Tag Archive: Prayer


On Wisdom and Insight

widsom insight

In the Old Testament of today’s Mass, (Amos 7:12-15), we hear phrases like: “The Lord said to me”, and “The Lord saith to me”. These words spoken by these early believers, what do they mean? Mankind is speaking of what God is telling it, but how does God speak to them? Did mankind, back then, hear words? Did others here them as well? I think we get a better explanation, when we read further in the New Testament.

In the second reading of St. Paul to the Ephesians, (1:3-14) we hear, “…For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will”. In all wisdom and insight, these are words not to be glossed over lightly. And in the Gospel, (Mark 6:7-13) we hear, “So they went out and preached that men should repent.” They heard Jesus’ words directly to them and they went out; contrast that with St. Paul’s words of “…made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of His will”. St. Paul never met Jesus. He never heard Him preach to the peoples, and yet, St. Paul can say, “made known to us”.

Today, we want so desperately to know what God wants of us. We pray to be able to follow His direction. And still, we wonder, “What does God want of me”? If we pay close attention to these readings we realize that He IS talking to us. We just aren’t listening. Are we expecting words written in the sky? Are we waiting for whisperings in our ear? Anything physical, we would probably just doubt our own perceptions, anyway…and move on. We would think, “That can’t be God talking to me. I must have been mistaken. I didn’t see or hear right.” Maybe we are waiting to be knocked off our horse, like St. Paul and words coming from Heaven. No, St. Paul tells us, “…in all wisdom and insight”. Whose wisdom? Whose insight? Ours: yours and mine.

We pray the words, “Lord, what do you want of me? What should I do?” But, unfortunately, we then gather up our things and move on. We don’t wait for the answer. Actually, we don’t really expect an answer. We ask, but don’t expect a reply. Why? We feel that the answer that we are waiting for must be something momentous, something grand, something soul moving. But, hey, things like that don’t happen to me!! So we move on and wonder why God is not listening or answering today. My friends, we are looking in all the wrong places. His answer will be in our heart, in our wisdom and in our insight.

When we pray, especially when we are in need, we must listen to our feelings. What are we really asking of God? What problem is it that we need relief from? What is causing us to pray so earnestly to Him? Many times, an event triggers an emotion. It is usually an emotion which we have never been able to combat very effectively, in our life. And yet, we focus on the event, not the emotion, and ask God’s help with that. What is our all-loving God telling us? He is infinite, so He can tell each of us what His will is for us as individuals, what He wants of us. Just don’t wait for words to be seen or heard. Instead, listen to the stirrings within. Those feelings that take place within you, a thought of someone else, the sadness others may be feeling, the needs of others, these are God’s answer to your prayer. He IS replying to your prayer. He IS pointing out to you that others are suffering as well. His reply to our prayer will be our realization of what course we should be following.

So how do we know that we are doing the right thing? How do we know what course of action we should follow? God is still an ever-loving God. He knows our desires. He also knows our prior missteps. He hears our plea and He DOES provide. Those instincts, those sudden glimpses of helping actions… they come from Him. Take that step, Trust yourself. Trust Him. Take that first step towards what you think is right for you. “What’s right for you” is not decided by how good it makes you feel, nor what material benefits there are. No. “What’s right for you” flows out of your wisdom and insight. If this is the direction you are to follow, each succeeding step will be easier, and will be filled with God’s love. And, if this should be one more mistaken step that you are taking, God still loves you. He doesn’t wash His hands of you. His love for you will still be present to you. You will know soon enough, if not immediately, that this is not the right direction for you. How will you know? This too, will be obvious to you from your wisdom and insight.

The 5 Posts directly below, blend with this theme. They continue the thought. Thanks for coming:

1) Peace and Emotion
2) The Nature Of Prayer
3) Listening To God
4) How Wise Are We
5) Conversation With Christ

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Peace and Emotion

peace in emotion

The next time you feel down, displeased with yourself, think about this: God has not changed. If He could/would change, then He would not be God. He does not vacillate from mood to mood. (We do, He doesn’t.) He is constant. His love for us is always there. He wishes only for you to grow in your love for Him. But, when we are down and depressed, we feel that the whole world is at odds with us. It is difficult to feel God’s love, or even think of God’s love. Nothing seems to be right, when we are down.

Things that we enjoyed doing, looked forward to doing, no longer have their appeal. No longer do we seek them out. Everything is a struggle, and seems to be too much for us to carry. It is during these times that we must realize that the world is not against us, but it is ourselves. We are actually at odds with ourselves. The battle rages within us. It does not stem from the outside, but rather has its origins from within us. Yes, people do pass away. Friends and relatives do disappoint us. But these are events, events which are OUTSIDE of us. You say, “Wait, I have a cancer, and that is not outside of me.” Personal illness, no matter what the problem, does not cause God to stop loving you. It does not invade your soul…unless we allow it. We are made of both body AND soul. There will always be sickness, and death and frustration. How we deal with these negative experiences, these gut wrenching, tear your heart out experiences, that is what determines who we are and of what we are made.

It was said up above that at times “it is difficult to feel God’s love”. To FEEL is the main word in that statement. God’s love is always there. He does not change. But, WE DO!! We feel good and we feel like praying. Things go wrong and we don’t want to pray, don’t feel like praying, or we pray asking God to work a miracle and let things change….for us. The old Baltimore Catechism defined prayer as, “The lifting up of the mind and heart to God”. That definition still holds true in today’s world. Whoever coined that phrase, really knew what they were saying. LIFTING UP… doesn’t that imply that we are down, depressed, struggling with the world in which we live? Lifting up our mind AND heart to God. We associate the heart with our feelings, our love, and our emotions. We are lifting up all of these to our God. We let Him know that we still love Him even as we have experience death in our family, even as relatives and friends continually disappoint us, even as sickness invades our body. Because we are striving to be at one with our God, we can still genuinely smile. Why? Because, being at one with Him is really all that matters.

You may think that this is out of order. You say, “We are affected by this world and we suffer because of it”. But this is not so. Think seriously about this: our emotions have become our masters, not our brain, not our mind, not our beliefs, but our emotions!!??!! We allow how we feel to dictate to us as to how we will live our day, today. Think about it, you know that this is true. We allow our sadness, our guilt, and our frustrations to rule over us. Yes, I said, “guilt”. We know we have done wrong, and we know that God loves us. But we allow our disappointment in ourselves, our guilty feelings, to sway our day, to affect how we live that day. Eventually, the guilt wanes and becomes almost forgotten…and we gradually FEEL better. Not because we have done something about it, but because we have forgotten it. The action that was done was still done. But our memory of it has faded into our subconscious. We don’t think about it anymore, we don’t want to think about it anymore, and thus… we feel better.

This is not intended to be a gloom and doom type of writing. No, on the contrary, our unchanging, immutable, constant God loves us. He sees our failings. He does not condone them, but He does understand the circumstances that surround them. He loves us. We are a confused, suffering, struggling, abusing creature that flounders in a sea of turmoil. Hate the sin. Love the sinner. That’s us, you and me! God loves us and will continue to love us. What is He waiting for? He is waiting for you and me to start really loving Him, loving a God who forgave us and died for us. He is waiting with arms outstretched to embrace us, but we must accept Him, love Him, and maybe even die for Him. When we recognize that our goal in life, our only goal, is to be one with Him, one in love, one in our actions, one in purpose then we will be truly following His example. The only emotion that we will then feel, regardless of the turmoil around us, is the joy of being one with our God, at peace with our God.

Here are some other Posts that have a similar theme. Click on any one of them:

1) Feelings vs Actions
2) What is God To Me
3) God Walks With Us

“O Lord, help me to understand your ways. At times I am
unable to understand them and I cannot see them. But take
me by the hand, as if I were a child, and lead me where you
want me to go, so that your will is done in me. Amen.” -1

Rather than putting a picture at the top, as I usually do, I felt that this prayer was much more explicit. I urge you to get a copy of Neil Velez’s book, “By His Wounds”, and read it. No, that is not correct, don’t just read it. Let it pour into your soul. Let it lift you up and let you feel the closeness and love of Jesus.

The prayer at the top, pray it slowly. Right now, stop reading this blog and pray the prayer with feeling, wanting desperately, to be one with its words. I will wait………. Now, isn’t that prayer saying everything that you feel, that you want? “O Lord, help me to understand your ways.” We spend our lifetime, looking for how we are to lead our lives, and never really being satisfied. What should we do? What magical way is there for me to become a better person? This quest, this desire haunts us, continuously. But our error lies in thinking that WE can do something, through our own efforts. You know, we do think too highly of ourselves, of the value and validity of our efforts. Lord, help me understand what you want, what your ways are.

This prayer continues on as to why we need the help of God. We don’t understand His ways, and most times we don’t even want to see them. We know what we want. We know what we desire, what we expect, and what we look for. But, truly, think of your life, how have you lived, and are living. Does it really mesh with God’s Will? For me, I know most often, I wrestle with a problem as to what direction I should be going. In the tossing and turning, something enters my mind, and I believe it is good, and so, I pursue it, AS THOUGH IT IS GOD’S WILL. Is it? Is this really what He wants of me? I don’t know, but it seems right, and so I clamor after it. I fear that most often I like the feeling, the emotional uplift, and as a result, proclaim to my mind, and my heart that this must be God’s Will. How is it for you?

God loves us. He really does love us. He created us, not for his own enjoyment, but that we could experience what Love is all about. What He is all about! Think of everything that this Heavenly Father has done for us. Life, no matter how difficult, provides us with the opportunity to love and be loved by God. We can see His beauty in the snow-capped mountains, the amazing sunsets, and a baby’s smile. He is all around us, loving us, and yes, protecting us. So, it is only natural that we be not afraid of Him, but trust in Him. Take my hand, Lord, as if I were a child and lead me where YOU want me to go, so that your will is done in me. We both know, Lord, that left to my own devices, I may not be able to find, nor follow your ways. I willingly give you my hand. Take it. Lead me. I trust in you. I, truly, trust in you. Amen.

-1 By His Wounds by Neil Velez, MDJ Ministries, Inc.
http://www.missionerosdejesus.org

What would Jesus do?

jesus and the rosary

What would Jesus do? That’s a very good way to start us thinking. It’s a good way to realize where we stand with respect to Jesus.  We attend the Sunday (and sometimes daily) masses. We say the rosary, and sometimes we even throw in an occasional good deed. We conclude, “Hey, I am not so bad”. And, we aren’t. But before we break our arm, patting ourselves on the back, we should consider a few things.

What is our view of the world? Do we see it as a thing of beauty, of promise? Or rather is it ugly and dirty and full of evil people? The people, that Jesus met, did He see them as lovable, forgivable, or did he avoid them? In the parable of the loaves and fishes the apostles wanted Jesus to send the people home, because it was getting late. He told His apostles to feed them. Tell them to recline on the ground and give them what you have. But there are so many, Lord. Yes, we meet so many people.  We read about so many people in the world doing evil, so very many people and we throw our arms up in despair. We think, “What can I possibly do?” The loaves and fishes parable wasn’t about feeding the masses, but rather helping the masses.

Ok, so how do we help these people?  99.9999% of them, we don’t even know, or haven’t even met. (I am not sure if I threw in enough 9’s). So how do we help them? First start with those people you do know, you meet, you hang with. Do they see the crucified, risen Christ in you? Not in an overly pietistic, showy way, but in a wholesome, caring way? Are you concerned about them? Do you pray for them? Now begin to widen your view and look at the many people in this world that also need prayers

Here is a question for you. “What is prayer”? When we go to mass on Sunday and the occasional daily mass do we realize that our thoughts, words and actions of that entire day can be put on the paten along with the bread? Anything we do for someone else, anytime we pray for someone else, these acts of love we will offer up on the paten. But, what we do only has merit when joined with Jesus. Only through, with, and in Him do our loving thoughts, words, and actions give glory and honor to God. Here is another question. Does the all-powerful God, the Creator of the universe NEED our prayers? He created us from all eternity for the express purpose that we learn how to love. Our thoughts, words, and actions that we offer to Him are the gifts of love that we have, that we feel towards others.

We can’t go to every place in the world. We don’t know everyone in the world. But our prayers can go there, can reach those people. Our loving prayer-life can take us to every place of evil, every person who is committing, or about to commit sin. Yes, there are so many. And that is why our every thought, word, and action should be, must be of prayerful love for the world. A powerful form of prayer, advocated by Mary, is the rosary.

Some aids for praying of the rosary. When you take out the rosary beads, remember that you are going to pray the rosary, not say it. We cannot be mindlessly muttering words. Our tongue should not be tripping over itself, as we rattle off the words. It might help if we think of five groups of people that we wish to pray for, that day. We can do this each time we say the rosary. The groups can change from day to day, or stay the same. This puts a face on a person, a need, a problem for whom we are praying. Groupings could be our immediate family, or our entire family tree. Priests, religious and those who take care of, or lead people. Heads of state. War torn nations. The sick and the dying. Those persons suffering with addictions of one form or another. The world afflicted with godlessness. I am sure you can make up more groupings, as well. The point is to take five groupings and assign them, that day to one of the five mysteries. Before you start the rosary, look at which mysteries you will be saying that day. Which mystery, which event seems to lend itself for any of the particular groups you will be praying for. Assign that mystery, for that day, to that group. Then, during the recitation of the rosary, think of that grouping, its needs and the specific mystery. As you pray the rosary, try to feel the words that you are saying to yourself (or aloud). Pray the rosary daily. Pray it as you would an act of love, a flame of love. Pray it for a suffering, hurting, confused world. Pray it for ourselves, as well, for we are part of that hurting and confused world. The world NEEDS it. We NEED it.

Mysteries of the Rosary:

Joyful (Mon. & Sat.)

Sorrowful (Tues. & Fri.)

Glorious (Wed. & Sun.)

Luminous (Thurs.)

The Annunciation

Agony in the garden

The Resurrection

Baptism of Jesus

The Visitation

The Scourging

The Ascension

Wedding at Cana

The Birth of Jesus

Crowning with thorns

Descent of the Spirit

God’s Kingdom call

The Presentation

Carrying of the cross

Assumption of Mary

The Transfiguration

The Finding of Jesus

The Crucifixion

Coronation of Mary

Eucharist Last Supper

rosary

We look at today’s world and it seems like it has run amok. Crimes and violence outnumber anything else that we hear about in the news. The number of terroristic attacks seems to be increasing, both in their frequency and their violence. Nations think nothing of the lives of people, even of their own people. Material things have become the “golden idols” of today. And, should we speak out against these things that go counter to the moral law, we are made to look like we are the ones out-of-step. The very foundations of our beliefs are attacked and belittled. Abortion and birth control are promoted as the norm. Gay and Lesbian marriages are protected under the rights of the people. To speak of God is to encourage the mocking of others. The philosophy of “The ME generation” has taken over and now dictates to others. If, it is what I want, then it is ok, licit and moral. This is the thinking of the Me Generation.

Make no mistake about it, do not belittle these occurrences, our faith and morals are under attack. Do not fall into the trap of “everyone else seems to accept it, so it must be alright”. That is the thought process of the weak, the vacillating, the unconvinced and the uncaring. The principles that are, and were, engendered in us as we grew up, are dying by the wayside. If we do nothing to bolster them, if we let them wither and die, because of our own uncertainty and lack of conviction, then we are the lukewarm that Christ despises. “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth”.-1 Even more sinister is the feeling of embarrassment in us, when we do talk about such things.

This is not intended to be a ‘fire and brimstone’ talk. Actually, it is just the opposite. The Apostles, fishermen for the most part, heard wondrous things from Jesus. How much did they really understand? They were attracted to this Man’s goodness and kindness. What He said, at times, must have been over their heads. But that didn’t matter, His presence and conviction reassured them, constantly. But then, He is taken away. He dies on the cross, and this man of gentleness and kindness seems irrevocably gone. His words are probably the farthest thing from their minds. All they knew was that the Master was gone. They were alone. The uncomfortable feeling of being orphaned, of no one around who could reassure them, this was too much to bear. Then come, the Resurrection and the Ascension, and Pentecost. All of a sudden, His words take shape again. They take on a meaning that they could now understand. They realize that His words were telling them, that they have to be like Him, to be Him. Live as He would. Have trust in Him. Death of body is meaningless, is unimportant to them. It is the death of soul that must be avoided. For if the soul dies there can be no resurrection, there can be no uniting with the Father in heaven. Christ’s words and actions take on a whole new meaning, and as a result so do their lives.

Today, our belief in Jesus, our trust in Him, like the Apostles, will affect HOW we live our lives. What are we willing to do with our lives? How are we going to live them? Do we feel uncomfortable talking about Jesus with other people? (I am not talking about incessantly doing this 24-7.) Simply, can we speak to others about our relationship with Jesus and His affect on our lives? Do we avoid conversations about abortion, or gay rights, or materialism, or prayer life? We are either with Him, or against Him. There is no middle ground. The middle ground is for the lukewarm, the vacillating, and we know how Jesus feels about these. If we cannot stand up for what we believe, then either our beliefs are meaningless, or we lack the courage required to be a Christian.

Many of Mary’s apparitions, like Fatima, urged the faithful to pray the Rosary. It is a means of growing closer to God. But the Rosary is not just the repetitive mumbling of words. As Pope Paul VI wrote in Marialis Cultis : “Without this (namely: the meditation on the mysteries) the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation is in danger of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas.” Mary has urged us again and again to pray the Rosary, daily. The world of today clamors for devout prayer, a turning away from self, and movement towards selflessness. Do we think that the world will “magically” stop striving for its own wants, its own desires, its own pleasures? A reform is necessary. This reform, however, is too much for any one of us to bring about. It is way beyond mankind’s abilities. Our lives need to be filled with prayer and sacrifice. (Very much against the Me Generation philosophy, the ‘what’s-in-it-for-me philosophy’.)

Even the words, themselves, “sacrifice” and “prayer” cause an immediate knee jerk reaction. We seem to immediately cringe at the thought of voluntarily depriving ourselves of comfort, of time, of our freedom. (Shades of the Me Generation?) But Jesus is asking just that, to give Him our time, our comforts, our lives. Dedication to Him, and submission to His Will, must become part of our lives. Offer up to Him your prayers and sacrifices, in behalf of a struggling, suffering world desperately in need of God.

1- Revelations, 3, 16

Just One Thing: Take His Hand

take hand

I wish I could say just one thing, or put down one sentence, and the world would know and understand the goodness of God. That I don’t know that one word, that one sentence, means I guess I have a long way to go. I am in a very melancholic mood. I have been watching the History Channel’s presentation of “The Bible“. One event after another we see man’s readiness to branch away from God. Mankind murders its brothers, it pursues illegal love. Again and again, mankind manifests its pride in its own abilities… abilities given him by God. But he thinks it is legitimate to pull away from God. Since mankind has the freedom to move away from their God, and has the power to do so, it does.

How does God react? What does God do? He sends one wake-up call after another. He sends things and problems and people to help man come to his senses. But it accomplishes nothing. God has promised his undying love. He forms a covenant with man. But mankind casts that aside. So God sends His Son. The Christ comes into our world, showing love, preaching peace, doing acts of kindness and tenderness. Mankind not only casts this Messiah aside, it crucifies Him.

People where do we go from here? How does our world come to its senses? It is not enough for us to just sit back and wring our hands, and then feel justifiably wrought. We rock back and forth, as though in terrible anguish, but still we do nothing. “The world” that sounds ominous. How does one change the world? The world is made up of people, you and me. The world changes only when you and I change. Living a life, a Catholic Christian life, will affect others. And if enough “others” live that kind of life, the world WILL change. We are called to pray, fall on our knees and pray.  We are called to do something with our lives. We are called maybe to change our lives, help others, teach others, and lead by example. We are called to remember what it means to really and truly love our God. Whatever it is that God wants of us, of you, of me, are we doing it? Do we know what it is? Do we even care?  Hope and Trust in God. If you don’t, then we fall back and trust only ourselves, only mankind. That was the theme throughout the Old Testament, and still exists today.

We treat life as just so much gathering of things, as though they will make us happy. We gather. They fall short. So, we gather some more. We want security. We want comfort. We want pleasure. We want our sons and daughters to love, but give them no example to follow, to learn from. We don’t do any of this. We want. We want. We want… And yet, what we need is God, a relationship with God. We ignore his word, we ignore his church, we ignore his community, not only do we ignore, we will take advantage of any of those if it will serve our desires, our want.

God calls us to LOVE Him and TRUST Him. If we could do those two things with fierce intensity, EVERYTHING else will fall away into insignificance. We would realize just how insignificant they really are. He wants us to re-direct our lives, if we have to. He wants us to grow closer to Him, to love Him. How do we get closer to God? Well, for starters, do we read His Word in the Bible? Not like a novel, should we read it, but with thought, and understanding, and personalization of those words. We must internalize those thoughts, and honestly apply them to our own lives. Do we talk to Him in prayer? Prayer is not just rattling off some words that we have committed to memory, but with our hearts, our feelings, and our thoughts. Can we simply talk to Him? Tell Him how our day is going. And thank Him for that day. Tell Him of our concerns for others, and ask Him to enlighten us as to what we can do for them. These are all tasks that we will discover on our own, in our own way. We won’t find the how-to-do-it in a book. We won’t be given a magical pill that will bring these things about for us. We need to strive and learn of God. There is an urgency for us to love Him for all that He has done for us and for our families. We have to move away from the step by step monotonous ways of our lives. We need to look at Him and take His hand. He waits for us. He wants us to be with Him. And He waits. How can you NOT take His hand?

Listening to God

seagull

This is the 2nd day since we heard the words, “Habemus Papam”, We have a Pope. Already we are seeing in him something different, something unexpected, something beautiful. He has taken the name of Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis was noted for his humility, his holiness and (maybe strangely to our “sophisticated” minds) talking to animals, and birds. Pope Francis has shown already, through his demeanor, that he will manifest these qualities as well.

What does this have to do with today’s post entitled: ‘Listening to God’, you may very well ask? When we think of prayer, we usually see ourselves asking for this to go away, or that to happen, or whatever… And so our image of prayer becomes one of action, of asking, of promising. But there is another side of prayer. There is the side of listening. We define prayer as the lifting up of the mind and heart to God. But God doesn’t speak to us with words for our ears and minds. We must listen to God, in what He says in our heart, in the depths of our soul, through the persons we meet, through what we observe. All could be His silent whispers to us. We need to listen, to observe, to be attentive. It is easy to ask, but it is much more difficult to hear the response.

Our faith has much to do with prayer. Do we really believe God listens to us? Do we really believe He cares? Does God love us so much, that He will respond to us? If we don’t believe that He cares, that He listens, then we really can’t carry on a conversation with Him. A conversation implies both a speaking and a listening by both parties.

Shortly before the Cardinals entered into the Conclave to elect a pope, builders had the task of erecting the fire pit and chimney pipe. It would be through this mechanism that the cardinals would announce that a pope had been elected. After the election, their handiwork is dismantled, until the next pope needs to be voted in. So this is a very temporary structure.

Shortly before the white smoke billowed out of that pipe, a sea gull sat on that very same pipe for over a half an hour. You could not say that it was its normal resting place, because the chimney pipe had only just been built. And yet, there it was, on top of the building in which the cardinals were electing the new pope. “So what”, you ask?

Over a hundred thousand people in St. Peter’s square, and how many millions of Catholics around the world are praying to God, are asking Him that He give them a good pope, one to reconcile the many troubles of the world, and of the Church. And while this is going on, a sea gull perches on a chimney pipe. It sits for a half an hour or so. Shortly before the white smoke billows out of that same pipe, the bird decides to fly away. God heard the prayers and answered them, with a sea gull. He does not speak to us in words, for our ears. He speaks to us in our minds and hearts. So, we listen with our mind, and our heart, to what happens around us, to what we observe.

The new pope has taken the name of St. Francis. What better way for God to answer our prayers and tell us He heard us than by sending a sea gull on top of that pipe. It is like God is saying to us, “Do not be afraid, I will watch over Francis, just as I did with the one from Assisi”. “Coincidence, coincidence”, I can hear your thoughts. With God there are no coincidences. My heart, my soul, my faith tells me that God heard our prayers and spoke to us.

RCIA: Mystagogia of Prayer

prayer and Jesus

Now, at this point, let’s discuss, “The Mystagogia of Prayer”. MYSTAGOGIA, it’s an awesome sounding word, very intimidating. Mystagogia is defined as a deepening of our understandings in the mysteries of our faith and their impact on our lives. Whether we are newly baptized, or have been baptized for a long time, this time after Easter is a great time for all of us to immerse ourselves in the investigation of what it means to be a Catholic Christian. The early Church understood that many of the recently baptized needed time for the mysteries and sacraments, which they received, to “sink in” and mature. The seed of their faith had to be nurtured and protected. Their awareness of these things had to grow. Our awareness, also, has to grow. So if we are discussing Mystagogia of Prayer, we are discussing a deepening of our understanding of prayer, and how it flows into our lives as Catholic Christians.

What is Prayer? Back in the mid 1940’s, prayer was defined as, “The lifting up of the mind and heart to God.” That definition is still viable in today’s world. We speak of people having a “meeting of the minds”, or a “heart to heart talk”. These are ways of describing two people on the “same wave length”, understanding each other, really “in sync” with one another. The definition of prayer, namely, lifting up of the mind and heart to God, is nothing other than our speaking openly and honestly with God, and listening in our hearts for His reply.

The Mass is the highest form of prayer in which we can participate. We dispose ourselves, or prepare ourselves by listening to words from the Bible. The sections chosen will have a unified theme. It is about that theme, the priest or deacon will speak to us in the homily. The homily is to both acquaint us with the readings and to help us understand how they can be applied to ourselves in our daily life. We then offer (the Offertory) our daily life, the actions of our day, along with Jesus, to our Heavenly Father. The Consecration of the Mass is our following Jesus’ command to “Do this in memory of Me”. We have attached our works to the bread and wine that is being offered. “This is My Body”, and “This is My Blood”, the sacrifice to God is made anew. At the Great Amen, focusing on what has been done, we say our “YES” that we understand and agree with the priest’s words of “..through Him, With Him and In Him, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father…” We, our actions of the day, together with Jesus’ sacrifice are given to God. We know that it is only through, with and in Jesus our works can become meaningful to God. We then receive our Lord in communion and quietly, in the silence of our heart, we listen, to God’s reply.

We have defined what prayer is. Don’t get lost in technicalities. There are different ways to pray to God. Don’t adhere to rigid standards. All are a means to guide us, to assist us. If we dance and don’t listen to the music and only focus on where our feet should move to, we are not dancing we are walking like a robot. If we propose marriage to someone and keep looking at a cheat sheet to tell us what to say, we won’t be getting married anytime soon. We don’t need a guide book to show us how to speak our love to our parents, or our children, or our significant other. We speak from our heart. We let the emotions that well up inside us, the thoughts that occupy our mind and heart, we let these frame our words to reveal our inner selves.

So too, talking to our Father in Heaven, we must speak from our heart. Here though, we have a significant advantage. God already knows us, knows our thoughts, knows our problems, knows our fears and worries. He knows what we want to say; but He waits for our free will to come into play. We must voice our problems, admit their existence, express our love and willingness to follow His decrees. In short, trust in Him.

And so, we pray. We might use formally worded prayers, like the Apostles Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Act of Contrition. Or we might say the Rosary. A mantra type of prayer repeating Our Father’s and Hail Mary’s while meditating on the various mysteries and their impact on our lives. We might go to Mass during the week days. Remember, the Mass is the greatest prayer we can participate in. We can utilize all of these forms of prayer throughout the day.

Our entire day can and should be a prayer. We say in the Morning Offering, “I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings”. That pretty much covers the entire day. Everything we do, how we treat people throughout the day, where we allow our thoughts to go, all the times we smile, all the times we give people the opportunity to smile, all the hurt feelings we get that day, all the times we alleviate someone’s hurt feelings. Everything, all of this, we offer to You, Oh God. Our day, then, becomes a prayer. How good of a prayer it is, is up to us.

Alms, Fasting and Prayer

The 3 keys to Lenten observance have traditionally been: Almsgiving, Fasting, and Prayer. Let’s take a look at these actions and see why they have always been the hallmark of this time of preparation. Let’s see if our understanding of these is true. Or, have we allowed ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of what we think they are.

In these days of tight money, almsgiving seems to be put on the back burner. I will get around to it, when I am able. I can’t meet my own bills. I can’t possibly do anything at this time. These are all very understandable, but must almsgiving only be money? Think of people’s needs and ask yourself a question, “Is everything that people need always monetary?” What do people need besides money? People, all people, need friendship, love, and understanding. Their needs may be a car ride, a baby sitter, food shopping, or your companionship. There are many ways to help people, but the key is… to look at them, to understand them, to be empathetic. To see a person’s need, one must first see the person. THIS is where Christianity comes in. THIS is what makes almsgiving, a loving action. It is much easier to whip out a dollar and give it to someone. You could almost do it without even seeing their face, but there is nothing in the action that says, “I really care about you”. Lent is a time of caring, of loving, of joy.

Fasting is something that we can strive to do, but depending on our circumstances of health, age, and dietary needs we may not be able to pursue this with much vitality. We also may like our food and drink too much and are reluctant to do without it. What is fasting? Our immediate thoughts think of doing without, of deprivation, of limiting our intake of food and drink. Is this really what fasting is all about? Why do we fast? This question hits at the heart of the concept of fasting. In fasting, we are trying to join our lives with Jesus’. He suffered and died for us, we want to show Him in some way that we understand, we appreciate, we try to emulate. But can I fast without food? Doing without our convenience, our special time for us, or our comfort: these can all be examples of fasting, as well. BUT… doing without just for the sake of doing without is meaningless. Why do I allow myself to be inconvenienced? What am I doing now with my special time? What is happening that I allow myself to be put into an uncomfortable position? If the answer to these questions is: “I was helping someone else” then our fasting was truly Christian. Lent is a time of caring, of loving, of joy.

This leaves us with… Prayer. There are so many ways to pray, so many ways to lift our hearts and minds to God, that it should be an easy task. But it isn’t…why? Prayer always seems like a chore, why is that? I don’t have the time. It seems so repetitive. Same words all the time, it just isn’t me. The excuses go on and on and on. Stop for a moment. Look into your soul. Think of a prayer right now, any prayer, any style, any manner and then look at what you feel, see the emotions that arise within you. What are those feelings? Boredom? Disinterest? Sigh? Tired? Again, already? Maybe we don’t really know how to pray. Maybe we really don’t know what prayer is. Maybe we really don’t know Who it is that we are talking with. Each time we go to church we kneel down and begin to pray. What do we say? The old standbys of Our Father, Hail Mary and the Glory be, the Act of Contrition? We seem to have said them so often that they are almost meaningless to us anymore. Prayer is a conversation with our God: Father, Son, and Spirit.

To God, our Creator, thank you. Thank you for your love of me. Thank you for hanging in there with me. Thank you for all that you have given me. Thank you for all that you have not given me. You care for me as a loving parent. I hope I can become worthy of your love for me.

To God, our Redeemer, thank you. I thank you for showing me with your life how I am to live mine. You showed me with your care of others how much you care for me. You are with me every step of the way, even when I forget that you are there. Thank you for your love for me.

To God, the Spirit of Love, thank you. Thank you for all the times you guided me, even though I just thought it was a coincidence. Thank you for the flame of love you have given me in my heart. May I always be willing to give that flame to others.

Worries In Our Lives

When was the last time you didn’t have a care or worry in the world? Think back, when was it? It was a time when you didn’t worry about job, or salary; bills and debts did not exist; responsibilities and should’s and ought to’s were not part of your thought process. The last time I can remember I must have been five or six running down the street in North Philadelphia to see my playmates. How about you?

It is a shame since many times we put off thinking about God, praying to Him…because we have so many other things on our mind. I will start going back to Mass, soon, but not right now. I have so many things to do, so many thoughts in my head. Aren’t we really saying, “Mass isn’t the most important aspect of my life? God will understand, because He sees how busy I am?” What is more important than being united with our God? If we think this way, that God can take a back seat and wait, then maybe, we don’t really understand how important He is to our life. Period.

We amass all of these worries and concerns, and then parade them around in our mind as justifying reasons as to why we cannot go to Mass. They become the mechanism why we cannot see good in others, why we should not help those less fortunate. “I am too busy. I don’t feel comfortable around people like that. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.” And on it goes, our excuses build up and soon we actually believe these excuses to be real, to be formidable.  So, when we say, “I will go back to Mass, as soon as these concerns are over…,” realize that the last time we were free of concerns was…when??

It is the nature of man, to worry, to fret. It is part of our life. It is almost innate in us. So there must be another way around this issue. Why must our worries be over before we speak to God? Why do all the items in our to-do list have to be checked off, before we can focus on our union with our God? They don’t have to be. It is us! We want order in our lives, so much that we are willing to put off the most important relationship for our lives. But of course, we don’t think of it as so, because … there are so many other things in our life that concern us.

At the end of chapter 11 of Matthew’s Gospel, verses 28-30 speak directly to this point. Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.” Don’t wait until the trials, and problems and money worries, and sicknesses and everything else that oppress us, end. Don’t wait. Run to Him; Seek Him out. Lay these burdens that are suffocating you, at His feet. “Lord, I can’t bear them any more. I am so troubled by all of this.” THIS IS your prayer. This is how you seek Him out. In two small sentences you present yourself, as you are. A person that is seeking, troubled, weighed down, and confused. There are no pretenses here. This is who I am right now, Lord. Help me. Don’t expect the troubles and problems to magically disappear. Don’t expect magic. Expect peace. Your prayer is for peace, not solutions. Solutions will solve one problem. Peace will be your strength in all of your battles. Christ, who loves you, who hears you, who has told you to do just so, will flood your mind and soul with peace. The problems may still be there, but they are no longer insurmountable. You have peace within. And in that peace, in that calm comes the realization that our life is truly meaningless without Jesus, without God in our lives. And with this realization, we know that all of life’s burdens are not mighty majestic mountains, but merely speed bumps that crop up from time to time.

How Do We Pray?

Usually, I begin a blog with a theme, or thought in mind. The only thought that comes to my mind, at this time, is the aridity of my soul. The “dark night”, I guess, is what it has been called. I went over to the hospital this morning to bring Communion to any of the patients wishing to receive. There was no jump in my step, no feeling of being alive. I was almost ashamed to be bringing Jesus to these people, in my state of mind. At Mass, prior to going to the hospital, all I could do is ask Jesus to take my lethargy and somehow use it for the benefit of the people I would see today.

It was in this state of mind, with this feeling of apathy, I entered the doors of the hospital. Now, I truly believe that to pray our personal prayers we must recognize and acknowledge the condition we are in. We must be aware of who we are at that time of prayer. For it is in this aspect of ourselves, in this condition, we make our prayer to our heavenly Father. We cannot dupe God. We cannot pretend to Him that we are something that we are not. He sees us as we are. To meet Him in the middle ground, we have to also see ourselves as we are. To me, my condition was one of sadness, of aloneness. It did not shout out that Jesus, my Lord, was with me. It did not manifest the joy of bringing Jesus to others. I felt truly like a hypocrite.

I cannot go into any details about this morning’s actions. I can only say that by the time I had arrived at the patients’ floor my demeanor must have changed. I don’t know when or how it happened. I was not even aware that my apathy was gone. I just went about the business of seeing patients. Usually, as I get tired, the end of the morning sees me cutting shorter the visits with the patients. (As you can see, there is a lot of fixing up needed by me.) Today, however, was truly different. I sat and talked about Jesus. I told people about Padre Pio and what a great saint he is. I felt no need to hurry. I felt no tiredness. It was different, somehow.

What is the purpose of this blog? Why all of this narrative? It is to simply say, “Our prayers do get answered”. It is our openness to God, our recognition and acknowledgement of our current condition, our willingness and desire to be at one with Him, it is all of these that unite us in prayer with God.

This has nothing to do with me. I am simply recounting that I did not want to be a stumbling block to Jesus. I did not want to negatively affect the people I would see today, because of my state of mind. My prayer was simply a desire NOT to be an obstacle but my willingness to be a conduit, if it were His will. The fact of the matter was that I did not know what or who to pray for.

We don’t know all the answers. We cannot pray for events to happen, because we don’t know if those events will be the best thing that could happen. Maybe we are to struggle a little more, and unbeknownst to us, that struggle is what will strengthen us, will purify us, and will make us united with Jesus. All we can pray for is trust. Trust in God, will enable us to truly say, “Your will be done.” Without trust, our prayer will sound like, “Your will be done…if I agree with it.”

What is Trust?

Today, the Gospel reading was from Luke 1: 57 – 66. This is where people are asking Elizabeth what the name of her son would be. The mother of “the Baptist”, calmly stated, “John”. The townspeople did not seem to want to accept the name, as they protested that no one in the family line was ever named, “John”. Seeking to obtain a more tolerable answer, they sought out Zechariah. He had been struck dumb when he did not believe what he had been told by the angel Gabriel. Gabriel had said that Elizabeth, who had been barren, would give birth to a son, whose name was to be, “John”. When they asked Zechariah the child’s name, he motioned for a writing tablet, and on it wrote that the child’s name would be, “John”. Immediately, Zechariah’s speech returned and he began to praise the Lord. To this chain of events, the people inquired among themselves, “What manner of child will this be?”

The priest, at today’s Mass, reminded us of the song, “Que Sera, Sera” (What Will Be, Will Be). As the song goes, “…the future’s not ours to see, what will be, will be.” So, like the townspeople wondering what will this child be, what lies in store for him, we too wonder about our own lives. What will happen? Will we be happy? Will so and so recover? Will our children be alright? We want to know the future. At times, we act like we are entitled to know the future. We want the future to happen, just the way we want. It is in times like this, when we worry that the future will not be as we want it, we should realize that we are putting our trust in ourselves, not in our God. If our God is a God of love, if we believe that He cares about us and wants only what is good for us, then why do we not trust Him?

Two soldiers on a front-line, trust each other so implicitly, that they know their lives are in the other’s hands. Two firemen going into a burning building, each realizes that their partner holds their life, as if he were a puppeteer. Trust must be complete. To hold back and allow a doubt to creep into their heads may be the difference between life and death. How does this trust come about? The first time the two firemen met, they did not have total trust in one another. They didn’t even know each other, let alone trust the other. So how does this trust come about?  We don’t say, “I like how this person looks, therefore I trust him”.  It is absurd to say that we trust someone, who we know is underhanded, who deals with people with varying levels of honesty. We don’t turn over our financial reserves to someone we don’t trust or we know little or nothing about. So, again, how is this trust accomplished?

To grow in trust with a person, we must strive to build a good relationship with that person. The more we see how a person acts honorably and truthfully, the more that person gains our trust, our confidence. The more we learn and know about this person, the more we feel comfortable to give him our trust. Our relationship with one another grows, and this happens only with communication. We express ourselves, our true selves, and in turn receive the other person’s true self. This is how strong marriage relationships are built, the expressing of both partner’s true self to the other. This happens at the initial stages of dating and continues to the couple’s 50th and 60th wedding anniversaries. If the relationship is not built on revealing one’s true self but rather on displaying what the other person may want to see, then the relationship is doomed. (But I can’t do that. What if the person doesn’t like the real me? Then your marriage is doomed to either be a fraud for its duration, or will end in divorce.)

I have digressed a bit. We were talking about how trust grows. As a relationship grows, the more we can identify who and what a person is; and, how we feel about this “who” and “what”. This relationship develops through open and honest communication. Earlier we asked, “Why do we not trust God?” If we are honest with ourselves, we already know the questions we must answer. Trust is built through open and honest communication. How open are our lines of communication with our God? Do we talk to Him? Do we wait to hear His answer? Do we read His Word? Do we wish to grow in our relationship with Him? Do we really know who Jesus is? When was the last time we just sat and thought about His life on earth? When was the last time we wondered why He died on a cross? Do we see the beauty of Christianity? These are questions that we can easily brush away, as though chasing an annoying fly. These are questions to which we may not really want to face the answers, and what they mean to our current life’s structure. But, to not address them is to ignore the purpose of our creation, is to be content in being blind to the love and mercies of God.

Your Role in the World

Starting the Movement

In my last blog (Our Lady of…), Mary’s appearance at Akita, Japan was mentioned. In it, it was stated that if you did go to the website and were to read about it, you should read the third message, especially. In retrospect, I thought about it and realized it was too important of an event to not directly address this, in these blogs. Some of the contents of her third and last message, delivered on October 13, 1973 are as follows:

“. . . if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never have seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. . . Pray very much the prayers of the Rosary. I alone am able still to save you from the calamities which approach. Those who place their confidence in me will be saved.”-1

We can pass this off as sensationalism, something we might see in one of those daily tabloids. We might rank it right up there with the headline that jumps off the page at us, of someone having a Martian’s baby. Yes, we can and could, but should we?
Maybe, it is time to take stock of our lives and its direction. What is the purpose of life? Our life? Is there something more to it than being gratified with every pleasure imaginable? Do we eat to live or live to eat? Is our sole purpose in life to advance in materialistic things? Do we look down on others and treat them accordingly? Do we treat Jesus Christ as a myth, as a child’s story?

The fire falling from the sky probably describes bombs being delivered by missiles with fire trails, streaming behind them. Destruction being delivered by man, on man. No need for God to bring about earth’s destruction, man can do it, himself. But, if man is at the root of this destruction, then it can be averted. Mankind, all of mankind, must begin to recognize that Jesus’ message of love and the treating of each other with love is the only way we are meant to live. Forget the almighty dollar, listen to our Almighty God.

To expect the world to suddenly make a 180 degree turn is foolhardy. But it can happen, if we listen to Our Lady. Pray the Rosary, pray for peace in this world. Peace not just the stoppage of war, but peace in people’s lives, in our lives. Don’t just pass this off as much ado about nothing. Each of us has a responsibility in this task. We, all of us, must pray, and work at, making our lives respectable and wholesome in the eyes of God. We, all of us, must, by example, show our families, our neighbors, our co-workers, the people, we meet on the street what it means to love one another. We, all of us, must recognize that we do have a part to play in world peace. The most intricate and elaborate designs, made of Lego blocks, only happen after the first one is tipped over. If all of us start the design in our corner of the world, then all the corners of the world can change.

I have never said this before on a post. But, if you believe in what is being said, why not send it to a friend or loved one, (you can use the send to someone button below), or point them to this particular blog https://thesteppingstones.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/your-role-in-the-world/.

-1 http://www.theworkofgod.org/Aparitns/Akita.htm

Our Lady of…

Apparitions of Our Lady

We place great admiration and reverence in the Blessed Mother of Jesus.  If through our baptism we are born again in Christ, then she, indeed, is the Mother of us all. Mary has always been a mediator for us and has appeared a number of times on earth. These apparitions have been to warn, console, strongly criticize, exhort and encourage us to change our ways of living. As our own mothers would help us, Mary helps the world in times of need and shows us what must be done. Her guidance, her urging us to pray the rosary, her encouragement, should not be taken lightly.

The following is a list of some of the better known apparitions of the Blessed Mother. Those that are listed are shown from the oldest to the most recent. I think it noteworthy to mention that the last three have taken place in the 1900’s. Without trying to be an alarmist, I do feel that Mary is telling us something extremely urgent. Her messages are becoming more frequent and more specific in content. To learn a little bit more about each of these apparitions, visit the Work of God Website-1. (If you do go, make sure you read the three messages of Our Lady in the Akita apparition, especially the last message.)

Guadalupe… Mexico in 1531 to an Indian, Juan Diego.
LaSalette…France in 1846 to Melanie Mathieu and Maximin Giraud
Lourdes…. France in 1858 to Bernadette Soubirous (age 14)
Fatima… Portugal  in 1917 to Lucia (9), Francisco (8) and Jacinta (6)
Zeitoun…Egypt in 1968 to Muslim Farouk Mohammed Atwa
Akita…Japan in 1973 to Sr. Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa

There are many other times that Mary has come to tell mankind something. The important fact to remember in all of these is that Mary is mother to us all. The fact that she gives the message to someone in France, or Portugal, in Egypt or Mexico reasserts her motherhood of all peoples. The fact, to which country she chose to deliver it, is totally unimportant. To let the country be a distraction to you, so much so that you ignore the message, not only is foolhardy, but does a disservice to Our Lady.

-1  http://www.theworkofgod.org/Aparitns/Aparitns.htm

A Private Chat

Christ’s Tenderness with John

The fervent prayer in Sunday’s Mass was that we remain ever vigilant and faithful to Jesus’ message of love. We heard in a passage from the Gospel:
          “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes”-1
The Gospel goes on to remind us that we don’t know when the thief, nor death, will come to our door. Our fervor must not be allowed to wane. But, it is impossible to consistently remain true to the message of Christ, if this all-important task is left solely to our own devices. Our human response will always have its high and low points. Because of our frailty, it is so very important for us to trust Christ, to ask Jesus to come to us, to ask Him to surround and protect us with His love.

We hear in His words, His disdain for the lukewarm soul:
          “But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.”-2
And,
          “I come into your heart so that through your fervor you may atone for the offenses which I have received from lukewarm and slothful hearts that dishonor me in the Blessed Sacrament”-3
And again,
          “…the souls …who have become lukewarm wound My Heart most painfully.”-4

In today’s fast-paced world, where energies are spent on the workplace, shopping, taking the kids to sports and social events, and a myriad of other attention and time-consuming activities, when do we talk to God? It can be so easy to push Him farther and farther back. We have received so much in our lives, and a thank you takes so little time. We have no excuse for ignoring Jesus. Our tepid, lukewarm fervor is either out of ignorance on our part, or worse, a matter of indifference. Both of which are an insult to our Savior and Redeemer.
Please, for your own good read the following and afterwards, close your eyes and do it. It only takes a moment:

Shut out all external thoughts from your mind. No worries or cares are allowed to enter for the moment. When quiet, inside, close your eyes and picture yourself next to Jesus. By the look on His face, you know He loves you. Put your arm around His waist and rest your head on His chest. Tell Him of your sorrow for your life’s actions. Tell Him of your love for Him and desire to be better. Then remain calm and listen to your heart. Allow His thoughts to well up inside you.

It only takes a moment, but you have allowed Christ to come into your life. Try to do this on a regular basis. This is not an action of the lukewarm.

-1– Luke 12: 37
-2—Revelations 3:16
-3– Third apparition of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
-4– Apparition of Jesus to St. Faustina

Today is the feast of St. Alphonsus. The Redemptorists Fathers are saying this prayer after each Mass. I looked on their website to see what churches were having this devotion. There were none in the area. I downloaded this prayer, which they will be saying after each Mass, today. So this re-print is for those of us, who are suffering the aches and pains of arthritis, as did this saint. May this prayer help us cope with this debilitating disease. Pray it daily.

      Dear St. Alphonsus, friend of the poor, and arthritis sufferer, you are the special patron of all who suffer from arthritis and the pains of many years.

 When our joints, hips, arms, legs and knuckles hurt so much that tears well up in our eyes, help us to recall the tears, the sweat and the blood that flowed from our crucified Jesus who bore so much suffering out of love for each of us.

     St. Alphonsus, afflicted with curvature of the spine and nailed to a wheelchair cross in your final years, teach us to unite all our pains with those of Jesus, so our patience and love inspires others to accept the difficulties of their lives.

     We ask you to intercede for us so our pains will be eased but more so that we are enabled to be one with Jesus in His great act of dying and rising.                    Amen.

As Time Goes By…

years passing

What were you doing ten years ago? Is it different from today? How about five years ago? Ok, what did you do, yesterday? These are really not fair questions. We may very well have been in the same job, then as we are now. Our responsibilities may not have changed that much over that span of time. What we are doing now is pretty much what we have been doing all along, namely, taking care of the things that had to be done.

So, let me change the question. Who were you ten years ago? How about five years ago? Are you the same person today as you were then? Never confuse what you do, with who you are. What you do may remain constant, but who you are, should not, cannot remain dormant.  We measure growth in a baby by inches and pounds. During our school years we measure what we have learned by taking tests. After the physical and intellectual growth what is next? Well, during this time we have also been forming who we are. How do we respond with disappointment? What type of people, do we like and dislike? How thoroughly and conscientiously do we perform our work tasks? All of these help shape us into who we are.

Our faith, our beliefs, play a huge part in who we are. That too, must grow, must not stand still. Inquire. Ask questions about your religion, your faith, your way of life. Who is Christ? Is the level of your answer the same as it was ten years ago? What does Christ mean to me in my life? How do you pray? Again, is it the same as it was ten years ago? These questions are important to us. They are measuring rods for us. How we answer them will help us see how much we have grown.

One note of caution, here. Many times people will answer these questions with answers that find fault with other people, or circumstances. This, somehow, is then used to justify their pace of progress or lack of progress within their lives. We can find many excuses to explain to ourselves, why we are as we are.

Our life takes many twists and turns. Who we are, what growth we have made over those twists and turns, is not measured in money, or status, or popularity. We are not judged by any one of those twists or turns, either. Our growth, how we are judged is determined by how we respond to the people we meet, how well we cope with our life, and the difficulties it thrusts upon us. It is determined by how much closer we have gotten to Christ, how often we talk to Him. When we talk to Jesus are we talking to a stranger or a much loved friend? How we answer that is important.

phone

We touched on prayer, just recently. We said it is the lifting up of the mind and heart to God. Prayer isn’t just memorized words, or printed words in a booklet.Prayer is our talking to Christ. When we tell Him how we feel, what is bothering us, what is making us feel good, that is our prayer. Just as we would chat with our friends, telling them of some difficulties we are trying to overcome, our concerns about our health, or our child’s health. To some people we will talk just words, and to others, we can open our hearts and express our inner feelings. Even though we know that they may not really be able to help us, but it helps us, so much, just to unburden ourselves to them, kind of like an escape valve.

Is our talking to Jesus any different? Yes, it is. With Jesus, we know He can really help us; He will help us, if we let Him. The difficulty is in the listening. Jesus talks to us in whispers. A thought, a really good thought comes to us, just as a sudden breeze blows across our cheek. Was that coincidence, or the breath of the Holy Spirit? We are telling Christ how much our heart aches because of our children’s problems, and somehow, someway, just then, we kind of know that everything will be alright. Heaven is just a whisper away.

Christ isn’t distant from us. He is beside us in everything we do. Our actions, our words, our decisions, these are ours to decide upon and do or not do. Free will is a gift to mankind. We are not forced to do things, because of our instincts. We have minds to help us choose what we will do. This gift of free will is not something that Christ will ignore. He accepts our choices, though they may not be in our best interests. Christ is waiting to be asked to enter our hearts, our minds, our lives.

Try something different. I am sure no one has ever written this down before. (Well, almost sure.) We talk on the cell phone very frequently. We are relaxed, casual, and usually very true to ourselves. Clip the ear piece of the cell phone onto your ear, like you would normally do when calling a friend. Or, just hold the phone up to your ear. This time, don’t dial any number. Just start talking as you would, when on the phone with a friend. This time, your friend is Jesus. People talk on their cell phones, all the time on the street. Tell Him what you are feeling. (Maybe, you will feel a little awkward, when it is the first or second time.) But, look inside yourself, and tell Him how you feel. Tell Him what is bothering you. Tell Him something you feel good about. Let Him know what is going on in your life. Like all phone conversations, just pause and let Jesus talk. Listen to your thoughts, listen to your heartbeat. Christ will be in there, guiding your thoughts, your feelings, providing you with maybe some better choices. Your free will and you will still ultimately make the decision, though this time you may have more to choose from. Before you hang up, don’t forget to tell Him, that you will call later. His line is never busy.

The Nature of Sin

sin

Yesterday, we defined prayer as the lifting up of the mind and heart to God. And we said that the purpose of prayer is to be one with Christ. What then, can we say about sin? Sin is diametrically opposed to union with Christ. The Baltimore Catechism says this about sin:
          “Sin is an offense against reason, truth, right conscience and God; it is a failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods.”

Instead of having a genuine love for God above everythng else, we seek out those things that will give us fleeting pleasures, temporal goods, emotional gratifications. How sad that the One we should seek, with whom, we should strive to be united, we discard for this thrill, or that gratification, for financial rewards, or popularity.

What is the fascination of sin? Why do we so easily succumb to the very things that destroy our soul? The reason is simple enough. We do not perceive sin for what it is, namely, the separation of ourselves from  our God. No, we only see that which is offered. We see the momentary reward and are blinded by its seeming allure. We do not see the sin. Rather, we see the new friend to be added to our collection. We see momentary gratifications, as though they will last forever. And when they cease to gratify, we seek them all the more strongly. We see the ambition to move ahead in the company, the fame that it will bring and the money that it means. The allure is so strong, we think nothing of lying, or slandering, or anything else that is necessary to get ahead. Material things are sought as so many badges of honor. The more we have, the more impressed people will be, the more we are impressed with ourselves.

Maybe we aren’t seeking material things. Maybe we are seeking the ease of comfortable living. Let others do the work. Someone else will pick up after me. Leave me alone, let me watch my tv show. Let me do nothing. Why should I help that person? I don’t really know him/her. I can’t stand her, she’s so catty. Here comes Bill, what a boring guy. The list of worldly fascinations and attractions is endless.

Whatever weakness exists in our makeup, something in this world will exist to make it feel better. Whether we feel insecure, or persecuted, or lonely, or financially stressed, whatever our need the world will provide an immediate “solution”.  This solution, unrecognized by us, gradually takes over the weakness, and it becomes our new weakness. We then seek this out above everything else. It becomes our new need, because it seems better than what we had before. An example may be in order. A person feels insecure. So much so, that he doesn’t want to mingle with people. He stays home, by himself, and constantly watches tv. His mind is always occupied with tv shows, movies, serials and anything else that comes on. His insecurity, the original weakness, doesn’t come to the surface much, anymore. He has tv to turn to. He now must watch tv. It has become his new need.

Wordly attractions wrap around us. They cater to our weaknessess, our needs. They tie us up, and slowly they squeeze the desire to unite with Christ, out of us. We don’t see these things as evil, as sin. They have become our necessities. We can’t imagine life without them. They have become for us, our god.

The only way we can break this downward spiral, is to strive to unite ourselves with Christ. Prayer, not the recitation of words, but the linking of our mind and heart with Christ, is the only way to overcome sin. This is a lot to expect of ourselves, because we have slowly closed Christ out of our life. And, by ourselves, we will not be able to overcome the things we have gotten attached to. But with all the trust, all the faith, all the confidence we can muster, we must tell Christ our dilemna. He knows it already, but we must voice it, so we can hear it. Strive to link with Christ and feel His presence, hear His gentle whisper. Go back to church. Talk to Him in the confessional. The allures of the world will rise up and tell you how dumb you are, how stupidly you are acting. The Enemy will not give up easily. But once you realize how important it is to unite with Christ, you will know that He is there with you, listening to your plea. Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.

The Nature of Prayer

nature of prayer

Prayer is defined as the lifting up of the mind and heart to God. That is how the Baltimore Catechism describes it. We know prayers. The Our Father, the Hail Mary, The Glory be, the list goes on and on. They are all defined as prayers. Very often we think of prayer and automatically, we recite one of these prayers.

Is the recitation of the words of the Our Father really a prayer? If that recitation consists solely of saying memorized words, while distractions fill our heads, then I truly wonder if that qualifies as prayer. The lifting up of our mind and heart to God involves more than mere recitation.

Look closely at the Rosary. It is a good example of what prayer is and is not. It is not the mere recitation of Our Fathers and Hail Marys. If no thought, no feeling is involved, then we might as well recite “Row, row, row your boat, etc.” No disparagement is intended here. During the repetitive recitation of the prayers, we use our mind to recall different aspects (the mysteries) of the Christian religion and to allow our hearts and souls to embrace these wonders. In this embrace our hearts, our mind, our very being expands and rejoices with these events. This is the purpose of prayer, to become one with Christ.

We do, however, have to go to work. We have to cook, clean, mow the lawn, feed and bathe our children, work with people, in short, we must do other things, that prevent us from formally praying. Is it our lot in life then, to pray to our God, only at certain times? Times that are convenient for us or defined by others? Times that we can push back and delay until tomorrow?
Our whole day can and should be a prayer. We said earlier that the purpose of prayer is to become one with Christ. An act of love to a stranger, suppressing a biting word and replacing it with an act of gentleness, listening to that person we really don’t like, trying to love that person who we really don’t like, helping someone in your neighborhood, all of these can be our prayers. Why? Because Christ told us, He is in each and every person that we encounter. What better way to become one with Christ, then to show Him the love we have for others? His words, “What you do for the least of these, you do for Me”, must resound in our hearts and minds.

To make our day, our whole day, worthy of being called a prayer is not something we can say we will do, and it is then automatically done. If all we do is say we are going to do it, and then do nothing about it, we are back to reciting row, row, row your boat again. We must want to know and love Christ. This love for Him will be the driving force to make our lives a living prayer. This love will expand our hearts to want to help others. Not because we should, but because we seriously want to. Our journey through life is made up of steps, little steps. Sometimes the steps we take don’t move us forward towards Christ, at all. Sometimes these stumbling steps are our wake-up call that we must start anew. But, with each step that we take towards Christ we are that much closer to becoming one with Him.

5 Minutes With You

If I had only 5 minutes to speak to you, this is what I would say:

How well do you like the new neighbors that will move in, on your street, tomorrow? What is it that makes you feel close to them? How well behaved are the children? I could ask you many more questions that would be impossible for you to answer. Why impossible? Well of course, you don’t know anything about them. You have not even met them yet. Why is any of this important? It’s important because you cannot form a relationship with someone, especially a close relationship, if you don’t know the person; if you don’t speak to the person; if you make no attempt to be with the person. This is so obvious a statement, that it is almost a waste of time mentioning this.

How well do you know Christ? What makes you feel close to Him? What is it about His life that makes you want to be with Him? What makes you want to chat with Him? These are questions that you must answer, that you must know the answers to. We all agree, that you cannot form a relationship with someone, without knowing, talking to, or being present with them. The same holds true with Jesus. I ask you, how often do you say prayers to Jesus? I am not talking about words we have memorized. Words, that mean as much as, that come off our lips as easily as, when we read a food label on a load of bread. I am asking you how often do you talk to Jesus? Chat with Him? Choosing and using words that you feel and know. Words that you select because they must be said your way, in order to explain yourself to Him? Your conversation with Him, is no different than it would be if you were talking to a loving mother or father, a loving friend. After you have talked and told Him everything that He should know about you for that day, what does He say back to you? Nothing!!?? Do you give Him time to speak? Christ won’t speak to you with words, though. Listen! Listen intently! Try to be in a quiet place. True, sometimes He doesn’t answer us at all, but sometimes He whispers emotions to us, He passes on ideas to us, or moods. Sometimes a recognition of something occurs that you wonder where it came from. Listen to Him. Get close to Him. He loves you so much, He died for you. He wants so very much for you to be close to Him. But if on that particular day, no answer seems to come, don’t get discouraged, just let Him know you will resume the chat, tomorrow. Mean it and do it. Slowly, gradually you will begin to form that personal relationship with Him. With it, comes a very special benefit. You begin to realize how much Christ loves you. In spite of all that you have done that hurts both yourself and others, in spite of all the negativity that you feel at times, in spite of all the times that you don’t have good feelings towards Christ, He loves you. He knew when He was on the cross, everything that you would say and do. He forgave you then and He loves you, just as much, now.

If Christ can see us as being lovable, in spite of all that we have done, then maybe we are lovable. Maybe we are worth something. Maybe we should expect more of ourselves. Maybe we should share this love with the people that we meet. Wait a minute!!! No maybe about it. We are lovable and should share this with everyone we meet. Paraphrasing the words of Christ, “How can you say you love Me, if you cannot love your fellow man?” Christ loves him too. Christ died for him, as well. He saw his imperfections, just as he saw yours. He loves you both equally well. Why do you think you are better than some other people? You both have your faults. You both are loved by Christ. Both you and your fellow man should, no MUST, love each other. If you proclaim yourself as being a Christian, then you have no other option but to find ways to love others.

It is an easy thing to say, but can be very difficult at times to do. We have to stop kidding ourselves. We have some work to do. We know where we are weak. We know how little we talk to Christ and yet we boldly think of ourselves as Christian people. Please, my 5 minutes is probably up, by now. You have work to do. We all have work to do. Let it start by forming a better relationship with Jesus. Let it start by talking to Him from your heart, with feeling. Let’s do it regularly, each day. Let’s grow together as we grow in Christ. Maybe someday, we can love each other.

For That Certain Someone

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Running on Empty

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Conversation with Christ

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