Category Archives: Prayer

The Catholic Advantage

I am not a fan of Bill Donohue or his one-sided polemics, even in supposed defense of the Church. I think he is a paid mouthpiece, devoid of intellectual integrity and honesty. However, he has written an interesting book.


-by Fr. Leonard Klein, 6/4/15, formerly a Lutheran pastor for 30 yrs, Fr. Klein entered the Church & began studying for the Catholic priesthood in 2003. He is a priest of the Diocese of Wilmington, DE.

“A few few years ago Michael Novak spoke to the Thomas More Society of my diocese about his 2008 book, No One Sees God: The Dark Night of Atheists and Believers. I was there as chaplain to those Catholic attorneys. A few atheists were there as well, assuming a role different than mine. They gave Novak a rather hard time; he handled them well.

I could not help noticing the difference between the athiests and the lawyers. The atheists were odd ducks. the attorneys were quite the opposite: well groomed, successful, joyful, sociable, deeply connected to faith, family, and community, generous with their time and money. The attorneys seemed healthy and happy. I don’t think the atheists noticed the contrast, since no evidence could convince them that they were not already the smartest people in the room.

Reading Bill Donohue’s The Catholic Advantage: Why Health, Happiness, and Heaven Await the Faithful, I ended up thinking again of the Catholic lawyers and the contrast I perceived between them and the avowed atheists in the room. The difference to me was palatable. Donohue explains those differences.

Unhealthy people don’t just lack community; they are poorly equipped for community. Our culture is increasingly unhealthy. Rootless people avoid the Church and our culture is increasingly rootless. Hedonists avoid the Church and our culture is increasingly hedonistic. The absence of bonds and boundaries, of health, happiness and hope of heaven, conspires against belief.

The argument of Donohue’s book is simple and familiar: Christian faith and practice correlate positively with human happiness. The outline is similarly straightforward. The book is divided into three main parts: health, happiness, and heaven—the core positive outcomes of being Catholic. Committed believers are much more apt to flourish, and the hope of heaven broadens the human prospect to infinity.

President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, Donohue is well known for his assertive—some might say pugnacious—defense of the Catholic faith and of the Church. He does what he does because he is a committed and believing Catholic, and in his book he presses the case for faith.

A sociologist, Donohue’s training drives his argument. It relies heavily on data from many sources. The evidence will not be new to those of us who pay attention to the role of religion in society, but the book assembles a great deal of useful information. It’s an apologetic goldmine.

Donohue knows that the data will not bring about conversion, but it is encouraging and enormously helpful for those of us called to preach and teach, to say nothing of ordinary Christians who want insight into the life-giving nature of our faith. We need information to buttress and defend the truth, and Donohue provides it. He makes particularly good use of studies revealing the superlative happiness of priests and nuns in their vocations.

He is also theologically and spiritually sophisticated. While there is a lot of useful data, Jesus is not lost in the insights and the numbers. This is a book of faith, not just a book about faith.

But what accounts for the rage of the secularists? As Donohue documents, they are imprisoned by their own culture, custom, and ideology. But why are institutions which would seem to offer the best cure enduring hostility and shrinkage?

We need to look at another facet of our culture. People who are deprived of belief, boundaries, and bonds will be angry at the happiness of others—and uncomprehending. If faith is struggling in contemporary American culture, part of the reason is almost surely that the culture is collapsing on so many fronts.

How it is that faith has become the enemy for so many, when it has the benefits Donohue defines? It is, I would argue, not just that faith is harder in this day. It is that those trapped in the sin-sickness of the era cannot imagine a way out. The culture creates lost sheep. The evidence Donohue cites shows it, but it also shows that it is good to be on the side of the One who seeks them out and to have beliefs, boundaries and bonds to offer. That would be the Catholic advantage.

We have long known the truth of Donohue’s thesis that belief, boundaries, and bonds make for health, happiness, and heaven. We also know that belief cannot be created by will or, in the line he cites from St. John Paul II, imposed rather than proposed. We would not expect that many atheists or secularists will be converted by reading this book. Evangelization happens in other ways.

Of course, Donohue is still Donohue, delightfully combative. But the book is useful and entirely accessible, and I commend it all the more in these days when Christians in general and Catholics in particular are feeling beleaguered by the storm of secularism.”

Love,
Matthew

follow Him

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – Enkindle in me, O Lord, the fire of the apostolate and feed it with Your love.

MEDITATION

Just as a seed cannot produce a stalk which will bear a new ear unless it first buries its roots deep in the ground, so we cannot bear fruit for the apostolate if we do not first put forth the roots of a deep interior life, enabling us to draw from God Himself the sap which will make us fruitful. The interior life is the vital principle, the force, and the flame of the apostolate; but on the other hand, the apostolate brings its contribution to the interior life, helping to make it more generous and more intense. When a soul is fired with zeal for the apostolic life, its very desire to win other souls for God impels it to devote itself with greater generosity to prayer, mortification, and the practice of the virtues, with the intention of making itself more capable of a fruitful apostolate. Thus, while the interior life is the soul of the apostolate, the apostolate in its turn is a very powerful mainspring urging the soul on to union with God, to perfection, to sanctity. The apostolic ideal is of its very nature a generator of spiritual energy and a spur to a generous, holy life. St. Teresa of Jesus, moved by an ardent desire to counteract the great havoc wrought by the Protestant heresy in her times, stamped the reform she initiated with a seal of particular austerity and organized the life of her daughters in such a way as to engage them in a continual exercise of prayer, sacrifice, and self-giving for the salvation of souls (cf. Way of Perfection, 1). The rule of life of the Teresian Carmel, a contemplative life of profound intensity, was thus born of a great apostolic ideal.

The same ideal has recently given rise to a new state of perfection in the Church, the Secular Institutes, in which souls desiring to consecrate themselves to God for the salvation of souls, pledge themselves to a life of evangelical perfection in the world. “The specific end [of the apostolate] seems of necessity to demand and even to create the generic end [of perfection]” (Venerable Pius XII Primo Feliciter).

When the apostolic ideal is alive and well understood, it does not plunge souls headlong into activity; it rather guides them to a deeper interior life, to the total gift of self, to sanctity, for we ourselves must be holy before we can make others holy. “And for them do I sanctify Myself” (John 17:19).

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, there come to me desires to serve You with impulses so strong that I cannot describe them, and with a distress caused by the realization of my own unprofitableness…. I think I should like to cry aloud and tell all souls how important it is for them not to be contented with just a little in Your service, and how many blessings there are which You will give us if we prepare to receive them.

O my God, I experience very deep distress because of the great number of souls who are bringing damnation upon themselves, especially of those who were members of the Church through Baptism, and I greatly desire to labor for their salvation, so much so that I really believe that, to deliver a single one of them from such dreadful torments, I would willingly die many deaths…. Who could bear to look upon souls condemned for eternity to endless suffering? Even earthly suffering which, after all, has a limit and will end with death, moves us to deep compassion. And that other suffering has no limit: I do not know how we can look on so calmly and see the devil carrying off as many souls as he does daily.

Thou knowest, my God, how grieved I am to see how very many are lost. Save at least one, Lord, at least one who can give light to many others, and this not for my sake, Lord, for I do not merit it, but for the merits of Thy Son. Look upon His wounds, Lord, and as He forgave them who inflicted them upon Him, so do Thou pardon us.

My God, I want nothing but Your will; submission to it has such power over me that my soul desires neither death nor life. But then, if such be Your will, I desire to live, in order to serve You better. If, through my intercession, I could do anything to make a single soul love and praise You more, and that only for a short time, it would seem to me of greater moment than my being in glory” (Teresa of Jesus Spiritual Relations 1 – Life 32 – Exclamations of the Soul to God 11 – Spiritual Relations 6).”

Love,
Matthew

Apostles

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – Jesus, divine Teacher, deign to accept me in Your school, so that, under Your direction, I may prepare myself for the apostolate.

MEDITATION

No special preparation is necessary before giving oneself to the interior apostolate, for, if a soul dedicates itself to prayer and sacrifice, not only will it help others, but at the same time it will draw great profit for its own sanctification. In fact, the practice of the interior apostolate coincides perfectly with the fundamental exercises of the spiritual life. However, the same cannot be said of the external apostolate which, by its very nature, involves cares and occupations beyond those required for one’s personal progress. One who is just setting out in the spiritual life is not capable of attending to his own sanctification and the sanctification of others simultaneously; he should first have time to concentrate all his powers on his own spiritual formation. Furthermore, since the effectiveness of the apostolate corresponds to the degree of love and union with God which the apostle has attained, it is evident that a beginner will not be capable of exercising a very fruitful apostolate. Hence, if he engages in the active apostolate prematurely, he will dissipate his energy uselessly, with consequent harm to his own interior life and to the fruitfulness of his apostolate.

Jesus Himself spent thirty years in prayer and retirement although, being God, He had no need to do so. It was as if He wanted to show us that before we plunge into the work of the exterior apostolate, we must have reached a certain spiritual maturity by the exercise of the interior life. He treated the Apostles in a similar way: the three years they spent with Jesus were years of true formation for them. Our Lord instructed and admonished them, taught them how to pray and to practice virtue. Only occasionally, and then with precaution, did He entrust some mission to them, in order to give them experience. Finally, before He sent them out to conquer the world, He wished to strengthen their spirit by nourishing them with His Body, calling them to witness His Passion, and reuniting them in the Cenacle to await the coming of the Holy Spirit. Thus true Catholic tradition demands that, before apostles go out into the field of battle, they must prepare themselves by the practice of an intense interior life, which will make them qualified, fruitful instruments for the good of souls.

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, my whole yearning is that, as You have so many enemies and so few friends, these last should be trusty ones. Therefore I am determined to do the little that is in me: namely, to follow the evangelical counsels as perfectly as I can, and … to pray for those who are defenders of the Church, and for the preachers and learned men who defend her. O Lord, since I am not strong enough to defend Your Church myself, I want to strive to live in such a way that my prayers may be of avail to help these servants of Yours, who, at the cost of so much toil, have armed themselves with learning and virtue and have labored to defend your Name.

O my God, I wish to try to live in such a way as to be worthy to obtain two things from You: first, that there may be many of these very learned and religious men who have the qualifications for their task, and that You may prepare those who are not completely prepared already; for a single one who is perfect will do more than many who are not. Secondly, that, after they have entered upon this struggle, You may have them in Your hand so that they may be delivered from all the dangers that are in the world, and, while sailing on this perilous sea, may shut their ears to the song of the sirens. If I can prevail with You, my God, in the smallest degree about this, I shall be fighting Your battle even while living a cloistered life.

I beseech Your Majesty to hear me in this; miserable creature that I am, I shall never cease to beg You for this, since it is for Your glory and the good of Your Church, and on these my desires are set. The day that my prayers, desires, disciplines and fasts are not performed for the intentions of which I have spoken, I shall not have fulfilled the object for which You, O Lord, called me to the contemplative life” (cf. Teresa of Jesus, Way 1-3).”

Love, follow Him, completely, nothing else,
Matthew

Mindfulness?

I am taking, somewhat by choice, an eight week course in mindfulness.  I like to be intellectually honest.  Having only attended the first session with at least one all-in-one, heroin, crystal meth, and crack addict, I can reassure, gentle reader, mindfulness poses absolutely no challenge whatsoever to Catholicism.

If it serves as a safe, neutral beginning to encountering that terrifying place known as silence and our conscience, where God reigns supreme, omnipotent, as He does everywhere else, but most noticeably for the individual there, then it is a good. As Ven Matt Talbot says, “I cannot escape the eye of God, the voice of conscience…”. As St Paul says, 1 Cor 3:2, and Heb 11:1.


-by Patti Maguire Armstrong

Should a Catholic Practice Mindfulness?

Eastern meditation techniques are a growing fad to relax and alleviate stress and anxiety. Some of it has even slipped into corners of the Church presented as something that can co-exist with Catholic spirituality. But according to an exorcist and an author on A Catholic Guide to Mindfulness, such meditations are contrary to the Catholic faith and neither healthy nor even harmless.

Father Patrick (not his real name) is a parish priest who has also been a diocesan exorcist for 7 years after he apprenticed for 6 years under an experienced exorcist. According to Fr. Patrick, Eastern meditation is a pathway of diversion away from a relationship with the true God, Father Son, and Holy Spirit. “Most people don’t know that the ultimate goal is to be without the need of God,” he noted.

“Instead of directing people to God, the focus becomes ‘self’ which gets in the way of uniting with God,” Father Patrick said. “As a Catholic matures in his faith, one is expected to progress beyond the more self-centered reasons for prayer that may have motivated him at the beginning of his spiritual life. One must eventually learn how to come to prayer for God’s sake, and not just his own.”

Can Eastern Meditation be Mixed with Catholic Spirituality?

Attempting to join the two disciplines—Eastern with Christian—does not work, Father Patrick explained, because their focus is different. “To focus on self alone, as Eastern meditation does, is not trusting in God,” he said. “Instead of dialoguing with your own feelings and emotions, you should always look at what God is showing you and asking: What does God want me to do?”

Meditation that turns inward rather than towards God ends up in emptiness, according to Father Patrick. “It might give you a little bit of comfort for a short while, but it’s definitely not a pathway to God,” he said. Even if it is neutral, Father Patrick explained that it is actually taking you away from God, because it is not taking you closer. “If there is no dialogue with God, then God is not a part of it and you are not honing a relationship with him,” Father Patrick said. “Honing a relationship with self, that is pretty empty without real answers—

Eastern Meditation – Mindfulness – and Trust in Divine Providence

Sometimes Eastern meditations purport to trust in divine providence. However, the way to truly trust in the divine providence of God is to include Him as part of the equation, Father Patrick said. “When we pray, we gain a sense of what will fulfill us from God,” he said. “God created us, he knows what is best for us. That is standard theology. We should be asking God: What do you have to say; what do you want me to do or to understand?”

Authentic Catholic Spirituality vs Eastern and New Age Practices

In true Catholic spirituality, Father Patrick said that God speaks to us in the depths of our heart, the deepest layer. He explained that the three layers of the heart are first, the outside layer, which is simply living the physical life; the second layer where our psychological and emotional experiences and understanding take place; and the third and deepest layer. “This is where we interact with God and we ask him for the answers to ultimately important questions,” Father Patrick said.

“There is an error when pagan practices and religions are attributed to Jesus,” he said. “For example, when people say that ‘Jesus is another Reiki master,’ they are saying that Jesus practiced Reiki so Jesus is no longer God to them.” For New Age practitioners, Father Patrick said that everyone can be God except for Jesus. “When you say that you don’t need Jesus, that always opens up doors to other spiritual forces militating against God and causes problems,” he said.

A Catholic Guide to Mindfulness

In an interview, Susan Brinkmann author of the new book, A Catholic Guide to Mindfulness, elaborated on the points made by Father Patrick. She explained that Eastern meditation fails to get at the core problem because it does not bring our woundedness to God.

Her book looks specifically at Mindfulness, which is rooted in Buddhism from 500 BC and “is a state of active, open attention on the present by which one observes their thoughts and feelings as if from a distance, without judging them to be good or bad.” Although promoted as a non-spiritual practice used as a means of vanquishing stress and anxiety, for the most part, it is practiced through one of several forms of meditation such as Breathing Space Meditation, Body Scan Meditation, and Expanding Awareness Meditation. Connecting with God is not the goal of any of these types of meditations.

According to Brinkmann, Mindfulness has no place in Christian prayer or spiritual practice, either as a prelude, component, or adjunct. If there is a problem causing stress and anxiety, researchers have found that many people are using mindfulness as a way to escape rather than confront their problems “True Catholic spirituality and meditation is a way to root out the attachments that block our relationship with God and interfere with a healthy spiritual life with him,” Brinkmann said.

Christians that are not adequately instructed in the fundamentals of the spiritual life, according to her, are often drawn into the self-gratifying Eastern or New Age practices and either cease praying altogether or try to incorporate incompatible Eastern techniques into their practice of prayer. Even though we are taught that we can adopt what is good from other religions, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger clearly states in “Some Aspects of Christian Meditation” that this is not permissible if it obscures the purpose of Christian prayer – which is to dialogue with God. Because the aim of Eastern meditation techniques is to achieve a “higher” or “altered” state of consciousness, such as in the Mindfulness practice known as Expanding Awareness Meditation technique described in her book, these practices are not compatible with the goals of Christian prayer.

In addition, when we put aside all thoughts, including those that are distressing, Brinkmann explained that we enter into an altered state of consciousness detached from our problems and even ourselves to experience a temporary bliss. “The Pontifical document, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life, warns that these states create an atmosphere of psychic weakness and vulnerability,” she said.

We do not need Mindfulness, Brinkmann stated. “We already have our own kind of ‘mindfulness’ known as the Sacrament of the Present Moment, which calls upon us to live in the here and now, in the Presence of God,” she said. “When we live in the Present Moment, we are in the Presence of God who can do something about the causes of stress and has the power to deal with it.”

As a staff writer with Women of Grace, Brinkmann said many people were asking about Mindfulness on their New Age Q & A blog. Once she began seeing reports from scientists discrediting the studies that claim benefits, and raising the alarm on potential harm from mindfulness, she decided to write a book about it. “Catholics should open their eyes to the glory of the Catholic mystical tradition,” Brinkmann said. “When it comes to controlling the mind, and directing our focus, Jesus Christ is the only sure guide.”

Love, always, but especially in the here and now,
Matthew

Life of Love

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – Grant, O Lord, that even while I am here on earth, I may love You as I shall love You in heaven.

MEDITATION

If it may be said that by faith “eternal life begins in us” (St. Thomas, Summa, IIa IIae, q.4, a.1, co.), the same may be said–and with greater reason–of charity, which will remain unchanged even in heaven. Eternal life will be essentially a life of love, of love which has reached its greatest height, for when we know God perfectly by the beatific vision, we shall finally be able to fulfill with absolute perfection the precept of loving God with all our strength. On this earth such perfection is possible only relatively; nevertheless, even now we possess the same charity with which we shall love God in heaven. Therefore, we can begin even now that life of love which will flower completely in eternity. Our love in heaven will have the characteristics of completeness and absolute continuity, with the impossibility of its ever failing. We cannot attain this while we are on earth, but we can strive for it by the exercise of a pure, intense love, a love that is, as far as possible, always in action. These, then, are the qualities our love for God should have: purity, intensity, continuity.

Our love for God will be pure when we love Him so much that we seek only His glory and the accomplishment of His will: “Hallowed be Thy name … Thy will be done” (Mt 6:9-10). This is the only real good that we, poor creatures, can wish for our God. All the glory we can possibly give Him consists in saying a wholehearted yes to His holy will, in rivaling the angels and blessed in heaven by carrying out His will here on earth with such great love and completeness: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (ibid.). The purity of our love should consist in seeking God’s glory alone, His will alone, completely forgetting ourself, in being ready to sacrifice every wish, desire, and interest for Him.

Therefore, even in the spiritual life, our first thought should be, not our own perfection, progress, and consolation, but always God’s delight, good pleasure, and glory. It is thus that we will serve our own interests better, for he who gives himself to God, completely forgetting himself, draws down upon himself the fullness of divine love. What greater good could come to us than being loved by Infinite Love?

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, You teach me that without love even the most perfect gifts are as nothing, that charity is the most excellent way, for it leads directly to You. That is why I wish for no science but the science of love, and having given all the substance of my house for love, I count it as nothing. I understand so clearly that love alone can make me pleasing in Your sight, that my sole ambition is to acquire it.

My occupation is to gather flowers, the flowers of love and sacrifice, and to offer them to You, my God, to give You pleasure. I wish to labor for Your love alone–with the sole aim of pleasing You, of consoling Your Sacred Heart, and of saving souls who will love You through eternity.” (Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Story of a Soul 13 – Act of Oblation).

“O God, my love for You ought to be total, infinite in desire, because You will not give Yourself entirely to a soul unless it gives itself wholly to You. I must not cling to any attachment, nor admit even a single voluntary imperfection, nor refuse You anything. Grant that I may give myself to You in a continual, uninterrupted donation, moment by moment, seeking in all things Your greater glory, always trying to please You, always wanting Your will alone, doing each action with all my heart and with all my love.

My love for You must be delicate. Help me to reach that exquisiteness and delicacy, that regard for details which You appreciate so much, which delights You.

My love for You should be strong and generous, and prove itself in sacrifice, in seeking sacrifice in the offering and the smiling acceptance of suffering. O God, for love of You, I want to take advantage of the little opportunities so that I may be strong in the big ones.” (Sr. Carmela of the Holy Spirit, OCD.).

Love,
Matthew

Spending time w/God

They say we proclaim our priorities inaudibly by how we spend our time. How do I spend mine? What place should that MOST important relationship, the one for eternity, be? If you find yourself not growing in your spiritual life, consider what you are or are not devoting to it, first. Analogies w/human relationships are an excellent place to begin in evaluating that MOST important relationship in our lives. 🙂

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Lord, grant that I may always live in Your presence with my interior gaze fixed on You.

MEDITATION

The life of continual prayer becomes easier as the soul succeeds in preserving within itself, throughout the day, the awareness of the presence of God. We already know that God is always present within us, that we live, move, and have our being in Him; but while we try during the time of prayer to become more and more aware of this great truth, our consciousness of it gradually fades away in the course of our daily occupations, and we are often surprised to find ourselves acting as if God were no longer present within us.

The practice of the presence of God really consists in making strong efforts to keep God always present in our mind and heart, even when we are engaged in our daily tasks. We can do this in various ways: we can use external objects, such as an image or a crucifix which we wear or put on our worktable, the sight of which will often remind us of God; we also can use our imagination to picture “interiorly” the Lord near us. For, if the humanity of Jesus is not physically present, it is nevertheless always exercising an influence over us—even a physical one—in the communication of grace; so we can truly “represent to ourselves” this action of Jesus within us. We can also keep a very vivid remembrance of God by using some truth of faith.

For example, I can cultivate the thought of the continual presence of the Trinity within me, and try to perform all my actions in honor of my divine Guests; or else I can consider my duties as so many manifestations of the will of God, and so unite myself to this divine will as I perform them. Further, I can make it a practice to view all the circumstances of my life in the light of faith, and therefore, arranged by divine Providence for my good. This will incline me to accept them and to repeat continually to my heavenly Father: “I am content with everything You do for me.”

COLLOQUY

“Lord, may my motto be: Thou in me and I in Thee! How beautiful is Your presence within me, in the inmost sanctuary of my soul. May my continual occupation be to retire into myself, that I may lose myself in You, and live with You. I feel You so vividly in my soul, that I have for post on the practice of the presence of God only to become recollected to find You there within me, and in that, I find all my happiness.

“O Lord, let me live with You as with a friend! Help me to live in the awareness of faith always, in order that I may be united to You no matter what happens. I bear heaven in my soul, since You, who satiate the blessed in the Beatific Vision, give Yourself to me in faith and mystery.

“Grant, O my God, that my soul may be a little heaven wherein You can rest with delight. In order that I may attain this end, help me to remove everything that might offend Your divine eyes, and then permit me to live always with You in this little heaven. Wherever I am or whatever I do, You never leave me alone; grant that I, too, may always remain with You. At every hour of the day and night, in joy or sorrow, in every work and action, may I always know how to find You within me!

“O my God, Blessed Trinity, be my dwelling, my rest, my Father’s house which I shall never leave. Let me abide in You, not for a few fleeting minutes or hours, but permanently, habitually. May I pray in You, adore in You, love in You, suffer in You, work and act in You alone. Let me remain in You to offer myself to others through You, to attend to all my duties, while always penetrating further into Your divine depths. O Lord, grant that every day I may advance along the path of the abyss that leads me to You, that lets me slide down this slope with a confidence full of love” (cf. St Elizabeth of the Trinity, Letters – First Retreat, 1).”

Love,
Matthew

Cheerfulness cultivates Joy – The Hidden Power of Kindness

Cheerfulness is a very great help in fostering the virtue of charity. Cheerfulness itself is a virtue. Therefore, it is a habit that can and should be acquired.

Cheerfulness is perhaps best represented in the word affability. St. Thomas Aquinas places affability under the general heading of the cardinal virtue of justice, the virtue that prompts us to give to others what is their due under any sense of duty or obligation. You are obliged to help and not hinder others around you in the world on their way toward Heaven. Not only are you to help the needy by your alms, and the erring by your advice, but you are also to help all whom you know or meet by your kindliness, pleasant­ness, and affability of manner.

Cheerfulness of attitude and manner is a great help to those who come into contact with you. If you are a sour, unsociable, gloomy-looking person, you will make people feel uneasy, and you will in­tensify your own temptations to give way to sadness. On the other hand, if you are cheerful, you will lift the spirits of people, invite their confidence, and increase their hope of serving God well.

If you consistently present a gloomy attitude toward life and everybody around you, it may be because you are suffering from a case of self-pity. You let your sorrows and misfortunes overwhelm you. Or you may be prompted by envy to refuse even an effort at being cheerful because you are thinking of the many good things others have that you are denied. Or you may be a victim of your feelings. Temperamentally you may be inclined toward sadness, and you take the position that you should let your temperament rule you.

Avoid false cheerfulness

You are not really cheerful when you lack seriousness when it is time to be serious, so that you cannot give serious attention to the important duties of life. It is dangerous and misguided cheerfulness to make light of your serious sins, to avoid all thoughts of judg­ment and Hell, and to be giddy and distracting to others in church or on other serious occasions. You are not really cheerful when you lack sympathy. It is a great defect of cheerfulness in your character if you cannot sympathize with the sorrows of people, if you avoid people who are suffering, or if you manifest by your attitude that you are not going to permit yourself to be disturbed by their sorrows.

You need not express your cheerfulness by smiles and laughter or jokes and light-minded chatter. In the presence of sorrow, you can adopt a serious mien and show signs of sympathy, but at the same time you can express your cheerfulness in the solid motives for hope, fortitude, and patience that God has provided for all whom He asks to suffer. You will not refuse to permit any of your friends to face facts that are a cause of sorrow, nor will you try to think up exaggerated reasons for not grieving or making light of the grieving of others.

You are not really cheerful if you are cheerful only at times, but at other times give way to sadness and melancholy. This would indicate that you are ruled entirely by your feelings. It would be even worse if you had the habit of being cheerful in the presence of some of your relatives and friends, but gloomy in the presence of others, especially your own family. You cannot afford to have one attitude toward your family and another toward those with whom you mingle outside your home.

You must learn to rise above your feelings, even though the control of feelings is most difficult. There is no hypocrisy in being ruled by the will rather than by the feelings. Try to live up to the ideal of being always the same toward everyone: kindly, affable, sympathetic, encouraging — in a word, cheerful. This ideal will be recognized by all, and you will spread the sunshine of joy around you.

You are not really cheerful if you must depend on dangerous stimulants of one kind or another. Drink is often an escape from reality and makes people boisterous, foolish, and degraded.

There are three important virtues that make people cheerful in the true sense of the word: hope, fortitude, and fraternal charity.

Cheerfulness is founded on hope

Hope is the virtue by which you keep your eyes fixed on Heaven as the goal of your life, made certainly attainable by the merits and promises and fidelity of Jesus Christ. Since you always have something wonderful to look forward to, you are cheerful. Hope is a supernatural virtue infused at Baptism, but it requires ef­fort and repeated actions to become effective.

You cannot be cheerful if you succumb to the vices opposed to hope, such as despair, which is a surrender to the thought that Heaven cannot be attained and that the sufferings of Hell are in­evitable. St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus used to say, “We can never have too much confidence in the good God. He is so mighty, so merciful.”

Worldliness urges people to capture every possible delight here and now. It leads to sadness, because there are no delights in this world that can fully satisfy the human heart.

Worldliness also leads to envy, avarice, impurity, and all such causes of sadness.

Fortitude allows you to face the sorrows of life

Fortitude is a basis for cheerfulness. Fortitude induces you to face the inevitable sorrows of life and, above all, death itself, in the service of God with courage and patience. You will look to the suf­ferings of Christ for inspiration. You will look to the happiness of Heaven with a heart full of hope, and you will count even the greatest sufferings as a small price to pay for that reward. There­fore, try to overcome cowardice, self-pity, and lack of confidence in the goodness of God — faults that prevent you from being cheerful. As a result of these faults, you may find yourself con­stantly grumbling against God and everybody around you because of the sufferings you have to endure.

Do not take yourself too seriously. You have to learn not to be dismayed at making mistakes. No human being can avoid failures.

The important thing is not to let your mistakes and failures gnaw away at you. Regret is an appalling waste of energy. You cannot build on it.

Instead of wasting priceless time and energy in regret or self-reproach, the wise thing is for you to swing into action once more. People give little sympathy to those who feel sorry for themselves. If you experience misfortune, other people will not usually harden their hearts toward you. They have responsibilities to face, tasks to be done, and pleasures to be enjoyed. They expect you to take your troubles in stride and to rebound into the daily round of living. Such expectations are sensible.

When you go forward to grapple with your problems coura­geously and hopefully, you cannot help having a beneficial influ­ence upon other people. Courage and hope are contagious. Spread these virtues among the persons whom you encounter; you will be rendering them and yourself an inestimable service.

Doing good brings joy

By the virtue of charity for the love of God, you love and want to help all your neighbors, especially those whose lives are in some way associated with your own. One way of helping others is by an attitude of cheerfulness.

Joy is the reward of charity. This intimate joy of the soul is dis­tinguished from all other joys by its purity. The joy that is the fruit of charity is abiding. All earthly happiness exhausts itself, except the happiness of a loving heart that knows how to share the joys and sorrows of others. The joy born of charity is one of the few joys that support you at the hour of death.

In the hour of farewell, the divine Master declared that He desired His joy to be in His disciples: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Thus your joy at doing good springs from the fountain of Him who is the essence of all love, from the fountain of God. From the waters of joy that flow in the heart of God, fountains of joy will spring up in your heart if you strive to imitate God’s great love in at least a small measure, like the fountains of which our Lord speaks: “The water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

If your heart thirsts for joy, do good to others. You will satisfy your thirst in the fountain of God’s own bliss. You can find your happiness only in possessing God. St. Augustine says, “Our hearts were made for Thee, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in Thee.” You can find happiness in making other people happy if your efforts are motivated by a sincere love of God.”

Love & joy,
Matthew

Aridity (spiritual dryness) & (spiritual) progress

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Lord, help me to seek for You and to unite myself to You, even through the aridity and powerlessness of my spirit.

MEDITATION

Even without the presence of the physical or moral causes which we have mentioned before, it is possible to pass from a state of sensible fervor to one of absolute aridity. This happens by the direct work of God which makes it impossible for the soul to pray with the help of the imagination, or to practice acts of sensible love as before. The fact is that, whereas meditation or affectionate converse with God was formerly made with ease and comfort, the soul now finds it impossible to connect two ideas. Thoughts or reading which once moved the soul now leave it indifferent—the heart remains cold and hard as a stone. Even though watching over itself carefully in order to be faithful in mortification and generosity; even though intensifying its preparation for prayer and fervently beseeching the Lord for help, it no longer succeeds in wringing one drop of devotion from its heart. Then the poor soul worries and is afraid, thinking that the Lord has abandoned it because of some fault or other.

What she does not realize is that this kind of aridity conceals a great grace—the grace of purification and of progress in the ways of prayer. In fact, by means of aridity, the Lord intends to free it from childish feelings and to raise it to the purer, firmer level of the will. When it was experiencing so much comfort in prayer, the soul, unknown to itself, was becoming somewhat attached to these sensible consolations. Hence it loved and sought prayer not purely for God, but also a little for itself. Now, deprived of all attraction for prayer, the soul will henceforth learn to apply itself to it solely to give pleasure to the Lord. Furthermore, finding no help in beautiful thoughts and sweet emotions, it will learn to walk by strength of will alone, exercising itself in acts of faith and love which, it is true, are wholly arid, but are all the more meritorious because they are more voluntary. In this way, its love for God will become purer, because it is more disinterested; and stronger because it is more voluntary.

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, blessed be Your Name forever because You willed me to suffer this tribulation. I cannot escape it, so I have recourse to You, that You may help me to profit by it. O Lord, I am deeply afflicted, my heart can find no rest, and it suffers much on account of this hard trial. What can I say to You, O beloved Father? I am in anguish; Lord, save me! This happens to me in order to glorify You by my very humiliation, but later, You will deliver me. May it please You to deliver me, O Lord, for alone and wretched, what can I do or where can I go without You?

“Give me once more the grace of patience! Help me, O God, and I shall fear nothing, even if the burden is heavy. And now, what shall I say in all these misfortunes? Lord, Your will be done. I well deserve the tribulation which is crushing me. I must bear it. May I do so patiently until the storm is past and calm re-established” (Thomas à Kempis, Imitation of Christ III, 29,1.2).

“O my Jesus, nothing from You but dryness. But I am very happy to suffer that which You want me to suffer. I am happy to see that You show me that I am not a stranger by treating me like this.

“O Lord, make my darkness serve to enlighten souls. I consent, if such is Your will, to continue walking all my life in the darkness of faith, provided that one day I arrive at the goal of the mountain of love.

“I am very happy to have no consolation, for thus my love is not like that of the world’s brides who are always looking at their bridegroom’s hands to see if they bear a gift, or at his face in the hope of glimpsing a smile of love to enchant them…. O Jesus, I want to love You for Yourself alone…. I do not desire love that I feel, but only love that You feel” (Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Letters, 51, 90, 93, 89).”

Love,
Matthew

Vocal Prayer

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – Lord, teach me to pray!

MEDITATION

When one of His disciples said to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1), He taught them a very simple vocal prayer: the Our Father. It is certainly the most sublime formula possible and contains the whole essence of the most elevated mental prayer. However, Jesus gave it as a for post on vocal prayerformula for vocal prayer: “When you pray, say …” (Luke 11:2). This is enough to make us understand the value and importance of vocal prayer, which is within the reach of everyone—even children, the uneducated, the sick, the weary…. But we must realize that vocal prayer does not consist only in the repetition of a certain formula. If this were true, we should have a recitation but not a prayer, for prayer always requires a movement, an elevation of the soul toward God. In this sense, Jesus instructed His disciples: “When thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret…. And when you are praying, speak not much as the heathens” (Matthew 6:6,7). It is interesting to note that in St. Matthew these prescriptions concerning the exterior and interior dispositions necessary for well-made prayer immediately precede the teaching of the Pater Noster.

Therefore, in order that our vocal prayer be real prayer, we must first recollect ourselves in the presence of God, approach Him, and make contact with Him. Only when we have such dispositions will the words we pronounce with our lips express our interior devotion and be able to sustain and nourish it. Unfortunately, inclined as we are to grasp the material part of things instead of the spiritual, it is only too easy in our vocal prayer to content ourselves with a mechanical recitation, without taking care to direct our heart to God; hence we should always be vigilant and alert. Vocal prayer made only by the lips dissipates and wearies the soul instead of recollecting it in God; it cannot be said that this is a means of uniting us more closely to Him.

COLLOQUY

“Never permit it to be thought right, my God, that those who come to speak with You do it with their lips alone.

“I must not be unmannerly because You are good, addressing You in the same careless way I might adopt in speaking to a peasant. If only to show You my gratitude for enduring my foul odor and allowing one like myself to come near You, it is well that I should try to realize who You are ….

“O my Emperor, Supreme Power, Supreme Goodness, Wisdom itself, without beginning, without end, and without measure in Your works; infinite are these and incomprehensible, a fathomless ocean of wonders, O Beauty, containing within Yourself all beauties. O very Strength. God help me. Would that I could command all the eloquence of mortals and all wisdom, so as to understand, as far as is possible here below, that to know nothing is everything, and thus to describe some of the many things on which we may meditate in order to learn something of Your nature, my Lord and my God.

“When we approach You, then, let us try to realize who You are with whom we are about to speak. If we had a thousand lives we should never fully understand what are Your merits, Lord, and how we should behave before You, before whom the angels tremble…. We cannot approach a prince and address him in a careless way. Shall less respect be paid then to You, my Spouse, than to men?… I cannot distinguish mental prayer from vocal prayer when faithfully recited with a realization that it is You, O Lord, that we are addressing. Further, are we not under the obligation of trying to pray attentively?” (Teresa of Jesus, Way of Perfection, 22-24).”

Love,
Matthew

Injury & Prayer


-by Dr. Anthony L. Lilles, STD, Academic Dean of St John’s Seminary

One obstacle to beginning to pray and living within is the struggle to forgive. Whenever someone hurts us in a serious way, there is a spiritual wound that remains. As we begin to pray, we commonly find ourselves going back over these wounds again and again. What is most frustrating is that many times we thought we had already forgiven the person who hurt us. But when the memory comes back, we can sometimes feel the anger and the pain all over again.

What do we do with the wounds so that they no longer impede our ability to pray? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming hurt into intercession” (CCC 2843).

To pray for those who have hurt us is difficult. In scriptural terms, those who hurt us are our enemies, and this is true even when they are friends and close family members. Christ commands us to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us. Betrayal, abandonment, indifference, scandal, abuse, scorn, sarcasm, ridicule, detraction, and insult — these are all bitter things to forgive. The Lord grieves with us and for us when we suffer these things. He has permitted us to suffer them for a profound reason.

The Lord explained to His disciples that those who hunger and thirst for the sake of justice, those who are merciful, and especially those who are persecuted for righteousness and for the Lord are blessed. Their mysterious beatitude makes sense only when we see through the eyes of faith the injustice and persecution they have endured.

Somehow, trusting in God in the midst of such things makes them in the likeness of Christ. Trusting in God means to pray for those who harm us, to seek to return good for evil. When this act of trust is made, the power of God is released in humanity. For two thousand years, this is what every martyr for our faith has revealed to the Church.

In His mysterious wisdom and profound love, when the Father allows someone to hurt or oppose us in some way, He is entrusting that person to our prayers. When our enemy causes us to suffer unjustly, our faith tells us that this was allowed to happen so that we might participate in the mystery of the Cross. Somehow, like those who offered their lives for our faith, the mystery of redemption is being renewed through our own sufferings.

We have a special authority over the soul of someone who causes us great sorrow. Their actions have bound them to us in the mercy of God. Mercy is love that suffers the evil of another to affirm his dignity so that he does not have to suffer alone. Whenever someone hurts us physically or even emotionally, he has demeaned himself even more. He is even more in need of mercy.

From this perspective, the injury our enemies have caused us can be a gateway for us to embrace the even greater sufferings with which their hearts are burdened. Because of this relationship, our prayers on their behalf have a particular power. The Father hears these prayers because prayer for our enemies enters deep into the mystery of the Cross. But how do we begin to pray for our enemies when the very thought of them and what they have done stirs our hearts with bitterness and resentment?

Here we must ask what it means to repent for our lack of mercy. The first step is the hardest. Whether they are living or dead, we need to forgive those who have hurt us. This is the hardest because forgiveness involves more than intellectually assenting to the fact that we ought to forgive.

We know that we get some pleasure out of our grievances. The irrational pleasure we can sometimes take in these distracts us from what God Himself desires us to do. What happens when all that pleasure is gone, when all we have left is the Cross? Saint John of the Cross sees our poverty in the midst of great affliction as the greatest union with Christ crucified possible in this life: “When they are reduced to nothing, the highest degree of humility, the spiritual union between their souls and God will be an accomplished fact. This union is most noble and sublime state attainable in this life.” In the face of our grievances we must realize this solidarity with Christ and cleave to His example with all our strength.

Living by the Cross means choosing, over and over, whenever angry and resentful memories come up, not to hold a debt against someone who has hurt us. It means renouncing secret vows of revenge to which we have bound ourselves. It means avoiding indulging in self-pity or thinking ill of those who have sinned against us. It means begging God to show us the truth about our enemy’s plight.

Here, human effort alone cannot provide the healing such ongoing choices demand. Only the Lord’s mercy can dissolve our hardness of heart toward those who have harmed us. We have to surrender our grievances to the Holy Spirit, who turns “injury into compassion” and transforms “hurt into intercession” (CCC 2849).

As with every Christian who has tried to follow Him, the Cross terrified Jesus. He sweat blood in the face of it. We believe that it was out of the most profound love for us and for His Father that He embraced this suffering. Because of this love, He would not have it any other way. Overcoming His own fear, He accepted death for our sake and, in accepting it, sanctified it so that it might become the pathway to new life.

Precisely because Jesus has made death a pathway of life, Christians are also called to take up their crosses and follow Him. They must offer up their resentment to God and allow their bitterness to die. Offering the gift of our grievances to God is especially pleasing to Him. It is part of our misery, and our misery is the only thing we really have to offer God that He wants.

This effort is spiritual, the work of the Holy Spirit. In order to forgive, we must pray, and sometimes we must devote many hours, days, and even years to prayer for this purpose. It is a difficult part of our citizenship behavior. Yet we cannot dwell very deep in our hearts, we cannot live with ourselves, if we do not find mercy for those who have offended us. Living with ourselves, living within ourselves, is impossible without mercy.

There are moments in such prayer when we suddenly realize we must not only forgive but must also ask for forgiveness. A transformation takes place when our attention shifts from the evil done to us to the plight of the person who inflicted it. Every time we submit resentment to the Lord, every time we renounce a vengeful thought, every time we offer the Lord the deep pain in our heart, even if we do not feel or understand it, we have made room for the gentle action of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit does not take the wounds away. They remain like the wounds in the hands and side of Christ. The wounds of Christ are a pathway into the heart of every man and woman. This is because the hostility of each one of us toward Him caused those wounds. Similarly when someone wounds us, the wound can become a pathway into that person’s heart. Wounds bind us to those who have hurt us, especially those who have become our enemies, because whenever someone hurts us, he has allowed us to share in his misery, to know the lack of love he suffers. With the Holy Spirit, this knowledge is a powerful gift.

Once the Holy Spirit shows us this truth, we have a choice. We can choose to suffer this misery with the one who hurt us in prayer so that God might restore that person’s dignity. When we choose this, our wounds, like the wounds of Christ, no longer dehumanize as long as we do not backslide. Instead, the Holy Spirit transforms such wounds into founts of grace. Those who have experienced this will tell you that with the grace of Christ there is no room for bitterness. There is only great compassion and sober prayerfulness.”

Amen. Amen. Let justice flow like a river!

Love & Prayer,
Matthew