Friday, September 30, 2011
The first reading for Mass today is from the prophet Baruch. This is one of my favorite Old Testament books; this prophet seems to have a lot to say to me. In today's passage, I believe he has a lot to say to all of us, not so much as individuals, but as nations.
The passage from Baruch talks about the days during the Babylonian exile and how the captives during that exile came to realize that they and their ancestors had sinned against the God who loved and cared for them.
As I read this passage several thoughts came to mind. First I could not help but see my own country in the list of sins the exiles had repented of. The United States is a country that has turned from God. The moral decadence (or perhaps amoral decadence is a better term)that runs rampant through our culture, the fact that we are a nation that has made killing our unborn children "a constitutional right", and the general blurring of the line between right and wrong clearly show that we are a people who have relied more on ourselves than on the God who made us and loves us.
While I am aware that other countries have these problems, I can only speak for my own country. The consequences of these sins have begun to play themselves out~ many are too blinded by self love and self motivation to see them.
The other thought I had while reading this passage from Baruch was Jesus' Passion, specifically His Agony in the Garden. Meditate on this for a moment: During this particular part of Jesus' Passion, He experienced an agony so great that it caused the capillaries beneath His skin to burst and He sweat blood. The agony He experienced was a physical one (doctors report that this condition is extremely painful), but probably more so a spiritual, mental and emotional agony. Jesus saw all the sins that mankind had committed and would ever commit and took them upon Himself. We who love Him can only begin to imagine the intensity of the agony His pure soul, mind and body must have felt!
My point here is Jesus saw then what mankind is doing now. He saw how so many would turn against Him and the One who sent Him. In a way, His agony continues.
There is hope though because there is a remnant people. Those who have not turned away from God, but those who have turned toward Him in repentance, reparation and love. We who may be a part of that remnant need to continue to pray, do penance, and as I have said before, stand in the breach.
Baruch's words were relevant all those thousands of years ago; they are still relevant for us today. The prophets continue to speak to us down through the ages. Are we listening?
Thursday, September 29, 2011
It is often said, "There are angels all around us." There is a lot of truth to that statement, for one thing each and every one of us has a guardian angel. There are nine choirs of angels in heaven, and today we celebrate the feast of the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.
As I was reading the morning meditation in Magnificat this morning, I was struck by what The Golden Legend says about how we should honor the angels because they bear our souls up to heaven in three ways: 1) by preparing the way for us. 2) by conveying souls to heaven along the prepared way, and 3) by putting the souls in their place in heaven.
What I took from all of this is that there are more angels around us than our guardian angels and that these heavenly beings do so much more for us than we realize.
We may want to remember our guardian angels today in a special way as well today since the Sunday Liturgy will take precedence over their feast on October 2. I know I do not thank my Guardian Angel enough. I sometimes have this vision of my angel on the day, by God's grace and my angel's hard work, I make it to heaven. I see him wiping his brow thanking God that his service with me is finally done :)
Scripture, both Old and New Testaments mention the angels quite often, even if there is not much detail about them. So let us praise and thank God today for His angels who guide and protect us along this perilous way to our heavenly home.
One way to honor St Michael along with the nine choirs of angels is to pray the Chaplet of St Michael. I first heard this prayer prayed on EWTN. It is beautiful and I imagine quite powerful.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
So this is take 2 of this post. Thank you to those who let me know that the link did not work, and to Victor for all his techie help. Since I did not want to go the e-book route right now, I have published the reflections as a stand alone page. Click the tab titled Seaside Reflections above and it will take you to the reflections.
Well, as promised, the reflections I wrote while on retreat are finally organized and as ready as they will ever be for publication.
I consider these reflections the visible fruit of my retreat; there is, I hope much that is not readily visible as well. I was greatly influenced by Thomas Merton's prayers and writings. If you have never read anything by him before, I highly recommend him as a spiritual author.
All I really want to say to my readers is in the Preface to the Reflections, so I won't repeat any of it here.
To those of you who will read the reflections contained in Conversing With God By the Sea, I thank you and I pray they edify your faith and love for God in some way. Above all, I pray they have glorified God in some small way.
Friday, September 23, 2011
June 16,2002 Padre Pio was canonized by Blessed Pope John Paul II and was made a saint; today we celebrate his feast day.
This great saint knew a thing or two about living a life of Christian perfection. In order for us to live the virtues, God gives us circumstances and situations in which we can practice those virtues. Padre Pio's life held no shortage of these circumstances and situations.
Among the more well known facts of his life are the stigmata, the wounds of Christ, he bore for 50 years, the intensely devout and reverent manner which he celebrated Mass, and the hours he spent hearing confessions.
What is not so widely known is that he not only suffered Christ's physical wounds, but His betrayal, false accusation and humiliation. He was accused of sexual misconduct with penitents, and of self~inflicting the wounds of the stigmata. These accusations came from within the Catholic Church.
Padre Pio endured all of this with heroic virtue which led him to a life of Christian perfection.
The following is an excerpt from his letters that included his teaching on Christian perfection. It was written to his spiritual daughter Raffaelina Cerase.
PADRE PIO TEACHES ON CHRISTIAN PERFECTION Taken from Letters II, Oct. 23, 1914Padre Pio told his spiritual daughter, Raffaelina Cerase, to pray to her Guardian Angel and to the saint whose name she bore for grace and wisdom. This heavenly light is the finest grace one could ask for. It cannot be acquired by prolonged study or through human teaching, but is directly infused by God.We must ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten us to three great truths: 1) our Christian vocation, 2) greater knowledge of our eternal inheritance, 3) to penetrate more deeply the mystery of how wretched sinners such as ourselves have been led to salvation.A person who desires perfection needs to undertake both internal and external action. In striving toward internal perfection, we must first practice the virtue of charity. When a person loves money, honors and good health, he does not always possess what he loves, whereas he who loves God possesses Him at once. Also, the soul needs patience. The virtue of patience maintains order in one's interior life. Love, joy and peace are virtues which perfect the soul with regard to what it possesses, while patience perfects it with regard to what it endures.Padre Pio encourages his spiritual children to practice externally the virtue of kindliness, to be agreeable and courteous. Polite manners draw others to imitate him in the devout life. If others do not respond to kindness, we need the virtue of forbearance. Never desist from one's effort to help others, even if they are not deriving benefit of our help.Strive for meekness, which makes us stifle our anger when we see our efforts repaid with ingratitude, insults or offenses. Add faithfulness, by which the soul gains confidence.Virtues which perfect the devout person with regard to control of his own senses are modesty, continence and chastity: modesty, governing all exterior acts; continence, restraint over senses of sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing; chastity, which ennobles our nature and makes it similar to the angels.Happy the one who possesses these fine virtues, all of them fruits of the Holy Spirit who dwells within him. Such a soul has nothing to fear and will shine in the world as the sun in the heavens.
For a more in depth post on the spiritual sufferings of Padre Pio, visit Fr. Gordon MacRae at These Stone Walls.
Fr. Gordon has much in common with Padre Pio in the way of spiritual suffering. He is serving what amounts to a life sentence for crimes of sexual abuse which he did not commit.
Let us ask St Padre Pio for his prayers and intercession, not only for ourselves, but for our priests as well. Let us pray for his intercession especially for those priests who, like Fr. Gordon, have been falsely accused.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Sister Laus Gloriae, O.C.D responds to a question about how to improve our prayer life. The questioner uses the term "prayer experience" which Sister corrects at the start by explaining that prayer is a relationship, not an experience. Read her full response over at CERC; you will be glad you did. No matter where we are in our prayer life, we can all benefit from her words.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Matthew is one of those saints that I seem to take for granted. We read his Gospel accounts quite often and so he seems to be always there in front of me. I also have to admit that his gospel account is the one that I usually have the most difficulty with because it brings my sinfulness right out in front of me, and while that is a good thing, it is not an easy thing.
All that being said, I felt a little more drawn to reflect on St Matthew as we celebrate his feast today. I found myself drawn into that day when, much to Matthew's most likely surprise, he was called by Christ to follow Him.
Here is where my reflection on this day in Matthew's life drew me...
It was a day like most others. I got up and prepared to set out for another day's work. I didn't think much about what I was doing or about what would happen this day; it would be a day just like all the rest~ a day of working for a government that has imposed itself on our land. As for my part in all of it, I was just trying to make the best of it and earn a living in the meantime. But that same sense of dread I felt each day was with me once again. I am growing tired of doing a job that brings me the hatred and scorn of those around me, even my own family and so called friends. If only there was a way out, but where, how. This is what I know and it keeps me in the way and style of life I have grown accustomed to; I want for nothing, at least in the ways of this world.I was sitting at my counting table, counting the days income and putting aside what was rightfully or not so rightfully mine when in a moment I looked up and saw the man they called Jesus approaching in the distance. I had heard of Him and the message of love , peace and hope he was preaching. I also had a pretty good idea of what this Rabbi would think and say of me and what I do.I continued counting the days earnings and then realized this Man was now standing in front of me, speaking to me. He may have said more, but the only words I heard were: "Follow Me." All I could think was: "Me, You want me, wretch that I am, to follow You? What good could I possibly do You?" Those thoughts passed in a fleeting moment and the next thing I knew I was on my feet walking away from all that I knew into I had no idea what.I may not have known the details of what following Jesus would be, but I knew at hearing that two-word invitation, "Follow Me" that it was my way out of the life of dread I had come to know and live. It was my invitation to life as it should be lived. Despite all the confusion I was feeling, I knew accepting that invitation was just what I needed and what I had been secretly longing for.How little I knew then that from that moment on, my life would never be the same again. This Man Jesus was my how and where out. I followed Him and never looked back.
Fr. Mark at Vultus Christi has a beautiful reflection and meditation on the Call of St Matthew using the Caravaggio painting I have used in this post.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Well, I am back from my week of silence by the sea. I have come to expect awesome things from God during these days and He never disappoints me. The weather was beautiful, the sunrises and sunsets breath taking. I heard Him in everything and everywhere.
|Create your own photo slideshow|
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Tomorrow evening begins the one week of the year for which I live the other 51. I will be spending the next six days on retreat in silence. No phones, TV, radio or media of any kind~just God, the beach and me.
The week before a retreat is always difficult. Satan really does all he can to prevent me from getting there. Our weather here in NJ these last few days has had me a bit worried. We had one week to dry out after hurricane Irene's visit and it has been raining again. But all is in God's hands and I trust him to keep the roads clear (or at least provide me with a detour).
I usually know pretty far in advance of the retreat what spiritual reading God wants me to bring along. This year I had a bit of trouble discerning what I should take along to help guide me during these six days. I came across two treasures by Thomas Merton in Barnes & Nobles's bargain bin. I will be using his Book of Hours as my prayer book for the week. I am also bringing his Thoughts in Solitude.
I will be back on Sunday, Sept. 18 with my usual Sunday meditation and hopefully some pictures and reflections as well. Please keep me in your prayers this week as all of you will be in mine.
I will leave you with an excerpt from Thomas Merton's Thoughts in Solitude. These words hold as much meaning now as they did when Merton wrote them in 1956.
"When men are merely submerged in a mass of impersonal human beings pushed around by automatic forces, they lose their true humanity, their integrity, their ability to love, their capacity for self~determination. When society is made up of men who know no interior solitude, it can no longer be held together by love and consequently is held together by a violent and abusive authority. But when men are violently deprived of the solitude and freedom which are their due, the society in which they live becomes putrid; it festers with servility, resentment and hate."
*All photos from my 2009 retreat.
I found the following reflection on Our Lady and Jesus in the Eucharist at the My Daily Eucharist site. The reflection was written some time ago by Archbishop John J. Meyers who I am proud to say is the archbishop of my home archdiocese, Newark, NJ.
As the archbishop illustrates in him reflection, Mary and the Eucharist are inseparable, for where Jesus is, there too is His Blessed Mother. I thought this a fitting reflection for our Blessed Mother's birthday today.
We cannot forget that the mystery of the Eucharist is inseparable from another reality: the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the life of Christ and in the life of the Church. In the Mass, Jesus entrusted to us his redeeming sacrifice. It is Mary who prepared the way for this sacrifice. Through her act of obedience, she allowed God to use her so that Christ the Redeemer might take on a human nature. Indeed the body and blood shed for us on the cross and offered on the altar were fashioned miraculously by God within her. The Christ we receive in Communion is the Christ who was born of the Virgin Mary. The Christ we adore in the tabernacle is the Christ who became man through her. Thus every time the Mass is celebrated, Mary is present in a very special way, just as she was present at the sacrifice of Calvary. When we receive him, we are united in an effable way to his Mother and to all the saints and angels, and every time we honor Jesus in his Eucharistic presence, we are made aware of her whose faith helped make him present to us.As your Bishop, I wish to assure you of my prayers. At Mass every day, I pray that we may be united by the offering we make of ourselves, joined to the sacrifice of our Redeemer. Every day, too, as I pray before the Blessed Sacrament, you are present in my thoughts. Brothers and sisters, please remember to pray for me. I very much depend on your prayers.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
This is the lament of King David in Psalm 3 which was the focus of the Holy Father's continuing instruction on prayer. When the Pope began this instruction some months ago, he called the Book of Psalms "the book of prayer par excellence." The Holy Father goes on to give us the background for this psalm and lament of David's; it comes at a crucial time in David's life after he is usurped from the throne by his son Absalom. David faces an enemy right in his own family. With this, David faces a grave temptation against his faith; this incident could very well lead him to lose his faith, but as the psalm continues we see that David does not give in to the temptation, but remains steadfast in his faith. He remembers that God is a shield around him and has answered him whenever David has cried out to him.
I have often written that I love the psalms because they reflect every possible human emotion in the light of faith. We may never find ourselves usurped from a throne, but we may have at one time or another, experienced betrayal by a family member or close friend~ someone we trusted. It is at that point we may, like David find our faith tested. The psalms, as well as many other places in Scripture, can give us comfort in reminding us of God's faithfulness, providence and perseverance all throughout salvation history, and in our own lives today.
As Pope Benedict told his Wednesday audience: “God is always close, even in times of difficulty, problems and darkness,” the Pope taught. “He listens, responds and saves.”
Full text of Pope Benedict XVI's Wednesday General Audeience
One of the books I am currently reading is Volume I of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich's The Life of Christ. In this first volume, this mystic and stigmatist reveals a great deal about Our Lady's Immaculate Conception and birth. One thing that Our Lady revealed to Anne Catherine Emmerich was a novena prayer that would begin on September 7 and continue for nine consecutive days. As today is the eve of Our Lady's Nativity, I thought I would share it here.
While Anne Catherine Emmerich's visions and revelations are not dogma or doctrine, there is nothing in this revelation or novena prayer that goes against Magesterial teaching or Sacred Scripture. This is a lovely spiritual bouquet to give to our Blessed Mother on her birthday. She does more for us than we will ever know; let's give her a little something back in gratitude to her and to Jesus who gave us this precious gift of His Mother.
Here is the revelation as given to Anne Catherine Emmerich which includes the novena prayer.
I saw the Blessed Virgin on the eve of her nativity. She said to me: "Whoever says this evening," (Sept. 7th) "nine times the Hail Mary lovingly and devoutly to honor the nine months spent in my mother's womb as also my birth, and continues the same devotion for nine consecutive days, daily gives to the angels nine flowers for a bouquet. This bouquet they bear to Heaven and offer to the Most Holy Trinity to obtain some favor for the one that prays."~Revealed to Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824), (a Catholic nun who suffered the pains of the stigmata), and who achieved a high level of sanctity during her holy and fruitful life.
Monday, September 5, 2011
Jesus is my God,
Jesus is my Spouse,
Jesus is my Life,
Jesus is my only Love,
Jesus is my All in All;
Jesus is my Everything.
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Living alone it can be very easy to become isolated. When I was in the midst of going through separation and eventually divorce from my former spouse, every priest I talked with told me to be sure I developed a network of friends who were of like mind and faith. They knew something I didn't at that time~the importance of praying for and with others. They also knew that as my life seemed to be falling apart, I would need not only my individual faith, but that of others.
I have often heard it said that we are made for community, for relationship. While I may live alone, I certainly am not alone. God, in His grace, has provided me with spiritual friends and family. The regulars at the 7am Mass I attend each day will worry and want to know where I have been if I don't show up for a day or two. The friends I have made through the healing ministry of Rachel's Vineyard have been a life line of friendship and support, and then there are all of you in the Catholic blogging community who edify me and support me in my faith every time I visit one of your blogs, or read your encouraging and kind comments on my own.
The point of all this is not simply to tell you more of my own story, but to illustrate the point of today's Mass readings. We are not to harden our hearts when we hear God call us to love and action (see Psalm 95), but rather He wants us to know that we are responsible not only for our own salvation, but that of others as well. Willing and wanting the salvation of others is part of loving our neighbor, sometimes this is referred to as zeal for souls.
Ezekiel's words in today's first reading are not easy ones to live out, but in many respects, we are our brothers and sisters' keepers. We do need to tell our friends and families when they are not living according to the Gospel; we are to do it lovingly and mercifully. I have had to do this in my own life and have come up against a few hardened hearts. A parent who has told me that I take my faith to seriously, a sibling who becomes defensive and uncomfortable when I speak out against abortion or cohabitation. I speak when I have to, but sometimes I know that words can do more harm than good, so in those times I remember Jesus' words of promise in today's Gospel: "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst." When words fail, prayer in Jesus'name never does, and praying with others for a common cause has tremendous power; there truly is strength in numbers.
Individual prayer is good and necessary, but so is praying in community. So let us do as the psalmist says and kneel before the Lord and worship; let us pray not only for and by ourselves, but for and with each other.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
Everyone should have a favorite spot in nature where you can sit awhile and enjoy God in His creation. Well this is mine.
It is a little corner of Rahway Park where the river leads to this mini waterfall. I love to come here and sit on the rocks. It is a great place to say rosary, read a book or just sit and listen to the roar of the water while contemplating God and His beautiful creation.
I ventured down to the falls two days after hurricane Irene. On Sunday when the storm hit, the river rose, covered the falls and then proceeded to rise and cover the bridge and roadway. This sacred spot is a five minute walk from my parish church, so on Tuesday after 7am Mass, I decided to take advantage of the cool, clear morning and walk there to see if I could get some pictures.
The waters had receded enough for me to sit for awhile and get some pictures. A duck or two even stayed long enough for me to get a picture while he primped his feathers.
It was hard to believe that only two days earlier this spot was impassable. The river was now calm and shone like glass reflecting the nearby trees. The falls still roared but now you could see them.
I live in a busy suburban town, but this little spot is God's gift to me and other residents away from all the noise and busyness.
Another fun fact about this spot~one of our priests says a sunrise Mass here every Easter Sunday.
Friday, September 2, 2011
The Meditation for the Day in Magnificat this morning was one of those reflections that seemed to draw me to it more than once, and with each prayerful reading, I seemed to receive more and something different from it.
The reflection is a prayer from the prayer book of the Armenian monk and mystic St Gregory of Narek. The title of the prayer book is Speaking With God From the Depths of the Heart. The particular prayer in Magnificat this morning is from the saint's Prayer no. 12, Bedtime Prayer.
I did not know anything about St Gregory of Narek, but after reading his beautiful prayer that speaks of yearning not so much for God's gifts but for God Himself, I wanted to know a little more about him. I found this wonderful site dedicated to his prayers.
This prayer is a wonderful reminder that God, the giver of all good gifts is Himself, the greatest gift of all. How blessed are we His creatures to be receivers of Him and all His gifts.
A little added side note on St Gregory of Narek~ he is also one of the saints on the list to be named a Doctor of the Church in the near future. After reading some of his beautiful prayers, I can see why.
Here is part of the Bedtime prayer. You can read the prayer in full, along with his other prayers by clicking on the link above.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
September is the month dedicated to the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady. Our Lady told St Bridget that she would obtain seven graces for those who practiced this devotion by praying seven Hail Mary's and meditating on her tears and dolors.
Here are the Seven Sorrows of Mary and the Seven Graces she promises to those who pray this devotion.
Psalm 45: Canticle of Love to the King
My heart overflows with a good theme;
I address my verses to the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
You are fairer than the sons of men;
Grace is poured upon Your lips;
Therefore God has blessed You forever.
Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One,
In Your splendor and Your majesty!
And in Your majesty ride on victoriously,
For the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
Let Your right hand teach You awesome things.
Your arrows are sharp;
The peoples fall under You;
Your arrows are in the heart of the King’s enemies.
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of joy above Your fellows.
All Your garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made You glad.
Kings’ daughters are among Your noble ladies;
At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.