Welcome to the Catholic Newbie blog. My name is Lyn Mettler and I hope to share with you how I came from being a 30+ year non-believer to a Catholic convert. I was opposed to any sort of organized religion for most of my adult life but in 2011 had a dramatic change of heart. I became Catholic on Easter 2013, and I hope to daily share my thoughts, worries and hopes with you and others on the same journey.

One Convert’s Call for Catholics to Unify Instead of Divide in This Time of Trial

Calling all Catholics: Now is the time to be a saint, be JOYFUL, examine your own sinfulness and live your faith to the fullest.

Let us unify amidst this great trial and use it as a time to growth stronger and closer to God than ever! As a colleague of mine said, “prayer and fasting must be our mainstays.” And I fully agree.

I humbly beg you to avoid judging others, using inflammatory language and setting up divisions in our faith. We must stop creating sides and dividing among ourselves as “conservative” or “liberal” Catholics and as to whether we are with Pope Francis or not. This only makes a bad situation worse, in my opinion, and feeds the enemy whose goal is division.

Instead, let us keep our eyes on Jesus Christ.

9 Reasons Catholics Should Unify Instead of Divide in This Trial

Catholic Unity

Here are 9 reasons why this one unimportant Catholic convert from a small town in Indiana humbly believes we should stop the division and unify our Church:

1. Division is not of Christ.

As my parish pastor Father Dennis O’Keeffe said last week, “Division is NOT of Christ.” SO many of the Bible verses the first week of September from 1st Corinthians were about human knowledge and division — by chance? I think not.

Of course, be sure to read all these in their full context…

1 Corinthians 2:5 “… so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”

1 Corinthians 3:3-6 “While there is jealousy and rivaly among you, are you not of the flesh and walking according to the manner of man? Whenever someone says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ and another ‘I belong to Apollos,’ are you not merely men? 

“What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.” (Is this not what we are doing now: dividing ourselves as “I am with Pope Francis” or “I am not” or “Bring back Pope Benedict”? Are we not all together part of the ONE HOLY and CATHOLIC Church?)

1 Corinthians 3:18-19 “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God…” (Are we wise? Are we wiser than the Holy Spirit? I know I’m not!)

1 Corinthians 4:3-5 “It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal; I do not even pass judgement on myself; I am not conscious of anything against me, but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord. Therefore, do not make any judgement before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.” — Enough said!!

2. Like the Pope or not, he’s our Pope!

Catholic Church sex abuse crisis

I beg for the end of criticism and judgement of Pope Francis. Jesus Christ founded our Church on Peter, like him or not :).

As Catholics, we believe the Church rightly interprets, as guided by the Holy Spirit, when and how the Church should be organized, what it teaches and how it moves forward. This includes how the Pope is elected.

Pope Francis is VALIDLY elected according to Church teaching. He is here in this time and place for a reason.

Can we trust God on that? Or do we think we know better?

3.  It is not our place to judge the Pope.

It is not our job to judge the Pope. Is it our place to judge anyone lest we be judged? I think we should work on our own flaws first. Remember Matthew 7:5?

“You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your own eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”

Are anyone’s eyes “clear” enough to judge except God? But really this is about judging the Pope. In fact, the Catholic Code of Canon Law 1404 (Thank you to Tim Staples of Catholic Answers for this) says:

“The First See [Pope] is judged by no one.”

I am very bothered by everyone judging what Pope Francis should do in this situation with comments like:

  • He should say this
  • He should remove such and such
  • He should resign

I think it’s quite presumptuous to think we know better than he does.

I’m trusting Peter as led by the Holy Spirit.

If something criminal has taken place, it will be rooted out by Church officials. If a lapse in judgement has taken place, the Pope will ask forgiveness and we WILL forgive him. We are Christians, remember?

Here is a great discussion of the topic by Tim Staples on Catholic Answers LIVE on EWTN. Go to 23:38 and 51:40 to hear the relevant discussions. Please give it a listen! He says it way better than I ever could!

Staples comments, “It is not the place of Catholic lay people to call for the resignation of the Holy Father. It is our place to pray.”

4. Many of the accusations are from long ago.

St. John the Evangelist Church Indianapolis

As I understand it, most of the accusations being made of sexual abuse are from prior to changes that were made by the Church in and around 2002. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report spans 70 years.

Now, I know some corruption and cover up may have occured later where officials should have been removed, and I fully agree with the USCCB, which is calling for an impartial investigation by the laity to root out the problems here.

In fact, my bishop, Bishop Timothy Doherty of Lafayette, Indiana, who is the chair of the USCCB Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, says that American Catholic bishops are working on reform of policy and practice and is asking for a visitation from Rome and lay investigative experts from the United States.

But, in terms of the actual sexual abuse, let’s not forget that the Church has made great strides forward in reducing this terrible atrocity since 2002.

I know in my parish I could never imagine any child alone with a priest for ANY REASON whatsoever.

As a religious education teacher, I go through a rigorous training and background check, and it is very clear to me that I am NEVER to be alone with a child without another adult present.

Father Mike Schmitz gives his raw reaction in the video below to the Pennysylvania Grand Jury Report and says he’s never seen any such activity or hints of any activity as he went through seminary and now as a priest. He explains how if there was any hint of disordered tendencies in a seminarian the head of his seminary would NOT allow them to continue:

A newly-ordained (2018) priest at my parish, Father James De Oreo, reiterated in a homily the incredibly in-depth scrutiny he had to go through with multiple 800-question psychological questionnaires, in-person interviews and repeated background checks he took again and again as a seminarian.

This is not to say this scrutiny and prudence is definitely the case everywhere, but my point is that is that the corruption IS NOT everywhere as the media would make it seem.

A 2012 Washington Post article declared “The Catholic Church may be the safest place for children.”

It went on to say:

  • “Whatever its past record, the Catholic Church in the U.S. has made unparalleled strides in educating their flock about child sexual abuse and ensuring that children are safe in Catholic environments.”
  • “Allegations of new abuse cases continue to decline, as they have since 1980, and appear to reflect the effectiveness of some of the charter’s policies as well as ongoing efforts to increase screening of seminarians and to deal with suspected abusers before they claim multiple victims.”

5. This is not just a problem in the Catholic Church.

child in prayer

Don’t get caught up in all the media coverage leading you to believe this is a Catholic Church problem. It’s not. It’s a societal problem. But, of course, the media is focused on the Catholic Church, which gives the impression that it’s only Catholics who have this problem.

The same Washington Post article from above points out that other denominations from Baptist to Judaism are facing the same issues, as is the society at large with the scandals regarding the Penn State football team, USA gymnastics and even the Boy Scouts of America.

It’s a sad fact that when adults are allowed to be alone with children, some with disordered sexual tendencies are going to commit this horrific act. The world is sinful: teachers, parents, coaches, and yes, priests and bishops, too.

And this MUST BE one of the gravest of sins, as Jesus said in Matthew 18:10:

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

Lastly, please remember that just because some priests, bishops, etc. commited this crime, that doesn’t mean they all do. As Bishop Doherty said in a recent newspaper column:

“The bishops and priests who had no part in the evildoing are now suffering a humiliating aftermath. The men and women in religious orders who had no part in the evildoing are suffering.”

Please don’t blame them for the evil acts of others!

6. Catholics are called to obedience to Church teaching — and that means the Pope.

As Catholics we are to be obedient to Church teaching, which also calls us to obedience to the Pope. Vatican One documents declare “He [the Roman Pontiff] is the supreme judge of the faithful.

That does not mean we can’t have opinions that differ from Pope Francis (like the environment, etc.), but it DOES mean that on certain teachings we must adhere to what the Church tells us, which includes Pope Francis as our leader.

Pope Francis has said NOTHING infallibly and nothing heretical, as some try to assert. And none of his writings go against Church teaching.

I have also had people tell me recently that the Pope is not above other bishops. Church teaching says otherwise below.

Read these passages from Vatican One, Chapter 4, Paragraphs 8 and 9 (emphasis added):

8. Since the Roman Pontiff, by the divine right of the apostolic primacy, governs the whole Church, we likewise teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful [52], and that in all cases which fall under ecclesiastical jurisdiction recourse may be had to his judgment [53]. The sentence of the Apostolic See (than which there is no higher authority) is not subject to revision by anyone, nor may anyone lawfully pass judgment thereupon [54]. And so they stray from the genuine path of truth who maintain that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman pontiffs to an ecumenical council as if this were an authority superior to the Roman Pontiff.

9. So, then, if anyone says that the Roman Pontiff has merely an office of supervision and guidance, and not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church, and this not only in matters of faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government of the Church dispersed throughout the whole world; or that he has only the principal part, but not the absolute fullness, of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate both over all and each of the Churches and over all and each of the pastors and faithful: let him be anathema.

The Vatican from Rome

Furthermore, I encourage all to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church on this subject. Read 880-887 to see what it is has to say about the office of the Roman Pontiff, or Pope, including these passages:

For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered. (882)

The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head.” As such, this college has “supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff. (883)

Why do we believe Church teaching? Because we believe Jesus left Peter in charge of his Church until His return and sent the Holy Spirit to guide the Church in all things and “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Church teaching is the essence of our faith: trusting the Magisterium and Pope to interpret what Jesus taught and what the Holy Spirit would have us do.

Otherwise, we’re in the camp of each person figuring it out for themselves and we know how much error that causes.

7.  Jesus will not let Peter fall!

Again, credit to Tim Staples on this one, but remember when Peter tried to walk on water to Jesus and began to fall when he took his eyes off Jesus. What did Jesus do? He lifted him back up.

He won’t let Peter fall! Trust in the Holy Spirit that He will lead Pope Francis and defer to Pope Francis’ judgement that the Holy Spirit knows best.

8. Remember the parable of the wheat and the weeds.

Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds Wikimedia commons

Credit to Father De Oreo for this well-spoken point. The parable of the wheat and the weeds speaks of the fact that the weeds (sin) must grow alongside the wheat (holiness) lest the wheat be cut when also trying to remove the weeds.

Sin, horrible sin if the devil has anything to say about it, is going to always be with us: always has been, always will be.

Bishop Robert Barron had this to say about the parable of the wheat and the weeds:

“When we discover evil, it is always very tempting to go after it with both fists, to take it out. But the warning of the Master here is extremely important. Sometimes, our zeal can lead to far greater problems, precisely because of the way evil is related to the good.

“So what should we do? Let them grow side-by-side for the time being. At the end, at harvest time, the Master will separate them out.”

That’s not of course to say we shouldn’t stop criminals from harming children! But that perhaps once we do that, we leave it to Church leaders, of which there are MANY capable, intelligent, validly-elected bishops and cardinals, not just those involved in any cover-up and corruption, to sort it out.

9. Lead with joy, not judgement!

Mother Teresa Joy

By Manfredo Ferrari via Wikimedia Commons

Who wants to join a church that judges everyone? Not me!

Who wants to join a church that is arguing amongst itself? Not me!

Now more than ever, let us display our Christian joy! Think of Mother Teresa’s wonderfully joyful face in the midst of suffering.

We draw people to the faith by the witness of our lives, which should focus on joy and peace and not judgement and criticism and hatred and vitriol. There is never a time and place for any of this.

Don’t be the Internet troll who is nasty and mean, using vitriol and curse words to make your point. If you disagree, do so with respect, humility, prayer and kindness.

If we lose our joy, what do we have? Choose Joy!

Father Schmitz says now more than ever we must be the saints God has called us to be. Go forth and be a saint and let that be the difference maker in the world and its sinfulness!

This is just one convert’s humble opinion :).

And, go ahead and post your respectful comments below 🙂 I know they’re coming!

Spring Training with the Holy Spirit: How to Become Holy Spirit-Led

Spring Training with the Holy Spirit by @ACatholicNewbie

Just as baseball players head to spring training to practice and prepare for their upcoming season, might I suggest spring training for something a little different: being led by the Holy Spirit.

After Deacon Ralph Poyo lead my parish’s mission one year, the message that spoke directly to me was that we need to be a people and a parish that is led by the Holy Spirit. If we don’t ask for the Holy Spirit to guide us in all things, we will not become the vibrant, welcoming parish we desire and the saints we are meant to be.

For example, after the second evening of the mission when Deacon Ralph talked about spiritual warfare, I commented to him that I had dreamt about demons afterward. I asked him, “Is this something I should be worried about?” He said, “I’m not who you should be asking. Who should you be asking instead?” So I immediately replied that oh I should probably talk with our pastor. He said, nope! Then I realized I should be talking to God and he clarified that I should ask the Holy Spirit specifically. Light bulb moment!

The Challenge of Being Holy Spirit-Led

Living guided by the Holy Spirit is not easy, as it’s not how we usually live our life. Rather, we tend to think what do I want right now and how can I get it? Or what do my kids want and how can I get it for them?

But we have to relinquish that “me, me, me” self-centered way of life and change it to “He, He, He.” 🙂 That requires some serious spring training for all of us to get into spiritual shape!

What does it mean to live guided by the Holy Spirit? It means asking His guidance in all things. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember to throw the empty shampoo bottle in the shower into the recycling bin! So remembering to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance before all things? That’s going to take some practice with undoubtedly a few curve balls along the way.

If we want to live “Holy Spirit-led,” then we have to turn it into a habit; we’ve got to get to the point that it’s just a part of our “swing.” That means at least three weeks of doing this on a regular basis until it becomes ingrained in our day-to-day activity so we no longer have to exert effort to make it happen. That takes practice!

And not only do we have to remember to ASK, we have to remember to take time to LISTEN for His answers and then ACT on them. I pray everyday to Mary for the grace to better discern God’s will for me, to actually DESIRE His will for me and then to have the courage to DO His will for me.

Spring Training Exercises to be Holy Spirit-Led:

First, we have to have give the reigns of our lives over to God, allowing him permission to guide us. THEN here are some other ideas and suggestions…

  • Go to daily mass as often as you can and present your questions during mass
  • Spend some time in the Blessed Sacrament at the beginning or end of your day, lifting up your thoughts to the Holy Spirit
  • In the book “Walking with Purpose: Seven Priorities That Make Life Work” by Lisa Brenninkmeyer (Beacon Publishing, 2013), which is free on DynamicCatholic.com, she suggests taking some morning prayer time to do the following:
    • Using a journal, write a note to God/Holy Spirit about any worries, concerns or direction that you need.
    • Write down a list of what you need to pray for daily. She includes:
      • Help she needs in her relationship with God
      • Help in her marriage (or vocation)
      • Prayers for her children
      • Prayers for her home
      • Prayers for outside relationships (or anyone you feel called to pray for that day)
      • Prayer that God will be the priority in all things
      • You could also add prayer for work related items
    • Read the Bible – You can read the daily readings or follow a Bible Reading Plan like the one from the Coming Home Network. Look for answers from the Holy Spirit.
  • Before major discussions, emails and phone calls, stop and say a prayer for those involved and that God’s will be done.
  • Pray the Angelus at noon – Set a timer on your phone and stop and pray this short prayer in solidarity with others around the world.
  • Pray one of the Liturgy of the Hours – Download the Laudate app on your smart phone and stop and pray at 6 a.m., 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m., 6 p.m. or 9 p.m.
  • Pray your calendar each day. Stop and review your calendar, praying for each person you will meet or talk with that day.
  • Daily Reflection/Examination of Conscience – Matthew Kelly’s Dynamic Catholic offers a great Prayer Process you can complete upon the close of the day, examining what you did and did not do to be the best version of yourself, pray for others, thank God for what you are grateful for that day, etc.
  • Go to Reconciliation monthly, so you can properly “hear” the Holy Spirit rather than have Him be clouded out by sin, even little ones.
  • Receive the Eucharist as often as you can to continue to cleanse yourself of sin and receive grace from God.
  • Engage in spiritual reading and look for answers from the Holy Spirit.

After You Listen, Put What You Learned Into Practice

These exercises help us make time to ask and listen to the Holy Spirit, but then it’s time to ACT, which can be the toughest part.

You’re going to be out on the field, in front of everyone, putting into action all that you’ve learned in training and following the coach’s (Holy Spirit) orders even if you don’t like them.

The Holy Spirit puts me outside of my comfort zone all the time in what He asks of me. I have slowly adopted the attitude that it does not matter what others think, only what God thinks of what I am doing.

So, as an introvert, if I feel afraid to introduce myself to someone, that they might think I’m being too forward or strange, it doesn’t matter, or as embarrassment and anxiety creep in, I try to just let those feelings go.

I have to be at peace knowing that I was trying to do what God asked and know that He will be pleased no matter what anyone else may think — and even if I feel embarrassed or silly as a result (believe me, that happens most of the time!). That is truly all that matters.

Are you ready to be Holy Spirit-led? It’s critical if we want to become the saints God desires us to be. Let us let Him lead us to the Promised Land but first let the spring training begin!

3 Reasons Catholics Have Good Sex (Don’t Click Away Just Yet :))

Catholics are prudes, repressed, and think sex is a bad thing, right? Not so fast! Turns out Catholics may be having better sex than the rest of the world. Let me tell you why…

But first, no worries, this is not an inappropriate post. This is simply a look into God’s plan for sexuality, nothing offensive included. I promise :).

This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a long time, because I think it’s incredibly important for others to know what Catholicism teaches about sex and why it holds these teachings.  And, whaddayaknow, when you follow God’s plan, joy ensues! God is so smart ;-).

3 Reasons Why Catholics Have Good Sex

I truly believe that when you follow the Catholic Church’s teachings on sexuality, you will enjoy the best experiences of sexuality that God intended us to have. By holding to the act’s original purpose, living chastely, removing barriers and freely giving of yourself to one person, you will be living the life God has called you to, and you will experience the true “joy of sex.”

1.  Catholics hold to the act’s ultimate purpose: procreation.

Catholics remember the purpose of sexual relations. Guess what society? It’s not about making yourself “feel good” by whatever means and whenever you please. By divorcing sex from its purpose—procreation—we have created a whole range of problems in our world.

When you have sex only to feel good, it leads to objectification of women (heard much about that lately?), partners feeling used and worthless as only an object of pleasure, and frankly, it takes the fun out of it.

Remember in high school when you could only sneak alone time with a boyfriend or girlfriend on occasion? It wasn’t just an “anytime you feel like it” affair. When you have to restrict yourself from sexual activity, because it’s not a married relationship or your spouse isn’t available, the time you do have together is all the more appreciated.

When you open yourself to the act’s true purpose, to create children, that causes you to wait until you are ready for children, and, thus, removes fear from the act, as well. You can enjoy it in its fullness, because whatever the act produces, you’re ready.

Finally, this is why the Church teaches that acting on attractions to the same sex is not God’s plan. Those actions cannot result in children and so it is not God’s intention. That is THE purpose for sex and the act must be open to it.

The Church welcomes anyone who feels attracted to the same sex; they simply ask that you don’t act on it. Many people in this world have disordered desires that are not anyone’s fault. You simply have to learn not to act on them with the support of others and to go to confession when you do. If you experience these feelings, this may be God calling you to the vocation of the single life.

2.  Catholics take out selfishness.

When it comes to sex, Catholics aren’t selfish. Sexuality is, again, not about pleasing ourselves. Sure, God made it pleasureable because he wanted us to “be fruitful and multiply,” and if it wasn’t appealing, it probably wouldn’t happen—at least not enough.

We’re already seeing societies who have declining birthrates and what a scary situation that is. Have you watched “The Handmaiden’s Tale”? That’ll give you a taste of what society might be like if we are no longer fruitful.

Sexual selfishness=masturbation. Again, if you can please yourself, whenever and wherever you want, you decrease the joy you experience when enjoying the act together with your spouse, as it was meant to be. By avoiding self-pleasure, you also store up that sexual desire and energy that can be spent with your spouse instead of wasted on a selfish act because you want it “right now.” Anticipation is a joy in itself!

Cut masturbation out of your life and see if your sexual relations with your spouse don’t improve.

Pornography is another example of selfish sexuality (and much more than that). You desire to feel pleasure right now, so you turn on the computer and off you go. Save it for your spouse.

Covenant Eyes is a great program that helps you put barriers in place to prevent you from this sexual temptation. Please note the link to Covenant Eyes is an affiliate link for which I may earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking through; however, I only recommend products I know and love.

Here’s more about what I think Catholics Need to Know About Pornography.

Finally, abortion is the ultimate act of selfishness–what is convenient for me, me, me. While I understand the stresses and fear of unexpectedly becoming a parent, it is no justification for killing a human being. And again it divorces the act from its intention. If you can simply go “get rid of the baby” should you conceive one, the act becomes only about pleasing oneself.

3.  Catholics remove barriers like contraception, so men and women can fully give of themselves.

Catholicism Contraception - birth control pills

Catholicism’s teaching against contraception was definitely an issue I struggled with when joining the Church. I certainly understood the promotion of life and complete rejection of abortion, but why were birth control pills or condoms harmful?

The Church teaches that these methods put a barrier between the man and the woman. A husband and wife are a reflection of the Holy Trinity. Like the flow of love between God the Father and God the Son, Jesus, that fruitfully produces the Holy Spirit, so the flow of love between a husband and wife is meant to be fruitful with a child where God wills it.

When you put a barrier between that love, you stop God’s will from being done and from the possibility that it will be fruitful.

We co-operate with God in the creation of new life. It takes human effort—the sexual act between a man and a woman—partnering with God who grants that new life a soul to create a new human being. We cut God out of the equation when we limit sexual relations’ fruitfulness.

Also, I learned that birth control pills are actually classified as a carcinogen, meaning they cause cancer! Why would I want to put that in my body? And I also learned that the hormones you take in the pill thwart your desire for your spouse. That, too, is not part of God’s plan.

Stop with the pill—and all contraception—and again watch your sex life improve! This is reason No. 3 why Catholics are having good sex. 🙂

If you have a spouse who’s not up for getting rid of contraception, my advice would be to pray a novena to your favorite saint and then open a dialogue with your spouse and see what happens.

Additionally, if you do happen to conceive anyway when taking the pill, the hormones can keep the embryo from attaching to the uterine wall and thus abort the baby. What a horrifying thing that many women do not realize!

Catholics do teach a method that allows you to naturally avoid conception if you feel it’s not a good time for your family. If you’ve ever learned your fertility signals in an effort to HAVE children, you use the same signals to avoid conception. You simply avoid sexual relations the few days a month when your body is fertile.

When following the Church’s teaching, Catholics are open and free, enjoying their sexuality within a healthy committed married relationship—and I’m betting experiencing the best sex of anyone!

What do you think?

Of course, some men and women choose to give their sexuality as a gift to God in the imitation of Jesus, choosing to forgo sexual relations. What a wonderful—and abundantly fruitful—sacrifice!

Read More:

Praise First: Why You Should Start Your Daily Prayers With Praise

Daily Prayer Praise

Did you know you should start your prayer with praise to God? This was news to me after a friend shared this insight during a recent RCIA class in which I was assisting. But it makes sense, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t we acknowledge who God is and thus who we are in relation before we start rattling off our list of requests in our daily prayers?

Where does this idea come from? Let me share what I’ve learned, because it has already made a huge difference in my prayer, and thus, my life.

Please note this post contains some affiliate links to books for which I may earn a small commission — at no cost to you — to support A Catholic Newbie if you make a purchase after clicking through. I really appreciate you using my links!

The Lord’s Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer is how Jesus taught us to pray. It is the “perfect” prayer. And while we should definitely pray it word for word, it also offers us a model of HOW to pray. Guess what the Lord’s Prayer starts with? You got it: praise!

“Our Father, who art in Heaven, HALLOWED be they name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

THEN… we get to our petitions, as well as asking forgiveness for our sins.

The Praise Perspective

Putting praise first puts us in proper perspective in relation to God. God is God; we are not. In fact, the original sin of Adam and Eve and even the people at the tower of Babel was the desire to be like God.

Let’s recall how great is our Creator and recount the amazing deeds he has performed from building Creation from nothing and leading the people out of slavery in Egypt to raising up great kings like David and, of course, sending his only Son, Jesus Christ, to save us. Makes you feel small and humbled, doesn’t it?

And that’s the position we should place ourselves before petitioning God. As Mary says in the Magnificat, “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.” Let us find our lowliness before God. After all, this is why we kneel and prostrate ourselves before Him, as well.

Plus, doesn’t praise put you in an attitude of gratitude, as well? It helps you turn a negative countenance around into appreciating what you have and realizing the insignificance of your problems in comparison with God and his might. It might even help you find the good in your suffering — even if it’s just knowing there IS good even if you can’t see it.

As I have incorporated praise into my prayers, I have enjoyed recounting all the things God has done in my life. Too often, I forget these and don’t call them to mind. While anytime is a good time to praise God for his works in your life, it is especially helpful when you are facing difficulty. Just remembering that God has worked miracles in your life before increases your trust, faith and dependence on Him.

The Difference Between Praise and Thanksgiving

As soon as I learned about the practice of “praise first,” I asked, “Wait, how is that different than giving thanks?” Well, the two are very closely related, but you may consider giving thanks AFTER praising God.

In Jeff Cavin’s book, “Praise God and Thank Him: Biblical Keys for a Joyful Life,” he says that praise is focusing on God and his attributes, while thanksgiving is focusing on the “works” of God. So praise might be focusing on God’s power, magnificence, holiness, justice, love, mercy and might, while thanksgiving might be more aligned to thanking God for the good things you have in your life and even the difficult situations you are facing, knowing that they are part of His plan.

Putting It Into Practice

Catholic prayer

So how exactly do you praise God? It sounds simple, but if you’ve never done it, it can certainly feel awkward :).

At first, it may be easiest to start by reading a Bible verse that is praising God to give you the feel for what proper praise should be. You might also bring to mind different parts of the Mass — which is FULL of praise if you listen — that you can pray, like the Gloria, the “Holy, Holy, Holy” and, of course, the Psalms. Eventually, you will be able to form your own words of praise with a little practice.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • The Psalms were written as praises to God; start by reading a Psalm and then interpret it afterward in your own way as praise to God.
  • Praise Jesus in his many titles: King of Kings, The Christ, Holy One of God, Savior of the World, Divine Mercy, etc.
  • Praise God for what he has done for his people over all time: Creating Adam and Eve; forgiving us; raising up prophets, judges and kings to guide us; sending his only Son to save us; leading the people out of slavery in Egypt; leading the Israelites out of exile again and again. If you don’t know much about the Old Testament, now might be a great time to learn! I highly recommend “Bible Basics for Catholics” and “New Testament Basics for Catholics” both by John Bergsma as unintimidating and easy reads about the Bible. Read my post on why I think every Catholic should read “New Testament Basics for Catholics.”
  • Pray a “rosary of gratitude” (give praise for something on each bead of the rosary; read more in Patti Armstrong’s article on “The Power of Gratitude to Transform Suffering“)
  • Praise God for Creation and the beauty of nature you see around you — or have seen when traveling.
  • Praise Him for his many great saints who he has raised up to show us how to live as holy human beings.
  • Praise Him for the Trinity, the Holy Spirit and Jesus.
  • Praise Him for the Bible.
  • Praise Him for His Church.
  • Praise Him for his Mother Mary.
  • Praise Him for our difficult situations and the graces they will bring.
  • Pray the Magnificat; it is a wonderful prayer of joyous praise to God as spoken by Mary, the Mother of God.
  • Pray Hannah’s prayer (1 Samuel: 2).
  • Sing the Gloria!

What Should We Do After Praise?

So you’ve praised God — good for you! Now, you are ready to progress through the rest of your daily prayers. What I like to do next is spend time thanking God for all the good things he has done in my life and for the bad, as well.

According to Michael Scanlan, T.O.R., in his booklet, “Appointment With God,” after praise, we should spend time in the Bible reading the Word of God. Perhaps you can read the Catholic Church’s Daily Readings, read a Psalm or follow a Bible reading plan. But whatever you do, read the passage several times and pray to God to ask what He wants you to understand from the reading. Sit with it for a bit. Put yourself in the scene, imagine your reaction, pay attention to the words and phrases that stand out to you and ask how they relate to your life.

Next, he says to spend some time in repentance. Lay out for God what you have done wrong and what you could have done better. Ask for help in the areas where you are struggling. Of course, going to Reconciliation regularly, as well, should be a part of your prayer life.

Then, it’s time to get to your petitions, but Scanlan recommends praying for others first, especially those whom you are having trouble forgiving. He suggests praying: “Holy Father, may you pour out your Holy Spirit out upon [NAME]. Please make them as holy and happy as possible even if they are holier and happier than I am.” Then, you can get to your requests. But, again, sit in quiet for a bit to see if God plants an idea in your mind or speaks to you in some way.

Finally, if you’ve determined an action or two God wants you to take, make haste like Mary when she headed to the hill country to her cousin Elizabeth after the Angel Gabriel spoke to her. Don’t waste time. Get to it, my friend!

Making Time for Praise in Your Daily Prayers

According to Scanlan, we need to “book” a time with God to pray every day. We all know that, don’t we? But we don’t really do it. Do you want to be more at peace? Do you want to see the power of God working in your life? Do you want God to guide you? Then put God on your calendar FIRST. I know you can do it!

I recently incorporated a daily morning walk into my routine to improve my health and decided this was an ideal time to praise God. I now call it my “praise walk” :). As often as I can, I attend daily mass and have decided to spend 10-15 minutes in our Blessed Sacrament Chapel in the presence of Jesus in prayer. I often pray for others first (ask God WHO you should pray for and HOW you should pray for them; he’ll tell you if you listen!), then lay before God a question on my heart and listen for the answer.

Then at different times throughout the day, such as when taking the dog for a walk or in the shower, I try to pray the rosary along with several other prayers that are important to see. Read my post on “11 Ways to Work the Rosary Into Your Busy Day.”

Praising God is truly what we were designed to do. He made Man on the sixth day of Creation, always pointing toward the Sabbath — and the worship and praise of God — on the seventh day. If we but fall in line with our Creator’s design for us, we can live an infinitely more fulfilling life by growing closer to God and becoming better equipped to become the saints he desires for us to be.

Do you put praise first in your prayer? How has it impacted your prayer life?

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