Spiritual Strength Training

Spiritual Strength Training

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Combat Ready

RCMCrossCrownWhitelogocropWhether it’s a Navy SEAL or a Saint, we admire those who put it all on the line — go “all in!” — those who are totally dedicated to the mission. In the military, this dedication is revealed in the Warrior Ethos, four simple lines embedded in the Soldier’s Creed:

  • I will always place the mission first.
  • I will never accept defeat.
  • I will never quit.
  • I will never leave a fallen comrade.

Sustained and developed through discipline, commitment, and pride, these four lines motivate every soldier to persevere and, ultimately, to refuse defeat. What would happen if we dedicated ourselves to the training and mission of Jesus Christ with the same intensity?

This Special Forces Training will test you in your resolve to become strong in the Lord and His mighty power. You will learn the special operations (special ops) techniques and procedures for search and rescue missions of fallen comrades (those who have become weak in their faith). Although rarely wielded by the Catholics today, this supernatural strength and these techniques are truly authentic gifts of the Church that are field-tested and battle-hardened. We must commit ourselves to their restoration if we ever hope to stem the tide of evil and rescue our lost loved ones who may be destined for eternal damnation.

 

Spiritual Strength Conditioning

Go Weapons Hot

“Go Weapons Hot” is a military command that means to make whatever preparations are necessary so that when you pull the trigger, something happens. In spiritual terms, are we using live ammunition or are we firing blanks? In other words, are we making the preparations necessary to ensure that our efforts to combat evil and rescue souls are ignited by the supernatural grace of God? The word “Hot” (“Go Weapons Hot”) gives us an excellent acronym for understanding how we are best predisposed to receive the free offer of God’s supernatural grace: H.O.T. = Humility, Obedience, Trust. We simply must learn that, once we are humble enough to do things “God’s Way,” we can trust that He will pour out His grace upon us. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

This may be easier said then done. As Eric Sammons rightly points out in this excellent article, The Benedict Option: Not for the Faint of Heart, we have had 50 years of “Flabby Catholicism” that has left us quite unprepared to face the challenges ahead:

“As a generation that has mostly faced, at worst, nothing but “soft persecution” in the midst of material plenty, we have grown flabby. We live in a Church of felt banners, insipid homilies, and tolerance for sin. One of the primary traditional means to strengthen our spiritual life – mortification – is no longer practiced; in fact, it is ridiculed as a relic of a bygone era. For most of us, just the basic fasting the Church requires on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday is considered a high hurdle. Is this really the generation that can joyfully endure a true persecution, in which our jobs, our freedom, even our children are on the line?”

Resistance Training

So, how do we strengthen our spiritual muscles that have atrophied from a lifetime of neglect and flabby Catholicism? Eric Sammons points to our first pope for counsel:

Therefore gird up your minds, be sober, set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct (1 Peter 1:13-15)

As obedient children, we are called to be holy. That’s right, it begins with obedience. This is why we cannot begin to strengthen our spiritual muscles without first looking at “resistance training” … resisting “the passions of your former existence,” and giving way to “God’s Favored Ways.” Theologically, we refer to this as mortification, which means, putting the flesh to death. We tear down the flabby (self-centered) flesh, and replace it with strong (God-centered) spiritual muscles.

Through the lives of many saints, God has revealed and elevated a treasure chest of beautiful prayers, penances and devotions. Holy Mother Church utilizes these prescribed acts of obedience as an occasion to teach and strengthen her children (“spurs us to works of devotion, penance, and charity” CCC 1478). In other words, when we look at each of the indulgenced good works and prayers granted to us, as well as the conditions necessary for obtaining them, we see that these acts and conditions are the favored ways in which God desires us to grow in holiness, confront evil, and rescue souls.

Again, this is the “resistance training” so necessary to build our spiritual muscles … we are resisting the need to do “anything we so desire,” (even within our faith lives), and allowing ourselves to be led by those ways God has revealed and elevated through centuries of inspired teaching.

So, what are indulgences? “A plenary indulgence heals all of the effects of one person’s sins. A partial indulgence heals part of the effects. One can win indulgences only for oneself or those in purgatory who have need of assistance because they currently lack bodies. Indulgences cannot be applied towards other living persons. Every living person is supposed to do his own acts of obedience to help heal the worldly effects of his own sinfulness” (CCC 1471-1473).

Requirements for obtaining a plenary indulgence:

  • Do the work while in a state of grace
  • Receive sacramental confession within 20 days of the work (several plenary indulgences may be earned per reception)
  • Receive Eucharistic communion (one plenary indulgence may be earned per reception of Eucharist)
  • Pray for the pope’s intentions (an Our Father and Hail Mary, or other appropriate prayer, is sufficient)
  • Have no attachment to sin (even venial) — i.e., the Christian makes an act of the will to love God and despise sin.

Requirements for a partial indulgence:

  • Do the work while in a state of grace
  • Have the general intention of earning an indulgence

Be God’s ‘Qualified’ Contender

Consider the conditions required for obtaining a plenary indulgence. If our state in life allows it, the ideal is to obtain one plenary indulgence every day (Mother Church offers one plenary indulgence, and only one, each day). By setting the following conditions, Holy Mother Church is teaching that these conditions reveal what is a rock solid foundation for the interior life:

  • Sustain and guard your state of grace
  • Go to Confession frequently (at least once a month)
  • Hear Daily Mass and receive Communion (which means you must be in a state of grace)
  • Prayer support for our leader (pope)
  • Free from the slavery of unresolved sin

Like athletes or soldiers dedicated to their training, these “conditions” are our way of maintaining sound spiritual strength conditioning, empowering us to be the qualified contenders God can trust for His missions to battle dark forces and rescue souls … “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much …” (Luke 16:10). Apart from these basic “conditions,” we are spiritually weak and flabby, and God is unlikely to choose us for His missions or bless our endeavors. We are, in essence, sidelined (benched) until we desire to choose His fundamental conditions to get in good spiritual shape.

The ‘Big Four’

By elevating certain prayers and good works to the level of gaining an indulgence, Mother Church is identifying which of these she most highly values and, therefore, which ones she urges us to prioritize … this is a test of our willingness to obey; to do it God’s Way.

However, we must draw special attention to what I call the “Big Four.” Remarkably, Holy Mother Church has elevated only four activities for which a plenary indulgence can be gained on any day (though, as we said, only once a day). Highlighting these four reveals the great esteem in which Mother Church holds them and, therefore, she urges us to rank these as highest among our daily devotions.

The “Big Four” are:

  • Adoring the Blessed Sacrament for at least one half hour
  • Devoutly reading Sacred Scripture for at least one half hour
  • Devoutly performing the Stations of the Cross (only at approved Stations)
  • Reciting the Rosary with members of the family, or in a church, oratory, religious community, or pious association

The great significance of the “Big Four” is that Mother Church has provided a way for us to gain that one plenary indulgence every day for ourselves or for a poor soul in purgatory. This then raises the question: Why would we squander this incredibly generous gift? Why wouldn’t we accept Mother Church’s gracious provision and seek this plenary indulgence every day? Why would we choose to turn our backs on this test of our willingness to obey? Again, resistance training means resisting our own way, and giving way to God’s way. Do this, and you will become spiritually strong, in God’s grace.

Building Your Holy Alliance

As we build our spiritual muscles, we must also recruit spiritual battle buddies … comrades who have each other’s “Six” (backs) at all times. “Never Leave A Fallen Comrade” (one of the basic pillars of the Warrior Ethos).

How many of us had grandparents who had their stack of holy cards in their prayer book? These favorite saints were their friends, their prayer warriors! How many of our ancestors knew to pray for the holy souls in purgatory, especially the souls of family and friends? The holy souls would then, in deep gratitude, return many prayers for those who cared to pray for them. This is why our ancestors never faced evil alone or prayed for anything or anybody alone — they had their comrades in the heavenly realm, their Holy Alliance of saints and holy souls, with them at all times. The devil never stood a chance against this united force!

What’s stopping us from building upon the great example of our ancestors who called upon the saints to pray with them for the poor souls in purgatory? If they invoked (recruited) their handful of favorite saints, what’s stopping us from building an enormous personal Holy Alliance of saints (as we learn about each one) by recruiting a new saint each day to pray with us?

This means that on day one that you begin this practice of praying with a saint for a holy soul in purgatory, you grow from a force of one (just you) to a force of three (the saint you chose, the holy soul you prayed for, and you). On day two, you will add another saint and holy soul to your personal Holy Alliance, and grow to a force of five. And so on. Keep a diary to record your growing Holy Alliance.

Different units and formations organize the military. It’s interesting to think that, as our Holy Alliance grows, it will be akin to these military units:

Your Holy Alliance:

Fire Team: 2-4
Squad: 8-13
Platoon: 26-55
Company: 80-225
Battalion: 300-1,300
Regiment: 3,000-5,000
Division: 10,000-15,000

On day one, you will move out on your missions with your “Fire Team” and, within five months, you could have a “Battalion” of Holy Souls and Saints in your own personal Holy Alliance!

 

I Will Never Leave a Fallen Comrade

So, here is the plan for our daily “special ops mission” of search and rescue:

Step One (as seen above in “Building Your Holy Alliance”):

RCMFMSaintsChoose a Saint and Holy Soul. First, choose a deceased loved one for whom you wish to pray into heaven. This can be a great nudge to get you to explore your family tree. Now, choose a saint to pray with you for your deceased loved one. You might choose a saint that was your loved one’s favorite saint, or you might pick the patron saint of fishing because your loved one liked to fish, or possibly the saint whose feast it is that day. This devotion is a great opportunity to take the time to learn about each saint you are recruiting for your personal Holy Alliance. These days, that’s as simple as a quick Internet search to read a paragraph or two about your new recruit. (The picture here is from my Church Militant Field Manual. Pages 99-106 offer pages for keeping track of saints and holy souls. This is also available in my Church Militant Field Journal)

Step Two (as seen above in “Building Your Holy Alliance”):

Pray with your saint for your holy soul in purgatory by choosing one of the “Big Four” (Rosary, Stations, Scripture, or Adoration) that allow for a plenary indulgence. Be sure the conditions are present for receiving a plenary indulgence (see conditions above). If not, offer a partial indulgence that day for your holy soul in purgatory. (But always try your best to earn that one plenary indulgence offered each day.) Having offered an indulgence for a deceased loved one, that holy soul in purgatory now becomes a “grateful” holy soul who will now offer his/her prayers for you (That holy soul is now in your personal alliance).

Step Three (Stealth Evangelization):

RCMJournal“Never Leave A Fallen Comrade.” After completing this indulgenced prayer, ask today’s grateful holy soul, today’s saint, and all those in your Holy Alliance to join you as you all pray together a Divine Mercy Chaplet for a living loved one you believe needs to receive God’s grace to grow in faith, hope, and love — who, in some ways, is caught in the clutches of worldliness, or a loved one you desire to receive more grace. (The picture shows the journal available in my Church Militant Field Manual on pages 90-97. Also, the Church Militant Field Journal offers pages several for these entries). You can aways create your own journal by viewing this picture and creating the same columns in your homemade “Search and Rescue Journal.”

Another Powerful Secret Weapon Prayer

In her diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Saint Faustina Kowalska recorded that she received a private revelation regarding intercessory prayer from Jesus who told her to “Call upon My mercy on behalf of sinners; I desire their salvation. When you say this prayer, with a contrite heart and with faith on behalf of some sinner, I will give them the grace of conversion. You could pray this prayer in your heart (stealth) when you are in the company of someone in need of conversion. This is the prayer:

“O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You” (Diary, 186-187).


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