Posts Tagged ‘Prayer’
With the Parish Mission at Holy Family parish in St. Petersburg now complete, I would like to share some of the insights I gained. First, I’m reminded once again of Jesus’ teaching that every time we take the opportunity to give of ourselves, whether in ministry or in relationships, we always receive in return more than we give. This is primarily the truth of Psalm 126 when it teaches: “They go out, they go out, full of tears, carrying seed for the sowing: they come back, they come back, full of song, carrying their sheaves.”
These past three nights we focused on God’s love and how we experience this love through the Holy Spirit in the person of Jesus Christ. We further examined how Christ came into the world to reveal the love of God through His teaching, ministry, passion, death and resurrection. After His resurrection, Jesus commissioned His disciples to continue the same mission through the Church and by the power of their own witness of faith in Jesus Christ.
One person asked at the conclusion of Tuesday night’s mission: “What advice do you have for families to better live their faith?” Many asked other questions along similar lines regarding the parish as a whole or what to do in one’s individual life.
I am even more convinced today of the need for each individual, for every family to renew the trajectory of life to its true purpose. This (earthly) life is fundamentally a journey of faith, a pilgrimage. We are therefore to understand that a truly human life is oriented to God. Thus, a truly human journey is one that follow’s the way of truth, goodness, beauty, in short, holiness.
Just as all things which are bearers of truth, goodness, and beauty ‘transcend’ or ‘go beyond’ themselves and point to something else, so to the human person is ultimately to ‘go beyond’ him or herself and point to the Creator. So, the true trajectory of every human life is God.
Lent is therefore a time to renew one’s practice of prayer. Life with God also requires simplicity, (in the sense that we shed our worldliness) humility, (seeing that we are nothing and that God is everything) and community, particularly the community of faith, the Church.
To succeed in such ‘conversion,’ we need discernment, we need wisdom. Today’s Gospel (Luke 11:14-23) recounts a moment when Jesus expels a demon, only to be accused by some that “it is by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.” Obviously, that was not the case, as Jesus goes on to instruct, that it is by the “finger of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.”
Jesus is our “strong man” who guards and arms the city of our soul. Thus, the need for us to renew the course of our life to Him. But, we also know that there are many distractions in our life, and many demons that wish to take over our inner life, values and practices. We need to be wise in the ways of the LORD, and have the perseverance to remain on the straight and narrow path.
I wish to close by sharing some simple rules for discernment which the LORD shared with St. Catherine of Siena. These passages came from a book written by her spiritual director and companion, Blessed Raymond of Capua:
“Daughter, if you wish to acquire the virtue of fortitude you must imitate me. Though I have divine power and could have annihilated all the powers of evil in quite a different way if I had willed to do so, nevertheless, wishing my actions to be taken as a model, I willed to act by way of the cross, so that I could teach you by words based on actions. If you want to have the strength to overcome all the enemy’s powers, take the cross as your refreshment as I did. For indeed I, as the Apostle says, ran to such a hard and shameful cross because I had been offered joy, so that you would patiently choose pains and afflictions and embrace them indeed as consolations. And indeed they are consolations, for the more you suffer such things for My sake the more you make yourself like Me. If you conform yourself to Me in suffering, truly, as My Apostle says, you will become like Me in grace and glory. Therefore, O daughter, for My sake regard sweet things as bitter and bitter things as sweet and then have no fear, for undoubtedly you will be stong in all things.” (Catherine of Siena, pp.89-90)
“When she talked to us about this, she always told us as a general rule never to descend to the level of argument with the Enemy in times of temptation. Getting people to discuss the matter was exactly what he wanted, … so a soul chastely united to Christ should refuse to discuss the Enemy’s temptations but turn to its Bridegroom in prayer, relying on Him with absolute trust and faithfulness. All temptations, she said, could be overcome by the virtue of faith.” (Catherine of Siena, p. 91)
So, my friends, let us continue to follow Christ this Lenten season. Let us be “shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)
After Mass at the Cathedral Sunday morning, I headed north to Casper to film this year’s Midnight Mass. The long-held tradition is that people from the Casper parishes gather with the bishop at St. Anthony’s on the Evening of the 4th Sunday of Advent to film the Midnight Mass. The Mass then airs at Midnight and again on Christmas morning.
Since the roads were mostly ice-covered from Glendo to Casper, I decided to spend the night in Casper. Another inch or two of snow fell through the night, so not much was gained, other than being able to drive in the daylight and see what the road conditions were as I drove.
I was glad to be returning to Cheyenne today, because I was hosting our seminarians for Mass, lunch and some social time. I realized today that this would be the last time I would ask the students to gather over their Christmas break. With the vast distances many of them need to travel, complicated by the almost certain reality of some winter weather, and sacrificing holiday time with family, it is too much to ask. But we sure had a good visit today.
We now have eleven seminarians, with a new candidate accepted just this month, who will begin studies this Spring semester. Four are in college, two are in pre-theology (studying philosophy) and five are in theology. We will (God willing!) ordain two men to the priesthood this summer, two more men to the priesthood the following summer, and one the year following. So, our future is bright!
But, we still need to keep praying for each of our seminarians and for the others God is calling to serve this diocese as priests. We give thanks to God for the willingness of each of these young men who so generously give themselves to their present studies and formation!
Today, Our Holy Father, Pope Francis is calling for a day of prayer in solidarity with the people suffering from hunger through the world. At the same time, he is inviting each of us to a greater awareness of our own use of food and food choices. We are challenged to a better understanding that the challenge of feeding the hungry is not a result of not enough food, but a just distribution of what is already available.
At Noon local time around the world, we are called to pray for those who suffer from hunger, and to pray for an end to the injustice of hunger in our world today. Below is the text of Pope Francis released earlier today.
The past few days the LORD has been testing my own perseverance in faith. God has been ‘breaking into” my own day-to-day experience lately to help me see where conversion is most needed in my life. The grace in this is being able to see with greater clarity where God is calling me to greater charity.
This morning I awoke with a strong realization that our life is a result of God’s enduring love, expressed most beautifully and completely in the mercy He so readily extends us through his Son, Jesus Christ. As every morning begins, I made a brief stop this morning in the chapel to visit the Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament. Again, there was a deep sense of the Lord revealing his mercy.
I was in a hurry this morning to catch a plane, but made time for prayer. As I began praying the Liturgy of Hours, I could tell I was a bit distracted by being ‘rushed’ to start the day earlier than usual. I took a moment again to look to the Blessed Sacrament, and was quickly reminded, the Lord is the REALITY around which everything else revolves. The hurried start to this day had a feel to it that said: “I’m making time for you, LORD, in the busi-ness of this day.”
I was quickly reminded that the Lord does not revolve around me or the many activities of my day. Rather, the proper order is that I and all my activities revolve around the Lord. This realization of true Reality immediately put me at peace, and allowed me to return to prayer with a proper focus that could truly nourish my heart and soul in order to bring the Lord into (hopefully) all else that I will do today.
How perhaps are each of us called to recognize that our life is a gift from God? God is the Origin and final Goal of every human life and journey. How does my day-to-day routine reflect this Reality and incorporate a proper effort to cooperate with it? Do I see my life ‘ordered to God,’ or do I rather simply try to squeeze in time for God each day, once a week, something less?
Lord, help us live according to your way and will. Help us to live in relationship with you in all that we do. Help us to live life fully for you in every thought, word and deed. Help us to love and serve you in every person we meet. Help us make room for you in our homes, work and society. Give us the eyes to see that you are the sole desire of my soul. May the reality of our day revolve around the REALITY that is You.
Tomorrow, Saturday, September 7 the world community is invited to join Pope Francis in a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria. Visit these links for more information: Our Sunday Visitor Center for Ministry Development USCCB and for Young Adults: Bustedhalo
In the Diocese of Cheyenne, I have asked our pastors to consider designating some time in their local parishes for adoration and prayer. For certain, I can announce that there will be time at our Cathedral in Cheyenne and at Our Lady of Fatima in Casper for their local communities.
Our Lady of Fatima in Casper will host Adoration following the 9:00am Mass until 5:00pm. The Sacrament of Reconciliation will be available from 3:30 – 5:00. I will be present in prayer at Our Lady of Fatima from 4:00 – 5:00.
St. Mary’s Cathedral in Cheyenne will host a Holy Hour following the Saturday evening Mass from 6:15pm – 7:15pm.
If you can visit a local church for some time of prayer on Saturday, that would be optimal. However, your prayerful presence where ever you find yourself in communion with believers world wide along with your fasting can provide a holy space in this world for the power of God to act on behalf of peace.
God bless you for your faith and goodness!
Saturday, President Obama announced his decision to take military action against Syria. Thankfully, he also announced his decision to seek approval of Congress for such action.
Yesterday, our Holy Father, Pope Francis made a passionate appeal for peace for the people of Syria.
As the people of this nation, we need to do two things (minimally.) First, we would do well to heed Pope Francis’ appeal for prayer and fasting in an effort to secure this seemingly illusive peace in Syria. Second, we have a short window of opportunity to appeal to our national representatives. Please, write, call, email, tweet, facebook… but communicate to our congress a strong and unified voice: No Military Action!
Is the situation in Syria not a truly devastating time for so many innocent people? Is it not heartbreaking to see so many dying? Are not millions now living in sub-human conditions in refugee camps? Will thousands not live with physical handicaps the rest of their lives? Will not thousands more live with psychological scars as a result of the actions of this dictator? Absolutely.
But, is military action of this nation truly going to change that situation? I believe it will have no such desired effect.
We must ask ourselves: ‘What is the good to be advanced by such military action?’ To punish a dictator for the atrocious use of chemical weapons is not a sufficient answer. To send a clear message to other dictators regarding their consideration of using chemical weapons is also inadequate. To justify such action in defense of national security seems self-serving at best.
The good we seek is the cessation of violence and the restoration of order. The good we seek is a safe environment for the millions of civilians to live and put their lives, homes and neighborhoods back together.
The other serious consideration regards unintended outcomes to the use of military weapons in such a politically fragile part of the world. The US has limited if any international support for this military response. How can we not expect unknown and potentially major military responses in retaliation for this planned military strike? How can we say definitively as a nation that our military response in this situation will not further erode the fragile peace that presently exists in the Middle East? How can we not expect that such military action will not further embolden the terrorists already intent on inflicting harm upon this and many other western nations?
Tell our Congress: Work for peace. Work towards true diplomacy. Efforts to promote and defend human dignity and sanctity must apply the same principles of human decency to its actions.
Let us pray that a strong diplomatic effort, not military action, may work towards a resolution to this growing and sad chapter in our human history.
Mary Queen of Peace, Pray for us!
Yesterday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon are another troubling reminder of the challenges our society faces. Thank God this evil deed was quickly met with the courage and kindness of so many first responders as well as bystanders and participants in the race itself. I’m sure all people of good will continue to hold in prayer the victims and their families and all those who have been scarred from witnessing and responding to the results.
These evil acts that so quickly take human life are becoming too much of a regular diet for our nation; for any nation. Boston, Newtown, Aurora just to name a few from the past year. Even though we do not yet know the individual(s) responsible for yesterdays attack nor their motive(s), these series of sins against humanity beg a broader question: How do we regain a proper and abiding respect for human life?
Our understanding of the dignity and sanctity of human life is rooted in our belief that every human person is created in the image and likeness of God, and redeemed by the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ. To strengthen respect for human life is to grant God the honor that is His and His alone. To live by this Truth takes nothing away from anyone. Quite the opposite. To live by faith in God is foundational to a proper understanding of the human person. A proper respect for every human person is foundational to decent society.
A nation that legally allows the taking of life of the unborn has a serious flaw and a huge hurdle to truthfully claim it understands and respects the dignity of the human person. Practices that legally allow people to determine ’ending life’ rather than allowing the Creator to determine issues of life and death reduces our ability to truly respect human life. Other than abortion there are capital punishment and euthanasia (ending life of the elderly or critically ill.)
Even our vast array of ‘entertainment’ is in need of deep reflection in its contribution to this growing lack of respect for the human person. From music, lyrics, tv sitcoms, movies, video games, pornography and I’m sure the list could go on and on, much of what passes for entertainment degrades the human person. The entertainment industry with such gifts and talent at its disposal can do far more for the building up of the human person and the good of decent society.
I pray that each of us take some time to pray for the many victims of violence throughout the world. I pray we as individuals and as a nation also begin to see what can and needs to change in our culture to work for good and build up the human person. May each individual and our leaders be granted the wisdom and the courage to defend life in all its forms. May we work as well to shore up and protect all the human institutions that nurture life, love and respect.
It appears this will be another week of dodging or trudging through snow. Yesterday began in Cheyenne under heavy snowfall. I made it to Wheatland for last night’s confirmation celebration. This morning is beginning the same way here in Wheatland. People are very excited to be receiving such a generous snowfall…and praying it continue for a while.
I believe there were 20 young people confirmed last night. One very heartwarming touch was to see so many high school youth singing in the choir. They did a spendid job. St. Patrick’s was full for the celebration, and the people participated with a lively faith. I am continually amazed to see how God blesses each parish with the people necessary for its ministries. St. Patrick is no different. There are some very talented and generous people here making sure the faith is lived and passed on to the next generation.
The one damper of the evening as we all know was the bombing at yesterday’s Boston Marathon. We continue to pray for those who died, those injured, the many lives touched through each of the victims, the first responders, and finally, that God will foil the plans of any who would bring chaos and terror to our world. May our faith and hope be a source of strength to those most in need.
In her Dialogue, God speaks to St. Catherine: “In so knowing me the soul catches fire with unspeakable love, which in turn brings continual pain.” These words appear in the opening section of St. Catherine of Siena’s The Dialogue. They seem a good starting point for our Lenten journey.
In so knowing me… As the title of the book indicates, The Dialogue is a description of the mystical experiences of St. Catherine in her relationship with God. Thus, the first phrase of our meditation is about coming to know God. Yes, it is possible to know God. We may not have mystical experiences, but God is longing to reveal his love for us.
From the beginning, God created all things in love. He so fell in love with us that he drew us forth from himself, and created us in his image and likeness. (he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 3:4) Even despite the original sin of our first parents and the many sins that followed down through the ages, God continues to love us. He chose in love the people of Israel to be his special people. He sent the Patriarchs, Moses, great Kings and prophets to continually renew his covenant with us. After all of this, he sent his only begotten Son that we might gaze upon the face of God and live. In Jesus, we have the fullness of the new and eternal covenant; the fullness of the law and the prophets. Yes, God longs to reveal himself to us. He has done all things that we may come to know him and love him. He awaits our response, each one individually.
The soul catches fire… For something (someone) to catch fire, it must be brought into contact with the fire or a very powerful source of heat. Likewise, the human heart (soul) must be prepared to receive the fire of God’s love. We do not put green wood on a fire (unless it is all we have to burn.) Wood needs to season in order to be a proper fuel. Lent is like that period of seasoning for our souls. We allow time for silence, which may also include less time exposed to the media and messages of the world around us. We spend time in prayer. We give additional attention to the reception of the Sacraments, especially Reconciliation and Eucharist. We take on additional practices of charity to ease the pain and suffering of others. We identify sinful behaviors that have crept into our lives and devote careful attention to better understand these practices that we might remove them from our life by the grace of God. We identify virtues that need our attention and effort.
But even if we are like the green wood, if the fire is hot enough, (as is Divine Love) it will boil out any moisture present (selfishness) and consume the fuel that is offered (self-gift.) But we must first freely and willingly offer ourselves to God, and allow the Fire of His Love to transform us. Lent is a time for such conversion.
With unspeakable love… “We love, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) For our love to grow, we must draw near the source of love, God. “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8) We come to know God through his Son, Jesus. Our Lenten journey is to be a journey with Christ.
Which in turn brings continual pain. St. Catherine teaches that when one falls in love with God, pain is experienced on two levels; for one’s own sins and the awareness of the sins of those around her (such as the blindness and indifference people show towards God.) God further speaks to St. Catherine “She suffers because she loves me…” The truth of this statement is revealed in the final moments of Christ’s life and ministry upon the cross. Christ loved the Father. In love with the Father, he sought only and always to accomplish the Father’s will. The will of the Father is to redeem humanity and all creation from sin. Thus, in his great love for the Father and for us, Jesus suffered. Jesus suffered the humiliation and pain of the cross to reveal to the world the fullness of God’s mercy, compassion and love.
Jesus speaks to us from the cross: “See how great, how infinite my love is for you.” Finite suffering of a single person could not suffice to make amends for the offenses our sins are to the infinite love of God. Therefore, only the infinite love of Christ can suffice for our redemption. This is why we believe that Christ’s offering on the cross is the new and eternal covenant. Our celebration of the Eucharist is a participation in this one and eternal offering of Christ for the salvation of the world.
And how do we enter into this offering; by interior desire and intention. The beautiful Morning Offering prayer has a great theology that explains this communion with Christ in the Paschal Mystery:
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day, For the intentions of your Sacred Heart, In union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, In reparation for my sins and for those of my associates, And in particular for the intentions recommended this month by the Holy Father.
The ‘center’ of this prayer is the Mass, the Eucharist, The Paschal Mystery, the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Each day, particularly during each Mass, we seek to join our interior disposition and intention to Jesus’ intention, which is to accomplish the will of the Father, which is the Redemptive Mission of the Church.
Jesus suffered on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. His suffering was a result of his love for the Father and his love for us. Likewise, our love for God and neighbor is exercised in each and every moment of our day. This point came clearly to mind for me recently regarding the manner in which I fulfill my duties as your bishop. There is a big difference between fulfilling my obligations as a bishop, and fulfilling my duties with love. I can endure the sacrifices entailed in ‘my work’ as a bishop, or I can offer my sufferings through love with Christ as the fulfillment of ‘my ministry’ as the Chief Shepherd of this local portion of the family of God.
The same is true for all of us. As we grow in love with Christ and in our awareness of his infinite love for us, we are then called by the same Christ and sent by him to carry out our unique vocation with great love. The love we are speaking of here is not just any love, but the love we experience from Christ; a “love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8)
When the love of Christ so fills us and so compels us in all things, then we can say with St. Paul:
“I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:19b-20)
This Lent invites us to stand at the foot of the cross with our Blessed Mother and St. John, where Jesus speaks to us of his love. His wounds are openings into the infinite love of God. His open side reveals the infinite love that flows from his Sacred Heart. From his mouth flows not only wisdom and instruction for life, but the Eternal Word of Life.
This Lent, spend time in the school of the cross. Sit at the feet of the Master Teacher. Allow Jesus teach you a love that ‘endures all things.’ Allow Jesus to draw you into the ‘love that never fails.’
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30)
Lent is clearly a time to examine our holiness of life. Some have recently asked for greater detail in terms of what exactly holiness entails. In short, holiness is found through our relationship with God. That is why Jesus instructs us “to be perfect just as our heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) In other words, our holiness exists in God, who is Supreme holiness; Holiness itself.
St. Thomas Aquinas saw holiness as our capacity to receive God. “For nothing is worthy to receive God unless it be pure, according to Psalm 92:5: ‘Holiness becomes your house, O Lord.” (Summa II-II Q. 81) This is why the readings for Ash Wednesday plainly call us back to God. The prophet Joel says: “Return to the Lord, your God.” (2:12-18) St. Paul similarly stated: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
God’s will is that we be holy. (1 Thessalonians 4:3) And God has provided for this high calling through the Incarnation and Redeeming work of Christ. We know this from St. Paul’s teaching: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessings in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love, he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.” (Ephesians 1: 3-6)
How does one grow in holiness? Basically, growth in holiness occurs in two ways. First, since our holiness is attained through Jesus Christ, we must draw near to him. This is done through prayer, receiving the Sacraments, growing in our knowledge of Sacred Scripture, and practicing charity. Second, and perhaps this needs to be first, we must remove from our day-to-day lives all that is crass. In other words, there are things in our life that can and do block our ability to receive Christ, and thus to be drawn into the very holiness that is God.
Perhaps a practical starting point is to think about the kind of television programming we watch, or the music we listen to, the places we search on the internet, the video games we play, the conversations we have or the mindless thoughts we may entertain. Do these things lift our spirits to God? Do they respect the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of life? Or do they leave us feeling empty, mindless, unfulfilled? Good discernment tells us: “do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God.” (1 John 4:1) If of the Holy Spirit, embrace it. If of the counter spirit, (Satan) reject it.
Once you identify a bad or questionable habit, take the risk and eliminate it from your routine for a while. (This is what Lent calls us to do.) Let God show you what a difference it makes when we make more room for him in our lives. I have talked to several people over the years that stopped watching TV during Lent and were amazed after Lent when they began watching TV again, how offended they were by some of the shows they used to watch.
Stated more positively, how much do we allow ourselves to experience beauty in sacred or classical music or art or even the simple beauty of nature? Things that are beautiful naturally lead our heart, soul and mind to God. (Philippians 4: 8) Make a resolution to practice greater charity in just one relationship.
Perhaps finding a weekday Mass time is in order? Spending more time with Jesus is absolutely necessary if we are going to grow in holiness, and there is no more privileged means of receiving Jesus than in the Eucharist.
I believe Abbot Marmion, OSB summs these points up nicely: “Our holiness will be the higher according as there is in us more loving dependence on God and conformity of our free will to our ultimate end (which is the manifestation of the Divine Glory). The more we adhere to God by detaching ourselves from all that is not God, the more this dependence, conformity, adhesion, and detachment are firm and stable.” Christ The Life of the Soul, p.28
These are just a few starting points to consider regarding holiness. I’ll post more tomorrow.