Holy and provident Father, You are the Lord of the vineyard and the harvest and You give each a just reward for their work. In your design of love You call men and women to work with You for the salvation of the world. We thank You for Jesus Christ, your living word, who has redeemed us from our sins and is among us to assist us in our poverty. Guide the flock to which You have promised possession of the kingdom. Send new workers into your harvest and set in the hearts of pastors faithfulness to your plan of salvation, perseverance in their vocation and holiness of life.
Christ Jesus, who on the shores of the Sea of Galilee called the Apostles and made them the foundation of the Church and bearers of your Gospel, in our day, sustain your people on its journey. Give courage to those whom You call to follow You in the priesthood and the consecrated life, so that they may enrich God's field with wisdom of your Word. Make them docile instruments of your love in everyday service of their brothers and sisters.
Spirit of holiness, who pour out your gifts on all believers and, especially, on those called to be Christ's ministers, help young people to discover the beauty of the divine call. Teach them the true way of prayer, which is nourished by the Word of God. Help them to read the signs of the times, so as to be faithful interpreters of your Gospel and bearers of salvation.
Mary, Virgin who listened and Virgin of the Word of God made flesh in your womb, help us to be open to the Word of the Lord, so that, having been welcomed and meditated upon, it may grow in our hearts. Help us to live like You the beatitudes of believers and to dedicate ourselves with unceasing charity to evangelizing all those who seek your Son. Grant that we may serve every person, becoming servants of the Word we have heard, so that remaining faithful to it we may find our happiness in living it.
Thursday, July 12, 2018
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Many Catholics rightly complain about the absence of silence in some forms of the celebration of our Roman liturgy. It seemed to us important, therefore, in this short essay, to recall the meaning of silence as a Christian ascetical value, and therefore as a necessary condition for deep, contemplative prayer, without forgetting the fact that times of silence are officially prescribed during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, so as to highlight the importance of silence for a high-quality liturgical renewal.
1. Silence as a Christian ascetical value
In the negative sense, silence is the absence of noise. It can be exterior or interior. Exterior silence involves the absence of sounds both in words and in actions (noises of doors, vehicles, jackhammers, and airplanes, the noisy mechanism of cameras, often accompanied by dazzling flashes, and also of that horrible forest of cell phones that are brandished at arm’s length during our Eucharistic liturgies). Virtuous or mystical silence obviously must be distinguished from reproachful silence, from the refusal to speak to someone, from the silence of omission through cowardice, egotism, or hard-heartedness.
Of course, exterior silence is an ascetical exercise of self-mastery in the use of speech. First of all it may be helpful to recall what asceticism is; this word is not praised to the skies by our consumer society—far from it!—and, we must admit, it frightens our contemporaries, including very often the Christians who are influenced by the spirit of the world. Well, then, what is asceticism? Asceticism is an indispensable means that helps us to remove from our life anything that weighs it down, in other words, anything that hampers our spiritual or interior life and therefore is an obstacle to prayer. Yes, it is indeed in prayer that God communicates his Life to us, in other words, manifests his presence in our soul by irrigating it with the streams of his Trinitarian Love: the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. And prayer is essentially silence. Chattering, the tendency to externalize all the treasures of the soul by expressing them, is supremely harmful to the spiritual life. Carried away toward the exterior by his need to say everything, the chatterer cannot help being far from God, superficial and incapable of any profound activity.
The wisdom books of the Old Testament (Prov 10:8, 11, 13, 14, 18-21, 31, 32; 15:1-7; Sir 19:7-12; 20:1-2, 5-8 or 23:7-15; 28:13-26) are chock-full of exhortations aimed at avoiding sins of the tongue (in particular, slander and calumny). The prophetic books, for their part, mention silence as the expression of reverential fear of God; it is then a preparation for the theophany of God, in other words, the revelation of His presence in our world (Lam 3:26; Zeph 1:7; Hab 2:20; Is 41:1; Zech 2:13). The New Testament is not outdone in this respect. Indeed, there is the Letter of James, which clearly remains the classic passage about controlling the tongue (Jas 3:1-10). However, we know that Jesus himself warned us against wicked words, which are the expression of a depraved heart (Mt 15:19) and even against idle words, for which an accounting will be demanded of us (Mt 12:36). In contrast, we can only be impressed by the silence of Jesus before the Sanhedrin, the Roman governor Pilate and King Herod: Jesus autem tacebat (Mt 26:63). Herod asked him to work a miracle for him personally, and his courtiers would have been amused by it. But Jesus Christ, who was in chains—he, the God of majesty—did not consent to become the buffoon of King Herod, nor to do for that proud man whose curiosity was unhealthy what he granted so generously to the humble and the uneducated.
In reality, true, good silence always belongs to someone who is willing to let others have his place, and especially the Completely-Other, God. In contrast, external noise characterizes the individual who wants to occupy an over-important place, to strut or to show off, or else who wants to fill his interior emptiness, as is the case in many stores and public facilities, and also particularly in the waiting rooms of some dentists, hairdressers..., where they impose incessant background music on you.
As for interior silence, it can achieved by the absence of memories, plans, interior speech, worries…. Still more important, thanks to an act of the will, it can result from the absence of disordered affections or excessive desires. The Fathers of the Church assign an eminent place to silence in the ascetical life. Think of Saint Ambrose (In psalm. 37, 12-15), Saint Augustine, Saint Gregory the Great (Moralia II, 48; XXII, 16; XXX, 16), not to mention Chapter VI of the Rule of Saint Benedict of Nursia on “taciturnity,” or Chapter 62 on grand silence at night, where he adopts the teaching of Cassian. Starting with those spiritual masters, all the medieval founders of religious orders, followed by the mystics of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, insisted not only on the ascetical but also on the mystical importance of silence.
2. Silence as a condition for contemplative prayer
The Gospels say that the Savior himself prayed in silence, particularly at night (Lk 6:12), or while withdrawing to deserted places (Lk 5:16; Mk 1:35). Silence is typical of the meditation by the Word of God; we find it again particularly in Mary’s attitude toward the mystery of her Son (Lk 2:19, 51). The most silent person in the Gospels is of course Saint Joseph; not a single word of his does the New Testament record for us. Saint Basil considers silence not only as an ascetical necessity of monastic life, but also as a condition for encountering God (Letter 2, 2-6: PG 32, 224-232). Silence precedes and prepares for the privileged moment when we have access to God, who then can speak to us face to face as we would do with a friend (cf. Ex 33:11; Num 12:8; Deut 34:10).
Recall, in this regard, that we arrive at the knowledge of God by way of causality, analogy, eminence, but also negation: once we affirm the divine attributes, which are known by natural reason (this is the kataphatic way), we must deny the mode of limited realization thereof that we know here below (this is the apophatic way). Silence is an essential part of the apophatic way of gaining access to God, which was so highly prized by the Fathers of the Church, especially the Greeks; this makes them demand silence of arguments when faced with the mystery of God (Clement of Alexandria, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa).
It is nonetheless true that silence is above all the positive attitude of someone who prepares to welcome God by listening. Yes, God acts in the silence. Hence this very important remark by the great Saint John of the Cross: “The Father said only one word, namely his Son, and in an eternal silence he always says it: the soul too must hear it in silence.” The Book of Wisdom had already noted in this regard the manner in which God intervened to deliver the chosen people from captivity in Egypt: that unforgettable act took place during the night: “For while gentle silence enveloped all things, and night in its swift course was now half gone, your all-powerful word leaped from heaven, from the royal throne” (Wis 18:14). Later, this verse would be understood by Christian liturgical tradition as a prefiguration of the silent Incarnation of the Eternal Word in the crib in Bethlehem. As for Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, she would insist on silence as a condition for contemplating God the Holy Trinity.
And so we have to make silence: this is of course an activity, and not a form of idleness. If our “interior cell phone” is always busy because we are “having a conversation” with other creatures, how can the Creator reach us, how can he “call us”? We must therefore purify our mind of its curiosities, the will of its plans, in order to open ourselves totally to the graces of light and strength that God wants to give us profusely: “Father, not my will, but yours be done.” Ignatian “indifference” is therefore a form of silence too.
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
This is a beautiful prayer to the Holy Spirit that I found at In God's Company 2. It comes from Fr. Jozo of Medjugorje:
Fr. Jozo's Prayer to the Holy Spirit in Siroki Brijeg October 3, 2000
Come, O Most Holy Spirit, come to us today. We need your love, because we desire to go on the new way to return to the Father, to take the step to the Father. O Come, Holy Spirit, You who makes all things new. Today grant a miracle in us and through us. Change our hearts. Take from us our hearts of stone and give us a new heart, a heart that knows how to love, how to pray, how to forgive. A heart that knows how to embrace the cross and recognize the will of God and carry it to the end. Come, O Most Holy Spirit, You who are our peace, come fill us with peace. You who are love, fill us with love and blessing and salvation. We are not here accidentally. We have been called, that we may be able to recognize our call and our mission. We ask You to come O Most Holy Spirit, that our masks may melt away, that our true face may be revealed before You. Come, O Most Holy Spirit, may a miracle happen today: the beginning of our conversion, the beginning of our true devotion. Come, O Most Holy Spirit pour out Your grace and Your strength on Your Church and convert us. Sanctify us. Change us. Come, O Most Holy Spirit, we are the Church united together in prayer with the Mother. As the disciples at the very beginning, united together with Her in prayer for the gift of Your Spirit, for the gift of love, that we may be freed from selfishness and hatred, that we may be freed from every evil, and that we may start to love, that we may start to forgive and to pray, that we may start to fast. Come, O Most Holy Spirit. Come bless us. Come, change us. You who are prayer, come and anoint us with prayer that we may become the Church that believes in the power of prayer. Come, Most Holy Spirit, renew prayer in us, that we may become the renewers of family prayer.Come, O Most Holy Spirit, come heal us, come bless us, come convert us. O You who anoints with Your Peace, with Your Joy, with Your Love. Come anoint us.
In the last message O Blessed Mother, You say, that the one who prays, lives joy and peace and love. O Blessed Mother, here is the Church in prayer, here is the Church who desires to renew itself in prayer, firm in prayer, come to fall in love with prayer. O grant that these days may be the renewal of our prayer, of our faith through prayer, of our love through prayer, of a Christian life in prayer. Come, O Most Holy Spirit. Come, pour Yourself out upon us. The Church united together with the Mother is praying to you, You who make all things new. Grant that this Church may become new. It may become a Church of prayer, a holy Church, a sign amongst nations, your city on the hillside, your light on the way, Your Self. Come, O Most Holy Spirit. Come and pour Yourself out upon us. Our Father who art in Heaven....Hail Mary, full of grace...Mother and Queen of Peace - pray for us. Mother of the Church - pray for us. Mother and Queen of the family - pray for us. Consolation of the Sorrowful - pray for us, help of Christians - pray for us, help of the sick - pray for us, gate of heaven - pray for us. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Monday, April 30, 2018
Prayer to Mary, Help of Christians:
Mary, most powerful Virgin,
You are the mighty and glorious Protector of the Church.
You are the marvelous Help of Christians.
You are awe-inspiring as an army in battle array.
You have destroyed heresy in the world.
In the midst of our anguish, our struggle and our distress
defend us from the power of the enemy,
and at the hour of our death receive our soul into heaven. Amen.
(By St. John Bosco)
Sunday, April 29, 2018
The following comes from Msgr. Pope:
There are some who wince at the notion of praying boldly to God, especially if anger or exasperation are part of that boldness. And yet the Bible itself models and counsels that we should include in our prayers the times when we are angry, exasperated, or disappointed in God. The psalms are filled with such prayers and great figures like Moses, David, and Job cry out to God quite plainly, expressing their anger and disappointment. I have written more on that here: A Meditation on the Role of Anger in Prayer.
At any rate, in this brief blog today I offer this example of a prayer of holy boldness from a great Saint of the Church: St. Catherine of Siena. Here is the background: Catherine’s mother, Lapa, lay dying, but Catherine was convinced that Lapa was not yet ready to die, and so she told God as much. The Lord disagreed, but Catherine remained undeterred in her assessment. And now we pick up the story and prayer …
Lapa died, or so it seemed to all the women who stood around her bed. She had refused to confess and receive the last Sacrament. Catherine lay over her mother’s corpse weeping and praying aloud.
O my dear Lord, is this how you keep the promise you once made to me that none in my house should suffer eternal death? You promised me too that you would not take my mother from this world before she could leave it in a state of grace, and here she lies dead, without having confessed or received the Sacrament. My Beloved Savior, I call to you in your great mercy, do not fail me! I will not go alive from your feet until you give me my mother back.
Speechless and overcome, the women around the deathbed saw that life seemed to creep back into Lapa’s body. She breathed and made some slight movement, … After a short time Monna Lapa was quite well again. [Told by her confessor, Blessed Fr. Raimondo, and inscribed in the Biography Catherine of Sienna by Sigrid Undset, pp 94-95].
And so here is the image of a saint at prayer: reverent but bold, seemingly unwilling to take “no” for an answer. Surely, on account of her usual and deep reverence, Catherine was allowed a bit more leeway than many of us; but do not doubt that God is often listening for us sinners to pray with a little conviction and intensity!
Somehow, too, it reminds me of a place called Cana, where the Mother of Jesus said, “They have no more wine.” And though Jesus seemed unwilling, I am convinced that Mary gave him a look that only a mother could, a look that wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. And the next thing you know, Jesus is making dozens of gallons of the best wine imaginable!
Are you praying with me, Church? Really praying? There is a place for boldness in prayer, not a boldness that loses all reverence, but a boldness nonetheless.