Saturday, May 19, 2012

Devotion for today: Act of Consecration for the United States

In this month of Mary, let us take time to pray for our countries. If you do not live in the USA, simply place your country’s name in the prayer.

Act of Consecration for the United States

Most Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – in union with the Blessed Virgin Mary, we adore Your majesty and acknowledge Your supreme eternal dominion and authority.

Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in union with the Blessed Virgin Mary, we adore Your majesty and acknowledge Your supreme eternal dominion and authority.

Most Holy Trinity, we place the United States of America into the hands of Mary Immaculate in order that she may present the country to You. Through the intercession of Mary, have mercy on the Catholic Church in America.

Have mercy on our President and on all the officers of our government. Protect family live in our nation. Grant the precious gift of many vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Have mercy on the sick, the poor, the tempted, and all who are in need.

Mary Immaculate Virgin, Our Mother, Patroness of our land, we honor you and ask your maternal protection and care for us. Obtain for us the graces we need to live and die according to the Will of your Divine Son.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Devotion: blessed with power from on high

To conclude our week’s study of Acts, let us take a look at the power the Holy Spirit gave to the early apostles, especially Peter.

Scripture for meditation: Acts 2:4, 12-14
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocked, saying, “They are filled with new wine.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words.”

Scripture for reflection: Mark15:70-72
A little later the bystanders said to Peter once more, “You are certainly one of them! You are a Galilean, are you not?” He began to curse and to swear, “I do not even know the man you are talking about!” Just then a second cockcrow was heard and Peter recalled the prediction Jesus had made to him, “Before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.” He broke down and began to weep.

In the Navarre Bible Commentaries for Acts of the Apostles, we are told: Even as the Church takes its first steps St. Peter can be seen to occupy the position of main spokesman… In his commentaries St. John Chrysostom draws attention to the change worked in Peter by the Holy Spirit: “Listen to him preach and argue so boldly, who shortly before had trembled at the word of a servant girl! This boldness is a significant proof of the resurrection of his Master: Peter preaches to men who mock and laugh at his enthusiasm… Calumny (‘they are filled with new wine’) does not deter the Apostles; sarcasm does not undermine their courage, for the coming of the Holy Spirit has made new men of them, men who can put up with every kind of human test. When the Holy Spirit enters into hearts he does so to elevate their affections and to change earthly souls, souls of clay, into chosen souls, people of real courage…. Look at the harmony that exists among the Apostles. See how they allow Peter to speak on behalf of them all. Peter raises his voice and speaks to the people with full assurance. That is the kind of courage a man has when he is the instrument of the Holy Spirit….Just as a burning coal does not lose its heat when it falls on a haystack but instead is enabled to release its heat, so Peter, now that he is in contact with the life-giving spirit, spreads his inner fire to those around him” (Homily on Acts, 4 as taken from The Acts of the Apostles, The Navarre Bible, Four Courts Press, 1992).

Prayer to the Holy Spirit:
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth. Let us pray: O God, who by the light of your Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of your faithful, grant that by that same Holy Spirit, we may be truly wise, and ever rejoice in his consolations, through the same Christ the Lord, amen.

My thoughts:  I really love St. Peter. He reminds me so much of me (and maybe you too). He would speak before thinking, act before reasoning, run in the face of opposition, and love Jesus with all his heart. I find so much consolation in St. Peter, because, despite all his short-comings, Jesus chose him to head the Church. He knew that once the Holy Spirit filled Peter with the power and grace from God on high, he would be unstoppable. This passage from the reading for Pentecost shows us how right Jesus was. The same fearful Peter now takes his rightful position as Christ’s spokesman for the Church, and boldly begins to preach to the people. No fear is found in him. Fortified by the power now residing in him, he can march forward to begin the task Jesus gave him. Peter is every man and woman who prays to God for strength, opens himself up to the Holy Spirit, receives the graces from on high and allows himself or herself to become brave and bold. We can all be St. Peter, and the world needs us to be St. Peter. First, we need prayer; then, openness; then, courage to say “yes” to the Spirit; then, action.  A second lesson for us here is to see Peter as the head of the Church, and to recognize that headship in our Pope.  When others ask Catholics why we just don’t change rules or come up with teachings that fit those of society, why we adhere to the Pope and not to our own judgments, let us direct them to this point. The Catholic Church has always, and will always believe that God sends his Holy Spirit to instruct our Pope to lead us in the right direction. He has councils and advisors, and listens to all sides of all arguments. In the end, however, he has the guidance of God to make the final decision. We do not need to waste endless hours angrily arguing about how the Church is wrong on socially acceptable ideas. We need only remind others that we are different. We answer to a Higher Authority, and we always will.

Our prayer to God: Today, let us reflect on the power God has given to each of us to speak boldly and proudly about our faith. If we have fallen into the habit of criticizing priests, the Church, the Pope, why not give it up for today and just be thankful we have priests, the Church and the Pope. Let us pray for our priests, the Church and the Pope so that they can be filled with the Holy Spirit and renew the face of the earth.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Devotion for today: first, they prayed

We have learned from the early Church that they were prompt, praising, and now…prayerful. This is the feast of the Ascension; however, in many dioceses it will be celebrated on Sunday. Today we will take a look at what happened immediately after the Ascension, as we continue to study the practices of the early Church and how they apply to us.

 Scripture for meditation: Acts 1:12-14
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away; and when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

Scripture for reflection: Matthew 6:6, 14:23-24
“Whenever you pray, go to your room, close your door, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees what no man sees, will repay you.”  When he had sent them away, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray, remaining there alone as evening drew on.

We learn from the commentary given to us in The Navarre Bible Acts of the Apostles: This is the first passage which tells of the spiritual life and devout practices of the disciples. Significantly it places the emphasis on prayer, in keeping with our Lord’s own practice and with his constant recommendation to his followers. “Prayer is the foundation of the spiritual edifice. Prayer is all-powerful: (J. Escriva, The Way, 83). It can truly be said that prayer is the bedrock of the Church, which will be made manifest with the coming of the Holy Spirit. The prayer of the disciples, including the women, in the company of Mary would have been a supplication of entreaty and praise and thanksgiving to God. This union of hearts and feelings produced by prayer is a kind of anticipation of the gifts the Holy Spirit will bring. “We are told this time and again in the passage narrating the lives of the first followers of Christ. ‘All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer’ (Acts 1:14) … Prayer was then, as it is today, the only weapon, the most powerful means, for winning the battles of our interior struggle” (J. Escriva, Friends of God, 242). (The Navarre Bible, Acts of the Apostles, Four Courts Press, 1992)
Prayer: The Apostles Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, Our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell, and on the third day he arose from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, from whence he shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

My thoughts: It is not surprising to learn that the first thing the apostles, disciples, women, Mary and Christ’s brethren did after the Ascension was to go to their upper room and pray. Whenever a big event in the Church was about to occur, it was always preceded by prayer. This is the pattern Jesus gave us. Before beginning his public ministry, he went into the desert and prayed. Before he faced crucifixion and death, he prayed. We see him slip away into a peaceful place on many occasions to pray to his Father. Nothing that Jesus ever did was anything less than an example for us to follow. So it is with prayer. Many people wonder today why their lives are a mess. They claim to have faith, yet when pressed on the matter of personal prayer in their lives, they will admit 1) they don’t make time for it, or 2) they don’t believe in its power. How sad! There is no relationship with God without prayer.  Just as there is no hope for a human relationship which has no communication, so, too, there is no hope for a relationship with God if we never take the time to talk to him. The early apostles and disciples never did anything without prayer. Because of this, the Church flourished amidst trial and persecution and all efforts to shut it down. It will always survive as long as people pray. No weapon of the enemy can withstand the power of prayer. It is the same for our lives as well. If we think we can do this thing called living without God, we will surely be sad and alone. If we follow the example of Peter and the Apostles, filling our lives, our decision-making and our trials with prayer, we will find peace, comfort and answers. To hear the answers, however, we must know God’s voice, and to hear his voice, we must take the time to listen.

Our prayer to God: Why not stop everything today for a few minutes, and just thank God for our lives, for the good and the bad, for the gifts and the trials, for the blessings and the crosses. Then, let us just be quiet. Really quiet and let God say “I love you.” That is all he ever really wants to say.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Devotion for today: rejoice in your weakness

Today we will look at maintaining joy in spreading God’s word, even as we are persecuted for it.

Scripture for meditation: Acts 16:25:34
But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and every one’s fetters were unfastened. When the jailer awoke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out and Said, “Men, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their wounds, and he was baptized at once with all his family. Then he brought them up into his house, and set food before them; and he rejoiced with all his household that he had believed in God.

Scripture for reflection: Exodus 19:4

You have seen for yourselves how I bore you up on eagle wings and brought you here to myself.

The Navarre Bible Commentary tells us: St. Bede notes the example Paul and Silas give Christians who are experiencing trials or temptations: “ The piety and energy which fires the hearts of the apostles expresses itself in prayer and brings them to sing hymns even in prison. Their praise causes the earth to move, the foundations to quake, the doors to open and even their fetters to break. Similarly, that Christian who rejoices when he is happy, let him rejoice also in his weakness, when he is tempted, so that Christ’s strength comes to his aid. And then let him praise the Lord with hymns, as Paul and Silas did in the darkness of their prison and sing with the psalmist, ‘Thou does encompass me with deliverance’” (Ps 32:7) (St. Bede, Super Act exposition, ad loc.). This incident so affects the jailer with religious awe that he comes to be converted. He has been helped to react in this way as a result of listening to the prayers and hymns of the apostles: “Notice how the jailer reveres the apostles. He opens his heart to them, when he sees the doors of the prison open. He lights the way further with his torch, but it is another kind of torch that lights up his soul. Then he cleans their wounds, and his soul is cleansed from the filth of sin. On offering them material food, he receives in return a heavenly one. His docility shows that he sincerely believed that all his sins had been forgiven (Chrysostom, Homily on Acts, 36). A person can meet up with God in all kinds of unexpected situations – in which case he or she needs to have the same kind of docility as the jailer in order to receive the grace of God through the channels which God has established, normally the sacraments. (The Navarre Bible, Acts of the Apostles, Text and Commentaries, Four Courts Press, 1992)

Prayer: Psalm 8
How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth! Your majesty is praised above the heavens; on the lips of children and of babes you have found praise to foil your enemy, to silence the foe and the rebel. When I see the heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you arranged, what is man that you should keep him in mind, mortal man that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than a god; with glory and honor you crowned him, gave him power over the works of your hand, put all things under his feet. All of them, sheep and cattle, yes, even the savage beasts, birds of the air, and fish that make their way through the waters. How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth!

My thoughts: There are so many lessons in this passage for us today. First of all, we need to praise God in our adversity. That is what makes us different from the rest of the world. That is the witness that will bring others to God. Through our difficulties, we see the hand of our loving Father, and he can use our situation as a means of conversion for others, if we but trust in him and sing his praises always. Second, we learn that the earth shook and fetters were broken. I doubt the earth will really shake when we remain strong in our faith, but the point is very clear. The disbelief of others will be shaken and can even be broken if they see a strong faith in us. God can use every situation as a means of evangelization if we are open to being used for that purpose. Third, we can also identify with the jailer. God will use any means possible to reach out to us with his mercy and love. We need to be like the jailer, and seize the opportunity for forgiveness and grace when it comes our way. None of us is perfect in his faith; God will use us to evangelize, and he will use others to evangelize to us. We must be open to facing our weaknesses and sins when they are pointed out to us. Only then can we conquer the sin of pride and become a clear and sparkling vessel of God’s mercy.

Our prayer to God: St. John Chrysostom says that night time is not only for renewing our bodies; it is also “a help in sanctifying your soul.” He tells us, “One prayer, said well, is enough. Offer God this sacrifice of a moment of prayer and he will reward you.” (Homily on Acts, 36). The nighttime prayer of Paul and Silas worked a miracle. I think ours can, too. Let us start tonight to offer one well-said prayer to God, then let us place our hearts in his hands, to remake them in his image for the new day to come.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Devotion for today: light up the world

This week we will take a look at the inspiring work of the Apostles and disciples to bring the word of Christ to all nations.

Scripture for meditation: Acts 16:9-10
And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing, beseeching him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us. And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Scripture for reflection: Matthew 5:13-16
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Blessed John Paul II tells us: All Christians incorporated into Christ and his Church by Baptism are consecrated to God. They are called to profess the faith which they have received. By the sacrament of Confirmation, they are further endowed by the Holy Spirit with special strength to be witnesses to Christ and sharers in the mission of salvation. Every lay Christian is therefore an extraordinary work of God’s grace and is called to the heights of holiness. Sometimes, lay men and women do not seem to appreciate to the full the dignity and the vocation that is theirs as lay people. No, there is no such thing as an ‘ordinary layman’, for all of you have been called to conversion through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As God’s holy people you are called to fulfill your role in the evangelization of the world. Yes, the laity are ‘a chosen race, a holy priesthood’, also called to be ‘the salt of the earth’ and ‘the light of the world’. It is there specific vocation and mission to express the Gospel in their lives and thereby to insert the Gospel as a leaven into the reality of the world in which they live and work (Homily in Limerick, October 1, 1979 as taken from The Navarre Bible Text and Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, Four Courts Press, 1992).

Prayer: Psalm-prayer, Week III, Monday Morning Prayer (Liturgy of the Hours)
 Lord, you have renewed the face of the earth. Your Church throughout the world sings you a new song, announcing your wonders to all. Through a virgin, you have brought forth a new birth in our world: through your miracles, a new power: through your suffering, a new patience: in your resurrection, a new hope, and in your ascension, new majesty.

 My thoughts: To insert the Gospel in their lives… I wonder how many of us can truthfully say that we insert the Gospel in our lives for the purpose of being leaven in the world. It is the leaven which causes the bread to rise, to reach its fullest potential. Do we as Christians put aside our vanities, our desires for recognition and praise, and truly do whatever it is we do for the sole purpose of causing others to rise to their full potential as children of God? Do we face each day as the gift that it is, the opportunity that it is for us to be fully alive and joyful messengers of such Good News? Can people look at us, letting our lights shine brightly for all to see, and say to themselves, “I wish I could be like him. I wish I had the joy she has”? If not, then it is time to start listening to God’s voice in us directing our mission the way He did Paul’s. The tiny suggestion to do an act of kindness, to reach out to someone, to just let it go and let someone else have the spotlight, all come from God. We need to act as Paul did when he heard the voice of God. We need to act…immediately and decisively.

Our prayer to God:  Let us go to daily Mass one day this week, and receive the only food truly necessary to strengthen us for our real mission in life.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Devotion for today: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Today we will reflect on yesterday’s readings, and the different ways to love.

Scripture for meditation: John 4:7-10
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to me: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.

Scripture for reflection: John 15: 17
“This I command you: love one another.”

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen tells us: There are five ways in which a human can love others. The first is utilitarian love, which is directed to another because he is useful to us. “He can get it wholesale.”… The difficulty with this kind of love is that when the advantage is lost, the friendship no longer endures. The second kind of love is romantic love. This is the kind of affection we bear to another because of the pleasure that the other person gives us... One of the reasons why many modern marriages do not endure is that people do not marry a person: They marry an experience. They fall in love with an ecstasy or a thrill, loving the cake only as long as it has frosting on it. The third kind of love that one can have for another is democratic love, which is based upon equality under the law. Others are respected because they are fellow citizens; or their liberties are recognized, in order that ours, in their turn, may be recognized. The reason for contributing to the good of others is the expectation of a return good. Democratic love, however, functions only up to a certain point: it is often subtracted in competition, or else invalidated on the assumption that the other person is “not worthy” of our affection. Democratic love is often under a great strain during a political campaign as candidates call one another “cheap politicians.” There is no such thing as a “cheap politician.” The fourth kind of love, which has given much inspiration to poetry, is humanitarian love, which is love for humanity in general. One of the defects of this type of love is that it is love in the abstract, rather than in the concrete; it is love at a distance, rather than an immediate service… Dostoevsky makes one of his better characters describe the insufficiency of this type of love: “I love humanity but I wonder at myself, because the more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular.” … Surpassing those four kinds of love is Christian love summarized in the words of Our Savior: “A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another as I have loved you”(John 13:34). What is new about this commandment? Did not the Old Law say,“Love one another”? Have not all ethical teachers through the centuries pleaded for altruism? What is new about it? Two things are new. First, the way Our Lord loved us, that is, to a point of self-sacrifice; second, it is new because it is a commandment. By making it a commandment, Our Divine Lord made a distinction between liking and loving. Liking is in the emotions, in the temperament, in the glands, in feelings, and over these we have little or no control. Loving, however, is in the will and, therefore, is subject to command. There are certain things we do not like, and we cannot help not liking them… For example, I do not like chicken. Instinctive reactions in us we cannot completely control, but by putting love in the will, we can control it, and even extend it to those whom we do not like. Love, then, is not a gush but a virtue; not a spasmodic enthusiasm, but an abiding relationship of service, affection, and sacrifice. (Love, Marriage and Children, as taken from: From the Angel’s Blackboard: The Best of Fulton J. Sheen, Liguori Publications, 1995).

Prayer: May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage our hearts and strengthen our them in every good deed and word. Amen. (cf. 2 Thes. 2:16-17, taken from the May, 2012 Magnificat, Yonkers, NY).

My thoughts: I love reading the works of Fulton Sheen. His lines are filled with wisdom, with a light sprinkling of humor: “loving the cake as long as it has frosting on it”and “There is no such thing as a cheap politician.”The first line reminds me of a friend of mine who told me she thought the marriage vow should not say, “until death do us part,” but “until the man goes bald.” I’m serious. She did not see how she could love her husband once he went bald. I am happy to report that my friend has been married for 37 years, her husband has lost most of his hair, and she still loves him. The story does point out the kind of love Sheen is talking about. We are in a relationship for the long haul. For better or worse, in sickness and in health, not for as long as my beloved looks good or as long as my friend doesn’t ask too much of me. God loves us without limits. He takes us back when we stray; he loves us in our faults and sins, and he waits with open arms for us every single day of our lives. Sheen tells us Christian love must be like that. It must last past liking, past the icing, past the good times, and into the bad. We must never allow inconvenience, discomfort and even disliking to stop us from loving God’s people. We don’t have to love what they do, but we do have to love them, for they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Our prayer to God:Today, let us smile at everyone we meet. Why not? It just might make our worlds a little more loving.