Sunday, 29 December 2013

Coping With Christmas

It is often said
That Christmas brings with it
High anxiety, stress and depression
And the reason for such darkness
Finances, family troubles and sickness
And many, many more the like

To these are often added
Travel problems and displacement

An ice storm strikes and all power comes crashing down
Many find that they are displaced
Forced to huddle on an airport floor
Or spend Christmas in a warming shelter
Christmas dinner coming from a vending machine

And Joseph and Mary were forced from their home
So that Joseph might register in his birthplace, Bethlehem
And Mary’s baby was about to be born
No room could be found but to shelter in a cave
With only the animals breathe for warmth
And straw for a bed
And there He is born
Only to uproot and flee again
The murderous threats off a madman

And so that first Christmas began in all such stress

Perhaps the reason why this season
Brings with it such anxiety and depression
Is the expectation that Christmas must be
That perfect time when all is well
When only joy and happiness prevail
And hearts are filled with rejoicing and celebration

But the reason for Rejoicing and Tidings of great Joy
Is not that all is well in the world
But in spite of all our troubles
Hope has come to be with us
And lead us through to find solutions

So when we see people helping people
We see the true Spirit of Christmas
Salvation in other words 

The solution to death
Is now resurrection and eternal life
The solution to an imperfect world
Is the motivation to work to mend what can
The solution to hate and war
Is the work of peace and forgiveness
And all that the Beatitudes teach us

In the world's long lists
Of ways for coping with Christmas
They fail to understand
That the Real and True Christmas comes
As the way to cope with all
That stresses us at Christmas time and beyond

It brings into our lives the renewal of our faith
That through prayer and devotion
And the receiving of the Grace of Christ’s presence
Our minds can be enlightened
To new and real reason for Hope in the world
That our hearts be healed
And motivated through Christian love
Which is Christmas love
To be co-redeemers with Christ in a broken world

Coping with Christmas is replaced
By cooperating with Christmas

Need proof – read again the beautiful Christmas stories

Friday, 27 December 2013

More Voices of Christmas

St. Stephen

Stephen filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people. Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, debated with Stephen, but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke. Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven …“Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” … But they covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

  • Grant, Lord, we pray, that we may imitate what we worship,and so learn to love even our enemies, for  we celebrate the heavenly birthday of a man who knew how to pray even for his persecutors.
  • As they were stoning Stephen, he called out: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
  • For the many mercies which surround us we give thanks to you, O Lord, who save us through the Nativity of your Son.

St John the Evangelist

Beloved: What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life — for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing this so that our joy may be complete. 1 Jn 1:1-4

  • This is John, who reclined on the Lord’s breast at supper, the blessed Apostle, to whom celestial secrets were revealed and who spread the words of life through all the world.
  • In the midst of the Church he opened his mouth, and the Lord filled him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding and clothed him in a robe of glory
  • O God, who through the blessed Apostle John have unlocked for us the secrets of your Word, grant, we pray, that we may grasp with proper understanding what he has so marvelously brought to our ears.

Holy Innocents

When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, Out of Egypt I called my son.  When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more.
Mt 2:13-18

  • O God, whom the Holy Innocents confessed and proclaimed on this day, not by speaking but by dying, grant, we pray, that the faith in you which we confess with our lips may also speak through our manner of life.
  • Behold those redeemed as the first fruits of the human race for God and the Lamb, and who follow the Lamb wherever he goes.

From Morning Prayer

We rejoice in the glory of Jesus Christ, who conquered the enemy not by force of arms but with a white-robed army of children, and we cry out:
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.

The Holy Innocents gave witness not by words but by their life’s blood,
– give us strength to be your witnesses before men, both by words and actions.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.

They were not ready for battle but you made them fit to win the palm of victory,
– now that we are prepared for victory, do not let us despair.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.

You washed the robes of the Innocents in your blood;
– cleanse us from all sin.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.

You rewarded the child martyrs with the first share in your kingdom,
– do not let us be cast out from the unending heavenly banquet.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.

You knew persecution and exile as a child,
– protect all children whose lives are in danger from famine, war and disasters.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Voices of Christmas

Perhaps one of the more difficult things about Christmas is hearing the True Voices of Christmas. Christmas is full of sounds of all kinds, coming at us from every side, so much so that the authentic Christmas voice can easily be blurred out. To hear the Voices of Christmas will take some effort on our part, but if we make the effort, what a beautiful and joy-filled sound will fill our hearts. The effort I speak of may be called - 

Praying Christmas.

We begin by bringing something we hear, i.e. texts from scripture, prayers of the Advent/Christmas liturgies, words from the hymns of Christmas etc. to a time of prayer. As we pray, we read and reread these words over again. If they are in a story, we try to create the scene in our imagination. If they are words addressed to God, we listen for the sentiment they express. But all the while, we listen to our own hearts by identifying the various feelings that emerge while we listen. To hear the Voices of Christmas, one must listen with the heart.

What This Effort Will Require:

  • A time and place set aside for listening.
  • The words we have chosen out of all the words around us.
  • Patience to listen, not analyse, over think, and study.
  • Humility to ask and ask again - all the while listening for sounds in the heart.
  • Recording what you hear, returning again and again to listen.
  • "Speak Lord, I am listening".

Some suggestions to add to the Christmas Voices

From second reading for Fourth Sunday of Advent.

Communion Antphon, Monday December 23

Opening Prayer, morning Mass, Dec. 24

Gospel Acclamation, morning Mass, Dec. 24

Prayer after Communion, morning Mass, Dec. 24

First Preface of Christmas

Prayer for Christmas Mass of Dawn

Second Preface of Christmas
Through Christ we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.


Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if anyone hears my voice and opens the door to me, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me. (Rev 3)

Come quickly, we pray, Lord Jesus, and do not delay, that those who trust in your compassion may find solace and relief in your coming.


Radiant Dawn, splendour of eternal light, sun of justice: shine on those lost in the darkness of death.

Grant to us who find new vigor, O Lord, in these your wondrous gifts, that, as we prepare to celebrate in adoration the festivities of your Son’s Nativity, so we may possess in gladness his everlasting rewards.


For in the mystery of the Word made flesh a new light of your glory has shone upon the eyes of our mind, so that, as we recognize in him God made visible, we may be caught up through him in love of things invisible.


Grant, we pray, almighty God, that, as we are bathed in the new radiance of your incarnate Word, the light of faith, which illumines our minds, may also shine through in our deeds.


…… when our frailty is assumed by your Word not only does human mortality receive unending honor but by this wondrous union we, too, are made eternal.

Canadian artist William Kurelek  "A Northern Nativity" set to the composition "When Winter Comes" by Chris de Burgh.


Friday, 13 December 2013

Gaudette - Rejoice in the Lord

Each celebration of the sacred liturgy of the Eucharist begins with the "Entrance Antiphon". Like the doors of a great hall flung open and a trumpeter stepping forward and sounding forth, announcing the procession about to begin, the entrance antiphon sets the tone and leads us forth into the great mystery of the liturgy. The Entrance Antiphon for the Third Sunday of Advent begins with:

Have you ever had the experience of someone coming up to you and asking why you have that great smile on your face? If you have, you know that it was because something wonderful was happening in your life. Your smile is your entrance antiphon, your announcer; "...ask me and I will tell you."

In the First Letter of Peter we read, "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15"  

I think that this text should be posted above the door frame of every Christian's front door, to be read every time they are leaving their house. It should be the first principle of the New Evangelization. The gospel is Good News, and the role of an evangelist is to spread good news. This is the message Pope Francis is trying to get us to grasp in the Church today.

The Easter morning accounts in the gospels begin with Jesus' followers in utter desolation, their hearts broken and their hope crushed. Then they encounter Jesus, alive and in glory, before them. Consider this account in John's gospel:
At this, (Mary Magdalene) turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her,  “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said,  “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

At first, no one recognizes Jesus standing before them, because this recognition is a GRACE, only he can give. But at his word, now their eyes are opened and they see, and their desolation changes to consolation, as their hope returns. Saint Ignatius calls this grace, "grace without previous cause"; nothing you do can make it happen, it is pure gift.

Even though we cannot make such a wondrous grace happen, we can go in search of it; "... seek, knock, ask and it will be given you." As we contemplate on the texts and prayers we find in Advent, let this prayer begin our devotions and conclude them.

Come O Spirit of Light. Illumine the darkness of my mine and heart with the radiance of your presence; that recognizing you by this wondrous grace, my faith will be imbued with this new certainty, and become visible in my life for all to see. Amen.

I am sending 
my messenger 
ahead of you; 
he will prepare 
your way before you.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Breath of God

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.

And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory.

Continuing our reflections on the Mystery of the Incarnation - this text from the prologue of John's gospel begins the gospel reading for the Mass of Christmas Day. The words "... became flesh ..." is the part of Christmas that is available for all to see - a human baby, newly born, wrapped in a blanket. But the words "... and we saw his glory ..." this is not everyone's experience. Despite the discussion today over the exact historicity of the gospel accounts of the nativity, Jesus the man, the human person like us, born in time, remains excepted with confidence.  Seeing the divinity that Jesus shares with the Father and the Spirit is a different matter. And equally challenging is comprehending the suggestion that we too are meant to share in this same divinity. The opening prayer for the Mass of Christmas Day prays:

O God, who wonderfully created
the dignity of human nature
and still more wonderfully restored it,
grant, we pray
that we may share in the divinity of Christ,
who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

 To prepare our selves to make this prayer with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the mystery it celebrates, is the focus of these Advent devotions.

I saw a video news report of a person who had suddenly collapsed at a public event and appeared to have died. Then someone from the crowd rush in, placed their mouth over the stricken person's mouth and began breathing into the person their own breath. Shortly after beginning this action, the stricken person began breathing again on their own. We know this action as resuscitation intervention; the how to, being something we all should be familiar with for such emergencies.

Now, the image of a living person breathing their breath into a lifeless person is an intriguing one for our reflection here. The Living God, as opposed to the gods of wood and stone, is filled with the Breath of God, the Spirit. The Word, who is also with God, is filled with this Breath of God, and in time and history, is breathed into a human body, giving it not only human life but divine life as well, and given the human name, Jesus - Son of God - the Incarnation.

As wholly inadequate as this humble description of the incarnation is, we have a hint of what it must mean to share in the divinity of Christ. Jesus, with his Breath of God, now breaths new life into our spirits, giving them a share in his divine life. The gift of GRACE.

The Grace of Advent and Christmas, that we are seeking, is the renewal of the Breath of God within us; to revive our sagging and breathless souls with the Grace that flows from the Incarnation of Christ.

For he assumed at his first coming
the lowliness of human flesh,
and so fulfilled the design you formed long ago,
and opened for us the way to eternal salvation,
that, when he comes again in glory and majesty
and all is at last made manifest,
we who watch for that day
may inherit the great promise
in which now we dare to hope.
First preface for Advent

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Advent and the Coming of Christ

Centered in the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, is Michelangelo's famous depiction of the creation of Adam. The finger of the creator God reaches down from heaven and mankind is created.  

But today a new image has emerged, one with a new creator, creating a new Adam. Increasingly in this age, God is being removed from the true picture of reality and relegated to the place of myth and fiction, that is the modern view of religion. Now man designs man and defines his purpose.

As Advent begins, the anticipation of the coming of the New Adam preoccupies our attention and meditation; his historic first coming, fulfilled in time with the birth of Jesus, and his second coming, to be fulfilled in the fullness of time. And so, during Advent, our meditation focuses on the creative hand of God in our lives and on the questions, who is shaping my life, and who am I becoming -
  • A person being formed by the hand of God, into his image and likeness, or
  • A person formed and shaped by the influences of an age where the hand of God has been replaced by hands of human reason alone?
We have before us these two polarities. On the one extreme there is the religious fundamentalist, who views human reasoning and ingenuity with doubt and skepticism - reason opposing faith. On the other extreme we have the atheist, who views religion with outright contempt and rejection - faith as anti intellectual.

 The Fundamentalist

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.

And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory.
The Atheist

It is between these two extreme and mislead positions that we have our starting point, the Incarnation. This text from the prologue to John's gospel, begins the the gospel reading for the Mass of Christmas Day. This was the gospel for the earliest Christmas liturgy. Later, two additional liturgies, with their gospel readings taken from Luke's account of the Nativity, were added, Midnight Mass and Mass of Dawn. This has become the more popular focus for Christmas, the infant Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the stable in Bethlehem. Often, a merely sentimental view of Christmas replaces the profound mystery of the Incarnation. Here too, we often find the culture conflict between those wishing to display the Nativity scene in public and those intent on removing Christ from Christmas.

Our prayer and meditation during Advent will prepare us to receive this Word from God, with the certainty that comes from a grace-filled  faith. 

Resources For Advent Meditation:

The opening prayer for the Mass on the First Sunday of Advent prays:

Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that your faithful may resolve to run forth with righteous deeds
to meet your Christ who is coming,
so that, gathered at his right hand,
they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom…

  • "run" - that our hearts are revived with new excitement, real joy coming from a new outpouring of grace.
  • "Christ who is coming" -  hope replaces doubt and guilt - the past is past - look for what is new, that the Lord is bringing you.
  • "righteous deeds" - Advent is a time for a serious examination of conscience - of discovery of the compromises I have made with this age of denial of God.


Brothers and sisters:
You know the time;
it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.
For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed;
the night is advanced, the day is at hand.
Let us then throw off the works of darkness
and put on the armor of light;
let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day,
not in orgies and drunkenness,
not in promiscuity and lust,
not in rivalry and jealousy.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Christ the King and The Two Standards

This liturgical year now comes to a close with the feast of Jesus Christ the King. The figure of a king may not have the same influence on us as in times past. Our experience of political leadership is one of democracy and majority rule. Even so, there arises those persons who seem to personify the values we value most. To these persons we look for leadership and are willing to follow whole heartily. 

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, has a meditation called, The Two Standards. In this exercise of prayer, Ignatius Draws us into a serious examination of who and what is shaping our life's values and where  our allegiances lay. He puts before us Christ and the Prince of Darkness. One will lead us into paradise, the other into eternal darkness and and death. To whom do we entrust the direction of our lives?

To the person who has embraced the practice of prayer and a devout life, the answer may seem obvious. But here a note of caution is advised. Toward well-inattention persons, Satan changes tactics, now appearing as the "angel of light". Seeming to support the choice of a devout life, he employs all manner of deception. With suggestions that may appear to come from God but are not, he will draw the good soul into what is false and away from God's true purpose.

In this exercise of the Two Standards, St. Ignatius guides us to be constantly vigilant of the tactics of the Deceiver, so that we do not find ourselves aligned behind the wrong standard bearer. It is ever so important that we know the Lord, know our enemy, and know ourselves.

This prayer exercise fits so well during this week of the feast of Christ the King. The liturgy of the Church is anticipating the beginning of a brand new Year of Grace; a perfect time to take stock of our faith and devotion to Christ. 

Under Whose Banner Do I Stand?

Jesus Christ the King

+ I have a strong prayer practice.

+ I look to the Church for guidance on moral and ethical questions.

+ I see Sunday Eucharist as indispensable.

+ Participation in parish life remains a high priority.

+ I support my faith by Reading, both devotional and instructive.
The Prince of Darkness

# I often set prayer aside until I have the time.

# I'm inclined to separated faith from public life.

# Sunday Mass must fit into today's busy schedules.

# Religion is not as important as a good moral character.

# The bible is only a product of human imagining.

* * * * * * *

For a more complete study of this subject I have added the following link.

Fr. John Veltri on the Two Standards

Saturday, 16 November 2013

My Last Days - A Dress Rehearsal

The end of this liturgical year is drawing to a close. Each liturgical year connects us with the unfolding story of salvation. Beginning with the Promise, made after the Fall, it recounts the events of God's Saving Grace, and anticipates the fullness of time and the coming of the New Heaven and the New Earth - from the First Sunday of Advent through to the triumphant reign of Jesus Christ the King. As the cycle of events is recounted, a new generation is added to its history until all is fulfilled.  

Each person within the greater history of salvation, has their own unique and personal salvation history. It too has a beginning and will ultimately have an end in time. While the ultimate destiny for each individual is to share in eternal life with Christ the King, it can be rejected. Death in time is a certainty for everyone, but their existence continues. Where they will exist, becomes the purpose of the spiritual life.

One of the exercises in the life of prayer is to map out one's own faith journey. This becomes especially helpful for discernment. As you survey the progress of your life of faith, you are able to recognize more clearly those moments when the presence of God's grace was strongest, and God's direction for your life was clearest. Like one ascending to the unobstructed vantage point of the hilltop, you see clearly, from where you have come, and the way to your next destination. If you see that you have deviated from your God-given  coarse, you make the necessary coarse corrections, having a fresh heart and renewed resolve to continue. 

Starting A Personal Faith History Journal

For best results, this exercise should be carefully recorded, and added to, as your journey unfolds. Here is an outline of the main points to help you. A link to a more complete rendering of this subject follows.

  • For the most part, a person's life may appear as progressing along a familiar and steady course, day to day. But there are times when that pattern is altered by significant events that break into one's life, often bring about changes. Looking back over your life, do you recognize a similar pattern?
  • God's grace is always present, but we do not always recognize that presence, nor are we consciously cooperating with God's grace. But the hand of God may touch our lives at special moments and in convincing ways that awaken us to His presence and grace. These are our "Road to Damascus" experiences, that shape our life of faith. These are key moments to identify, understand and record. They are our compass check points that will helps through the dark times in our faith journey.
  • Having such a coherent faith history is particularly helpful when one is facing a decision making time in their life. The rule is, in times of dark uncertainty, one should not change the course of life they have been following. Rather, one referrers back to the last grace-filled time of decision and then prays for the next light of faith to guide them.
One of those, "Road to Damascus" graced moments, occurred in my life when I made the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, at Guelph Ontario, under the direction of Fr. John Veltri SJ.  Father John has published a comprehensive approach to developing a personal faith history, which I highly recommend. Here is a link to his web site. Link To Personal Salvation History

Friday, 8 November 2013

The Measure of a Faithful Christian

Our previous Post was on the Prayer of Examine. As a followup, in this Post I have made a list of 18 positive things that we might use as a measure of how we are doing in our faith life. These are found in Romans Chr. 12: 9-21. Each of these has its own depth of meaning. Taking just one each day and unpacking it will provide an excellent resource for the Prayer on Examine

For example, if by "love must be sincere" I understand it as being focused on the good of the other, are my dealings with others motivated by self interest only, or do I see the other person struggling no less than I? Is it just, "tough on them, I have my own problems."

Each of these will yield new insights and new challenges. Very likely you will find yourself saying: "... but wait a minute ...!"

+++++++++   "18"   +++++++++
+ Love must be sincere. 
+ Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
+ Be devoted to one another in love.
+ Honor one another above yourselves.
+ Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
+ Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
+ Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.
+ Practice hospitality.
+ Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
+ Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
+ Live in harmony with one another.
+ Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.
+ Do not be conceited.
+ Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
+ Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
+ If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
+ Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is               written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: 
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
 + Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Prayer That Guards Our Hearts

Throughout my busy day ......
...... have I kept your Word O Lord?

The beautiful thing about beginning the practice of prayer in our lives is the discovery that God is speaking to us, personally. As we listen, we hear God giving direction for our life; what is right and true and good for us to live by. We begin to follow God's Word and doing so brings a special peace into our hearts.

But then, an unsettling pattern begins to become evident. We find ourselves doing the opposite to what we have received from God. Surprised by this, we recommit ourselves to God's direction, only to see ourselves, again doing the opposite. Troubling indeed, but in this we are not alone. Listen to St.Paul speaking about this.

So the trouble is not with God’s Word, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that God’s Word is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s Word with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s Word, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. (Romans 8:14 - Paraphrase Translation) (Substituting "Law" with "God's Word") 
When speaking of sin in this context, St. Paul is talking about  that which is the "broken part", of our human condition; that which is imperfect and non-compliant with truth. There are various areas of our being where this brokenness occurs; in our physical body, in our psychological formation, in our wounded emotions, in our negative interactions with others, in our troubled conscience, in a history of failures, in our broken hearts. All of this combined, is what St. Paul calls, "the flesh". We enter life innocent and pure, but soon, all these forces begin to shape us. Our good intention must scale this rising wall of negativity, but for the most part it is unable. "I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate."

The goal of the life of prayer is to scale this wall of negativity and reach true freedom of heart. But in order to do this, I must understand what is working against me. What I cannot overcome on my own, the Lord's grace empowers me to accomplish. "Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord."

Within the rich resource of prayer is a form of prayer specifically intended to support us as we deal with our divided hearts. It is called the Prayer of Examine. In this form of prayer, we look back over the events of our day, to discover the forces, within and without, that shaped our living that day. For those things that drew us closer to the Lord we give thanks. But we are equally intent on recognizing the things that divided our hearts, and interfered with our efforts to be  faithful to the Lord. Our intention is not to accuse ourselves, the Evil One has that covered. We are looking for those places in our lives where the Lord wishes to meet us, so that he can bring his saving grace to heal us and empower us.

In a secular worldview, people look for all manner of excuses for their negative behavior or to put the blame on others. In the prayer of examine, one is ready to except responsibility for their actions, what ever the reason, but most importantly, they seek to understand how, with God's grace, to be an instrument of reconciliation and redemption for that which is broken. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:17The aim of the Christian Life is to become a co-redeemer with Christ. The aim of prayer is to learn how.

The Prayer of Examine

Our lives are lived out in the real world of time and place. It was at this very time, this place, that I did, said, interacted, reacted, or failed to say or do, that resulted in these real consequences. The Prayer of Examine is no less real. It too, must have a time and place in my day to take place. It must be approached in all honesty, for its purpose is to uncover and see; but to see as the Lord sees us.

There are five steps to take in the Prayer of Examine. 
  1. Ask God for light. I want to look at my day with God’s eyes, not merely my own.
  2. Give thanks. The day I have just lived is a gift from God. Be grateful for it.
  3. Review the day. I carefully look back on the day just completed, being guided by the Holy Spirit.
  4. Face your shortcomings. I face up to what is wrong—in my life and in me.
  5. Look toward the day to come. I ask where I need God in the day to come.
 "Yet how do we hear the voice of God? Our Christian tradition has at least four answers to that question." - See more at: Rummaging for God: Praying Backwards through Your Day
 (For a complete and thorough treatment of the Prayer of Examine, go to the Ignatian Spirituality Site - LINK)

Points to consider:

  • This prayer need not be long in time. (10 to 15 minutes is often enough)
  • One is not trying to "to strain gnats out of their soup", rather to discover what may be spoiling it - what needs changing in the recipe, to make it better.
  • "Know thy self". Life has shaped me into the person I am today. But it is I, that person, that God knows perfectly, the person God accepts into his loving embrace, the person whose future the Lord will reveal.
  • Nothing is greater than the hand of God, nothing more perfect than his plans for us.
  • We are vessels of clay, now formed by his hands, destined to contain the treasures of heaven.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

"Let Us Exercise Our Desire in Prayer" - St.Augustine

Continuing the theme we began in the last post, St. Augustine offers these thoughts.

From a Letter to Proba by Saint Augustine

Why in our fear of not praying as we should, do we turn to so many things, to find what we should pray for? Why do we not say instead, in the words of the psalm: I have asked one thing from the Lord, this is what I will seek: to dwell in the Lord’s house all the days of my life, to see the graciousness of the Lord, and to visit his temple? There, the days do not come and go in succession, and the beginning of one day does not mean the end of another; all days are one, simultaneously and without end, and the life lived out in these days has itself no end.

So that we might obtain this life of happiness, he who is true life itself taught us to pray, not in many words as though speaking longer could gain us a hearing. After all, we pray to one who, as the Lord himself tells us, knows what we need before we ask for it.

Why he should ask us to pray, when he knows what we need before we ask him, may perplex us if we do not realize that our Lord and God does not want to know what we want (for he cannot fail to know it), but wants us rather to exercise our desire through our prayers, so that we may be able to receive what he is preparing to give us. His gift is very great indeed, but our capacity is too small and limited to receive it. That is why we are told: Enlarge your desires, do not bear the yoke with unbelievers.

The deeper our faith, the stronger our hope, the greater our desire, the larger will be our capacity to receive that gift, which is very great indeed. No eye has seen it; it has no color. No ear has heard it; it has no sound. It has not entered man’s heart; man’s heart must enter into it. 

In this faith, hope and love we pray always with unwearied desire. However, at set times and seasons we also pray to God in words, so that by these signs we may instruct ourselves and mark the progress we have made in our desire, and spur ourselves on to deepen it. The more fervent the desire, the more worthy will be its fruit. When the Apostle tells us: Pray without ceasing, he means this: Desire unceasingly that life of happiness which is nothing if not eternal, and ask it of him who alone is able to give it.

RESPONSORY Jeremiah 29:13, 12, 11

You will seek me, and when you seek with your whole heart, you will find me.
– You will pray to me, and I will listen to you.

I know the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for misfortune, plans that will give you a future full of hope.
– You will pray to me, and I will listen to you.

It is helpful, especially to those beginning the practice of prayer, to review the Eight Steps to Praying a Passage of Scripture. Click This Link

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My plans for you are so much greater

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