The Catolic Secular Forum

A Guide to Documenting Your Walk With God

Keeping a Spiritual Journal is not complicated, and is definitely a very rewarding endeavor. One may keep a spiritual journal to record inspirations that they have received from God or simply to record their daily thoughts about their spiritual journey. Lost in the complexities of life, it is easy to miss God’s still small voice or His progressive intentional work within our lives. A spiritual journal is a great way to quiet one’s heart and focus on God’s voice. A spiritual journey is progressive, and at times, it may seem as though little progress has been made. When one feels pessimistic about their spiritual progress, perusing through the daily entries of one’s journal may reveal that in fact, over time, they have made tremendous progress. On the other hand, when one is being complacent in their walk with God, a journal may reveal this to them as well. For those wanting to be more intentional with their spirituality, the article below will inform on how to keep a spiritual journal. 

Equipment Needed

Keeping a spiritual journal is not an expensive commitment. In fact, all one needs is a pen or pencil, a book, the word of God, and some quiet time to meditate and journal. Although any writing book will do, it is highly advisable to invest in a durable one. The reason is that a spiritual journal is something of value, and it should last a long time. In fact, many authors have had their personal journal’s published as books! Moreover, in as much as we should not judge a book by its cover, one’s journal ought to look pleasing. It should reflect the value and importance you attach to your spiritual journey. Most importantly, it should reflect one’s individuality. If one is to buy a journal, chose one with patterns that are pleasing, or perhaps a favorite color. 

The choice of writing utensil is also highly personal. A simple individual may find a black pen or pencil to be sufficient. On the other hand, a flamboyant personality may want to use many colors, highlighters, etc.

Lastly, being a spiritual journal, one should have a bible at hand when journaling. Journaling is introspective and meditative. In this process, God may speak to you through a verse in the Bible. 

Structuring the Journaling Process

There are very many ways of structuring one’s spiritual journal and none of them are wrong, as long as they keep to the purpose of the spiritual journal. Even so, two methods that have worked for many, are highlighted below. The first is more structured and the second is more free-form. Depending on one’s personality, either may be a great fit.

S.O.A.R

The first method can be described using the acronym SOAR. It stands for scripture reading, observation, application and response in prayer. The first step in this method is scripture reading. One may choose to read a passage that was preached on the previous Sunday, that will be preached on the next, or may simply choose to concentrate on a particular theme in the Bible. The second step is observation. Observation simply refers to meditating upon the word asking oneself what God is trying to tell them in the scripture. The third step is that of application, where one puts the word of God into their life’s context. The last step is that of response in prayer. In this step, one asks God to help them remember lessons from the scripture or to guide them in applying the scripture to their lives. These steps are documented in the spiritual journal. 

Free-Form

The second method is more free-form, but still maintains a bit of structure, to help maintain the theme of the spiritual journal. The first two pages of each journaling process should be a thanksgiving page, a prayer intention page, and a prayer goal page. The thanksgiving page recognizes blessings small and large that one has received on that day. The prayer intention page sets out the prayer goals for that session. Could be that one intends to intercede for believers facing persecution or the vulnerable. Could be that one wishes to pay attention to the sacraments.

The pages that follow are free-form. One is free to document any thought they experience about their spirituality.

A Word of Encouragement

Journaling is a skill. As you consistently journal, God’s love for you will begin to unfold in those pages. Where you started with one journal, you will now have many thought filled journals documenting your walk with God. As you journal your spiritual journey, who your purpose in Christ will be unveiled before your eyes. 

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Catholic Hymns for Times of Fear and Uncertainty

We live at a time where many still seek to persecute us. Be it be the Boko Haram in Nigeria or other religious extremists, the Catholic faith still faces opposition. This year’s Easter season is one such example. On April 21, 2019, more than 200 people lost their lives during a series of attacks targeted at Catholic faithful in the country. It is sad but should come as no surprise. In 2 Timothy 3:12, Saint Timothy tells us that those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Nevertheless, we should remember that we can always call upon God during these times of fear and uncertainty. When afraid and anxious, singing the hymns below may help quiet your worries, and make you steadfast in the Lord.

Be Not Afraid by Bob Dufford

Through the years, this hymn has been sung during times of fear and grief. Whether to comfort dying relatives or in times of uncertainty, the message in this song, that we should not be afraid for the Lord always goes before us, has served to strengthen many. 

The hymn was written by Father Bob Dufford in 1972, before his ordination. He wrote it at a time of great anxiety, for he did not know what lay ahead of him, as a priest. Father Dufford gained inspiration for the hymn, from the Annunciation. By relating to Mary, who was also in great fear when an Angel came to her and told her she would give birth to Jesus, he came up with the theme. The words of the Angel to Mary “Do not be Afraid” are the inspiration for the hymn.

Thus, when we find ourselves in times of fear and uncertainty as the faithful in North Korea are , the hymn Be not Afraid will remind us that the Lord is still with us.

Be Still My Soul by Catharina von Schlegel

Though little is known about the composer, the words of the hymn are extremely moving. When in persecution, one may feel isolated and alone. Be Still My Soul is a great hymn for the persecuted. 

By singing this hymn, we remind ourselves that even when dearest friends depart and we find ourselves alone, the Lord will forever remain on our side. The song calms and reassures us by reminding us that in times of sorrow and fear, the Lord shall soothe and comfort us. It tells us that the time is coming when disappointment, grief, and fear shall be no more and we shall finally meet the Lord, as He promised.

Nearer My God to Thee by Sarah Flower Adams

There are few hymns that are more emblematic of times of fear and uncertainty than this. The hymn was inspired by Joshua’s encounter with God in the book of Genesis 28, wherein he called upon the Lord after a frightening dream. 

Perhaps the most memorable occasion when this song was used, was during the sinking of the Titanic. Amidst the chaos, fear, and confusion Wallace Hartley the ship’s bandleader, played this song to calm and reassure the passengers.

When afraid and in doubt, when darkness surrounds us, this song reminds us to call upon the Lord, our salvation.

It is Well With My Soul by Horatio Spafford

This hymn was written at a time of great suffering and loss. Its author Horatio was a believer in times of great pain and sorrow. His trials started with the death of his son and the Great Chicago Fire that ruined his businesses in 1871. Two years later, on a ship bound for England, he lost all four of his daughters to a shipwreck. It is out of these events that Horatio wrote: When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say; It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Horatio’s hymn can be used during times of sorrow and persecution, to remind us to fix our eyes upon the Lord, and remain faithful.

Message from the Hymns

A common theme in all the hymns above is that in times of trouble, as Catholics we should know where to seek for help. As Christians, when in doubt, in fear, when persecuted and when uncertain, we must seek the Lord, our salvation.

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Catholic Repression in China

Although the Communist Party of China has always sought to suppress religion, the last few years have witnessed the worst wave of persecution since the days of Mao’s cultural revolution. Aided by more capable state control mechanisms and technology, China is taking its persecution of Christians to new heights. In today’s wave of repression, many more churches are being shut down and churchgoers detained. In those that remain, the government is utilizing facial recognition surveillance to monitor the congregation of believers. More disturbing is the fact that the state is planning to rewrite the word of God to conform to its communist ideology. Despite these troubling developments, a voice of hope can still be heard as the Catholic Church stands with its faithful in China.

Repression Through Technological Control

Among China’s new high-tech tools of control are a facial recognition surveillance system and a social credit application. Churches all around China have been fitted with a 24-hour CCTV system that some say is capable of facial recognition. The largest church in Beijing was shut down last year after its pastor refused an order allowing face-recognition cameras to be installed in his pulpit. Moreover, China is discouraging religion through a social credit app dabbed ‘Study the Great Nation.’ Among its many functions, is a scoring system that ranks citizens according to their loyalty to the communist party and its ideals. Subscribing to the Catholic faith detracts from one’s social credit. If one’s credit gets too low, they cannot access permission to leave the country. 

Churches Shut Down, Believers Detained

There are two forms of the Catholic Church in China. One includes the unofficial, underground Catholic churches and the other is the Patriotic Church that is controlled and sanctioned by the government. Many of the more than 10000 underground churches in China have already been shut down. In others, there are reports that crosses are being dismantled and in some cases replaced with portraits of President Xi. Government sanctioned churches have also not been spared. The Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Henan (which is approved by the government) had its priest detained and defrocked. Catholic Bishop Peter Shao Zhuminof Wenzhou is reported to have undergone weeks of state indoctrination and interrogation. Similarly, Catholic Bishop James Su Zhimin of Baoding has spent 20 years in prison for conducting mass without permission from the state.

Rewriting Scripture

Adding to the fact that Bibles can no longer be purchased online in China, the Chinese government is now planning a rewriting of the Scripture to suit its Communist Party agenda and ideology. The new translation is set to include annotations from Chinese sources to make it more appealing to Chinese communist ideology. In a process dabbed Sinicization, the government has sanctioned the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the Chinese Christian Council to re-orient the bible to promote socialism in a time span of five years. 

The Vatican Response

In recognition of the targeted persecution of those professing the Christian faith in China, Pope Francis prayed for Chinese Catholics on May 22nd, 2019, asking Mother Mary to intercede for them. Earlier on May 13th, 2019 the Vatican Secretary of State told Chinese media that he believed that the Vatican and China could work together. Talking about Sinicization, he said that it does not have to conflict with the Christian faith and could be a means of dialogue and understanding. On September 2018, The Holy See and China signed a provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops, a move that has been viewed as creating increased trust between the two sides. The agreement though is still yet to be fully implemented by the Chinese government as U.S ambassador for International Religious freedom noted that China still continues to abuse members of the Catholic faith. One such instance is a published reward by Guangzhou’s Department of Ethnic and Religious Affairs offered for information of religious groups leading to the arrest of religious leaders.

Message of Hope

Saint Timothy wrote in 2 Timothy 3:12 that everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Even so, there is hope for the faithful. Speaking on behalf of the Pope, the Vatican Secretary of State encouraged Catholics living in China to take courage as they proclaim the gospel. Pope Francis encouraged all Catholic faithful in China telling them that our Heavenly Mother will come to their aide as they fight to be in the communion of the universal Church.

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Mumbai: Our Lady of Valankanni Statue Vandalised.

The CSF and community groups have condemned the vandalisation of a statue of Our Our Lady of Valankanni at Nikamwadi in Dadar West, Mumbai. It seems to be an attempt to disturb the communal peace in the area and Catholics have therefore urged to maintain restraint. It is indeed surprising that the police have assumed that it was a case of attempt to rob and as a result, the statute fell down, as mentioned in the police report. One can expect more provocation of such kind in the run-up to the elections due next year. There seems to be a pattern to the madness, which could be to polarize the voters on majority-minority lines, making Christians the soft target.

According to the groups (MCYF, AOCC, CPF, etc.), if the police do not bring to book the culprits, who desecrated the statue, it will be a signal to fundamentalist forces that they could target the community with impunity. Joseph Dias said that the CSF would approach the home minister to increase police protection and surveillance around religious places.

According to Joseph Dias, “ what is even more shocking is that the vandalization occurred near the Anusaya co-operative housing society, which reportedly has only two Catholic families residing there. The police have filed a case under sections 379, 511, 295 and 427 of the IPC for offenses relating to hurting religious sentiments. The CSF also put out a hotline for community members to alert the NGO for preventing and dealing with such communal emergencies. The statue was handed over to the Our Lady of Salvation (Portuguese) Church authorities and we would keep you informed of developments in the case.

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Evangelist arrested in Mandya, Karnataka

Evangelist Pradeep, 30, and his mother, Chowdamma, 60, are the latest victims of persecution of Christians in Karnataka by the fundamentalist Hindus.

They were attacked and then arrested and finally put behind bars for firmly sticking to their faith and fearlessly demonstrating their faith in Christ’s teachings.

Pradeep and Chowdamma belong to the Karnataka Evangelical Ministry of Mysore, and they live in Mandya District of Karnataka. On Friday, 8th February 2013, both of them visited the house of Ms Jyothi and Ms Lakshmi at Bellahalli village in Pandavpura in Mandya District, on a request from them for a prayer in their house. While Evangelist Pradeep and Mrs Chowdamma were praying in their house, a group of about 20 Hindu fundamentalists belonging to RSS, barged into the house and started intimidating and physically attacking both Pradeep and his mother Chowdamma, accusing them of forced conversion of Hindus to Christianity. Both of them were injured in the attack and Evangelist Pradeep sustained injuries on his lips as well as a number of bruises on his face.

The Hindu radicals then forcibly took both the mother and the son by bus to the Pandavpura Police Station and handed them over to the police falsely alleging that the two were fraudulently and forcibly converting Hindus to Christianity by offering them money.

The police who took them to the Pandavpura Government Hospital for treatment, subsequently also filed an FIR against them based on the false complaint and charge-sheeted them under section 295A of IPC and produced them before the local Magistrate who sent them to the Mandya Sub Jail. Please pray for their early release.

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Tirupati: Evangelist Sudhir arrested

Special teams were rushed to Hyderabad and Nuzvid on Wednesday, while Sudhir was found after midnight at his Nuzvid address, from where he was arrested under Section 3 of the AP Propagation of Other Religions in Places of Worship or Prayer (Prohibition) Act 2007.

In a swift move, the Tirupati Urban Police arrested Mondithoka Sudhir, founder director of the Hyderabad-based Emmanuel Baptist Ministry of India (IBMI), from his Puterala residence in Vissannapet Mandal of Krishna district in the early hours of Thursday. He has been remanded to judicial custody.

For the record, Sudhir’s blasphemous video on Lord Venkateswara, shot during the Samaikyandhra agitation in September 2013, had gone viral. Pretending as gullible devotees, Sudhir and his team members surrendered a copy of The Bible and other missionary material to the security staff at Alipiri check point before proceeding to Tirumala along with a video camera.

Based on a complaint lodged by advocate Samanchi Srinivas, who is also the BJP district general secretary, and following a hue and cry from various quarters, police swung into action and registered a case (Crime No.100/14 at Tirumala Two Town Police Station). A similar case was registered at Alipiri Police Station based on a complaint by the TTD Assistant Vigilance and Security Officer.

Special teams were rushed to Hyderabad and Nuzvid on Wednesday, while Sudhir was found after midnight at his Nuzvid address, from where he was arrested under Section 3 of the AP Propagation of Other Religions in Places of Worship or Prayer (Prohibition) Act 2007. Police also seized his laptop, which was used to upload the video, and his four-wheeler on which he travelled to Tirumala. A manhunt has been launched to nab his younger brother Sukumar and pastors David, Joseph and Yesu Ratnam for complicity in the offence.

Speaking to the media, Sudhir confessed to the offence and termed it as “unfortunate”. A postgraduate from Acharya Nagarjuna University, he said his intention was to spread the message and not merely to raise funds from foreign missionaries. While indicating that it was his first “negative attempt” to portray a faith in bad light, Sudhir also promised that it would be his last.

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