Daily homily thoughts, 3/23

Beautiful words from Fr. Tertullian in today’s Matins, from an ancient treatise he wrote on prayer:

Of old, prayer was able to rescue from fire and beasts and hunger, even before it received its perfection from Christ. How much greater then is the power of Christian prayer. No longer does prayer bring an angel of comfort to the heart of a fiery furnace, or close up the mouths of lions, or transport to the hungry food from the fields. No longer does it remove all sense of pain by the grace it wins for others. But it gives the armor of patience to those who suffer, who feel pain, who are distressed. It strengthens the power of grace, so that faith may know what it is gaining from the Lord, and understand what it is suffering for the name of God.

In the past prayer was able to bring down punishment, rout armies, withhold the blessing of rain. Now, however, the prayer of the just turns aside the whole anger of God, keeps vigil for its enemies, pleads for persecutors. Is it any wonder that it can call down water from heaven when it could obtain fire from heaven as well? Prayer is the one thing that can conquer God. But Christ has willed that it should work no evil, and has given it all power over good.

Its only art is to call back the souls of the dead from the very journey into death, to give strength to the weak, to heal the sick, to exorcise the possessed, to open prison cells, to free the innocent from their chains. Prayer cleanses from sin, drives away temptations, stamps out persecutions, comforts the fainthearted, gives new strength to the courageous, brings travelers safely home, calms the waves, confounds robbers, feeds the poor, overrules the rich, lifts up the fallen, supports those who are falling, sustains those who stand firm.

All the angels pray. Every creature prays. Cattle and wild beasts pray and bend the knee. As they come from their barns and caves they look out to heaven and call out, lifting up their spirit in their own fashion. The birds too rise and lift themselves up to heaven: they open out their wings, instead of hands, in the form of a cross, and give voice to what seems to be a prayer.

What more need be said on the duty of prayer? Even the Lord himself prayed. To him be honor and power for ever and ever. Amen.

Daily homily thoughts, 3/3

Today, on this First Friday as we venerate the Sacred Heart of our Lord, I can do no better than the words of Saint John Chrysostom.  These words from an ancient sermon of his are part of Matins today.  As he talks about the spirit, we might think about the human heart.  Prayer is all about our heart’s reaching out to God, about our hearts being enlarged–during meditation and during the duties of the heart, named below.  As the third paragraph below insists, prayer is a longing in the heart–not just words.  Here’s St John Chrysostom on prayer:

Our spirit should be quick to reach out toward God, not only when it is engaged in meditation; at other times also, when it is carrying out its duties, caring for the needy, performing works of charity, giving generously in the service of others, our spirit should long for God and call him to mind, so that these works may be seasoned with the salt of God’s love, and so make a palatable offering to the Lord of the universe. Throughout the whole of our lives we may enjoy the benefit that comes from prayer if we devote a great deal of time to it.

Prayer is the light of the spirit, true knowledge of God, mediating between God and man. The spirit, raised up to heaven by prayer, clings to God with the utmost tenderness; like a child crying tearfully for its mother, it craves the milk that God provides. It seeks the satisfaction of its own desires, and receives gifts outweighing the whole world of nature.

Prayer stands before God as an honored ambassador. It gives joy to the spirit, peace to the heart. I speak of prayer, not words. It is the longing for God, love too deep for words, a gift not given by man but by God’s grace. The apostle Paul says: We do not know how we are to pray but the Spirit himself pleads for us with inexpressible longings.


“Pray always without becoming weary”: A homily for the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

380e2-prayerOur readings today tell us that we must not grow weary in our lives of prayer.

The devil likes to attack us when we are tired. We must be on guard, in prayer.

Case in point: Moses in our first reading has his hands extended. It is a symbol of prayer, to extend your hands. It is why we priests extend our hands, and why folks at Christian music concerts naturally lift up and wave their hands.  Whenever Moses became tired, his hands dropped and the enemy began to win. But when his hands were extended, when he was praying, “Israel had the better of the fight.”

We must not grow tired in our lives of prayer.

How many of us spend more time on social media than on our lives of faith, than in prayer?

I have a vivid memory. When I was in sixth grade, I was on my bunk bed. I promised God I would pray every night before going to bed. (Of course, the practice had been habituated into me by my parents for my whole childhood–a reminder that the most important thing a parent does is teach his or her child friendship with God, how to pray.) God has helped me be faithful to my sixth grade promise.

We must pray every day.

There are so many ways to pray. Msgr is talking about the rosary today. The second reading talks about scripture. Those are two big helps to pray.

But I want to reflect with you about the four categories of Christian prayer. They spell CAPT, like the abbreviation of captain.

C – Contrition. With contrition, we come face to face with our sins. In the presence of the Lord, we consider our sins. There is virtue in sitting with our sins, looking squarely at them for a while. Because I think an awful lot of the time we just sin and move on, without thinking another time about it until the next time we do the same sin. The more we think about the times we’ve messed up, about how we hurt God and others, the less likely we will be to do it again.

A – Adoration. We adore God. God is always doing miracles. We adore him. Creation, the sacraments, the people in our lives; God has outdone himself. We adore him for it all. The other day I was at school bus school, just because I have this ridiculous desire to drive a bus. (Plus it will come in handy…) But at the end of the class, a woman came up and mentioned simply seeing a priest in the class made her realize it’s time to come back to church. We adore God for hatching up such wonderful plots! Who knows? Maybe a soul ill be saved because of my desire to drive a bus. God is doing miracles everywhere. We adore him for it all.

P – Petition. With petition, we pray with all our hearts for people. Msgr and I both have big lists of people we pray for. Lots of names on these lists. We should pray for people, lift them up to God. One day we will see how much good our prayers did for others. It will be beautiful!  We pray also for the suffering folks. I’ve been praying a lot for Haiti lately. And during this respect life month for an end to abortion. We petition God for these things. He answers in his way, and on his clock.

T – Thanksgiving. We thank God for all his blessings, for all the graces we have in our world and lives. We are deeply, deeply blessed. God is so good to us. Someone once suggested that, if a person utters only one prayer in his life–‘thank you’–it might just be enough. There is power in gratitude. And gratitude will change the world.

So I want to encourage you to do something new in prayer. Each day we ought to do a little of all four of those categories–some contrition, adoration, petition, and thanksgiving. A good way to do a holy hour (people often wonder what to do in one), is to do 15 minutes of each. And maybe the petition part we pray a rosary for people. Maybe during the thanksgiving part we read a psalm. But let’s shake up our lives of prayer a bit, let’s find some way before we leave Mass today that we might do something new in prayer. Maybe you pray ten minutes a day. Make it fifteen. Maybe you come to Mass each Sunday. What about a daily Mass? Maybe you haven’t given God much time recently in prayer; fix that. What if you commit to a holy hour in our adoration chapel?

Let’s thank God for the rich tradition of Christian prayer we have at our disposal, and for the Holy Spirit who helps us to pray from within!

Some wisdom from St. Josemaria Escriva

msgr_josemaria_escriva200Today the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, founder of Opus Dei.  He has written several books. The only one I’ve read is Christ Passing by, and I highlighted about every line. I thought I might share a few of his wonderful words here.

  • “Have confidence. Return. Invoke Our Lady and you’ll be faithful.”
  • “You don’t know how to pray? Put yourself in God’s presence and as soon as you’ve said, ‘Lord, I don’t know how to pray,’ you can be sure that you’ve already begun.”
  • “To be happy, what you need is not an easy life but a heart that is in love.”
  • “Get rid of that ‘small-town’ outlook. Enlarge your heart till it becomes universal, ‘Catholic.’ Don’t flutter about like a hen when you can soar to the heights of an eagle.”
  • “He did not say you would not be troubled, you would not be tempted, you would not be distressed. But he did say you would not be overcome.”
  • “I am asked for very little compared to how much I am being given.”

Why I pray for people and for vocations

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“We must take the power of prayer on faith. We shall never know till the last day all the answers there have been to our prayers, nor how they have told upon the Church for hundreds and hundreds of years.

“Look, for example, at St. Stephen’s prayer, when he was stoned to death. It obtained the conversion of St. Paul, who was holding the clothes of Stephen’s murderers. Only think of all St. Paul has done, and continues to do daily, and will go on doing till the end of the world…

“So, perhaps, somebody asks the prayers of the Confraternity [so that] obstacles to his vocation to the religious life or the ecclesiastical state may be removed, and it is granted some Friday evening to our prayers. He becomes a priest: he saves hundreds of souls; these souls save others, some by becoming priests themselves, some by becoming nuns, some by becoming holy fathers and mothers in the world; and so the prayer goes on spreading and spreading, and may very likely be found actually at work in the dead of that night when all the earth will be awakened to see our Lord coming in the east.

“Thus you must not look too much to visible fruits and to public results.”

Father Frederick Faber, C.O.
All for Jesus
Page 18

A Severe Mercy

“Christianity now appeared intellectually stimulating and aesthetically exciting. The personality of Jesus emerged from the Gospels with astonishing consistency. Whenever they were written, they were written in the shadow of a personality so tremendous that Christians who may never have seen him knew him utterly: that strange mixture of unbearable sternness and heartbreaking tenderness. No longer did the Church appear only a disreputable congeries of quarreling sects: now we saw the Church, splendid and terrible, sweeping down the centuries with anthems and shining crosses and steady-eyed saints.”
“In the course of a discussion about the efficacy of prayer, he made the point that it was altogether healthier to find yourself being used as the answer to someone else’s prayer.”

Sheldon Vanauken
A Severe Mercy