Monday, November 20, 2017

Archbishop Fulton Sheen on the Spiritual Life

“The ideal of spirituality is to be found in the first and last words of Our Lord’s public life. The first word of His public life was: ‘come’ (John 1:39; Mark 1:17; Matthew 4:18). The last word was ‘go’ (John 20:21; Mark 16:20; Matthew 28:19). The disciple first comes to absorb His Truth, to become inflamed with His Love; then and then only, he goes to accomplish his mission. Both words are summarized in the summary of the call of the disciples: He called the men He wanted; and they went and joined Him….these He would send out to proclaim the Gospel (Mark 3:14). Unfortunately today, we have too many ‘go-goes’ and not enough ‘come-comes.’ The proper balance is found again in the story of Martha and Mary which follows in the Gospel the Good Samaritan. In the latter, social service is praised. But in the story of Martha and Mary, it is suggested that we are not to become too absorbed in serving, that we have become too absorbed in serving that we have no time to sit at the food of Jesus and learn

His lessons.” Archbishop Fulton Sheen (Those Mysterious Priests)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Devotion of Blessed Solanus Casey

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:


Thank God ahead of time.  This sentence nearly leapt off the page of a thin book of collected quotes by Father Solanus Casey that I purchased at the St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit.  I was a young college student, and my faith was in its springtime as I embraced my singlehood to grow and mature in everything related to Catholicism.  I only ended up at the Capuchin monastery, because my mother had invited me to a one-day pilgrimage there.  Having never heard of Father Solanus before that day, I eagerly accepted her invitation without expectation of what might happen or how I might be inspired.
But Father Solanus’s life changed mine that day as I traced his footsteps through the building, feeling his presence strongly with me.  It was as if Father Solanus came to life that day, and everything biographical about him captivated me in an instant.  His writings, too, were simple and yet incredibly profound.  I knew I met a kindred saint that day, despite the fact that he was not even beatified.
My mother’s interest in Father Solanus began with a casual conversation with her friend who owned the local Catholic bookstore in our area.  He explained that Father Solanus spent quite a bit of time in his later years living in our diocese, which piqued her interest further.  Then she heard some amusing personal stories from friends whose parents had known him, and somehow the camaraderie between Father Solanus and my mom was sealed.
I knew that day as I pondered his life and legacy why my mom asked me to join her.  The depth of my affinity towards this plain and quiet Franciscan perplexed me at first, mostly because I was the scholarly type who enjoyed intellectual debates and analyzing research in my spare time.  Father Solanus was nothing like me, but I was drawn to him.  I wanted to be more like him spiritually: poor in spirit and pure of heart.
After that pilgrimage, I began to ask for Father Solanus’s intercession, but only sporadically.  College and then graduate studies overwhelmed and distracted me, but his memory remained captured in my psyche.  From time to time I would wonder rhetorically (and silently), How can I be like Father Solanus?  How can I grow in such humility and with joy in being considered nothing?
You see, Father Solanus scrubbed the toilets at the monastery not only without complaint but, in fact, with great interior peace and joy.  I couldn’t fathom doing such a thing were I in his position, because my pride was too great.  But Father Solanus accepted what was given to him – whether it was bodily injury or a menial and demeaning task – with incredible resignation to the Divine Will.  He gave all to and for God.  That is what attracted me to his charism.
Years later, I found myself masked in darkness as I faced a dreaded c-section with our second daughter, Sarah, after an intense 24-hour labor.  My pride in shambles, I wept openly in front of perfect strangers who prepped me for the operation.  My heart was inconsolable, yet somewhere in the abyss of my fear, a tiny voice said to me, Say a prayer to Father Solanus.
Instantly I offered a silent supplication to my Capuchin friend in Heaven, and my heart was still and quiet.  I sensed a Heavenly presence, though I uttered not a word to a single person, including my husband, Ben.  And the operation not only went flawlessly, but I was told by the on-call obstetrician that it was “miraculous.” 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Chris Stefanick on the Mass


Friday, November 10, 2017

The Question for Our Age: “Quo Vadis?”

The following comes from the Catholic World Report:


Secular liberalism is at odds with Catholicism. The point seemed obvious to most people until the postwar period, when the thought took hold that an essentially harmonious relationship could be established that would draw on the American model. America, it seemed, was different from Europe with its long tradition of statism and anti-clericalism. It rejected an established church, but embraced religious freedom, an active and diverse civil society, and a limited and decentralized government that did not try to dominate culture and gave the Church the protection and freedom she needed to thrive.

The attempt to establish a harmonious relation with the liberal state has been less fruitful than hoped, and even in America has run into profound difficulties. Our government and other authoritative institutions have become more centralized and more concerned with remodeling all aspects of life, including the beliefs and attitudes of the people. We are becoming more like Europe, and to make matters worse the outlook of the governing classes on both sides of the Atlantic has moved in a direction radically opposed to both religion and natural law. Throughout the Western world, Catholics and Catholic institutions are increasingly required to conform to anti-Catholic norms, and in much of it you can be punished as a criminal for public assertion of Catholic moral doctrine.

The intolerance is aimed less at Catholicism in particular, although the Church is a highly-visible target, than any form of Christianity that does not reduce without remainder to progressive politics and private therapy. We are increasingly ruled by practical utopians who believe themselves comprehensively responsible for human relations, and their efforts leave no place for an independent and refractory organization like the Church that proposes a contrary vision that now counts as intrinsically antisocial and oppressive.

So where will the present situation lead if—as seems quite possible—our secular authorities continue on their present course? Will the blood of the martyrs once again be the seed of the Church, or will multiplying restrictions and disabilities wear down Catholic life until the Church all but disappears?

Many societies have been anti-Catholic. How effective their anti-Catholicism has been has depended on the nature of the society and its guiding principles. Roman society, for example, had nothing to propose that could fill the needs Christianity satisfied, and the Roman empire was more loosely organized and its activities more limited than modern states. As a result, Roman persecutions, however savage they might be, were mostly local, sporadic, and ineffectual. By the time the Romans saw a need for comprehensive enforcement of religious loyalty the Christians were too strong and the empire too divided for the policy to be effective.

Some of the Church’s more recent opponents have been more organized, focused, steady, and successful. The Muslims eliminated Catholicism from North Africa, the home of Cyprian and Augustine, and the Protestants did much the same over large stretches of Europe. They were able to do so because the governments they established had more comprehensive concerns than the Roman government did, they took the issue of religious unity more seriously, and they stood for principles that had the broad-based appeal and staying power needed to establish themselves at least somewhat durably among the people.

In the last century the most severe attacks were carried on by secular systems that functioned as religions but excluded transcendent truth and authority. The attacks were organized and focused to the point of fanaticism, and they often led to widespread martyrdom of clergy and ordinary believers, as with the radically anticlerical regimes in Mexico and Spain and the totalitarian regimes that ruled Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and their respective empires.

Those attacks were not enduringly effective because the regimes carrying them on were too much at odds with human nature and with the societies they dominated for their vision to endure. Thus, for example, religious belief has bounced back in Russia, and Christianity is making unprecedented advances in China. Both countries had been searching for some sort of guiding principle, and when communism failed Christianity stepped into the gap. (In regions like East Germany and the Czech Republic, where communism was imposed from outside on a society in which religion was already weak, Soviet domination does seem to have accelerated the loss of faith.)

It appears, then, that as a human matter suppression of Catholicism is likely to work if the system that carries it on endures, takes the effort seriously, and offers a reasonably appealing way of life that provides somewhat of a substitute for what is suppressed.

So what does that mean in the case of secular liberalism, assuming it remains as ideological a system as it now seems? It has been enormously successful as a practical matter, and the way of life it offers evidently appeals to a great many people. Further, its opposition to Catholicism has become much more serious and active during the post-60s period. The result is that it has been very successful in changing religious views and weakening Church authority among the laity and even among many clergy and religious.

Given all that, the obvious question as to the future of Catholicism in the West, humanly speaking, is how much staying power secular liberalism will have, and whether it will maintain its appeal to ordinary people. Luckily for Catholics (and for humanity in general), those requirements bring weak points of the liberal system into focus. Secular liberalism makes maximum equal satisfaction its highest good. That principle is what gives it popular appeal, but it means ever-greater demands on public resources, since people require more and more to be satisfied, and it also means ever-less discipline, loyalty, and public spirit to support the system, since it undermines ideals of love and sacrifice.

Secular liberalism lacks a grounded principle of authority, and its aspiration to universal satisfaction makes it adverse to widespread use of threats and force. As a result, its basic method for maintaining control is a system of payoffs, propaganda, and ever-more comprehensive regulation. That method has mostly been rather successful. Material benefits have been funded through the extraordinary productivity of capitalist economies in a technological age, propaganda facilitated by alliance with the mass media and the expertise and training industry (otherwise known as the educational system), and regulation made effective by a comparatively high degree of bureaucratic discipline and efficiency.

None of those resources are infinite or everlasting. Organizational discipline and efficiency don’t sit well with an emphasis on equal satisfaction, so they are unlikely to be maintained. Also, it is becoming harder and harder to fund public programs or provide individuals with satisfactory employment, so much so that public finance has been reduced to an endless series of short-term expedients that everyone knows cannot go on forever. When the money runs out, people start feeling real economic pressure, and the government is unable and seems unwilling to do anything for them, will they keep on believing what they are told? Why should they, when the basis of what they have been told is that they have a right to get what they want?

So it seems that during the coming decades it will be increasingly difficult for secular liberalism to maintain itself among the people as a minimally satisfying system of practice and belief. Still, historical change is generally slow, and liberalism has been very effective at weakening its competitors, so it is likely to be with us in an ever-less appealing and successful form for some time to come. The best analogy to the period we may have before us is therefore the Brezhnev era in the Soviet Union. Catholics can expect any number of petty restraints and stupid oppressions, but no terror, and less and less real belief in the official system. As a result, we can very likely expect a fertile field for Christian witness and for the growth of new forms of Christian life and revival of very old ones.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Prayer of St. Bernard for the Holy Souls in Purgatory

Devotion of St. Bernard to the Shoulder Wound of Jesus

Releases many souls from purgatory each time it is prayed.

O Loving Jesus, meek Lamb of God, I a miserable sinner, salute and worship the most Sacred Wound of Your Shoulder on which You bore Your heavy Cross, which so tore Your Flesh and laid bare Your Bones as to inflict on You an anguish greater than any other Wound of Your Most Blessed Body. I adore You, O Jesus most sorrowful; I praise and glorify You and give You thanks for this most sacred and painful Wound, beseeching You by the crushing burden of Your heavy Cross to be merciful to the souls in purgatory and to me, a sinner, to forgive me all my mortal and venial sins, and to lead me on towards Heaven along the Way of Your Cross. Amen.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The meaning of sainthood: To be fully alive in Jesus Christ

The following comes from Archbishop Chaput:


Some years ago a friend told me that she secretly thought of the saints as boring. They smile at us sweetly from holy cards. Their lives can seem implausible compared to people more famous for their vices. And who would really want to be a saint, anyway? As Billy Joel once said, “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. The sinners are much more fun.”
But when we come to understand holiness rightly, we see that it’s anything but boring. Sanctity isn’t a matter of sentimental posturing or being nice. Sanctity is about being passionately in love with Jesus Christ.
The saints are men and women who glowed white-hot with the Holy Spirit. They lived fully what Father Richard John Neuhaus once called “the high adventure of Christian discipleship.” And that’s truly what the heart of sainthood is: not a life of legalistic drudgery, but a high adventure.
Think about the women and men we venerate as saintly: Mother Teresa, Francis Xavier, King Louis IX of France, Gianna Beretta Molla, Pier Giorgio Frassati, Catherine of Siena. They lived some of the most compelling lives in history. Their roads were hard. They endured great sacrifices and self-denial. But those sacrifices led to greater love and joy than many in the world have ever known.
If we think about sainthood like that, it can seem like the saints are a special class of people. Sainthood is for people like them, we think, not everyday people like us. And how do you live like a saint if you’re just an ordinary worker, a father or a mother? The good news is that the saints were ordinary people like us. Their “secret” was not something they possessed, but Someone who possessed them.
The saints were men and women whom Jesus Christ made his own. As baptized Catholics, we too have been made Christ’s own. We receive Jesus Christ’s healing mercy and forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation. We eat his body and drink his blood in the Eucharist. We speak with him in moments of quiet prayer.
This love that we receive from Jesus should break out into the rest of our lives. St. Josemaria Escriva put it this way: “When a Christian carries out with love the most insignificant everyday action, that action overflows with the transcendence of God.” This means that even when we fix another family’s plumbing, or fill out their legal paperwork, or drive our kids to soccer practice, we can act with the love of Jesus Christ in the same way that the saints did.
The great second century bishop, Irenaeus of Lyons, once said that “the glory of God is man fully alive.” First and foremost, this refers to Jesus Christ. Jesus shows us what it looks like for a human being to live life abundantly. This means that the closer we are to Jesus, the more intensely alive we become. And the saints are examples of men and women who have lived their lives to the fullest. Because of the love of Jesus, they glow with the glory of God. Because of the love of Jesus, they’re fully alive.
The saints aren’t just our models, though. They form what Paul called “a great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1). The saints in heaven pray for us on earth, urging us on as we run the race of faith. They offer us hope in two ways. First, they show us that, by God’s grace, heroic Christian lives are possible. Second, they remind us of the destiny God has in store for those he loves. This life is a preparation for eternal union with God in heaven. That doesn’t mean sitting around forever with a pious halo, strumming a harp. Heaven is an eternity of the greatest love we have ever tasted in this life – growing deeper and stronger without end.
This All Saints’ Day, November 1, let’s reflect on what the saints really mean for us. Let’s remember the holy men and women whom we can emulate and to whom we can pray for help and guidance. Jesus said that he came so that we would have life, and have it abundantly (Jn. 10:10).
Let’s pray that we find the courage to seek out that abundant life with the saints. Let’s be women and men of love, witnesses of the glory of the God who makes us fully alive in Jesus Christ. There is no greater joy, no greater vocation.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on the Church of the Future


“Let me go one step further. From today’s crisis, a Church will emerge tomorrow that will have lost a great deal. She will be small and, to a large extent, will have to start from the beginning. She will no longer be able to fill many of the buildings created in her period of great splendor. Because of the smaller number of her followers, she will lose many of her privileges in society. Contrary to what has happened until now, she will present herself much more as a community of volunteers....

"As a small community, she will demand much more from the initiative of each of her members and she will certainly also acknowledge new forms of ministry and will raise up to the priesthood proven Christians who have other jobs. In many smaller communities, respectively in social groups with some affinity, the normal care of souls will take place in this way....

"There will be an interiorized Church, which neither takes advantage of its political mandate nor flirts with the left or the right. This will be achieved with effort because the process of crystallization and clarification will demand great exertion. It will make her poor and a Church of the little people.... All this will require time. The process will be slow and painful.... 

(J. Ratzinger, Faith and the Future).

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Don’t Give in to Discouragement

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:


Psychologists tell us that one of the chief evils of our age, an evil apparently less evident in earlier ages, is that of easy defeat. Be this as it may, most people who are honest with themselves would probably have to admit to indulging in despondency. They are fortunate if they have nothing worse to confess than despondency; there are many who labor under the weight of near-despair. Whether guilty of surrendering to the tempta­tion or whether burdened with a sense of guilt that in fact is without foundation, a man can reduce his spiritual vitality so as virtually to close his soul to the operation of hope. When hope dies, there is very little chance for faith and charity.
It is a commonplace to observe that the saints were not those who never fell, but those who never gave in to their falls. It is less generally understood that the saints felt just the same longing as we do for the excuse to go on falling. The parable of the wheat and the cockle should show us that the saints were not only as divided against themselves interiorly as we are, but that they had to go on struggling all their lives against the de­sire to let the cockle have its way.
A mistake we make is to think of the saints as triumphing over temptation by the felt force of ardent love. Some of them, certainly, experienced this fire, but for the most of them it has been a question of grinding out dry, hard acts of faith and hope through clenched teeth. The saints have had to fight every inch of the way against discouragement, defeatism, and even despair.
How could it be otherwise? No virtue can be productive of good unless it comes up against the evil that is its opposite. Courage is not courage until it has experienced fear: courage is not the absence of fear, but the sublimation of fear. In the same way, perseverance has to be tried by the temptation to give up, by the sense of failure, by an inability to feel the support of grace. The reason Christ fell repeatedly — one tradition would have it that He fell seven times — is at least partly be­cause we fall repeatedly and have need of His example in re­covering from our falls. The difference between His falls and ours is that, whereas His were because of weakness of the body, ours are because of weakness of the will. The likeness between His and ours lies simply in the use that can be made of them.
Even if we do not reproduce the Passion in any other re­spect, we have the chance of reproducing it in perseverance under exhaustion. If, as we have seen, the Passion is con­stantly being renewed in the members of Christ’s Mystical Body, there must always be some aspect of Christ’s suffering to which our own personal sufferings can show an affinity. If we are bearing witness to the same truth, opposing the same evil, moving in the same direction, then the same means must be used by us as those that were used by Christ — namely, patience and endurance in the all-but-defeating experience of life. The effort that we make to regain the position lost by ei­ther circumstances or sin will reflect the effort made by Christ to return to the interrupted work of cross-bearing. Nothing of our experience need be wasted, not even our sinfulness.
So it would seem that the truly Christian man transcends discouragement only by accepting it. No man can pass beyond an obstacle except by facing it and rising above it. To go around an obstacle is not to overcome it, but to evade it. Circumven­tion may be all right when we are traveling along a road, but it will not do when we are advancing toward God by the way of the Cross.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The All In Prayer (Mark Mallet)

My Lord and my God,
I want to be all in for you:
All my heart, and all my mind,
All my soul, and all my strength;
All my gifts, and all my talents,
All I possess, and all my will.
All I ask is for your
Grace and your Spirit,
Your love and your light,
Your kindness and your mercy,
That I may always and everywhere
Be all in for You.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

What to Dump For a Better Life

The following comes from the Integrated Catholic Life:
We’ve got a dumpster coming today for some household cleanup, an October cleaning of sorts to purge the house of many things—old broken but non-antique furniture, a basketball hoop that has seen better days, wet carpet pulled up from a home improvement project, and a wooden swing that served us well for many summers but is now warped and falling apart.
As I sit by the window, waiting for the truck that will bring the dumpster (I hope I got one big enough), it occurred to me that while I am at it, it might be a good idea to rid my mind of mental debris as well. If a cook works better in a clean kitchen, and if a home operates more smoothly with organized rooms, then I’m sure my mind (and spirit) will be better off if I get rid of a few things. Want to join me?
The purging, both physical and mental, won’t be overwhelming. We’ll just be getting rid of things we no longer need, or that can become not only an eyesore but unhealthy if they sit out too long.
First, we’ll start with resentment. It’s a toughie because it likes to linger, but we’ve got to get it out. Let us begin.
Did your parents prevent you from some pined for opportunity when you were a child that you’re just positive would have affected your life positively and differently had they done this or that? Were you overlooked at work although you really deserved a raise or recognition? Did a friend snub you? Did you buy some stock and then lose money because of bad advice or maybe just bad luck? Did rain get in your basement? Was the supermarket clerk rude? Did someone flip you off in traffic? Were you misunderstood? Do you have an acute or lingering illness? Did someone else seem to get a break in sports, or income or wife or life? Do you have some personal struggles that no one seems to understand or no one else seems to have? Did you experience a once in a lifetime catastrophe?
Okay, here it is:
You have to get over it.  

Ouch. I know that sounds harsh. And please believe me, I really do understand how hard it can be to refuse resentment. Some years ago my brother, just twenty-years-old, was killed in a car accident. I have lost five babies to miscarriage (one on Christmas Day). I have other private sorrows. I lived through a house fire as a child and battled cancer as an adult. I am experienced in the once-in-a-lifetime catastrophe department, which are not always “once in a lifetime” as some of you may also know first hand. I tell you this only so you will know I understand how hard this can be. Stewing over past hurts may be tempting, but don’t do it! We not only canlet go of resentment that tempts us, but we must or it will clutter our hearts and minds and will snuff out joy of living.
When we resent someone (or something), we hand over power to that person or situation. We let it control our moods and emotions, how we treat people. In short, resentment grows easily and can rob our lives of peace of mind and happiness.
“A stone is heavy and sand is weighty, but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.” (Proverbs 27:3)
“The godless in heart cherish anger.” (Job 36: 13)
Three remedies to resentment are forgiveness, a reality check and gratitude.
First, let’s look at forgiveness and address what forgiveness of a person is not—forgiveness is not being stupid, trusting an untrustworthy person, for example. It is not putting yourself in an unhealthy situation over and over again, taking physical or emotional abuse, because you are constantly giving a bad person another chance. If a person willfully hurts you and is impenitent it would be ridiculous to put yourself in a situation to be hurt again. Forgiveness also doesn’t mean overlooking evil. Forgiveness does not mean giving access again when it is imprudent to do so. Sometimes, in fact, a situation necessitates distance from the person you forgive, for self-preservation purposes.
What does forgiveness—something Jesus tells us to do “seventy times seven” look like then? Forgiveness of a person means you look at him with compassion, trying to see him through “God’s eyes” so to speak. The angry and verbally abusive person may have, for example, been raised in a poor home environment. Imagine what it must have been like for him as a child growing up in a home with hate being spewed daily. Perhaps he says what was said to him. Forgiveness does not mean you subject yourself to his vitriol. Forgiveness does not mean you do not hold him accountable for his actions or say meekly that the wrongs are “not a big deal.” But you do, looking at him with “kind eyes,” seek understanding, and let go of the hurt, like a helium balloon into the sky, of the anger he throws your way. You sincerely wish the best for him. You pray for him. You bless him. This could be the grace that allows goodness and healing to reenter his life. God is good like that.
We can also play the “benefit of the doubt” or “make excuses” exercise to help facilitate forgiveness of a person and prevent resentment from taking hold in our hearts. We do this by imagining the best in someone and picturing a scenario that perhaps caused the behavior we are tempted to resent. A simple example is a man flips you off in traffic, either warranted or unwarranted by your driving. You can take it personally and get mad back, or control your thoughts to imagine he may have been just fired from his job, or his wife just left him, or imagine some other instance where he may have been wronged and gave in to a momentary action of anger against you. In short, you give him the benefit of the doubt and “make excuses” for him. It is easier to forgive when you have compassion for someone. And forgiving helps dissipate resentment.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Prepare Your Heart to Pray

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:


Prayer is, as it were, being alone with God. A soul prays only when it is turned toward God, and for so long as it remains so. As soon as it turns away, it stops praying. The preparation for prayer is thus the movement of turning to God and away from all that is not God. That is why we are so right when we define prayer as this movement. Prayer is essentially a “raising up,” an elevation. We begin to pray when we detach ourselves from created objects and raise ourselves up to the Creator.
Now, this detachment is born when we clearly realize our nothingness. That is the real meaning of our Lord’s words: “He that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” His whole life was a continual abasement, always more and more profound. St. Bernard does not hesitate to say that such an abasement brings us face-to-face with God. Hence the peace of souls that have fallen, when, raised up by God, they find themselves in His presence. And it is precisely in their abasement, once they have recognized and admitted it, that they find Him, because it is there that He reveals Himself. The only thing that prevents Him from doing so is our “self.” When we own to our nothingness, this “self” is broken down, and once that happens, the mirror is pure, and God can produce own image in the soul, which then faithfully reproduces His features that are revealed in all their harmony and perfect beauty.
This is what our Lord meant in that vital passage in the Ser­mon on the Mount, and what all human considerations on prayer repeat endlessly but without arriving at its full splendor: “But thou, when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber and, having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret.”95 Enter this sacred chamber of your soul and there, having closed the door, speak to your Father, who sees you in these secret depths, and say to Him, “Our Father, who art in Heaven. . . .” This intimate presence; your faith in Him who is the secret depth of it and gives Himself there; the silence toward all that is not God in order to be all to Him — here is the preparation for prayer.
It is obvious that we do not reach such a state of soul without being prepared for it by quite a combination of circumstances. And this is just what we do not know sufficiently in practice. The way to prepare for prayer is by leading a divine life, and prayer, af­ter all, is that divine life. Everything that reproduces God’s image in us; everything that raises us beyond and above created things; every sacrifice that detaches us from them; every aspect of faith that reveals the Creator to us in creatures; every movement of true and disinterested love making us in unison with the Three in One — all this is prayer and prepares us for a still more intimate prayer. All this makes real the divine word of the Sermon on the Mount and the dual movement it recommends: shut the door and pray to thy Father. When He spoke thus, the divine Word showed that He knew our being and its laws. He revealed Himself as our Creator and made Himself our Redeemer. He showed that He made us and that He alone can remake us.
We do not suffice to ourselves; we have not in us that which can complete us; we need to be completed. I know I am putting it badly when I say that this complementing thing is not in us. Actually, it is in within us, but it is in a part of us that is, as it were, outside of us. In us, as in God, there are “many mansions.” God is within us in the depths of our soul, but by sin we no longer occupy those depths. When Eve looked at the forbidden fruit and stretched out her hand to take it and eat it, she went out of those secret depths in her soul. It was these depths that were the real terrestrial paradise, where God visited our first parents and spoke to them. Since the Fall, God is in us, but we are not!
The preparation for prayer consists in returning to those depths. Renunciation, detachment, recollection — whatever word we use, the reality is the same, and that reality is the true secret of prayer. Close the door and enter. . . . It needs only these two phrases to ex­plain this, but in reality they are only one thing. They represent a movement, for all that unites us to God is movement. The words are related to two “terms,” or ends. If we speak of the terminus a quo (that is, from), they say (and they do what they say): Close. If we think of the terminus ad quem (that is, to), they say: Enter.We have to close the door on all that is not, and enter into HIM WHO IS. There you have the secret of all prayer.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Blessed Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko: Polish Priest and Martyr



Today the church remembers the Polish Martyr Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko.  He was beatified by Pope Benedict in 2010.  The following comes from the St. Stanislaus Kostka parish in Brooklyn, NY:

Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko was born on September 14, 1947 in Poland on the feast of Holy Cross Day. He was  the fourth child born to Marianna and Wladyslaw Popiełuszko. Two days later, he was baptized in his family  parish church in Suchowola. His mother, still in a blessed state, offered him up as a servant God. In 1954, he started elementary school and then continued his education in the local high school. After  graduation, he entered the seminary in Warsaw. After a year of study, he was drafted into the army and  inducted into a special unit created to destroy priestly vocations among young people. Two years in the army  had adversely affected his health. Later it even interfered with his priestly ministry. He was ordained at the hands of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski on May 28, 1972.  During the years 1972-1980 he was a vicar in the following parishes: Holy Trinity  in Zabkach, Our Lady of the Rosary in Anin and Child Jesus in Warsaw. Due to  his failing health and inability to continue the duties of a vicar, he was assigned to  work with students in St. Anne’s Church in Warsaw. In 1979, he began his priestly  ministry as a chaplain to medical workers in the archdiocese of Warsaw.
On May 20, 1980 he was transferred to the St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish in  Warsaw. There he continued his ministry and assisted in the parish as a resident.
On August 31, 1980, at  the request of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski he celebrated Mass for striking workers. This was the beginning of  his ministry among workers.  All along, Fr. Jerzy was involved in assisting the needy – especially families with many children, poor, and  close to those in prison camps. He collected food and medicine for them. He attended hearings of those  arrested for interfering with martial law. He supported political prisoners.
In February of 1982 he started  celebrating Mass on the last Sunday of every month for freedom of Poland. As months passed, more and  more people came from near and far to participate in the Mass.  The communist leaders at that time were not pleased with the actions of Fr. Jerzy and the respect he was  enjoying from people all over Poland. More and more often things happened that were meant to scare  Fr. Jerzy and force him to resign from ministry. Twice his home was broken into, he was constantly being  followed, harassed, stopped by police. His home was bombed and his car was doused with paint. At the  same time letters were arriving at the Bishop’s office complaining that his sermons „were consistently taking  aim at the People’s Republic of Poland”. In September 1983, a case was brought against him accusing him  of „excessive use of his rights as a priest in an effort to cause harm to the People’s Republic of Poland.”
In  December 1983 he was arrested. Upon the intervention of the Church, he was released. He was facing a  possible 10 years in prison. From January to June 1984, he was interrogated 13 times. His prison sentence  was later dropped as a result of the amnesty program of 1984. However, simultaneously a slander campaign  was being conducted by Jerzy Urban, the then spokesman for the government newspaper.
On October 13, 1984, near the town of Ostróda an attempt was made on the life of Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko  who was returning from Gdansk to Warsaw.
On October 19, along with the driver Waldemar Chrostowski he  travelled to Bydgoszcz. At 6:00pm on that day, he celebrated Rosary Devotions and Holy Mass in Polish  Saints Martyred Brothers Church.
On their return trip at about 10:00pm he was abducted in a place called  Przysiek near Torun by three members of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He was brutally beaten, he was tied  up in a way that any movement caused the noose to tighten around his neck, and then he was locked in the  trunk of a car. A boulder weighing about 24 pounds was tied to his legs, and he was thrown into a tributary of  the Wistula River near Wloclawek.
His body was finally found on October 30.

Read the rest here.

Lesson One in Prayer by Dr. Peter Kreeft

The following comes from The Integrated Catholic Life:


Let’s get very, very basic and very, very practical about prayer. The single most important piece of advice I know about prayer is also the simplest: Just do it!
How to do it is less important than just doing it. Less-than-perfect prayer is infinitely better than no prayer; more perfect prayer is only finitely better than less perfect prayer.
Nancy Reagan was criticized for her simple anti-drug slogan: “Just say no.” But there was wisdom there: the wisdom that the heart of any successful program to stop anything must be the simple will to say no. (“Just say no” doesn’t mean that nothing else was needed, but that without that simple decision nothing else would work. “Just say no” may not be sufficient but it is necessary.)
Similarly, no program, method, book, teacher, or technique will ever succeed in getting us to start doing anything unless there is first of all that simple, absolute choice to do it. “Just say yes.”
The major obstacle in most of our lives to just saying yes to prayer, the most popular and powerful excuse we give for not praying, or not praying more, or not praying regularly, is that we have no time.
The only effective answer to that excuse, I find, is a kind of murder. You have to kill something, you have to say no to something else, in order to make time to pray. Of course, you will never find time to pray, you have to make time to pray. And that means unmaking something else. The only way to install the tenant of prayer in the apartment building of your life is to evict some other tenant from those premises that prayer will occupy. Few of us have any empty rooms available.
Deciding to do that is the first thing. And you probably won’t decide to do it, only wish to do it, unless you see prayer for what it is: a matter of life or death, your lifeline to God, to life itself.
Is this exaggerated? Are there more important things? Love, for instance? We need love absolutely; but the love we need is agape, the love that only God has and is; so unless we go to God for it, we won’t get it. And going to God for it means prayer. So unless we pray, we will not love.
Having got that clear and having made prayer your number one priority, having made a definite decision to do it, we must next rearrange our lives around it. Rearranging your time, preparing time to pray, is like preparing your house to paint. As everyone knows who has done any painting, preparation is three-quarters the work, three-quarters the hassle, and three-quarters the time. The actual painting is a breeze compared with the preparation. The same is true of prayer: the hardest step is preparing a place, a time, a sacred and inviolable part of each day for it. Prayer is like Thanksgiving dinner. It takes one hour to eat it and ten hours to prepare it. Prayer is like Christmas Day: it took a month of preparation, decoration, and shopping to arrange for that one day. Best of all, prayer is like love. Foreplay is, or should be, most of it. For two people truly and totally in love, all of their lives together is foreplay. Well, prayer is like spiritual love-making. God has waited patiently for you for a long, long time. He longs for you to touch the fringe of his being in prayer, as the woman touched the hem of Christ’s garment, so that you can be healed. How many hours did that woman have to prepare for that one-minute touch?
The first and most important piece of practical preparation is scheduling. You absolutely must schedule a regular time for prayer, whether you are a “scheduler” with other things in your life or not. “Catch as catch can” simply won’t work for prayer; it will mean less and less prayer, or none at all. One quick minute in the morning to offer your day to God is better than nothing at all, of course, but it is as radically inadequate as one quick minute a day with your wife or husband. You simply must decide each day to free up your schedule so you can pray.
How long a time? That varies with individuals and situations, of course; but the very barest minimum should certainly be at least fifteen minutes. You can’t really count on getting much deep stuff going on in less time than that. If fifteen minutes seems too much to you, that fact is powerful proof that you need to pray much more to get your head on straight.
After it becomes more habitual and easy, expand it, double it. And later, double it again. Aim at an hour each day, if you want radical results. (Do you? Or are you only playing?)
What time of day is best? The most popular time—bedtime—is usually the worst possible time, for two reasons. First, it tends not to be prime time but garbage time, when you’re the least alert and awake. Do you really want to put God in the worst apartment in your building? Should you offer him the sickest sheep in your flock?
Second, it won’t work. If you wait until every other obligation is taken care of first before you pray, you simply won’t pray. For life today is so cruelly complicated for most of us that “every other obligation” is never taken care of. Remember, you are going to have to kill other things in order to pray. No way out of that.
The most obvious and usually best time is early in the morning. If you can’t delay the other things you do, you simply must get up that much earlier.
Should it be the very first thing? That depends. Some people are alert as soon as they get up; others need to shower and dress to wake up. The important thing is to give God the best time, and “just do it.”
Place is almost as important as time. You should make one special place where you can be undisturbed. “Catch as catch can” won’t work for place either.
What place? Some people are not very sensitive to environment and can even use a bathroom. Others naturally seek beauty: a porch, yard, garden, or walk. (I find praying while you take a walk a good combination of spiritual and physical exercise.)
You probably noticed I haven’t said a word about techniques yet. That’s because three-quarters is preparation, remember? But what about methods?
I can only speak from my own experience as a continuing beginner. The two most effective that I have found are very simple. One is praying Scripture, reading and praying at the same time, reading in God’s presence, receiving the words from God’s mouth. The second is spontaneous verbal prayer. I am not good at all at silent prayer, mental prayer, contemplative prayer; my thoughts hop around like fleas. Praying aloud (or singing) keeps me praying, at least. And I find it often naturally leads to silent prayer often, or “mental prayer,” or contemplation.
Most advice on prayer focuses on higher levels: contemplative prayer. But I suspect many of my readers are prayer infants too and need to learn to walk before they can run. So these are some lessons from one man’s prayer kindergarten. Let’s “just do it” even if “it” is only crawling towards God.