A Prayer For Our Times

This prayer from the Sisters of Life is written for times such as ours. These days and weeks of anxiety can make us forget that we need not worry if we place our trust in Christ. Pray this beautiful litany to remind you that our loving God will always be with you and will see you through any struggle.

Litany of Trust

From the belief that I have to earn Your love … Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear that I am unlovable … Deliver me, Jesus.

From the false security that I have what it takes … Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear that trusting You will leave me more destitute … Deliver me, Jesus.

From all suspicion of Your words and promises … Deliver me, Jesus.

From the rebellion against childlike dependency on You … Deliver me, Jesus.

From refusals and reluctances in accepting Your will … Deliver me, Jesus.

From anxiety about the future … Deliver me, Jesus.

From resentment or excessive preoccupation with the past … Deliver me, Jesus.

From restless self-seeking in the present moment … Deliver me, Jesus.

From disbelief in Your love and presence … Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being asked to give more than I have … Deliver me, Jesus.

From the belief that my life has no meaning or worth … Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of what love demands … Deliver me, Jesus.

From discouragement … Deliver me, Jesus.

That You are continually holding me, sustaining me, loving me … Jesus, I trust in you.

That Your love goes deeper than my sins and failings, and transforms me …Jesus, I trust in you.

That not knowing what tomorrow brings is an invitation to lean on You … Jesus, I trust in you.

That You are with me in my suffering … Jesus, I trust in you.

That my suffering, united to Your own, will bear fruit in this life and the next …Jesus, I trust in you.

That You will not leave me orphan, that You are present in Your Church…Jesus, I trust in you.

That Your plan is better than anything else … Jesus, I trust in you.

That You always hear me, and in Your goodness always respond to me …Jesus, I trust in you.

That You give me the grace to accept forgiveness and to forgive others …Jesus, I trust in you.

That You give me all the strength I need for what is asked …Jesus, I trust in you.

That my life is a gift … Jesus, I trust in you.

That You will teach me to trust You … Jesus, I trust in you.

That You are my Lord and my God … Jesus, I trust in you.

That I am Your beloved one … Jesus, I trust in you.

Amen.

 (From the Sisters of Life, @2020)

A Prayer for Peace of Mind

A Prayer for Peace of Mind

As we all stay at home these days, it’s easy sometimes to allow worry and fear to overtake us. God calls us to place our trust in Him and to allow our hearts to rest in Him. And so I share this lovely prayer for the peace of Christ with all my readers. 

Almighty God, We bless you for our lives, we give you praise for your abundant mercy and grace we receive.

We thank you for your faithfulness even though we are not that faithful to you.

Lord Jesus, we ask you to give us all around peace in our mind, body, soul and spirit.

We want you to heal and remove everything that is causing stress, grief, and sorrow in our lives.

Please guide our path through life and make our enemies be at peace with us.

Let your peace reign in our family, at our place of work, businesses and everything we lay our hands on.

Let your angels of peace go ahead of us when we go out and stay by our side when we return. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

—St. Therese (1873-1897) 

Offer It Up

Here are a few things that make me crazy:  being stuck in traffic; poor customer service; unloading the dishwasher; those cards that fall out of magazines; littering (possibly including those cards that fall out of magazines); and people who don’t listen.

Here are a few things that can make me holy:  being stuck in traffic; poor customer service; unloading the dishwasher; those cards that fall out of magazines; littering (possibly including those cards that fall out of magazines); and people who don’t listen.

Seeing a pattern here?  Good. Whatever causes me to suffer, a little or a lot, can be offered to God and He can take our offering and use it for His good purpose. We Catholics call this “redemptive suffering” or in more everyday terms “offering it up.”  All religious faiths try and make sense out of suffering. Whether it’s karma (Hinduism) or the result of sin (some televangelists) we can all agree that to be alive is to be acquainted with suffering, whether great or small. Catholics understand suffering (and sin and death) as a result of original sin, when our first parents disobeyed God in the garden of Eden. Since that time, God has allowed us to suffer for our benefit. We may not know while we are suffering what that benefit might be but we can usually see His purpose for it when we look back at our past trials. Maybe He allowed it so we’d become more dependent on Him, or maybe by our suffering we’d correct those behaviors or attitudes that had led us away from His path for us. The bottom line is that we’re all going to suffer in this life. The question is: how are you going to handle it?

Christ suffered betrayal, mockery, humiliation, abandonment, was beaten and scourged, spat upon and nailed to a Cross to die. If God Himself suffered so much, we shouldn’t expect not to suffer. As Christ offered Himself to the Father, so must we. We are the Body of Christ and our love for Him unites us in a profound and mystical way. When we offer our sufferings back to Him, He sanctifies them. In that way, we participate in Christ’s redemption of the world. St. Paul writes about this when he says: “…whereof I Paul am made a minister.  Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for His Body, which is the Church” (Colossians 1:23-24).

Redemptive suffering means that you offer God whatever you might be undergoing and allow Him to make use of it. No pain or disappointment or inconvenience or sadness ever “goes to waste” in this economy of salvation.  This has changed my life in a profound way. I’m not perfect at it by any means but “offering it up” has set me free from so much of what used to burden and annoy me. Those things that I said “make me crazy” in the first paragraph are small examples of what I can let go of. Every time I do, I grow a little. I offer my impatience as a gift to the Lord. If I’m inconvenienced by slow traffic, I give this tiny “suffering” for Him to use as He will. When customer service fails me, I say a prayer for the harried telephone rep and give it over to God. When I walk by trash on the sidewalk, not only can I pick it up and give that act back to Him, I can ask for His blessing on the one who threw it down. Nothing is lost to the Lord if we offer it back to Him in love. We can ask Him to use our suffering in a particular way, if we want to. “Lord, please accept this pain (or whatever our sacrifice might be) to help bring my co-worker to know Your Son…”  We learn to accept our suffering with peace and we ask God to use it for something good. This is truly taking up our cross and following Jesus.

Living in this sacrificial way transforms our pain and suffering into redemptive acts. It reminds us how we are all connected as members of His Body. For me, it helps me grow in patience and in humility. It helps me react more thoughtfully. It helps me to whine less and be more thankful. It unites me to pray for folks for whom I might never have otherwise offered a prayer. I have a long way to go in learning to “offer it up” but it’s one of the great blessings of my Catholic faith. In my own small, deeply-flawed way it helps me to be just a tiny bit like Jesus. As St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) wrote: “I have had crosses in plenty–more than I could carry, almost. I set myself to ask for the love of crosses–then I was happy.” Amen!

“Each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.”

                                    –St. Pope John Paul II

A Time For Change

Springtime has finally arrived (we hope!) in north Georgia.  The dark rainy days of winter are slowly (very slowly) slipping away into memory and every day sees new blooms in our gardens and the woods around us.  A thousand shades of green are blanketing the hills and ridges as sleeping buds burst forth to find the sun. I know how they feel.  I’m feeling that same longing for the new life of spring, too.  These past few weeks of Lent have prepared us for the true Light of Easter.  We’ve been walking to Jerusalem with our Lord, through the good times He’s shared with His friends and now as we will be with Him through His Passion and the Cross of Good Friday.  Spring is about changes and new beginnings.  And change is painful.

 

But change is also hopeful.  A new beginning opens a world of possibilities.  For me, writing is like that.  I’m old-fashioned and use a pen and paper writing everything in longhand.  Sitting down with a blank white page in front of me is at once a gift and a burden.  I can write whatever words I want to write and that’s a marvelous gift.  But that freedom brings with it the burden of choosing which words to write and in what order and for what purpose.  This is very much what Easter is for us as well.  The sacrifice of the Cross opens heaven for us again.  After original sin entered the world through our first parents, a gulf of separation kept us from knowing God as He created us to know Him. He wanted to be in an intimate relationship with each one of us, every moment of every day.  So He had to build a bridge from His throne to our hearts.  And He imagined that bridge in the form of a Cross.  A simple wooden cross that would reach from the depths of our sins to the heights of heaven.

 

The hope of the Cross of Christ is our greatest gift.  Through Him, we have the new life we long for–here and for all eternity in heaven.  But the joy of the resurrection comes with the exquisite price of Golgotha.  Easter is meaningless without Good Friday.  In our culture, we often skip anything that smacks of sacrifice or suffering.  We want to get straight to joy and happiness.  But one look at the life of Jesus shows us how we are to live.  And no time in His life is more revealing than this week.  He spends time with His friends.  He spends time in prayer.  He helps those around Him with what they need.  He keeps His heart open and His eyes fixed on Friday.  He is motivated by one thing and one thing only:  love.  As we journey towards this Easter Sunday, how well do our lives reflect the hope of Jesus’ gift of the Cross?  Like Christ, do we live a life full of prayer and service to others?  Are we open to helping those around us when they need help?  Does love motivate the decisions we make?  If you’re like me, you probably have a ways to to.  And that’s exactly when Jesus loves us most—when we still have a ways to go and we choose to make that journey with Him.

 

If you’ve been away from Christ, today is the perfect day to come home to Him.  He’s waiting for you in the sacrament of confession.  He’s waiting for you in the celebration and sacrifice of the Holy Mass.  He’s waiting to give you the hope and the joy that He purchased for you on the Cross.  Spring is the season of new life and light.  Christ is calling you to return to Him and receive the new life that only He can offer. 

 

“Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to Me with all your heart..”

                                                                                             —Joel 2:12

When God Is Quiet

She went to Mass every day.  She listened to the Word of God proclaimed and heard the priest’s homily — words meant to enlighten and inspire.  She received the Eucharist in Holy Communion.  At home, she prayed.  Her family watched her go to work and watched her come home again.  She cooked and cleaned and cared for her children and her husband.  She was active in her ministry work at church and as a volunteer at the local hospital.  And always, she prayed.  On the outside, nothing had changed.  But on the inside, everything was darkness.  Her spiritual life, once the source of her joy and peace, was now a wasteland.  Prayer brought her no comfort.  Her pleas to God went unanswered.  She felt totally cut-off from Christ, from the sweet Savior Who had always felt so close to her.  She felt alone.  She felt lost.

 

There are times in life when God seems very close to us.  The sun of His love shines brightly.  Our hearts exult in the joy of His presence.  Every Mass is a foretaste of heaven and Holy Communion is almost unbearable intimacy with Christ.  When we read Holy Scripture, He speaks to us directly and reveals His heart fully to us. Our prayer life is rich, satisfying and exciting.  We feel as if we are always in the presence of our Lord.  And then it seems, for no reason, we wake one day to find ourselves cast away from Him, no longer in His presence at all but in a kind of spiritual desert.  Anyone who follows Christ will someday experience this dryness and spiritual loneliness.  In the Catholic tradition, many great Saints have written of their own experiences of feeling isolated from Christ.  St. John of the Cross’ most famous work is The Dark Night of the Soul.  St. Therese of Lisieux wrote:  “For me it is always night; dark black night…but since my Beloved wishes to sleep, I shall not prevent Him.”  More recently, the private letters of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta have revealed that this loving and heroic woman lived for many years in the lonely darkness of a spiritual void.  And yet she persevered in her work with the poor.  To the outside world, her faith seemed as vibrant and alive as ever.

 

The truth is:  it was.  It’s a mistake for us to think that our “feelings” define our faith lives.  Faith is more than just warm and fuzzy feelings.  The gift of faith requires a conscious decision to follow Jesus Christ.  Feelings fade, but true faith persists in the desert.  It can even thrive there.  Remember in St. Matthew’s Gospel, that it wasn’t the devil that led Christ into the desert:  it was the Spirit of God.  Whether we like it or not, all of us will be led into that desert at one time or another.  In that blistering, lonely wilderness we can, like Christ, be cleansed and purged for God’s great purpose.  What did Christ do in the desert?  He fasted and prayed and waited on God.

 

This is what we also can do when our interior faith life becomes dry, dusty, and silent.  Pray, even when you don’t feel like it.  Go to Mass as often as you can.  Go to Confession every week.  Do something for someone else.  Fast. Read the Gospels every day.  Be quiet.  This last one may be the most difficult of all.  Spend some time each day quietly and prayerfully opening your heart to God’s presence.  This “desert time” can be a wonderful gift, because it is a time just for you and for God to be together.  In the wilderness, He teaches us to rely on Him more completely, to depend on Him for all our needs.  Alone with Him, we learn that He is using this desert to teach us how to love Him as He already loves us.  Completely.

 

“I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved Me and followed Me through the desert, through a land not sown.” 

                                                                                                            –Jeremiah 2:2

Follow Him

The pastor is boring and his homilies put you to sleep.  The only time he gets excited is when he’s asking for money for some project or other.  The choir director chooses songs that no one can sing and that would sound better sung around a campfire than during Mass around the altar of God.  There’s a clique of women in the church who control everything that goes on and make it their duty to discourage any new ideas.  The youth program spends more time raising money for parties and trips than it does teaching the Gospel.  The church building is ugly and in need of repairs and don’t even ask about the parking lot mess!  The men’s group is great at arranging golf dates but that’s about all they do.  There’s no place to put the crying babies during Mass.  The social hall is a crowded and delapidated cavern where no one cleans up after themselves.  The audio system is terrible, the carpet needs replacing and the whole place could use a new paint job.  And the people in the pews?  They sit stone-faced and unsmiling, like they’re next in line at the dentist’s office.  Most of them seem spiritually asleep, or worse.

 

Sound familiar?  Maybe you’ve been a member of a parish where some of these comments were true.  Or maybe they’re true of the church you attend right now.  One thing you can be sure of:  there’s no such thing as a perfect parish.  Every faith family is like our earthly family, made up of imperfect, flawed people who love God and each other in our own imperfect and flawed ways.  We struggle with doubt and unbelief.  We hang on to past hurts and grievances.  We’re impatient and demanding at times, unkind and hurtful at others.  We don’t love consistently or very well.  We’re selfish and short-sighted and rarely forgive the trespasses of others.  In short, we’re sinners.

 

And yet God always says to us, “Follow Me.”  You.  Yes, you.  That sinner in the fourth pew, aisle seat on the lefthand side of the church.  “You.  Follow Me.”  Because it’s not about the pastor or the music or the parking lot.  It’s not about the men’s group or the ladies’ group or the youth group.  The size of the church doesn’t matter.  What matters is what you do in response to His call to follow Him.  You can worship in a grand cathedral with marble and gold everywhere and if you don’t have a love relationship with Jesus Christ, your heart will be as dry as dust.  Because we’re sinners, sometimes we focus on what’s not so important and let those inconvenient details of parish life distract us from Whom we come together to worship.  Mass isn’t something the Church invented to keep us entertained.  Mass is the celebration of His sacrifice that Jesus gave to His Church at the Last Supper.  More than that, the Mass is the very same sacrifice of Christ on His Holy Cross.  When you’re in the pew next Sunday, you’re answering part of Jesus’ call to love and to know Him.  Don’t let the small stuff get in the way of the most important relationship you’ll ever have.  Follow Him with your whole heart.  Love Him with your whole life.  Let Him share His life with you.  Let your life bear the fruit of Christ in your parish.  Follow Him and let your light shine.

 

“The best argument against Christianity is…..Christians.” 

                                   — G.K. Chesterton

The “Symbol” of the Eucharist

As a convert to Catholicism I don’t share many of the “growing up Catholic” memories of many of my friends. I wasn’t taught by nuns. I didn’t go to Catholic school. I didn’t grow up getting into trouble at Mass or choir practice. I didn’t get to wear the adorable little white dress and gloves for my first Holy Communion. I don’t miss those great old Latin hymns or women wearing chapel veils. Although I do LOVE the old Latin hymns and women wearing chapel veils. I came into the Church in 1977 at the height of guitar Masses and liturgical “experiments.”  The music and practices of “my” Catholic Church have kind of always been a hot mess. I even know all the words to “Lord of the Dance.”  Unfortunately. So when other Catholics reminisce about the “good old days” before Vatican II, I think: meh. I didn’t become Catholic because of the beautiful architecture or music or liturgy of bygone years, though I LOVE all these aspects of our worship. I became Catholic because of the Holy Eucharist. And throughout the decades of bad music, ugly vestments, school closings and scandals, the reason I remain Catholic is the Holy Eucharist.

The Church teaches us that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith (Catechism, para. 1324). Jesus teaches us this same truth in the beautiful “Bread of Life” discourse in the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel. As our Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said: “Without the Eucharist, the Church simply does not exist.” Nothing could be truer. God gives us the most precious gift of His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity to nourish and sustain us on our earthly journey. The Eucharist is literally the beating heart of our Catholic faith and our loving Savior. Yet every Sunday only about 25% of Catholics attend Mass to meet Him there. And you want to know why? Because of what was found by a recent Pew Research Center poll that questioned Catholics about their faith. It revealed that almost half of American Catholics believe that the bread and wine we receive in Holy Communion is a SYMBOL of Jesus’ Body and Blood. A symbol. Granted, I don’t know if the Catholics they questioned were practicing Catholics. But honestly, I wouldn’t  be at Mass myself if I thought the Eucharist was a mere remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. There’s a famous Flannery O’Connor anecdote that beautifully sums up my thoughts and feelings. At a New York dinner party where Miss O’Connor found herself the token Catholic, she sat quietly listening to the erudite conversation of the other guests. At one point a lady turned the conversation to the Catholic faith. Among the thoughts she shared was that the Eucharist was a “pretty good” symbol. This prompted Flannery to remark at once, “We’ll, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it!”  I couldn’t agree more, Miss O’Connor.

Why would anyone want to be Catholic if not for the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist?  It would be lots easier to be Episcopalian where you could enjoy beautiful music and liturgy without the “restrictions” of Catholic teaching on contraception, an all-male celibate priesthood, and same- sex “marriage.” Or how about one of those generic Christian mega-churches where the building is fitted out like an IMAX theater, the charismatic young pastor dresses like a rock star and you can enjoy a latte in your comfy theater chair while the music blasts to a hallelujah crescendo? No worries about going to confession or divorce and remarriage, just a free and easy Christian “lifestyle.”

Because of the Eucharist, the Catholic Church continues to exist in spite of every reason it shouldn’t still be around. And without the Eucharist, like Pope Benedict said, the Church would cease to be. And I’d be among the first out the door.  So it’s no wonder so many Catholics don’t attend Mass on Sundays or have left the Church altogether. They aren’t being taught the Truth of the Eucharist. If 45% of Catholics believe the Eucharist is just a symbol, they may as well sleep in on Sunday morning. I would. So no matter how you feel about your parish’s choir or vestments or pastor or youth programs or parish council, remember this: Jesus Christ waits for you at every Mass. In person. He longs to meet you intimately in Holy Communion and to share His eternal life with you. This is the greatest gift of our Catholic faith. We must hear this truth preached in our Sunday homilies and see reverence for the Blessed Sacrament shown by our priests and deacons. We need Adoration Hours in every parish and adult catechesis on this most central belief of our Church. We must be reminded that the God we worship is there on the altar before us, truly and wholly present in the Sacrament of Holy  Communion. People leave the Church when they believe the Eucharist is a “pretty good” symbol of Jesus. If they knew the Truth as Christ taught, we wouldn’t be able to build enough new churches and schools to keep up. Christ gave the keys to the Kingdom to St. Peter, our first Pope (Matthew 16:18) and that same key is in every tabernacle in every Catholic Church in the world—“Jesus, my Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

“Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood abides in Me and I in him.”

                          —John 6:57

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