Aha! We Are Universal!

9 Jul

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Our faith, a gift for all times, all peoples, from the hands of God.

The Nicene Creed—we’ve prayed it for years. The entire Church prays this creed during Mass. After all, we are indeed the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church—the universal Church founded by the Lord Jesus and spread throughout the world by the Apostles and their successors.

Last Sunday, I had a great “aha moment.” Standing next to me at Mass was a priest from Tanzania. As we prayed the creed, the universality of the Church hit me anew. I experienced a deep sense of communion and belonging with this priest.

We all believe this Creed, this truth given us by our good God. Millions of Catholics throughout the world profess this one faith. We live in different time zones, speak different languages, have different cultural histories, live under different governments, eat different cuisines (some of us hardly eating at all, some even starving to death)—yet we all believe.

Together, we believe.

I wonder what would happen, if at least ten percent of us would so confidently express this faith outside the church walls.

I wonder, too, what would happen if, in our own communities, we sought and experienced this kinship with people who seem to be different from us.

May the Holy Spirit speed the day.

 

 

Prayer: Living the Mystery

30 Jun

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Father Francis Martin, Scripture scholar and preacher, has been a great inspiration over the years. I’ve heard him at Catholic Press conventions and at the Priests, Deacons and Seminarians retreat at Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH.

We’ve shared breakfast many times during these retreats.

As often as I’ve heard him and chatted with him, one important bit of advice remains foremost in my mind.

Timely Advice

He was speaking about prayer and the difficulty to concentrate on prayers that we have prayed over and over again (for example, the Rosary and the Breviary).

His advice was, “Pray it slowly, out loud, and think about the words you are saying.”

That advice came in mighty handy recently when I realized I could pray the Hail Mary with attention, but not the Our Father. 

Why not?

Well, in the Hail Mary, it is so easy to become present to the mystery. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you”—right from Scripture, the angel Gabriel addressing our Blessed Mother. And then, “Blessed are you among women”—again, right from familiar Scripture, as Elizabeth greets Mary at the visitation.

But for me, trying to pray the Our Father was difficult. The Father is pure spirit. How can I touch, come to know intimately that pure spirit who is the Father?

One day, I recalled what another priest, the late Father Roger Moag, told me. He was my spiritual director back in Louisiana. I had complained about not being able to draw near to the Father.

He said, “Don’t worry about it. Just concentrate on Jesus and you will come to know the Father.”

It’s Taken a Bit of Time

Well, it’s taken many years to bring those two priestly suggestions together, along with that wonderful request of the Apostles: “Lord, teach us to pray.”

That’s when Christ Jesus gave us this magnificent prayer.

So, one day not too long ago, I said to Jesus, “Lord, teach me to pray. Pray with me your prayer to the Father.”

So, putting myself in the presence of Jesus, and letting his grace guide me, I prayed the Lord’s Prayer—slowly, savoring each word and phrase, asking the Father to help me bridge the gap of my doubts or unbelief or whatever was my hang-up.

And,  as Scripture says, “it came to pass” that I was able to enter more deeply into this perfect prayer given us by Christ, the Son of God, who is God, co-equal with the Father and the Spirit.

Here are some of the “pearls” of grace I’ve received by praying the Lord’s Prayer, slowly and deliberately:

            Our Father who art in heaven: God is everywhere, so heaven is everywhere. I need only to let the Father into my heart and I have heaven in me. I am one with God, with all my loved ones here and hereafter.  I am his adopted child. With Jesus and in Jesus, I am one with the Father, one with our God.

            Thy will be done: What indeed does this mean? What is God’s essential will for you and for me? Think back. Think of how God created man and woman—pure, undefiled and able to know him and love him. That is God’s will for us now. That’s why he sent Jesus into the world, to close the chasm between himself and us, that terrible chasm created by the sin of our first parents.

            And lead us not into temptation: Surely God does not lead us into temptation. It happens and he permits it. He permits it because he wants us to love him freely, to choose him over self, to embrace him and his truth willingly.

It has been said that every occasion of sin is an occasion of grace. You may want to take the advice of Bert Ghezzi, my dear friend: When you are between a rock and a hard place, prayer fervently:  

“O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me.”

Or, maybe something as simple as this:

Jesus, save me!

 

The Good News About Sex

22 Jun

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It frequently seems that people today have lost their way to true happiness. Love, deep and true love, is possible and the only road to happiness. 

 Just look at commercials on television. I don’t care what’s being advertised—cars, vitamins, diet programs, hair coloring, clothing or whatever. Too much of the time, the appeal is sex appeal: You buy or use this product and you’ll be irresistible to the opposite sex.

The problem is this: Sex sells. It sells because our society has become ignorant of the mystery and wonder of human sexuality. It’s all about sexual “freedom,” and personal pleasure.

Forget about total commitment. Forget about true love—oh, but it is said, “We do love each other.”

St. Josemaria Escriva said that only a chaste man and woman can experience true love.

You see, true love is sacrificial. It’s what marriage is all about: “I die to self for your sake,” say man and woman in marriage. Otherwise, it is not really a solid marriage. Without that total gift of self you cannot claim to love truly and completely. Our Lord said that the greatest sign of love is that you are willing to die for another (Jn 15:3). And that’s what marriage and true love is all about: “I die to self for you.”

You have to die a little, to live and love a lot. Invitations to “little deaths” arise every day—overlooking a remark that suggests an angry rebuke; sharing chores when you are ready to rest; caring for your friends’ baby while they are out playing golf; sitting up all night with your loved one who is ill; living chastely while the world urges you to commit adultery or practice artificial birth control.

And the list could go on.

I’m reminded of “The Good News About Sex,” a book written many years ago by Father David Knight, a long-time friend. It would be worth reading today by parents and teens.

Sex is sacred. It is given to us by God. Chaste sexual love between a husband and wife is one way of dying to self—you each become totally vulnerable to the other, seeking mutual self-giving. And, second, and by no means least, God’s gift of marital love is for the procreation of children. The bearing and rearing of children, by loving faith-filled parents, is a holy sign of God’s unending love, of the Church as a community of Eucharistic love—that love which dies to self for the sake of the other.

You can’t claim Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, or honestly claim to be Christian, if you reject out of hand his authority and teaching and that of his Church.

Children are a burden and blessing. So was the Cross of Christ. My wife and I thank God for the family he has given us: seven children, twenty-one grandchildren and, so far, thirty-three great-grandchldren.

No wonder that Planned Parenthood hasn’t drafted us as a poster family!

 

 

Mixed-Up Pelosi

20 Jun

 

 

It's time for Catholics to come in for a check-up.

 Going nowhere fast.

 Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi ignored the constitutional right to free speech when she wrote San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone “that he should not attend” the National Organization for Marriage’s (NOM) June 19 march in Washington D.C.  (Information from www.briebart.com).

The NOM is dedicated to promoting and defending the scriptural and, therefore, Christian view of marriage as being between one man and one woman.

Pelosi, a Catholic, noted that there would probably be vicious signs and calls directed toward gays and, therefore, the event would be “venom masquerading as virtue.”

There you have it!

Could it be that citizens, who are committed Christians, do not have the right to address any social or legislative issue, but their opponents do? Where is Pelosi when anti-life protesters angrily and venomously viciously  picket pro-life events and speakers?

She spoke with a double standard that surely does not square with the Church she claims as her own, nor with the Constitution of the United States.

But maybe that’s her problem—claiming the Church as her own rather than that of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6).

Maybe Pelosi needs to revisit the Scriptures: 20), and Mt 18:18).

And, as a Catholic, she may want to revisit the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”—or maybe pick it up for the first time.

 

 

What About the Will?

8 Jun

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Trying the discover what makes you tick?

 I am aware of three things that enable me to live as a rational being:  intellect, memory and will…

These three powers of mind and soul enable me to seek and understand truth, to recall the past and imagine the future and to decide what to do with what I know and understand–and to do so while foreseeing (imagining) possible ramifications for my decisions.

Your intellect and imagination are constantly bombarded with information, sales pitches, and invitations to this or that powerful lifestyle and to this or that gimmick which will really make you happy and popular.

Consider the stimuli we encounter every day–movies, Facebook,  iPads and smart phones. We can even imagine being up at bat in the major leagues or making the winning touchdown at the Super Bowl.

For those blessed with deep faith, the intellect thirsts for God’s Word and will. The faithful one can even imagine, with God’s grace, being in the heart of God and reliving the ancient Scriptures in the present moment.

But, what about the will–that gift and power which enables us to make decisions and act upon them?

Your decisions in life depend on what you invite into your mind and your openness to possible ramifications for this or that decision. Right decisions–those that will give you peace of mind and happiness–depend on your willingness to seek all truth and the strength to decide for truth.

Your properly informed will enables you to decide for truth and it enables you to love purely and without compromise.

For, you see, love is a decision–the decision to do what’s right for the beloved.

We often pray, “Thy will be done.” What comes to mind? What is God’s will? How do we seek his will? How understand his will?

Unless we understand God’s will, we can never understand our own mind or imagine what true freedom and love are like and we can never make mature and good decisions.

When you say, “God, your will be done,” are you only asking that you accept and obey his commandments? Yes, that’s part of it. But there is more.

Go back to the Garden of Eden, before the sin of our first parents. Go back and see the splendor, peace, beauty and comfort of a world without sin, suffering, violence and family miseries.

Go back to the time when God walked with man and woman in the cool of the evening, to the time when Adam and Eve were comfortable in God’s presence.

That is God’s will manifested in the way he wanted us and the entire world to be–at peace with him and everyone else, loving him and everyone else, walking with him in the cool of the evening.

Jesus came to bring us back to the Father, to remind us of who we are supposed to be and how to become once more the kind of people the Father longs for us to be.

Yes, Lord, your will be done!

 

 

 

 

 

A lasting thought

29 May

 

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It was one of the nicest things I ever received. Our grandson got this for me while he was on his honeymoon. Imagine that! Thinking of his grandfather on his honeymoon.

Somehow this makes me understand better the bonds of love in a family. Love remains in us and part of us no matter where we are or what we do.

Love never dies!

Beauty Soothes, Like Music

28 May

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Silent, but beautiful. Soothing to heart and  soul, much like soft, captivating music. But silence is part of its beauty. God speaks to us in silence: “Be still and know that I am God.”

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