The virtue of simplicity

It is always amazing to me how everything the Church has taught since the very beginning finds some sort of equivalent in the atheistic world. The same people who like to say that Church is wrong about almost everything later start doing them, or believing in them: they just call it different names or practice it for different reasons.

Firstly, I’d like to mention the newly discovered ability of the human body of self-cleaning and self-eating called autophagy (Nobel prize in 2016). What it basically says is that… fasting is good for you. Indeed, the benefits are absolutely amazing. However, almost immediately you notice the crucial difference between the two: the fasting done exclusively for health reasons, though truly commendable in itself, is devoid of the spiritual element. In the eyes of many, it’s just makes our Catholic fasting so much more desirable. Indeed, but the purity of intentions remains crucial. And yes, we can separate the two, or we can combine them as well, and it seems so against the worldly consumerism in both cases anyway, which is good; but it’s striking that we, Christians, have practiced that for much longer, and such a great part of the world would think us crazy. At the same time, the non-believers would expect anyone who fasts to be starving. [Actually, some dieticians are still concerned, even against the evidence]. Now, however, it’s (understandably) the greatest invention since… Well… You get my meaning…

The second example I’d like to make is related to ecology. I’ll be very brief here: it’s been one of the most popular panic inducing topics: the world’s going to end, let’s protect the environment etc. I’m not joking – people panic, children in Great Britain have nightmare about it… But Already St. Francis of Assisi would call the Sun and the Moon or water – our brothers and sisters… I’m pretty sure, that God, allowing us to command the natural world didn’t imply we were meant to destroy it, but rather to protect it, preserve it and use it wisely. It’s been now distorted to such a degree, that setting aside the actual abuses of the natural environment, people tend to glorify nature (animals included) while despising humanity! Hence we have great protectors of animal rights who simultaneously advocate for abortion… It’s worse than in the first case – because there are benefits to more careful usage of the planet’s resources, it’s easy to see on a small scale everyday – just clean the grounds around you of all the rubbish… But to neglect human babies, to consider them beings without dignity (or sometimes some parasitic tissue) while shouting for animal rights… that’s just devilish.

Last but not least, let’s analyze another new fad: minimalism. It’s where the title of the article comes from, so I need to explain a bit. Our Lord told us explicitly in the Gospels that firstly, we should not gather treasure in this world, but in the next one. Jesus said too that we should not attach ourselves to any earthly things, particularly possessions, and “blessed are the poor in spirit” – those that are not attached to them. Lastly, we are to remember that we can’t serve to masters. There’s one God and money is not god – or rather, it is – to some people – but that’s a god that makes people into slaves.

Thus, minimalism is about limiting yourself to as few possessions as possible. Wonderful, isn’t it? Basically  it’s against the constantly propagandized consumerism. You just can’t disagree with it as a Catholic, can you? Well, I see the same problem here as I saw above. It’s often emptied of the spiritual content. There are benefits, yes, and they come about even more wonderfully if you practice minimalism in the spirit of detachment for Christ. We do not need so many things as we usually buy or have. And, more importantly, it’s true, that our happiness does not depend on the amounts of things cluttering our flats and our houses. I’ve heard that it’s easier to focus, to clean, to organize (in some cases there’s just not enough to organize at all) and to relax. All that is not surprising. God meant all that He advised to be good to us on all levels, not having exclusively our afterlife on His mind, even though that takes primacy. God is our Father. Good fathers want to see their children healthy and happy. We are happier when eating healthy and moderately, fasting sometimes, and we are healthier and happier in a pure environment, as well as when we do not focus so much on the worldly goods and when we realize that money can’t buy us happiness and peace, or even health for that matter – in grave situations. All the commandments and evangelical counsels will make you happy – here as well.

Yet, what if you are a minimalist and you have ten times fewer things than before but you are very attached to them?… What if it becomes your philosophy of life, but there’s no God to turn to, when a disaster hits? After all, neither minimalism nor consumerism will help you deal with death of the loved ones, sickness, depression, neither will explain the depths of the spiritual world. What difference does it make that your house is empty and clean beyond belief, if your heart and mind is empty too? Or, worse perhaps – if it’s cluttered as much as the houses of the hoarders…?

In truth, I begin to see, that as getting rid of unnecessary things, and not buying them is laudable, you gain nothing if you do not possess the virtue of simplicity. I’ll explain it… simply. It’s putting God always first in everything you say, think, or do. You make God a priority to such an extent, that you start relating everything to God. You see the world with spiritual lenses. It’s not just things, but all that’s not-God that is useless, or at least little appealing, to somebody whose virtue of simplicity is great. For instance – what’s the use of watching silly, absorbing movies or series, playing mindless computer games, both frequently promoting anti-Christian values, for hours on end, scrolling through social media or even news portals etc. when it doesn’t in any way whatsoever bring you closer to God? More often than not – it makes you forget about Him.

One might say I’m too radical. To many people – yes. But I wanted to focus on the virtue of simplicity, and that is simply how it looks. I do not see it in a negative way at all. I admire it in the saints, and I try to practice that myself, as well. Naturally, I make mistakes, I fall, and I’m not perfect, but I always keep working on that. I got rid of many habits that I only rationalized to be relaxing, as God cannot be against relaxation as such – it’s healthy to be relaxed; the peace of mind that Jesus gives, is precisely the best kind of state of relaxation there is. And the heart and the soul really rest only in God. But it’s only the true Christian minimalism – the poverty of the spirit – that will give you peace.

Secular minimalist will tell you too, as I’ve mentioned in passing, that it’s liberating, more relaxing, it helps to focus. Well, exactly the same, but so much more importantly happens, when you declutter your mind and heart. Once you focus your mind and heart on God, when (which is hard work at first, but God will help you on, seeing the efforts that please Him) you try to not read or watch or in any other way waste your time on things that have nothing to do with God – you gain better and better focus on God, it’s immensely satisfying, it gives such a peace of mind and heart – the one “that transcends all understanding” – that you’ll see: nothing even compares to that. Fewer distractions during prayer, more constant presence of God in your thoughts during the day, and so much easier growing in holiness. Always with the falls, but you get up faster and run faster towards Him – He should be the minimum and the all of your soul. That’s the virtue of simplicity.

Anna Garbaczewska

Do not be afraid

 

I don’t remember who noticed that first, but someone counted that God says “do not be afraid” or “fear notabout 365 times in the Scriptures. Once for every day of the year. I have a strong feeling that this needs to be now repeated over and over again…

First of all, we have (or not) the pandemic situation. No matter which side of the argument you are on – many people are truly afraid. Some of the virus and sickness, potentially death, some of other people who are not wearing masks, some are afraid of wearing masks due to asthma or other breathing problems as it causes oxidation stress plus makes it easier to for bacteria to grow in the lungs. Tough situation.

Then there are those who are afraid of losing their jobs, or they have lost it already, and the tomorrow scares them (plus the vision of getting into more debts). Some are afraid of the government and new restrictions. Or more in general – of authorities, in whatever context.

Many people nowadays seem to be scared of the climate change. Some actually live in really dangerous areas – threatened by natural disasters more than other people are. On the other spectrum, people are more afraid of “green” activists and their ideas (some of them include depopulation after all, at least according to some…). There’s here, and everywhere a lot of confusion.

More importantly perhaps, I see people being scared of what happens in the Church. They focus on the changes that have happened, or are happening. Some focus on “what the Pope has said”. And yes, not in a homily, but more unofficially – and the confusion is always terribly magnified by the presence of the mass media. The confusion and the fear are globalized and amplified a million times.

The two above sometimes lead people to apocalyptic thinking, and induces panic. For some people the world ends, for others the Church is falling or they seem to be losing faith.

Add to that daily troubles, multiple, countless problems we face as humanity, depending on the part of the globe, our state or vocation, our relationships, our health and so on. Most people on this planet are afraid of something.

Jesus said, many times, “do not be afraid!” He’s with us always. God is in control. He either wills something or permits it. Either way, of all the mess we humans make, He always creates some good. God looks at things differently from us, so it’s truly difficult for most people, particularly if they lack faith: why should we be at peace, when so much evil is around? But has worrying ever helped anyone in anything? I seriously doubt it.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 6-7)

Saint Father Pio put it very succinctly: “Pray, hope and don’t worry; worry is useless”. And it is. It will do nothing but make you feel worse, it may make you sick. But what is worse, if you open yourself to constant anxiety and fear, the devil will use it to harm you. The reason is very simple – the more anxiety and fear there is, the more you lean towards despair… Not to mention – isn’t it opposite of trust?

Saint Faustina, and sister Consolata – two apostles of God’s mercy, would often say themselves or repeat Jesus’ words that we have to put all our trust in Him, and just stop worrying. He takes care of us constantly.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6: 24-26)

Father Dolindo’s famous prayer “Jesus, please take care of it” – that is totally based on trust and the belief that God is good, all the time. He loves as all, each and every one, no exception. God is infinite goodness, but can you really believe it? Can you trust Him with all your life, possessions and everything? You’re either anxious, worried and stressed and put your faith and trust in yourself or some other people – sometimes the government – OR you put all your trust in God. And He will take care of everything to your greatest benefits. The first and truly wonderful benefit comes early – the amazing peace of mind, the feeling of being spiritually and mentally, and emotionally on vacations. It’s liberating!

Therefore, start right now, put all your trust in God, do all your best to cooperate with graces given to you, and be at peace. Enjoy the journey to Heaven.

Anna Garbaczewska

One God, Three Divine Persons, Millions of “Gods” made in the image of… man

How well do you think you know yourself? Most people will answer they know themselves very well, even perfectly well. Yet in truth, most of the time the life surprises us into decisions and emotions we’d never think we’d be capable of. If you had told me 20 years ago, I’d be a Catholic on fire for Jesus, I’d have thought: you don’t know me at all.

Let’s look at that from another angle – let’s say you have a spouse of at least 5 years, one or two best friends of 10 to 20 years, parents and colleagues from work. Which of those people knows you best? And think too, that they all know you from a little bit different perspective. Not to mention tens or hundreds of “just friends”, acquaintances, that only barely know your face, but do know bits and pieces about your political or religious views, your hobbies or inclinations. And so they categorize you one way or another. Sounds familiar? Everybody, or almost everybody does it. How many, then images of you (as in mental pictures) are there in the world? And which one is correct?

But there is somebody who really knows you – God Almighty, in three Divine Persons. God knows us in such a way, as we can never know ourselves, until we are united with Him in Heaven. He knows not only all our doings, our life in the womb, all our dreams and nightmares that we have long forgotten, all the spiritual battles that we unwittingly had with the forces of evil. God also knows all our secrets, that atheists would think nobody knows but them. God knows our past, but also our future, all our choices, though we are free to make all of them. And the most important part of it all -He knows the depths of our heart and soul, in a way only the Creator knows – all the ulterior motives, all our hidden and unconscious thoughts that propel us to do things as well as all our desires, fears and weaknesses. All those secret faults and errors that nobody is free of.

Thus, there is one true idea of who you really are – and it rests with God. Also, if you want to “be yourself” as the popular slogan goes – to your fullest potential – then it’s only possible on God’s terms. Perfection means holiness, the opposite direction leads to the distortion of who you really are and are meant to be.

There is another side of “the coin” here: how many images of God are there in the world? If you talked to many atheists, agnostics, or Protestants, but even Catholics, you’d think there are as many “Gods” as there are people… I might be exaggerating, naturally. Let’s see then. There are many atheists who totally miss the most important attributes of God, and focus on the “limitations of freedom imposed by the Church”. For them God is just a punishing and severe judge, and they like to give examples from the Old Testament to illustrate the point. Some just pick and choose some qualities – also from the OT, just to have the excuse to reject the whole idea of God as ridiculous – they never read the New Testament.

There are then atheists and agnostics who make God in their own image, and think Him to be extremely limited this way, because it just doesn’t scale to their mind that God might be infinite. It’s a hard concept, come to think of it. And they don’t grasp the idea that “God’s ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts.”

Then there are people who’d think of Jesus like the Pharisees and some other of His contemporaries – weak and perhaps mad – like talking about being eaten (John 6), with no army, no money etc. Unfortunately, for some people that’s a reason to despise someone.

Or perhaps you’d have somebody think Him a great moral teacher doing some (magic?) tricks (and some would, some wouldn’t believe in them nowadays) but definitely just a human, because, come on! God doesn’t exist! Or like C.S. Lewis would wonderfully summarize the whole thing: either a lunatic, a liar, or God. There’s no other option. And if you’d accept He was a great Rabbi – then how can you NOT accept His divinity if that’s what He Himself claimed?

There was a lot of confusion then, and later, and there is still to this day. Think now of Protestant denominations – for them for instance, God – Jesus – didn’t speak literally in John chapter 6, or when he made Peter the head of the Church, or when He said the Apostles would have the power to bind and to lose, or forgive sins. And there are different interpretations among them what baptism really means, or whether there is such a thing as predestination. And even though Jesus very clearly said that there should be no divorce – some accept divorces – after the fashion of the world. What kind of images of God do they have then? Does God change His mind or His nature from time to time?

We do know He doesn’t. And Saint Paul said, that Christ isn’t divided. Just as the Holy Spirit isn’t confused – whispering conflicting doctrines to different denominations… The divisions come not from God, who wants us all united. God is the uniting spirit, devil – the dividing one. And the same now happens to the Catholic Church, or it’s been always happening, only now is so glaringly visible because of the nature of the media and globalization. Any local news can become instantly global.

In our own yard – when a so called progressive, or liberal, Catholic says that God is merciful and it’s the Church that is wrong about homosexuals or divorces, I want to ask – do you mean God changed His mind? On the other hand, when a so called radical traditionalist says, that only the Latin Mass will save us all, and the Church in particular, I want to ask – do you mean God is no longer our Savior, He left us over 50 years ago, or perhaps the Holy Spirit stopped guiding the Church, though that was promised us from the start? I’m not going to go into debates with imaginary opponents here – there might be some part of Truth everywhere – and only God knows the minds and hearts of us all and why we believe certain things, or why we say them. Is love there truly involved? Or rather some egoism, self-love and pride… since it’s common trait of practically everyone in varying degrees.

The points is – who’s got it right: who has the right idea about God, and His plans etc. My answer is identical like in the first part of the article. Only God knows Himself, and He said so! Jesus said clearly, that only the Son knows and has seen the Father. All we can know about God, is from knowing Jesus, as He revealed Himself to us. And that is how we get to know God. But many people mentioned above read the Bible, the Gospels even. Sometimes they know long passages by heart, and yet, they differ – why is that? Only the Spirit transcends the depths of God Himself (1 Corinthians 2:10) – the little we do know, even if it seems to be much (all the details from the Gospels, all that the mystics revealed to us) – is almost nothing compared to the immensity and infinity of God.

Most of us, even unwittingly, make God in their own image. Muslims think of God as a Master, harsh and unforgiving, Jews have a concept closer to Christianity, but without… Christ. Protestants miss the Eucharist (not only, but that’s the greatest hole in their Christianity), and we Catholics often forget either of mercy, or of justice. Many people are truly ignorant of their own religion, many are so tepid, they think of God as some safety precaution, and go to Mass just in case… Some think God (or they’d say the Church) too severe or old-fashioned, some – too modern, too lenient. And so many of people are just plain confused…

So once again – how do we get to really know God? There’s one truly good answer: by loving Him. God is LOVE, thus if you want to understand God, follow/imitate Jesus – strive to become like Jesus, to become His image in this world. Become the flame of love. Feel the love grow and change you, let the Holy Spirit make you into the image of Jesus so that you can think like Him, look at others lovingly and mercifully as He did and does, and finally – understand God the Father as Jesus did and does – to the limited ends of our human capacity while here on Earth. Once, when we’re in Heaven, we’ll truly be able to see – face to face. Now, it’s only by love, by growing in holiness that we can know God. Not by reading only, not even meditating only, if it doesn’t bear the fruit of love. Because, even if you spoke like Angels… performed miracles greater than Jesus Himself – and lacked in charity, in love – then you know NOT who God IS. Only love recognizes love. Only love unites souls with each other – and with their Maker. Let God Who Is Love show you the Truth: The Father created you out of love for YOU, Jesus died of love for YOU, and the Holy Spirit is the LOVE between The Father and the Son so strong, that it became the third person to guide YOU through the Son to the Father. Let’s not make Him sad, let’s respond to LOVE with love.

Anna Garbaczewska

In praise of solid people

Thank God that there are solid folk

Who water flowers and roll the lawn,

And sit and sew and talk and smoke,

And snore all through the summer dawn.

Who pass untroubled nights and days

Full-fed and sleepily content,

Rejoicing in each other’s praise,

Respectable and innocent.

Who feel the things that all men feel,

And think in well-worn grooves of thought,

Whose honest spirits never reel

Before man’s mystery, overwrought.

O happy people! I have seen

No verse yet written in your praise,

And, truth to tell, the time has been

I would have scorned your easy ways.

Then I do envy solid folk

Who sit of evenings by the fire,

After their work and doze and smoke,

And are not fretted by desire.

C.S. Lewis

From Spirits in Bondage

Saint John the Silent [452-558; Feast day: May 13]

Saint John the Silent was born in Nicopolis, Armenia on January 8, 454. His parents (a prominent Armenian family) were good Catholics and ensured he received a good Christian education. After his parents’ death and with his inheritance, he built a church dedicated to the Blessed Mother and the monastery, as well.

With ten other friends he intended to shut himself up in the monastery for life, believing in shunning the dangers of the world, through avoiding sinning by the tongue among other things; he wanted to practice a life of silence and already then spoke quite rarely. His main goal was the salvation of his soul through self-denial, mortification and prayer.

Then at the age of 28, much to his chagrin, and over his protests, John was made bishop of Colonia in Armenia. He felt unworthy and preferred much to remain a monk, but was obedient and went to perform his duties diligently. However, as much as was possible he tried to live as if he was still in the monastery.

Once, in prayer, he had a vision of a bright cross in mid-air and he heard a voice telling him to follow the light, which led him to the monastery of St. Sabas (the Lavre) in Palestine. John discerned that it was God’s answering his fervent prayers to lead a monastic life and so he quit the episcopal charge. There were 150 monks living there and John definitely felt at home.

He was 38 when he joined the Lavre, and as a novice he was performing many hard chores, but he was always joyful about it, and quite silent. In 494 he was estimated to be naturally fit for a monastic and solitary life and was granted the privilege of a life of a hermit. For John that was wonderful news and a perfect change as he had now all the time in the world to pray and mortify his flesh for five days a week, only joining the monks and other hermits for the weekends.

John spend three years in his hermitage continuing his meditations and growing spiritually. St Sabas decided that St. John was worthy of becoming a priest, but it turned out that John had been ordained a bishop, but abdicated from his position which meant that couldn’t be ordained. Thinking that he disappointed St. Sabas greatly, John insisted on leaving the Lavre, but St. Sabas urged him to stay. And for the next four years John would live alone in his cell, even more reticent than before. And thus he became known as John the Silent.

In 503, St. Sabas was driven out of the Lavre, and John left the monastery too, out of respect for him. He went into the wilderness where he stayed for several years conversing only with God. Seven years in uninterrupted silence did he spend, after which time he was sought out by the abbot and asked to return. He did so, but as he was used to total silence, he  confined himself to his cell and spent the rest of his life in solitude and silence. He died at the age of 104.

Prayer

“Father, you called St. John to the solitary life in which he prayed for others. Grant us the signs we seek for discerning Your will and purify our hearts, dear Lord, that we may serve You more perfectly. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.”

Anna Garbaczewska

Sources:

https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=4055

https://catholicexchange.com/st-john-the-silent

https://www.loyolapress.com/catholic-resources/saints/saints-stories-for-all-ages/saint-john-the-silent/

https://jesus-passion.com/saint_john_the_silent.htm

A cross no one talks about

Yesterday (30th of September) we had a reading from the Gospel of Matthew 16 about taking one’s own cross, following Jesus and denying oneself. The subject in itself is worth discussing and meditating on all the time. But a thought came to my mind, perhaps (and hopefully) put there by the Holy Spirit, that there is a cross that Jesus carried that almost nobody talks about: His daily life and struggles (I mean in a sense of calling it a cross, too).

It is absolutely important and beneficial to the soul to focus on the Cross – from Gethsemane to the Calvary. It’s a book of profound love – the deepest love, mercy, sacrifice and self-denial you can think of. But there is also a hidden life of thirty years with Joseph and Mary, which was I’m sure characterized by fasting, incessant prayer, hard work and poverty. Although I’m also certain that it was a very happy life, even if difficult. But from the beginning of Jesus’s public life, there was a heavy cross to bear – or many of them.

First of all, He needed to depart from His mother, that was the most perfect creature God ever made, and He delighted in her immensely. It gave Him joy and relief from the pains of humanity to just be with her silently. I remember that Jesus once said to Saint Theresa of Avilla something similar (and some other mystics as well, but I can’t remember the names of the others now) – that she is His rest, because there’s no worldly noise inside of her, but purity and simplicity, and a heart all for God. And wasn’t Mary the most perfect sanctuary for Jesus as well? I’m convinced that it was so. To some extent, all holy people are that.

Secondly, His beloved disciples were just weak humans, as we all are – and though they were all greatly loved (as we are) and Jesus was patience incarnate, He seemed exasperated* at times. I mean all those times in particular when they didn’t understand Him or when they lacked faith (and so He called them men of little faith or of little understanding).

Thirdly, there were enemies: mostly the Pharisees and Sadducees who evidently hated Him and plotted His demise. They tried to trap Him, to ruin His reputation, and to turn people away from Him. And yet, He preached to them. At first He talked to them like to everyone else, later with much stronger language. We all know how it all turned out. That must have been very hard for Jesus.

And last but not least, Judas. The constant thorn in Jesus’s sweet, humble and meek hart that would make Him bleed internally, emotionally, spiritually. The fight must have been terrible, the Lord’s patience unimaginable, the knowledge of the future – for any human – depressing. Jesus was not less human than we are – He was simply a perfect human. But as God, His capacity for love was/is so much greater, it’s infinite. He showed us this in His Passion – but He showed by the very Incarnation, taking upon Himself all of humanities troubles and sickness, and eventually all our sins – the little ones and the unspeakable ones. Thus, it easy to conclude – that constant company of Judas was a cross hard to bear. But Jesus always fulfilled the Will of the Father – in all things – so He didn’t send Him away.

There are also “little” things, like hunger, thirst, dizziness, perhaps sickness (we do not know of any, though), being too cold, or too hot, exhausted by the public ministry and dealing so very often with people with either little or no faith, or little gratitude. Walking, walking, all the time in a hurry, but not too fast, just to get to as many souls as possible, to teach as many as possible – to gather all His sheep. And at night praying, probably for most of it. Short rests taken when absolutely necessary, to gather strength to go on and continue the Work of Salvation – it was a life of constant self-denial.

Let’s remember how hard it was for Jesus even before the Gethsemane, by reading the Gospels often, or meditating on the Mysteries of the Rosary – which after all are just like the Bible on the beads: first we meditate on the early life of Jesus, then His public life, then His Passion and lastly on His Glorious Victory. I love doing both – they are intertwined for me. They both make my heart and mind full of Jesus if can avoid distractions – and that’s precious. Also, it is easier to follow Jesus when we meditate upon all of His life and its details. And isn’t that what we are all supposed to do?

* Our Lord Jesus Christ experience human emotions such as joy (discovering somebody’s great faith), sadness (Lazarus grave), anger (like against the traders in the Temple), and irritation – the one emotion I talked about concerning his disciples and Apostles. Emotions and feelings are simply human, they are not immoral or wrong in themselves.

Anna Garbaczewska

Priestly picture

ks.PC

For the first time ever, as far as I can tell, I’m writing an article to fit the picture, and not the other way around. The photo you can see here was taken during a Rzeszow Pilgrimage on foot to Jasna Góra, and the priest on the photo is one of the priest-guides of the group. Because of the pandemic, this year only the priests representing the pilgrims walked the way. And so the pilgrims were “spiritual” – walking the way in spirit. When I saw the picture from the pilgrimage report, I was captivated. It kind of expresses the thought of priesthood. Many such thoughts are written down in numerous works, for instance those written by the saints. But this thought is written differently, because it is “written” in picture form. The priest carrying the cross and the rosary. He is also moving, and not sitting down or standing still.

Perhaps my thoughts are bordering on overinterpretation of the picture, but is that not what the priests do for us? They proclaim the crucified, the greatest Love of the world. They proclaim the Cross, of which Saint Paul said that is foolishness and scandal for the world, but it is the sign of salvation for us. They pray for us and teach us prayer. They represent Jesus Christ during the Transubstantiation. They give us God in the Eucharist. And last but not least, they are moving all the time, going and leading us heavenward. They show us how to reach God. Christ – the cross, prayer, the way.

The priests give us a lot, and so we cannot forget about them in our prayers. It’s been six years since I first adopted a priest. Time goes by really quickly. I like praying for the priests, because that is the greatest gift we can offer them. Close to the hearts of Jesus and Mary they are safe. We remember about anniversaries and name days of our priests – and that is nice. But the prayer, though invisible, has great power. We sometimes complain about the priest, but how much more efficient is the prayer!

Adoption requires remembrance, and is a sort of self-denial as it means giving our time to God when interceding on a behalf of a concrete priest and asking for spiritual graces the he needs. Priests fight for our holiness, performing sacraments, giving us God, talking to us, helping us… Let’s then also fight for their holiness through everyday prayer in their intention.

Author: Magdalena Maraj

Translated by: Anna Garbaczewska

Processed foods

I have been learning a lot recently about the dangers of the processed foods. I watched tens of films, conferences of medical researchers and doctors included, read articles and compared this to my own observations, my health, my family’s health and logic. And believe it or not, I looked at it through Catholic lenses – since I do that with everything.

It all came down to one thing – processed foods are bad news. They are not simply unhealthy – they are really toxic. There are four groups within that category: refined sugar, refined wheat, vegetable seed oils (that’s why coconut oil or olive oil are not so bad, but the purpose of the article is not writing all about that, so if you need to know more, just do some Internet search, please) and the fourth is a general group you’d dump all the other things – the fast food, the soft drinks, the sweets and potato chips and the like. Researchers have found (and surprisingly for me at least, some of the things were known for more than a century, so I feel greatly deceived) that the consumption of the processed foods, particularly sugar and the oils (mostly because of the toxic amounts of Omega-6 and toxins in the refined oils prepared to be used for cooking) that are responsible for practically all of the so called civilization diseases: Alzheimer’s, both types of diabetes, heart diseases, liver failures, strokes and auto-immune diseases, and cancer – the list is a bit longer, but you get the picture. Also, for later, bear in mind, diabetes leads to a macular degeneration, which means: blindness.

And you are probably wondering – what has that got to do with my faith? It has quite a lot to do with it, and on many various levels. Firstly, most fundamentally – you are (biologically) what you eat, so if you continue to eat unhealthy for a long time, you’ll get sick, most likely while gaining a lot of weight, even when exercising. In spiritual life, it’s binging on sinful pleasures that is making your soul sick to the core, killing it in the end (that’s what the processed foods do), and the burden of the sins is like the obesity in somebody. Secondly, sugar has a highly addictive quality and it’s toxic – particularly refined sugar, combined with fructose, or all those glucose-fructose combinations of syrups – just like the nice looking, sensual pleasure-giving sins.

Thirdly, a diet rich in carbohydrates, particularly when it’s processed food including the oils (that are added also to so many things, like sweets and chips) leads directly to changes in a body on a molecular level (that is related to mitochondria), and the changes are not good. Basically it leads to insulin resistance and inflammations, meaning: pain and discomfort, fatigue, stress and many other health issues. The insulin resistance on the other hand, is the one thing that leads to the civilization diseases. And many more people have it that are actually diagnosed, because the diagnosis comes roughly 10-15 years after the onset of the disease. It can be, surprisingly, reversed, with a right diet.

Spiritually, a life that is unhealthy, away from God, “consuming” what just looks and tastes good, but is a forbidden fruit, leads to death. But even here, less surprising for a Catholic, but more miraculous actually, those dead souls can be brought back to life through conversion and the sacraments. Very often a person leads this world-advertised way of life only to become more and more confused, unhappy and overburdened. Spiritually, the insulin resistance would perhaps best reflect that moment in somebody’s life, when they more deliberately turned to sin, away from God. And that usually happens after a longer life of sinning, the culminating point being some really serious mortal sin that just changes everything, like abortion, murder, theft, adultery, etc.

The symptoms of insulin resistance, apart from obesity which sometimes is not there, even though the metabolic syndrome is (the fatty liver, then insulin resistance – here are vegetable oils mostly responsible), are: fatigue, tiredness after eating, not being satisfied after eating (like still hungry, or craving, though full), cravings for sugary things and later more and more other health issues like acne, cramps, pains, worsening eyesight. In a person that has a conscience resistance, I’d notice similar effects: they are easily tired or bored with life, and look for more and more adventure and adrenaline, it’s the people that like to “experiment” in a wrong way, like having many partners at the same time, or become adrenaline junkies and the craziest and riskiest things, surprised in the end by broken limbs… It’s correlated to not being satisfied when sinning, it’s a typical work of the devil – you crave the sinful thing or action, you do it, you feel good for a brief moment, and then miserable for a longer period; or for life, for that matter. Cravings? That’s not so often sin – like on a biological level, sugars means any carbs, here it’s more what the world tries to sell: reputation, money (not evil in themselves, but the root of evil, indeed), power, plenty of possessions, luxuries, and most extravagant holidays or gadgets and so on. When the conscience resistance hits, you don’t listen to your inner voice anymore, and definitely are deaf to God’s. And who do you listen to? Anyone you find convenient. Of course – it’s all reversible, so let’s not panic.

I need to clarify that insulin resistance a bit more, as it is really important. Fundamentally, as you eat more and more refined carbohydrates the pancreas produce more and more insulin to direct all that glucose into the right places, which can be done in all of the body, as we actually use glucose on a molecular level. But when there’s too much of it, particularly with a lot of fructose in the mix (it’s because of how it is metabolized), the pancreas become exhausted and the insulin drops again. Which should be good, right? No, it isn’t when you still are consuming processed foods, and with vegetable seed oils. Why? Because then the sugar gets into your blood and wreaks havoc there. But what is less often mentioned (at least that’s what all those doctors now loudly say), is that the other dangerous effect of insulin resistance is nutrients deficiency. The cells are not only allowed enough glucose (sic!), as there’s less insulin and they have not enough energy, but there are less and less vitamins and minerals driven into the cells which is… insulin’s job – you are basically starving your whole body in each of its cells while binge-eating a lot of carbs, even when you start including more vegetables!

That is very sadly the picture of a spiritual life when it degenerates. Your conscience is quite loud at first, and your Guardian Angel’s as well. God’s voice, though people do not recognize it, is there all the time, but it is less and less audible, and the sinner makes himself more and more resistant to it, through his own choices, particularly when they become militant atheists, and whatever you say to them, the either disregard, or turn against you, no matter if it’s logical or not. However, as the consequences of sin – spiritual diseases (turning a person into a thief, adulterer, murderer, liar etc.) grow, as the heart becomes more hardened, the ways to feed that soul, the chances to nourish it back to life are slimmer and slimmer. Yes, God can always work miracles – but not against somebody’s will. Take Satan for example – he well knew what he chose for himself, and did it anyway. And the Hell’s not empty, if we believe Our Lady of Fatima, and I certainly do, sad as the fact is. The nutrients deficiency – the vitamins and minerals for the soul – are the Word of God, the keeping of the Commandments, and the Sacraments, particularly of the Reconciliation and the Eucharist.

And that brings me to the last part, the heresies. I’ll start with the Protestant Rebellion, as it should properly be called. They started new churches, not revived the old one, founded by Jesus. Right now, at least in America, there’s more than 30.000 denominations. Already the division should ring alarm bells – and in some Protestants it did, and it does, and they come back home. Glory to God! But the problem continues to exist. How is it even connected the whole processed food idea? In one way, at least. It’s a processed Christianity, it’s diluted Catholicism in best case scenario, but also sometimes some cancerous version of it. It’s a religion that is so modified as to suit the tastes of the believers. “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3)

That’s why also, there’s so much… marketing in Protestantism. There are strategies to draw people to a particular church, that are very similar to business marketing (just listen to ex Protestants, converted to Catholicism, who were responsible for it, or planted new churches). Cookies, cakes and coffee, free trips, camps etc. As long as one’s goal truly in the heart is to save a soul, I have no objections – but no church as an institution will thrive nowadays without a financial support of the followers. And I’m not blind that the same now goes for the Catholic Church – “for the worker is worth his keep,” (Matthew 10,10) and I’m willing to support it.

What is even worse – a doctrine was dropped in many cases when it was unpleasant or too unbelievable, or worst – inconvenient. This “refined” Christianity retains its basic truth, without which it would be Christianity no longer – the centrality of Jesus Christ. And that is very good, as I can discern God and His goodness almost everywhere, including in Protestantism – yes, there are good, devout people there, I strongly believe that, I heard testimonies, and I am absolutely convinced that God works there, that Holy Spirit leads people there – many of them back to the Catholic faith, although not all of them. It’s mysterious to me why God allows a type of blindness in such people, but His ways are not our ways. But it doesn’t change the fact that, firstly, it’s processed Christianity, when Jesus Himself warned us that we shouldn’t change anything in His teachings, and secondly, very importantly – it’s nutrient deficient!

After all, what is food in a spiritual sense? Two things, both fundamental: the Word of God (the Bible) feeds the souls, and God Himself literally:

“Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6: 32-35)

I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.” (John 6:48-59)

“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (John 6:66)

All of this, plus 2000 years of Tradition – all the Apostolic Fathers and Church Fathers – points to one glaringly obvious thing. Jesus meant what He said. He IS the Bread of Life. He later confirms it on the Great Thursday, when the First Eucharist – Last Supper – takes places. Jesus gave His life once on the Cross, but He gives us Himself daily in the Eucharist. And He says very clearly, that those who’ll eat this bread will live forever. The consecrated Host, the Eucharistic Jesus is REAL. Many people, including me, felt His presence there, in some ways. There were countless saints that testified to this. The direct disciples of Saint John the Apostles believed it – why not the Protestants? I know how they explain it away, but I don’t buy it – for me it is “yes or no”, the rest comes from the devil – Jesus said so, period. I trust Him, I believe Him, I have no reason to pick and choose what I like or find too bitter to swallow, too hard to comprehend – precisely like the disciples that left the Lord that very day.

But what happens when there’s no real food? Biscuits and grape juice – that’s their Holy Communion… It really saddens me. And what happens when somebody is nutrient deficient, due to processed foods? Things go awry. People start believing the weirdest things, and the diseases start, then worsen, such as some congregations accepting divorces, contraception, homosexual “marriages” and even abortions… Is that still Christianity to you? To me, when those last elements appear, that is not a healthy Christianity, that’s a malignant cancer. Curable? It depends – a drastic change in “diet” may help a lot – a conversion to Catholicism in same cases in absolutely necessary. Because God works in mysterious ways – and I believe that somewhere there, due to no fault of their own, but their ancestors’, there are devout Christians, who avoid what is the most processed, the most “refined” “food” and stick to the uncorrupted core – the Bible, and the teachings of Jesus, with as pure a heart and mind as possible. But the dangers are there. We should all be aware of them.

It’s the original, the uncorrupted, unprocessed and unrefined food that makes us work like a clock biologically, and the same goes for the spiritual life. One Truth, one Church that Jesus founded, and the Sacraments He left us – that’s spiritual health and the joyous hope of Heaven for us.

Anna Garbaczewska

God’s help… in Hebrew.

I remember one lesson of Polish, when my teacher said that she never prayed to God in order to pass tests, quizzes or important exams. “These are too little things to bother God with.”

עֵזֶר

EZER

This word appears frequently in the old testament. And just as the previously mentioned chesed, it is very important.

I deal it with very often nowadays – not just me, but also the people around me experience huge pressure which today’s world exerts on us. We have so many tasks to accomplish, duties to perform; we have to live up to so many expectations: either at work or in relationships with other people. Often I feel overwhelmed, sometimes even terrified by how much I have to do, or how well I need to appear, how excellent the results I need to have at work. I try hard to be equal to everything, I worry, I plan, I try to cope. I have to be a mature, and responsible adult after all, I am supposed to deal with all things by myself. That’s what is expected of me. It also touches on the spiritual domain – we are to be strong, faithful, loyal, we are to be models. I even met with an attitude of looking at God as some terrible judge, who not only judges us from afar, but also maliciously adds to our troubles.

And so the fear lives in me – that I won’t make it.

Fortunately, we can find such a short word in a Hebrew translation of the Bible, which changes the whole perspective of the experience of pressure and fear.

Ezer.

Through all the Holy Scriptures God incessantly offers Himself to us as our ezer. That word appears in Psalm 70: “You are my helper (ezer) and my deliverer,  Lord, do not delay.” God also sent to us His Holy Spirit, our Advocate, which accompanies us all the time. And just as chesed teaches us that we are not created for a lonely life, without the relationship with God, similarly ezer teaches us that we are not to face all our difficulties alone, they are not just our own business. They are God’s business, too. We don’t have to be self-reliant. We don’t have to feel that we bear all the load of life on our shoulders alone. Each obstacle and each matter which hurts, pains and overburdens us doesn’t have to be only ours. God is with us, our ezer, and He desires us to invite Him into our lives, to all our matters and interests. My teacher was wrong in saying that something is too little for God for Him to become interested in it. None of my problems are too small, uninteresting, insignificant or silly to God. Your friend my laugh at you, your other friend will just shrug her shoulders, but God will never behave that way. He will let you lean on Him and will desire to dry your tears and do something good for you.

In no difficulty are you all alone. You don’t even have to name what you’re going through. He knows, He understands and He won’t ignore you. Even when you can’t cope, when you fall, when you sin, just turn to Him. “Help me” should be your frequent prayer. It’s not the same, though, as thinking that God should do all things for us, as we were demanding it. “Help me” is a plea directed to God, asking Him to come into our lives and take what we offer Him – all parts of our lives with their successes and failures, joys and sorrows. Not only are we infinitely loved, we also have our helper, who’s only waiting to be invited into our lives. But He won’t do it, unless we ask Him. He will not come uninvited. Therefore, let’s unceasingly ask Him for His help and support.

Whatever happens in your life, please remember – truly, you are not alone.

I love you… in Hebrew

Hebrew is one of the three languages (along Aramaic and Greek), which God chose to give us His Word, contained in the Holy Scriptures. There is one word, that we would like you to familiarize yourselves with.

חֶסֶד

CHESED

Chesed is a Hebrew word  describing God’s love for His people. But in low-profile translations, where chesed is defined as love or pity, there is significantly more depth, than we are capable of suspecting. It is enough to say that you need 14 more definitions to expound the true meaning of the word.

Chesed has a greater power than the word “love”. Our “love” doesn’t have that power at all. We say we love pizza, a song or a person – the word has become commonplace and we also use it to talk about things we simply like very much.

But chesed – particularly as it is used in the Psalms – is completely different. It means a stable, lasting, faithful love which doesn’t undergo changes and has nothing in common with unstable emotions and feelings. It has nothing to do with butterflies in the stomach, valentine cards, and sweet faces. Chesed means safety, total acceptance, boundless devotion and deep relationship – exactly what you feel in your deepest self. It’s the desire for infinite love and support that your heart and soul long for. What you miss and what needs completion – that’s the desire for chesed.

Being loved in a perfect way – that’s what we all want. This a call to that one and unique relation in the world that can give us that. We look for some replacement or compensation for that love in animals, things, idols, stimulants and in people, but they will never be able to love us in this way. We cannot burden others with pressure and responsibility of loving us in a way that our happiness would depend on. They cannot carry such a burden. Even you cannot do it for another person. Anywhere we go, we find disappointment and the continuous question: why didn’t it work? Why am I still unhappy? And the reason is that the unconditional acceptance of yourself is possible in the relation with Him – God.

We need that relationship in order to live through difficulties, doubts, and health related obstacles, both physical and mental. The world keeps hurting us, depleting us of our strength and self-esteem. Yet, at our fingertips there is a relationship waiting that can heal many aspects of our life. The awareness – a real one, supported by the experience of the soul – of being loved, deeply known and accepted can transform a difficult path of our life into a completely different experience.

Thus, let’s love and allow being loved!

translated by Anna Garbaczewska