Saturday, November 5, 2011

Devotion for Saturday/Sunday: autumnal equinox

Autumnal Equinox

I am 97.

The easy chair has taken over my "walk-ability."
Silence is the only sound I hear apart from the friendly inquiry of a visitor who asks,
"What do you do all day long?"
My response today is:

Today, after my morning greeting to God,
I watched nature's herculean drama played out on its open tree-staged arena.
The tree leaves caught the unseen forces of a strong winter air current
 in an encounter with the sluggish hot current of summer air.
A battle ensued.

I could not see the air currents, but the tree leaves danced,
tossed and pivoted in the powerful presence
which bore the color-scripted scars of yellow, red and brown
 in testimony of the battle's intensity.
Meteorologists called this violent activity
a storm.

It absorbed my attention for three full hours.
I had become a part of this drama in which I experienced great delight.
So, while being caught up in a great burst of joy, I witnessed summer's defeat and autumn's triumph.

With it came the realization that movement brings change
and change carries us into the future.

That is what I did today.
Now it is almost tomorrow. 
Sister Lucille Walsh, O.S.F

This beautiful reflection was sent to me by a reader. Please do not hesitate to send me your own contributions.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Devotion for today: pride= number one deadly sin

Today we will start a series on the seven deadly sins, and the first is pride.

Scripture for meditation: Sirach 4:23
For the affliction of the proud man there is no cure; he is an offshoot of an evil plant.

Christ tells us: Luke 18:9-14
He then spoke this parable addressed to those who believed in their own self-righteousness while holding everyone else in contempt: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee with head unbowed prayed in this fashion: 'I give you thanks, O God, that I am not like the rest of men-grasping, crooked, adulterous - or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I  pay tithes on all I possess. The other man, however, kept his distance, not even daring to raise his eyes to heaven. All he did was beat his breast and say, 'O God, be merciful to me, a sinner." Believe me, this man went home from the temple justified but the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled while he who humbles himself shall be exalted."

C.S.Lewis tells us in Mere Christianity: There is not fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it in ourselves, the more we dislike it in others. The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit....According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride....the others are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind....How is it that people quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious? I am afraid it means they are worshipping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people.... If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.

Prayer: Offering of Self
Accept, O Lord, all my freedom. Accept my memory, my mind and all my will. Whatever I am or possess, you have graciously given me; I give it all back to you, to be completely governed by your will. Give me only your love and your grace and I am rich enough, and I ask nothing more. Amen. Catholic Prayers for Every Day and All Day, St. Anthony Messenger Press.

My thoughts: Pride is the deadliest sin there is. C.S. Lewis makes no bones about it. We are all filled with pride, and that is a bad thing. Is there hope for us? You bet there is, but we have to start by seeing what Christ tells us in His parable. No one who presents himself to God, thinking that he is as perfect as God, is going anywhere near heaven. Anyone who looks down on his fellow man, spends his day preaning his own feathers instead of humbly asking God for help, or strutting through life instead of examining his conscience is worthy of the callling of Christ. Sirach tells us there is no cure: it is so evil. Christ has come to deliver us from that evil, however, and by memorizing our Offering of Self and chanting it to God every time we feel our arm extending to pat ourselves on the back, we are one step closer to the antithesis of pride, and that is humility.

Your prayer to God:  God has a dream for each of us, but he cannot fulfill it if we are so convinced of our own ability and power to direct our own lives. Stand before the crucifix tonight, place your hand on Christ's crucified feet, and allow your will to flow out of you and onto the cross. Then relax, and let God's will fill the void. Repeat again and again, "Give me your love and your grace, and I am rich enough, and I ask nothing more."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Devotion for today: heaven, I'm in heaven

Scripture for meditation: 1 Corinthians 2:9
"Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love Him."

Christ tells us: John 17:24
"Father, all these you gave me, I would have in my company where I am, to see this glory of mine, which is your gift to me, because of the love you bore me before the world began."

Leo J. Trese, in the book Every Man's Road to Heaven, pictures our entrance into heaven:
Even by great leaps of the imagination, it is hard to conceive what it will be like to look upon God. He is infinitely lovable. This means that He will be irresistible. The very sight of Him will siphon love out of us as the heart of a tornado sucks the water from a lake over which it passes. Up from our very roots, up from our figurative toes love will rush out of us to God....At present we are like birds in a cage, who have no idea of their capacity for loving. There is no human being who is capable of calling forth our total capacity for loving, of completely exhausting our power to love. God, however, is precisely such a Being. To use the only term that seems to fit, we will explode with love as we look upon Him who is infinitely good, infinitely lovable.

Prayer: Jesus, you became an example of humility, obedience and patience, and preceded me on the way of life bearing Your Cross. Grant that, inflamed with Your love, I may cheerfully take upon myself the sweet yoke of Your Gospel together with the mortification of the Cross and follow You as a true disciple so that I may be united with you in heaven. Amen Prayers for All Occasions, 2009, Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

My thoughts: I remember standing in St. Peter's in Rome one day, looking up at the magnificent ceiling. Two angels were pulling back a curtain, and inside the "window" was a picture of Mary and the baby Jesus. I remember thinking that they were giving me a glimpse, a peek, into heaven. We get little glimpses of heaven throughout our lives, but nothing completes us. As St. Paul says, we cannot even imagine what God has prepared for us. Christ says He wants every single one of us with Him to see His glory, and Leo Trese feels we will explode with love when we do. Our prayer reminds us that the way to heaven is the Way of the Cross, yet we gladly bear the burden when we dare to dream of what awaits us in heaven.

Your prayer to God: It is time to realize that we must stop looking for the perfect person, place or thing that will make us happy here on earth, and realize that it only exists in heaven. Let us take time today to dream of our eternal home, and bask in the glow of the knowledge that we are working our way back to God! Then let us ask Him to give us the grace necessary to complete the trek.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pray for the Holy Souls

Today is All Souls Day, a beautiful tradition in the Church where we pray for all the souls in a state of  purgation, awaiting entry into the beatific vision.

Scripture for meditation: 2 Maccabees 12:43-46
Judas [the ruler of Israel] then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas,which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this, he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view, for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.

Christ says: John 14:1-6
Jesus said to His disciples: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God and faith in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places; otherwise, how could I have told you that I was going to prepare a place for you? I am indeed going to prepare a place for you, and then I shall come back to take you with me, that where I am you also may be. You know the way that leads where I go." "Lord," said Thomas, "we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Jesus told him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: 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 (1031). This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture (Maccabees). From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance on behalf of the dead: "Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice (Job1:5), why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them (St. John Chrysostom)(1032).

Prayer: St. Gertrude's Prayer for the poor souls, given to her in prayer by Our Lord:
"Eternal Father, I offer thee the most precious blood of thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the Universal Church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.”

 My thoughts: When she was a little girl, my daughter Lauren would always pray, " Dear Lord, please bless the poor souls in purgatory, and please let them remember me and how I prayed for them." At a very young age she perceived a truth of the Church, that the souls we (the Church militant) pray for in purgatory (the Church suffering) will pray for us when they are saints in heaven (the Church triumphant). This is the circle of life in our faith: one family in God, praying for each other. I recommend a wonderful book for anyone confused about purgatory, written by Susan Tassone, titled Praying With the Saints for the Souls in Purgatory. Please remember those who have gone before you: And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, Amen.

I have an extra excerpt for us today. It was written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, author of Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov:
Remember also, every day and whenever you can, repeat to yourself,
Lord have mercy on all who come before Thee today." For every hour and every moment thousands of people leave their life on this earth, and their souls appear before God. And so many of them depart alone, unknown, in sadness and sorrow that no one will mourn them, or even know whether they had lived or not. And so, perhaps from the other end of the earth, your prayer for their repose will rise up to God, though you did not know them, nor they you. How touching it must be to a soul, coming in fear before the Lord, to feel  at that moment, that someone is praying for him, too, that there is still a fellow creature on earth who loves him. And God will look upon you both with more mercy, for if you have so pitied him, how much more will He who is infinitely more merciful and loving than you. And He will forgive him for your sake. (The Book of Uncommon Prayer).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Devotion for today: Cross the finish line

Scripture for meditation: 2 Timothy 6-8
I for my part am already being poured out like a libation. The time of my dissolution is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on a merited crown awaits me; on that Day the Lord, just judge that He is, will award it to me- and not only to me, but to all who have looked for His appearing with eager longing.

Christ tells us: Matthew 25:32-46
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you? And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

St. Bernard reminds us in one of his sermons: Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us, above all else, a longing to enjoy their company.... In short, we long to be united in happiness with all the saints. But our dispositions change. The Church ...awaits us, but we do nothing about it. The saints want us to be with them, and we are indifferent. The souls of the just await us, and we ignore them....  We must rise again with Christ, we must seek the world which is above and set our mind on the things of heaven. Let us long for those who are longing for us, hasten to those who are waiting for us, and ask those who look for our coming to intercede for us. We should not only want to be with the saints, we should also hope to possess their happiness. While we desire to be in their company, we must also earnestly seek to share in their glory. Do not imagine that there is anything harmful in such an ambition as this; there is no danger in setting our hearts on such glory....Therefore, we should aim at attaining this glory with a wholehearted and prudent desire. That we may rightly hope and strive for such blessedness, we must above all seek the prayers of the saints. Thus, what is beyond our own powers to obtain will be granted through their intercession. 

Prayer: For All the Saints
For all the saints, from whom their labors rest,
who thee by faith, before the world confessed,
Thy name O Jesus, be forever blessed. Alleluia, Alleluia.

Thou wast their rock, their fortress and their might,
Thou, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight,
Thou, in the darkness, drear, their one true light. Alleluia, Alleluia.

O may thy soldiers, faithful true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them, the victor's crown of gold, Alleluia, Alleluia. (William W Howe)

My thoughts: I have attended a number of marathons and cheered my adult children to the finish line. It was a glorious feeling to see them complete the goal they had set for themselves; to see their rigid self-discipline and training pay off; to see the thrill of victory on their faces. I always asked them what kept them going when the cramps set in or the hills seemed insurmountable, and they always said the same thing. They had a goal, and they wanted to achieve it. We should picture our lives in this way. Our goal is heaven, and the saints are cheering us on. They are in heaven because they led disciplined lives, trained themselves to focus on God's requirements for good living and not the world's, and never, ever took their eyes off the finish line, where they would see God face to face in heaven. May we always pray to the saints to stay on the sidelines and cheer us on, and may a merited crown await us at the end of this life. Alleluia!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Devotion for today; the quiet man

The final saint in our series leading up to All Saints Day (tomorrow - holy day of obligation) is:

St. Joseph: Nothing is known of St. Joseph's early life. According to St. Matthew, his father's name was Jacob and he was from the house of King David. He was an upright man, a carpenter by trade. He was humble and obedient, listening to and acting upon the messages given to him by angels. These messages directed his relationship with Mary, his spouse, and the early events of Jesus' life. We know that he led Mary to Bethlehem in obedience to demands of the census, and was present at the birth and presentation of Jesus. When Herod wanted to kill Jesus, he fled with Jesus and Mary to Egypt, then settled in Nazareth.We know he searched "in sorrow" for Jesus when he was missing in the temple in Jerusalem. The last we hear of Joseph, Jesus had gone back to Nazareth with him and was obedient to him. He was the foster father of Jesus, chosen by God to care for and safeguard the Saviour of the world.

Scripture passage for meditation: Matthew: 1:18-21,24
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When His mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her husband, an upright man unwilling to expose her to the law, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream and said to him: "Joseph, son of David, have no fear about taking Mary as your wife. It is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this child. She is to have a son and you are to name him Jesus because He will save His people from their sins." When Joseph awoke he did as the angel of the Lord had directed him and received her into his home as his wife.

Scripture passage for reflection: Luke: 2:48-51
When His parents saw Him they were astonished, and His mother said to Him: "Son, why have you done this to us? You see that your father and I have been searching for you in sorrow." He said to them: "Why did you search for me? Did you not know I had to be in my Father's House?" But they did not grasp what He said to them. He went down with them then, and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother meanwhile kept all these things in her memory. Jesus, for His part, progressed steadily in wisdom and age and grace before God and men.

St. Teresa of Avila tells us: Would that I could persuade all men to be devoted to this saint (Joseph) for I know by long experience what blessings he can obtain for us from God. I have never know anyone who was truly devoted to him and honored him by particular services who did not advance greatly in virtue, for he helps, in a special way, those souls who commend themselves to him...I ask, for the love of God, that he who does not believe me will make the trial for himself, the he will find out by experience the great good that results from commending oneself to this glorious Patriarch and in being devoted to him. Autobiography, VI:11-12.

Prayer:  Ancient Prayer to St. Joseph for a happy death
Oh, St Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong,
so prompt before the throne of God,
I place in you all my interest and desires.
Oh, St Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession,
and obtain for me from your divine Son Jesus Christ
all spiritual blessings,

So that, having engaged your heavenly power here below,
I may offer my thanksgiving and praise to the most loving of Fathers.

Oh, St Joseph, I never grow weary contemplating you,
and Jesus asleep in your arms;
I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart.
Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me
and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath.
St Joseph, patron saint of departing souls - Pray for me. Amen.

My thoughts: St. Joseph was a quiet man. He gave no speeches, wrote no books, made no public appearance tours and held no public office or position in the synagogue. By worldly standards, he was just a simple carpenter; yet God chose him to be the foster father of His Son, Jesus Christ. In reading between the lines of the few Bible passages where he is mentioned, it becomes clear why God picked him. He was upright, humble, obedient, loving, caring, quick to action, and strong. He did not question the messengers from God, and he was not afraid to do what it took to protect his wife and child. We learn that Jesus grew in wisdom and grace under his parenting. He cared not for the limelight, yet he is the most beloved and honored saint in the church today. May we always follow his example, setting ourselves aside for the good of our families, and entrusting ourselves always to the word of God.

St. Joseph, pray for us, now, and at the hour of our death, amen.

St. Joseph's feast day is March 19.

St. Joseph is the patron saint, among other things, of carpenters, the Catholic Church, dying people, expectant mothers, families, fathers, holy death, house hunters, laborers, married people, and many, many more...