Letter to a young man on combating six lies

Larry Smith

As a young man, you are embarking on a great adventure, to find your place in the world. Unfortunately, the world will tell you many things along the way, so that it’s difficult to separate the truth from the lies.

Lie #1: Look out for Number One. In pursuing your own needs, you always find yourself longing for more. But when you stop and help someone else — be it a family member or a complete stranger — you will feel true accomplishment because you are fulfilling the design that God placed on your heart. To help people in need — that is the mark of a true man.

Lie #2: Your worth is based on money. Money can be a great blessing or a great burden. Scripture is replete with warnings. “For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:10). Notice the warning is specific to the “love of money.” Money without a foundation of faith and family — and loving God first — is shallow and unfulfilling. Money can’t buy you happiness. The greedy pursuit of it can completely ruin your life.

Lie #3: Whoever dies with the most toys, wins. Use the toys you have to experience the joy of life that God intended you to experience. But if you focus on the toys, and not the people that you’re experiencing it with, you’ll lose sight of your purpose in life. What should be a gift from God can become a set of chains. Because when it comes to toys, you can never have new enough, shiny enough or fast enough. Materialism is a construct of the devil, tempting us to always seek more, more, more of meaningless things. Ask yourself: Do you want to have it all? Or do you want to give it all?

Lie #4: Sow your wild oats. Society says it’s OK to be promiscuous. That’s the legacy of the Sexual Revolution, which has been a wrecking ball through generations, causing much misery, fear, doubt and even death in the form of abortion. You were made for more. When you have sex outside of marriage, you’re committing a mortal sin. Instead, be a virtuous warrior. Listen to the words of St. Dominic: “A man who governs his passions is master of the world.”

Lie #5: Delay marriage as long as possible. Our culture tells us that independence, and the ability to do what you want, is the most important thing. Don’t believe it. When a man says, “I do” to his bride, he takes responsibility for his wife and for the creation of a family. Or, you may be called to be a priest or religious. How will you discern God’s plan for your life?

Lie #6: Prayer is boring because nothing happens. The world throws every conceivable kind of noise at you to prevent you from getting closer to God, from taking time to be with Jesus Christ in prayer and to sit quietly alone in His presence — in adoration. It’s when you finally do that that you begin to truly understand the meaning of life and your purpose in it.

P.S. To women: are you helping men to be men? Husbands, sons, brothers, fathers, uncles and male co-workers all need your prayers and intentions to live out their God-given missions.

Larry Smith is the president and CEO of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Denver. Visit online
at ccdenver.org or call 303-742-0828 to learn more, volunteer or make a donation.

COMING UP: Carmelite lived the cloistered life ‘to the full’

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In 1950, at the ripe age of 18, Sister Mona Claire of Our Lady entered religious life as a Carmelite of the Holy Spirit. For the next 67 years, she went on to live a cloistered life away from the world in deep prayer.

It would seem it was no coincidence, then, that she passed away on May 20 — the feast of Pentecost.

“For her to die on the feast of Pentecost — it’s our biggest solemnity next to Christmas because we’re the Carmel of the Holy Spirit,” said Mother Mary of Jesus, prioress of the discalced Carmelite nuns of Littleton. “Our blessed Lord really favored her, I think.”

Over 20 of Sister Mona’s 67 years as a Carmelite were spent as a secretary answering phone calls and responding to requests for prayers and Mass offerings. Sister Mona was also a talented seamstress and spent much of her time making clothes for the Sisters and altar linens.

Sister Mona’s most unique job was perhaps taking care of sheep, which the monastery had up until the 1980s, and her most beautiful work was likely her profound prayer life.

“She always prayed,” said Mother Mary. “Even in her last few days, if she said anything, it was a prayer.”

Mother Mary recalled that the doctor who attended to Sister Mona at the hospital after she experienced a fall shortly before she passed asked her to open her eyes, and she was unable to follow his commands.

“But I would say a prayer, and she’d finish it for me,” said Mother Mary. “I would say, ‘Praise be Jesus Christ,’ and she would say, ‘Now and forever.’ I think her last words were ‘Now and forever.’”

Mother Mary admired Sister Mona for her patience and efforts to please God, as well as her positive attitude in all circumstances.

“I noticed that even in the pain she was in when she was dying, she never moaned or anything,” said Mother Mary. “She never complained one little bit.”

Mother Mary believes it was a blessing that Sister Mona was able to remain so close to God even during her final days — a grace that likely stemmed from the consistent efforts she made to be close to him throughout her life.

“If you’re constantly corresponding with grace and praying, it’s going to come to you in those last moments,” said Mother Mary. “It will strengthen you for the journey. I think that’s what happened.”

Mother Mary witnessed graces showering down during on Sister Mona even during her funeral, particularly when Bishop Jorge Rodriguez blessed her coffin before it was lowered into the ground.

“There were turtle doves. You could hear turtle doves cooing,” not back and forth, but in unison, Mother Mary said. It reminded those in attendance of Song of Solomon 2, which mentions the voice of a turtledove in a chapter about the love of a bride groom.

The beauty of the moment didn’t go unnoticed, much like Sister Mona’s life of service.

“She was the loving and praying heart of the Church and the Carmel [community] here for almost 68 years,” said Mother Mary. “Everything she did was for souls and for our dear Lord’s greater glory and honor,” she said.

Mother Mary believes Sister Mona had a profound impact on the world, even though she had little contact with it.

“Having been in the convent as long as she was, she really impacted the diocese and the world with her ever-flowing prayers,” said Mother Mary. “It’s just the nature of cloistered life — and she lived it to the full.”