The Danger of Forgetting Pentecost

Pentecost is one of my very favorite times of year. (And you’re like, “Matthew, you’re a little behind. That was weeks ago!”)

Yes, I’m aware of the liturgical calendar.

Just because Pentecost is in our rearview mirror doesn’t mean the Spirit has blown by. Trust me, that wind is still operating at gale force.

But too often we lower the sails of our spiritual ship because we think “that season is over.”

People, the Spirit is never subject to a calendar. And it’s extremely dangerous to think He is.

If we’re to grow in the spiritual life, we must continue to move with Him. We must allow Him to fan the tongues of fire that burn in our hearts.

Lots of times when we roll into so-called “Ordinary Time,” we lose proper focus. Yes, we continue to work on correcting faults and growing in virtue, but too often forget who is actually behind our progress.

Namely, the Holy Spirit.

The great Carmelite Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D, says that we emphasize the moral work at the expense of the theological work. What does he mean?

Basically, that we often get so wrapped up in trying to correct faults ourselves that we separate ourselves from God, so to speak. We’re so busy trying to be “moral,” that our actual relationship with God suffers.

The irony, of course, is that the Holy Spirit can do a far better job than we can.

But when we forget that, and take our eyes off Him, we’re like a sailor who is so busy rowing, that he forgets to check the wind.

Now realize this doesn’t mean we stop working.

But we can never forget that the quickest way to progress in the spiritual life is through continual dependence on the Holy Spirit. Not only does he tell us what to do, he gives us the power to do it.

God bless!

Matthew

P.S. If you’re a member of Next Level Catholic Academy, our latest Live Q&A just posted in your Library. If you’re not yet a member, we’re re-opening the doors in late summer! Check it out!

089: John Michael Talbot on Conversion & Community

I’ve met a lot of converts to Catholicism over the years. But John Michael Talbot is unique, to say the least.

And it’s not just because he’s a multi-platinum selling, Grammy / Dove award winning Contemporary Christian Music pioneer.

It’s more.

Lots of people convert, but John Michael has embarked on a full-fledged movement to transform the way Catholics live…which continues to this day.

And the story of his life will both intrigue, inspire, and perhaps even provoke you to take a look at your own life. It did for me.

Among other things we’ll cover:

  • How he became Catholic
  • How the Doobie Brothers saved his life (yup!)
  • Why he believes St. Francis of Assisi is the key to renewal (Check out his brand new book “Francis of Assisi’s Sermon on the Mount“)
  • His take on the direction of America
  • Why he loves the Eastern Catholic Church
  • His emphasis upon the role of the Holy Spirit (& Our Lady)

So sit back and enjoy a wide-ranging and fascinating conversation with John Michael Talbot, an icon for our times.

God bless!

Matthew

P.S. New pilgrimage announcement coming soon. And I’ve got a hint for you…St. John Paul II and his favorite Lady.

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The Real Reason God Permits Temptation

Isn’t it funny (and annoying) that those things you gave up for Lent seem to present themselves way more often than normal? People keep offering you that frothy beer or fancy dessert, and you have to give it the old “just say no” Nancy Reagan routine.

And I don’t know about you, but it’s ridiculous how hard I often find it.

(Perhaps traveling to the land of biscotti and cappuccino on pilgrimage during Lent wasn’t my brightest idea.)

Even so, God uses temptations to our great advantage in Lent, as well as the rest of the year.

How? Why?

Well, temptation comes from the Latin tentare, which means “to try” or “to test.” So temptations are a tool God uses to see how we measure up.

“Matthew! Are you saying God actually causes temptation? Doesn’t James 1:13 says, God “tempts no one”?

Yes, it does.

We’re talking here about what are called “temptations of probation” – special trials allowed by God that aren’t encouragement to sin.

(The kind that come from the Devil are called “temptations of solicitation,” with which we’ll deal another time.)

Think of guys like Job and Abraham, or even St. Joseph.

They experienced trials. And so do we.

Why?

It’s pretty simple. God is testing the quality of our love.

He wants to know if you only say you love him at Mass (or on Fat Tuesday), or if you really love Him when the rubber meets the road.

(Of course, he already knows because he’s closer to us than we are to ourselves, as Augustine said. But we still have the free will to act one way or the other. As St. John Chrysostom says, “For we must first choose the good; and then He leads us to His own. He does not anticipate our choice, lest our free-will should be outraged.”)

The great early 20th century theologian, Fr. Francis Remler calls temptations of probation a spiritual acid test.

They expose us like nitric acid poured over fool’s gold.

After all, a lot of people look virtuous.

They’ve got a big breviary with ribbons. A first-class relic of St. Jerome is embedded in the full-grained Italian leather cover of their limited edition Hebrew-Greek Interlinear Bible.

They can even pray over their meal in Latin.

But as far as God’s concerned, actions speak louder than a “Hammer of Heresies” tattoo peeking out from behind a rolled-up shirt sleeve.

He wants to know the true state of your virtue.

That’s the role of these kinds of temptations. God permits them because He wants to know if you practice what you preach.

That’s part of the value of Lent. It’s like a 40 day pass to a spiritual gym.

It’s a time to get pumped up.

And if you aren’t working out your spiritual muscles on a day-to-day basis, you’re going to become a 98lb. spiritual weakling.

I guess you could call God your personal spiritual fitness coach. And by permitting temptation, he not only gets you fit, but provides opportunities to flex your mystical muscle…not for your glory, but for His.

“In this you rejoice,” says St. Peter, “though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pt 1:6-7)

So keep smiling and saying “no thank you” when the dessert tray comes your way in this penitential season.

You’re building virtue that will help you resist larger (and perhaps more dangerous) temptations in the future.

God bless you.

Matthew

P.S. It’s coming! CLICK HERE to sign up for the wait list to be notified when it goes live.

The most dynamic, clearest path to spiritual transformation you’ll find anywhere.” – Mike Aquilina, Author & EWTN Personality