Monday, February 28, 2011

The Upper Room At Every Mass

I sometimes wish that I could have lived when Jesus did so that I could actually see Him and be with Him as the Apostles were. This reflection by Mother Angelica reminds us that we are with Him and He is with us just as He was with the Apostles that first Holy Thursday in the Upper Room; this is true at every Mass. As Mother states in her reflection, the only difference is a difference in natures.
Her humble reflection demonstrates the power of Christ in the Eucharist as well as His unfathomable and undying love for each of us.

My Jesus, I wish I had been in the Upper Room the night before You suffered for the redemption of those You loved so much. Again I entertain vain desires for am I not really present at the Last Supper at every Mass? My faith is weak and my love lukewarm, Yes, I am there–that awe-inspiring moment when Your Apostles understood Your previous revelation of Your Body and Blood as food, is totally mine at every Mass. I can offer God to God in reparation for my sins. I can receive God into my soul so His Precious Blood, shed for me, begins to run its course in my heart.
I can see Your Face at the Last Supper, Lord Jesus, as You looked up to heaven to the Father who sent You and gave Him thanks and praise. I wish I had the courage to praise the Father before every sacrifice that His Wisdom asks of me. Give me that total consecration to the Father's Will, that union with the Father's Love.
Did the Apostles gasp in wonder as they heard You say, "Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is My Body which will be given up for you"?
I look upon the Host whenever I am at Mass, speechless and struck with awe at such humility. My life is so full of me–so full of pride–so full of the need to keep my identity. You are willing to hide Your Glory and Majesty behind this wafer, so I may gaze at my God and not die. You want me to be comfortable in Your Presence–to speak to You unencumbered by the difference in our natures. Oh Love, that is not loved, how can I return Your love? Wash me clean, dear Jesus, clean of every sin and weakness. Cover me over with mercy and forgiveness.
The Mass In My Life
Mother Angelica

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Don't Worry About Your Life

In my family my mother, God bless her, is the worrier. I often say that no one else in the family need worry because Mom has got it covered; she worries enough for all of us. Jesus, in the Gospel today, tells us not to worry because God, our Heavenly Father knows what we need and will provide for us.
I myself have never been much of a worrier~not because my faith is so great~it is just that I never saw the point of getting all worked up about things we have no control over. My worrying is not going to change the outcome. Now before returning to my faith, that's pretty much where my thought process on worry stopped. However, now looking at things from a faith based view, I take it a step further. I still don't worry, but I do pray. I find folding my hands in prayer is much more productive than wringing them in worry. By praying during times of stress, fear, tragedy or whatever else has got my attention, I am giving the situation to God~the only One who can truly do anything about whatever it is.
If we can surrender our lives totally to God, seeking Him first in everything, all else will fall into place~perhaps not as we planned, but as God did.
As St Padre Pio said: "Pray, hope and don't worry."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Doctors Of The Church~Page Addition

I recently posted about the Holy Father's series on the Church Doctors. As this is an on going series during his Wednesday Audiences, I have decided to make a separate page dedicated to this series as I believe we have much to learn from, not only these wonderful saints, but also from what Pope Benedict has to say about them.
You can access the page by clicking the Doctors of the Church link under the quote from the saints. I will update the page with links to the Holy Father's addresses on each of the Doctors as they become available. His most recent address is on the Jesuit priest St Robert Bellarmine. Check out the new page to read about him.
Oh, and for my blogging friend who made the suggestion that I perhaps write an e-book on the lesser known saints, I just wanted to say research has begun and an outline is forming.
For now I hope you all enjoy learning about these teaching saints through the Holy Father.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Oil Of God's Word

And the light of the lamp shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth, for all nations have been deceived by thy enchantments. 
~Rev. 18:23

My parish priest used a story about an oil lamp during his homily today. The story and how it relates to God's Word and our souls resonated something within me as I listened, and so I thought I would share it with all of you.

The Story of the Oil Lamp
There was a monk in the early days of the Church whose job in the monastery was to maintain the oil lamp. His job was an important one, for this lamp provided much of the light for the monastery. The lamp would continue to give light so long as there was enough oil for the wick to absorb.
One day a mouse entered the monastery and got to the oil lamp. The mouse began to chew at the wick. This mouse was so intent on getting to the wick that he knocked over the lamp which fell to the ground and broke. The lamp could no longer hold the oil that was needed for the lamp to give off its beautiful light.

The Analogy
Our souls are like that lamp, and God's Word is the oil we need to give off God's light in our lives. The mouse that gets into our lamps is the devil and sin. By giving into sin our souls are like the broken lamp; they cannot accept and hold onto the oil of God's Word and therefore our lives are unable to give the light of Christ so needed in our world today.

St Paul reminds us today that we are temples of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in us. (see 1Cor, 3:16~23) If we allow sin into the temple~our souls, they can eventually shatter just like the oil lamp.
In the Gospel today, Jesus continues His Sermon on the Mount and tells us to be holy and perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. That's no small feat in this day and age; we need God's help and His grace. He gives it to us through the sacraments. It began at our Baptism and is sustained through the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.
So let us ask God for the grace to become perfect and holy as He is perfect and holy by keeping our oil lamps in tact and ready to accept and hold the oil of His Word. In this way may our light~the light of Christ Himself, so shine before men.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Holy Father On The Doctors Of The Church

One of the great gifts in our Catholic faith is the Communion of Saints, and within this great cloud of witnesses, 33 of them are set apart as Doctors of the Church. This title is bestowed on them by Holy Mother Church because of their holiness and also their important teachings and writings which can help lead us to holiness.
I have read and attempted to read several of the works of these great saints, as I am sure some of you have as well. They can be very difficult to read and assimilate into our everyday lives. (Still worth the effort though.)
The Holy Father, Benedict XVI has been giving a series of talks on the Doctors of the Church during his Wednesday audience in Rome. In them he highlights certain aspects of the particular saint and Doctor's life and teaching while helping us to see how we can learn from them. His latest talk was on St John of the Cross. The Pope explains while this man rose to the heights of holiness, it was no easy trip! He endured ridicule from his own order, imprisonment, and illness which eventually claimed his life.
Listed below are links to the three other Doctors of the Church the Holy Father has covered so far.
On a personal note I can tell you that I have learned much from these great saints and continue to do so. I have been reading Ralph Martins book, The Fulfillment of All Desire. Dr. Martin uses the works of seven of the 33 Doctors of the Church throughout the book. I can't say enough about this book and how helpful it has been as I continue to strive to grow in my own spiritual life. The wisdom of the Doctors has been instrumental in this.
Pope Benedict also wants us to learn from them. Let us not miss out on this great gift of God and His Church.

St Catherine of Siena
St Teresa of Avila
St Peter Canisius

Sunday, February 13, 2011

If I Choose

Those are powerful words. In today's culture, they mean I can do what I want; the world thinks that is freedom, but it is license. When God says those words, there is true freedom in them. There is the freedom He gives us to choose life in Him through Christ in living out His commandments. That choice gives us the freedom to do what is right. If I choose to keep God's commandments, they will save me; if I trust Him He will save me. This is true choice, and by making it I choose to love God, not the world.
But I cannot make this choice by my own will. The ways and temptations of the world are too strong, and I am too weak. I need God and His grace to make this life giving choice. The psalmist gives us the words to beg for that grace: Open my eyes, instruct me, and give me discernment, that I may observe your laws and statutes and keep them with all my heart. (see Psalm 119) In order to be more righteous than the scribes and pharisees I need faith. They had none and so there righteousness was a self~centered one.
If I choose to keep God's commandments through faith, love and trust, the Spirit will reveal to me what eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, and all that God has prepared for those who love Him. (Corinthians 2:6~10)
So as Jesus continues His Sermon on the Mount today, outlining God's commandments, let us listen to Him with faith, love and trust. Let us beg Him for the grace to choose life~ life that is freely liven in Him and for Him.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Review: The Fulfillment Of All Desire Study Guide

Ralph Martin along with Emily Stimpson have developed The Fulfillment of All Desire Study Guide. The main text is very rich and the study guide helps the reader to go deeper into it. My personal opinion is that without this study guide, the reader would be tempted to move too quickly through the text without really reflecting on what is being taught. The author's intention for this guide is to bring the reader closer to Christ and ultimately union with God through holiness on their spiritual journey.
The study guide follows the main text chapter by chapter and begins with a brief summary of the chapter. It then gives 10 Questions for Comprehension which help the reader to be sure the key points have been grasped and understood. Five Questions for Reflection follow. These questions allow the reader to apply what has been taught to his own life and spiritual journey. The chapters end with a More About section that gives more on one of the seven Doctors of the Church introduced in the chapter, or more on the main points discussed in that chapter along with some key vocabulary.
I found The Fulfillment of All Desire Study Guide an invaluable companion as I made my way through the main text. While the main text can be read without the Study Guide (although personally I would not recommend this), the Study Guide cannot be used alone; the summaries are not enough for the reader to get all that is intended. This is not a criticism, just a precaution.
My only criticism of the Study Guide is that I don't feel there is sufficient room to write all that needs to be written, especially with the Reflection questions. You may want to keep a separate journal to record your answers.
There are no answer keys for the questions, a prayerful reading of the text will lead you to the answers required for understanding and for honest, personal reflection.
Ralph Martin's hope for every reader is to gain the most one can for their spiritual journey from what he has written, from the wisdom of the saints and from Sacred Scripture; this Study Guide is the tool that will help to do just that.

*This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Fulfillment of All Desire Study Guide. They are also a great source for serenity prayer and baptism gifts.

**Nothing but a copy of the above mentioned book was received in exchange for this review.

Our Lady Praying With Us And For Us

As I was reading through some articles on the history of Lourdes and today's feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, I came across a part of the story I never heard or didn't remember. During the first apparition on February 11, 1858, Bernadette takes out her rosary and begins to pray at the sight of the beautiful lady she sees in the grotto. However as she goes to make the Sign of the Cross she is unable to do so until Our Lady does so herself. Bernadette begins to say the Rosary with Our Lady, who only prays the Gloria along with her.
When I read this, I thought: "Imagine actually praying the Rosary with our Blessed Mother!" No sooner than the second I had that thought, I realized that each time I pick up my rosary to pray this beautiful prayer, I am praying  not only to Our Lady but with her. I do believe that just as she prayed along with Bernadette that day in the grotto, she prays with us and for us wherever our own grottoes may be.
I find this such a comforting thought.
As for why Mary only prayed the Gloria, I can only surmise it was because of her deep humility, never drawing attention to herself, but always reflecting the glory of the Father who found great favor with her, the Son whom she bore and loves and who loves her more and better than anyone can, and the Holy Spirit who is her Divine Spouse.
So the next time you reach for your beads and begin to pray, remember Our Lady is right there with you following along on her own heavenly rosary beads.

Prayer To Our Lady of Lourdes
O ever Immaculate Virgin, Mother of Mercy, health of the sick, refuge of sinners, comforter of the afflicted, you know my wants, my troubles, my sufferings; look with mercy upon me. By appearing in the Grotto of Lourdes, you were pleased to make it a privileged sanctuary, whence you dispense your favors; and already many sufferers have obtained the cure of their infirmities, both spiritual and corporal. I come, therefore, with complete confidence to implore your maternal intercession. Obtain, O loving Mother, the grant of my requests. Through gratitude for your favors, I will endeavor to imitate your virtues, that I may one day share your glory. Amen.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Greatest Of All Romances

To fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances; to seek Him, the greatest adventure; to find Him, the greatest human achievement. 
~St Augustine

People talk about falling in love and being in love every day. I have to be honest, I've never really known what that means. In my humble opinion, I think the word love and the phrase being or falling in love is used quite loosely. What I do know is that loving someone and being in love are two different things. No, I am not going to venture to explain the subtle differences; I will leave that to the poets and philosophers of the world.
I started thinking about all this when I read my friend, Colleen's newsletter. (You can subscribe to her Prayerful Morsels by visiting her wonderful blog Thoughts on Grace.) She talked about falling in love with Jesus and posed the question:"Do you remember when you first fell in love with Jesus?" This got me thinking about not only the answer to that specific question, but a few other things as well.
For one thing it has been through my relationship with Christ that I have learned what love really is and what it is not. I know that it is more than the warm fuzzies~ in fact love really has little to nothing to do with that feeling at all. I have learned through Our Savior that love is an act of the will and is sacrificial in nature.
Over the last few years, Our Lord has also shown me some of what it means to be in love. It is constant forgiveness, mercy and willingness to die. It is also the deep desire to always be with the beloved. Jesus is always ready to forgive me, shows me mercy beyond telling, has died for love of me, and desires to remain with me and is so in the Eucharist.
The sacrament of Marriage is God's gift of this type of love to us while on this earth. Good, Christian marriages mirror Christ's love for His Church. While I myself have never truly known what it is to be in love with someone on this earth, I have come to know what it is to experience the greatest love of all.
I don't know the precise moment it happened. At first glance I would say it probably happened the day I made my First Holy Communion. I remember the day vividly. I also remember the response I gave my mother when after arriving home, she asked me if I was hungry~ I told her no; I had Jesus. That cute response made by a happy seven year old has become a profound statement in my life of faith today. The seeds of love were planted that day, but I would leave my Love for worldly things that did not last. However, Love waited patiently and with great anticipation for my return and when I did, He began to show me what it is to fall in love, be in love, and stay in love. The verse from Song of Songs under my header really sums it up for me. "When I found Him whom my heart loves, I took hold of Him and would not let Him go." (Song 3:4)
So to answer the question, I do not remember precisely when I fell in love with Jesus, I just know that I have and I pray for the grace to stay there with Him.

Nothing is more practical than finding God,
that is, than falling in love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you
out of bed in the morning,
what you will do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, who you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love; stay in love,
and it will decide everything. 

~Pedro Arrupe, SJ

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Simeon's Song of Praise

I found this beautiful painting over at New Liturgical Movement~thanks for sharing this one, guys! The artist is Aert De Gelder, a student of Rembrandt.
 A wonderful example of how beautiful, sacred art can lead one to prayerful meditation.

My eyes have seen thy salvation. ~Luke 2:30

The Light Of Divine Splendor

The following is an excerpt from one of the early Church Fathers, St Sophronius. He was a monk chosen to be bishop and Patriarch of Jerusalem during the 7th century. In this reading we are reminded that Christ is the Light and Life of the world, and that we are called to reflect that light.
In some places parishes still hold the procession with lighted candles to remember the true meaning of this feast. With Simeon we can exclaim that through the Light of Christ, we too have seen our Salvation.
Here is St Sophronius' reflection on the Presentation of Our Lord.

Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendor of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ.

The Mother of God, the most pure Virgin, carried the true light in her arms and brought him to those who lay in darkness. We too should carry a light for all to see and reflect the radiance of the true light as we hasten to meet him.

The light has come and has shone upon a world enveloped in shadows;the Dayspring from on high has visited us and given light to those who lived in darkness. This, then, is our feast, and we join in procession with lighted candles to reveal the light that has shone upon us and the glory that is yet to come to us through him. So let us hasten all together to meet our God.

The true light has come, the light that enlightens every man who is born into this world. Let all of us, my brethren, be enlightened and made radiant by this light. Let all of us share in its splendor, and be so filled with it that no one remains in the darkness. Let us be shining ourselves as we go together to meet and to receive with the aged Simeon the light whose brilliance is eternal. Rejoicing with Simeon, let us sing a hymn of thanksgiving to God, the Father of the light, who sent the true light to dispel the darkness anxcerpt found at Dr.d to give us all a share in his splendor.

Through Simeon’s eyes we too have seen the salvation of God which he prepared for all the nations and revealed as the glory of the new Israel, which is ourselves. As Simeon was released from the bonds of this life when he had seen Christ, so we too were at once freed from our old state of sinfulness.

By faith we too embraced Christ, the salvation of God the Father, as he came to us from Bethlehem. Gentiles before, we have now become the people of God. Our eyes have seen God incarnate, and because we have seen him present among us and have mentally received him into our arms, we are called the new Israel. Never shall we forget this presence; every year we keep a feast in his honor.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February Is Dedicated To The Holy Family

The month of February is dedicated to the Holy Family. In this day and age when the family is under such great attack, we need to pray to Jesus, Mary and Joseph and ask them for protection for our own families and the family in general.
As always, you can find prayers for the monthly devotion on the left sidebar; just click the image there for additional prayers. I also offer this novena prayer and prayer of dedication for one's family that can be prayed throughout this month.
May God bless our families and bring healing to those in need of it. May families everywhere follow the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

Pope Benedict XVI February Prayer Intention

Novena Prayer:
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, bless me and grant me the grace of loving Holy Church as I should, above every earthly thing, and of ever showing my love by deeds.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, bless me and grant me the grace of openly professing as I should, with courage and without human respect, the faith that I received as your gift in holy Baptism.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, bless me and grant me the grace of sharing as I should in the defense and propagation of the Faith when duty calls, whether by word or by the sacrifice of my possessions and my life.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, bless me and grant me the grace of loving my family and others in mutual charity as I should, and establish us in perfect harmony of thought, will, and action, under the rule and guidance of the shepherds of the Church.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, bless me and grant me the grace of conforming my life fully as I should to the commandments of God’s law and those of His Holy Church, so as to live always in that charity which they set forth.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I ask in particular this special favor:
(Mention your favor).

Dedication of One’s Family:
Most loving Jesus, by Your sublime and beautiful virtues of humility, obedience, poverty, modesty, charity, patience, and gentleness, You blessed with peace and happiness the family which You chose on earth. In Your mercy look upon my family. We belong to You, for we have received Your many blessings over many years and we entrust ourselves to Your loving care.
Look upon my family in Your loving kindness, preserve us from danger, give us help in time of need, and grant us the grace to persevere to the end in imitation of Your holy Family, so that having revered You and loved You faithfully on earth, we may praise You eternally in heaven.
Mary, dearest Mother, to your intercession we have recourse, knowing that your Divine Son will hear your prayers. Glorious patriarch, Saint Joseph, help us by your powerful prayers and offer our prayers to Jesus through Mary’s hands. Amen.
Prayer:Lord Jesus Christ, being subject to Mary and Joseph, You sanctified family life by Your beautiful virtues. Grant that we, with the help of Mary and Joseph, may be taught by the example of Your holy Family, and may after death enjoy its everlasting companionship.
Lord Jesus, help us ever to follow the example of Your holy Family, that in the hour of our death Your glorious Virgin Mother together with Saint Joseph may come to meet us, and we may be worthy to be received by You into the everlasting joys of heaven. You live and reign forever. Amen.

Closing Prayer

Psalm 45: Canticle of Love to the King

My heart overflows with a good theme;
I address my verses to the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
You are fairer than the sons of men;
Grace is poured upon Your lips;
Therefore God has blessed You forever.

Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One,
In Your splendor and Your majesty!
And in Your majesty ride on victoriously,
For the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
Let Your right hand teach You awesome things.
Your arrows are sharp;
The peoples fall under You;
Your arrows are in the heart of the King’s enemies.

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of joy above Your fellows.
All Your garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made You glad.
Kings’ daughters are among Your noble ladies;
At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.