Phil 4: 4-8

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Keep the Faith

In these days we see continuing evidence of the existence and growth of evil in our culture, in the media, in crime and now apparently in terrorism within this great country’s borders.  We desperately need to stay grounded in our faith, something we can be encouraged in by the examples of those who have gone before us.  Consider the Siege of Jasna Gora in 1655 when the Swedes were threatening to totally overtake Poland.  Anthony Esolen, in a piece for Magnificat, tells us the dramatic story of the battle that turned everything around, thanks to Our Lady of Częstochowa:

It is a bitter December, 1655.  Twelve thousand Swedes have encamped before Jasna Gora,  [Polish for “Bright Hill”], which is both monastery and fortress.  They have all the vanity and power lust of the never-defeated.  They look upon Jasna Gora as the last fortress to fall [in their invasion and over running of Poland and suppression of the Catholic faith].  If it falls, every Pole will know the war is over.  Jan Casimir [the Polish king] will abdicate, for the sake of his people and that will be that.  The Swedes have cannons, too.  Inside the monastery are 300 men, most of them monks inexperienced in war.

An emissary from the Swedes approaches the monastery…he says, “Every city from here to the Baltic Sea has surrendered.  You are 300.  What can you do...give in.”  The Swedes add a threat.  If the monks do not surrender, they will put the village nearby to the torch.  It will not be the last emissary or the last offer and threat…Some of the defenders have died, the walls are being shelled very day.  Food is running low.  Ammunition is low…Why hold out?

The Poles continue to fight…They also continue to pray, and the Swedes from their tents in the snow will often hear to their surprise and dismay, the sounds of joyous celebration, especially on the feasts of Our Lady and on Christmas Eve…the monastery is the scene of many inexplicable occurrences.  One of the Swedish soldiers blasphemes against Mary and is struck down by a cannonball from the monastery, but the cannon was not aimed at him.  The fatal shot ricocheted from the snow.  Dense fog descends upon the monastery just when the Swedes are advancing to the walls, and then suddenly dissipates, in apparent answer to [the monks’] prayers, leaving the Swedes unprepared and exposed to attack from above.  Swedish cannonballs often rebound from the walls to their own, and that is how their chief cannon is destroyed.

In that same fog, it seems sometimes that Jasna Gora is bathed in a strange light and poised high in the air, so that Swedish shots fall short; sometimes it appears low and close, and the shots sail harmlessly over the monastery…What is most fascinating is the testimony of many of the Swedish soldiers recorded after the siege.  They saw a woman dressed in blue up on the ramparts, pointing the Polish cannons and bringing ammunition.  Some of the Swedes would then drop their weapons in fear.  Sometimes they saw a maiden in white, pointing a sword their way.  One time one of the attackers aimed a cannon at the maiden and its breech exploded, driving the iron back into his face.  Her bearing struck terror into their hearts.  “Who is that witch,” they would say, “who walks upon your walls?”

…Always we will have the world against us. The lesson of Bright Hill is to keep the faith even when all around us have surrendered.  When we meet that woman in blue, let us be able to say, “Lady, be gracious to me!  I’m a sinner and a fool, but I never laid down my sword for comfort or the approval of the world.”

Indeed, it seems we always will have the world against us.  Just read the headlines of the news on any day in this age of secular relativism and political correctness, where what was right is now wrong and vice-versa, where acts of terrorism are called workplace violence, and where God has been pushed out of the public square and religious liberty is on the ropes.

Now, more than ever, we need to heed the words of Our Lady of Fatima, (repeated with increasing urgency and emphasis in the 20th century at Kibeho and Akita:
“As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never have seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead.

The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by my Son. Each day, recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and the priests. The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, and bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their Confreres. The Church and altars will be vandalized. The Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.

So how about it?  Are we praying our Rosary daily?  Are we calling upon Our Lady for her intercession in these difficult times, and for the grace we need to be prepared for what lies ahead?  No time like now to start if one hasn’t been doing this.

And a special word to the guys who read this: as author David Calvillo says, “Real Men Pray the Rosary.”  His book with that title provides some background on the Rosary and spiritual food for thought for men who might be interested.  BUT—you don’t need a book—just start or begin again to pray the Rosary, ASAP.  The Rosary is not just a devotion for kids and women, guys.  It is a Christ-centered prayer available to, and commended to, us ALL. 

Our Lady helped the faithful at Jasna Gora.  She’ll help us as well if we only do what she asks of us.  Can we do it?  Can we encourage others to do so by our example?  Will we do it? 

At some time in the not too distant future, many believe, we’ll wish we had taken Our Lady's exhortations more seriously.  There’s still time.  Start now.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

More Thoughts on Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament

The Eucharist—A Priceless Treasure
To continue our discussion on Eucharistic Adoration, let’s consider what Pope St. John Paul II had to say about it in his encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia:

“It is pleasant to spend time with him, to lie close to his breast like the Beloved Disciple (cf. Jn 13:25) and to feel the infinite love present in his heart. If in our time Christians must be distinguished above all by the “art of prayer”, how can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament? How often, dear brother and sisters, have I experienced this, and drawn from it strength, consolation and support!

This practice, repeatedly praised and recommended by the Magisterium, is supported by the example of many saints. Particularly outstanding in this regard was Saint Alphonsus Liguori, who wrote: “Of all devotions, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest after the sacraments, the one dearest to God and the one most helpful to us”. The Eucharist is a priceless treasure: by not only celebrating it but also by praying before it outside of Mass we are enabled to make contact with the very wellspring of grace.”

Perpetual Adoration
During the parish mission conducted recently at St. Francis of Assisi in Castle Rock, signup sheets were available for people to volunteer to spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament—face time with Jesus.  This is part of the ongoing efforts to generate a practice of “perpetual adoration.”  The goal of perpetual adoration is to have one or more people committed to one of the 168 hours a week to sit in the Real Presence and pray to Jesus.  To some that may sound like a hard commitment to make, but to reiterate a point from the last post on this topic, it’s only one hour a week.  Giving God an hour of our time seems like a pretty uneven swap when we think about what He’s done for each of us and His particular love for each and every one of us.

Lectio Divina
Starting with the first week of Advent for the 2015-2016 liturgical year, the USCCB has a downloadable guide for lectio divina (Latin for “divine reading”) prayer each week.  This is a great starting point for anyone who might want to expand their approach to prayer while in Eucharistic Adoration (or at any other time as well).  In his book, Praying Constantly: Bringing Your Faith to Life, the late Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F,R., provides a nice summary of lectio divina at pp. 94 - 97:

  • Calm ourselves—become silent and receptive to whatever God has to say
  • Begin to read a passage slowly—as slowly as possible, dwelling on words and phrases—NOT analyzing or interpreting, but remaining open to let God speak to us.  We don’t need to read too much
  • Pause when something speaks to us in a special way—stop to ponder it—this is the meditation part of divine reading
  • Repeat this over and over for the passage through which God seems to be speaking clearly to us
  • Slowly we move from reading—to meditation—and to prayer
  • In the  prayer part, we let God take the lead and we listen to Him, letting Him guide us in a gentle dialogue
  • Contemplation is the final stage, which involves letting go of words and thoughts, and comes from the grace of God, not from our efforts and happens according to His schedule, not ours.

Father Benedict closes by telling us, “The point of lectio divina is simple.  It is merely to be with God in a stillness interrupted by nothing more than the holy words of Scripture.  It is to let God remove the barriers between Himself and us, one by one, until we are as open as we possibly can be to the movement of God’s Holy Spirit…the rewards can be enormous.

For more information on how to use lectio divina, take a look at Dan Burke’s post at Catholic Spiritual Direction. 

There Are Other Ways as Well
If we don’t feel like doing divine reading, we can just go to visit Jesus and talk with Him.  We can let Him know what’s on our mind, and share with Him what we’re grateful for.  We can let Him know what’s troubling us and let Him help us: 

Jesus said to the crowds: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” – Mt. 11: 28-30

At the end of the day, it’s not so much how we pray but that we actually visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament routinely.  He’s waiting, and He wants desperately to see each one of us there.  Let us not disappoint Him.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Do You Want to Change Your Life?

To expropriate (and edit) a line from an old Clint Eastwood “Dirty Harry” movie, “Do you want to change your life? Well do you?” 

We probably all have an area or two in our lives that we’d like to transform, if only a little, but perhaps a lot.  The good news is that we can, in fact, make those transformations in our lives simply by changing the way we spend just one, or a portion of one, of the 168 hours a week we’re all given in this worldly life.  All it involves is getting face to face with Our Lord in Eucharistic Adoration. 

This last week at St. Francis Assisi in Castle Rock, we were blessed to have Fr. Lou Guardiola, C.P.M. conduct a parish mission on Eucharistic Adoration.  Through a series of presentations over five days, he provided us a great deal of spiritual food for thought on the Holy Eucharist and Eucharistic Adoration.  Due to weather and other factors, many weren’t able to make it to all or some of the presentations.  Others may have some unasked and therefore unanswered questions about Eucharistic Adoration.  

What Is Eucharistic Adoration?
Simply put, it is spending time with Jesus—the Real Presence of Jesus—His body, blood soul and divinity.  Augustine Di Noia, O.P. says, “During Eucharistic adoration, it is not only we who behold Christ, but it is also He who beholds us. When we adore the Blessed Sacrament, we are not just gazing at a beautiful but inert object.”(1)  Yes, God is everywhere and yes, we can talk to Him from anywhere, but He is PHYSICALLY present in the Blessed Sacrament.  And as Father Lou reminds us, it was in His physical presence that Christ performed many miracles; it is in His physical presence in the Eucharist that He will perform many more for us if we ask Him.  Furthermore, spending quality face time with our family or friends is something that we routinely do, or should be doing.  Why wouldn’t we want to spend some quality face time with Our Lord and Savior, (and Friend) as well?

How Does One “Do” Eucharistic Adoration?
In short—we need to just show up—go to the Blessed Sacrament and spend time with Our Lord.  BishopZubik, from Pittsburgh, tells us, “There are many ways to pray. We may meditate silently by gazing on the sacred host.  We may silently speak to Jesus from our mind and heart.  We may also rely on devotions and prayers from Catholic tradition, such as the reading of Scripture, recitation of the Rosary, or the litanies.” (2)  In other words, there’s no one “right” way to adore Jesus in His Real Presence.  We each need to do what works for us. 

When we spend face time with family and friends, we talk and we listen.  That’s a good idea for when we spend face time with Jesus as well—we want to be sure we sit quietly and listen, and avoid what one writer calls the “gimme” approach to prayer.  Now, we shouldn’t make a fuss if we don’t hear a booming voice calling our name when we’re listening for God to talk to us.  Remember what the Bible tells us in 1 Kings: “…and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice…” (emphasis added) (3)  The key is to spend some quality face time with Our Lord and to set aside some of it to just listen and see what He puts on our hearts.  Even if we don’t feel or hear God talking with us at the time, we need to know that He is there with us, loving us with His particular love for each of us and hearing what’s in our hearts.

How Much Time Should I Spend In Eucharistic Adoration?
The bottom line: as much as we can squeeze out for Our Lord who came down to earth to live as a human being and die a horrible death to save us.  He suffered unimaginable agony for each one of us because of each one of us.  Can we honestly say we just don’t have time to sit with Him once in a while?  Is what He did for us less important than the weekly football game or the time we spend in our favorite pastimes?  Is He less important than the mind-numbing television shows and network news reports, or less important than the “friends” we have on Facebook or other social media?

More specifically, what did Our Lord ask Peter at Gethsemane?  “So, could you not watch with me one hour?” (4)  So, is that a hint for us?  Can we spend one hour a week with Our Lord?  That would be ideal—at least one hour a week.  But if we can only get away for twenty minutes or a half hour, we ought to do it.   

As the author at Catholic Bible 101 so eloquently tells us, “Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is one of the best ways to spend time with Jesus. There is so much noise around us these days.  Spending a quiet hour with Jesus in humble adoration will bring many graces and blessings to you.  Things that you have never even considered before will now be made present to you.  Bad things that would have happened to you will now not happen.”(5) 

And that, my friends, is an understatement!

(3)  1 Kings 19:12
(4)  Mt 26:40

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Getting Right with Our Creator

In a few days, Pope Francis will be visiting Philadelphia.  Nearly forty years ago, Pope St. John Paul II told us during his visit to Philadelphia, “We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced.  I do not think the wide circle of the American Society, or the wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully.  We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the Gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist.  This confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence.  It is, therefore, in God’s Plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously…We must prepare ourselves to suffer great trials before long, such as will demand of us a disposition to give up even life, and a total dedication to Christ and for Christ.  With your and my prayers, it is possible to mitigate the coming tribulation, but it is no longer possible to avert it, because only thus can the Church be effectually renewed.  How many times has the renewal of the Church sprung from the shedding of blood?  This time too, it will not be otherwise.  We must be strong and prepared and trust in Christ and in his Holy Mother and be very, very assiduous in praying the holy rosary.” (1)

In recent months and weeks some of us have heard of or actually read reports from several experts who are predicting a variety of occurrences which could play out as major catastrophes here in the U.S.  These predictions range from further stock market devaluations, to a major recession or depression, to an all-out global economic meltdown.  There also has been some talk of possible natural disasters which could cripple communication, transportation and economic infrastructure.  And there seems to be an increase in reported “locutions” (2) or private revelations where individuals are receiving warnings of an impending period of dark times during which God’s Divine Mercy will be available to all who wish to avail themselves of it.

Whether or not you believe in any of the negative economic, societal or geopolitical forecasts, and whether or not you believe there’s any substance to any or all of the reported locutions, consider for a moment, “What if…
  • What if everything we’ve known and taken for granted about daily life were to be changed nearly overnight?  Is our relationship with our Lord strong enough to see us through it—have we consecrated ourselves to Him, with a total surrender to His will, or are we still bargaining with Him to do it our way?
  • What if key people and things of the here and now, of this world, were to disappear suddenly from one’s life?  How might that impact us, and to reiterate, is our relationship with our Lord strong enough to see us through it?
  • What if we ourselves were to perish before our previously “estimated time of departure”?  Do we still have some reconciling to do with Him before that happens?
  • None of us knows the day or time of our departure from this life, whether it’s facilitated by old age and natural causes or by something unexpected happening.  But—what if—as we say in the succession management business—“What if the beer truck ran over you today?”

Indeed, what can we do to get closer to our Creator, starting right now?  Numerous Catholic authors, including priests, have suggested what we ought to be doing in order to live in the present moment, taking full advantage of God’s grace in our lives.  The following is a synopsis of multiple Catholic authors’ suggestions for creating or strengthening our prayer and spiritual routines.

Prayer routine—start and end the day with some brief prayers of adoration, thanksgiving and supplication—it doesn’t have to be more than a few minutes if that’s all the time you have available. The morning offering prayer is a great way to start the day.
Scripture reading and meditation—(A/K/A Lectio Divina) spend a little time each day reading the Word of God, pondering, meditating on it and what it means to you, asking for the Holy Spirit’s guidance for you.
Rosary—Carry a Rosary with you, and pray one full Rosary of five decades a day.
Divine Mercy chaplet—pray one a day—this only takes about seven to ten minutes.
End of day examination of conscience—in the evening, review what your day has been like, where you’ve fallen short and ask for God’s forgiveness and the grace to avoid doing it again.

At Least Weekly:
Mass and reception of Holy Communion—we are SO blessed in the       U. S. Catholic Church to have routine access to the Holy Eucharist!  While we will meet our minimum obligations by attending weekly Mass, if it’s at all possible, we ought to look at more frequent reception of Communion. 
Eucharistic Adoration—an hour a week with our Lord’s physical presence—his body and blood, soul and divinity.  Fr. Lou Guardiola, CPM characterizes it aptly—“In like a lion, out like a lamb.”  Spend some quiet time with Jesus—he’s our friend.  Don’t we try to spend quality time with our friends?

At Least Monthly:
Confession—this is another blessing we have in our Church.  Most spiritual directors and authors recommend taking advantage of this sacrament at least once a month.  But, of course, if we have committed a sin that’s been particularly hurtful to our Lord, we don’t need to wait for the passage of time to attend confession again.  In most communities there are a number of parishes with different times for regularly scheduled confession, but one can make an appointment to see a priest outside of scheduled confessions as well.  To be clear, if we’re in need of reconciliation at any time, we need to get to confession ASAP—remove the stain of sin and open ours souls to God’s grace. 

The State of Grace
Our goal should be to stay in a state of grace, which means avoiding sin, and confessing and repenting it when we don’t avoid it.  Fr. Pierre Garrigou-Lagrange, OP a theological advisor to four popes, tells us that even venial sin is an infinite offense against God, because God is an infinite being; it is an outrage and serious ingratitude toward God.  Sin, even venial sin, deprives us of the precious grace of God.  And once we deprive ourselves of that grace, we can never get the time back during which we wasted the potential access to the grace—never.  Venial sin, according to Garrigou-Lagrange, hinders our exercise and demonstration of charity.  It can lead us to mortal sin through its creation of a spiritually tepid state in us.  Fr. Pierre suggests that we always should take advantage of the opportunity to pray, because even when our souls are in a tepid state, we still have the grace to pray.  So, as St. Paul exhorts us, in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, "Pray without ceasing."

Sounds like good advice to me.  We never know the day or the time…

  1.         Magnificat October 22nd, 2013 on the Memorial of Blessed Pope John Paul II, quoting his statement made in Philadelphia, 1976; blog post at Quartermaster of the Barque,
  2.             From Catholic Answers: “A locution is a form of private revelation, similar to an apparition, but rather than being seen a locution is heard or received internally. As with all claims of private revelation it is important to be certain that a locution is authentic before any recognition or significance is determined.”

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Devotion to the Holy Rosary

On numerous occasions, Our Lady has asked us to pray, and more particularly, to pray the Rosary.   You can ask anyone who routinely prays the Rosary and they will tell you how much it means to them, to their prayer life, and to their general consolation and sense of peace in their life.  It is a great gift to us, commended by many saints, including Pope St. John Paul II, who wrote, in in his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae:

“The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer. In the sobriety of its elements, it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium. (1)  It is an echo of the prayer of Mary, her perennial Magnificat for the work of the redemptive Incarnation which began in her virginal womb. With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer…. she continually brings to birth children for the mystical Body of her Son. She does so through her intercession, imploring upon them the inexhaustible outpouring of the Spirit. Mary is the perfect icon of the motherhood of the Church.

… [it] mystically transports us to Mary's side as she is busy watching over the human growth of Christ in the home of Nazareth. This enables her to train us and to mold us with the same care, until Christ is “fully formed” in us (cf. Gal 4:19). This role of Mary, totally grounded in that of Christ and radically subordinated to it, “in no way obscures or diminishes the unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power… (2)

Dear brothers and sisters! A prayer so easy and yet so rich truly deserves to be rediscovered by the Christian community…I look to all of you, brothers and sisters of every state of life, to you, Christian families, to you, the sick and elderly, and to you, young people: confidently take up the Rosary once again. Rediscover the Rosary in the light of Scripture, in harmony with the Liturgy, and in the context of your daily lives…”

The Rosary is what’s known in the Church as a “sacramental,” something that is “…instituted for the sanctification of certain ministries of the Church, certain states of life, a great variety of circumstances in Christian life, and the use of many things helpful to man…  (CCC 1668).  “Sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church’s prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it. For well-disposed members of the faithful, the liturgy of the sacraments and sacramentals sanctifies almost every event of their lives with the divine grace…” [Emphasis added] (CCC 1670)

Rosaries are composed of 59 beads, a crucifix and often, a center piece.  An interesting fact: the word “bead” comes from the old English word “bede,” which meant “prayer.”  In the middle ages, most lay people, including lay members of religious orders usually had neither the education to read, nor access to, the psalters that were used by the religious in monasteries for daily prayers.  Consequently, they ended up using a string of beads, originally called “Pater Nosters,” (Latin for “Our Father”), to count the Hail Marys and Our Fathers as they prayed.  Between the 12th and 15th centuries, the Rosary evolved to the point that 50 Hail Marys were recited with it. (3)  In 1569, under Pope St. Pius V, the Rosary came into the general form with which most of us are familiar, ultimately with three sets (Joyful, Glorious and Sorrowful) of five mysteries each.  Later, in 2002, Pope St. John Paul II added the five Luminous Mysteries.  (Actually, according to the Magnificat Rosary Companion, he restored these mysteries which had existed in an earlier version predating the fifteen mysteries we were familiar with.)

So how about it, brothers and sisters, isn’t it time for all of us to rediscover the Rosary?  Or if we have rediscovered it, to spend more time with it, perhaps?  If anyone you know needs a refresher on praying the Rosary, there are abundant resources available to help.  Most parish gift shops have some sort of pamphlet covering how to pray the Rosary.  Some online resources include the following, which are rated highly for fidelity to Catholic teaching by the Catholic Culture website (click on the name to be taken there):

And what if you or someone you know needs a Rosary?  Rosaries are available in prices ranging from less than a dollar apiece to a few hundred or more, depending on what they’re made of.  You can find them at parish gift shops, Catholic religious supply stores and online.  No matter where you get them, make sure you get them blessed.  Following are links to some online Rosary purveyors:

Tradition holds that Our Lady made fifteen promises to those who pray the Rosary.  You can find the 15 Promises of The Blessed Virgin for Praying the Rosary online.  For a great summary on the Rosary and how to pray it, as well as information on the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary, click here.

Enjoy your special time with Our Lady and Our Lord Jesus in your praying of the Holy Rosary!

1 - Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus (2 February 1974), 42: AAS 66 (1974), 153.
2 - Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 60.
3 -  St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), had been given credit, erroneously, for devising the Rosary, due in part to the writings of Alan de la Roche, who was not a contemporary of St. Dominic.  However, St. Dominic is reported to have fostered a devotion to it, using it in his missionary work.

Monday, September 7, 2015

True Devotion to Our Lady

In previous posts, we covered a few of the many documented miracles attributed to a devotion to Our Lady and related to sites of her appearances, or apparitions, (and there have been numerous approved instances of Our Lady’ apparitions).  There are many, many more accounts of miracles and apparitions that have not been vetted or officially approved.  These facts alone are strong evidence of the salutary effects of a devotion to Our Lady.  But, as the infomercials say, “Wait!  There’s more!”

St. Louis-Marie Grignon de Montfort really nailed down the whole concept of devotion to Our Lady and to Our Lord Jesus through Our Lady in his classic work, True Devotion to Mary.  This book stayed virtually undiscovered until after his death and the end of the French Revolution.  Since its discovery in 1842, it has been recognized as the greatest book on Our Lady.  It has been recommended and practiced by eight Popes.  In fact, Pope St. John Paul II said that this book,

“…was a decisive turning point in my life.  I say ‘turning point,’ but in fact it was a long inner journey… [it] is indispensable to anyone who means to give himself without reserve to Christ…It is from Montfort that I have taken my motto, ‘Totus Tuus’ (I am all thine).”

Here’s the bottom line according to St. Louis de Montfort:  The greatest thing we can strive for is to be conformed to, and united totally with, Christ.  That being the case, then any devotion that will help us the most to conform ourselves to and unite us with Jesus would be the ideal form of devotion to follow.  That makes sense, right?  Well then, St. Louis says, who was more conformed to and united with Christ in their lifetime than the Blessed Virgin Mary?  From the moment she gave her Fiat at the annunciation, to the time she received Jesus’ body from the cross, Our Lady was totally united with, consecrated to, and an instrument of God’s will. 

Is that powerful, or what?  Think about it—who is a better role model for following God’s will and being united to Him than Our Blessed Mother?  St. Louis de Montfort provides a method of consecrating ourselves to Our Lady and to Our Lord through Our Lady over a period of 33 days.  It’s all laid out in his book.  But don’t let the 33 days of preparation frighten you away from it.  The regimen over the month or so of time simply involves daily prayers and reflections—something we probably already are doing in one form or another anyway. 

In the last few years, another approach to Marian consecration has been developed and explained in his book, 33 Days to Morning Glory, by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC.  In his book, Fr. Gaitley draws upon St. Louis de Montfort’s approach to consecration, as well as the lives and Marian devotional practices two other saints, St. Maximillian Kolbe and Pope St. John Paul II, together with those of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, to formulate his method of consecration.  Fr. Gaitley, whose order, the Marians of the Immaculate Conception have a great love and zeal for Mary Immaculate, believes that this formula of consecration can help anyone jump start or rekindle a strong devotion to Our Lady, and to Jesus through her.  Fr. Gaitley’s approach, written in the current time for Catholics of our day, although spanning 33 days like St. Louis’ uses what some might perceive to be a less demanding daily schedule of prayers and reflections. 

We first read and used Fr. Gaitley’s approach for our consecration to Our Lady.  It was a great experience, and I’d commend it to anyone who wants to ramp up their prayer life and devotion to Our Lord and Our Lady.  Absolutely anyone can take a little time each day to prayerfully work through this method of consecration, and it will yield great spiritual benefits.  In the interest of full disclosure, I will also tell you that I subsequently did a re-consecration using St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary and it was incredibly rewarding as well.  So which one is best for you?  Consider getting a copy of each and scan through them, then pick the one you’d like to use.  You can get a Kindle version of each for about $3 - $7 or used paperbacks from about $5 + $3.99 shipping, so it shouldn’t break the bank if you want to take a look at both of them. 

You can get much deeper into the scriptural basis for all of this by actually reading True Devotion to Mary, and/or 33Days to Morning Glory.   As well, for inquiring minds who want to delve more deeply into the scriptural basis for Mary as Mother of God and related issues, Patrick Madrid’s book, Where Is That in the Bible has an easy-to-read chapter on the topic, and Fr. Mitch Pacwa has written a great little book on the subject, Mary—Virgin,Mother and Queen.   (You can never have too many devotional books, although I am attempting to maintain a personal book-buying moratorium right now, just to prove to myself that I can stop buying books.  J )  

And please keep in mind that Our Lady, Our Blessed Mother, is watching over us and wants to help us.  We should not only pray to Jesus, Our Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit, but we should also ask Our Blessed Mother for her intercession.  As the Queen Mother, she will perfect our requests and present them to Jesus, advocating our causes for us, (and who can resist a mother’s insistent request, right?) 

Our Blessed Mother loves us and won’t let us down: 


Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence,     I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. 


To be continued...

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Why Should We Be Devoted to Our Lady and the Rosary?

In my last post, I suggested that we may want to ramp up our prayer life, and in particular, our prayers for the intercession of Our Blessed Mother, through and with the Holy Rosary.  But other than the messages noted from the major apparitions mentioned in that post, what other reasons might we have for a strong pursuit of the Rosary as a routine form of prayer?  Through Our Lady, big things can happen.  Her magnanimity, coupled with our humility, can make an incredible difference in our lives.  Consider the examples below:

St. Juan Diego’s Tilma
Nearly 500 years after Our Lady appeared to St. Juan Diego in 1531, on a knoll near Mexico City, the tilma of St. Juan Diego has been preserved from decay.  The image on the tilma cannot be explained by any scientific means.  This, of course, is on top of the fact that after our Lady’s appearance, over about a ten-year period of time, some 8 to 9 million people in Mexico became Catholic.

Battle of LePanto
In 1571, Pope St. Pius V called on all Catholics to pray the Rosary for the fleet of the Holy League as it entered into battle with the Ottoman navy.  As the battle began, the wind shifted and the badly outnumbered and outgunned Holy League won the battle, preserving Europe from a Muslim conquest.  (This is where the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, later changed to Our Lady of the Rosary originated.)

St. Catherine Laboure
Our Lady appeared to St. Catherine in 1830 and gave to her the image for the Miraculous Medal—a sacramental that is virtually universally known throughout the Catholic faith.  Now, nearly 200 years later, St. Catherine’s body remains incorruptible.  It has not been artificially preserved and yet it shows no decay.

Fr. Ratisbone
While wearing the Miraculous Medal to humor a Catholic friend, a Jewish convert, who later became Fr. Marie-Alphonse Ratisbone, was converted in 1842 after seeing a vision of the Virgin of the Miraculous Medal. After that occurred, he devoted his life to the conversion of the Jews,  even building the Ecce Homo Convent of the Sisters of Zion, located on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.

St. Bernadette Soubirous
Our Lady appeared in 1858 to St. Bernadette, a 14-year old French peasant girl, who by all accounts was a very ordinary person.  Since that time, approximately 7,000 recorded miraculous healings have occurred at Lourdes.  About 70 of these have been verified officially as totally inexplicable by any scientific means, but the recipients of the healing in the rest of those miracles know what occurred for them as well.

Champion, Wisconsin
In 1859 Our Lady appeared to Adele Brise at a site which lies about 30 minutes by car from present day Green Bay, as Our Lady of Good Help.  Numerous healings have occurred at that shrine as well, one of which was for the baby grandchild of a personal acquaintance of ours a few years ago. Additionally, in 1871 the largest and deadliest fire in American history burned 2,400 square miles of woodlands in the area, incinerated a dozen communities, and killed 2,500 people.  Although the surrounding area was burned and the outside of the picket fence around the property was charred, the compound at the chapel of Our Lady of Good Help was saved from the fire after Sister Adele led local citizens in prayer at the church.

Fatima, Portugal
At Fatima Our Lady appeared to three children six times over five months.  In addition to the messages she gave them for the world, a miracle, referred to as that of the dancing sun was witnessed by 60,000 to 70,000 people at the final apparition.

Other Marian Miracles and Apparitions
In addition to the apparitions and miracles recorded with respect to each of the above sites, there are other apparitions that have been noted, some of which have been approved by the bishops in whose dioceses they occurred.  As well, in a recent, informal discussion among a small group of Catholic men, including priests and laity, recorded at a home in Birmingham, one priest, an expert on Middle East religion and culture, noted that in the last few years, numerous Muslims (hundreds of thousands if I recall correctly) have been called to conversion by apparitions or locutions from the Blessed Mother and/or Jesus.

But there are many, many more personal Marian miracles and examples of guidance and graces obtained through Our Lady among the faithful.  Father Larry Richards of The Reason for Our Hope Foundation has mentioned Our Lady’s guidance for him with respect to his vocation, as have other priests we’ve known or known of over the years.  In our own lives, Our Lady has played a major role in our spirituality through her intercessions for us.  She can do the same for each and every one of us—if we ask for her intercession. 

To be continued…

Saturday, August 29, 2015


We are in a serious battle for the souls of mankind.  Current and past private revelations show that, in spite of warnings and exhortations from Our Lady and Jesus Himself, we continue to ignore the directions we’ve been given for our salvation.  Much has been said recently about Charlie Johnston and his visits from an angel of the Lord.  Charlie, and other visionaries mentioned in Fr. Joseph Esper’s book, On the Brink, talk about the messages they’ve received, warning of a chastisement heading our way due to the obstinate refusal of the citizens of our country to live the Truth of the Gospel.  In The Flame of Love, a reporter chronicles the locutions of Elizabeth Kindelmann, a lay woman from Budapest who died in 1985, that show Our Lady’s intense concern for the salvation of souls on a worldwide basis.    

But you don’t need to take the word of these two Catholic Christians.  Just look to past, Church-approved apparitions such as Fatima and more recently, Akita and Kibeho for some warnings, exhortations and instructions from Our Lady regarding the consequences of mankind’s collective behaviors, and the need for penance and prayer, especially for the Rosary.

As many to most Catholics may know, at Fatima in 1917, Our Lady requested that we pray the Rosary daily for peace, and that we exercise a devotion to her Immaculate Heart, including a consecration to her, and a regimen known as the “five first Saturdays,” (Confession, Mass, Communion and Rosary with 15 minutes of meditation for five first Saturdays of the month). (1)

In Japan, in 1973, Our Lady of Akita gave a warning, similar to that of Fatima, of a specific worldwide chastisement which is ugly – consistent with Scripture, and much worse than the possibility of annihilation of several nations as prophesied at Fatima.  In fact, on October 13, 1973, on the anniversary of the final apparition at Fatima, Our Lady said, “As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never have seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead.

The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by my Son. Each day, recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and the priests. The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, and bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their Confreres. The Church and altars will be vandalized. The Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.

The demon will rage especially against souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness. If sins increase in number and gravity, there will no longer be pardon for them." (2)

Between 1981 and 1989, Our Lady visited multiple people in this Rwandan community.  The messages from Our Lady are similar to Fatima and to Akita – urgent appeals for the repentance and conversion of hearts, an assessment of the moral conduct of the world, the Blessed Mother’s deep sorrow for the disobedience of all of God’s children, and the necessity of prayer and conversion before the Final Judgment, which she expresses repeatedly is coming soon.  She also talks about how suffering saves, saying; “No one will reach heaven without suffering.”   As Diane McKelva states in her blog post on Kibeho at Catholic Stand, “Nothing has changed on this earth since the Kibeho visions ended in 1989." (3)

So what is one to make of all of this?  Continuing on with the theme from my last Sojourner’s post—that of taking stock of where we are now spiritually, identifying opportunities for improvement and beginning to make changes for the better – we might conclude that there is no time like now to get closer to God.  The late Fr. Benedict Groeschel in Everyday Encounters with God which he coauthored with Bert Ghezzi, tells us that, “…at the present moment, you are completely able to steer your now into eternity, no matter what you have done in the past.” (4)  The good news is that through His Divine Mercy, the Lord is the ultimate grantor of “the second chance.”  We’ve all got a chance right now, at this very moment, to take advantage of that and make the changes we need to make.  But don’t hesitate—Mt. 24:42-51 warns that we don’t know the time or place when our “now” won’t exist any longer.

And any change in what we do as Catholics ought to take into account the assistance our Blessed Mother stands ready and willing to offer us along the way.  In fact, a consecration to Jesus through our Blessed Mother is the fastest, most direct route to follow. (5)  Here we have many good examples to follow in the saints who went before us, including St. Alphonsus Ligouri, St. Louis de Monfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Francis de Sales, and Pope St. John Paul II, to name a few.  St. Padre Pio had a strong devotion to Our Lady and to the Eucharist, and writings about his holy life are replete with quotes about Our Lady and about the Rosary.  Besides the one you’ve probably heard (“The Rosary is the weapon for these times.”), he’s also quoted as saying, “Some people are so foolish that they think they can go through life without the help of the Blessed Mother. Love the Madonna and pray the rosary, for her Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today. All graces given by God pass through the Blessed Mother.” (6)   

By now you probably are seeing why this post has the title that it does.  As St. Padre Pio said, “The Rosary is the weapon for these times.”  I believe that the Rosary is not only the weapon for our times but it is our heavy artillery for the spiritual battle we face individually and collectively.  Given all the warnings we’ve received over the last hundred years and continue to receive through various visionaries, a smart battle strategy would be to deploy the heavy artillery.  In the artillery we had a command that would come down to the guns, “Fire for effect.”  "Fire for Effect" is the command the forward observer gives the guns once one gun has been zeroed in on the target. All the guns then let loose, firing at the same coordinates, raining down destruction on the enemy.  Through the Rosary, we have the ability to bring destruction to our enemy the evil one.  The more weapons we employ and the more frequently we do so, the better. Our Lady, our Spiritual Forward Observer, continually encourages us to pray the Rosary daily—to “fire for effect” on the evil one.  This is a command that we dare not ignore.  

Most parishes have a group that gathers together before or after a particular Mass to pray the Rosary.  If we get up early or record it for later, EWTN has not only an early daily Mass, but also the Holy Land Rosary led by Fr. Mitch Pacwa (available on CDs and DVDs  We can catch the Rosary on the local Catholic radio station as well, and pray along in the car.  With or without the radio program of the Rosary, one can pray the Rosary on the way to and from work.  And we don’t have to pray all five decades of a Rosary in one sitting—we can pray as much as we have time for and come back to it and complete it later.  We can pray while we’re standing in line at the store or at the airport.  The opportunities to pray the Rosary are limited only by our imagination.  As our Spiritual Mother, Our Lady loves us and wants only what’s best for us.  When Our Blessed Mother suggests that we pray the Rosary more, we ought to listen and do what she says.

Next time – more on Catholic devotion to the Rosary.    

4 – Everyday Encounters with God: What Our Experiences Teach Us – Groeschel and Ghezzi
5 – True Devotion to Mary – De Montfort

Monday, August 17, 2015

Pray, Hope and Don't Worry - But We May Want to Consider Making Some Changes

More and more articles are being published by a variety of reputable sources regarding the current state of the national and global economies, and some key indicators show there could be trouble ahead—(think about China’s problems, U.S. corporate stock buybacks, overall economic growth rates, etc.)  As well, it doesn’t take a cultural anthropologist or sociology pundit to point out some clearly observable cultural and societal trends here in the U.S.A. that should be troubling to all Christians—(think about abortion, recent court decisions, religious liberty, and the like.) 

We're also starting to hear about the spiritual downside (and upside) of all of these secular trends and forces.  A nation like ours, blessed as it has been, is virtually thumbing its nose at our Creator with the decisions our society has made, or at least condones, if only implicitly and passively.  We’re being reminded that we, as a nation, are not storing up wealth in heaven with what we have been doing, and some religious commentators are even suggesting that we’re ripe for a comeuppance.  That’s the bad news. 

The good news is that, in their opinion, potential spiritually salutary benefits may be had in any widespread, disruptive changes that could occur.  The nature of what these changes might involve seems to be somewhat ambiguous at best, depending upon whom you read or listen to.  So, you might be asking, “What possible good could come out of some kind of widespread, disruptive change?” What we’re being told is that it would allow each of us to do a real serious examen (see note below)—an in-depth look at the way we’ve been living--and truly confess, repent, and change our ways for the better.  In our consulting practice, my business partner and I tell our clients that all feedback is good—it’s just that some of it is harder to read and hear than the rest of it.  Each of us probably could benefit from an in-depth look at where we’re at and where we’re headed in a spiritual sense, deciding what part of that feedback we dislike the most and then doing something about it. But why wait till something outside our control happens?  Why not do the examen now and start making those changes we've known we need to make all along?

The other day at Mass, our Associate Pastor, Fr. Ricardo Rosales, asked us in his homily to reflect on whether we are living each day as if it were our last day.  This is some awesome food for thought—are we living today as much as possible in our efforts to follow Jesus, showing his merciful love to everyone else with whom we interact, even those characters we don’t much care for?  Is what we’re doing directed at bringing others to the Lord?  When they see us do they see more of Jesus, or more of us, in the way we behave and talk with them?  That’s really the question before us now—are we working actively to try to stay in a state of grace, or do we simply reason that we’ll get to the confessional at some point when we’re not so busy, and make up for everything then?

But will we have time to make it to the confessional before we're called away?  A meeting I was scheduled to run this week has been postponed due to the untimely death of a young man who was to be a key participant. He died unexpectedly while participating in an outdoor sporting event this last weekend. All of us have one or more examples of something like this, but we don't think that it would happen to us or to someone we know.  So, again, why not start making the changes we need to make now, and quit putting them off?   

On the one hand, we may have some work to do, with God's grace, to better prepare ourselves to meet Him someday, whenever that day may come. On the other hand, we need not be paralyzed with anxiety about it. And it doesn’t take real or imagined disasters to cause one anxiety and worry.  No matter what sorts of challenges we run into—and we each have or will have our share of problems unique to us, regardless of general economic conditions or other major trends and forces—are we turning our problems over to God?  That is, are we praying for the grace we need to make changes that will get us closer to Christ, trusting in Jesus’ Divine Mercy and His love for us?  Or are we worrying and anxious? Consider the following Scripture passages:

Psalm 37:3-8
Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will dwell in the land, and be nourished in safety. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your vindication as the light, and your right as the noonday. Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over him who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Do not fret; it tends only to evil.

Mt 6:25–34
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  ¶ Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? ¶ And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; ¶ yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. ¶ But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. ¶ But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.

Whether we are concerned about some big picture, future scenarios or just the routine challenges of life in what’s considered to be our “normal,” everyday existence, do we have a personal, one-on-one relationship with Jesus that involves taking time to talk with Him daily?  Do we have a routine prayer life?  The Lord wants our souls—do we want to give them to Him?

Fr. Joseph Esper suggests a couple dozen specific actions we each can take to get our souls in shape for any eventuality in this life, and to prepare for the next life, including for example:
  • Get into and stay in a state of grace through frequent reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation
  • Attend Mass as often as possible, beyond just Sunday attendance
  • Pray the Rosary daily
  • Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet regularly
  • Read the Bible daily
  • And more…
The closer we can get to Our Lord, and the more we can rely on Him, the better able we will be to weather any storm that may toss our individual barques around.  We can’t know what the Lord has in store for us—but if he were to call us today, would we be ready for Him?  We should do something about it, but we should not stress about it--listen to what St. Pio tells us:

"Pray, hope, and don't worry. Anxiety doesn't help at all. Our Merciful Lord will listen to your prayer."

Indeed, we can pray ("unceasingly" as Scripture prompts us), and we can pray for God's grace to help us work earnestly on changing those behaviors that keep us from getting closer to Him.  We can commit our way to the Lord and He will act.  (Ps. 37)  And there's no time like now.

Feel free to pass this link on to others. - God bless

"Examen" - A formal examination of conscience, made usually daily 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Make a Difference

During his homily for the 7:00 a.m. Mass we attended at St. Bernard’s monastery, Father Francis reflected on the thoughts he had during a recent sidewalk Rosary for life that he and a group prayed.  He talked about how, at the time, he wondered, “What difference does this really make?  Cars are going by so fast and no one’s reading our posters.  No one in those cars can hear our prayers.  It just seems futile.”  But—after thinking further about it upon his return to the monastery, Father told us, he knew that it did indeed make a difference—that anytime we pray to our Lord, it makes a difference—and we should never forget that.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding marriage, a lot of us have been feeling somewhat discouraged.  Although many had suspected there was a reasonable probability of a decision like this one occurring, it was still a punch in the gut when it came to be.  There are plenty of articles, posts and interviews from clergy and other experts dissecting the decision and prognosticating the future of religious freedom in the United States.  This has left a lot of us wondering what the heck just happened, and why, after all the praying ostensibly being done prior to the SCOTUS decision, such a whacky outcome occurred.  Some may even wonder, as did Fr. Francis, what difference did it really make?

Recently Cardinal George Pell, told the participants at a conference in Ireland that we are “are entering a new phase of political struggle which can only be fought by lay people.” Some pundits blame Church leadership over the last few decades for the catechesis or lack thereof that has led to the culture we now face and the resulting struggle that it has created.  Whatever the reason, the fact is that in the here and now, we all have a job to do, clergy, religious and laity alike, and it’s going to take more than committed, orthodox bishops and priests to address the mess we presently find ourselves in.  It’s up to all of us to make a difference.

But how can an ordinary lay person make a difference, given all that we’re facing in this secularized culture—isn’t it like trying to drain the ocean with a measuring cup?  It may feel like that at times, but we need to remember that Jesus told us, “…with God all things are possible.” (Mt 19:26).  How can an ordinary lay person make a difference?  Here are some ideas we might prayerfully consider:

·       Beef up our daily prayer.  Prayer is speaking with God, developing a relationship with Him.  We don’t develop strong relationships with other created beings without dialoguing with them, and we won’t develop a strong relationship with the Creator without dialoging with Him.
·       Pray the Rosary.  As part of our prayer regimen, we ought to be including a Rosary a day.  None other than St. Padre Pio said, “The Rosary is the ‘weapon’ for these times.”  It was true then and it is true now.
·       Mass intentions.  Request that one or more Masses be said for our special intentions for the country.
·       Get involved in parish ministries.  Many parishes have a variety of ministries in which we can play a part, ranging from supporting liturgical celebrations, to men’s and to women’s ministries, and to pro-life and evangelization ministries, to name a few.   
·       Contact our bishops.  We may want to ask them to support a nationwide day of prayer or Rosary for our nation—it worked at the battle of LePanto, didn’t it?  The current head of the USCCB, Abp. Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D. can be reached at
·       Contact our senators and representatives.  We should encourage them to sponsor and pass legislation that protects religious liberty.
·       Evangelize by our actions.  We can show others charity in our interactions with them and let them see God’s merciful love in our interactions with them and with other people.
·       Don’t be afraid to speak the truth.  At the very least, we all need to pray for the fortitude to speak up when positions are raised by others that run counter to our Catholic Christian beliefs.  It may be uncomfortable, but who would we rather offend—our Creator in eternity, by not speaking out, or other created beings in this short life here on earth?

As Christians, we face an increasingly likely future of religious persecution, given the legislative and judicial temperament of the country.  Consider as just one example the bakers fined $135,000 recently.  Yet it seems that many Catholics and other Christians are oblivious to this possibility.  Either that, or they believe it’s something that someone else will address—no need for them personally to get involved.  But there is a very real need for each and every one of us to get involved, and there is no time like the present to begin doing so. 

And something else to remember is that despair and discouragement don’t come from God—they’re from the evil one.  He wants us to think that it doesn’t matter what we do, that all hope is lost and that the secular, relativist, atheistic agenda is winning.  That’s why we must heed St. Paul’s advice: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22). 

What kind of legacy do we want to leave our children and grandchildren?  We CAN and must make a difference. 


Sunday, July 5, 2015

Prescription for Stress Reduction

Recently, I attended a webinar in which the presenter discussed the effects of stress in our lives, citing various statistics about heart muscle regeneration, chemicals our body releases, neurotransmitters, etc.   As it happens, I’d been reading a book recommended during a homily by Fr. Miguel on EWTN recently, Be Healed, written by Dr. Bob Schuchts from the John Paul II Healing Center.  In it Schuchts tells us that many experts believe 90% to 95% of all physical illnesses are caused by stress.   In fact, he cites resources that link unresolved anger and bitterness to an increased probability of many forms of cancer, arthritis, digestive problems, and heart and immune system issues, just to name a few.   The general message here (stress is bad for us) probably isn’t news to anyone, but the approach suggested by the webinar presenter for dealing with stress is something that you may find interesting—I know I did.

Based on psychological and physiological research, the webinar presenter suggested in a nutshell that we would all benefit by cultivating a stronger awareness of the positive elements of our lives and taking occasional breaks throughout the day to recharge mentally.  More specifically, her formula for success includes:
  1. Start the day quietly reflecting on what you are thankful for (10 to 20 minutes)
  2. Take a break—disengage and unplug—mid-morning to quietly meditate for a couple of minutes
  3. At noon, do the same—disengage and unplug—for about five minutes
  4. Midafternoon—same drill as in the morning—disengage and unplug—to quietly meditate for a couple of minutes
  5. End the day with a reflection on all that you have to be thankful for

Does this process of starting and ending the day in thanksgiving, together with some pauses to reflect during the day, look suspiciously familiar to you?  It’s not unlike the Divine Office, which has been prayed in one form or another in the Catholic Church since about the 12th century by the clergy and religious, as well as some laity, who stop throughout the day to recite the prayers.  Now admittedly, it might be difficult for many of us in the laity to be able to take the time required during our work days to pray the entire Liturgy of the Hours, but we all can find some time at the start and end of the day, and perhaps during the day, for short periods of prayer.

For example, at a less intense level than praying the Divine Office, in Consoling the Heart of Jesus, Fr. Michael Gaitley suggests getting into a prayer routine that includes at a minimum, a morning offering prayer, which includes offering thanks to our Eternal Father for all that He’s done for us, (including His gift of our small share of suffering), pausing at the 3:00 o’clock hour for reflection on our Lord’s passion and Divine Mercy, and closing out the evening with an examen process that includes a prayer of thanksgiving as well. 

Consider also the current advice from many Christians, including Catholic Christians, to develop an “attitude of gratitude” if one wants to improve their life.  In fact, besides recommending that we take some time out each day to read the Gospel, inserting ourselves into the scenes as we meditate on them, St. Josemaría Escrivá continually exhorts us through his writings to be grateful to God for all things.   

More recently, in an interview posted at EWTN, therapist Eric Gudan states that,

 “Gratitude is a positive moral affect. In other words, it is a pleasant feeling arising from the good action another has done to you, from judging that it has been good for you…A growing number of studies have linked gratitude with higher general feelings of happiness and have found that more grateful persons are more satisfied with life. This includes people who may not necessarily feel grateful, but attempt to arrive at the virtue by mental exercises such as thinking about the gifts that they received…

…one way of confronting depression is seeing the power that negative attitudes have upon our experience of the world and our relationships, affecting our behaviors and ultimately even our brain chemistry…Depressed persons generally have a negative attitude…This negative attitude becomes a filter that focuses and amplifies all the bad things that happen...Gratitude, on the other hand, is the uplifting feeling resulting from the recognition that another person has done something good for us. Instead of a negative self-focus, gratitude has a positive other-focus.

We have been created to love and be loved. There is a way to consider every person you come into contact with as a gift, an opportunity to love in order to become the person you were made to be.  In addition, any love that you have experienced through another person is a gift. Thus, with this attitude, there is always something to be grateful for.”

So, the bottom line in all of this would seem to be that developing a healthy prayer life, asking for the grace daily to maintain an attitude of thanks and praise, and consciously being thankful to God for all things will lead to a better life—and it really does work!

As a sidebar to this post, at the end of the webinar referred to above, the host asked me specifically if I had any questions.  I told him, “No—no questions really, but rather a comment:  It occurs to me that what you’re suggesting in a secular context is something that we believers have been doing through daily prayer for a very long time.”  At this, there was some commotion and background noise, throat clearing, etc., followed by a short pause, ending with the host’s non sequitur, “Well…I go for walks,” together with silence from the presenter… J

Blog post re: the Divine Office from Ian at Aquinas and More store, Ft. Collins, CO

More in-depth discussion of Divine Office from EWTN

Laudate App for iPhones/iPads – access to Divine Office

Magnificat website – morning and evening readings and daily Mass readings

Article from ETWN about gratitude’s salutary effects on depression