The evolution of prayer…

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It was just about a week ago, my pastor and I came up with the idea of sharing our prayer lives with the youth and young adults that will join us for our youth retreat that starts tomorrow. This weekend, at the introduction to the Diaconate program in the Archdiocese of Portland, that my wife and I attended, we were given the task of writing a paper about our Spiritual Life and how it has grown throughout our life. Since my wife and I have four kids, I decided to combine both projects. For the retreat, I will focus on the fact that my introduction to the faith was through the Mass, of course, but my sponsor was very fond of devotional prayer, like the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and the Rosary, so they formed a good part of my initial foray into prayer. After college, I attempted to keep up with the devotional practice, but was a pitiful failure for the most part. I would still find time to pray a rosary on occasion, and every once in a while including a Chaplet of Divine Mercy after the rosary. The funny thing is that looking back on the time of my faith life that I did not have a usual practice of prayer, it was mostly because I had gotten past the novelty of the fact that focusing on God was a different experience for me a couple of years after my introduction to devotional prayer. I had not yet figured out that there was not only a purpose of praying for the intercessory power of Mary and the Saints by devotional prayer, but there was a specific instruction that goes with each prayer. Not just a history, but an actual revelation from Jesus and Our Mother Mary to the Saints that received the message of Mercy and Love in the form of the devotions that were taught to me when the faith was passed on to me by my best friend and sponsor in the church all those many years back. Rather than go into the different stories that led to my deeper understanding of these devotions, I will just say that I am thankful for the grace that gave me a chance to grasp this deeper meaning of these devotions. (I will probably go into the different revelations that I was introduced to at different times over the past 20 years in the presentation that I will give at the youth retreat, and I will add that info here and include it in my paper that I was asked to write for the Diaconate program that is due September 20th.)
A major part of my growth in prayer was my journaling project that is chronicled on this blog, as well as some hard-backed journaling books that I used before starting this project. As I began, I was moved to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit to focus where I felt like God was speaking to me, and the fruits of the Holy Spirit to help me realize the ways the Holy Spirit was calling me to apply these gifts in my daily life. I would take part of the reading from our daily readings to journal on. It was a modified version of a Lectio Divina, before I even knew what a Lectio Divina was. I would finally write out a prayer that would come to me after I focused on the different parts of my journal. You can look back on the previous entries of this blog for a couple of years back to see the format. Eventually, my journaling evolved to include the Liturgy of the Hours prayers that I would also try and pray every morning. I have abandoned the old format in favor of a more spontaneous form of writing that I only do when I am inspired to do so. Unfortunately, this means I journal a lot less than I used to. As the project was evolving, I found myself finding time every day to make it to Mass on a more regular basis. I started out seeking out a Spiritual Director, to make sure I made it to the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a month. I realized quickly that once a month for Confession was not nearly enough, so I have recently suspended my Spiritual Direction in favor of a weekly or bi-weekly visit to the same priest that I was going to for Spiritual Direction, but instead opting for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I will be planning on making appointments with a new Spiritual Director soon, because it is part of the requirements of the Diaconate program, but also because it would be good to meet with someone about my spiritual life, especially during times of desolation.

Give up…

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How many times have we heard the phrase, “Just give it up.”  For me, when I hear it I am left with the thought of what would I give it up for.  Like, we give things up for the season of Lent, or we sacrifice by fasting to add power to our prayer, but this morning I came to the understanding that we need to give it all up, all the time.  Why?  Here is the Gospel reading for today…

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich
to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Again I say to you,
it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said,
“Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men this is impossible,
but for God all things are possible.”
Then Peter said to him in reply,
“We have given up everything and followed you.
What will there be for us?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you
that you who have followed me, in the new age,
when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory,
will yourselves sit on twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters
or father or mother or children or lands
for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more,
and will inherit eternal life.
But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

(Matthew 19:23-30)

As I listened to the homily from the Mass in Tampa, Florida this morning on the radio on the way to our communion service, I realized that the Lord is calling us to not be attached to anything other than God.  When are asked to give something up, it is just that.  We send it up to Heaven, and if it comes back to us, we need it to fulfill his will for us, but if we give it “up” and it never comes back, we don’t need it.  It seems right to re-post the First Principle and Foundation of the great Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order…

The human person is created to praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord, and by doing so, to save his or her soul.

All other things on the face of the earth are created for human beings in order to help them pursue the end for which they are created.

It follows from this that one must use other created things, in so far as they help towards one’s end, and free oneself from them, in so far as they are obstacles to one’s end.

To do this, we need to make ourselves indifferent to all created things, provided the matter is subject to our free choice and there is no other prohibition.

Thus, as far as we are concerned, we should not want health more than illness, wealth more than poverty, fame more than disgrace, a long life more than a short one, and similarly for all the rest, but we should desire and choose only what helps us more towards the end for which we are created.

Lord make me into a new creation and let me let go and give everything “up” to you.

The Assumption of The Blessed Virgin Mary…

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We are told that if we assume anything, we should break down that word and expect the results that come from the break down of the word, ass-u-me!  Today, we celebrate that assumption that sanctifies that word and gives it a whole new meaning.  When God chose to assume Mary into Heaven, he decided to make you and me holy.  

How does this work?  In my understanding of the assumption of Mary into Heaven, it is meant to be a sign of the fact that God calls all people to holiness and much like the prophet Elijah and Enoch of the Old Testament, we could be assumed into Heaven as well.  I don’t think I am supposed to completely understand what that looks like for all of his faithful people that end their life on earth in rather worldly fashion.  Like Saint Maximillian Kolbe, who’s body was burnt after being killed at Auschwitz.  However, I know that there are signs of this promise in the preserved bodies of Saint Bernedette and Saint John XXIII.  

To me, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a miraculous sign of the glorious body that will be restored to all those faithful people that make their life a gift to God.  How that works in God’s time and space, we will not know until we get to Heaven.  It is the 6th chapter of John’s Gospel that we hear in Jesus’ words that the future that he has planned for those that eat his flesh is incorruptibility.  He says, “Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”  (John 6:49-51)  Also, he says, “What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?”  

I can hear the church saying today, “What about when you see the Mother of God assumed into heaven?”  It is only necessary for us to believe that Jesus was willing to give us his flesh to eat in the form of bread and receive the free gift of grace that comes with the eating of that bread, and we can have the sure hope of being assumed into heaven at the end of the age.  What form our bodies take until then, is up to the will of God, but I will hold on to the hope that comes from the understanding of the celebration in the church today.  God wills for some of us to be assumed into heaven and to be incorruptible.

 

Why am I here?

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If I am to take seriously the First Principle and Foundation, I must accept all that this phrase means…

The human person is created to praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord, and by doing so, to save his or her soul.

All other things on the face of the earth are created for human beings in order to help them pursue the end for which they are created.

It follows from this that one must use other created things, in so far as they help towards one’s end, and free oneself from them, in so far as they are obstacles to one’s end.

To do this, we need to make ourselves indifferent to all created things, provided the matter is subject to our free choice and there is no other prohibition.

Thus, as far as we are concerned, we should not want health more than illness, wealth more than poverty, fame more than disgrace, a long life more than a short one, and similarly for all the rest, but we should desire and choose only what helps us more towards the end for which we are created.

The last sentence of the First Principle and Foundation refers back to the first sentence.  I must remember that I am created to praise, reverence, and serve God and all the stuff that I have in my life will be used for that purpose, as long as I can remember that I am created for that purpose.  Also, I will not worry about the things that I think I need, because if I really need them, I will have them.  If I don’t need them, I will no longer have them.

Thanks to Saint Ignatius of Loyola for providing this understanding of the purpose of our creation and Colton Dixon for the reminder to choose more of God and less of our own will…Saint Ignatius, pray for us!

Are we counting the cost?

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In the Gospel today we recount two of the parables that we heard on Sunday.  We are reminded again that the kingdom of heaven is more valuable than anything, and when we find it, we will want to possess it, not sell it or trade it for anything else.  It is my hope that today, my life will be an example of these two parables.  I want to not only buy the pearl of great price, for whatever it costs, but I will gladly sell all I have to buy the field that the treasure is buried in.  I want to let everyone I meet see the pearl, and those that have never seen the treasure will most certainly be invited to the field to see where it is buried.

I think I like the treasure parable better, because it gives me a sense of security knowing that the treasure is buried and that would make it difficult for someone to come along to steal it away.  I imagine that if the merchant bought the pearl of great price, he would know where to keep it to safeguard it against robbers, as well.  I don’t believe this is the meaning of this parable, because I am meeting with the young adults from our parish tonight and I will remind them of the fact that Jesus is telling us that we must be willing to give everything to God, and be confident that he will give us stewardship over the things that he knows will benefit our lives as people of the kingdom.  However, I can’t help thinking about the way that we should safeguard the prize that is the kingdom of heaven.  For me, the idea that I believe I have been told to treasure these things in my heart, is just the safeguard that Jesus intends to insure the kingdom will not be stolen away, and it is Jesus’ heart that will daily make itself available to me, so that I will not uncover the treasure and let it be stolen away.

The title of my post today is a reference to all those people, including myself, who would worry about what I would have to get rid of, to afford the cost of the kingdom of heaven. I should not count the cost, but confidently give everything away in the knowledge that God will return to me what I need and the things I never see again, were not compatible with someone who possessed the kingdom of heaven in his heart.

Dancing in the minefield…Be with us Lord!

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As I was heading in to our Communion Service at Saint Alice Church this morning, this song moved me. It was initially the lyric at the beginning of the song that said that they had been married for 15 years, but then the idea of seeing our lives as dancing in the minefields, and ultimately,  the promise of God’s eternal presence to sustain us. Today, we remember Saint Martha as the friend of Jesus who was busy about the work of hospitality and wondered why Mary wasn’t being asked to be busy like her. She was told that Mary was about the work that sustains us for eternity, so she was to be left alone. However, she was also given a chance to completely redeem her ignorance by proclaiming the truth of who Jesus is and how he will be with us until the end, at the resurrection of her brother Lazarus.

She said to him, “Yes, Lord.

I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,

the one who is coming into the world.” John 11:27

The being with us until the end says to me, what the song says…We will be able to live out our lives confident in the promise that God will be with us…The presence of Jesus is our for the asking, and we should be asking, right?…In the Sacrament of the Eucharist and Confession, we need only believe and repent, and we will have him forever!

Saint Martha, pray for us!

The heart knows…

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As I prayed before heading to Mass yesterday, my daughter told me she wanted to draw some hearts with me on some paper. Of course, the fact that she asked me to draw hearts on the day we celebrated the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the day before we remember the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary was pretty cool.
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However, as I sit here waiting to take my son to confession at 3pm today, I can’t help thinking about how we know that the heart is not capable of controlling our emotions, we still see the heart as the center of our feelings. The truth is that feelings and emotions are controlled by the brain, but we attribute them to the heart because of the revelation that comes to us from God about the heart of Jesus and also the heart of Mary, the Mother of God.
There are a few stories about Eucharistic Miracles that have been shown to be the flesh from the heart muscle when examined by laboratories, and to me this is God’s way of revealing that it does not matter what we know the heart’s function in our physical body is, it’s spiritual function is to give and receive mercy and compassion.
My prayer during the Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was to give me a heart, like Jesus’ Sacred Heart. I also asked for true repentance for my sins. Amen!