prayers

Prayer for Priests

March 23, 2015

Christ True vine (Russia, 19th c.)

My latest holy card project with Catholic Prayer Cards is this Russian icon with a prayer for priests on the back. The company now has it in their online catalog for anyone to purchase.

About the icon

The name of this 19th century icon is “Christ True Vine”. Here we see Jesus seated on the sepulcher with the vine emerging from the wound in his side. Instruments of the Passion are at his feet. Jesus presses His sacred blood from the grapes into a golden chalice held by a kneeling angel.

Christ the High Priest and Victim is to be emulated by all men in the sacred priesthood. They bring the saving blood of Christ to the faithful through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation. Every time we see a priest we should, regardless of whether we like him or not, see Christ on Calvary and remember the great sacrifice that opened the gates of heaven to us.

The prayer

Ever since I found this prayer in the late 1990s it has been one of my favorites. Carrying an imprimatur from Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York, December 15, 1954, it expresses beautifully the theology of the sacred priesthood.

Sanctify to Thyself,

O my Lord,

the hearts of Thy priests,

that by the merits of

Thy sacred humanity,

They may become

living images of Thee,

children of Mary,

and full of the fire of

the Holy Ghost, that they

may guard Thy house, and

defend Thy glory, and

that through their ministry

the face of the earth

may be renewed, and

they may save those souls

which have cost Thee

all Thy blood.

Amen.

Our priests are a sacred treasure of the Church, and the ones more vulnerable to attacks by Satan than anyone else. Every fallen priest means a terrible loss of a conduit of grace God intended for the faithful. As laity we have an obligation to remember them in our prayers, especially our pastors and confessors.

Does your parish emphasize prayers for priests? Would you obtain these prayer cards and make them available to your fellow parishioners with the permission of your pastor? I’m sure that many priests would greatly appreciate knowing that they are remembered daily in prayer by the faithful they serve.

“Christ the Vine” image via Wikimedia.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

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Monday, March 23rd, 2015 prayers 1 Comment

Getting Down to Business: Re-wiring our Brains for Lent

February 23, 2015

In my previous post, I introduced Father Oscar Lukefahr’s column, Re-program Your Brain for Lent. Today I want to present his further teachings which I hope will inspire readers to work purposefully towards the new man, hand in hand with Christ.

Spiritual direction is really difficult to come by, which is why I am grateful for the lack of pious platitudes and the inclusion of the scientific and practical insights Father Lukefahr uses to light the way towards a closer relationship with God. On rewiring he writes:

The first step in rewiring our brains is to realize that they are already wired for God! Recent experiments indicate that our brains are designed to contact God.

St. Augustine alluded to this when he wrote, “Our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” God didn’t create us to dump us here on earth with no way to connect to Him. We not only have been wired from early on in our formation to seek God, the impetus, unless extinguished by willful determination, remains a powerful driver for us that can combat negative programming and it is written in our biology.

St. John of the Cross wrote that we can have our most direct experience of God if we detach ourselves from sensory stimuli as much as possible. Brain scans now show that people deep in contemplation produce a distinct pattern of neural activity where information flowing from the senses slows dramatically and the mind experiences a sensation of unity with God. What St. John taught has a basis in biology. Our brains are wired for God in the same way they are wired for light. Seeing light stimulates a part of the brain designed to receive light. Contemplation stimulates a part of the brain designed to experience union with God. However, we will lose touch with God if we don’t keep the neural pathways busy.

From this we see that the atmosphere in which we pray is as important as forming habits of prayer. This seems like a good first step towards rewiring our brains for holiness: create a place and time for prayer that will dampen down information flowing into our senses, or find such a place such as an Adoration chapel, a dimly lit room in the home, or a peaceful rock in a forest where we can be alone and not intruded upon.

We must let God speak to us through the Bible, the beauty of nature, the goodness of others, and all the ways God wants to contact us. We must pray, and the more we do, the more God will fill our hearts with grace and peace.

For those who like word linked Scriptural prayer that can help start the rewiring process, Father Lukefahr gives us something easy to start with:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name (Mt. 6:9). At the name of Jesus, every knee must bend…and every tongue proclaim “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:10-11). No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3). The Spirit God gives is no cowardly spirit, but One that makes us strong, loving and wise (2 Tim 1:7).

It’s easy to see how these phrases can stimulate meditation on God and serve as an alternative to negative and bad thoughts that lead us to sin and negative thinking. While it’s not personal, private prayer, I can see how a family game can be made where someone starts with a quote from Scripture and each person builds on it with a subsequent quote, word-linked as here. Members can write down the result for future use.

Father Lukefahr gives us additional Bible quotes to close negative neural pathways and build God-connected ones, although these are not word linked.

I have come to depend on a few favorite verses to close negative neural pathways and open new ones, those that are positive and grace-giving. I simply let Jesus speak words of peace, hope, and courage. A few examples: “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid” (Mt. 14:27). “Peace I leave you, my peace I give you” (Jn 14:17). “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will give you rest” (Mat. 11:28).

Rewiring takes effort on our part, but God always meets us more than halfway. Reading the Gospels and writing down words of Jesus that are particularly powerful for us as Father suggests in his article means that we have a ready reference at hand whenever things aren’t going well. This Christ-centered approach is sure to create a great and beautiful pathway that is far more enticing than the ruts of negativity we’ve been stuck in.

Father Lukefahr goes on to make some very interesting statements about prayer and rewiring.

Adoration flips the switch that turns on the brain’s wiring for God. Contrition replaces sin’s darkness with the light of God’s love. Thankgiving helps us count the blessings that open new pathways to happiness. Supplication connects us to God as the source of all good things.

Who’d a thunk it. Traditional Catholic teaching on prayer has all along been using a biological function of the brain that we can direct with our hearts/wills to grow in happiness and virtue. That “stinkin’ thinkin’” the AA program talks about has a powerful antidote. Lent is a good time to get started on new habits of sanctity using the rewiring concept. Who’s with me on this journey?

Note: Father Lukefahr’s community, the Vincentians, has a Catholic Home Study Course called “We Pray: Living in God’s Presence” which would be ideal for building our prayer life this Lent.

Image: The Three Women in Church, Wilhelm Maria Hubertus Leibl, 1881, Kunsthalle Hamburg

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

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Monday, February 23rd, 2015 prayers, spirituality 1 Comment

Performance Anxiety and Prayer

June 13, 2014

Old Woman With a Rosary, 1896, Paul Cezanne, oil on canvas, National Gallery, London, UK

Old Woman With a Rosary, 1896, Paul Cezanne, oil on canvas, National Gallery, London, UK

“Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” “Do it right the first time.” Did you grow up with these sayings? Are they possibly influencing or controlling your prayer life? Do you then criticize and accuse yourself or give in to despair and run the other way when you even think about starting a Rosary or other prayers?

The merit in these sayings is that they point toward meeting a standard of excellence parents want children to aspire to. The demerit in them is that they can be unreasonably applied and, most of all, direct us to believe that it is solely under our power and control to meet expectations defined by others. They also lead to the belief that there is only one right way to do anything. Thus it contributes to a tendency to make ourselves and our performance the focus of all that we do.

Fear of not meeting expectations leads to performance anxiety such as seen with intelligent students who freeze on every test and fail, or with people who approach even the most mundane tasks in life with trepidation. We may think that some nebulous judge is out there who will criticize and grind us into mincemeat; our stomachs churn and our brains freeze. God is not in the picture at all, yet He is the one without Whom we cannot lift a finger, think a thought, or comprehend the great spiritual mysteries He has revealed to us. The sayings exclude the trust and surrender to God’s will that we must have before starting anything, even as we resolve to do our best.

To this day these sayings occasionally pop into my mind, disturbing the peace of heart God desires for all of us. I have performance anxiety in particular areas of life, worry about whether I will get something done “right”. I catch myself secretly worrying that my prayers aren’t good enough or that I haven’t prayed enough or said the “right” prayers, although my rational mind knows that objectively speaking it is impossible for anybody to be perfect in anything, even prayer, yet we are to strive to be perfect. But who defines perfection? We or God? Of course it is God, and we have Sacred Scripture and Tradition to guide us. Moreover, the Holy Spirit, residing in our soul, is there to guide us, strengthen us, and help us in all that we do, including prayer. We are not alone, ever, in anything.

In his Treatise on Peace of Soul, Dom Lorenzo Scupoli gives excellent advice to those of us who are occasionally troubled about our prayer life:

Strive not to limit yourself to so many prayers, meditation, or readings, neither neglect nor limit your customary devotions. Rather, let your heart be at liberty to stop where it finds its God, having no misgivings about unfinished exercises if He is pleased to communicate Himself to you in the midst of them. Have no scruples in this regard, for the end of your devotion is to enjoy God and as the end is accomplished, the means have no significance for the present. [So, if we are praying the Rosary and we become caught up in the mystery of the Nativity, for instance, it is right to pursue meditation on this and not worry about whether we get all five decades completed. The point is that God is leading us, our eyes are on Him, our heart is with Him, and we are not failing in prayer. St. Teresa of Avila would concur with the good Dom Lorenzo.]

God leads us by the path that He has chosen, and if we oblige ourselves to precise execution of exercises which we fancy, we are imposing imaginary obligations on ourselves; and far from finding God, we are actually running away from Him, pretending to please Him, yet not conforming to His holy will. [In fact, we are obsessively conforming to our own will.]

If you really desire to advance successfully on this path and attain the end to which it leads, seek and desire God alone; and whenever and wherever you find Him, there stop, go no farther. While God dwells with you enjoy His company with the celestial peace of saints; and when His divine majesty pleases to retire, then turn again to the quest of your God in your devout exercises.

We are so blessed as Catholics to have centuries of saints and spiritual directors who have left us sane writings to guide us through the numerous traps our fallen nature and Satan lay for us, especially in our prayer life. In the end, we can do no better than follow these wise words which are practical applications of the many exhortations Jesus Himself gave us in the Gospels.

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Friday, June 13th, 2014 prayers, spirituality 8 Comments

God Is Not a Vending Machine

April 3, 3014

Prayer Before Meal, before 1740, Chardin, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon, Musee du Louvre, Paris

Prayer Before Meal, before 1740, Chardin, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon, Musee du Louvre, Paris

From the time many of us raised in Christian homes were small, we were taught to pray. Pray for others, pray for what we want/need, pray in thanksgiving and adoration. Often, when we reach adulthood, the prayers of petition become our main reason for praying if our faith has not matured.

I remember as a child that my Mother would say in frustration, “You kids have a terrible case of the ‘gimmes'”. What we wanted was either not in the budget or it was something our parents deemed bad for us. As kids we weren’t aware of how much we were doing this, or that we were looking at our parents as some kind of vending machine that would drop out whatever we asked for.

Fast-forwarding to today, I can say that it was a hard learning for me to not view God as a vending machine. Perhaps it was because in all my years outside the Church I forgot how to really pray. Time apart from God will do that. When I look back on all the frivolous things I prayed for, I hang my head in shame.  Even in praying for things that were not frivolous I lacked the one thing necessary that we were all taught as children in our family – a spirit of submission to the will of God.

The God-As-Vending-Machine mentality is a result of what psychologists call “magical thinking”. We, unknowingly, think that if we make this or that novena, say x number of rosaries, give money to the poor, fast, etc. that we are automatically going to get what we want. Just put the money in, press the right button, and out pops the answer to our prayers. When we think this way we are assuming we have some kind of power over God that can force Him to give us what we want if we only jump through all the hoops out there. After all, it worked for Saint So-and-so, so why not us?

If we’re approaching God in this way we are doomed to disappointment. We are not considering what Jesus told us in Matt. 5:8, “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God.” To rightly know what to ask for, we first must do a thorough housecleaning on our desires. In Mark 7: 20-23 Jesus talks about that clean heart:

What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of a man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.

Saint So-and-so received answers to his prayers because he had a clean heart and asked for what he wanted in that spirit. Does it not follow, then, that if we are asking God for this, that, and the other material thing and at the same time we are doing nothing to curb our greed, our tongue, our lust, we are not in a disposition to receive what we’re asking for? God will never give us anything that will hurt us, no matter how many rosaries we pray. He will always, though, give us what we need. Sometimes that gift is the withholding of something we’re asking for chiefly because we are not ready to receive it, or in receiving it we would veer from the path He desires for us.

I am reminded of a married couple who were in deep trouble with their relationship. The man thought that if he gave thousands of dollars to this and that charity, if he made this and that novena and prayed the rosary with his family, that everything would magically get better because he was doing all the right things. Except that he wasn’t. He did not want to admit his drinking problem and he did not want to view his wife as anything other than a servant rather than as a partner whose views deserved due consideration. He did not view his great income as “family money” for the support and sustenance of his wife and children but rather as his to spend however he wanted on himself. Finally, because he refused to submit to God creating a clean heart in him, he lost his family.

One time I got very angry with God because He wasn’t giving me what I wanted. “Why aren’t you helping me?” I yelled. It took a few years before I got the understanding. It was, “Because you’re not doing what I want you to do.” Obvious now but not then. I was consumed with getting what I wanted and it most definitely wouldn’t have been good for me nor for the people God had in mind for me to help one day.

The Germans have a saying, “We grow too soon old and too late smart.” In our prayer life our disposition must always be, “Thy will be done.” It is never a problem to ask for something as long as we are not so attached to getting what we want that we get angry with God for not giving it to us. Moreover, as we seek, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to clean our hearts from all the attitudes Jesus condemned, we become more sensitive to what we should ask for, both on our behalf and our neighbor’s behalf. When the self-centeredness clears out, the peace of Christ moves in and we learn to recognize all the gifts God is giving us without our even asking for them. We become “smart” in what to ask for, and are able to experience the joy of the Holy Spirit regardless of our circumstances. With the psalmist we can say,

A clean heart create in me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. (Ps. 51:10)

We can save ourselves a lot of grief if we learn what we need to know early and don’t become “too late smart.”

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Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 prayers, spirituality 10 Comments

Icon of the Savior Not Made by Hands

February 24, 2014

A few weeks ago I began a search for an icon of the face of Christ that would speak compellingly to people in great distress since I am meeting so many of them in my life right now. I thought that if they had an image of Jesus that they could look at, perhaps their hearts would calm and they could begin to find peace. I also wanted a prayer to put on the back. After a few days devoted to this task and rejecting image after image, I found the following icon at a Russian site. It is late 19th century, held in a private collection and the writer unknown. The icon type is “Icon of the Savior Not Made by Hands”, a most intriguing title.

Image of Christ Not Made by Hands

Image of the Savior Not Made by Hands

 

Legend

This is one of the oldest image types of the Eastern Church and has been written many times over the centuries. Via Wikipedia and research from other sources:

According to the legend, the fame of Jesus’s miracles had spread throughout the region and into Syria as related by Matt. 4:24.  King Abgar of Edessa, though not having seen Jesus but believing in him, desired to be cured of leprosy, according to some accounts. He could not travel into Roman territory because of a treaty with Caesar, so he sent his court painter, Ananias, to find Jesus, give him the letter, and paint His portrait. Ananias was unable to get near enough to Jesus to render an image because of the crowds, but Jesus called Him over and gave him a letter for Abgar declining his invitation but praising his faith and promising to send one of His disciples to him. Along with the letter went a likeness of Jesus said to have been formed by Our Lord wiping his face with a towel. Upon beholding it, Abgar was healed. This legend was first recorded in the early fourth century by Eusebius of Caesarea, who said that he had transcribed and translated the actual letter in the Syriac chancery documents of the king of Edessa. The apostle “Thaddaeus“, known as “Addai” in Syriac, went to Edessa after Pentecost, was welcomed by Abgar, preached the Gospel and healed many.

Wiki: The first record of the existence of a physical image in the ancient city of Edessa (now Urfa) was in Evagrius Scholasticus, writing about 600, who reports a portrait of Christ of divine origin which effected the miraculous aid in the defense of Edessa against the Persians in 544. The image was moved to Constantinople in the 10th century. The cloth disappeared from Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade [Sack of Constantinople] in 1204.

Many versions of this legend exist with some variation, but one thing is sure. This icon type is of very early origin and is still venerated today.

Why this particular icon?

When I saw this image for the first time I was spellbound by the eyes. In many renditions, the writer has Christ looking to the side. In this work, He gazes directly at the viewer with eyes full of love, mercy, gentleness and compassion. Although the icon portrays the risen Christ, the shadows of His passion and death are somehow communicated as well. The message from Matt. 11:28, “Come to me all ye who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” reaches out to the viewer. I thought this icon would draw people to Him and that He would then be able to work His miracles of peace in their hearts.

Prayer on the back

The great folks at Catholic Prayer Cards had a beautiful prayer, “Jesus Help Me”, but it needed a few additions for my purposes. I found many versions of this prayer at both Catholic and Protestant sites, and with the help of a few readers, created this version for the back of the card.

Jesus Help Me, Thou Who Died for Me

In every need let me come to Thee with humble trust saying, Jesus help me.

In all my confusion, doubts, and temptations, Jesus help me.

In the hours of loneliness, abandonment, weariness and trials, Jesus help me.

In the failure of my plans and hopes, Jesus help me.

In disappointments, troubles and sorrows, Jesus help me.

When others fail me, betray me, and when I am in devastating pain, Thy grace alone can assist me. Jesus help me.

When I throw myself on Thy tender love and mercy as Savior, Jesus help me.

When I feel impatient, hopeless, and my cross is overwhelming, Jesus help me.

When I struggle to forgive, Jesus help me.

When I am ill, and my head and hands cannot do their work, Jesus help me.

In the good Thou wouldst have me do; in the pleasures I seek, Jesus help me.

In the care I have for loved ones and friends, Jesus help me.

O Agonizing Jesus, strip me of all intemperance in the use of life’s comforts and pleasures.

Always, always, in joys or sorrows, in falls and shortcomings, Jesus help me, and never forsake me.  Amen.

A couple of other bloggers shared this project with me. If you want to have some printed to give away, please contact me through the contact form at this blog and I will give you the information you need.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Monday, February 24th, 2014 Catholic Church, prayers 6 Comments

Pope Calls for Day of Fast and Prayer

September 3, 2013

Pope Francis Angelus addressPope Francis at his September 1st Angelus talk pleaded for all Christians everywhere to fast and pray for peace on Saturday, September 7, the vigil of the Nativity of Mary.

To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.

On 7 September, in Saint Peter’s Square, here, from 19:00 until 24:00, we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention.

Anyone paying attention to what is happening in the Middle East, the saber rattling going on between China and Japan over islands between them, and the wholesale slaughter of Christians in various African countries by the Muslims, to name but a few situations mankind is visiting upon itself, can see the need for a wholehearted response to the Pope’s call.

What are your parishes/dioceses/eparchies planning for Saturday? Can you stop the clock, so to speak, on your normal routine and bring friends and family to a prayer time? Is your parish priest willing to set up Eucharistic Adoration during the Pope’s hours so Catholics can participate in this effort? If not, can you watch one hour with Jesus as He asked His apostles to do in the Garden of Gethsemane?

Make no mistake about it. The wars we see all over the world are demonically inspired. Hatred for others is very strong, but God’s grace is far stronger. Are we not as Christians to love all? The Pope is asking each of us to do something extra to promote peace. My favorite demonstration is crowds on their knees before God in pursuit of the divine purpose of peace. Can we not do this small thing in the name of the Prince of Peace?

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Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013 Catholic Church, prayers Comments Off on Pope Calls for Day of Fast and Prayer

Pope Francis’ Prayer to Our Lady

May 24, 2013, Feast of Mary, Help of Christians

This post linked to Sunday Snippets.

Let us remember today to pray for the Catholics of China, many of whom have experienced government interference with their annual pilgrimages to the shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan near Shanghai this year, and who continue to be oppressed by the communist government.

Now for the actual subject of this post…

Pope Francis wavesOn Thursday evening Pope Francis joined the Bishops of Italy as they gathered in Saint Peter’s Basilica for their 65th General Assembly.  He spoke to them about what being a bishop means in his usual direct and simple style. We laity can get an idea of what our bishops should be doing based on the Pope’s address. I was interested in the fact that part of the ceremony with the Pope centered around all the bishops reciting a profession of faith.  Apparently prior to this part of the program, the Pope ended his remarks with a prayer to the Blessed Virgin which we would all do well to pray for our own bishops frequently.

Mother of the silence that preserves the mystery of God, deliver us from the idolatry of the present, to which those who forget are condemned.

Purify the eyes of pastors with the balm of memory: that we might return to the freshness of the beginning, for a praying and penitent Church.

Mother of the beauty that blossoms from fidelity to daily work, remove us from the torpor of laziness, of pettiness, and defeatism. Cloak Pastors with that compassion that unifies and integrates: that we might discover the joy of a humble and fraternal servant Church.

Mother of the tenderness which enfolds in patience and mercy, help us burn away the sadness, impatience, and rigidity of those who have not known what it means to belong.

Intercede with your Son that our hands, our feet and our hearts may be swift: that we may build the Church with the truth in charity.

Mother, we will be the People of God, on pilgrimage towards the Kingdom. Amen.

This prayer contains many points we could use for meditation for ourselves. In this Year of Faith I am struck once again with the necessity to keep discovering Jesus and His teachings. As I go about my daily duties this prayer challenges me to think about whether and how I am living my Faith in each moment.

Regarding our bishops, I’m sure that we all have concerns about things that go on in our dioceses, or things that don’t go on that ought to be happening. Do we think to pray often for our bishops and pastors that they may grow in faith and charity, acquitting themselves of their weighty tasks with courage and fidelity?

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Friday, May 24th, 2013 prayers 6 Comments

God With Man in Moore, Oklahoma

May 23, 2013

This post linked to Sunday Snippets.

63rd Civil Support Team, Moore, OK, May, 2013, Oklahoma National Guard courtesy photo

63rd Civil Support Team, Moore, OK, May, 2013, Oklahoma National Guard courtesy photo

 

My husband and I have been following the tornado disaster and its aftermath in Moore, Oklahoma, since spotters first called it on Tuesday. We were glued to the television in horrified fascination as image after image swept by. I could only pray, “Lord, have mercy on all those people.”

 Just two years ago, a similar tornado cut a swath through Joplin, Missouri, a town about an hour away from us, killing 161 people. Although the death toll in Moore is currently said to be 24, the 17 miles of debris and flattened city blocks left behind is well beyond that of Joplin’s weather rampage.

Living in the Midwest we are used to tornados being called, especially in the spring and early summer, but we will never get used to the loss of life and destruction. Every time the local sirens go off, I pray that angels will surround us and protect our tiny home from the worst, and that we will be safe. We have no storm cellar but we can take Francie and hide just below ground level under the work bench in the garage if worst came to worst.  Lately a good neighbor has invited us to take shelter in her basement – and bring the dog!

Even though natural disasters are the permissive will of God, He never abandons man when they happen. Our hearts go out to those who lost family – children, parents, grandparents in this latest storm. Nobody but those suffering and those who have suffered a similar loss can know what it feels like. Nobody but those who in a matter of minutes went from counting on a comfortable home, food in the pantry, pets, cars, etc. to nothing but a concrete slab knows what it feels like. Yet the most important thing is what people do in these situations. That’s where we see God with us.

I noticed that after both tornados ordinary people stepped up to help one another.  In Moore, Christian groups shot into action with organization that would be the envy of any business corporation. I heard a reporter say that 27 local churches of various denominations banded together immediately to help victims. He called it “Christian FEMA” and said the wait for government FEMA was going to be a lot longer so people shouldn’t depend on it. That he said such a thing really surprised me. God was visibly present in the church volunteers and in the words of the reporter.

A teacher who rode out the storm in a school restroom with a group of kids said one child was crying and begged her not to let her die. The teacher told the reporter she told the child that nobody was going to die, and then she did something “I probably shouldn’t have done as a teacher. I prayed out loud to God…” She and all the children with her survived safely.

How sad that this teacher felt guilt for praying! She knew Who was in charge, though, and in a moment of courage as well as desperation she gave the right example to the kids. Who knows but what her prayer saved all of them. Yes, God was present there, too.

A CNN reporter asked a man who had lost everything what he was going to do now. The man answered, “Pray.”

When a reporter told Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin that all America was pulling for the state, she said, “Thank you for your prayers.”

Hearing so many statements like this really lifted my heart. In the midst of the loss in both Joplin and Moore, God was foremost in so many people’s minds that national news couldn’t keep Him out of the picture. He was everywhere in the hands and feet of volunteers who didn’t hesitate to help the stricken. Ordinary people and government officials witnessed to His supremacy in their simple words.

I am very grateful to live in a part of the country where many people don’t hesitate to show belief in Him even if it takes a disaster to open the mouths of some. Sometimes I wonder if one of the goods that God brings out of the evils of disasters isn’t the acknowledgement that He exists and we need to be paying a lot more attention to Him.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

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Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 prayers, spirituality 2 Comments

The Spirit of Faith

April 24, 2013

The Repentant Peter - El Greco, 1600

The Repentant Peter – El Greco, 1600

Discovering God in everything – what a daunting task! Most of us consider it impossible, which says a lot more about where we are on the path to sainthood than about God’s accessibility to His creatures.

In meditation #163 of Divine Mercy, Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, O.C.D. teaches us about faith:

Faith is not limited to knowing God in Himself as the Trinity; it makes us see Him also in all creatures, in all circumstances of our life, since He is always present everywhere by His providential action.  [He is revealing Himself through the supremely difficult people in our lives, on those days when multiple things go wrong and it seems as if a dark cloud is over our heads, in the chronic illnesses, pain, and psychological disturbances most people eventually suffer if they live long enough. He is present when we suffer injustice and persecution from our governments and are victims of corporate and individual sins.]

God knows creatures as they exist in relation to Himself; and faith, showing creatures to us as dependent upon God, makes us, in this way, see and judge them somewhat as God Himself sees and judges them.

Faith teaches us that nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in the world which is not subject to divine control. It is true that God cannot will evil; and therefore He does not will sin or its consequences, such as injustice, litigation, war; but He does  permit them, simply to safeguard the liberty of His creatures. [God cannot will evil because, being all-perfect, He cannot go against His nature. His perfect love accepts only love freely given to Him and so, if someone chooses not to love Him, He will not stand in the way of that person’s unloving heart.]

However, He sometimes intervenes in situations, even in those caused by sin, so as to make everything enter into His divine plan, which is ordained for His own glory and the salvation and sanctification of souls. My spirit of faith must be so real that it will convince me that no circumstance, either in my private life or in my relations with others, escapes God’s jurisdiction, which is so wise that it can draw good even out of evil. Consequently, I can see nothing apart from God; I can find Him in any person, in any situation.

Our questions in the middle of misery might be: Where is God in all this? What does He want from me now? What is He trying to teach me? If we don’t understand immediately what His plan is, if we ask Him for the faith to comprehend, eventually, when we are ready, He will give us the grace to see.

To be able to recognize and meet God in every creature, even in the ones that hurt us, offend us, or make us suffer, and in every happening, even the most disagreeable, painful, and disturbing ones – this is a great secret of the interior life. Then the world becomes an open book, on every page of which is written in large letters the one word: God. Before God, His will, His permission, His plans, everything else becomes secondary; we see how stupid it is to fix our gaze on creatures, which are, as it were, only a veil which hides the Creator. We need, however, assiduous practice before we can reach such deep faith.

As humans, we are gifted with an intellect above all creatures except the angels. That doesn’t mean we aren’t slow learners. This is why we often get stuck in sinful repetitive behavior patterns that cause us pain. We have the power to choose to let God enlighten us in the negative or evil circumstances of our lives or to hang on to our darkness. We can choose to see God or to let our obsessions with controlling our situations plunge us deeper into misery. Alcoholics Anonymous has their famous Twelve Step Program. One of those steps is “Let go and let God.” Whenever we are tempted to pride, impatience, grumpiness, etc., maybe it’s because our focus is in the wrong place. Maybe we aren’t surrendering to God.

As we examine our conscience each day, perhaps in reflecting on where we collected a bunch of bad feelings, gave into depression and frustration, and stored up anger, we might pray:

Lord, teach me what You want me to know. Let me see all the circumstances of my life through Your eyes. Help me to let go of anything that takes my focus away from You. Help me to practice letting You be in charge. Help me fulfill my daily responsibilities out of love for You and not out of self-love. Let me see You in everything. Make me a woman (man) of true faith.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

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Wednesday, April 24th, 2013 prayers, spirituality 7 Comments

Praying for the Election of the Roman Pontiff

March 11, 2013

St. Peter bronze - CambioNothing is more important right now for Catholics and for the world than electing a holy and capable man to the throne of Peter. He will either be a light in the darkness as many of his predecessors, or he will help advance the darkness through ineptness or languor in dealing with the challenges of our times both ecclesiastical and political. Our responsibility as members of the Body of Christ is to pray, do penance, and sacrifice so that the Cardinals in the conclave will elect a worthy successor to St. Peter.

Personally, I’m distressed that in our diocese no Masses are being offered today or tomorrow in parishes or the cathedral for the election of the Roman Pontiff. In fact, none are scheduled for this purpose at all, although the bidding prayers on Sunday have included some intercessions. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, though, the one specifically for the election of the Pope, is the most powerful prayer we can offer and I believe we should be offering it in our diocese in solidarity with the Cardinal electors. Oh, well.

Father Mark Kirby, OSB, of Silverstream Abbey in Ireland has written a beautiful litany for the election with intercessions for every day of the week. Father George Byers at Holy Souls Hermitage has suggested praying the sequence from Pentecost Sunday, the Veni Sancte Spiritus, and the Emergency Chaplet of the Immaculate Conception for this election. Just click on the link to find them.

Although Rome is seven hours ahead of us, a friend and her daughter will be joining my husband and me late tomorrow morning at the small chapel in the cathedral to pray these prayers.  It won’t coincide with the voting time or the Mass time for the Cardinal electors, but at least we know we are helping intercede and God will listen.  No doubt many other Catholics will be doing similar things in their homes.

I’m mentioning these prayers so that others can use them, too, and be part of the world wide spiritual support for the Cardinal electors.

The bronze statue of St. Peter pictured in this post is in the Roman basilica and was made by Arnolfo di Cambia, c. 1300. I was a pilgrim who touched the worn right foot in 1998. Very humbling to be one of multitudes who over the centuries made their way to the Apostolic seat to venerate the simple fisherman Jesus left in charge of his flock, and to praise the Lord for giving us so many holy successors.  May the Lord bless us yet again now.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

 

 

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Monday, March 11th, 2013 Catholic Church, litany, prayers 2 Comments

Obtaining Conversion for Others

September 27, 2012

When we become convinced of our neediness and have received the divine mercy of God’s forgiveness of our sins, we cannot but desire the conversion of others.  When we see relatives and friends separating themselves from God and sinning deliberately, in true charity we remember these souls in our prayers.

Fortunately, the great St. Joseph is a powerful intercessor with Christ in these situations.  I clipped this prayer from the most recent newsletter from the St. Joseph Foundation and am sharing it because I’ve never seen it before and maybe you haven’t either.  St. Teresa of Avila wrote that the greatest alms we can give is to pray for those in mortal sin.  It doesn’t hurt that we invoke the aid of the foster father of Jesus in our quest.

A Prayer to St. Joseph to Obtain a Conversion

O glorious patriarch who merited to be called just by the Holy Spirit, I urgently recommend to you the soul of (N.N.) which Jesus redeemed at the price of His precious blood.  You know how deplorable is the state and how unhappy the life of those who have banished this loving Savior from their hearts, and how greatly they are exposed to the danger of losing Him eternally.  Permit not, I beseech you, that a soul so dear to me should continue any longer in its evil ways.  Preserve it from the danger that threatens it.  Touch the heart of this prodigal child, and conduct him back to the bosom of the fondest of fathers.  Abandon him not.  I implore you, till you have opened to him the gates of the heavenly city, where he will praise and bless you throughout eternity for the happiness which he will owe to your powerful intercession.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Thursday, September 27th, 2012 Catholic Church, prayers, spirituality 4 Comments

Sabbath Moments

July 14, 2012

Awareness of God

Today is Bastille Day in France, if I remember correctly from my French classes in college. It’s not a day I want to celebrate because I can’t help but think that an evil spirit was behind the French Revolution, and that it was the great event that signaled the de-Christianization of Europe.  Liberty, Equality, Fraternity was as big a lie then as it is now.  The words themselves sound noble, but they were just a slogan to control the masses.  God had no place in it.  OK, I’ll stop my rant on history and get to the real Sabbath Moments for this week.

Rain, rain, come again and often

We are in a withering drought here in southwest Missouri.  I’ve been praying for rain nearly every day.  This morning I awoke to thunder, but it seemed that only those northeast of us were being blessed with showers.  As I was praying the Hour of Prime, it started to pour outside in accompaniment to these verses of Psalm 107:

For your kindness towers to the heavens, and your faithfulness to the skies.

In my mind’s eye I could see God winking.

Cardiologist

This year we’ve been dealing with getting my husband’s heart issues under control.  We had an appointment with his cardiologist Wednesday to discuss the MRI results from a couple of weeks ago.  The original problem that brought us to the doctor was irregular and fast heartbeats.  We solved that on our own with Ionic Fizz Magnesium Plus.  The doctor was impressed because he was going to give hubby a prescription for magnesium and now he doesn’t have to.  However, in the process of getting to the bottom of the heart issues, the MRI showed an enlarged aorta shortly past the root.  The good doc said it could be congenital…or not.  So we have more tests to take.  In all we’ve been dealing with, though, I can see the hand of God in helping us get a really good, cheerful, experienced and competent doctor who is a good listener.  And he doesn’t think we’re crazy for using natural remedies rather than prescription drugs whenever we can.

Purity of heart

I’ve been reading the TAN Classic: The Spiritual Combat (Tan Classics) by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli.  This book was a favorite of St. Francis de Sales who recommended it to everyone under his spiritual direction.  

It’s no secret that we are hammered by evil from all sides and even from within ourselves.  Dom Lorenzo tells us:

The most effective remedy against evil is purity of heart.  Everyone engaged in the spiritual combat must be armed with it, discarding the old man and putting on the new.  The remedy is applied in this way.  In everything that we undertake, pursue, or reject, we divest ourselves of all human considerations, and do only what is conformable to the will of God.

…It is not within man’s power to realize the efficacy of this motive.  The least action, no matter how insignificant, performed for His sake, greatly surpasses actions which, although of greater significance, are done for other motives.

These lines brought me back to the wonderful spiritual practices the good sisters taught us when I was very young: The Morning Offering, writing J.M.J. or A.M.D.G. at the top of our school papers and homework, and no doubt, stuff I’ve forgotten.  Our intentions have to have a laser-like focus about them and a dogged persistence to live every moment of the day for God’s greater honor and glory.  That’s exercising purity of heart which will bring us to heaven as Jesus promised in Mt. 5:8. 

Pray for the grace to remember to make the Morning Offering every day the minute you wake up.  I did after years of neglect and God granted this request.  He will do it for anyone who asks.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Saturday, July 14th, 2012 prayers, Sabbath Moments, spirituality 2 Comments

The Catholic Prayer Life

July 10, 2012

Praying Hands, c. 1508, Albrecht Dürer (b. 1471, Nürnberg, d. 1528, Nürnberg), Brush drawing on blue primed paper, Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna

Last week I posted about the Peace of Mind Prayer Ministry which is specifically set up to accept prayer requests.  Colleen from The Catholic Prayer Life and Thoughts on Grace commented that she also takes prayer requests.  Just click on “The Catholic Prayer Life” and it will take you to the “Prayer Requests” page.  So many people are suffering in so many ways, we need all the help we can get in lifting one another up to the Lord.  Praying for others is a fundamental act of charity.

If you haven’t come across The Catholic Prayer Life site, please visit.  Colleen does a great job educating and involving readers on Catholic spirituality.  Whatever might be going on in your life, you’ll find helpful suggestions to develop a strong spiritual life.  The topics are beautifully organized and Colleen has placed many links to other helpful sites.  I am impressed with the huge amount of work it was to bring a site like this together in such a user-friendly way.

One last comment.  Colleen is never preachy but still gets her points across with a punch!  Or should I say, she incites compunction in the heart and gratitude for the graces God gives.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Tuesday, July 10th, 2012 prayers 3 Comments

Peace of Mind Prayer Ministry

July 2, 2012

Image of the Divine Mercy

I received an email this past week from Brother Jonathan Marshall, CMIC, a Catholic Lay Brother of the Conftraternity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary; a Division of the Marian Helpers of Divine Mercy.  His web site is Peace of Mind Prayer Ministry.  

No matter what troubles you, no matter what faith you follow – or even if you don’t practice any faith,  Brother Johathan is there to pray for you.  Those of us familiar with the Divine Mercy devotion know how powerful prayers are when we plead for the mercy of Christ for ourselves and others.  Please visit Brother Jonathan’s site to ask for prayer, and don’t forget to pray for him, too.  Prayer warriors need us behind them.  As Christians we are to lift each other up, especially in this age.

Perhaps my fellow bloggers may wish to check out his site and link to it as well.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

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Monday, July 2nd, 2012 prayers 5 Comments

A Sudden, Unprovided Death

May  8, 2012

A 37 year old man was found dead on Cox South Hospital’s grounds March 15, 2012 in Springfield, Missouri, but the story was reported only last Saturday in the local paper.  A construction worker spotted the body from a walking bridge spanning a busy street below and connecting two parts of the hospital complex.  The body lay in a cluster of evergreens near a retaining wall, between the wall and the street.  The area is usually only accessed by grounds crews in the summer months, but hospital employees and visitors who are smokers frequent the nearby sidewalk 24 hours a day. 

Initially, the construction worker thought the man might be sleeping and told a hospital security guard who didn’t take it seriously, thinking a drunk had passed out, and went back to his paperwork.  Later that day, the construction worker noticed birds pecking at the body and again reported to security.  The police were called and a sad and ironic story unfolded.

Daniel Dupree had likely been dead there for at least two months or more according to the coroner.  He died of alcohol poisoning in the arms of his mistress, Lady Vodka, residing in a nearby bottle. 

In mid-December Dupree checked into Cox North through the emergency room for alcoholism treatment and was transferred to Cox South.  After several days of treatment he was discharged. Records show he was a patient the next night, December 22, at Mercy Hospital’s emergency room several miles north from Cox, but was released that evening.  When he was found, he had a Cox patient bracelet on his wrist.  Cox only says an internal investigation found no wrongdoing, and won’t release any information because of the ongoing investigation by police who don’t suspect foul play.

How none of the smokers smelled a rotting body all that time remains a mystery as we had a very mild winter with frequent days above 40 degrees and very little snow.  Sadly, the lack of visibility from the street and the time of year worked against the discovery, but one wonders how many overpass users saw the body before March 15th and said nothing.

Dupree was not someone many would care about anyway.  The media described him as a “transient.”  His wife, who reported him to the police as missing on December 24th, thought he ran off with his ex-girlfriend, but when she checked with the girlfriend, she hadn’t seen him either.  The last record of anyone trying to find Dupree was December 29th when a woman, not his wife, called police to ask for a “well-being” check.

Dupree died alone, a sudden, unprovided death we pray to be delivered from in the Litany of the Saints  during Easter Vigil.  He died this way because of choices he made and perhaps because no one was praying for him.  Every aspect of this story is sad with no hero but the persistent construction worker.  Were it not for him, Dupree would most likely still be lying under the pine tree unnoticed or ignored and unsought by anyone.

If nothing else, the lesson from this story is that those of us who take our faith seriously should pray frequently for “poor sinners” as Our Lady of Fatima asked us.  Jesus died for Daniel Dupree just as he did for every person.  Whether Dupree is with Him now we don’t know, but he is just the kind of person Jesus had in mind when He brought St. Faustina the Divine Mercy Chaplet and asked her to spread the devotion worldwide.

Have you prayed for poor sinners today?

“Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

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Tuesday, May 8th, 2012 prayers, suffering 5 Comments

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