Monday, April 30, 2018

Saint of the day: Pope Pius V


Prayer to Mary, Help of Christians:
Mary, most powerful Virgin,
You are the mighty and glorious Protector of the Church.
You are the marvelous Help of Christians.
You are awe-inspiring as an army in battle array.
You have destroyed heresy in the world.
In the midst of our anguish, our struggle and our distress
defend us from the power of the enemy,
and at the hour of our death receive our soul into heaven. Amen.

(By St. John Bosco)

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Having Holy Boldness in Prayer

The following comes from Msgr. Pope:


There are some who wince at the notion of praying boldly to God, especially if anger or exasperation are part of that boldness. And yet the Bible itself models and counsels that we should include in our prayers the times when we are angry, exasperated, or disappointed in God. The psalms are filled with such prayers and great figures like Moses, David, and Job cry out to God quite plainly, expressing their anger and disappointment. I have written more on that here: A Meditation on the Role of Anger in Prayer.
At any rate, in this brief blog today I offer this example of a prayer of holy boldness from a great Saint of the Church: St. Catherine of Siena. Here is the background: Catherine’s mother, Lapa, lay dying, but Catherine was convinced that Lapa was not yet ready to die, and so she told God as much. The Lord disagreed, but Catherine remained undeterred in her assessment. And now we pick up the story and prayer …
Lapa died, or so it seemed to all the women who stood around her bed. She had refused to confess and receive the last Sacrament. Catherine lay over her mother’s corpse weeping and praying aloud.
O my dear Lord, is this how you keep the promise you once made to me that none in my house should suffer eternal death? You promised me too that you would not take my mother from this world before she could leave it in a state of grace, and here she lies dead, without having confessed or received the Sacrament. My Beloved Savior, I call to you in your great mercy, do not fail me! I will not go alive from your feet until you give me my mother back.
Speechless and overcome, the women around the deathbed saw that life seemed to creep back into Lapa’s body. She breathed and made some slight movement, … After a short time Monna Lapa was quite well again. [Told by her confessor, Blessed Fr. Raimondo, and inscribed in the Biography Catherine of Sienna by Sigrid Undset, pp 94-95].
And so here is the image of a saint at prayer: reverent but bold, seemingly unwilling to take “no” for an answer. Surely, on account of her usual and deep reverence, Catherine was allowed a bit more leeway than many of us; but do not doubt that God is often listening for us sinners to pray with a little conviction and intensity!
Somehow, too, it reminds me of a place called Cana, where the Mother of Jesus said, “They have no more wine.”  And though Jesus seemed unwilling, I am convinced that Mary gave him a look that only a mother could, a look that wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.  And the next thing you know, Jesus is making dozens of gallons of the best wine imaginable!
Are you praying with me, Church? Really praying? There is a place for boldness in prayer, not a boldness that loses all reverence, but a boldness nonetheless.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Irish Priest Wows Audience and Judges of Britain's Got Talent

The Shepherd’s Voice: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Fourth Sunday of Easter

The following comes from Scott Hahn at St. Paul Center:

Readings:
Acts 4:8–12
Ps 118:18–921–232629
1 Jn 3:1–2
Jn 10:11–18

Jesus, in today’s Gospel, says that He is the good shepherd the prophets had promised to Israel.
He is the shepherd-prince, the new David—who frees people from bondage to sin and gathers them into one flock, the Church, under a new covenant, made in His blood (see Ezekiel 34:10–1323–31).
His flock includes other sheep, He says, far more than the dispersed children of Israel (see Isaiah 56:8John 11:52). And He gave His Church the mission of shepherding all peoples to the Father.
In today’s First Reading, we see the beginnings of that mission in the testimony of Peter, whom the Lord appointed shepherd of His Church (see John 21:15–17).
Peter tells Israel’s leaders that the Psalm we sing today is a prophecy of their rejection and crucifixion of Christ. He tells the “builders” of Israel’s temple, that God has made the stone they rejected the cornerstone of a new spiritual temple, the Church (see Mark 12:10–131 Peter 2:4–7).
Through the ministry of the Church, the shepherd still speaks (see Luke 10:16 ),and forgives sins (see John 20:23), and makes His body and blood present, that all may know Him in the breaking of the bread (see Luke 24:35). It is a mission that will continue until all the world is one flock under the one shepherd.
In laying down His life and taking it up again, Jesus made it possible for us to know God as He did—as sons and daughters of the Father who loves us. As we hear in today’s Epistle, He calls us His children, as He called Israel His son when He led them out of Egypt and made His covenant with them (see Exodus 4:22–23Revelation 21:7).
Today, let us listen for His voice as He speaks to us in the Scriptures, and vow again to be more faithful followers. And let us give thanks for the blessings He bestows from His altar.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Totus Tuus: The Key to St. Pope John Paul the Great

The following comes from Tim Drake at The Catholic Pulse:
“Immaculate Conception, Mary my Mother… Possess my soul, Take over my entire personality and life, replace it with Yourself.” (Totus Tuus Prayer, Pope John Paul II)
As the story goes, so intimate was Pope John Paul II’s union with the Blessed Virgin Mary that when he was shot in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981 and lay back in the vehicle, he looked up searching for an image of Our Lady. He found none. As a result, Pope John Paul II had a mosaic of Mary, Mater Ecclesiae (Mother of the Church) placed in the plaza later that same year, inaugurating it on December 8, 1981. Below the colorful image of Mary holding the Christ child are the words Totus Tuus (“Totally Yours”), the Pope’s papal motto.

“John Paul II, convinced that the Virgin Mary had protected him on that day, immediately expressed the desire that an image of the Madonna be placed in the square,” explained Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Vatican Secretariat of State during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. It’s impossible to understand St. John Paul II without understanding his connection to Mary, the Mother of Christ. She is the key to comprehending the man, his life, and his papacy.

Karol Wojtyla’s entrustment to Mary occurred at a young age. Born May 18, 1920, the young Karol lost his mother Emilia just prior to his ninth birthday. The day after her funeral, Karol’s father, took him and his older brother to an outdoor shrine, telling them that the Blessed Virgin Mary would look after them until they could be reunited with their mother in Heaven.

In the intervening years, the young Karol took his first pilgrimage to Czestochowa, home of the Pauline Monastery of Jasna Góra and the painting of the Black Madonna, Our Lady of Czestochowa and a popular Polish shrine to the Virgin Mary.

In secondary school Karol served as president of the Sodality of Mary, and as a young teen, he frequently visited a secluded convent church to pray before an image of Our Lady. Clearly, Karol had taken Mary as his spiritual mother.

By the age of 20, Karol had lost everyone he loved — his grandparents, parents, and siblings. As a young adult, Karol became involved with Jan Tyranowski’s “Living Rosary” prayer group. Each member of the group was expected to pray a mystery of the Rosary daily. Through his relationship with Tyranowski, Karol deepened his relationship with the Blessed Mother and was introduced to the Carmelite spirituality of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.

“He was one of those unknown saints, hidden amid the others like a marvelous light at the bottom of life, at a depth where night usually reigns,” said Pope John Paul II of Tyranowski. “He disclosed to me the riches of his inner life, of his mystical life. In his words, in his spirituality and in the example of a life given to God alone, he represented a new world that I did not yet know.”

It was also at this time that Wojtyla was introduced to St. Louis de Montfort’s “True Devotion to Mary” and made his consecration to Jesus through Mary, describing it as a “decisive turning point” in his life. Not long after, under the Nazi occupation of Poland, Karol made his decision to enter the underground seminary and study for the priesthood.

“I was already convinced that Mary leads us to Christ, but at that time I began to realize also that Christ leads us to his Mother,” said Wojtyla. “One can even say that just as Christ on Calvary indicated his mother to the disciple John, so he points her out to anyone who strives to know and love him.” 

Pope John Paul II admitted that he needed to reread de Montfort’s book several times to understand the idea that Marian consecration took nothing from devotion to Christ.
I found the answer to my perplexities due to the fear that the devotion to Mary, if excessive, might end by compromising the supremacy of the worship owed to Christ. Under the wise guidance of Saint Louis-Marie, I understood that, if one lives the mystery of Mary in Christ, such a risk does not exist.
With his election as Pope in 1978, Pope John Paul II took Totus Tuus as his papal motto, placing his entire pontificate into her hands. Whenever he began a book, encyclical, or speech, he inscribed the motto on the top of the first page, dedicated his writing to Mary.

Exactly 64 years after Our Lady of Fatima’s appearance to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, on May 13, 1981, shots rang out in St. Peter’s Square as an assassin attempted to kill Pope John Paul II. Riding in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, personal secretary Monsignor Stanislaw Dziwisz heard the Pope praying, “O Maria, Madonna! Maria, Madonna!” (“O Mary, my Mother”).

Pope John Paul II later said that “one hand fired the bullet; another guided it.” He attributed his salvation to Mary’s intercession, even visiting the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima a year later and having the bullet placed in her crown.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

10 Positive Things That Happen When We Pray

The following comes from Gary Zimak:


Why should I bother to pray?
If you’re like me, you’ve probably asked yourself this question at least once in your life. Whether it’s motivated by the fact that “God already knows what I need” or by “God doesn’t answer my prayers”, the fact of the matter is that the question does get raised by all of us. Even worse, we sometimes take it a step further and stop praying. In an attempt to highlight the importance of prayer and combat the desire to give it up, here are 10 positive things that happen EVERY time we pray from the heart:
1. We Receive – Without exception, sincere prayer is always effective. Although we don’t always receive what we want, we always get “something”. According to Jesus, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Mt 7:7-8) As we read further, however, He assures us that we’ll only receive good things and will never get something that will hurt us (spiritually). Sometimes this frustrates us because we’re often confused about what we TRULY need. If we look at this from a “glass half full” point of view, even when God says “no” to our requests, we are receiving protection from something that could potentially hurt our chance at salvation!
2. We Follow God’s Will – In the Bible (the inspired word of God), St. Paul writes that we should “pray constantly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and goes on to say that this is God’s will for us. When we pray, we’re doing exactly what God wants us to do at that moment in time. How often can we say that with certainty about our other activities?
3. We Profess Our Faith – When we pray, we acknowledge our belief in God. While it sounds like a “no brainer”, it really is a significant profession of faith. We’d be foolish to pray to Him if we didn’t believe that He exists or that He can help us. Each time we turn to the Lord in prayer, we’re saying “Lord, I believe in You”.
4. We Imitate Christ – The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that Jesus prayed often, especially before the decisive moments of His mission (CCC 2599 – 2606). Whenever we pray, we imitate Our Lord. Whenever we’re tempted to think that “prayer doesn’t do any good”, thinking about Jesus at prayer should put an end to that baseless line of thinking.
“If He who is without sin prayed, how much more ought sinners to pray?” (St. Cyprian of Carthage)
5. We Enter Into A Relationship With God – In her autobiography, St. Teresa of Avila stated that prayer is “being on terms of friendship with God, frequently conversing with Him who, as we know, loves us.” According to the Catechism,“prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with His Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit.” (CCC 2565)
6. We Increase Our Chances For Salvation - To put it simply, prayer will help you get to Heaven. Far from just “asking for things”, prayer is an expression of love and a relationship with God. When we pray, we show our love for God and express a desire to do His will. How important is that? Here’s what St. Alphonsus Liguori had to say…
“Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned” (St. Alphonsus Liguori)
7. We Obtain What God Wants To Give Us – While there are some gifts that God will give us even if we don’t ask (the grace that moves us to grow closer to Him, for example), there are other gifts that won’t be granted unless we ask. Jesus attests to this with the words of the Lord’s Prayer (which contains several petitions) and with His teaching that the Father will “give good things to those who ask Him.” (Mt 7:11) Further evidence can be seen in St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians when he urges us to let our requests be made known to God (Phil 4:6). By not asking, we deprive ourselves of many good things that God wants us to have.
“God wills that our desire should be exercised in prayer, that we may be able to receive what He is prepared to give.” (St. Augustine)
8. We Practice Humility – The Bible is filled with verses supporting the virtue of humility:
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. (1 Peter 5:6)

Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you. (James 4:10)

Every time we pray, we acknowledge that we are dependent on God and that He is almighty. This holds true whether our prayer is one of praise, petition or thanksgiving. It’s difficult to be proud when you’re kneeling in prayer ;-)
9. We Obtain Peace – Praying will bring us peace. According to the Bible:
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Prayer = Peace. This is VERY appealing to those of us who are prone to anxiety!
10. We Use Our Time Wisely – Unlike useless activities such as worrying and complaining, prayer is a very good use of our time. Since studies have shown that the brain can’t think about two things simultaneously, time focused on prayer means time not spent worrying or pursuing other destructive tasks. Jesus told us to “ask and we shall receive” (Mt 7:7) and that worrying does no good (Lk 12:25). It makes sense to listen to His advice!
Obviously, the prayer that I’m speaking of above is sincere, “from the heart” dialog with God. “Going though the motions” or babbling rote phrases will not produce the above results. When we truly mean the words we pray, however, we can count on every one of these benefits. Remember this the next time you’re tempted to put off praying, thinking that it will do no good. There is no more productive activity we can do on this earth!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Five Ways to Improve Your Prayer Life

The following comes from Fr. Broom at the Catholic Exchange:
How much time and energy is exerted in obtaining a degree from some prestigious University?  How much blood, sweat and tears are expended to win a trophy from some sporting event? How much time and energy can even be consumed in preparing for a surprise Birthday party?   If we can expend so much time, money, emotional and physical energy for such natural pursuits, should we not at least expend more of our time and energy in what is the greatest of all arts, “The art of all arts” and that is learning the Practice of Prayer?
St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church, calls prayer the key to salvation and following are five short, clear and concrete steps we can undertake to improve our personal prayer life, grow in holiness, be a source of holiness to many others and experience a nearly constant peace and overflowing joy!
1.    Conviction. First, we must be convinced of the importance of prayer in our life and for our eternal salvation.  St. Alphonsus expresses it concisely: “He who prays will be saved; he who does not pray will be damned.” St. John Damascene defines prayer: “Lifting of the mind and heart to God.” St. Augustine has a catchy way of expressing the indispensable character of prayer: “He who prays well lives well; he who lives well dies well; and for he who dies well, all is well.”  A final easy analogy: as air is to the lungs, so must prayer be to our soul.  No air for the lungs, death arrives quickly. Likewise, the prayer-less person can easily fall prey to temptation and fall into mortal sin and lose out on God’s Friendship.

2.     Confession.   If we are not at peace with God, if our conscience is reproaching us, if we have unforgiven and unconfessed sins we will find that talking face to face with God as friends will be all the more difficult. If we hurt our friend, we apologize, seek forgiveness, and then return to amicable relations.
3.    Set a time and a place to pray.  Man is a creature of habit. We do certain things every day at the same time and place.  Of capital importance should be to form the habit of prayer. This habit will result in our salvation and possibly the salvation of many others.  We can pray at any time and any place and in any circumstance. However, there are “Prime times” that we should pray. Morning prayer upon arising from sleep, grace before meals, before going on a trip, the family Rosary in the evening before dinner, and night prayers—these are traditional times for prayer.
4.    Mass and Holy Communion.  By far the greatest prayer in the world is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Sunday Mass is obligatory, under pain of mortal sin. However, if we are truly in love with God, we should not aim for the minimum but rather the maximum!   The greatest action and gesture under the heavens that will lead us to eternal life in heaven is to assist at Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion fervently, humbly, and with great confidence.  The angels in heaven experience a holy envy towards us because even the greatest of angels cannot receive Jesus in Holy Communion. How privileged we really are!
5.     Seek Our Lady of the Rosary.  Our Lady of Fatima appeared in 1917 from May to October. In every one of the Apparitions she insisted on the praying of the Rosary. Blessed Pope John Paul II, in Blessed Virgin Mary and the Rosary, also insisted that we pray the Rosary and for two specific important intentions: 1) for world peace, 2) for the sake of the family.   The Rosary priest, Father Patrick Peyton, coined these immortal proverbs: “The family that prays together, stays together….”  And “A world at prayer is a world at peace.”   The family should find a time and place and pray the Rosary every day. May the father who is the spiritual head of the family initiate this practice, bring the family together, and persevere in this prayer for the salvation of his entire family.
If we can implement these five concrete practices in our personal prayer life then we will bring forth fruit and fruit in abundance! May Our Lady of grace inspire us to undertake a daily growth in our prayer life.