Saturday, February 11, 2012

Devotion for today: Our Lady of Lourdes

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, which commemorates Our Lady's appearances to St. Bernadette. They began on February 11, 1858. On March 25th she identified herself thusly: "I am the Immaculate Conception." Only four years earlier, iIneffabilis Deus” December 8, 1854, Pius XI  pronounced that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of  original sin."


This prayer was said during the Holy Father's August 15, 2004 visit to Lourdes, France. The Pope asked her among other things to "be our guide along the paths of the world."

 Hail Mary, poor and humble Woman, Blessed by the Most High! Virgin of hope, dawn of a new era, We join in your song of praise, to celebrate the Lord’s mercy, to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom and the full liberation of humanity.

Hail Mary, lowly handmaid of the Lord, Glorious Mother of Christ! Faithful Virgin, holy dwelling-place of the Word, Teach us to persevere in listening to the Word, and to be docile to the voice of the Spirit, attentive to his promptings in the depths of our conscience and to his manifestations in the events of history.

Hail Mary, Woman of sorrows, Mother of the living! Virgin spouse beneath the Cross, the new Eve, Be our guide along the paths of the world. Teach us to experience and to spread the love of Christ, to stand with you before the innumerable crosses on which your Son is still crucified.

Hail Mary, woman of faith, First of the disciples! Virgin Mother of the Church, help us always to account for the hope that is in us, with trust in human goodness and the Father’s love. Teach us to build up the world beginning from within: in the depths of silence and prayer, in the joy of fraternal love, in the unique fruitfulness of the Cross.

Holy Mary, Mother of believers, Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Devotion for today: why should I fear the Lord?

Our last question is this: What is fear of the Lord?

Scripture for meditation: Joshua 24:14
“Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve him completely and sincerely.”

 Christ tells us: Matthew 10:26, 28
 Therefore do not be afraid of them. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.

Pope Benedict XVII tells us: … we find two invitations from Jesus: on the one hand to "have no fear" of human beings, and on the other, to "fear" God (cf. Mt 10: 26, 28). We are thus encouraged to reflect on the difference that exists between human fears and the fear of God. Fear is a natural dimension of life. In childhood we experience forms of fear that subsequently are revealed to be imaginary and disappear; other fears emerge later which are indeed founded in reality: these must be faced and overcome with human determination and trust in God. However, especially today, there is a deeper form of fear of an existential type and which sometimes borders on anguish: it is born from a sense of emptiness, linked to a certain culture permeated with widespread theoretical and practical nihilism.  In the face of the broad and diversified panorama of human fears, the Word of God is clear: those who "fear" God "are not afraid". Fear of God, which the Scriptures define as "the beginning of knowledge" coincides with faith in him, with sacred respect for his authority over life and the world. To be without "fear of God" is equivalent to putting ourselves in his place, to feeling we ourselves are lords of good and evil, of life and death. Instead, those who fear God feel within them the safety that an infant in his mother's arms feels (cf. Ps 130: 2). Those who fear God are tranquil even in the midst of storms for, as Jesus revealed to us, God is a Father full of mercy and goodness. Those who love him are not afraid: "There is no fear in love", the Apostle John wrote, "but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love" (1 Jn 4: 18). Believers, therefore, are not afraid of anything because they know they are in the hands of God, they know that it is not evil and the irrational which have the last word, but rather that the one Lord of the world and of love is Christ, the Word of God Incarnate, who loved us to the point of sacrificing himself for us, dying on the Cross for our salvation. The more we grow in this intimacy with God, imbued with love, the more easily we overcome any form of fear. In the passage of today's Gospel, Jesus repeats several times the exhortation to have no fear. Jesus reassures us, as he reassured the Apostles and as he did St. Paul by appearing to him one night in a vision at a particularly difficult moment in his preaching: "Do not be afraid", he said, "for I am with you" (Acts 18: 9). (Angelus Address, St Peter's Square, Sunday, 22 June 2008)

Prayer: Psalm 27:1
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?

My thoughts: As I recently learned in my parish Bible study class, fear of the Lord means reverence for the Lord, respect for His power and authority. Pope Benedict XVI tells us that having fear of the Lord is the opposite of being afraid of Him. Only those people who believe that they are their own gods have anything to fear. We, on the other hand, can rest secure in God’s arms, knowing that “Perfect Love casts out fear.” How beautiful is that!!

Our prayer to God: Let’s let God speak to us in this beautiful song: Click on "Listen on You Tube"

I will come to you in the silence
I will lift you from all your fear
You will hear My voice
I claim you as My choice
Be still, and know I am near

I am hope for all who are hopeless
I am eyes for all who long to see
In the shadows of the night,
I will be your light
Come and rest in Me

Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine

I am strength for all the despairing
Healing for the ones who dwell in shame
All the blind will see, the lame will all run free
And all will know My name

Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine

I am the Word that leads all to freedom
I am the peace the world cannot give
I will call your name, embracing all your pain
Stand up, now, walk, and live

Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Devotion for today: I do believe, help my unbelief

Our fourth question this week is: How much does religion require of me? How much effort does it take to believe?

Scripture for today: Acts 2:42, 46-47 (The early Christian community)
They remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of the bread. They went as a body to the Temple every day but met in their houses for the breaking of bread; they shared their food gladly and generously; they praised God and were looked up to by everyone.

Christ tells us: John 15:4
“Make your home in me, as I make mine in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, but must remain part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me.”

Christoph Cardinal Schonborn tells us: Karl Barth (d. 1968) the great twentieth-century Protestant theologian, said in the days of his youth that religion is idolatry. That sounds very radical. What did he mean by that? He meant that when religion is one sphere of life, a hollow, gilded, Sunday sphere wrapped in tinsel, then it becomes idolatry…. One may rightly contrast with that what “believing” means in the Bible. Believing, at its most profound, means total sacrifice. Thomas Aquinas defines religion as… “Dedicating, sacrificing or surrendering oneself completely to God”. Then the question naturally arises, “Can that be done?”…. What does it mean, that religion imposes a total claim on a man, so to speak, and is no longer limited to a little sphere on Sunday? Religion is the fundamental axis on which life turns, the primal link between man and God. And if you understand religion that way, then religion turns out to be something constitutive for man. If I start from the assumption that man has been created by God, then this fundamental relationship with God is, so to speak, the pivotal point in life, the umbilical cord linking us to the origin and goal…. The question is only: is religion something like the basic melody of my life? Is it the existential, the fundamental determination of my life? Is it a kind of horizon within which everything in my life happens, whether consciously or unconsciously? One thing we can certainly say: Religion cannot be just a small sphere to which I give my attention for an hour on Sundays, and, apart from that, I behave as if there were no God (Who Needs God? Barbara Stockl in Conversation with Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, Ignatius Press, 2009).

Prayer: Lord, as daylight fills the sky, fill us with your holy light. May our lives mirror our love for you, whose wisdom has brought us into being and whose care guides us on our way. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God for ever and ever(concluding prayer, Week III, Wednesday Morning Prayer, Liturgy of the Hours).

My thoughts: I think Cardinal Schonborn gives a brilliant explanation for the “role” religion plays in our lives.  He makes it very clear that religion, what I profess to believe, is the basis of my entire life: all my decisions, my actions, my very thoughts come from the core of my being which is what I say I believe. I cannot profess that I believe in God and then proceed to break His commandments. I cannot say that I love God and then turn my back on my neighbor. I cannot say that I am a Catholic and then proceed to choose the parts of the faith that are most convenient for me. Can people say of us, as they did the early Christians, “They praised God and were looked up to by everyone”? Christ tells us that we cannot bear fruit unless we remain in Him. He left us His Church, where we can be nourished and blessed, and remain in Him through the Mass, sacraments and teachings. We must work hard to defend this beautiful religion, and all it stands for, so that no man can cut us off from the vine. Live, breathe and profess your faith proudly. Be the light that guides those around you to the life of Christ.

Our prayer to God: Today is a good time to take inventory on our attitude toward our religion. Is it the axis on which our life revolves? Do we check our actions, morals, and ethics against the code God gave us? Remember, if we don’t stand for something, we stand for nothing. Let us decide today to stand up and be counted as people of God. Amen, alleluia!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Devotion for today: Do not blaspheme against the Holy Spirit

Our question for today is: Why is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit an unforgivable sin?

 Scripture for meditation: Matthew 12:30-31
“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. That, I assure you, is why every sin, every blasphemy, will be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. “

Scripture for clarification: John 14:16-17
“I will ask the Father and he will give you another Paraclete – to be with you always; the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, since it neither sees him nor recognizes him; but you can recognize him because he remains with you and will be within you.”

Father William Saunders, PhD., tells us: So what about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as an unforgivable sin? First, remember what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit. He identified the Holy Spirit as “the Paraclete,” meaning advocate, comforter, and guide, who instructs us and reminds us of all that Our Lord taught us. The Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of Truth, God’s eternal, immutable truth to which we pattern our own lives. (Cf. John 14:16-27; 16:7-14). As the Paraclete and Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit conveys the grace to enlighten our consciences to judge what is right versus what is wrong and strengthens our wills to do good and avoid evil. The Holy Spirit also moves us to examine our consciences, and reflect on what we have done or what we have failed to do. In this task, the Holy Spirit also moves us to conversion, helping us to recognize when we have turned away from the Lord through sin, and moving us to turn back to Him with a contrite and humble heart. Through the Holy Spirit, forgiveness is conveyed and the truth and love of the Lord is restored in our souls…. To blaspheme the Holy Spirit, according to our Holy Father, (John Paul II) “does not properly consist in offending against the Holy Spirit in words; it consists rather in the refusal to accept the salvation which God offers to man through the Holy Spirit working through the power of the cross” (Dominum et Vivificantem,#46). Such blasphemy is to reject the Holy Spirit, to refuse radically to recognize sin and repent of it, and to block the healing and forgiveness offered by the Lord. So the sin is not unforgivable because of its seriousness, but because the sinner lacks the proper disposition to seek forgiveness and thereby to be forgiven. As St. Thomas Aquinas said, “…It excludes the elements through which the forgiveness of sin takes place.” How can the Lord forgive us and reconcile us to a sharing in His life if we refuse to recognize the sin as a sin and to say, “Please forgive me, Lord, for I have sinned against you and my neighbor?”This “hardness of heart” leads to a sustained and firm rejection of the love and mercy of God, which in turn leads to damnation. (Straight Answers, Cathedral Foundation Press, 1998)

Prayer: Come Holy Ghost, (text by Rabanus Maurus)
Come Holy Ghost, Creator Blest, and in our hearts take up Thy rest; come with Thy grace and heav'nly aid, to fill the hearts which Thou hast made, to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.
O Comfort Blest to Thee we cry, Thou heav'nly Gift of God most high; Thou fount of life and fire of love,
And sweet anointing from above, And sweet anointing from above.

Praise be to Thee Father and Son, And Holy Spirit Three in one; and may the Son on us bestow
the gifts that from the Spirit flow, the gifts that from the Spirit flow.

My thoughts: Father Saunders has given us such a good explanation of this complex question. We are the ones who condemn ourselves to an eternity in God’s absence by refusing every offer made by the Holy Spirit to turn our hearts of stone into hearts of mercy and love. A priest once told me that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit works like this: throughout our entire life, God will continue to seek us out, to call us back to Him, to send the Holy Spirit to urge us to confess our sins and repent of our prideful ways. Even as we draw our dying breath, He will come one last time, arms extended in a welcoming embrace. If we take our foot and shove Him away, then we have committed the unforgivable sin. Put this way, I don’t think it is too difficult to understand why it cannot be forgiven.

Our prayer to God: Today let us examine our lives and root out all the prideful areas where we feel we know more than God does, where we chose and reject His commandments to suit our present comfort level, where we live placing ourselves above the call of Christ. God comes to us every moment of our lives, arms extended, welcoming us home to His love and mercy. What is our response? We need not wait until we draw that last breath to say we are sorry and change our ways. Let’s do it now.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Devotion for today: religion, science and miracles – oh my!

Today we look at question number two.

How do religion, science and miracles fit together?

Scripture for today:  Romans 1:19-20
…for God himself made it plain. Ever since God created the world, his invisible qualities, both his eternal power and his divine nature, have been clearly seen; they are perceived in the things that God has made.”

Christ tells us: Matthew 11:4-6
“Go back and report to John what you hear and see: the blind recover their sight, cripples walk, lepers are cured, the deaf hear, dead men are raised to life, and the poor have the good news preached to them. Blest is the man who finds no stumbling block in me.”

Peter Kreeft tells us: In the past, some Christians have opposed science because they were afraid that it somehow threatened their faith. This attitude is totally wrong…. no discovery of any science has ever disproved any of the doctrines of Christianity. Every new thing we learn by science about God’s world is a new understanding of God’s wisdom and a new reason to praise and love him….. Do not let yourself be intimidated by atheists who claim that science disproves God. That is like claiming that studying Shakespeare’s plays disproves Shakespeare. If there were no God, there would be no science, because there would be no world for science to know. Likewise, belief in science does not contradict belief in miracles. Science studies the way things usually work in the world, and it formulates laws to express these ways. Miracles are exceptions to these laws, but miracles presuppose these laws. If there were no scientific laws, there would be no sense in calling anything a miracle. Exceptions to a law do not disprove the law. Suppose the President pardons a criminal. The laws of the court still hold, but the President adds something else from outside. The laws of the court are like the laws of science, and Presidential pardon is like a miracle…. If there is a God, there can be miracles. If there is no God, there can be no miracles, because there is no one who has the supernatural power to do them. God created the world by intelligent design. That is why science is possible. It is not an accident that science arose in the West, which believed in the doctrine of the Creation, not in the Orient, which did not. Most of the great scientists in history have been Jews, Christians, and Muslims, because these three religions believe that the world is created, therefore intelligently designed, ordered. Science and religion are allies, not enemies. (Your Questions, God’s Answers, Ignatius Press1994)

Prayer: Splendor of Creation (Lucien Deiss, C.S.Sp.)
O my soul, arise and bless the Lord God. O Lord, in majesty, enrobed with power and eternal might.
You are clothed with splendor and with beauty, O God, and heavenly light is like a cloud that conceals your face. You have built your palace on the waters; on wings of wind and fire You reign in heaven, rule supreme on earth. Like the winds your angels fly before you; as fire and flaming light your ministers stand before your throne. Praise to God, the Father, Son and Spirit, to God who gives us life; our thanks, return, now and evermore.

My thoughts: Peter Kreeft makes a clear case for God, the creator of the universe, and for science, the body of men and women who strive to make sense of it all. In the midst of the creation of God, and its natural laws, are miracles. Thank God for miracles. The blind see, the lame walk, the cancer-filled patient is cured. God has a reason for His miracles. He uses them to teach an important lesson, which is to me, that no matter how learned and scientific we are, the only real truth and power in this world lies in God. If science says it can’t be done, and then it is done, we call that a miracle. It’s just a little reminder of who is in charge. Thank God it isn’t man.

Our prayer to God: It is a beautiful thing to see the miracles in our lives, the little miracles that make our lives so special. Let us take time today to thank God for the miracles we have seen and for the ones for which we still pray. In everything, give thanks.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Devotion for today: finding our strength in God

This week is question and answer week.

Question: How do I go about finding my rest and strength in God?
Scripture for meditation: Psalm 84:5
Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.

Christ tells us: Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

Padre Pio tells us: Unite your heart with the heart of Jesus, and be simple-hearted as He desires. What happiness it would be if one day, returning from holy Mass, you were to find your miserable and poor heart outside your breast, and in its place you found the precious heart of our God. But, as we must not desire such great and extraordinary things, I at least desire that our hearts live only under obedience and by the commandments of the heart of this Lord. In this way we would be sweet, humble and charitable because the heart of our divine Master has no law more lovable than that of sweetness, humility, and charity. Don’t ever fall back on yourself when the storm is raging. Place all your trust in the heart of our most sweet Jesus, who is not only mine but your Jesus also. Renew your faith continually and never give it up, for faith never abandons anyone, much less a soul that is yearning to love God.
(Padre Pio’s Words of Hope, edited by Eileen Dunn Bertanzetti, Our Sunday Visitor, 1999)

Prayer: Psalm 63:2-9
O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting. My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and glory.
For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise. So I will bless you all my life, in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul shall be filled as with a banquet, my mouth shall praise you with joy.
 On my bed I remember you. On you I muse through the night for you have been my help; in the shadow of your wings I rejoice. My soul clings to you; your right hand holds me fast.

My thoughts: I think the greatest temptation in life is to turn away from God when we face great disappointment or trial. How do we hold on to God when we feel so weak and tired, when it is all we can do to get up in the morning and not cry, or yell at God? Padre Pio shows us the way. He tells us that, although the temptation to abandon God is strong, we must never fall back on ourselves. We must adopt the heart of Jesus and become sweet, humble, charitable, and obedient. God has us in His hands, and as the psalmist reminds us, we must remember that although we are pining now, God’s love is better than life, and we will, if we keep Christ’s yoke upon our shoulders, one day be filled as with a banquet. We will never get through life rejecting God when we feel disappointment or anger. It is at these times that we must become patient, and trust. We must allow our souls to cling to God, and never let go of His hand. The alternative is a life of despair and hurt.

Our prayer to God: We are not the only people in the world who may be hurting or angry with God right now. Let us adopt the psalmist’s prayer as our own for this week, repeating it every day, even if we don’t feel it in our hearts. Then, let us ask God to bring someone into our lives who may need His comfort and love, and pray that we can be the source of that life-giving water. Turning our eyes away from our own weariness and weakness and onto the pain of others will bring us into God’s light. It is there we want to live. Darkness is depressing.