St. Maxmilian Kolbe is my favorite saint. He lived a truly eucharistic life of missionary zeal, radiant holiness, and sacrificial love. Yet, his life of holiness was no accident; he did not wake up one morning a saint. Rather, his holiness was the result of constant spiritual effort that cultivated an intimate relationship with our Blessed Mother, with whom he was deeply in love, and a burning love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Maximilian, born Raymond, entered the Conventual Franciscan Novitiate at the young age of 16. Much of his spiritual development occurred during these formative years, as well as his years in preparation for the priesthood. Reading his journal entries during this period of his life, one is struck by three major themes: his ongoing health problems, his transformative relationship with his spiritual director, and his struggles with scrupulosity.
The whole arc of his interior journey is too long to relate here, but suffice it to say that young Raymond struggled with deep scrupulosity, due in part to his own tender conscience, as well as to the intense Franciscan formation he had to undergo. This scrupulosity was healed by Fr. Luigi Bondini, his spiritual director, who essentially ordered him to stop worrying have confidence and faith in the Immaculate Virgin and in the mercy of God. Maxmilian developed a close relationship with Fr. Bondini, and his spiritual wisdom and advice on everything from taking care of his health to practical details of organization literally transformed young Maximilian’s life.
By the time of his ordination on April 28, 1918, his journal entries reflect that the fearful, anxiety-ridden Maximilian is gone, and a portrait of a humble, confident, and holy young friar emerges. He speaks ceaselessly of the virtues of trust and humility, and of his burning desire to be the greatest saint possible.
In preparation for his ordination, Maximilian engaged in a series of spiritual exercises. Thankfully, he recorded some of his key reflections in his journal from April 21-27, 1918. While the whole entry is too long to share here, the young Maximilian sketches out a plan, a rule of life that every Catholic man should imitate. It is rich with wisdom on the ascetical and spiritual life, and it is a profound glimpse into the mind of one of the last century’s greatest saints.
Below are his beautiful words, edited for brevity. Any emphasis is from Maximilian himself.
Follow your daily schedule very faithfully and you will be saved. Start serving God this very day. This may be the last day of your life. Live as if this day were your last. Tomorrow is uncertain, yesterday no longer belongs to you, only the present is yours. There is an ear that listens to all things, an eye that peruses all the most secret emotions of your heart, a hand that notes down each thing. Not being punished is the worst of punishments. “I judged no one, therefore I trust God will not judge me either” [cf. Mt 7:1] St. Francis de Sales: “Loyalty in the observance of rules is the most pleasing sacrifice to God: it is mortification and penance.” Be in love with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Each of your actions will be recorded forever. Choose the worst things in eating, dressing, and in tasks, and you will be dear to Jesus. Silence. Souls in purgatory. For sinners, for the Holy Church: pray and work. Make up for wasted time with fervor. Maximilian, be holy; if others have managed, why could you not do it as well? If you believe it, if you desire it, with God’s help you may still become a saint. Yes, you can, you can. Be a man, be a Christian, be a friar. Be a man. Do not be ashamed of your convictions. Do unto others what you wish were done unto yourself. Have a sense of duty, perform it well, without worrying that someone is watching (with noble ambition). Do not worry about the evil that is in others. Be a Catholic. When you kneel before the altar, let people know that you are aware of Whom you are kneeling before. Be a religious. Good intention in work is like the number “1” in front of zeroes. Men deprive themselves of great treasures when they work without good intention. As you rise up, so you will spend the whole day. Your every action is recorded. Nothing is left without punishment or reward. You could die even today! Be collected; he who breaks away soon loses the graces he as acquired. A full drawer is always closed. Humility.
[At this point, St. Maximilian enters an extended reflection on humility, and how to practice it.]
Excerpt from: Kolbe, M. (2016). The writings of St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe. Lugano : Nerbini International.
One of my favorite pastimes is grilling meat. While I am very much an amateur, I find the flavor of grilled meat to be far superior to meat cooked in any other way. Grilling is the polar opposite of perverse modern forms of cooking, barely worthy of the name, like heating something in a microwave. Grilling is a process, and enjoyable one at that.
I also refuse to use a gas grill, though I won’t deny their convenience. There is something authentic and even primal about cooking with hardwood charcoal. At the very least, it is certainly more challenging to control the temperature and make sure the heat is distributed easily, and I enjoy a good challenge.
Heating a charcoal grill usually involves building a pyramid shape with the coals or in placing them in a metal chimney to heat up. Sparks burst forth like small fireworks as the charcoal begins to warm and catch fire. As the fire grows, the heat is usually located in the center of the pyramid, where it increases in intensity and begins to spread outward to the coals on the periphery. Before long, all the coals are pulsing with heat, and cooking can commence.
Recently, while heating my grill to cook some chicken, I watched the warmth and light in the center of the pyramid spreading outward toward the cold, black coals on the edges. And in these warming coals, I saw a parable. For fire, with its light and heat, is never content to stay in one place. It is compelled by its very nature to spread itself as far as possible. Indeed, fire never ceases to communicate warmth and light to its surroundings—it always spreads.
The Fire of Love
So, too, is it with genuine love. Love must communicate itself. Like fire, a heart filled with love burns and spreads its warmth and light to those around itself. Love burns ceaselessly, and it must spread. St. Maximilan Kolbe describes love in this very way:
“When the fire of love is ablaze, it cannot be constrained within the heart, but blazes forth and burns, consumes and absorbs other hearts. It conquers more and more souls over to its ideal….[Our apostolate] focuses on such love, which goes so far as to win the hearts of all those who live in the present and who will live in the future, and that as soon as possible, as soon as possible, as soon as possible.
– St. Maximilian Kolbe, Collected Works, 1325
The saints were those men and women who were possessed by love. One cannot read the writings of the saints or the records of their lives without coming away with the distinct impression that they were consumed by an inner fire that compelled them to do things the world found insane. The saints could not rest until they had completely burned themselves up for the salvation of others. It was a sort of holy madness that consumed them—the madness of the fiery love of God.
Love and Evangelization
What does all this have to do with us?
There is much talk about evangelization in the Church today. We see the forces of secularism eroding faith, and many are rightly concerned. Among the many solutions are programs, activities, and, absurdly, even proposals that we need to make our worship more appealing. As if hip tunes, projector screens, and a welcoming “experience” will renew the church. It won’t happen.
The love of many is growing cold, as Jesus predicted that it would (Matt. 24:12). And so the only thing that will draw souls to the Church in these times is the fire of true love. We need saints whose hearts are burning with the eternal flame of love and who radiate it to others.
How do we obtain such fiery love? There is no way to buy it. Neither is it as simple as starting a group or watching a DVD. To catch fire, we must come into contact with the blazing fire of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And how do we do this? The only is through genuine prayer.
Pray always and without ceasing, above all the radiant prayer of the rosary. Further still, create a zone of silence in your life to foster the growth of love in your soul. So often the sparks of love are extinguished by the cares and desires and ceaseless activities of this world. If you seek a parish program to foster the growth of love, then implement perpetual adoration. For nothing causes love to grow more than devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist, which is the love of God incarnate among us.
Darkness is spreading and would consume everything. But, as a saint once said, all the darkness in the world cannot resist the light of a single candle. Let us be much more than candles—let us be burning bonfires of love so that we can communicate warmth and light to many souls.
“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 14:35
St. Benedict wrote, “Speaking and teaching are the master’s task; the disciple is to be silent and listen” (RB 6:8). Silence is the environment that allows you to listen to God’s voice and the voices of those around you properly. Many people are uncomfortable with silence or they find it awkward, so they fill their days with needless noise and distractions. Turning off the music and radio, especially when you are in the car, moderating television or Internet use will challenge you to listen to the God who dwells within you and speaks in the depth of your heart. Additionally, being silent helps us to avoid the sins of gossip or detraction. St. Benedict echoed the wisdom found in the Book of Proverbs which says, “In a flood of words you will not avoid sin,” (RB 6:11). By avoiding unnecessary noise in your life, you learn to cultivate inner silence, which is the ideal setting for prayer.
2. Be Faithful to Daily Prayer
St. Benedict said, “Prayer should, therefore, be short and pure, unless perhaps it is prolonged under the inspiration of divine grace” (RB 20:4). This instruction is comforting for those who have a demanding workweek, hectic schedule, and are burdened with numerous responsibilities at home to the extent that they may not be able to dedicate large periods of time to prayer. Nevertheless, you should find time in the morning to praise God before your day begins, and pray in thanksgiving during the evening before going to bed. You can pray the Liturgy of the Hours to sanctify the day, specifically being faithful to Morning and Evening Prayer. Whatever your practice, you want to be concerned with developing a heartfelt attitude to God while you are praying, offering yourself and your loved ones into God’s care. Many opportunities will arise throughout the day to offer brief prayers of trust in God. The aim of monks (and all Christians) is to pray without ceasing, and you can do this by keeping the memory of God alive in your heart and mind at every moment.
3. Form Authentic Community
Monks support and encourage the brother encountering difficulties, and they celebrate with one another during joyful times. St. Benedict instructed, “No one is to pursue what he judges better for himself, but instead, what he judges better for someone else. To their fellow monks, they show the pure love of brothers” (RB 72:7-8). In a world of individualism, social media and superficial relationships, all people long for a deep sense of belonging and communion with one another. The spiritual life is always a journey that we undertake with others. You have to be willing to invest the time and energy to engage personally with other people and show interest in their lives, allowing your conversations to pass from surface level topics to the more meaningful areas of life. You may wish to gather with others who share your faith, values, and desire for God. Praying together, reading and discussing a spiritual book and Bible studies are all ways of coming together to grow in faith.
4. Make time for Lectio Divina
The ancient monastic practice of Lectio Divina or “sacred reading” emphasizes a slow, prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture that is intended to allow you to listen to the Word and seek peace in God’s presence. St. Benedict warned his monks, “Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the brothers should have specified periods for manual labor as well as for prayerful reading” (RB 48:1). Reflection on the Word of God, if done intensely and prayerfully, has the power of calling you to a continual conversion of life. Familiarize yourself with the method and take between 15-30 minutes a day in a quiet environment to practice lectio divina with Scripture or prayerfully read from the writings of the saints or other great spiritual works. Spiritual reading nourishes your mind and soul and often provides those inspired words that you needed to hear. Encountering the Word of God each day in a prayerful manner draws us into deeper communion with the One who speaks the word to us.
5. Practice Humility
Numerous parts of the Rule of St. Benedict highlight the importance of humility, most notably in Chapter 7 where St. Benedict depicts humility as a ladder with twelve rungs which the monk is to ascend. The first step is that a monk keeps the “fear of God” always before his eyes (RB 7:10). When you fear God or are in “awe” of God, you maintain a right relationship, realizing that you are a creature and not God. Humility is a virtue that needs to be developed, and it entails being down to earth, honest, and truthful, both in prayer, at work, and in everyday matters. St. Benedict wrote, “Place your hope in God alone. If you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God, not to yourself, but be certain that the evil you commit is always your own and yours to acknowledge” (RB 4:41-43). Being a humble person means being grateful for the blessings and opportunities that God gives you and recognizing that your gifts and talents have God as their source. Allow daily struggles, and even falling into sin, to be an invitation to humility, where you admit without hesitation that you must depend entirely on God’s grace, and not on your strength.
“The difficulty of explaining ‘why I am a Catholic’ is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.” – G.K. Chesterton
Many of you know that I am a convert to the Catholic church. Why, you may wonder, would anyone, especially in the 21st century, join such an archaic institution? And why on earth would you stay when there are so many other options?
While my own conversion story is too large a thing to share, I will offer 10 real reasons to become Catholic.
1. The Faith is True
The Catholic faith represents the most complex, consistent, and complete system of ideas among all the competing philosophies of humanity. It is a veritable cathedral of human thought. In a real way, the Church has thought of everything, and that is because she relies not just on human ingenuity but divine inspiration. Every other merely human system of thought is completely erroneous, wildly contradictory, impossible to live by, or all of the above. The Catholic faith alone can provide the practical wisdom, common sense, consistent theology, and thorough philosophy that leads to full human happiness and flourishing.
But it is important to emphasize that for all her beautiful theology and philosophy, the Catholic faith is not just a system of ideas. All of the ideas she has generated are merely doorways to a transcendent realm of spirit, and ultimately, to Christ himself. If we miss this, we miss everything. No philosophy, no matter how glorious, is sufficient as an end in itself. It either leads us to Christ, who is truth itself, or it is a waste of time.
And so the real proof of the truth and reality of the Catholic faith is not her universities or scholastic philosophers, but the lives of the saints. They bear witness to a higher law, a higher order, and ultimately to the living person of Christ. The burned with an almost insane love for Christ, a love that inspired them to things that seem to the world plain crazy. They were consumed by a vision of the eternal that transcends, but does not contradict, all human reason and rationality. Their transformation, their lives, their works, the witness of their love—these are the real proofs that the Catholic faith is absolutely true.
2. The Faith is Beautiful
The Catholic faith has brought more beauty into the world than can be calculated. Jaw-dropping Gothic cathedrals, glorious paintings, magnificent sculptures, otherworldly music and chant, some of the greatest literature the world has ever known—the Church has nurtured, preserved, and promoted all of these things.
The order, harmony, structure, and transcendence of these works lifts our hearts and minds to God. In a world that idolizes the ugly and cheap, these great works speak of a transcendent order and even of God’s eternal harmony and beauty. In them, we see a glimpse of eternity. My own conversion happened in large part due to an encounter with this beauty, and perhaps I will share more about this another time.
3. The Faith is Good
Anyone who has spent anytime around devout Catholics comes away with the impression that Catholics are different. It’s hard to pin down this difference, but it’s also inescapable. A Catholic living their faith fully is filled with life and light and joy. A devout Catholic family will probably have a beautiful altar at the center of their home. They are no doubt deeply and passionately pro-life. They will pray together regularly and have pictures of Jesus and Mary and the saints covering their walls. The parents will read their children stories of good triumphing over evil, the lives of the saints, and they will teach them virtue and the value of sacrifice. Their home will be filled with life, the warmth of love, the beauty of faith.
In short, a devout Catholic home will have an atmosphere, a culture, of goodness that just you won’t find elsewhere. And anyone who has met a holy nun or monk or priest can attest that they too radiate a joy and and goodness and holiness that is completely contagious.
4. A Cloud of Witnesses
One of the things I always believed as a protestant was the saints competed with God for glory. That is, that honoring a saint would always and everywhere detract from God’s glory. Since becoming Catholic, however, I have realized the wonderful truth that the saints do not detract from God’s glory or compete with him for honor, but rather they magnify his grace and increase his glory.
The saints are stars in the canopy of heaven—the great cloud of witnesses scripture speaks of—guiding us by their example and helping us powerfully by their prayers. All the honor given to the saints is ultimately a reflection of God’s ability to transform poor sinners into the most shining examples of holiness. Our Lord delights in using creaturely agents to accomplish his will. Simply read scripture and you cannot but realize the fact that God has always has used frail creatures to do great things, and he always will.
Christianity is not just about “me and Jesus.” No one is saved alone. Heaven is a family, and the saints are our elder brothers and sisters. As Catholics, we can call on these heavenly friends and ask for their prayers, just as we ask for the prayers of friends and family on earth, and they will powerfully intercede for us. By becoming Catholic, we place ourselves in a great stream of the redeemed going back to the beginning of the Church. I can attest to the joy of joining in this great throng of men and women offering prayers and praises before the throne of the Lamb. We don’t just remember the saints and martyrs as abstract historical facts, but as living realities that we can encounter.
5. The Sacraments
Nearly every other kind of Christian thinks of the tales and truths of scripture as historical realities but not living realities. For example, the descent of the Holy Spirit at pentecost was something that happened to the apostles nearly 2,000 years ago, but the fire of the Holy Spirit has long since passed from the earth. We remember this occurrence in an abstract way, but it applied only to the apostles and has very little to do with us today.
The Catholic sees things differently. Pentecost is not merely a historical event—it is an eternal reality, and we can experience its fire and grace today in just as real a way as the apostles did. The Last Supper was not a historical event alone. It is a living reality, even an eternal reality, that we participate in today through the grace of the Holy Spirit. When we attend Mass and receive the body and blood of Christ in communion, it is not “resacrificing” Christ, but it is making present his eternal, once-for-all sacrifice on Calvary for us now.
In fact, all of the sacraments are the eternal works of God, which we see related in scripture, continuing today through his body, the Church. The sacraments are eternity invading time, the intersection of heaven and earth, the presence of the spiritual in the temporal. The sacraments are the most precious gifts imaginable, and they are available freely to every Catholic.
6. It’s filled with sinners…
So you will fit right in! If you’re looking for a perfect, pure, sin-free church, the Catholic church isn’t for you. The Church is a hospital for sinners; a place where human brokenness can encounter the healing grace of Jesus Christ. There have always been great sinners in the Church, but far from detracting from the truth of the faith, it rather proves that the Church offers a powerful remedy to the disorders of our human nature. In his earthly ministry, Jesus too was surrounded by sinners, and the Pharisees hated this fact.
I love how Oscar Wilde, a notorious sinner himself and deathbed convert to Catholicism, described the Catholic Church: “The Catholic Church is for saints and sinners alone – for respectable people, the Anglican Church will do.”
7. A faith for everyone
The Catholic faith isn’t simply for the elite or a select few. From time immemorial, it has been the home of coal-miners, farmers, soldiers, iron-workers, policemen—working men of all kinds. It has been the home of the simple, the ignorant, and the ordinary people of the world.
But just as truly it has also been the home of some of the greatest minds the world has ever known. In the Church, great scholars, artists, poets, novelists, scientists, and philosophers have found a faith that nourishes their minds as well as their hearts.
Mystics, servants of the poor, zealous missionaries, contemplatives, and many more have too found a place in the Catholic-faith. In short, the Catholic Church is a home for anyone and everyone. It is the truest home for humanity.
8. The Catholic Faith is a Fighting Faith
The greatest obstacle to the advance of evil in the world is the Catholic Church. Through her rituals, her sacraments, and her saints, the Church is the most potent channel of grace in existence. Despite her flaws, she radiates more light and goodness into the world than any other single institution. While other groups and institutions may play their role in fighting evil, they are mere candles while the Church is a blazing bonfire driving back the darkness.
The world knows this and that’s why it hates the Church. Agents within and without the Church have sought to destroy it for centuries because of this fact. But the Church cannot be destroyed. The Church fights evil and will never cease to do so. It will stand until the end of time as the great sign of salvation for all humanity, continuing the work of redemption and the defeat of darkness.
9. The Catholic Church is Truly Universal
The human mind is prone to separate and categorize things into dualities: East and West, European or Asian, Mystical or Rational, Contemplation or Action, Predestination or Freewill, Simple or Complex, Science or Faith, Faith or Works, and on and on. And it’s true–many different sects, denominations, and movements represent shards or fragments of the truth, representing one or the other of these dichotomies. But only one institution on earth is large enough and universal enough to embody all of these dichotomies and hold them in perfect tension: the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church has within her 20 some rites both Eastern liturgies and Western liturgies. Among Catholic religious orders, many are active, serving and working, while just as many are contemplative, praying and interceding for the world. The Catholic Church has among her children Africans, and Asians, and Europeans, and Americans, and Hispanics, and every ethnicity under the sun. She teaches the necessity of faith, but also human effort. She teaches the goodness of science but also the necessity of faith.
The Catholic Church is universal in every way. She represents the perfect balance of diversity in unity, and within her are contained all the colors and shades of human expression and thought and mysticism held in perfect balance.
10. The Church is Ancient
Among modern individuals, there is a disillusionment with the cheap and the ephemeral. Our world is driven by marketing and advertising which preys on our desires by offering us cheap stimulants in the form of mass produced junk. Deep down, people are sick of it and are searching for something of substance, something with deep roots.
The Catholic faith offers just such deep roots. Flourishing for twenty centuries, the Catholic faith represents a faith that is both ancient and ever new. It is a living stream of tradition that connects us to the faith of our forefathers in an unbroken continuity. The faith of the martyrs of the ancient Church is my faith. The Christians of the catacombs, the fathers of the desert, the peasants of ancient Europe, the monastics who built ancient abbeys–they would all profess the same creed as I do. And this is a glorious thing.
There are countless other reasons for becoming Catholic, but they all amount to one reason: That Catholicism is true.
I want to hear from you. Share your reasons for being Catholic in the comments below.
There is a great deal of bad news about the state of the Catholic Church of late. We shouldn’t deny it or dismiss it; to do so would be foolish. We should have our eyes wide open about the reality of our situation. But amidst the destruction wrought by sin and the failings of men, there are real signs of hope.
One of them is the high quality of seminarians currently preparing for the priesthood. I’ve met many of them myself, and I can attest that those whom I have met are true “Catholic gentlemen”—holy young men striving to serve the Lord and his Church with zeal, orthodoxy, and love. Few things give me more hope for the future of the Church than this.
Below is a letter I received from one such seminarian. With his permission, I am sharing his letter in the hopes that it will encourage you in these difficult times. – Sam
Good afternoon, Mr. Guzman!
I’m a fourth year seminarian from the diocese of ______. I just wanted to thank you for all the work you’ve done throughout the years…I’ve followed you for quite some time, and benefit greatly from your content.
I also wanted to share a brief word of hope: in the post-McCarrick era, it seems harder and harder for us to live with joy and peace of spirit. But as a seminarian, I’m so excited by what I see in the the men surrounding me!
There’s always a few with rough edges or personal problems, but the vast majority of the men I know are good men who strive for virtue and holiness, who long to serve the people of God, and who work together to better prepare themselves for that mission.
The trend in seminaries, at least in my experience, is a return to orthodoxy: we know that the Church in our country has been pasteurized, watered down and made to feel embarrassed by its heritage. We know that there’s a lot of work to be done. We know that many priests are hostile to us, feel that we are turning the wheel of time backwards (a silly thought; time moves forward, period).
Recapturing the values and traditions of the church is about renewal… it would be impossible to return to the way things used to be, and rightly so, but we can recapture the good things we’ve let go and infuse them into the church in our own time.) This hostility is blatant and frequently articulated, even in our own dioceses.
But the younger priests, ordained in the last twenty five years or so, are helping us adjust. They know that things must change. And the crisis of sexual abuse among clergy has priests angry. They’re talking to us about it… they’re telling us how frustrated they are to have spent decades in ministry only to be accused of pedophilia by strangers in the grocery store. This anger, and the hope of our young priests, is fueling the seminarians I know in our search for holiness, for orthodoxy, for healing in the church.
Anyway, I’m not sure why I felt the need to write to you today. But I want to tell everyone I can that better days are coming. There will be more scandals…I’m certain. We’re not done yet. But we’re getting ready to fight with everything we have, to teach the traditions and truths of our Catholic faith, and possibly to be martyred for that faith. It’s a possibility we talk about pretty often in seminary, among ourselves at least. Those who haven’t the stomach for it leave. The ones who stay are amazing men.
Just this spring I know of six men ordained to the priesthood from several dioceses, all of whom I see as great leaders. They challenged our house to live holy lives, and I’m certain they will do the same in parishes. There is hope. Not only that, there is surety. Christ’s victory is won, and although these times seem like the worst, so has every time of struggle in the church.
The corruption and weakness will be burned away in the light of the Holy Spirit, and the remaining Church may well be small, but it will be empowered with a pentecostal fire and the strength of the communion of saints, the teachings of the church, and the sanctifying grace of the sacraments. We shall overcome.
Thanks again for everything you do, and know of my prayers for you, your family, and your ministry.
For centuries, the Catholic Church was the last bulwark standing against the tidal wave of secularism, atheism, and moral decay that was sweeping the world. As converts like G.K. Chesterton gave witness, the Catholic faith was a fighting faith—fighting against the destructive ideas and moral rot plaguing society.
Yet, something happened. The Church suddenly faced her own internal revolution, and all but stopped fighting. While Church teaching can’t change, many within the Church seemed all too willing to ignore this fact in an attempt to make peace with secular humanism. Moral teachings were soft-pedaled, the liturgy was modified to accomodate the needs of modern man, and key Catholic doctrines were ignored or denied. The results were disastrous. Seminaries emptied, religious orders collapsed, baptisms, confirmations, and marriages plummeted, and moral filth invaded elements of the priesthood.
What happened? What caused this terrible crisis?
In this video, Sam and Dr. Taylor Marshall discuss Dr. Marshall’s new book, Infiltration: The Plot to Destroy the Catholic Church from Within. In his book, Dr. Marshall makes the case that the deep problems the Church is facing are far from random, but are the fruits of a coordinate plot to infiltrate and destroy the Catholic Church.
In the video, they discuss:
Who is behind the plot to destroy the Church
Why the enemies of the Church changed their strategy and when it happened
Isn’t this just tin-foil hat conspiracies? Why or why not?
What average Catholics can do in the face of this rather bleak news
Infiltration: The Plot to Destroy the Church from Within with Dr. Taylor Marshall - YouTube
Whether it is exploring the splendor of a 13th
century cathedral or one of the seven wonders of the world, many will agree
that with these moments come a profound sense of God’s Presence. This same
experience is one I came to know through a Catholic men’s schola called
After hearing much praise about the Floriani
choir, I ventured out to Thomas Aquinas College (TAC) in Santa Paula,
California to hear for myself the voices behind the choir. I had the pleasure
of sitting with Giorgio Navarini (’15), Graham Crawley (’20) and Nico Silva
(’20), three of the sixteen members of the Floriani men’s schola, to discuss
their beginnings, mission, charism and future endeavors.
How did the Floriani come to be?
The Floriani men’s schola has a very unique
beginning. Floriani was established in 2013 by Giorgio Navarini, an alumnus of
TAC. After experiencing Gregorian chant at the age of 18, Navarini felt a call
from God to devote his life to restoring that same sacred music to all parts of
the United States and beyond. This mission, therefore, urged him to have others
join his burning desire to “beautify the Church with holy sound.”
Director of Floriani, Giorgio Navarini
With this in mind, Navarini’s mission began. He
started his choir with six members of his barbershop club in TAC. The men took
their newly developed talent to the streets, performing in Santa Paula, Santa
Barbara and other parts of California. Not long after, the Catholic men’s
barbershop choir gained interest and became a schola with over sixteen members
under the name of Floriani – a name which has a fascinating story behind it.
A near-death experience
While swimming in Nevada’s treacherous Yuba
river at the age of twenty-four, Navarini nearly drowned after being pulled to
the bottom of the river. “I was looking at the surface and started to swim up,
but my body wasn’t moving, so I started swimming faster. I felt my body being
pulled to the bottom … at this point my body went into panic mode.” Navarini
felt certain that death at the bottom of the river was inevitable. After what
seemed like a long time, the water pulled him to the surface, but he was unable
to swim to safety amid the rocks and raging rapids.
Choir Member Graham Crawley
He began to lose hope, but Divine Providence
intervened as Navarini sighted a father and son walking along the river.
“I see a father and son start running down the
riverbank. They began yelling, ‘swim to us, swim to us!’ Immediately I start
swimming as fast as I could towards them against the rapids, and somehow I made
it out. I got on my knees and just thanked God… and then I had a really
strong impulse to thank Saint Florian.” Saint Florian was Navarini’s
confirmation Saint, but until that point, he had never had a particular
devotion to him. This moment changed everything, and soon after the event he
discovered that Saint Florian was known as the patron Saint of drowning
victims. This near death experience confirmed that Saint Florian would be
the ideal patron for his choir and mission. Floriani was born and the mission
Mission and Response to Beauty
The Floriani’s mission is found in striving “To
beautify the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with holy sound; to educate the next
generation of Catholic musicians; to evangelize the world through the beautiful
and ancient treasury of Sacred Music.”
Choir Member Nico Silva
Graham Crawley, a junior at TAC, says his
experience as a member of Floriani has had a lasting and growing effect on his
Faith. He joined Floriani without any religious expectations, and yet, through
the enduring beauty of sacred music, he found himself more deeply connected to
God and the Church. Crawley states,“[Sacred music] should be a reflection of
what is happening during Mass, it should elevate us in our experience at the
Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”
Sacred music has changed Crawley’s outlook on
Faith and life. It has brought new meaning to the beauty of the Mass. This
beauty is that which Floriani strives to project. They are truly living
out their calling to “ beautify the church”, through their voices, in today’s
As Crawley mentions “Though our culture may
reject truth, it still responds to beauty.”
Another member of Floriani had a similar
experience with the transcendent and captivating sound of the schola. Nico Silva,
another junior at TAC, was first introduced to Floriani at a Sunday morning
Mass that usually omits music. Floriani happened to be singing that Mass. It
was through hearing Navarini’s Serran Mass composition that Silva was brought
to a moment of transformation. He said that “Hearing them sing just transformed
the Mass into a Sacred experience … it made me realize that Sacred music does
make a difference.” Not long after his experience, Silva joined Floriani. After
being a member for some time, he realized that, “The music that we are singing
has the liturgy in mind in a more visceral way. We’re not just singing lyrics
and themes that happen to be coinciding with the readings.” His love for
Floriani’s mission and sacred music has lead him to be a leading promoter of
the mission – a mission which Silva considers an apostolate. “For me, Floriani
is not a choir anymore, it’s an apostolate.”
Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls
The Floriani’s mission to beautify the Church
also carries with it a unique charism that permeates the group. Floriani seeks
to live out their mission not only in the choir but also in their daily lives.
The balance of brotherhood, genuine joy, and camaraderie strengthens their
friendship with each other in the Faith. They are true men with a passion for Sacred
music, brotherhood, and authentically living out the Catholic Faith in the
world. They are essentially a family. The men of Floriani do not limit their
interactions to choir practice and concerts – instead, they connect with each
other in a true spirit of fraternity. Crawley explains that “The world is
starved of true culture, of the real display of conviction and faith … the
most effective way to bring people to the banquet is to live it. In this age,
people are so afraid of their desire for truth that they either mock their own
inclination to feel something real, or they numb themselves with any number of
the modern ‘medications’ at their disposal. The Catholic Church is so
beautiful. We have a unique opportunity to live out the counter-culture of truth
and love, and the best way we can do this is to simply be Catholic, wherever we
Putting their charism and mission to work,
Floriani has not limited themselves to just singing at Masses or offering
concerts for the public and faithful. They have taken their mission a step
further, and have answered the call to the New Evangelization. Their voices
have traveled to the streets of California, as well as parishes in several
States, including Montana and Kansas. Floriani’s most impactful experience rested
with a pilgrimage to Rome. There they sang at a Pontifical High Mass celebrated
by His Eminence Cardinal Burke, at the Seat of St. Peter for a Vatican’s noon
Mass and impromptu singing in the Pantheon and other Churches in Rome.
Floriani’s sacred music has a transcendent power that moves one to a closer
connection with Christ. Their mission drives them to continue to strive to
reach as many places as will welcome them in order to restore the treasures of
sacred music. As Crawley says “The sacred music of our rich, Catholic tradition
has the power to reach both Christians and seculars alike, and to stir in them
that part of the soul that longs to commune with its Creator, that cannot
ignore its desire for the beautiful.”
Join the Mission
Basilica of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli
The Floriani men’s schola consider themselves a
traveling choir, as they are independent of any parish. Navarini states, “We
share our music and talent wherever we are invited, whether that’s singing for
parishes in both the Extraordinary and Ordinary Form, leading choral workshops
for congregations, giving conferences and parish missions on the history and
nature of Sacred music, and even giving concerts displaying the diversity of
Sacred music.” Floriani’s ultimate goal is to
“continue this living tradition, to spread it and teach it, and to reach as
many people as we can through its captivating power.”
The voices provided through Floriani’s members
has the power to restore beauty to the Church. Therefore, the future of the
schola lies in the knowledge and evangelization of their mission. Without
sacred music, the Church begins to lose the beauty that enhances her innate
splendor as the living body and bride of Christ.
Private Mass in St. Mary Major
I invite you to join Floriani’s mission “to
beautify the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with holy sound; to educate the next
generation of Catholic musicians; to evangelize the world through the beautiful
and ancient treasury of Sacred Music.”
Invite Floriani to your parish, support them by
becoming a sponsor, and most importantly, offer your prayers for their
continued success. It is up to all of us to do our part to make the Church’s
traditions sacred once again.
Spring in Oklahoma means storms—often violent, terrifying storms. Tornadoes, too, are not uncommmon this time of year, though, while some have struck only a few miles away, we have yet to experience one, thanks be to God.
Such storms are frightening because of their intensity and potential for destruction, but also because of the sheer helplessness one feels in the face of them. Other than pray and take shelter, there is hardly anything one can do in the face of extremely violent winds or hail. Lightning flashes like a finale of fireworks, the water rises in your yard, wind rips limbs from trees. And in all this, there is nothing you can do to stop it. A storm blindly does what it does with zero concern for human life or property.
In our modern, technologically advanced world, we are not used to such helplessness. For several centuries now, we have exerted the full force of our intellectual powers toward the aim of mastering the forces of nature. We do not like feeling helpless or dependent on anything; we crave control, predictability, and safety. And to a large degree, we have attained it, though perhaps not yet to the extent we think.
But despite all our advances, no one control a storm. An F5 tornado is an unstoppable force, a furious freak of nature. Some of the largest can be over a mile wide, with winds raging at over 300 miles per hour. Bark is stripped off of trees and shot like bullets into walls. The earth trembles as if a tremendous freight train were passing by. Cars are thrown hundreds of yards like toys. Houses are utterly disintegrated. For all our technological prowess, there is absolutely nothing we can do in the face of such unbridled power. It is deeply and profoundly humbling.
Storms and the Divine
Humility. That is the word. It is the only justifiable response before the power of nature. But far more so, it is the only justifiable response before the immense power of God. When Moses ascended Mt. Sinai to receive the law from God, it was an encounter with a terrifying reality beyond his control. In fact, scripture describes it exactly like a storm, with thick clouds covering the mountain and emanating thunder and lighting. When anyone encountered God in scripture or in church history, it was an experience that left them humbled in the dust. They inevitably cried out like Isaiah, “Woe is me! For I am destroyed” (Isaiah 6:5). No one ever encountered God and felt like they managed it well.
So often we want to control God just like we control everything else in our relatively comfortable modern lives. We turn the faucet, and water flows. We flip a switch, and light comes on. And we often treat God the same way, too, almost like a spiritual vending machine. Many time, eager for an answer to prayer, a spiritual experience, or even to overcome some sin, we try to manipulate God with our prayers. We want to push the right spiritual buttons and get the results we want. We fall into this way of acting even (or perhaps, especially) when our intentions are good. But that’s simply not how it works.
You cannot control God any more than you can control the tremendous power of a storm. You cannot domesticate him or treat him like a pet. Yet, a simple glance at our worship and prayer reveals that this is exactly what we have tried to do. We have lost a great deal of our awe before God; we have lost a healthy fear of him. Yes, God is love and he is our Father, but that does not mean even angels do not tremble before him. “But the Lord is in his holy temple,” scripture says, “let all the earth keep silence before him” (Habakkuk 2:20).
Fear of God is not a cringing thing, but it is a healthy respect for the immensity of his reality, which is far beyond all words and all imaginings. If we do not humble ourselves before him, it is only because we have no idea who or what he is.
Ask, Seek, Knock—and Wait
We cannot control God any more than we can a mighty storm. We cannot demand anything of him, much less that he fix all our problems or provide what we wish, spiritually or otherwise, when and how we want it. We cannot even demand grace. God is God, and we are not.
So what then are we to do? St. Peter shows us the way: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). We must humble ourselves before the face of God and give up any ideas of controlling him, manipulating him, or forcing him to do what we want. What we can and should do is humble ourselves, repent of our sins, and prepare ourselves. We can till the soil of our souls and wait on the Lord to plant the seeds of grace and bring them to bear fruit. Whatever he sends, we must say like our Blessed Mother, “Let it be done unto me according to your word.”
We can fast and pray persistently and with humility. We can call on God with deep faith, but with no expectation of controlling him, and make our requests known to him. And he will answer us in his time, exactly how and when he means to.
It is hard to let go. It is hard to relinquish control and to trust that God is God, and we not. But if we are ever to advance on the spiritual path, we must give up any illusions of controlling God, or anything else for that matter. We must humble ourselves before his face, acknowledging our nothingness before him. We must repent and cry out to him with deep faith, asking, seeking, and knocking as we are commanded. And if we are faithful in doing so, in his time, and in his way, he will lift us up.
It is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, and I can’t think of a better day to announce the official launch of The Catholic Gentleman: Living Authentic Manhood Today. It’s dedicated to our Lady, after all.
Actually, I should qualify that. It’s almost available everywhere as Amazon has already sold out of the couple thousand copies they had in stock due to strong pre-order sales! Thank you to each of you who placed pre-orders. It is backordered for now, but it should be in stock again soon, so place your orders now to get it as soon as it’s restocked.
Oh, one more thing. Many of you have asked about an e-book version. This should be available for Kindle very soon. If you can’t wait, you can get an e-book version at the Ignatius Press website right now.
PS: If you’ve already received a copy, please leave an Amazon review! Reviews make a HUGE difference in Amazon rankings and sales. And besides, I simply want to know what you think. Thank you!
Watch any sporting event—from football to tennis to Mixed Martial Arts— and you will notice something significant: The inevitable presence of referees. Referees exist to enforce the rules of the game, for any sport worth watching has rules, and sometimes complex rules at that.
Rules ensure fair play, but they also give the athletes boundaries within which they can exercise and measure their skill. A boxing match without the boundaries of the Marquess of Queensbury rules would quickly descend into chaos and mayhem. Ears could be bitten off with impunity and below-the-belt blows would be a common occurrence. Mohammed Ali, Joe Frazier, and Rocky Marciano were great fighters, not because of their raw, uncontrolled violence or dirty punches, but because they knew how to fight within the rules and even use them to their advantage. Rules make the athlete and they make the game.
We live in an age that despises rules and strictures. We view them as an egregious violation of our unlimited freedom. The word “commandment” sends shutters down the spine of anyone steeped in postmodern ideology, for the dogmas of radical autonomy dictate that no-one anywhere can ever get in the way of what I want; no one can ever tell me no, even if I want to deny or manipulate the fundamental facts of reality.
Chesterton once quipped that, “We shall soon be in a world in which a man may be howled down for saying that two and two make four, in which people will persecute the heresy of calling a triangle a three-sided figure, and hang a man for maddening a mob with the news that grass is green.” Well, that day is no longer in the future. It is now.
Just as rules make the game, so they make a flourishing life in the world possible. We need boundaries to thrive and be our best selves. Radical autonomy, for all its allure, is ultimately a myth that ends only in anger, violence, and despair. You can call a stone a ball but it will still hurt when you kick it. You cannot fight reality and win.
Likewise in the moral life. Individuals today want to believe that morality is a fable designed to suppress their fun. Doing whatever we please is the sure road to happiness, we think. But just as in the physical world there are laws of action and reaction, so too they exist in the spiritual world. A disordered action will reap disordered results every time.
Yet, oblivious to this reality, most moderns are mystified when their disordered and immoral actions reap painful and unhappy results. Rather than examining whether or not our actions are the root cause of our suffering, we instead use our tremendous powers of science and technology to seek to eliminate the consequences of them. In doing so, however, we only create several new problems and things deteriorate further.
Since the beginning of her foundation by Jesus Christ, the Church has proclaimed moral teachings and given her children rules to follow. To an outsider, these may seem unnecessary and overly-complex. Yet, these commandments of the Church are nothing less than the rules of the game of life. The Church in her wisdom, like any good parent, knows that the human person must be told no from time to time for their own benefit.
There is, of course, a good reason for everything the Church teaches available to all those who inquire, and the Church’s teachings are hardly arbitrary. The ultimate goal of her commandments is not misery, not at all. It is nothing less than Beautitude—joy and happiness that never ends.
Western society, once Christian to its core, has utterly rejected and turned with violent hatred against the teaching of the Church. And yet we cannot figure out why we are suffering. Rather than realizing that maybe the Church was right all along, frustrated moderns blame the church and her teachings for their pain. If only the Church were eliminated, then we could enjoy our disorders with impunity. But just as in the physical world, the spiritual world operates on the law of action and reaction. Disordered actions reap disordered results. We cannot fight reality and win.
Rules are necessary for full human happiness. Rules make a game, and they make a man. Far from living a life of lawlessness, every truly happy man has embraced a creed and a code. He lives by commandments, not because he is a joyless prude, but because he knows that actions have consequences, and just as bad actions reap bad results, good actions bear fruit in joy and lasting peace.
You may be skeptical. The only way to know this for sure, however, is to test it and experience it for oneself. If you would find happiness and peace, reject lawlessness which only leads to misery and with humility embrace the embrace the creed and the commandments. For this is the path to lasting happiness, joy, and peace, both in this life and the next.