Friday, September 20, 2013

Devotion for today: We all have dragons

Devotion for today: We all have dragons
2 Samuel 22:29: “For You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord shall enlighten my darkness. For by You I can run against a troop; by my God I can leap over a wall. As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” 

Ephesians 6:10-18: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

“There be dragons" is a shorter version of the phrase "here there be dragons" from the Latin “hic sunt dracones”, an ancient way of denoting in maps a place where there is danger, or an unknown place, a place to be explored. (

I just watched a really good movie titled “There Be Dragons” directed by Roland Joffe. It is the story of two young boys who start life together but end up taking completely different paths. One young boy, Josemaria Escriva, goes on to become a priest and truly is now a candidate for sainthood. The other, Manolo, becomes a hate-filled, unforgiving man who has many regrets at the end of his life. Although the movie is basically about forgiveness, I came away with a different take on it.

We all have dragons, places within us that hold danger for our salvation. In the movie, an old lady tells the two young boys that there are many kinds of dragons. The secret to life is to know how to identify the dragons and then discover what weapons work best against them. I think this is true for each of us. If we really want to be holy, and be on the road to heaven, then we must take time to identify our personal dragons and find the means and ways necessary to killing them.

Maybe we are filled with the temptation for sins such as lust. Our weapons may include filters on our computers, guards on our televisions, cable programs that don’t allow “adult” channels. Maybe we are prone to gossip. Our weapons may include tactics for politely removing ourselves from conversations as soon as they go in this direction. Maybe we carry around a lot of angry thoughts in our heads. Our weapons may include a storehouse of devotional material that bring positive, uplifting stories to our minds and keep hope alive in us, or a journal where we write down all the blessings and gifts God has given us so that we can read the list when the angry thoughts fall upon us.

Of course, we also need an arsenal of the “big guns” to pull out all the time. Dragons don’t like to lose and our best efforts sometimes fall short. Then we really must use our rosaries, Mass and the Eucharist, confession, inspirational reading, the Bible, and many little prayers to start racing through our heads to crowd out the dragon. My husband has a poster that reads, “Some days the dragon wins.” It shows a battle- weary knight coming home to the castle, sword dragging behind him, armor in tatters. That is a good picture for me of how the battle sometimes goes. It doesn’t matter, though, as long as we don’t give up. The dragons in us will rear their ugly heads until we can tame them and with God’s help we can. Look at recovered drug addicts and recovered alcoholics. They fight every day, but once recovered, many go on to win the battle for good.

God loves us very much. He sees our struggles and He offers so many ways to help us fight them. Let us take the time to identify the types of dragons within us, and select our weapons wisely. Then let us cover ourselves in the armor of Christ, and win this war!!!  

Invocation of Saint George - Prayers of Intercession
Faithful servant of God and invincible martyr, Saint George;
favored by God with the gift of faith, and inflamed with an ardent love of Christ, thou didst fight valiantly against the dragon of pride, falsehood, and deceit. Neither pain nor torture, sword nor death could part thee from the love of Christ. I fervently implore thee for the sake of this love to help me by thy intercession to overcome the temptations that surround me, and to bear bravely the trials that oppress me, so that I may patiently carry the cross which is placed upon me; and let neither distress nor difficulties separate me from the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Valiant champion of the Faith, assist me in the combat against evil, that I may win the crown promised to them that persevere unto the end.

By the way, I really recommend


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Devotion for today: Be faithful in prayer

Philippians 4:6-7:“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  

“Why should I pray? I ask for things and I don’t get them. I prayed for something and nothing happened. I wanted to succeed and I prayed to God and I failed miserably. What is the point? Many wealthy and successful people don’t ever pray and look how much they have in life!”

How many times have we heard these questions and statements, and honestly made them ourselves? How many times does it seem utterly pointless to pray? I fear we can become victims of misunderstanding about prayer if we don’t stop now and again to review what prayer actually is.

According to Ralph Martin in his book “The Fulfillment of All Desire” (Emmaus Road Publishers, 2006), prayer is “our direct, focused, conscious communing with God. Teresa of Avila reminds us that the essence of prayer is paying attention to God, speaking and listening to Him.”

Here is our answer, I am convinced. When we view prayer as a child-parent communication where we, the children, simply ask for what we want and pout when we don’t get it, then we have a very immature picture of what prayer actually is. If we consider what Ralph Martin stated, then we realize that we do not approach God unless we are willing to listen as well as to speak. Prayer of supplication is good; our Bible passage assures us that God wants us to do that. But there is much more to the purpose of prayer, mainly, that we pay attention to God. It is that simple. If our requests are denied, then we need to spend time in quiet prayer listening to the voice of God in our souls telling us what He desires for us. If we find ourselves frustrated at the seemingly lack of interest on God’s part in our lives, the so typical “Where are you, God? Can you hear me?” feeling that creeps in so often, then we need to ask ourselves what is our approach to prayer. Are we simply rattling off a laundry list of requests, fulfilling a check-list of rote prayers and ending the day by flying through a not-so-contrite Act of Contrition just in case we don’t see the light of day? Then we really need to change our approach to prayer. It is time to understand that every word of a prayer needs to be said with love, concentration and heart-felt desire to commune with God. Ralph Martin reminds us in the above mentioned book that St. Francis humorously warned his brothers against meaningless prayer: “So dearest brothers, I exhort  you to participate in the Divine Praises correctly and vigorously: vigorously, that you may stand before God with as much zest as reverence, not sluggish, not drowsy, not yawning, not sparing your voices, not leaving words half-said or skipping them, not wheezing through the nose with an effeminate stammering, in a weak and broken tone, but pronouncing the words of the Holy Spirit with becoming manliness and resonance and affection; and correctly, that while you chant you ponder on nothing but what you chant.”

In how many of those descriptions can we find ourselves? Look around at Mass on Sunday and see how many people you can find who are vigorously praying the words of the responses and prayers. How many times do we say the rosary so distracted that, if it weren’t for the use of beads, we would not even know what decade we were on? I think St. Francis is right. We must be willing to put our entire selves into our prayers; body, soul, heart and mind. We need to assume a proper prayer posture, clear our minds of distractions, and approach our heavenly Father with joy and anticipation, knowing that we will be speaking to the God of Gods, the Lord of the universe. How marvelous this approach can be if we give prayer its proper importance in our lives. That doesn’t mean we can’t be praying all day. Of course we can! As St. Therese tells us, again in the above book, “How great is the power of prayer! I say very simply to God what I wish to say, without composing beautiful sentences, and He always understands me. For me, prayer is an aspiration of the heart. It is a simple glance directed to heaven. It is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy; finally it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus.

With a set prayer time designated to true, loving communication with God, and with every moment of our lives viewed as an opportunity for spontaneous prayer, we should start to find ourselves falling in love with our times of communication with God. As lovers treasure their times together spent in getting to know one another through the sharing of life stories, needs, hope and dreams, so too we come to God with that same anticipation, knowing He loves us more than any earthly lover ever can or will. He alone knows the divine plan for our lives. Why not spend time learning what it is? Let us pray with all our hearts and listen with all our souls, and may the frustration we sometimes feel only serve to lead us to trust in the mercy of God.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Devotion for today: His Will Be Done In Me and Through Me

While God's ways are not our ways and God's timing is not our timing, he does have a plan. He is intimately concerned about the details of our lives. (The Bible's Best Love Stories
Allan F. Wright, Franciscan Media Books)

Isaiah 55:8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, “declares the Lord.
Isaiah 41:13:  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you: Do not fear; I will help you.
Isaiah 49:16:  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
Psalm 23:1: The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall lack.
John 14:16:  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—
John 14:18:  

I apologize for not keeping up with my blog, but my saga of dental problems continues. I have had an abscess which started in my sinuses and seeped into my upper gum and into my teeth. It started as a simple sinus infection two months ago and has led to two root canals and the placement of a drain in my mouth to try to clear this infection out, so far with minimal success. I face two or three more root canals and more oral surgery to clear this up. It is painful, physically draining and even, I dare say, a bit depressive. I constantly feel sick to my stomach as the infection drains into it, and my energy level is very low.

Why do I share this with you? I share it because I think many of us face times in our lives when we just cannot figure God out. He gives us opportunities to serve Him and the knowledge and energy to do so, and then afflicts us with a situation that takes us right out of service. Sometimes we find ourselves at the top of our game, using our gifts and talents to the best of our abilities and finding great results in our efforts, only to be knocked right out of the game. We pray for guidance, follow good offers for service or work, and then find that we cannot do them because we are afflicted. It doesn’t make any sense.

Truthfully, it doesn’t make any human sense. No one stuck in continual pain, constant sickness and complicated issues can figure out why God would prefer this to active, engaged service. In the mystery of suffering, it is very easy and understandable to feel that although we are willing to carry our crosses as Jesus states, we cannot really find a very good reason for doing this instead of productive, loving work.

The answer, of course, is the mystery. As the good nuns always told us, “Always offer it up.” There is an amazing quality to our suffering when we use it in that way. Offer it up. Why? Is it because Jesus’ suffering wasn’t enough? He needs our suffering to complete the work of redemption? St. Paul says, (Col 1:24): "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of His Body, that is, the Church." St. Paul says he rejoices in his sufferings. That is hard to do, but St. Paul tells us that he can do it is because he knows that it is the only way to join in the co-redemptive work of saving souls with Christ. Yes, Jesus saved us on the cross, but the work of salvation is a work He asks us to share with Him, as it is continual and includes us, his beloved. People seeing our suffering and participating in it are brought to the Cross with us, see Christ suffering through us, and find compassion and love and mercy welling up in them in return. He tells St. Faustina in Diary entry 67: "You are not living for yourself but for souls, and other souls will profit from your sufferings. Your prolonged suffering will give them light and strength to accept my will."

In entry 324 He says to her: "There is but one price at which souls are bought, and that is suffering united to My suffering on the cross. Pure love understands these words; carnal love will never understand them." 

And she writes in entry 482: "My sacrifice is nothing in itself, but when I join it to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, it becomes all powerful." 

Jesus needs us as much in this line of service as He does as active workers in the fields of harvest. We will be meeting people we normally would not meet as we wait for treatments and obtain care. In our weakness we reach out to people to help us and therefore find ways to exercise missions of mercy. Sometimes it is humiliating and embarrassing to have to ask for, or even to have to need, help. But our weakness is the very thing that just might make another person strong. We may become the means to their salvation. Maybe what John the Baptist said actually applies to us: “I must decrease so that He will increase” and maybe our shell of self is the very vessel God fills with His grace in order to bring souls to Him.

We have no idea why God is asking us to suffer. Is it in preparation for something that will happen to us in the future? Is it for our own salvation?  Will we become stronger, more faithful, and more merciful? Probably it is all of these. If nothing else comes of it, we will be stripped of our pride as we submit to procedures we didn’t know existed. And that is always a good thing!

In a world that so values excellence and performance, it doesn’t make much sense to believe that we the weak and suffering can be so valuable to the plan of God, but we are. Jesus did not follow the ways of the world in which He entered. He did not seek to hold the top temple position nor did He seek to gain the admiration of His peers. He came to teach, to heal, to suffer and to die. Well, we are part of His life to the fullest when we stop placing our lives above His and simply join it to His.

This is so hard. We cannot endure our pain and suffering alone. We need the prayers and support of others. Pray for me, and I will pray for you.