Category Archives: Prayer

Mary & the Rosary lead Non-denominational pastor: Part 4 of 4


-by Anne Barber, Anne was born in Haddonfield, NJ. From age seven, she began traveling the world with her parents, as her father’s jobs with the US government took them to live in Germany, Iran, and Brazil. Later, she received a BS from San Diego State University with a double major: Zoology and Spanish, and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Miami School of Law. She still holds an active law license in Florida. The same year she entered law school, Anne completed her studies for ordination through the Evangelical Church Alliance. She began leading mission trips to Cuba twice a year for 8 years beginning in 2003, completing a total of 16 trips. In 2004, Anne was one of the founders of My Father’s House, a nondenominational church in Ellenton, FL, and pastored for 12 years. During this time, she was a regular contributor to the clergy column, Faith & Values, in the Bradenton Herald. Her journey into the Catholic Church began in 2016.

Disappointing News

I completed my RCIA classes. I had finally procured a new pastor for My Father’s House. But when the Easter Vigil was a week away, I was still waiting for an annulment of the marriage to my first husband, whom I had divorced 40 years prior. I received on Monday the call saying that it was granted, and I fully expected to enter the church that Saturday night. However, Father Jim (who was serving in his first pastorate), didn’t quite know what to do with me, since he was waiting for the bishop’s instruction. There was an unresolved question of whether, as the former pastor of an Evangelical church, I needed to completely disassociate myself from that congregation — whose church building is located on the small farm where I live. Since no answer was forthcoming, I was sorely disappointed not to be permitted to enter the Catholic Church at the 2017 Easter Vigil.

It was then that I contacted the Coming Home Network, asking for assistance. Jim Anderson, a pastoral care coordinator, reviewed my situation and said he believed that, as long as the congregation knew I was no longer the pastor, and I refrained from participating in the communion there, he knew of no rule against a former pastor continuing to attend his or her prior church, especially if the ex-pastor’s spouse still attended there. I then wrote a letter to the bishop, stating my cause, and asking him to please allow Father Jim to bring me into the Church. But there was no response.

Time passed, and I grew despondent, feeling rejected and crushed. Never had I wanted anything more in my life, and I felt the blessing was torn from me at the last minute. I stopped attending Mass. After two months, I contacted Jim Anderson again, and he suggested that I see another priest for a second opinion.

Finally I am Catholic!

At the end of August, I met with Father Bernie at Holy Cross Catholic parish in Palmetto, FL. He was a seasoned priest and agreed with Jim Anderson’s assessment. He was happy to baptize me (as I had no certificates, photos, or other first-hand proof of my baptism as a baby), and on October 6, 2017, at the Mass of Our Lady of the Rosary, I was baptized into the Catholic Church and received the Eucharist for the first time. I was content to wait for the 2018 Easter Vigil to be confirmed. I regard both events as the two most important days of my life. Unfortunately, my husband, by now quite upset that I continued to be serious about entering the Catholic Church, refused to be present at either event.

I spent a year at Holy Cross, where I joined the Legion of Mary and played the flute at the Saturday Mass. Additionally, since the first statue I painted had turned out beautifully, I continued to paint concrete statues of Mary, and gave them away to different people in both parishes. (To date, I have painted 13 statues of Mary and eight statues of different saints.)

On October 6, 2018, again on the day of Our Lady of the Rosary, I returned to my initial Catholic parish, St. Frances Cabrini in Parrish, FL, and the first priest I had ever met, Father Jim. That is where I currently attend.

My journey is ongoing, and not without heartache, family upheaval, and occasionally wavering faith. But my Catholic family continually upholds me in prayer. Some of my sisters in the Legion of Mary have been my strongest lifeline in the face of unexpected and emotionally painful trials, which threatened to derail me from following my new Catholic Faith.

But there is absolutely no turning back. When Jesus calls — or sends Mary to bring someone to where He wants that person to be — truly, how can we refuse to go?

Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. But many that are first will be last and the last will be first.” – Mark 10:29-31 NAB

Love,
Matthew

Mary & the Rosary lead Non-denominational pastor: Part 3 of 4


-by Anne Barber, Anne was born in Haddonfield, NJ. From age seven, she began traveling the world with her parents, as her father’s jobs with the US government took them to live in Germany, Iran, and Brazil. Later, she received a BS from San Diego State University with a double major: Zoology and Spanish, and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Miami School of Law. She still holds an active law license in Florida. The same year she entered law school, Anne completed her studies for ordination through the Evangelical Church Alliance. She began leading mission trips to Cuba twice a year for 8 years beginning in 2003, completing a total of 16 trips. In 2004, Anne was one of the founders of My Father’s House, a nondenominational church in Ellenton, FL, and pastored for 12 years. During this time, she was a regular contributor to the clergy column, Faith & Values, in the Bradenton Herald. Her journey into the Catholic Church began in 2016.

The Honeymoon’s Over!

“On Christmas day 2016, after the morning service, our worship leader pulled me aside to let me know that he was very unhappy with the new statue of Mary. I already had angel statues surrounding the chapel, but Mary was just too much for him.

He asked, “What kind of church are we?” “We’re non-denominational evangelical,” I replied. “But are we Catholic now? If I thought this was a Catholic church, I never would have come here. I’ll give you two weeks’ notice to find another music leader if we leave.” Wow! I never saw this coming.

His wife was waiting in their car, and I went to speak to her. She was fuming. I’d never seen her angry before. Through the open car window, she went into a full-on rant: “I was Catholic for many years, but I never prayed the Rosary! Then I got saved and took off all my jewelry, and I’m free! I’m free!” (She was yelling now.) “That’s why I don’t let any of my children wear jewelry!”

“You’re not free,” I replied, “You’re in Pentecostal legalism.” The meaning was completely lost on her, but her husband smiled and nodded. What shocked me most was that this lady was one of the parents who had provided permission to give her children rosaries. And she had asked me for an NAB Bible for herself when I handed them out to the youth. Now, suddenly, rosaries were evil and the statue of Mary a forbidden idol.

After they drove off, I went into the house, called my prior worship leader, and he was available and happy to come back and take over. The following Sunday was New Year’s day 2017, and our prior worship leader was leading the music. And just like that, five people who had been with the church for nine years (the parents and three kids) were gone. My youth leader was devastated, as she was very attached to all of the children.

Shortly after that confrontation, I spoke with another long-term faithful parishioner on the pathway by the Mary statue. “So, do you like the Mary statue,” I asked. “No, Pastor Anne, I don’t,” she replied emphatically. “But that was my two-month art project,” I smiled. “Why don’t you like it?”

“I was Catholic as a child, and even wanted to become a nun. But my priest said I should go to college.” “But what happened to you that caused you to leave the Catholic Church?” I asked. “It’s a long story,” she said. But I never got to hear it; within months, she, her husband and their three children left the church. Between these two families, a fifth of our tiny congregation was gone — over my beautiful Mary statue.

Several people suggested I move it, or hide it on Sunday morning under a bag. But I reasoned, “It’s in front of the house, not the chapel. If the parishioners use the walkway that goes directly to the chapel, they wouldn’t even see her.” Yet the suggestions continued, and the youth leader (also an ex-Catholic) admonished that I should have submitted the rosaries, NAB Bibles and statue of Mary to the church council for a vote before implementing them.

Finally I asked Father Jim to come and bless the Mary statue so the negativity would stop. And it eventually did. After pretty much all the congregation left.”

Love,
Matthew

God answers all our prayers


-by Br Bartholomew Calvano, OP

“God always answers our prayers. He doesn’t always give us what we ask for. If we ask for something bad, God will of course not give it to us. However, even if we ask for something good, it is often the case that we don’t get what we are asking for. So then, how must we ask God if we want to receive what we are asking for? Let’s consider what St. John tells us: “And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him” (1 Jn 5:14-15). We have to ask according to his will.

Of course, it’s not always easy to figure out the particulars of what God’s will is. Since we don’t generally know God’s exact will, it’s right to ask God for good things. We just shouldn’t be too surprised when he gives us something different. Even when two people ask for the same thing, they can receive different individualized responses. For example, take St. Thérèse of Lisieux (whose feast is today) and St. Dominic. Both of these saints desired to be foreign missionaries.

Saint Thérèse writes, “In spite of my littleness, I would like to enlighten souls as did the Prophets and the Doctors. I have the vocation of the Apostles. I would like to travel over the whole earth to preach your Name and to plant your glorious cross on infidel soil. But…one mission alone would not be sufficient for me, I would want to preach the Gospel on all the five continents simultaneously and even to the most remote isles. I would be a missionary, not for a few years only, but from the beginning of creation until the consummation of the ages” (Story of a Soul 192).

Saint Thérèse clearly desired to be a missionary, which is a good thing. She even had the opportunity when her monastery was going to send some sisters to Saigon, but unfortunately her health failed her and she was unable to go. Although St. Thérèse never managed to go out to the missions, dying at the age of 24, she always maintained that missionary spirit, offering prayers and sacrifices for those who were missionaries. Eventually, in 1927, she was named Patroness of the Missions by Pope Pius XI. This is hardly something she ever would have thought to ask of God, but it was God’s answer to her prayer.

Similarly, St. Dominic wanted to be a missionary. After a failed mission of escorting a Danish noblewoman for a political marriage to a young prince of Spain (she had died—possibly a euphemism for entering religious life—by the time they arrived to collect her), St. Dominic and his bishop Diego were ready to go out on mission to the northern pagans. The pope, however, told Diego he had to go back to his diocese. Saint Dominic returned with him and put aside thoughts of the foreign missions. For the next 15 years or so St. Dominic would labor close to home in the Midi region of France for the conversion of the Cathars. Toward the end of his life we again see signs of his missionary zeal when, about five years before his death, he made a promise with William of Montferrat that once the Order was established they would go out to evangelize the northern pagans. Saint Dominic even tried to step down as Master of the Order at the first General Chapter of 1220 in order to go out to the missions, but the brothers begged him to remain as Master. He would die soon after. At the second Chapter in 1221, however, Bl. Paul of Hungary was sent with four other friars to establish the Order in Hungary, from which the Dominican Order would go on to evangelize the northern pagans. Although St. Dominic hardly left Spain, France, and Italy, the Order of Preachers he founded would reach far and wide as Dominican missionaries traveled to every corner of the world over the centuries. God answered St. Dominic’s prayer not in his own lifetime, but in the lives of his sons.

These two examples together show how varied God’s response to the same prayer can be from person to person. On the one hand, we have a patroness of the missions, on the other, the founder of a missionary order. It is of first importance that we trust that God hears us and desires to give us good things according to his will. Keeping this in mind, we will not despair if we seem not to get what we want or if God does not answer our prayers the same as he does our friends’ and neighbors’.

Biographical information concerning St. Dominic has been drawn from M.-H. Vicaire’sSaint Dominic and His Times.

(God’s sense of what may be good for us may be, for reasons unknown wholly, holy, and solely except unto God, very different from what our sense of what is good for us is, and infinitely wiser from God’s perspective. We ask God for what we ABSOLUTELY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT!!!!! Maybe the things we ask for in prayer, are, in the grander scheme, ultimately, silly? Superfluous? Not able to show us how strong we are? Or, truly, rather God is? Maybe it is good for us to suffer? Maybe God wants us to grow in greater patience and faith? Maybe God wants us to grow in greater self-knowledge of the gift He has given in us? “Know Thyself!” was not just a decoration at the entrance to Plato’s Academy. Maybe God wants to prove to us surviving the unsurvivable with Him is possible. And, surviving the unsurvivable encourages us toward greater faith.)

Love,
Matthew

Sacrament of the Present Moment – Rev Jean Pierre de Caussade, SJ

“The Sacrament of the Present Moment is a spiritual path outlined by one of the greatest spiritual directors in the history of the Church, Father J. P. de Caussade, S.J.

On this path, we learn that Christ comes to us in a new and living way every day, and in every moment of every day. For this reason, our attention must remain focused on all of the events that occur, minute-by-minute, from the trivial to the sublime, because this is how God speaks to us.

This was the spirituality of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, who did not have access to spiritual directors, the guidance of hagiography, or volumes of theology.

“All their attention was focused on the present, minute by minute; like the hand of a clock that marks the minutes of each hour covering the distance along which it has to travel. Constantly prompted by divine impulsion, they found themselves imperceptibly turned toward the next task that God had ready for them at each hour of the day.”162

Their lives were guided by a pure and simple commitment to the will of God in whatever form it might present itself in each moment of the day. Even though, on the surface, Mary and Joseph were just ordinary people living an ordinary life in the village of Nazareth, we know that beneath this commonplace exterior, they were unparalleled in holiness. These heights of sanctity were acquired through a complete reliance on God’s grace and obedience to His Will in whatever way it chose to manifest in the everyday moments of their lives.

“But what is the secret of how to find this treasure — this minute grain of mustard seed? There is none. It is available to us always, everywhere. Like God, every creature, whether friend or foe, pours it out generously, making it flow through every part of our bodies and souls to the very center of our being. Divine action cleanses the universe, pervading and flowing over all creatures. Wherever they are it pursues them. It precedes them, accompanies them, follows them. We have only to allow ourselves to be borne along on its tide.”163

Those who abandon themselves to this way of life and who live to discover God’s will in the everyday moments of their life do so without the need to question, to judge, to consider the consequences or the causes or the reasons why this or that may happen.

Instead, “we leave God to act in everything, reserving for ourselves only love and obedience to the present moment.”164

And by doing so, God becomes the source of life for these souls, not through ideas or enlightenment or reasoning, but hidden in the operation and truth of his grace as it manifests in each moment of every day of our lives.

“And so God and His divine order must be cherished in all things, just as it is, without asking for anything more; whatever he may offer us is not our business but God’s, and what he ordains is best. How simple is this perfect and total surrender of self to the world of God! And there, in continual self-forgetfulness to be forever occupied in loving and obeying him, untroubled by all those doubts and perplexities, reverses and anxieties which attend the hope of his salvation and true perfection!”165

This brief expose of the Sacrament of the Present Moment should be enough to expose the similarities — and the immense differences — between this devotion and the practice of mindfulness. About the only thing the two practices have in common is that they both call for a non-judgmental focus on the now, but the underlying motives and end of this focus could not be further apart.

In mindfulness, one focuses on the present moment to become aware of it, to escape the doing mode and enter into the being mode in order to awaken to the experience of each moment.

In the Sacrament of the Present Moment, we dwell in the present not to enter into a state of awareness but into a state of abandonment to the will of God…Instead of being about moment-to-moment awareness, it’s about moment-to-moment surrender. Put simply, the Christian remains in the present moment not for the sake of the present moment, but for the sake of hearing the voice of the God Who speaks to it in that moment.”

-Brinkmann, Susan. A Catholic Guide to Mindfulness (pp. 95-98). Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

162. de Caussade, Father J. P., S.J., The Sacrament of the Present Moment (New York, NY: Harper One), pg. 1
163. Ibid, pg. 3
164. Ibid, pg. 11
165. Ibid, pg. 25

Liturgy, praying with the Church

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

Presence of God – O Jesus, Head of the Mystical Body, grant that while praying with the Church, I may unite myself to Your prayer.

MEDITATION

A Christian is not isolated. As man, he belongs to the great human family; as one baptized, he is grafted onto Christ and becomes a member of His Mystical Body, the Church. A Christian is, at the same time, a child of God and a child of the Church; it is precisely in the bosom of the Church that he becomes a child of God. Hence his whole spiritual life, even though it has a personal character which tends toward intimate contact with God, ought also to have a social, liturgical character, which shares in the life of the Church. In other words, the spiritual life of a Christian should be framed in that of the Church, his Mother; it should be associated to all that the Church does in union with Christ her Head to extend His sanctifying action in the world.

Just as our spiritual life is born, grows, and develops in the bosom of the Church, so our prayer, which is the highest expression of the spiritual life, should be inserted in the prayer of the Church, that is, in liturgical prayer. Liturgical prayer has a special excellence because it is not the prayer, however sublime and elevated, of individual souls, but is the prayer that the whole Church addresses to God, in union with Jesus, her Spouse and her Head. It is something like a prolongation of Jesus’ prayer; indeed, it is a participation in those supplications which He Himself always offers to the Father. In the glory of heaven and in humble effacement on our altars, He praises Him in the name of all creatures and intercedes with Him for the needs of each one in particular.

“The sacred liturgy is the public worship given to the Father by our Redeemer as Head of the Church; and it is the worship which the society of the faithful render to their Head and through Him, to the eternal Father” (-Venerable Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mediator Dei).

Whenever we feel the poverty of our own prayer, let us offer to God the great prayer of Jesus and the Church, associating ourselves spiritually.

COLLOQUY

“O my God, how discouraged should I be by reason of my weakness and nothingness, if to praise, reverence, and glorify You, I did not have Jesus Christ, my only Good, Who does this so perfectly! To Him I entrust my weakness, and I rejoice that He is all and I am nothing…. Yes, O Jesus, in You I possess everything; You are my Head and I am really one of Your members. You pray, adore, humble Yourself, and give thanks in me and for me, and I do the same in You, for the member is all one with the Head. Your holy, magnanimous life absorbs mine, which is so vile and mean” (cf. Bl. M. Thérèse Soubiran).

O Jesus, seated at the right hand of the Father, and interceding continually for us, deign to absorb into Your great prayer my very poor one.

“O Jesus, grant that I may adore the Father ‘in spirit and in truth,’ and in order that I may do so, permit me to adore Him by You and in union with You; for You are the great Adorer in spirit and in truth.” (cf. Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity First Retreat: Heaven in Earth, 9).

You alone are the real adorer, whose prayer and adoration are perfectly worthy of the infinite Majesty. You alone are the perfect praise of the Most Holy Trinity; You wish to associate with this praise the Church, Your Spouse and my Mother. You wish to associate me with it also, Your member and a child of the Church. Grant that by participating in the prayer of the Church, I may likewise participate in Your prayer. Do not look upon the poverty of my personal prayer, but see it united with the sublime, unceasing prayer of Your Spouse; see it joined to the perpetual chorus of praise and petition which Your priests, the souls consecrated to You, and all Your elect, are continually sending up to Your throne. Grant that my voice may not be discordant in this magnificent chorus. Help me then to pray with a real spirit of piety and with an attentive, devout soul, so that my heart will always accompany the movement of my lips, and my interior sentiments vivify every action, every chant, and every word.”

Love,
Matthew

Spiritual Aridity

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

Presence of God – Draw me to You, O Lord, by the road You choose and in any way You will; I ask only for grace to know how to follow You always.

MEDITATION

“The aridity which comes from God not only has the advantage of making us go forward in virtue, but it also brings us to a higher form of prayer. St. John of the Cross teaches that it is by means of this kind of aridity that God calls souls to a simpler and more profound form of prayer which he terms “initial contemplation.” To distinguish this aridity from that which is caused by other things, he gives three signs.

The first sign is: “the soul finds no pleasure or consolation in the things of God, it also fails to find pleasure in anything created” (Dark Night of the Soul I, 9,2). This loss of delight in the things of God may occur, too, when aridity is caused by the soul’s own faults; but then it looks for human satisfactions, whereas in the former case, although it no longer experiences the joy of being with God, it does not return to creatures, but rather, remains firm in its decision to keep its heart detached from them.

The second sign is that, in spite of aridity, “the memory is ordinarily centered upon God with painful care and solicitude, fearing that it is not serving God” (Dark Night of the Soul I, 9 3). In other words, the soul suffers from its spiritual insensibility, fearing that it does not love God and is not serving Him; and at the same time, it continues to seek Him with the anxiety of one who does not succeed in finding its treasure. The soul remains then always occupied with God, although in a negative, painful way, as if suffering because of the absence of a loved one. On the contrary, when the aridity is culpable, especially if it is caused by a state of habitual lukewarmness, the soul is not at all grieved about not loving God; it has become indifferent.

The last sign consists in the fact that “the soul can no longer meditate or reflect in the imaginative sphere of sense as it was wont, however much it may of itself endeavor to do so” (Dark Night of the Soul I, 9,8). The soul would like to meditate; it applies itself, tries as hard as possible, and still does not succeed. When this state continues—for if it lasted only a short time it might have arisen from special conditions, either physical or moral—although it may have days of greater or less intensity, it tends to invade the whole soul in such a way as to make meditation habitually impossible. This aridity then means a call from God to more profound prayer.

COLLOQUY

“O Jesus, how burdensome and bitter is life when You hide Yourself from our love! What are You doing, my Friend? Do You not see my anguish and the weight which is crushing me? Where are You? Why do You not come to console me, since I have no friend but You?

“But if it pleases You to leave me in this state, help me to accept it for love of You. Make me love You enough to suffer for You whatever You choose—sorrow, aridity, anguish, or even, seeming coldness of heart. Ah! that is indeed a great love, to love You without feeling the sweetness of Your love.

“Many serve You, O Jesus, when You console them; but few are willing to keep You company when You sleep on the raging waters or suffer in the garden of agony. Who, then, will serve You for Yourself? Oh! grant that it may be I!

“The Gospel tells me, O divine Shepherd, that You leave the faithful sheep in the desert. What deep things that tells me!… You are sure of them, they cannot go astray now, for they are love’s captives; so You deprive them of Your visible presence to bring Your consolations to sinners; or even if You do meet them upon Mt. Thabor, it is only for a few moments. O Lord, do with me as You please. And if You seem to forget me, very well. You are free to, since I am no longer mine but Yours…. You will sooner weary of keeping me waiting than I of waiting for You” (cf. Thérèse of the Child Jesus Letters, 32,73,144,121,81).

I ask only one thing, my God: in this aridity let my love increase, and grant that I may remain faithful to You at all cost. May I love You more by the reality of deeds as my love becomes less sensible. Grant that the less joy my love gives to me, the more glory it may give to You. And if, in order to increase in love, I need to suffer, blessed be this trial; since You strike me to teach me, You mortify me to cure me and to lead me to a higher life.”

Love,
Matthew

Veni, Sancte Spiritus!!

Veni Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium: et tui amoris in eis ignem accende.
Emitte Spiritum tuum, et creabuntur.
Et renovabis faciem terrae.
Oremus.
Deus, qui corda fidelium Sancti Spiritus illustratione docuisti, da nobis in eodem Spiritu recta sapere, et de eius semper consolatione gaudere.
Per Christum, Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Give us this day….


-by Br Barnabas McHenry, OP

“One of the parts of the Mass in which the Church gives her priests autonomy over word choice is the introduction to the Prayers of the Faithful. There are many fine ways to direct the faithful to prayer, but one that I have heard in several places and found particularly striking is, “Let us pray to God for what is needed.”

If we are in the habit of praying, chances are we know in a profound way that we are needy creatures. But can we know what we really need? St. Thomas considers this very concern in his commentary on St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. He calls prayer of petition nothing other than the expression to God of our desires (desideriorum explicatio). As one Dominican, Giles Emery, puts it, “To know what is necessary to ask, is to know what is necessary to desire.”

St. Thomas thought that we could have a general knowledge of those things to desire and for which to ask by calling to mind the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. After all, it is a good thing to desire the accomplishment of God’s will, or a worldly good to sustain one’s life (to be given one’s “daily bread”), or to be spared temptations. But the devil is found in the details, as it were. For instance, you may desire to further God’s Kingdom as a missionary in Africa, while his will is actually that you further it as a good father or mother in Altoona. You may believe that a certain temporal good will allow you to be a better Christian, but, as St. Thomas is quick to warn, “many [have] perished on account of riches.” You may wish fervently to avoid some temptation, but perhaps God desires to use this temptation as a “thorn in the flesh” so that, like St. Paul, you may avoid prideful boasting in anything save the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 12:7).

By ourselves, we do not know what we ought to desire in the concrete particularities of life, and so neither do we know for what we should ask God. This is what St. Thomas calls the weakness (infirmitas) of life. Each of us, due to the effects of original sin and our own personal sins and errors, can feel like a vessel on the sea amidst a dense, enveloping fog. We struggle to discern whether we are close to port or off our charted course.

To the Romans, St. Paul gave this assurance: “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:26). St. Thomas explains that the Holy Spirit cannot intercede for us as if he were an inferior, for he is true God. Rather, “the Holy Spirit makes us pray, insofar as he causes right desires in us.” Like the beacon of a lighthouse to a distressed ship, the Holy Spirit sends forth the charity of God into our hearts in order to dispel the darkness and enable us to see how to pray for what is truly needed here and now.

The Lord’s Prayer teaches us all how to pray to our Heavenly Father in a general way. The Spirit, whom the Father and the Son send into the world as Advocate, desires to teach each of us how to desire and to ask for what is needed in our particular parishes, communities, families, and lives. If we are docile to the Spirit, his gift to us will be the conformity of our desires to the will of God, whereby they become acceptable and efficacious.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful people. Enkindle in us the fire of your divine love. Send forth the divine radiance of your light, for in this way alone can we ask with daring confidence for what we desire, and desire what we truly need, having been made wise and fit to enjoy your heavenly consolations. Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

Christian prayer


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

“Christian prayer is a true conversation with God. This holy dialogue is based on a real relationship between the Giver of all good gifts and the one who offers sacrifice, between the Protector and the one who seeks His will. Both the similarity and difference of the human person to God together create the boundaries for this relationship.

Above the horizon of creation, the Creator draws His work to Himself. The Trinity, Who is a multiplicity of eternal relations in unity, draws into unity the multiplicity of temporal relations in creation. The closer the Word draws creation to the Father, the more complete and beautiful it becomes.

Awe over passing wonders disposes the heart to awe over wonders that do not pass. The Word of the Father raises up into divine harmony things that are visible in this world below: duration, extension, light, mass, and all kinds of mysterious forces like gravity, magnetism, atomic, electricity are bound together in tensions both primordial and eschatological, completed and not yet, present but not fully so. Over all this visible, observable, measurable cosmos, something invisible constantly draws it into existence and propels it to something beyond its own finitude – so that its own visible beauty is a fleeting sign of a spiritual beauty.

The more creation resonates with the eternal harmony of this Word, the more the Father rejoices in the Holy Spirit that His work is different, totally other than Himself. The Father contemplates in creation’s very otherness the inexhaustible fullness of the unity of the Holy Spirit through, with and in His only Begotten Son. In other words, He sees that His work is good, so very good that He blesses creation with His Divine Presence. Thus, His work of creation is where God discloses Himself and where His blessing is received.

Over all His work, the human person, each individual man and woman, is the particular object of the Holy Trinity’s inexhaustible love. The Father’s love draws all people together into the mysterious boundary where humanity and divinity touch. It is a garden enclosed by painful differences and delicate similarities fashioned together in the very person of His only begotten Son. This boundary, the Creator permits to exist between Himself and creation, is the spiritual space in which those sons and daughters, adopted into Christ’s Sonship, can dare to approach His Heavenly Father.

What is this spiritual space where Creatures participate in the unending and superabundant circumcession of filial and paternal love? Although more difficult to discern in some contemporary liturgical Christian prayerenvironments, ancient and medieval Church architecture celebrate this paradise, this enclosed garden, this sanctuary. Carved in wood and stone, adorned with columns and arches and stained glass, the whole spiritual drama of the Trinity’s love for humanity (and for each soul) unfolds as one approaches the altar, the very heart of these churches, the symbol of Christ in the Universe and in the soul.

One enters such a place of worship more by prayer than by physical awareness of art and architecture. Only within that holy sanctuary, enclosed by the tender horizons in the heart, does humanity find the freedom to enter into a true relation with God, the integrity of a frail creature being protected before the absolute transcendence of the One who made Him.

In the heart at prayer, there are boundaries placed, not as obstacles, but instead for a holy relationship with One whom we are not worthy to approach but who has called us all the same. Thus, we remember our sinfulness and plead for the Father’s mercy, trusting more in divine mercy than in our frailty. Such a soul who knows this gift of holy fear can come to discern the divine whisper that calls,

“Come, thou blessed of my Father.”

Grace, the gift of participating in the Trinity’s life of love and truth, is the source of likeness and communion. To be raised into and enjoy a graced relation with the eternal relations of the Holy Trinity, this is the greatness of the human vocation. This mysticism of relationship and communion is not merely a future idea to which we aspire. It is a mysticism of relation we can already know in this present moment through the blood of Christ poured out for us.

This mysticism of relationship does not confuse or co-mingle a creature’s identity with the Creator, but deepens and makes each individual personality a more unique and un-repeatable expression of divine image and likeness. This is why the divine conversation that Christians enter into does not involve the surmounting, suppressing or overcoming of frail humanity. Instead, the prayer of faith is a source of healing, a restoration of personal integrity, a purification from all that mars and weighs down humanity, a freedom from self-occupation and self-deception, a radical self-emptying in humility, an elevation above the evils that try to define one’s existence, a participation in that higher, supernatural life in love and truth that is the source and summit of all creation.”

Love, pray for me,
Matthew

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