How Do I Grow in Holiness This Lent?

Have you hit a wall in growing in holiness? For a long time I feel that I have.

Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t know how to overcome this, but then I discovered an old practice that all the saints partook in to help them grow close to God.

A Reader Hits a Spiritual Wall

I’ll share it with you below, but first this question from a reader, who emailed me a year ago echoing my own struggle:

I’m a Catholic convert, going on about 10 years now. I think what has been a continual struggle for me as I grow deeper in the faith is the question “how do I grow in virtue?

I come from a Calvinistic background. We focused a little bit on “discipleship,” but there was no concept of holiness, growing in holiness, disciplining the flesh. When one believes in the “once saved, always saved” mentality, growing in virtue or doing good deeds are not necessities, but secondary in importance. (At least in my experience.)

Anyway, as a Catholic, I do lots of spiritual reading, participate in the sacraments, especially Confession, as much as I can. This helps, and I know this is a lifelong process. But, I have yet to really find out the best steps or a systematic way to grow in holiness, or the virtues, as a serious Catholic.

I know a life of penance and fasting regularly certainly helps also, whether it’s Lent, Fridays, Advent, special fasts or intentions or penances. For those of us who are (hopefully) not in serious sin, but trying to do our best, I just don’t know how to go to the next level. I don’t know how to get beyond the same level in the spiritual life of not being in mortal sin, but not being a model of virtue either. I just feel at a loss, even when I ask priests. I have never gotten a practical answer.

Amen! I could have asked this same question. And for a year, I didn’t have an answer for this reader.

Then I watched this video:

Meditation? Hmm, I’ve heard of it, read about it, have no clue how to do it.

Meditation: What Is It?

Quite simply, meditation is a form of prayer where you focus your mind for a period of time on some attribute of God, Christ, His Church, etc.

For instance, you could spend 10 minutes meditating in silence on God’s goodness, or His omnipotence, or His omniscience, or Christ’s life on earth, His Passion, the marks of the Church, and so on.

It will be hard at first. You may only make it through five minutes. You may have to go into a completely quiet room or church to block out distractions. Your mind may jump around everywhere to worries, tasks you need to do, or fears, but you simply train it back to your topic of meditation.

This is not Eastern Mysticism, Buddhist meditation, centering prayer, or anything like that. It is an ancient Catholic practice of prayer.

Meditation: A Key to Growing in Holiness

Why meditate? Fr. Ripperger answers that question above: one cannot become as holy as God wills without meditation. The saints all meditated (and ascended to higher levels of prayer). One cannot conquer venial sin without meditation, a claim I had never heard before!

Meditation is the gateway to deeper forms of prayer, but you can’t bypass it. Years ago I read books by St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila–two saints considered geniuses on prayer–but it was too deep for me. I couldn’t understand, practically, how to meditate and begin to penetrate into the inner levels of the Interior Castle.

In Fr. Ripperger’s talk he lays out very practical, simple ways to meditate. Sit or kneel in silence for as long as you are able meditating on some truth of the Catholic Faith. Your goal should be 15 minutes of meditation. For me that means about 7 minutes in the morning and 8 in the evening, but I’m working up to more.

Why Haven’t We Been Told About Meditation?

I have asked priests; the reader who emailed me had asked a priest. None could answer the simple question of how to grow in holiness. None recommended meditation.

Why? Were they hiding this secret?

No, I think that most priests don’t know about meditation. Like so many traditional practices, it has been largely forgotten.

It was only through my wife finding this video on YouTube and sharing it with me did I find a straightforward explanation of meditation and why it is valuable.

What I love about this new-to-me practice is that it is not mysterious or secret or even very difficult: you kneel, you quietly pray and meditate on a truth of God. 

This is basic meditation. You will grow closer to God through it.

Are you looking for a way to grow in holiness this Lent? Commit to meditating for 15 minutes per day, either in the morning, at night, or splitting it up into two sessions.

Sainthood here we come.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Novenas?

When my friend Chad and I wrote Pray the Catholic Novena app, we didn’t know what to expect.

Would Catholics use the app?

Would they pray novenas with it?

Four months later, the verdict is in, and it’s a decided YES on both counts!

Novenas for Apple

Like a true “startup”, Chad and I wrote the app for iPhones and iPads. No sense in duplicating the effort onto Android before we knew whether or not people would like the app.

The Three Hail Marys novena
The Three Hail Marys novena

But we now have one thousand Catholics praying novenas each day using the app, and many many times that number using the app each month.

I myself pray more novenas than I ever have. Once we finish a novena using Pray, my wife immediately asks: “Okay, which novena do you want to pray next?”

But only Apple device users are able to pray. My friends who have Android smart phones and tablets have been out of luck.

At least til now…

Bring the Pray App to Android

I’ve started a crowdfunding campaign to raise the money to port Pray to Android.

It’s only been going for a day but already we have over 11% funded. Indiegogo, the platform we are using, told us that campaigns that get over 10% funded in less than a day almost always reach their funding goal.

Novenas to pray
Novenas to pray

We need your help though.

We need you to consider making a contribution–several levels are possible beginning at $5–and as a reward I am offering many “perks” for your generosity.

But beyond the perks you get, you will be helping tens of thousands of Catholics around the world pray novenas and grow in their faith.

People have contacted me through the app telling me that this is the first novena they have ever prayed, that this is the first novena they have ever completed, that they are learning about the saints through it and growing in their faith in God.

The app is free on iPhones and will be free on Android. My friend Chad and I spent all the money and did all the work ourselves for $0 to write the app.

But we don’t have endless time on our hands. Both of us have families and young children and professional jobs as software developers.

So check out our campaign, say a prayer for us, make a donation, and share the campaign on facebook with your friends.

Here it is –>

God bless!

The Book of Hebrews is Catholic

Just ask Shane Kapler.

Hebrews is one of the most interesting and challenging books of the New Testament.

  • Protestants use it to claim Catholicism is disproven
  • The book’s authorship has been debated for thousands of years
  • The book was not accepted as Scripture in many places for hundreds of years
  • Martin Luther, while thinking it a fine book, put it in his infamous appendix to the “truly inspired” books of the NT

Hebrews Is Catholic

Shane Kapler has done us a great service that rebuts the first bullet point. In his new book, The Epistle to the Hebrews and the Seven Core Beliefs of Catholics, Kapler illuminates this challenging book and demonstrates how it actually supports the distinctive doctrines of the Catholic Church!

Specifically, Kapler shows how the book is harmoniously interpreted to support the doctrines of:

  1. The Holy Trinity
  2. Jesus’ full humanity
  3. The Word of God (both written and unwritten)
  4. Salvation
  5. The communion of saints
  6. The Eucharist
  7. The authority of the Church’s ordained leaders

For example, taking the seventh doctrine of authority of Church leaders, Hebrews 13:17 says:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with sighing—for that would be harmful to you.

What’s fascinating about this passage is the problem it presents for Protestants.

corebelWho, exactly, are the Church leaders under Protestantism that should be obeyed and submitted to? This is far from an idle question: it is instead a dilemma for Protestants that is unanswerable.

Is the pastor at First Baptist someone I must submit to? What if I leave because I think he’s wrong about X doctrine, and instead I go to Second Baptist?

Or is the Methodist pastor the legitimate authority the Bible commands me to submit to? Or the Presbyterian one? Which Presbyterian denomination? Or maybe it’s the Anglicans, or one of the splits from the Anglicans? Or maybe you start your own church and now you are a leader people have to submit to!

This passage alone from Hebrews demonstrates the impossibility of Protestantism to be God’s design, for there is no way to follow this clear directive found in Scripture.

Deep Learning

I am always amazed by the scholarship and insights that Shane Kapler has in his books. He has done powerful research and made it accessible to the Catholic layman by explaining in plain language how Hebrews is Catholic.

In particular Kapler delves into the deep Jewish roots that lie beneath the teachings of Hebrews and shows how they perfectly square with Catholicism’s teachings. I’ve been dimly aware of some of these connections but, like a book by Scott Hahn, Kapler maps them all out with great clarity and depth.

Just this week I was asked a series of questions by one of my readers about the book of Hebrews and the often confusing study notes in the New American Bible on key passages. The answer was simple: buy Kapler’s new book on the Epistle to the Hebrews and all those questions are solved. Done, son!