Saturday, July 21, 2012

Devotion for today: the universal prayer of Pope Clement XI

This Universal Prayer has been attributed to Pope Clement XI from the 18th century. This prayer provides a good outline of what we need to do we strive for sanctity and Eternal Life, as “citizens-in-training” for Heaven! Keep it by your bedside!

My God, I believe in You; strengthen my faith. All my hopes are in You; secure them. I love You; teach me to love you daily more and more. I am sorry that I have offended You; increase my sorrow.

I adore you as the Author of my first beginning. I aspire after you as my last end. I give you thanks as my constant Benefactor, I call upon you as my sovereign Protector.

My God, be pleased to conduct me by your wisdom; to restrain me by the thought of Your justice; to comfort me by Your mercy; to defend me by Your power.

To You I desire to consecrate all my thoughts, words, deeds, and suffering, that henceforth I may think of you, speak of you, refer all my actions to You greater glory, and suffer willingly whatever You shall appoint.

Lord, I desire that in all things Your Will be done, because it is Your Will, and I desire that all things be done in the manner that You will them.

Grant that I may always esteem whatsoever is pleasing to You, despise what You abhor, avoid what You forbid, and do what you command.

I beg You to enlighten my understanding, to inflame my will, to purify my body, and to sanctify my soul.

My God, give me strength to atone for my sins, to overcome my temptations, to subdue my passions, and to acquire the virtues proper to my state of life.

Fill my heart with tender affection for Your goodness, hatred of my faults, love of my neighbor, and contempt of the world. May Your grace help me to be obedient to my superiors, kind and courteous to my inferiors, faithful to my friends, and charitable to my enemies.

Assist me to overcome sensuality by self-sacrifice, avarice by alms deeds, anger by meekness, and carelessness by devotion. My God, make me prudent in my undertakings, courageous in danger, patient in trials, and humble in success.

Grant that I may be ever attentive at my prayers, temperate at my meals, diligent in my work, and faithful in my good resolutions.

Let my conscience be ever upright and pure, my behavior modest, my conversation kind, and my actions edifying.

Assist me that I may continually strive to overcome the evil inclinations of my nature, to cooperate with Your grace, to keep Your commandments, and to work out my salvation.

My God, make me realize the nothingness of this world, the greatness of heaven, the shortness of time, and the length of eternity.

Grant that I may prepare for death; that I may fear Your judgment; that I may escape hell and in the end obtain heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Devotion for today: speak the things of God

Scripture for meditation: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing;  in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances.  But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;  abstain from every form of evil.
We continue with St. Ambrose’s homily from yesterday: Meditate, then, at all times on the things of God, and speak the things of God, when you sit in your house. By house we can understand the Church, or the secret place within us, so that we are to speak within ourselves. Speak with prudence, so as to avoid falling into sin, as by excess of talking. When you sit in your house, speak to yourself as if you were a judge. When you walk along the way, speak, so as never to be idle. You speak along the way if you speak in Christ, for Christ is the way. When you walk along the way, speak to yourself, speak to Christ. Hear him say to you: I desire that in every place men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarrelling. When you lie down, speak so that the sleep of death may not steal upon you. Listen and learn how you are to speak as you lie down; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. When you get up or rise again, speak of Christ, so as to fulfill what you are commanded. Listen and learn how Christ is to awaken you from sleep. Your soul says: I hear my brother knocking at the door. Then Christ says to you: Open the door to me, my sister, my spouse. Listen and learn how you are to awaken Christ. Your soul says: I charge you, daughters of Jerusalem, awaken or reawaken the love of my heart. Christ is that love. (From the Explanations of the Psalms by St. Ambrose, bishop)

Prayer: Psalm 40:9-11
 I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation;
Behold, I will not restrain my lips,
O Lord, You know.
 I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart;
I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation;
I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great congregation.
You, O Lord, will not withhold Your compassion from me;
Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me.

My thoughts: St. Ambrose reminds us today that we are to approach God by “lifting holy hands without anger or quarrelling.” Our constant conversation with God must be accompanied by love of neighbor; that was the second great commandment  Jesus added to the first. Our constant prayer must be to know God and allow God to live in us. God is love, and if we are inviting God to live in us, then we are inviting love to be our everlasting gift to the world. If we are not bringing the love which is Christ into the world by our every thought, word and deed, then we are doing a lot of talking to God, and very little listening. St. Ambrose tells us, “Listen and learn how you are to awaken Christ.” Let God lead you, and you will become the very instrument of His love and peace so necessary to those people He places in your life today. Take the time today to be quiet, and listen, and learn.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Devotion for today: open your lips and let God’s word be heard

We will spend the next two days contemplating an amazing homily by St. Ambrose.

Scripture for meditation: Deuteronomy 6:4-9
“ Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

St. Ambrose teaches us: We must always meditate on God’s wisdom, keeping it in our hearts and on our lips. Your tongue must speak justice; the law of God must be in your heart. Hence Scripture tells you: You shall speak of these commandments when you sit in your house, and when you walk along the way, and when you lie down, and when you get up. Let us then speak of the Lord Jesus, for he is wisdom, he is the word, the Word indeed of God. It is also written: Open your lips, and let God’s word be heard. God’s word is uttered by those who repeat Christ’s teaching and meditate on his sayings. Let us always speak this word. When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about virtue, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking of Christ. Open your lips, says Scripture, and let God’s word be heard. It is for you to open, it is for him to be heard. So David said: I shall hear what the Lord says in me. The very Son of God says: Open your lips, and I will fill them. Not all can attain to the perfection of wisdom as Solomon or Daniel did, but the spirit of wisdom is poured out on all according to their capacity, that is, on all the faithful. If you believe, you have the spirit of wisdom. (From the Explanations of the Psalms by St. Ambrose, bishop)

Prayer: St. Ambrose Prayer
Teach me, O Lord, to search for you. Show yourself to me when I search for you. If you do not teach me first, I cannot seek you. If you do not reveal yourself to me, I cannot find you. In longing may I search for you, and in searching, long for you. In love may I find you, and in finding you, love you.

My thoughts:  Today we see a lot of people walking down the street talking to no one. Well, it looks as though they are talking to no one. In truth, they are on the phone. Imagine our lives if we were “on the phone” with Christ as we walked down the street, sat on the bus, relaxed on a park bench or reclined in a home rocker. Imagine the peace and wisdom that would fill our lives if we gave our troubles over to God and listened to His response.  We would be so filled with the word of God that everything that came out of our mouths would be pure, holy and wise, good and uplifting to those around us. Sound too good to be true? St. Ambrose tells us it is very possible. Whenever we speak of wisdom or truth or justice or peace we are speaking about Christ. These are everyday topics. Let us approach them from the perspective of bringing Christ into our conversations. Then let us strive to spend every moment  in the presence of Christ. Remember, “If you believe, you have the spirit of wisdom.” Do you believe?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Devotion for today: heaven and earth shall pass away

Scripture for today: Matthew 24:35
"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”

G.K. Chesterton: ‘Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.’ The civilization of antiquity was the whole world: and men no more dreamed of its ending than of the ending of daylight. They could not imagine another order unless it were in another world. The civilization of that world passed away and those words have not passed away. In the long night of the Dark Ages feudalism was so familiar a thing that no man could imagine himself without a lord: and religion was so woven into that network that no man would have believed they could be torn asunder. Feudalism itself was torn to rags and rotted away in the popular life of the true Middle Ages; and the first and freshest power in that new freedom was the old religion. The whole medieval order, in many ways so complete and almost cosmic a home for man, wore out gradually in its turn; and here at least it was thought that the words would die. They went forth across the radiant abyss of the Renaissance and in fifty years were using all its light and learning for new religious foundations, new apologetics, new saints. It was supposed to have been withered up at last in the dry light of the Age of Reason; it was supposed to have disappeared ultimately in the earthquake of the Age of Revolution. Science explained it away; and it was still there. History disinterred it in the past; and it appeared suddenly in the future. Today it stands once more in our path, and even as we watch it, it grows.” (The Everlasting Man, Ignatius Press, 1925)

Prayer: Isaiah 64
Prayer for Mercy and Help
Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down,
That the mountains might quake at Your presence—

As fire kindles the brushwood, as fire causes water to boil—
To make Your name known to Your adversaries,
That the nations may tremble at Your presence!

When You did awesome things which we did not expect,
You came down, the mountains quaked at Your presence.
For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear,
Nor has the eye seen a God besides You,
Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.

You meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness,
Who remembers You in Your ways.
Behold, You were angry, for we sinned,
We continued in them a long time;
And shall we be saved?

For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;
And all of us wither like a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls on Your name,
Who arouses himself to take hold of You;
For You have hidden Your face from us
And have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.

But now, O LORD, You are our Father,
We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all of us are the work of Your hand.
Do not be angry beyond measure, O LORD,
Nor remember iniquity forever;
Behold, look now, all of us are Your people.

Your holy cities have become a wilderness,
Zion has become a wilderness,
Jerusalem a desolation.

Our holy and beautiful house,
Where our fathers praised You,
Has been burned by fire;
And all our precious things have become a ruin.

My thoughts: G.K. Chesterton reminds us of a very important fact, a fact that cannot be denied even by those who try today to destroy the Church by calling it irrelevant: mountains may fall, hills will turn to dust, and civilizations once thought great will crumble and disappear. The Church which Jesus founded upon His word, however, will never pass away. Never. Isaiah has us pray to be spared from the destructive force which falls upon man when he turns from God. This is not the action of a mean God; this is our loving Father who asks us to follow His plan for the world He created. Destruction comes when we go against that order, just as it occurs when the laws of nature are ignored and violated. The cities that became wildernesses, places of desolation, are symbolic of the hearts and souls of men who turn their backs on God. He waits for us because He dreamed of us from all eternity. He wants us back with him. Whether or not the present “age of whatever” will last for much longer is a given: Chesterton reminds us it will fade away and be replaced by another one even more advanced and bent on stopping the word of God from flourishing. Well, let it. Based on history, it doesn’t stand a snowball's chance…. And just be sure you are on the right side when the mountains fall!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Devotion for today: when I find myself in tribulations…

Today let us take a look at some advice for various tribulations that we may experience.

Scripture for meditation: John 15:1-2
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.”

Scripture for reflection: John 11: 40-44, 53
 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.” So from that day on they planned to kill him.

Josemaria Escriva tells us (numbers refer to sections of his book): 685: on tribulations of the Church: The storm of persecution is good. What is lost? You can’t lose something if it’s already lost. When the whole tree is not torn up by the roots – and there is no wind or hurricane that can uproot the tree of the Church – only the dry branches fall. And it is best that they fall. 686 (being offended): All right: that person has behaved badly toward you. But, haven’t you behaved worse toward God? 689 (victim of gossip): Tongues have been wagging and you’ve suffered rebuffs that hurt you, and all the more because you were not expecting them. Your supernatural reaction should be to pardon – and even to ask for pardon! – And to take advantage of the experience to detach yourself from creatures. 693-694 (not appreciated): It hurt you not to have been thanked for that favor. Answer me these two questions: Are you so grateful toward Christ Jesus? Did you really do that favor in the hope of being thanked for it on earth? I don’t know why you’re amazed: the enemies of Christ were never very reasonable. When Lazarus was raised from the dead, you might have thought they would yield and confess the divinity of Jesus. But no! “Let us kill him who gives life!” they said. It is the same today.  698 (unfair treatment): So you’ve been hauled over the coals? Don’t follow the advice of pride and lose your temper. Think: how charitable they are toward me! The things they’ve left unsaid! 700-701 (stress): Agreed: there is a lot of external pressure, which excuses you in part. But there is also complicity within (take a good look), and there I see no excuse. Have you not heard the parable of the vine and the branches from the lips of the Master? Console yourself: He demands much of you, for you are the branch that bears fruit. And he must prune you… “so that you’ll yield more fruit.” Of course that cutting – that pruning hurts. But, afterwards, how luxuriant the growth, how fruitful your works! (The Way, Sceptor Publishers, 1982)

Prayer: Josemaria Escriva: Are you suffering some great tribulation? Say very slowly, as if savoring the words, this powerful…prayer: “May the most just and most lovable will of God be done, be fulfilled, be praised and eternally exalted above all things. Amen. Amen.” I assure that you’ll find peace.
My thoughts: It is very clear from the writings of Josemaria Escriva that God’s way is not man’s way, and that our way must be God’s way. In his many examples of tribulations, Josemaria Escriva tells us to “take the road less traveled,” which means we must bear insults, problems, and ungratefulness. This means we are truly God's chosen ones who must be pruned in order to continue to bear good fruit and not bad. We see that the more the world tells us to fight back and get even, God tells us to bear all things patiently, as Jesus did. What better example do we have than to see Jesus, day after day, miracle after miracle, attacked and derided for simply being who He is, and He is God! Why do we think any less is going to happen to us? So, we must take every opportunity to not take offense, not be hurt, not to stress out, but instead, to ask ourselves, “What does God want from me in this situation?” The answer is harder to take than the one the world would give us, but it is so, so much more rewarding in the end!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Devotion for today: “it shall be a sign of salvation”

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, a most wonderful story filled with promise.
The Story of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
On July 16, 1251, Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock, the Father of the Carmelite Order, and presented him with the Scapular. St. Simon's story began as an English hermit that lived in the hollow of a tree. He received the name "stock" because he lived in the hollowed trunk or stock of a tree. In time he would become a Carmelite and later the Father General of the order. He led the order during a time of great struggle. The Carmelites in the beginning were hermits on Mount Carmel, near Nazareth in the Holy Land. When they migrated to Europe, in this case England, some decided to no longer be hermits and instead became friars who would work among the people. St. Simon guided them through this state of transition. In the year 1251 a miraculous vision took place. St. Simon Stock, newly transplanted to England, prayed fervently to Our Lady for Her help. Then: To him appeared the Blessed Virgin with a multitude of angels, holding the Scapular of the order in her blessed hands...
Mary's Promise to Those Who Wear the Scapular
Our Lady gave St. Simon a scapular for the Carmelites with the following promise, saying : Receive, My beloved son, this habit of thy order: this shall be to thee and to all Carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire .... It shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace. Another important aspect of wearing the Scapular is the Sabbatine Privilege. This concerns a promise made by Our Lady to Pope John XXII. In a papal letter he issued, he recounted a vision that he had had. He stated that the Blessed Virgin had said to him in this vision, concerning those who wear the Brown Scapular: "I, the Mother of Grace, shall descend on the Saturday after their death and whomsoever I shall find in Purgatory, I shall free, so that I may lead them to the holy mountain of life everlasting."
Further Explanation: We call the scapular a sacramental, that is to say a sacred sign (such as a blessing) or object (like the rosary or holy water) given us by the Church. Sacramentals “prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it,” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC1670). It is important to note, however, that we play an important part in their effectiveness in our lives. Many popes and other religious figures over the centuries have extolled the virtues of the brown scapular devotion. Still, they caution that, although our Lady of Mount Carmel promised that the scapular would protect us from eternal fire, wearing it in itself doesn’t guarantee our salvation. The Most Rev. Kilian Lynch, a former prior general of the Carmelite Order, warned that the scapular was not “endowed with some kind of supernatural power which will save us no matter what we do or how much we sin.” As he put it, “Fidelity to the commandments is required by those seeking 'the special love and protection of Our Lady'". The scapular is not to be worn as a substitute for leading a devout life of love and obedience to our Lord. This piece of cloth is not to be used as a kind of divine rabbit’s foot that will guarantee you Eternal Life no matter what you’ve done. If we abuse Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s scapular promise, we can’t count on her protection. The good news, however, is that she, like her Son will help us with the graces we need for our salvation if we ask for her assistance with a sincere and contrite heart. In 1917 during the apparitions at Fatima, Our Lady of Mount Carmel appeared to Sister Lucia holding the brown scapular. According to the famous visionary, who herself became a Carmelite nun, Our Lady wished everyone to wear it “because it is our sign of consecration to her Immaculate Heart.”  Along these lines, Pope Pius XII wrote in 1950 that the scapular should be “your sign of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which we are particularly urging in these perilous times." Thus, in wearing the brown scapular devoutly, in living in love and obedience to God, we join our hearts to Mary’s and thus, to her divine Son’s Sacred Heart as well!
Prayer: Prayer to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
O, most beautiful flower of Mount Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of heaven, blessed mother of the Son of God, immaculate virgin, assist me in my necessity. O, star of the sea, help me and show me herein, you are my mother. Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who turn to you. ( 
My thoughts: Mary, appearing as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, gives St. Simon Stock the scapular, two brown pieces of cloth connected by a string. Basically, she promises a quick entry into heaven for those devoted to the scapular. Therein lies the secret to the scapular. It is not wearing it that protects us from the harm of sin; it is using it as a reminder that God goes in front of us to show us the way, and behind us to “have our backs” when tempted in times of danger to our souls. Wearing the scapular, for me, is a reminder and a sign of my life-long commitment to Mary and the promises she gives to those who seek to follow her Son. I feel protected by, and reminded of the love Mary has for me, and how desperately she wants me to go to heaven. In my world, I have one motto for the scapular, “Never leave home without it”!! Sweet Mother, I place my life in your hands.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Painting of St. Thomas Aquinas by Benozzo Gozzoli from the 15th century, courtesy of Wikipedia

This prayer below by St. Thomas Aquinas before Communion gives us a moving example of love and humility in the presence of our Savior. St. Thomas, pictured above, the celebrated 13th century “Angelic Doctor” of the Church, is considered to be one of the greatest theologians and intellects in our faith.

Almighty and Eternal God, behold I come to the sacrament of Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. As one sick I come to the Physician of life; unclean, to the Fountain of mercy; blind, to the Light of eternal splendor; poor and needy to the Lord of heaven and earth. Therefore, I beg of You, through Your infinite mercy and generosity, heal my weakness, wash my uncleanness, give light to my blindness, enrich my poverty, and clothe my nakedness. May I thus receive the Bread of Angels, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, with such reverence and humility, contrition and devotion, purity and faith, purpose and intention, as shall aid my soul’s salvation.

Grant, I beg of You, that I may receive not only the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Lord, but also its full grace and power. Give me the grace, most merciful God, to receive the Body of your only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, in such a manner that I may deserve to be intimately united with His mystical Body and to be numbered among His members. Most loving Father, grant that I may behold for all eternity face to face Your beloved Son, whom now, on my pilgrimage, I am about to receive under the sacramental veil, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.