Monthly Archives: May 2011

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

O Holy Spirit, Soul of my soul, I adore thee. Enlighten, guide, strengthen and console me. Tell me what I ought to do and command me to do it. I promise to be submissive in everything that thou shalt ask of me and to accept all that thou permits to happen to me, only show me what is thy will.

The Christian in the World

The second reading from today’s Office of Readings concerns the place of Christians in the world. We are all travelers in this world. We do not belong here, and we should not act like we do.

Reading From a letter to Diognetus
The Christian in the World

Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.   And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labour under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law.   Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonour, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.   To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.   Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body’s hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.

Osu! Thank You!

In my son’s karate class, when the instructor calls out push-ups or some other unpleasant exercise, the students know better than to grumble. If they grumble, they get more of whatever they were complaining about, be it push-ps, crunches, or what have you.

Instead, the students are taught to reply, “Osu! Thank you!” (“Osu” is a generic sort of athletic greeting that literally means “push” but in this context might be translated “Yes, sir!”)

My wife pointed out that this is a good lesson in our spiritual lives as well. When God in His wisdom gives us trials, difficulties, or suffering, our response shouldn’t be to complain or whine or, worse, to question God. We should respond in gratitude to God, for after all,
God brings great good out of seemingly evil events.

So, in the spirit of my son’s karate class, whenever life brings us disappointment or difficulty, my wife and I grit our teeth and give Our Lord a heartfelt “Osu! Thank you!”

The Only Essential Thing

Do you long to succeed? To accomplish something?

Do you find yourself saying things like:

I gotta get into this school.

I gotta make varsity.

I gotta win the contest.
I gotta get the lead role.
I gotta lead the council, the committee, or the club.
I gotta have a great career. I gotta get that promotion.
I gotta have the prettiest wife. I gotta have the biggest muscles. I gotta get attention when I’m at the beach.
I gotta have the nicest lawn and the biggest house and the newest car. I gotta be the manager.I gotta be in charge.I gotta start a movement.I gotta reach my potential.Igotta be a success.Igotta get noticed. Igottadosomethingimportant.IgottaIgottaIGOTTA!!!

Enough.

Slow down.

Stop.

It’s all dust. It’s all nothing.

When we die we will be left with only one thing. How close to God? How holy? The rest will be gone.

Be holy. Seek ye first the kingdom.

Let the rest be according to God’s will.

Thoughts on My Son’s First Communion

A week ago, my eldest son made his first communion. He was nervous. We were excited. He was very handsome in his white tuxedo.

There is so much we need to teach our children about communion. There is so much I know I still need to teach my kids. The biggest thing, I think, is that communion is not just a spiritual action. With every other sacrament, with every other ceremony, we encounter Christ in spiritual ways, in intellectual ways, and in emotional ways. But in the Holy Eucharist, we encounter Christ physically, and we are privileged to undergo a fundamental and very real transformation.

The Body of Christ

The following quote, very appropriately, showed up in the Office of Readings earlier this week.

Saint Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians that we are members of his body, of his flesh and bones. He is not speaking of some spiritual and incorporeal kind of man, for spirits do not have flesh and bones. He is speaking of a real human body composed of flesh, sinews and bones, nourished by the chalice of Christ’s blood and receiving growth from the bread which is his body.
St. Irenaeus

The first thing our kids must know – must have drilled into their heads until there is no doubt – is that this is, really and no kidding, the actual body and blood of Christ. Our culture is so full of happy little fantasies that we pretend are real (the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, etc.), and we spend so much time with TV, movies, and books that blur the line between reality and fantasy, that it would be natural for kids to assume that we are just speaking in one big metaphor.

That is a dangerous delusion. Why? Because due to the fact of the truth of the Eucharist, taking communion becomes something far more profound than we usually give it credit for.

What Happens to Us?
When we eat, the food that we eat performs two functions. It provides energy for us to take action, and it provides building blocks for growing our bodies or for replacing parts of our bodies that have “worn” out.

So when we eat and drink Christ, since it is really Him physically, and since it is real food, the process of eating makes those particles of Christ a part of our own bodies. That thought gives me the chills. Parts of my body are actual built out of Christ. My body is being transformed, bit by bit. This sheds a whole knew light on the truth of the Church being the body of Christ.

(Note: Of course these particle cease being the body and blood of Christ once they are no longer materially bread and wine, but they once were, and that’s my point.)

This perspective on the Eucharist makes me even more enthusiastic to receive as often as possible. Grace is a wonderful thing to receive, and I never want to diminish its importance in any way. But actually incorporating Christ’s body, blood, soul, and divinity into my own body and soul is mind-blowing. I hope I can pass on this enthusiasm to my kids.

The Devil, Purgatory, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and Embracing the Cross

The Daily Spiritual Battle

Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8

Satan works against us every day of our lives. His “tricks” can be as mundane as distraction in prayer or a traffic jam on the way to Mass The saints comment frequently on this ongoing spiritual battle with the devil.

The devil strains every nerve to secure the souls which belong to Christ. We should not grudge our toil in wresting them from Satan and giving them back to God.
St. Sebastian

Our imagination, which is hardly still a minute, makes our task harder and then of course there is the devil who never tires of trying to distract us and keep us from praying. To what end does not the evil one go against us while we are engaged in saying our Rosary against him.
St. Louis de Montfort

The Omnipotence of God
It is difficult to make sense of the workings of the devil in a world created by a loving and omnipotent God. Sin is one thing; it arises from our free will. But why the temptations? Why does this omnipotent and loving God allow an independent actor on the scene to tempt us, to distract us, and otherwise to make our spiritual journey more difficult?
God does this on purpose. All things are allowed according to His will.

We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

But how can that be if these things could potentially keep us from going to heaven?

The Teaching on Purgatory
The church’s teaching on purgatory provides some insight.

All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church 1030 and 1031

So we must be pure before we enter heaven, and if we are not pure when we die (but we are in a state of grace, meaning we haven’t separated ourselves from God), then we have the opportunity to become pure in Purgatory.
Many people think that Purgatory is pretty much required for everyone, but St. Thérèse says we don’t have to go there.

Do not be afraid of going to purgatory because of its pain, but rather long not to go there because this pleases God who imposes this expiation so regretfully. From the moment that you try to please Him in all things, if you have the unshakable confidence that He will purify you at every instant in His love and will leave in you no trace of sin, be very sure that you will not go to purgatory.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux

God is purifying us “at every instant”. That means right now we are being purified. How?

The Way of the Cross
Christ demands that we pick up our cross and follow him. Why does He say that? Why didn’t he say, “Just try to be nice and a generally good person doing the best you can, and I’ll make sure you get to heaven where you can have your favorite flavor of ice cream and be reunited with your childhood dog.”?

Why is the cross the way to Heaven? And what is my cross anyway?

The cross is the way to heaven, because it is what God uses to purify us. It is the altar on which the sacrifice of purification is made. We must take up our crosses, because on our crosses is the only place where we can sacrifice our old self, our worldly self, and purify our souls for Heaven. That is why God allows Satan into our lives. The devil is the unwitting instrument of our purification. Just as Christ HAD to be tempted by the devil in the desert of Judea, we HAVE to be tempted by the devil in the desert of our hearts.

Our cross is not just the big challenges in our life – the handicap, the disease, the difficult family member, the addiction – it is every little distraction, every little obstacle we find in our spiritual life. When our alarm clock fails and we oversleep and don’t have time for full morning prayers, that is Satan and that is our cross. When we get lost trying to find a new church for daily Mass, that is Satan and that is our cross. When the dog wants out in the middle of the Rosary – well, the dog is not Satan, but that is our cross.

Embrace It
So the answer, then, to the distractions and difficulties is to embrace them, fight through them, and most of all thank God for them. These are our means of purification. If we embrace them and use them to grow in our love of God, we just might do as St. Thérèse suggests, and avoid the pains of purgatory altogether. We are, after all, meant to be saints. Each and every one of us.

The Seven Spiritual Weapons of St. Catherine of Bologna

Today is the feast of St. Catherine of Bologna. Here is a good summary of her seven spiritual weapons to be used against temptation. Given the amount of temptation the 21st century has to offer, I think we need these weapons!

Sunday Snippets–A Catholic Carnival

This is a post for the Catholic Carnival. This week I posted a big thank you to all the mothers that influenced my life. You can find it here.
http://wp.me/p17axU-2k

For All My Mothers

Mom
Thank you for the unconditional love with which you graced me from my birth. You were the lap I could always run to, with whatever hurt or fear or sadness that troubled me. It was my first experience of the kind of love God has for His children.
Thank you for your continued love throughout my adult life. You have accepted and loved my wife as a daughter, and you have been to my children the kind of grandmother I always knew you would be. Thank you for moving here to be close to them and to us. We are truly blessed to have you in our lives.
My Mother-In-Law
Thank you for raising such a wonderful daughter. You planted within her a faith that is strong to this day, and that faith has saved our family more than once. You raised her to be a loving, courageous, and strong-willed woman who will do anything for her kids.
Thank you for welcoming me into your family. You made me feel at home and stood by me during my difficulties.
Thank you for being a wonderful grandmother to our children. You are always there for them and shower them with love.
My Wife
Thank you for being such a wonderful mother to my children. You are an amazing example of Christian self-sacrifice, always putting my needs and the needs of our children before your own. Your faith in God is an inspiration to your whole family.
Thank you for guiding me to the faith. Thank you for being the loving heart at the center of our family. Thank you for always seeming to know the right thing to say or do when one of our children is having difficulties. You are so insightful I sometimes wonder if you can read minds!
Thank you for managing motherhood, marriage, and business without batting an eye, even when the schedule seems impossible. Thank you for making the sacrifices necessary to see that our kids have never seen a daycare and that their mom is the first person they see when they walk out of school.
They are devoted to you in a way that humbles me.
The Blessed Virgin, My Heavenly Mother
Thank you for saying “Yes” to God, and bringing forth our savior, Jesus Christ. Thank you for raising Jesus and guiding Him as He grew and became a man.
Thank you for standing at the foot of the cross, and offering your motherly sorrow in union with Christ’s great sacrifice. Thank you for staying with the Apostles in the upper room, and helping them as they began our church.
Thank you for appearing to us La Salette, at Lourdes, at Fatima, and at so many other places. Thank you for the warnings and encouragements you brought.
Thank you for the rosary, and the scapular, and for listening to all our prayers.
Thank you for being Our Mother.

A Family Prayer to Jesus. Mary, and Joseph

My priest sent us this prayer. I liked it so much that I thought I would pass it on.

A PRAYER
FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY

Dear Lord, bless our family.
Be so kind as to give us the unity, peace,
and mutual love that You found in Your own family
in the little town of Nazareth.

Saint Joseph, bless the head of our family.
Obtain for him the strength,
the wisdom, and the prudence
he needs to support and direct those under his care.

Mother Mary, bless the mother of our family.
Help her to be pure and kind,
gentle and self-sacrificing.
For the more she resembles you,
the better will our family be.

Lord Jesus, bless the children of our family.
Help them to be obedient and devoted to their parents.
Make them more and more like You.
Let them grow, as You did,
in wisdom and age and grace before God and man.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
make our family and home more and more like Yours,
until we are all one family,
happy and at peace in our true home with You.

Amen.