears.  I thought about how much I loved each of my little girls. I thought about how much I loved Mimi. My heart turned to Job and a thought crossed my soul that has changed my life forever since.  I told God silently in my interior prayer, as much as I love my children, as much as I love my wife, even if they were all taken away from me, I still love you more Lord.
           I still love you more Lord.  “You giveth and taketh away,” I still love you more, Lord.  Even if it was all taken away, I still praise you and love you more Lord.  It physically hurt how much I loved Him in that moment.  It was these words that made me cry so hard. I was not crying out of sadness.  I was crying out of joy of how much I loved the Lord Jesus.
----
           My friends, to the best of my ability, I have given my heart and entire self completely to Jesus.  I strive for complete surrender. I admit I fall short many days and let doubt and discouragement plague me from time to time.  But whenever I come up for air in prayer, I am reminded that I am a beloved son of God and nothing in this world can take that Truth nor my peace.  A peace and hope in Jesus Christ alone.
           Archbishop Gregory recently told us employees on a recent day of reflection, “Conversion is a daily process.”  St. Mark gets straight to the point of our daily call:
           “You shall love the Lord your God
                          with all your heart
                          with all your soul
                          with all your mind
                     with all your strength.”
Mark 12:30
           Saint John Paul II quotes scripture repeatedly, “Do not be afraid!”  Our Father is always with us.  The feeling of not sensing Jesus’ presence does not mean He is absent.  He is forever with us, right there in the room you’re in as you read this.  He’s there whether you sense Him or not.  Mother Teresa taught us this as she felt an arid spiritual loneliness and yet still did His will.  The truth of the matter is that none of us were made for this earthly world and our life here is a drop in eternity.  To quote Fr. Carter Griffin, “Suffering is not the worst thing possible; Hell is the worst thing possible.” 
           This Friday feels like the original Good Friday, where all confusion, fear, and anxiety is unleashed in the (seeming) loss of our Lord.  Our post-Resurrection advantage is to know that the Lord did, and does, rise three days later. The Victory has already been won. This too shall pass.  Until then and always, let us keep our hope and joy in our Heavenly Father with whom we forever belong.