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Friendship in Heaven

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 23:07

Beyond the narrow limits of the family, affection may extend within a wide circle of friendship. The Man-God was pleased to have friends on earth, and He has deigned to assemble them around Him in heaven. Fol­lowing His example, the holiest persons have given free vent to the tenderest feelings of their hearts: all have had friends, chosen out of a thousand, and all have rejoiced in the thought of knowing and loving them in eternal repose.

Now, one of the joys of these true friends will be their mutual recognition. St. Ambrose thought so when he commented on the following words of our Savior: “I have called you friends, because all things whatsoever I have heard of my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). By these words our Lord has given the model of friendship for us to copy. We must reveal to our friends all the secrets of our hearts, and we must not remain in ignorance of theirs. A friend conceals nothing. If he is sincere, he opens his mind as our Savior disclosed the mysteries of His Father.

Thus also thought that humble and holy priest of our own days, who was a great prophet without going beyond his poor little village, where multitudes visited him living, and visit him still after death. Here are some of his consoling expressions:

With whom shall we be in heaven? With God, who is our Father; with Jesus Christ, who is our Brother; with the Blessed Virgin, who is our Mother; with the angels and saints, who are our friends. A king, in his last moments, said with deep regret: “Must I then quit my kingdom to go into a country where no one is known to me?” He had never thought of the happiness of heaven. We must make friends there henceforward, in order that we may meet them after death; and then we shall not be afraid, like that king, of not knowing anyone in the other world.

This article is from “In Heaven We’ll Meet Again.” Click image to preview or order.

It appears to you, perhaps, that until now I have spoken only of that general friendship that will exist among all the saints in heaven, as it exists on earth, among all the good who know and appreciate each other; and, still more, among all the religious who live in the same community. But does not what I have said apply with greater force to a special and holy friendship sometimes seen to blossom during time between two hearts, by virtue of the blood of Jesus Christ?

Firmly believe that such a flower, after having formed your delight on earth, will shed its odors in a blessed eter­nity, to perfume the celestial court, and to give ever-new consolation to the elect.

The saints even considered the possibility of such persistence as an essential of friendship. Who does not know that saying of St. Jerome, “The friendship was never true that can have an end”? The friendship that cannot be eternal has no real existence, and true friendship survives all separations of death, to reunite in heaven those whom she unites on earth.

You have read those lines of St. Francis de Sales (1567-­1622) describing true friendship as the prelude and foretaste of heaven:

If your reciprocal communication is made up of charity, of devotion, of Christian perfection, O God! How precious will your friendship be! It will be excellent, because it came from God; excellent, because it tends to God; excellent, because its bond is God; excellent, because it will last forever in God. Oh! How pleasant it is to love on earth as they love in heaven and to learn mutually to cherish one another in this world as we shall do throughout eternity in the next! The delicious balm of devotion distills from heart to heart by continual participation; and so it may be said that God has extended His blessings and the life of ages upon ages over such friendship. Never did so chaste a tie change but into a union of spirits more perfect and more pure — a living image of the blessed friendships to exist in heaven.

Feel no scruple, then, when death deprives you of a friend, in consoling yourself by repeating: “She forgets me not? She prays for me, she watches over me; we remain united.”

Thus did St. Gregory Nazianzen console himself after the death of St. Basil, his perfect friend: “Now,” said he, “Basil is in heaven. It is there he offers his former sacrifices for us, and breathes forth fresh prayers for the people; for in departing he has not altogether left us. At times even he comes to warn me by nocturnal visions, and he reproves me when I deviate from my duty.”

In this manner St. Augustine likewise consoled himself when death had carried away one of his friends to Abraham’s bosom. “It is there,” exclaimed he, “that my Nebridius is living — my sweet friend, thy adopted child, O Lord! It is there he lives, there he drinks in all the wisdom for which he thirsts. Still, he is not, I think, so inebriated with it as to forget me. How could he forget me, since thou thyself, Lord, who art the draught of wisdom to my friend, rememberest us?”

A holy bishop, writing to a holy pope, affords us another instance of the same views. In anticipation of death, whose strokes could not long fail to fall on both, he thus seeks comfort:

Let us, at all times and in all places, remember and pray for one another; let us strive to soften our pains and anguish by our mutual love; and if one of us, through the goodness of God, precede the other to heaven, may our friendship continue in the presence of God, and our prayers unceasingly implore the mercy of our Father in favor of our brothers and sisters.

You may go still further. After having previously consoled yourself to a certain degree by a strong hope that your friend would pray more efficaciously for you if she were the first to reach heaven, you will rejoice in the thought of rejoining her there, and you will say to her: “In paradise we shall be together — yes, together in the presence of God; and there how much more dearly shall we love one another!”

But some may be found who will endeavor forcibly to repress all these sentiments of a loving heart and who will make you this reproach: “What! Is it not a manifest and gross imperfection to rouse your courage and to stimulate yourself in your struggle with the world, by the hope of reposing on the bosom of those whom you love?” You may reply, madam, that there have been great saints who were even more sensible than you to this hope and that they desired to enjoy again, in a blessed eternity, the chaste embraces of their friends.

The Apostle of India acknowledged this to the founder of the Society of Jesus. St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552) wrote to St. Ignatius:

You say in the excess of your friendship for me, that you would most ardently wish to see me once more before you die. Oh! God alone, who looks into the heart, knows how vivid and how deep an impression this dear proof of your affection has made on my soul. Each time I recall it — and that happens often — my eyes involuntarily fill with tears; and if the delightful idea that I could embrace you once more presents itself to my mind (for, however difficult it might appear at first sight, there is nothing that holy obedience cannot accomplish), I find myself for an instant surprised by a torrent of tears that no power can arrest.

I pray God that if we are not to see each other again while living, we may together enjoy in a happy eternity the repose never to be found in this life.

It is all over; we never shall meet again on earth otherwise than by letters; but in heaven — ah! We shall meet face-to-face. And then with what transport shall we not embrace one another!

Who, indeed, can tell the transports which two virtuous friends will experience for each other eternally in heaven, after having here below loved each other unto perfection, and verified the saying of Holy Scripture: “A faithful friend is the medicine of life and immortality; and they that fear the Lord shall find such a friend” (Sir. 6:16)?

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in In Heaven We’ll Meet Again, which is available from Sophia Institute Press.

Answering the Call

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 23:05

Peter and Andrew were businessmen.  So were their neighbors, James and John.  They tried to wring a living out of the Sea of Galilee, and it probably took nearly all of the time and energy that they had.

So it would have been easy to pass on the chance to hear some new prophet proclaim that the Kingdom of God had finally arrived.  And then, having heard this message, they could have rolled their eyes and chuckled about how they hoped that this Kingdom would put more fish in the lake.  Or they could have made excuses that this was all very interesting, but following the wandering rabbi from Nazareth was more suitable for single men with no mouths to feed.

No, when Jesus invited them to learn to catch men instead of fish, they dropped their nets, abandoned their businesses, and went on the road.

Is it wrong to have a family?  Is it wrong to be in business?  Are these secular activities inappropriate for a disciple of Jesus?

Not in the least.  The Church teaches that we can serve the Lord and grow in holiness through any honest task, whether we are single or married.  But St. Paul also tells us that the Christian engaged in secular activities must inwardly detach from them: “those who have wives should live as though they have none . . . buyers should conduct themselves as if they owned nothing, and those who make use of the world as though they were not using it, for the world as we know it is passing away.”  (I Cor 7:29-31)

The word “secular” means “of this world.”  Now it is true that God likes this world.  After all, he created it.  But when sinful humanity gets a hold of the things of this passing world, it doesn’t want to let go.  It becomes engrossed, absorbed, consumed with them to the neglect of what lasts forever, namely the Kingdom of God.

In Jesus, the Kingdom has touched down on planet earth.  We need to re-form our lives, which is not only to say repent from sin, but actually structure our lives totally around the kingdom and its priorities.  Kingdom priorities might dictate that many enter into the sacrament of matrimony in order to raise up new heralds of the kingdom and leaders of God’s people.  And Christ may call others to involve themselves in business so as to provide financially for God’s work and to infuse Christian values into the marketplace.

Detachment does not mean that you shouldn’t enjoy your secular pursuits and approach them with energy and enthusiasm.  It just means that your daily activity must be placed on the altar, offered up to God as a living sacrifice.  And you must be ever ready to walk away from your activities at a moment’s notice, should Jesus call you to do so.  Moments of truth will come to test just how serious we about living for God rather than for sports, careers and even families.

Yes families.  There are times when duty calls soldiers to leave their families.  The same holds true for breadwinners–my great-grandfather left family behind in Italy for several years while he prepared a better place for them in America.  So why should we be surprised that at times some may be called to leave family for the sake of the Kingdom of God?

We may not be called literally to leave all behind to walk the dusty trails of Israel.  But there will come a moment when we may hear an invitation to decline a scholarship, or a promotion, or a romance for the sake of the Kingdom.

As the gospel story unfolds, we learn that the apostles had more than a few shortcomings.  But we have to admit this–that when that initial call came, as challenging as it was, they made no excuses.  Can the same be said for us?

*

Marcellino D’Ambrosio (aka “Dr. Italy”) writes from Texas.  Connect with him at dritaly.com or on social media @DrItaly.

This is offered as a reflection upon the readings for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, liturgical cycle B (Jon 3:1-5,10; Psalm 25, I Cor. 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20).  It is appears here with the permission of the author.

Scripture Speaks: Fishers of Men

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 23:02

In Ordinary Time, we hear “the preaching of the kingdom of God” through all the lectionary readings.  Today, we find a dramatization of what that means for some of us.

Gospel (Read Mk 1:14-20)

In last Sunday’s Gospel, we reflected on Jesus’ first meeting with Andrew, John, and Simon Peter.  These men were very interested in the new Rabbi whom John the Baptist, their teacher, had called “the Lamb of God.”  Today’s reading describes how they, along with John’s brother, James, moved from being interested in Jesus to becoming His intimate companions and co-workers.  How did this happen?

We see that our episode takes place “after John had been arrested.”  John’s public ministry had come to an end.  His arrest, as well as the appearance of the One for whom John had prepared them, certainly must have deeply stirred his disciples.  They had a lot to think about.  They returned to their livelihood—fishing.  Perhaps quiet times on the water gave them opportunities to mull over all that was happening.  Into this setting steps Jesus, preaching in Galilee as the Baptist had once done at the Jordan River:  “This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”  Such a startling message!  Words like these could only mean one thing in Israel:  the long wait for the Messiah had finally ended.  Something new was about to begin.

Jesus passed by Simon and Andrew as they were casting their nets into the sea.  He recognized them, of course, and called out over the water: “Come after Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  What a strange invitation to men who caught fish for a living.  Why would fishermen want to catch men instead?  We can assume that these dramatic words to the men in the boat, coming at a time when their heads must have been full of all the hope and expectation they had received as the Baptist’s disciples, were simply irresistible to them.  The invitation answered a desire that was likely already forming in them.  Recall that when Andrew first met Jesus, his immediate impulse was to go get his brother and bring him to “the Messiah.”  Andrew already gave evidence of wanting to be a “fisher of men.”  The Good News about Jesus was meant to be shared.

In response to the call of Jesus, Simon and Andrew “abandoned their nets and followed Him.”  They instantly recognized their new vocation in this direct and personal invitation.  John and his brother, James, likewise got this specific call to start a new life with Jesus, so they left their father and the other workers in answer to it.

We can’t miss the meaning here.  These ordinary fishermen were not simply going to join the crowds that began to gather around Jesus, hearing Him preach and coming to believe in Him.  Rather, theirs was a specific call to a specific vocation:  to be apostolic “fishers of men.”  They would no longer ply their trade in boats on the sea.  They were the first of so many, both men and women, in all the centuries that have since passed, for whom the call to discipleship is a call to radical abandonment of all worldly occupations.  For them, “to repent, and believe in the Gospel” means singular service, as priests and religious.

What about the rest of us?

Possible response:  Lord Jesus, thank You for calling men and women to You in this remarkable way.  May many today hear this call read at Mass as the fishermen heard it in their boats.

First Reading (Read Jonah 3:1-5, 10)

Jonah, a prophet of Israel in about 780 B.C., was called by God to preach a message of repentance to the very wicked Assyrian city of Nineveh.  The people of Israel were terrified of the Assyrians, because they were ruthless and cruel in their victories over conquered peoples.  They had a vicious policy of deporting anyone who survived their attacks, and because the Israelites knew their land to be a holy land, a gift from God, they hated the thought of ever being sent away from it.  Jonah did not want to preach repentance to them; he didn’t think God should offer them that kind of mercy.

Nevertheless, three days in the belly of a fish convinced Jonah he couldn’t avoid the mission.  He eventually went to Nineveh and announced, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed.”  What was the reaction to the reluctant prophet’s message?  When the people heard it, “they believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.”  Here we have a picture that helps us begin to answer the question about what happens to those of us who hear God’s call to repentance and belief but do not get a particular call to drop everything for a new vocation, as did the apostles.  The people of Nineveh took action to demonstrate their willingness to turn to a new way of life.  God’s call to man, all through our history, requires a concrete response, a willful changing of our minds (“repentance” in Greek literally means “change of mind”) about Him and ourselves.  Even when we are not asked to “abandon” our vocations, we are asked to make a radical turn away from ourselves and toward God.  Surely the Ninevites continued their fishing, their trading, their pottery-making, their parenting.  Yet, they were willing to make a clear break from their pride by fasting and wearing sackcloth.  They recognized the darkness of their previous way of life and were ready to listen to God.

Happily, we have in our other readings more direction about how those of us not called to a religious vocation can live our lives as disciples of Jesus.

Possible response:  Heavenly Father, help me be as resolute as the Ninevites when I hear Your call to repentance and belief.

Psalm (Read Ps 25:4-9)

The psalmist gives all of us, invited to a religious vocation or not, an excellent way to respond concretely to God’s call to repentance and belief.  These verses form a heartfelt prayer for God’s guidance into the life He has for us:  “Your ways, O LORD, make known to me; teach me Your paths…for You are God my Savior.”  The first mark of repentance’s true humility is a willingness to be taught and directed by God.  This is the difference between remorse over sin, which is largely emotional, and true repentance.  The psalmist reminds us of something we saw in the story of Jonah.  God desires to extend His forgiveness to sinners, even the worst of us:  “Good and upright is the LORD; thus He shows sinners the way.”

Whenever we hear God’s call to repentance and belief (as both the Ninevites and apostles did), our first step is to pray, “Teach me Your ways, O LORD.”

Possible response:  The psalm is, itself, a response to our other readings.  Read it again prayerfully to make it your own.

Second Reading (Read 1 Cor 7:29-31)

How can these verses help us understand how to live our lives in this world, especially since St. Paul says, “For the world in its present form is passing away”?  Well, there’s the key.  Those of us not called to a religious vocation must understand what St. Paul is teaching us here.  The context of these verses is quite important.  In this part of his letter, St. Paul is answering questions sent to him from the Corinthian church.  There had been some confusion about whether marrying was sinful or not.  In vs. 26 (not included in today’s reading), St. Paul says, “in view of the impending distress it is well for a person to remain as he is.”  He likely was expecting an outbreak of persecution against Christians from a hostile pagan city.  In that case, starting a family would be imprudent.  However, he goes on to say that marrying is not a sin.  He also gives a universal maxim for how to live in the world, yet not be of it:  hold lightly to everything.  Our marriages, the events that cause tears or laughter, our possessions, our occupations—none of these are eternal.  Some of us, answering God’s call to repentance and belief in the Gospel, will need to abandon these for Jesus’ sake.  In doing so, the religious become for us a foreshadowing of heaven, where God is all to all.  The rest of us will answer God’s call while remaining in our worldly lives, but we must live them in the light of what the others, called to religious vocations, teach us.  We don’t abandon our vocations; we abandon our attachment to them, never allowing them to become ends in themselves.  Even in our marriages, God comes first.

Possible response:  Lord Jesus, please give me the grace to recognize my attachments and to loosen my grip on them.

image: By Ad Meskens (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The call of the Twelve, the close

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 23:00

The call of the Twelve, the close companions and disciples of Jesus in his public ministry, teaches us about trust in God and trust in our fellows.

In the various Gospel accounts of the call of his first disciples, who became his Apostles, the Twelve, we see how readily they responded when Jesus called. Jesus passes by, calls Andrew and Peter, James and John, Matthew the tax­ collector, and they follow him, leaving their boats and livelihood.

These followers of Jesus showed faith, trust and obedience to Jesus’ call: “We have found the Messiah,” (Jn 1: 41); “we found the one that Moses wrote about in the Law, and the prophets, as well: he is Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” (Jn 1: 45)

Eventually their following and companionship grew into love of Jesus, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” (Jn 21: 15)

The call of the disciples and the naming the Twelve also show God’s great trust in men: that the saving work of his Son would be continued by fellow human beings. What is truly amazing is that God chose ordinary people for his close followers and friends, for the Twelve: “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.” (Mt 16: 18) “Feed my lambs,” (Jn 21: 15)

We thank God for his trust in us, of course, with his grace and great help. We thank God for our leaders in the Church and in our society.

St. Canute, King of Denmark

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 23:00

St. Canute, also called Knute or Canutus, succeeded his brother Harald, the seventh king of Denmark. The differences between the two brothers were like saint and sinner. Harald’s reputation for laziness and vice gained him the nickname “the Slothful.” Fortunately, he only reigned for two years before his death and the throne went to Canute.

Canute began his reign by declaring war on the enemies of the state and bringing the seeds of Christian faith to those conquered provinces.  Being a devout and humble Christian, Canute would, after each victory, prostate himself before the crucifix of our Lord and offer himself and his kingdom to the King of Kings. After peace was restored in the land, Canute decided to marry Eltha (sometimes referred to as Alice), the daughter of the Earl of Flanders. They had a son named Charles who grew to be so pious that he was called Charles the Good. Charles had a wonderful example of goodness in his father. Canute showed the greatest esteem for holy men and clergy and granted them many privileges and immunities. He was also good to the lowly and those in his service, always seeking to make them happy and lighten their burdens. He built churches and even gave his valuable crown to the church of Roschild in Zealand, his capital city. He fasted and prayed constantly.

His heavy taxes and disputes with the nobles led to a rebellion, however, that was led by his brother, Olaf, who wanted the kingdom for himself. Canute ended up having to flee to the Island of Funen. He, his brother Benedict and other loyal followers took refuge there in the church of St. Alban in Odnese. But the insurgents followed them, and on the 10th of July, 1086, as Canute knelt before the altar confessing his sins, a javelin thrown through a window ripped through his body and killed him. His brother Benedict and 17 other loyal followers were also slain.

Lessons

After the death of Canute, his wicked brother Olaf took the throne, and for the eight years and three months that he reigned, the land was besieged by a horrible famine and many other calamities. Finally, his successor, Eric III, an honorable and devout man, restored piety and peace. He also sent proofs of miracles taking place at the tomb of Canute and obtained from the pope a declaration authorizing the veneration of St. Canute, the proto-martyr of Denmark.

Prayer

Heavenly King, we pray that like St. Canute, we will be willing to offer up all that we have to You, that we may spend eternity in Your royal court in Heaven.  Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Sts. Marius, Martha, Audifax, and Abachum (270), Martyrs (parents and two sons)

St. Wulstan (1095), Bishop

image: Orf3us / Wikimedia Commons

In the Age of Technology, Be Present to God and Others

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 23:07

Ever since I can remember, I have enjoyed sitting silently watching the snow fall. I can vividly remember as a child watching it fall in large, fluffy flakes outside my Montana classroom in grade school. While the classroom bustled and my classmates chatted away during free-time, I would sit and watch the snow fall. I entered into a kind of peace and silence in those moments. Considering how active I was as a child playing sports, riding bikes, and swimming, it was an unexpected discovery in my God given nature to enter into such moments. I was too young to understand the implications at the time, but it began at an early age. I easily entered into—and still do—contemplating God’s creation. Montana provided the perfect instruction since it lends itself easily to the wonders of Creation. Winters can also be long, so I made peace with snow at an early age.

I now live in less rugged mountains, but still beautiful in their old age. We don’t get a lot of snow in these parts — usually one or two storms per year — and when we do it’s a cause for celebration for children and consternation for adults. For me it’s a chance to enter once more into the silence of snowy morns. I brought bird seed out to the birds that become quite active during a gentle snow and I sat watching my daughter play with our Labrador Retriever and our new Australian Shepherd Mix puppy in the snow that is still falling as I write. She was out at sunrise, running, squealing, making snow angels, and attempting to build an igloo out of less than an inch of powdery snow. She entered fully into the moment and found joy in frozen flakes on her tongue while I found joy in the silence of softly falling downy flake.

In our digital age, how often do we truly enter into the moment? How do we come to know God’s presence in our lives throughout each day or at Mass,–even in the times of repetitiveness or mundane tasks–if we are glued to screens all day long? The research coming out now on the use of smartphones and social media should give all of us pause. Heralded as the great new world and solution to our lack of connectivity, we are now seeing that we are less connected than in the past. We are in fact more isolated from one another. Loneliness is at epidemic levels.

Our smartphones, televisions, computer screens, etc. have created a false sense of connectivity. We no longer see what is going on around us as our attention turns to the screen before us. We convince ourselves that we are multi-tasking, but in reality, we shut off the world around us in that moment and enter into a virtual reality that may or may not comport with actual reality. Our attention is often divided between the people around us and our technology. Who exactly is more important: The person before us in flesh and blood or the person on our screen? Both are people worthy of love and dignity, but only the one person is the one God has chosen to place physically in our lives in that moment. This is especially true of our children and spouses.

The lack of presence to others in our daily lives

We no longer know how to be present in each moment. We race through our days largely on auto-pilot, running from one task to the next and then “decompressing” before a screen of some sort. This means that we are largely unaware of the people around us, even in our own families, and the world just outside of our door. I sat at dinner the other night with some good friends of ours at what was supposed to be the birthday celebration of one of their daughters. The three teenagers spent the entire night on their cell phones with no conversation other than to order their meal.

My daughter came to me in frustration saying that nobody would talk to her or play with her. I said: “Honey, they are on their phones.” They heard me, so they didn’t completely shut the world out. They rather shame-faced briefly hid their phones from view, but went right back to them a short time later. The guilt didn’t last long. I teased the birthday girl about a time when a waiter told her that if she kept her phone off for the entire dinner then he would buy her dessert. Perhaps it was time to do that again? We can’t celebrate the joy of her birth with her if she’s not mentally present.

How can we enter into communion with God and our neighbor if we are constantly tied to screens? We can’t hear His still quiet voice if we drown it out with a constant flow of information or superficial updates. This isn’t to argue that technology is bad or evil. Most technology within itself is morally neutral, it’s all in how we decide to use it. The problem is our lack of discipline and proper ordering of the technology. It can be difficult to develop the much-needed virtue of temperance. I’m no exception. I know how mighty the struggle can be.

Does it help me grow in holiness?

This discipline is harder for some than it is for others. I tend towards an addiction when it comes to social media, which is why I got rid of Facebook. I tried for a decade to develop temperance, but I ended up sucked in every single time I would rejoin. I finally had to ask myself the difficult question we must all ask ourselves when examining our lives: Does Facebook (insert other) help me grow in holiness? The resounding answer for me was no. It is a source of distraction, and at times, anxiety as the constant 24/7 flow of information can easily rob me, or anyone else, of peace. We eventually have to look away from the train wreck of the Fallen world and trust in God. Eventually, all we can do is fall on prayer.

Overuse of technology robs us of time with God and others

The problem with our over-dependence on social media and other similar technologies like email, is that it can take away from our much-needed time spent in silence praying to God. It can also destroy time when families and friends should be communing together. I think most of us have seen two people on an obvious date engrossed in their phones, the teenagers at every table scrolling their smartphones while sitting together, or the entire family lost in screens while sitting in the same room. This is not communion, nor is it authentic friendship. It’s a group of people sitting near one another, but they are not actually together in the traditional sense. It is impossible to learn prayer and silence if we are constantly distracted.

Authentic friendship requires presence

Friendship requires us to be physically present to one another. Our non-verbal cues, eye contact, physical touch, body language, etc. are all essential aspects of being present to another person. It is not only about the words that come out of our mouths or that we hear, it is about being in the same shared space and entering into that moment together. Our friendships and relationships deepen through this communion, especially when it is grounded in a love of Christ. We can’t experience communion or friendship if we are mentally elsewhere. In fact, when we spend our time focused on smartphones when we are with other people, we essentially tell them that we don’t want to be there with them and that a virtual reality is more important than they are in that moment. What a slap in the face! We are clearly not practicing charity in that moment.

Being present to the moment and to others in our daily lives takes practice, love, discipline, prayer, and our focused attention. Not everyone is going to sit silently watching the snow fall and enter into the silence of that moment or even grasp some of the mystical dimensions of friendship. God has made certain people of a more poetic, philosophical, mystical, or theological nature who easily rest in such moments. It is a good practice, however, to notice little things throughout the day and enter into each moment. This may be as simple as focusing on the lines of your child’s face while you speak to them or practicing greater eye contact in conversations so people know you are truly trying to be present to them. Leave the smartphone on silent in a purse or pocket when spending time with other people, or better yet, leave it behind for a few hours.

These small changes prepare us and teach us how to be present to the people in our lives. Our attention will become less divided over time through disciplined practice. This requires us to put the smartphones, tablets, iPads, television, etc. away every now and then. As we learn to focus on the moment, we can learn how to be more present to God through prayer and in offering up each moment of our day to Him, as well as to others in our daily lives. This is the art of being. It is up to each person through prayer and discernment to decide how God is calling them to manage technology. It is important to constantly ask the question: Does this help me grow in holiness? We then have to be open to the answer, even if it isn’t the one we want to hear.

Fear, Men, and the Locked Doors of Our Hearts

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 23:02

Men are more wired to assess threats than women; maybe that is partly why the disciples hid in fear behind locked doors after Jesus’ crucifixion (see John 20:19-23).  Fear perceives the other as the enemy.  Fear underlies all sin—any attack on the dignity of the human person.  It becomes a problem when we fear the wrong people—like our spouses and kids.  It is not a new problem, since it dates back to the Garden of Eden and the Fall.  In fear, Adam and Eve covered themselves when they understood they could take advantage of each other, and they hid from God in the bushes.

Because God is love, we are a religion of love, as demonstrated by the greatest commandment and a new commandment.  Fear is the opposite of love: “There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).  “Be not afraid” is a thread running throughout Scripture.  And it was a motto, of sorts, of St. John Paul II.

The Locked Doors of Our Hearts

The disciples lived in fear of the Jews, having locked the doors, and it was evening…isn’t this usually when our fears come out?  When we feel fear, we often lock the doors of our hearts, even to loving people, including Jesus.  So what hides behind the locked doors of your hearts?

Jesus appears to the disciples behind those locked doors.  He starts with “Peace be with you,” showing them his hands and side.  I am sure he does this to identify himself; but beyond that, he leads with his wounds.  This is an interesting leadership style, worthy of reflection in a culture that peddles “Never let them see you sweat.”  This motto, ironically, is a perpetual prescription to live in fear of exposure and…to sweat!

Jesus never imposes himself on us.  So we must invite him behind those locked doors of our hearts, where everything is bound and loosed (CCC 2843), into the ugliness where our fears, wounds, and sins have reigned.  For many men, this ugliness is the sin of pornography.  Fear and shame keep us from inviting him in. Satan is the Accuser, but he transfers this job to us, and we tend to cooperate by accusing ourselves!  The Devil’s name means “to separate,” especially from God and others; and separation results from self-accusation.  Freedom is found only in God’s presence.

How Does Jesus Come?

Once invited, Jesus does not come as a King to judge in power, but as the King who heals—the wounded healer who leads with his wounds.  He comes as Priest to link our fearful hearts to his Father of love, or to Love’s second name, Mercy.  He comes as Prophet not to speak harsh words in love, but to speak the truth of Love Itself to the lies of our fearful hearts.

I imagine him entering my heart, absorbing my fears, pain, and darkness into the wounds in his hands.  But it is not enough to “sweep the house clean,” leaving it vulnerable; it must be filled!  So I imagine the wound in his side that gushed forth the water and blood of our Baptism and the Eucharist, pouring forth his love and mercy, filling the empty space with the fullness of God (cf. Eph. 3:14-21)!  Sometimes I don’t even know what his wounds are absorbing; I just know I calm down and am no longer fearful, and I feel grateful.  And I rejoice as the disciples do!

Loved and Now Challenged!

But he is not done! He continues, “Peace be with you.”  Each time, I understand this more.  Then he stuns with, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  It means we must receive God’s love, as Jesus does—the Father gives himself totally, without reservation, to his Son, an echo of which is heard when the prodigal’s father tells his older son, “Everything I have is yours.”  We are loved first, now challenged.  We must work from love, never for love.

Jesus is sent as priest, prophet, and king, so we are sent as priest, prophet, and king.  We are baptized and made gods—not just adopted, but made sons of the Father through a nature change.  Then we are strengthened with other sacraments.

He is still not done! In his overwhelming generosity, Jesus breathes on them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit”—Love himself.  Of course the apostles receive a special authority to bind and loose here, but we are also given the Holy Spirit and must receive him to fulfill the challenge of love!

We fear being unlovable in our sins.  So the Father sends his Son in love as priest, prophet, and king.  We must invite him behind the locked doors of our hearts into those shame-filled rooms.  By his wounds, he leads and heals us to receive his peace.  Then he sends us out with the Holy Spirit as priest, prophet, and king to love others as spiritual fathers!  “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

New Year, New Mindset: How to Effectively Practice Resolutions

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 23:01

It’s that time of year again where we are starting to work on our New Year’s resolutions. While resolutions can bring hope for a happier, healthier year ahead, they can also cause unnecessary stress. We might start out strong for the first few weeks or so, but as we get back to our normal, busy schedules it often becomes more difficult to fit in that daily workout, consistently eat healthy meals, or remain positive while our co-worker is getting on our nerves or when we are trying to get our children out the door on time.

Furthermore, the way we set our resolutions can unconsciously cause us to have more negative feelings about ourselves or our current state in life. For example, while many of us make a resolution to lose weight in 2018, phrasing it this way tells our brains that we are overweight, we don’t look good enough, etc. causing us to become demoralized even before we start.  So how can we more effectively execute our New Year’s resolutions to create a truly happier year ahead and actually achieve our goals?

New research conducted at Florida State University tells us that to most effectively form our resolutions, we have to change the way think about them and phrase them for ourselves. Researcher and Professor, Pamela Keel, gives an example by saying, “Consider what is really going to make you happier and healthier in 2018: losing 10 pounds or losing harmful attitudes about your body?”

Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of our bodies that we want to change through diet and exercise, Keel and research scientist, Eric Stice, suggest that individuals should focus on the things we appreciate about our bodies. These positive attributes can be about the look or even the function of our bodies, such as, “’I really appreciate the way my legs take me wherever I need to go,'” Keel said. “‘Every day without fail, they get me out of bed, to the car, up the stairs and into the office. I don’t have to worry about walking.’ It can be that kind of functional appreciation of what your body does for you.”

This mindset can be brought into every resolution we make by simply focusing on positive aspects instead of focusing on the negative things we want to change. For example, instead of saying “my closets are a mess, I need to get more organized this year,” we can say “this shelf looks really nice, I’m going to strive to make other parts of my home look as nice as this.” Focusing on the positive aspects helps us to feel more hopeful and allows us to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the things we want to change.

While this positively focused mindset can influence the resolutions we have made for this year, working to utilize this mindset throughout our daily lives can be a resolution itself. When we order our thoughts in a healthier manner, we automatically begin treating ourselves and others in a healthier way as well. “When people feel good about [themselves], they are more likely to take better care of themselves rather than treating [themselves] like an enemy, or even worse, an object,” Keel said. “That’s a powerful reason to rethink the kind of New Year’s resolutions we make for 2018.”

For more information on how to learn to make graceful change in your life, check out Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart. And be sure to tune in to More2Life — Monday-Friday at 10am E/9am C on EWTN Global Catholic Radio, SiriusXM 139.

The Gospel reading tells us about the

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 23:00

The Gospel reading tells us about the public ministry of the Lord: preaching the Good News through his teaching, healing and expelling of evil spirits. He taught in synagogues, by the lakeside and on the mountainsides. People from all over came in large crowds to hear him and especially to have their sick cured and those with unclean spirits cleansed and freed. The people were anxious to hear Jesus. They wondered at his teaching and healing signs. Even the evil spirits knew and acknowledged him, “You are the Son of God.”

The same Good News which Jesus preached and confirmed with his miracles is still being preached to all the world. Before Jesus ascended to his Father after his rising from the dead, he commissioned his disciples and those to succeed them, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.” (Mk 16:15 – 16)

The mission to proclaim the Good News is not only for the ordained ministers of the Church: the mission to proclaim the Good News is for all baptized Christians so that they could share in faith and with joy the Good News they have received and accepted with all creation. And the proclamation of the Good News is done not only by word but more effectively by example of living the precepts and values of the Good News in our lives.

“Through our communion with

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 23:00

“Through our communion with Christ we grow in self-emptying love that desires to offer reparation for sinners. The Eucharist moves us to an ever-greater thirst for the salvation of souls.”

—Kathleen Beckman, God’s Healing Mercy

St. Margaret of Hungary

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 23:00

St. Margaret of Hungary is truly a unique model of virtue for today’s modern young woman. In a prayer “deal” with God, her father, King Bela IV of Hungary, promised her to the religious life at her infancy, in return for an end to the persecution of his country by various enemies. She grew into an exquisitely beautiful woman and for that reason was offered marriage many times. She refused any thoughts or inclination towards a married life. She was passionate about her consecration to Jesus and devoted all her efforts to His service, even defying her father’s will for her to be released from her vows.

Despite her extraordinary beauty, she chose to neglect her appearance and often mimicked the lifestyle of the poor and sick she served in her ministry. She would go months without bathing or grooming herself in any way and she was often described as “repugnant” by those who visited the convent where she lived. It is believed that she adopted this practice as a severe form of mortification due to a self-professed attachment to the sins of vanity and pride.

Margaret was extremely strong-willed and defiant in the face of tasks or requests with which she did not agree. She often fasted from food and sleep, ignoring the rules of community life she shared with her sisters.

Despite all of her struggles with sanctity, the Church has chosen to honor Margaret and place her among the community of saints that include not only the devoutly pious but also, like Margaret, those of us who have many attachments to the world. Her life gives us an example of the victory we can have over the world while living in it.

Margaret died on January 18, 1270 at a young age and was canonized in 1943.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Prisca (270), Virgin, Martyr

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter at Rome

St. Volusian (496), Bishop

image: GO69 /Wikimedia Commons

Deeper Into the Desert: Imitating St. Antony the Great

Tue, 01/16/2018 - 23:07

The movement to, and guarding of, a radical solitude as found in the Life of St. Antony appears incompatible with the daily circumstances most of us find ourselves in. St. Antony the Great is one of the earliest founders of monasticism as practiced in the deserts of fourth century Egypt. At the call of God, heard through the Scriptures in the context of the liturgy, St. Antony sought the perfection of the Christian life through prayer, simplicity, solitude and silence. Although his lifestyle is far removed from the culture and circumstance of most of us, St. Antony’s monastic wisdom, displayed in his attitudes, teachings, and practices, can be adapted humbly and reasonably to our daily life if we frequently enter deeper into the desert of our interior life.

St. Antony “devoted himself…to the discipline [asceticism]… giving heed to himself and patiently training himself” (Life, 3). For both the ancient monk living in the desert and the contemporary layman living in the world, asceticism and solitude are valuable tools for treading the narrow way of virtue into the Kingdom of God.

As did the other early monastics, St. Antony, “wishing to give attention to his life, disciplined himself in isolation” (Life, 3). Since it is impossible for most of us to withdraw for long periods of time into physical solitude, because of our obligations to our families, jobs, and communities, we must find another way to enter into the arena of the spiritual struggle. In order to achieve a greater freedom for selfless love, many of us would greatly benefit from frequent short retreats into solitude, in the midst of our hectic calendars, to give attention to our interior life and prayer.

St. Antony gave himself perpetual opportunity for mental and spiritual discipline through radical solitude, a continual retreat deeper into the desert. In the desert, in order to give heed to himself, St. Antony “prayed constantly,” took “control of his thoughts,” and encouraged others to “carefully keep watch” (Life, 3, 9, 21). We too can imitate St. Antony by setting aside short amounts of time each day, an hour or two, of silence, reading, reflection, and an accounting of our own inner universe. We may wake up before the sun rises, while the world is still asleep. Or we may do this late in the evening after the children have gone to bed. This daily retreat may prove invaluable for long-term health and stability.

In the midst of the desert, despite radical solitude, St. Antony also encountered many other virtuous monastics. He recognized that though he would live primarily in solitude, he could greatly benefit from the wisdom and experience of others: if St. Antony “heard of some zealous person anywhere, he searched him out like the wise bee” (Life, 3). As life gets busy, learning through reading and thoughtful conversations can become less important than attending to the constant responsibilities right in front of us. But, with attention to our priorities, keeping in mind our eternal purpose, we may find time for fruitful spiritual discourse, not stunting our growth in the spiritual life. Like St. Antony, we can carry an attitude that never ceases to learn from others or to recognize their gifts and virtues. And like a wise and busy bee, we will travel from flower to flower picking up gems of wisdom from our neighbor, from the saints and Church Fathers, and from the liturgical life and Sacred Scriptures of the Church.

St. Antony jealously guarded his solitude. But, because of the needs of the people and his obligation to love his neighbor, St. Antony also tended to the suffering crowds that sought his attention. When he “saw the crowd, he was not annoyed any more than he was elated at being embraced by so many people. He maintained utter equilibrium, like one guided by reason and steadfast in that which accords with nature” (Life, 14). So too, we will often be drawn out of our interior desert, out of ourselves, to tend to the needs of our families, friends, and communities. We may become annoyed at the demands of the “needy” among us, or swell with pride at the flattering words of our admirers. But, watchful over our thoughts, engaged in the spiritual life through prayer, accustomed to a humble disposition, we can imitate the reason-guided equilibrium of St. Antony in response to the needs of our neighbor.

St. Antony attained the perfection of the Christian life, the Kingdom of God, through radical solitude. His way of life was radically different than the way of life reasonably expected from most twenty-first century Christians. Nonetheless, the principles are the same: attend to the interior life and discipline the body in order to enter the Kingdom of God through the narrow way. Many of us, by humbly and appropriately adapting the monastic wisdom of St. Antony, can benefit from and imitate the saint’s attitudes, teachings, and practices.

*

Athanasius: The Life of Antony and the Letter to Macellinus. In “The Classics of Western Spirituality”. Translated by Robert C. Gregg. Mahwah, NJ. Paulist Press: 1980.

image: By Cretan School [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Responding to Jesus’ Invitation

Tue, 01/16/2018 - 23:05

Two characters catch our attention in Sunday’s Readings. There is Eli who helped the young Samuel respond to God’s calling. Then there is Andrew in the Gospel who invited his brother Simon Peter to meet Jesus. These two characters were divine instruments in the vocation of Samuel and Peter. But these two characters differed in their relationship with God.

The aged Eli had known the evil of his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, but had failed to correct them. He had condoned evil and thus incurred the wrath of God. God revealed this to Samuel in these words, “And I tell him (Eli) that I am about to punish his house for ever, for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of his (Eli’s) house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”(1Sam 3:13-14)

It was this same Eli who helped Samuel respond to God’s mysterious voice in today’s First Reading. The inexperienced Samuel heard God’s voice several times but repeatedly presented himself to Eli. Eli eventually recognized that it was God calling Samuel. He then instructed Samuel exactly what to do and say when he heard the same voice, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for thy servant is listening.’” When Samuel did that, God revealed Himself to Samuel making him one of the greatest prophets in Israel.

Then, we have Andrew, who was privileged to hear John the Baptist’s words about Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” He followed Jesus and had an intimate encounter with Jesus for a whole day, “They stayed with Him (Jesus) that day.” Filled with love for Jesus and desiring to communicate this joy to others, Andrew “first found his own brother Simon,” and then “brought him to Jesus.” This was the beginning of the vocation of Peter, the Prince of Apostles, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” – which is translated Peter.”

Jesus offers each and every one of us the same invitation that He offered in today’s Gospel, “Come, and you will see.” He is inviting us daily through the people that we meet and live with, whether they are themselves faithful to Christ or not.

Why is Jesus Christ inviting us to Him through all the people that we meet irrespective of their own moral or spiritual life? We are constantly invited to draw nearer to Jesus because we belong to Him and He paid a huge price to make us His own. In the words of St. Paul, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? You are not your own. For you have been purchased at a great price.”(1Cor 6:15,19-20) Jesus, the Good Shepherd who is ready to risk the safety of ninety-nine for the sake of the lost sheep, is ready to seek for the lost sheep by all means, even if He has to use flawed messengers.

I remember an experience in my first year in the seminary. I was attending a priestly ordination liturgy at the Boston Cathedral in the early part of 2002 at the height of the clergy sexual abuse scandal. The ordaining prelate was the late Bernard Cardinal Law. There were news crews outside the cathedral. There were protesters calling for the resignation of the cardinal for his handling of the several abuse cases. The morale among the clergy was very low. There was justifiable anger and disappointment inside and outside the Church. We seminarians were trying to grasp the magnitude of the scandal and the effect it would have on the faithful for a long time to come.

The late cardinal reminded us in his homily that God continues to invite all of us through a Church that is never a stranger to weakness and failure. He asked the newly ordained not to doubt their vocations because of their weakness but to place their trust in Jesus who never ceases to invite us to Him. I would never forget his words that day in the painful history of the Church in Boston.

Of course his words did not heal the wounds of the abuse of many. It did not remove our anger or disappointment or make him more trustworthy. But I saw in his words an invitation to look beyond the weak channels of the Gospel and to focus on the power of divine grace being offered in the Gospel. It is so easy for us to lose our faith in Jesus and a sense of His loving invitation to us because of the flaws and failures of the messengers of the Gospel. By recalling the words of St. Paul, “We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,”(2Cor 4:7) we must not allow the weakness of the Gospel’s messengers blind us to the beauty and power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus’ invitation to us today is continuously being mediated through human channels who usually fall short of all expectations. The channels of this invitation may be poor or rich, faithful or faithless, sinful or holy, educated or not, wise or foolish. Jesus does not discriminate in the channels that He uses to draw us to Him and to embrace our vocations in life. The challenge is for us to look beyond the human messenger to embrace the transforming invitation from God. We cannot judge the authenticity of the invitation from Jesus by the spiritual or moral life of the messenger.

We encounter the blood of Jesus in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is the huge price that Jesus has paid so that we belong to Him and to Him alone. This is why He would never cease to invite each of us, saying, “Come, and you will see.” Jesus is in our midst and His invitation will continue to come to us through many human messengers in our lives. We will not be disappointed if we choose to look beyond the human messengers and embrace this loving invitation with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who has purchased us at a great price.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

Pursuing Asceticism: St. Augustine & St. Anthony of Egypt

Tue, 01/16/2018 - 23:02

“A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God’” (Isaiah 40:3, RSV-CE). This prophecy was written concerning St. John the Baptist (Mark 1:3), who lived in the desert and called the Israelite people to repentance through baptism (Mark 1:4-8). St. John was preparing the way of the Lord, calling people to turn away from their lives of sin. Throughout salvation history, there have been many saints who go into the desert, or some form of wilderness, to live ascetically for the purposes of growing in deeper holiness and inspiring others to abandon their lives of sin.

One of these saints is St. Anthony of Egypt, also called St. Anthony of the Desert, whose life of deep asceticism and prayer became a great catalyst for St. Augustine of Hippo’s conversion. In this article, we will explore the life of St. Anthony through the eyes of St. Augustine, concluding with some practically suggestions of living ascetically in everyday life.

St. Anthony of Egypt was born to wealthy parents, and, being orphaned at the age of 20, he inherited all their possessions. When he heard the words, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions” (Matthew 19:21), he immediately sold all that he had so that he could pursue holiness through a life of asceticism. At the time, ascetics lived their vocation to austerity and chastity within the community, and this is how St. Anthony began his life. During this time, he lived in a cave, and experienced temptations and attacks from demons, as famously described in St. Athanasius’s Life of St. Anthony. Eventually, however, he decided to pursue a deeper life of holiness, and he crossed into Egypt, living alone without seeing another human soul for 20 years. Soon, others began to join him in huts, and after much persuasion, he acquiesced to their requests that he instruct them in the spiritual life. St. Anthony is honored as the father of both monasticism and religious life in general, due to his extreme austerity and devotion to growing in holiness.

In his Confessions, St. Augustine writes poetically of his conversion story, describing how he lived a life of sin and decadence but, through a long and arduous search for the truth, was given the grace to give himself entirely to the Lord. As he nears his final conversion, his tolle et lege moment, he writes of how he was introduced to St. Anthony through Ponticianus, who had heard his story through two friends who had discovered St. Athanasius’s work on St. Anthony. When they read this work, one of the companions, who was an imperial inspector, cried out, “Tell me, please, what is the goal of our ambition in all these labours of ours? What are we aiming at? What is our motive in being in the public service? Have we any higher hope at court than to be friends of the Emperor…But if I should choose to be a friend of God, I can become one now” (VII.VI.15). This individual, hearing about the ascetic life of St. Anthony, realized that his life, which was focused on worldly power and prestige, was nothing in comparison to a life as a friend of God. The two who read this story were instantly converted and dedicated themselves wholly to God.

St. Augustine, hearing this story from Ponticianus, began to reflect on his own life and think about how he was living for worldly gain. Augustine was in anguish upon hearing this story, for he could not look at himself, “twisted and unclean and spotted and ulcerous” (VII.VI.16). He knew that he was living in sin, but he could not turn to God. As he writes, he was 19 years old when he first read Cicero’s Hortensius and

here was I still postponing the giving up of this world’s happiness to devote myself to the search for that of which not the finding only but the mere seeking is better than to find all the treasures and kingdoms of men, better than all the body’s pleasures though they were to be had merely for a nod (VII.VI.17).

We then read Augustine’s famous prayer, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet” (Ibid). Augustine wanted to live entirely for God, but he was not willing to reject his old ways of sin. Unlike St. Anthony, Augustine was not ready to sacrifice everything for a life of holiness.

This story forced Augustine to realize that “all its [his soul’s] arguments had already been used and refuted” (VII.VI.18). He continues, “There remained only trembling silence: for it feared as very death the cessation of that habit of which in truth it was dying” (Ibid). Augustine knew that God was calling him away from his life of power, lust, and prestige; he was calling him to live virtuously for the Kingdom. Nevertheless, Augustine resisted, even though now, after hearing the story of St. Anthony, he had no more excuses. Indeed, in the very next chapter we read of his conversion moment in the garden, when he reads from St. Paul, “Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy, but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ and make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscences” (VIII.XII.29; Romans 13:13-14). The story of St. Anthony’s life allowed Augustine to be more open to listening to the voice of God, and was, in a way, a catalyst for his conversion. Augustine would take up a similar life to St. Anthony, for he would put away his old life of sin and live chastely for the Lord.

It may be tempting to think that such severe asceticism is only for those who live in the desert or choose to live monastically. Yet, the Second Vatican Council document Lumen Gentium explains that all are called to holiness—not just priests or religious. Indeed, this follows in the tradition of many of the great saints, including St. John of the Cross and St. Francis de Sales, whose writings explain that all members of the Body of Christ are called to pursue radical holiness. Thus, while some have vocations to live alone in the desert, all of us, regardless of our states in life—whether we are priests, religious, or members of a family—can pursue desert asceticism. Our pursuit will follow our states in life—if someone is a wife with children, she cannot simply leave them to live in the desert alone. Rather, we can attempt to do small things in our daily lives that lead to a more ascetic lifestyle.

We can sacrifice screen time on Sundays to be with our family or spend an extra hour in prayer. We can go without coffee for a week or a few days, offering up the sacrifice for a loved one in need or for the Holy Father. We can decide to pray for a short time every morning before beginning our day. We could pick a saint to study and pray to throughout the month. Or, we could choose one of these five excellent New Year’s Resolutions for Catholics. These small ways are pleasing to the Lord, and we can grow in holiness by making them into habits, just as the desert saints habitually lived in the presence of God. Let us, therefore, ask for the intercession of both St. Anthony of Egypt and St. Augustine, who surrendered everything to the Lord and chose to live more ascetically for the sake of the Kingdom. Let us ask for the grace to do the same in our own vocations.

In the first reading we hear about the

Tue, 01/16/2018 - 23:00

In the first reading we hear about the triumph of the young shepherd David over the Philistine champion Goliath by the power of Yahweh: “You have come against me with sword, spear and javelin, but I come against you with Yahweh, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Yahweh will deliver you this day into my hands and I will strike you down and cut off your head.” (1 Sm 17: 45- 46a)

In the Gospel reading Jesus disputes with the Pharisees about their interpretation of the Sabbath law: “What does the Law allow on the sabbath? To do good or to do harm? To save life or to kill?” Despite the opposition of the Pharisees Jesus cures the man with the paralyzed hand on the sabbath: the Pharisees had hardened their hearts and were blind to the real intent of the Sabbath law.

Jesus tried to reach out to the Pharisees and to teach them to be open to his teaching and actions.

Are we close-minded to what God has revealed to us in the teaching and life of Christ? Or in the many happenings in our lives? Do we rely more on ourselves or do we live our trust in God?

St. Antony the Abbot

Tue, 01/16/2018 - 23:00

Antony was born in Upper Egypt to wealthy Christian parents in the year 251. Around the year 269, his parents died and left him and his sister a sizable inheritance, including three hundred acres of land. One day when he was attending Mass he heard the Scripture reading from Matthew 19:21: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

Antony wasted no time giving away his property and inheritance, keeping only enough to meet the most basic needs of himself and his sister. Then at another Mass, he heard a different Scripture reading: “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Mt 6:34). Antony then gave away the rest of what he had, placed his sister in a convent under the care of the nuns and went to live a life of prayer, fasting, and manual labor.

Antony always strove to do more to become holy. For a time, he lived enclosed in a tomb in a cemetery near Koman. His reputation as a wise man grew, however, and people came to seek his advice. He brought about healings and his popularity continued to grow until he decided to move into the desert for fear that he might become prideful or that people would worship him rather than God. He lived in the desert for 20 years, locked in a small fort atop Mount Pispir, in complete solitude. He wrestled with temptations from the evil one the entire time. He had anxieties about his sister, missed his relatives, and longed for company. Satan caused him to think that he may have made the wrong choice and should perhaps have used his inheritance for some better purpose.

He fought off such thoughts and temptations and continued to pray and fast to beat the devil. People continually came and tried to talk to him, but he refused to come out until one day they broke down the door. Antony emerged and some who talked with him were healed, others were comforted by his words and others stayed to learn from him. Those who stayed formed the first Christian monastery, although it is not like a monastery today in that these monks lived separately and would come together and listen to Antony. Before long, more and more people were coming to hear him, so he had friends take him deeper into the desert to a mountain oasis. They continued bringing him bread since that was all he would eat. It wasn’t long, however, before people found him and again started coming in great numbers.

On one occasion two Greek philosophers came. They had heard about this strange and holy man who wore an animal skin, didn’t bathe and lived only on bread and water. Antony was Egyptian and had not even attended school. These men were well-educated and spoke many languages. Antony had to have an interpreter to talk to them. He asked them why they had ventured out into the desert to see such a foolish man. These great philosophers, however, held Antony in great esteem. They had heard how people came from far and wide to learn from him and how great miracles had occurred around him, including healings. So they assured him that they came because he was a wise man from whom they wanted to learn. Antony, however, knew that they wanted to hear arguments for the truths of Christianity and to debate him. So he told them, “If you think me wise, become what I am, for we ought to imitate the good. Had I gone to you, I should have imitated you, but since you have come to me, become what I am, for I am a Christian.”

In the year 311, when persecution of Christianity was so rampant under the rule of Emperor Maximin, Antony went to Alexandria to encourage the faithful. When the persecutions subsided, he organized another monastery at Pispir and afterward retired to Mount Kolzim near the Red Sea with a disciple, Macarius. Once more, around the year 355, he went to Alexandria to help his good friend St. Anthanasius combat Arianism. He then retired to a cave on Mount Kolzim where he received visitors until his death at the age of 105, in the year 356. He is the patron saint of grave-diggers.

From Johnnette Benkovic’s Graceful Living: Meditations to Help You Grow Closer to God Day by Day

Click the image above to purchase your own copy of “Graceful Living.”

Indeed, he was so attentive when Scripture was read that nothing escaped him, and because he retained all he heard, his memory served him in place of books.

— From a life of St. Anthony by St. Athanasius

How attentive am I when I hear Sacred Scripture being read? Could I pass a pop quiz on the passage as soon as it is read? How about twenty-four hours later? How can I seek to be more attentive?

Lessons

As stated above, Saint Athanasius was a friend of Antony’s and also his biographer. In his biography St. Anthanasius wrote:  “Antony was not known for his writings nor for his worldly wisdom nor for any art, but simply for his reverence toward God.”

Prayer

St. Antony, you truly lived the life of holiness. As St. James said in his epistle: “Be doers of the word and not hearers only.” We pray that your life will inspire others to put their faith into action.  Amen.

How to Participate in the Eucharistic Prayer

Mon, 01/15/2018 - 23:07

You are a priest forever in the manner of Melchizedek.
— Psalm 110:4

Near the center of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, the famous image of Adam’s creation at the hand of God is a majestic reminder of our humble dependency on God for our very being. Whether as faithful pilgrims or curious tourists, the chapel’s guests can’t help but gaze up at this work of art. What do they see? Some see color, form, and beauty; others see faith and inspiration; and still others see beauty and faith commingled in some of Michelangelo’s more subtle meanings.

An interpretation of The Creation of Adam gives insight into liturgical participation, especially of the priestly sort. At the center of this central picture of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling are God’s and Adam’s fingers about to touch, putting the capstone on the Trinity’s visible creation. But these figures are not yet touching, and the space between them — and the power to fill it — begins to speak directly about priesthood. The adjoining panels in the chapel’s ceiling help us to see why.

The fresco next to The Creation of Adam depicts Eve being created out of the side of the sleeping Adam, and the one after it depicts their fall from grace at the tree and their subsequent expulsion from the garden. These panels can be given a priestly reading by those fingers about to touch. If that first contact created life, and if the continued contact sustained and developed it, then Adam’s sin withdraws the human hand from God and ushers in death. Consequently, if fallen man and moaning creation wish to return to a new life, they must reach out and contact God once again. The gap — or, better, the chasm — must be bridged. And this is the job of the priest.

There are a few words our Roman Rite uses to describe its priests, and one of them is pontifex. In Latin, the noun pons means “bridge,” and we can see this word surface in such words as “pontoon boat,” which, in essence, is a small floating bridge. Fex is the foundation of today’s “factory,” the place where things are built. Put the two words together — pontifex — and you get “bridge builder,” which is precisely what a priest is. In this job description, a priest has the power to overcome the separation between humanity and divinity, allowing men and women to pass over to heaven and unite themselves with God. In terms of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, the priest bridges the gap between the outstretched fingers of God and man, a void that appeared because of sin.

Throughout history, many have noticed that things aren’t quite right with the world around us and have sought either a priest or at least priestly power to commune with the divine. In fact, the priestly instinct is a part of human nature, since our constitution is perfectly suited to reconnect heaven and earth. On the one hand, we share much in common with the rest of visible creation, since we are composed in part of a material body. We love dogs and cats, flowers and trees, clouds and air, food and drink. On the other hand, we resemble invisible creation, the angels, since we possess immaterial souls.

We desire to know and seek justice, we love (or at times hate) one another, and we are universally dissatisfied with the superficial happiness that material possessions bring. We look like animals but think like angels, with one foot in the earthly world and another in the heavenly world, and so we occupy a unique place in all of creation to bridge, mediate, and intercede between the opposite sides of the abyss separating us from God (see CCC 355). Some in the Church’s Tradition have even called man not Homo sapiens (since we are often as foolish as we are sapient), but Homo adorans, the “worshiping man.” But we are also fallen “priests of creation” and are in need of a supernatural cure for our priestly shortcomings.

A key thread throughout the Old Testament — perhaps the key thread — is the formation of priests. The Trinity works to restore and perfect the priesthood, both individually and collectively, a work that reaches its perfection in Jesus, the greatest bridge builder of them all, the Pontifex Maximus. Let’s consider a few of these priests of the Old Testament and how they led the Chosen People to pass over to God.

Something of a mystery man when it comes to priests in the Bible, the figure of Melchizedek is a remarkable example of how the sacerdotal is able to bridge the gap between man and God. It should come as no surprise that Melchizedek has much in common with the Christ yet to come. First, he is not only a priest but also a king, just like Jesus, and he’s not any old king either, but the royal head of Jerusalem, the place where Christ will one day offer Himself. According to the Letter to the Hebrews, Melchizedek is also “without father, mother, or ancestry, without beginning of days or end of life; thus made to resemble the Son of God, he remains a priest forever” (7:3). He also offers bread and wine, which Jesus will also do at the Last Supper. The fourth-century Doctor of the Church St. Ambrose saw in Melchizedek’s offering a universal sacrifice, one given in all times and places (“from the rising of the sun to its setting,” as the prophet Malachi would put it [1:11]). Melchizedek would be making an offering not bound to the future Temple of Jerusalem and its restrictive priesthood of a single tribe, the Levites. Rather, Melchizedek’s priesthood reaches further than Adam’s hand. In other words, this priesthood is big, one that calls the universe’s priests — men and women — to their original place as adoring bridge builders.

Serving as another type of priest is Abraham, whom the priestly Melchizedek blesses in God’s name. A different sort of priest from Melchizedek, Abraham (or, Abram, his original name) was called by God from a foreign land and promised blessings and descendants. He routinely builds altars and offers sacrifices to God (e.g., Gen. 12:7; 12:8; 13:18), and through these altars and their sacrifices made by Abraham the priest, heaven and earth one day would be rejoined. (Altars, sacrifices, and priests are always found together.) Abraham’s most significant sacrifice was his only son, Isaac, who was most dear to his heart.

God tells Abraham to “offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you” (Gen. 22:2). Isaac travels to Mount Moriah on a donkey, carries the wood of his death up the mountain upon his shoulders, and freely gives himself over to his father’s hands. This domestic or paternal priesthood, to be passed from father to son, was present from the start. Already naturally born priests, God’s people were called upon to offer priestly sacrifice as the means to unite themselves — finger to finger — with the hand of God.

A third kind of Old Covenant priest, Moses leads his people from worldly woes to a new life. Standing at the head of his people (“in the breach” between God and the Israelites, Psalm 106:23 says), he directs the fathers of households to sacrifice an unblemished lamb to ransom their firstborn children. With the blood of the lamb marking the doorways of their homes, the Lord passes over their houses, sparing them. The next day, Moses, with staff (a type of cross) in hand, leads the Jews out of Egypt’s slavery, passing through the Red Sea to freedom and new life on the opposite shore. This entire people, God says to them, “will be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation” (Exod. 19:6), the conduit through which heaven and earth will one day reconnect.

In all these early prefigurements of Christ’s priesthood, “passing over” from one state to another and reconnecting with God is a vital element. The crossing of the Red Sea is, until the coming of Jesus, the most significant passover, where the journey from point A to point B is the result of priestly bridge building between man and God. But it is not the only example of pass-over. After forty years of desert wandering, for example, Joshua (in Hebrew, his name is the same as Jesus) leads the Chosen People across the Jordan on dry ground, the waters of the river piling up on both sides of them, into the promised land at Jericho (Joshua 3). Elijah also passes over the Jordan at Jericho before being taken up in the fiery chariot to God. After Elijah rolls up his mantle and strikes the water, the Jordan again parts, allowing the prophet to cross. Only then did the “fiery chariot and fiery horses” appear and “Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind” (2 Kings 2:11).

In another example of passover, the book of Ruth relates how Naomi and Ruth, living east of the Jordan River in the land of Moab, hear that the Lord has visited His people in the land of Judah “and given them food” (1:6). Then, crossing over the Jordan, they enter Bethlehem (the name means “house of bread”) and receive abundant food from Boaz — so much food, in fact, that they gathered the leftovers. (Does this account remind us of another priest from Bethlehem who gave food in abundance?) In each of these three instances — Joshua, Elijah, and Naomi and Ruth — we see bridges, passovers, and journeys from slavery and hunger in this earthly life to refreshment and new life with God. Each example recounts priestly actions of bridge building and reconnecting God and man, fingertip to fingertip.

These Old Testament priests and their meditations find fulfillment in the Pontifex Maximus, Jesus Christ. Like Melchizedek, the eternal Jesus offers bread and wine in Jerusalem. Like Abraham, He obediently offers His heart to the Father on the wood of the Cross. Like Moses, Jesus “stands in the breach” between God and man and builds a bridge from earth to heaven so that we can pass over to God. His redemptive bridge building is called the “Paschal Mystery,” and it includes His suffering, sacrificial death, Resurrection, and Ascension to the Father’s right hand. Because Jesus’ priestly Paschal Mystery is the high point of His saving work, it is naturally also at the heart of the Mass.

Our devotional journey into the heart of the Mass has taken us to the Sacred Heart of the Redeemer. His heart is, as it were, a bridge, over which we pass from earth to heaven. Consider the type of bridge builder Jesus is, and why we call Him the greatest of all. If the bridge of all human desire connects earth to heaven, rejoins man to God, Jesus is the only one who could build it, since He works perfectly for both sides of the void. He is, on the one hand, entirely God, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. He has every authority and power to reach out from heaven to earth (much as Michelangelo depicted God striving for man on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling). On the other hand, Christ is faultlessly, wholly, and completely man. But unlike that first Adam, who withdrew his hand from the life-giving touch of God, this Second Adam does not collapse under the weight of misguided desires but wills nothing but union with God. Christ the God-man is the true High Priest who bridges the great chasm created by sin. Is there a greater bridge — or bridge builder — imaginable?

With this image of the bridge builder in mind, let us return to Mass. During the Eucharistic Prayer, this great bridge opens before us. Jesus has the power to reconnect both sides, and the material He uses is His heart, the great gift that fills the space between heaven and earth. His Cross is the altar, the location — the X that marks the spot — where His heart is placed. As a willing agent in the Paschal Mystery, His ordained priest makes the Pontifical Jesus present. But even though Jesus is the offering, the altar, and the priest in history’s Paschal Mystery at Mass, He still desires our assistance. Christ the High Priest is always the principal worker in the Mass, but He calls all — the ordained and the baptized — to be His co-workers, salvation’s cooperators, priestly collaborators.

But who is this willing accomplice in the Paschal Mystery? Ordination to the priesthood conforms a man to Christ the priest and gives him unique power to exercise Jesus’ priesthood at the head of the Church. Long before ordination, that man began participating in Christ’s priesthood in virtue of his bap­tism. In addition to removing all sin, the sacrament of baptism gives a number of saving gifts: divine life of grace, gifts of the Holy Spirit, membership in the Body of Christ, and a share in the priesthood of Christ. All of the sacraments help us look and act and think and be like Jesus. And since priesthood is one of Christ’s characteristics, so too is it a Christian characteristic.

If Christ is the Pontifex Maximus, then you and I and each of the baptized is a pontifex minimus, a “little bridge builder.” Our bridge is the same one that Christ builds, a bridge to which we contribute by offering ourselves. Baptismal character empowers us — and demands of us — to exercise Christ’s priesthood in ourselves.

The sacrifice that God wants is our whole heart. But He won’t reach out and take it against our will, nor will the priest at Mass. To get my heart to the Father, I join it to Christ’s on the altar that serves as the crossroad between heaven and earth. And since Jesus is the priest who empowers me to act, I actualize His priesthood in myself. In Mass, as the preparation of the altar and the gifts concludes, the priest commands us to pray that his sacrifice and ours be acceptable to God. Assuming a priestly posture, we stand “in the breach” and say: “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.” The Eucharistic Prayer that follows is the time to roll up our sleeves and usher our prayers, works, joys, and sufferings over the great bridge with Jesus. St. Leo the Great once put it like this:

For all, regenerated in Christ . . . are consecrated priests by the oil of the Holy Spirit, so that beyond the special ser­vice of our ministry as [ordained] priests, all spiritual and mature Christians know that they are . . . sharers in the office of the priesthood. For . . . what is more priestly than to promise the Lord a pure conscience and to offer him in love unblemished victims on the altar of one’s heart?

Sacrifices need priests, and priests need sacrifices. After our hearts are prepared, the Eucharistic Prayer is the moment to realize our priesthood and join ourselves to God.

As daughters and sons of Adam, we were made to praise, adore, and mediate on behalf of creation. As brothers and sisters of the Second Adam, our natural desires attain supernatural power, enabling us, with the help of Christ, to redirect a fallen world to the hand of its Maker. As priests of creation, we point to the Father, who in Christ is no farther than our fingertips. Like the snapping synapses that flash between living cells in the body, the Paschal Mystery’s priestly bridge illuminates our journey’s main junction: the reunion of heaven and earth.

The word “liturgy” has at its root the word “work.” Bridge building is in large part the work taking place at Mass. But this labor also has its reward: much as the Chosen People’s crossing over the Jordan gave them the new land’s milk and honey, or as Naomi and Ruth’s passage gave them Bethlehem’s bread, so our own work in the Eucharistic prayer will yield food: the fruit of the tree of the Cross.

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in A Devotional Journey into the Mass, which is available from Sophia Institute Press. image by RobertCheaib / Pixabay

A Novena to Saint Peregrine: Please Pray for Cancer Patients

Mon, 01/15/2018 - 23:05

Late last summer, my friend, Christy, told me that her three-year-old son, Paul, had been diagnosed with leukemia.

My heart broke for their family. I wanted to do something to help them, but they were hundreds of miles away. Thankfully, the God of mercy allows us to help others from far away with one mighty word: prayer.

Sometimes, when a person is suffering greatly, I am tempted to doubt that my prayers have any effect at all. Then I remember the lowest points of my life, when others were praying for me. I remember the tangible graces that I saw and felt then, and I have no doubt left in my mind: Prayers move mountains.

The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth,” Psalm 97:5 assures us, and I have seen it happen. I have seen mountains that seemed impassable crumble to pieces before the God of the universe as a direct answer to fervent prayers. I believe the heart of the Father is deeply moved when His beloved children pray for one another.

Since Paul’s diagnosis, he has lost his hair. He has a port inserted near his heart for chemotherapy to drip into. He has rounds of steroids that send his emotions into a tailspin. Last week, he had to be hospitalized for days because he caught a cold and had a fever; every illness is potentially life-threatening. He cries miserably when he is separated from his siblings, who cannot visit him in the hospital because of risk of infection. At three years old, he endures needles, lumbar punctures, and caustic drugs coursing through his tiny veins.

And his dear family has to watch him suffer.

There are no words that convey the depth of what this family is enduring. And sweet little Paul, they say, is one of the “lucky ones.” He has a very high chance for full recovery. There are many children whose prognoses are far worse.  Let us pray that God will melt the mountains that loom ahead of them.

I’ve never had cancer, but it has affected my life profoundly. A wicked cancer took a beloved friend’s life five years ago; she left behind a husband and young children. Cancer has threatened my friends and relatives, leaving them with wounds and scars and fears.

“Cancer is no respecter of persons,” a friend once said to me. When cancer stretches out its menacing grip, when we feel its claws digging in and taking hold, we must turn to the One who does respect every person—to the One who created every person and longs to heal them all—and place every cancer patient in His arms.

When we pray for those with cancer, we can also seek the intercession of St. Peregrine, patron saint of cancer patients.

St. Peregrine had a cancerous ulcer on his leg. The night before his leg was scheduled to be amputated, he prayed intensely and received a vision of Jesus touching and healing his wound. The next morning, no sign of the cancer remained. Since his death, he has been renowned for obtaining miraculous cures and especially assisting those with cancer.

Those who want to invoke St. Peregrine’s intercession for cancer patients can pray a novena to St. Peregrine leading up to his feast, May 1, and also at any other time during the year.

Today, January 16, PrayMoreNovenas.com is beginning a novena to St. Peregrine (http://www.praymorenovenas.com/st-peregrine-novena/). The website will send the novena daily by email to those who sign up to receive it.

Even if you aren’t able to begin today, any day will do. Please join me in asking St. Peregrine’s intercession for little Paul, for his family, and for all cancer patients and those who care for them. I imagine every person reading this article has someone in particular to pray for, and I join with you in lifting up these people who are so close to Jesus’ Sacred Heart.

May the Divine Physician, in His endless mercy, ease their suffering and bring them healing, hope, and strength.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and those crushed in spirit he saves.

-Psalm 34:18

Add the Daily Examen to Your Prayer Life

Mon, 01/15/2018 - 23:02

Saint Ignatius insisted on never neglecting the Daily Examen. For no reason whatsoever would this great saint justify skipping over and neglecting this all important prayer. Starting now, why not make a proposal to make your own personal Daily Examen. If done, the fruits are countless and blessings copious from such a tool, an indispensable tool to erect a solid structure for a life of authentic holiness.

In this brief essay we will highlight and briefly explain the five classical steps of making the Daily Examen. Then, as a means for motivation, we will highlight some of the blessings that will descend upon you in your spiritual life.

If you read through essays, writings, articles and even books on this topic, the order and words vary, but the concept never changes. The key element is that the Daily Examen should be proposed by all those with good will and put into practice. Let’s go!

The Five Classical Steps for the Ignatian Daily Examen 1. Recall the Presence of God

All authentic prayer starts with calling to mind the all-abiding Presence of God.We are never far from God, and God is never far from us! Saint Paul, quoting the Greek poet, expresses it as such: In Him we live and move and have our being. Therefore, start your Daily Examen by gently calling to mind the all-abiding, all-permeating, presence of God. God is present in all times, all places, all circumstances, all events of our lives. Even when our life seems to be a dark night of the soul, God is as present as the sun shining at midday!

Add to this that our God is a loving Father who always desires what is best for His children. Therefore, we should respond with trust, confidence, and love.

2. Give Thanks to the Lord for He is Good!

Saint Ignatius insists on the importance of gratitude. We should cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Saint Ignatius states that the very essence of sin is ingratitude—a lack of rendering to God a heartfelt thanks! In all humility, every gift that we have in our lives—natural, athletic, artistic, spiritual, supernatural, etc.—all are gifts from the Father of all gifts.

Therefore, rewind the film of your life since your last daily examen and allow your heart to expand in an overflowing act of thanksgiving. In a word, all that we have (except for the sins) are gratuitous gifts from our all-bountiful Heavenly Father. Indeed, God loves a grateful heart and is ready and willing to shower thankful hearts with more and more blessings! How much Jesus suffered when after healing ten lepers, only one came back to pay Him thanks!

3. Beg God to Send the Holy Spirit, to See as He Sees

The third step in our Daily Examenis to beg for the Gift of Gifts, the Holy Spirit, to shed light on your intellect, to help you to rewind the past block of time—your past day! Humility is truth and you want to beg in all honestly to see what you have done, but even beyond the exterior actions, you want to beg for the grace to see even your hidden intentions. We should never forget that man can see the surface, the mere exterior, but God can read our hearts and even our most hidden intentions.

4. Gratitude and Repentance

During the Examen, most likely you will become aware of God’s incredible goodness and His many gifts; give thanks to God for His blessings. However, in all sincerity and truth, the Holy Spirit will also point out some actions, and even some intentions, that were off the mark and not pleasing to God. Only God is perfect and the Bible teaches us that the just man falls seven times a day, but we must get back up.

5. Resolve, Reconciliation, and Renewal 

The last step points to the future. With a keen awareness of God’s infinite love, His infinite goodness in giving us so much, but also aware of our own human weakness, we propose to love God more starting now, and to avoid any person, place, thing, or circumstance that can lead us off the path of true discipleship of the Lord. In other words, the Daily Examen heightens our self-knowledge and can serve as a great preventive medicine.If we know where the pit is in our path, then we can sidestep it or simply jump over it! The Desert Fathers insist on a two-word axiom: know thyself. 

The Benefits of the Daily Examen

Now, let’s discuss the benefits of the practice of the Daily Examen, which are incalculable!   We will mention only three.

1. Constant Awareness of God and Prayer

If the Daily Examen is done faithfully, on a daily basis with hard work and good will, then we will become more and more aware of God’s loving presence in our lives. God is not some distant, ethereal, mythical figure of the past, and He will become all the more real to us.

If you like, He will become our best Friend always at our side. The truth is, we are never alone; Jesus is our Best Friend who wants us to share every moment of our existence with Him.  Furthermore, we will sin less. Saint Teresa of Avila asserts that one of the primary reasons for sin is becoming oblivious to the all abiding Presence of God!

2. Avoid Pitfalls

With a more acute awareness of the intentions and movements of our heart, which is like a garden that has both beautiful flowers and ugly weeds, we can avoid giving in to our bad tendencies. When the bad spirit is knocking at the door of our heart, then we can close the door with lock and key! Many sins are committed due to weakness of the will, but also due to ignorance of who we really are. The Daily Examen heightens self-knowledge, a key component for growth in holiness!

3. Compassion Towards Others

The Daily Examen is like shining a daily floodlight on our heart, our soul, and the inner workings of our conscience. We become aware of how good and loving God really is. However, with a penetrating awareness, we become cognizant of how weak we really are at times, and how prone to slip and fall into the mire of our own sinfulness. This keen self-knowledge can help us to be more kind, patient, and compassionate with our struggling brothers and sisters! God allows what is evil to bring greater good from the evil.

In the first reading Samuel anoints the

Mon, 01/15/2018 - 23:00

In the first reading Samuel anoints the young David in his family’s presence.

In the Gospel reading we see Jesus reprimanding the Pharisees for their narrow interpretation of the sabbath law. The Pharisees say his disciples violate the sabbath by picking heads of grain and crushing them in their hands.

On other occasions they accused Jesus of breaking the sabbath by curing on the sabbath: “There are six days in which to work; come on those days to be healed and not on the sabbath” (Lk 13: 14)

Rather than having the sabbath law as a command to honor and thank Yahweh and to give due rest and relaxation to man and even animals, the Pharisees had reduced the sabbath observance to myriad rules and activities not allowed during the sabbath.

Moses declared the sabbath law, “Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. For six days you will labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath for Yahweh your God. Do not work on that day neither you, nor your son, nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, nor your animals, nor the stranger with you. For in six days Yahweh made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. but on the seventh day he rested; that is why Yahweh has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.” (Ex 20: 8 – 11)

How did they arrive at such regulations for the sabbath day? Jesus declared his complete opposition to the Pharisees’ observance of the sabbath, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. So the Son of Man is master even of the sabbath.”

The mission of St. Mary’s Parish is to proclaim and celebrate our salvation through Jesus Christ,our pilgrimage to the Father’s Kingdom enlivened by the Holy Spirit. Our Catholic faith community is nourished by our sacramental life, especially the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. With Mother Mary as our model, we demonstrate our faith through worship, education, vocations and service.