Monday, October 27, 2014

TEN WAYS TO PREPARE FOR A HOLY DEATH!

Stairway to heaven
The most important moment in our life is the very moment that we die. This will 
determine our destiny for all eternity. Either we will be saved or damned. Either we will be with God for all eternity or we will be lost for all eternity. The best way for all of us to have a holy death is to right now and until we die prepare for a holy and happy death. Hopefully these short but poignant ten sign posts can help you to make the right decisions so that when you die the Lord Jesus will be your Savior waiting to open up the eternal gates of Heaven to receive you!

1.    Live each day of your life as if it were your last; indeed it could be. Jesus warns us: “He will come like a thief in the night.”  Be prepared!

2.     NO TO SIN; YES TO GOD!  Sin leads to sadness, slavery and death. Let us renounce sin at all costs and turn to God who gives life. Jesus said:  “I am the way, the Truth, and the Life.”

3.    DO WHAT YOU ARE DOING!  This is a key concept of the saints. It means to live the Sacrament of the Present moment and always strive to do your duty and obligation with the best of intentions—meaning for the honor and glory of God!  

The Prodigal Son returns
4.     FALL? GET UP!  If you fall into sin, which will happen because we are all sinners, then get up right away. Never put off your conversion for tomorrow; rather move on your conversion immediately—before the sun goes down!

5.     LOVE!  Aim always for the greatest of all virtues: love! Jesus clearly tells us what is the greatest of all commandments and it is a double commandment: to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. But the second part is to love our neighbor intensely as we love ourselves. With reference to a holy death, Saint John of the Cross teaches us:  “In the twilight of our existence, we will be judged on love.” Led us aim for a more intense and burning love every day! Like the Virgin Mary let us die of love!

6.    BRING OTHERS TO HEAVEN. Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen gives us great advice on how to get to heaven. “If you want to get to heaven, then take somebody to heaven with you.”   Jesus says, “By their fruits they will be known.” Our desire should be to love what God loves and God loves the salvation of immortal souls. Hopefully this will by our ardent and all-consuming desire!

The glory of Heaven--  a mere glimpse!
7.    THINK OF HEAVEN!  Of enormous value in attaining a holy and happy death is the constant thought of gaining heaven but also the meditation on actually what heaven is!  Saint Paul gives us a mere glimpse with these inspiring words:  “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the mind of man the wonderful things that God has prepared for those who love Him.” Do this!  Think of the happiest two hours of your life, multiply that by a million times and then add eternity to it--- meaning forever and ever and ever…. You have a mere taste or mere glimpse of the glory of Heaven that awaits you!!!

8.     TELL JESUS WHAT YOU WANT!  From the depths of your heart talk to Jesus and express to Him the greatest desire of your heart and it is this: that you want to grow to love Him more and more each day, but that you want to love Him in heaven for all eternity.  Tell Jesus this, but remind Him every day. Ask your Guardian Angel to come to your aid!

9.    PURGATORY AND SUFFERING.  Why not ask the Lord Jesus to give you your Purgatory here while on earth??? It is so true the saying:  “Pay now or pay later!!!” Indeed much better to pay here while on earth then to pay in the fires of Purgatory after we die. How can this become a reality? Simple but hard at the same time! We all have to suffer and in many ways: physically, emotionally, economically (many of us), socially, and spiritually. Why not offer your suffering for the conversion of sinners, the purification of the souls in Purgatory but also that this suffering on earth would serve to be your Purgatory on earth to allow you to go quickly to heaven? Many of us never thought of this but God does not want us to go to Purgatory; rather, He wants us to go straight and directly to heaven, nonstop! Let us be honest, heaven is closed not due to bad will on the part of God, but due to our own pride, selfishness, egotism and resistance of God’s grace. Why not beg to correspond to God’s graces and accept your sufferings in this life so as to be united with God immediately upon death, which means eternal life!

10.MARY: THE QUEEN OF ANGELS AND SAINTS. The saints all agree on this spiritual maxim: “Mary is the quickest, most secure, and the most efficacious pathway to Jesus and to heaven.” Why not turn right now to Mary and beg for the grace to go to heaven.  Ask Mary in prayer what  is the major obstacle in your life that is blocking your free access to Jesus and heaven. Then beg our Lady for the grace to overcome that obstacle or spiritual detour on the Highway to Heaven.

HOW TO PREPARE FOR A HOLY AND HAPPY DEATH


Saint Joseph dying in the arms of Jesus and Mary
 
 

The great, mystic, lover of Christ, lover of the Church and Doctor of the Church,  Saint Catherine of Siena says that the two most important moments in our lives are: right now and then even more important the moment of our death. This sounds very much like the last part of the prayer that Our Lady loves most, the Hail Mary:  “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

The moment we die is so important because it will determine for all eternity(that means forever and ever and ever…)where we will remain, our eternal and immortal destiny! We will be there for ages on end!

Without hem or haw or beating around the bush, let’s say it bluntly: HEAVEN OR HELL!  Either we will be a permanent resident in our Heavenly Palace or in Satan’s torture chamber; we call this HELL!!!  True, this is a very sobering and stark reality.  There exists no other reality! Among the many tactics of the devil is a false concept of what happens after we die; we would like to renounce and reject this New Age idea!

As followers of Jesus Christ, we reject with a determined purpose and mind-set the reality of Reincarnation  or as the Greek philosophers called it the transmigration of the soul. This is to say, we believe in the reality that life is a battle and a testing ground .  The final test depends on whether or not we end our lives loving God and dying in the state of sanctifying grace or not. We reject firmly the false notion that we have many chances to make it to heaven. If you like  it is kind of like the lotto game, whereas  if you miss once you can try again, or like a Baseball batter who gets three strikes before he strikes out.  Reincarnation postulates that we have many chances and will come back in the next life as another being.

 
We do not want to strike out for all eternity!!!


As followers of Christ we believe in the following with respect to our final end!  God creates us out of love; He loves us with an infinite and unchangeable love. He wants to be loved in return. However, love is a two-way street that demands a response of love! This implies freedom or liberty. Now freedom can be either used to render God honor and glory and praise; or freedom can be abused. The nature of sin is simply that: the abuse of the freedom that God has given to us! God never coerces our will or forces us ever, but respects our freedom till the very end.

Love for God is not measured so much by feelings and emotions and sentiments. Rather, love for God can be measured by our willingness to obey God in all that He asks of us; this often implies the cross and suffering. Why? Because to deny our own will is exceedingly difficult due to our innate pride that we carry with us from the moment of our conception with the effects of Original Sin.  Jesus put it clearly:  “If you love me then keep my Commandments.”  Once again:  “Not all who say Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father.”  Satan denied God’s will saying: “I will not serve.”  Likewise, Adam and Eve said “no” to God by eating from the forbidden fruit. May we say “yes” to God in obedience and attain our ultimate goal---HEAVEN!

Three short suggestions that could prove invaluable in our spiritual life so that we can arrive safely home to heaven. The only thing that really matters in life is to get to heaven. Jesus said:  “What would it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul. What can a man exchange for his immortal soul?”

1.    NO TO SIN!!!  Our mortal enemy number one is SIN.  The two worst things in the world are the following and the last is by far the worst: committing a Mortal sin, dying in mortal sin! Saint Dominic Savio’s motto was” “Death rather than sin.” If you have the tragedy of committing a mortal sin, never despair but trust in the infinite mercy of God. However, run to the confessional as soon as possible and do not delay. It is so true that God’s mercy is infinite and it is His greatest attribute. Still to postpone, hold-off and procrastinate in renouncing our mortal sin is the sin of presumption. By presumption we mean we are presuming that God is going to give us a longer life. On this point there is no security!  We could die this day, this hour this very second—only God knows the day and the hour! A good confession is dying to sin and rising to new life. It is the celebration of the Paschal mystery in our own life: we die to sin by confession and rise to new life in the state of grace through repentance, confession, and absolution. Praise God for His infinite mercy!

2.    LIVE EACH DAY AS IF IT WERE OUR LAST!  The saints lived by this axiom! Listen to these wise proverbs.  “Do not put off for tomorrow what you can do today.”—especially conversion from sin to the love and following of Christ.  The Rule of Saint Benedict exhorts us:  “Think about death twice a day.” This is a holy reminder of our mortality and the shortness of life. The Psalmist admonishes us with these words on the ephemeral character of the human plight with these words:  “Our life is like the morning flower that rises in the morning but dries up and dies in the evening.” Finally, a modern Chilean Jesuit Saint Father Alberto Hurtado coined this impressive adage:  “There are two places where we can rest: the cemetery and heaven.” Wow!!!  In other words, let us work hard now because we have all eternity to rest with God. Finally Jesus Himself in the Parable of the Rich fool, sharply rebukes the rich man for accumulating and saving and living it up because that very night he would be destined to die and where will all of his possessions go? Today, probably to Uncle Sam or Obama care! But “Who” cares about that!!!
Breathe forth from your soul the Hail Mary
 

3.    BREATH OF OUR SOUL: THE HAIL MARY!!!  Beyond doubt love for Mary is key to growing in love for Jesus, in growing in sanctifying grace, living purity, and persevering in grace and attaining to our eternal reward in heaven. Saint Louis de Montfort asserts:  “Mary is the quickest, shortest and the most efficacious path to Jesus.” In other words, she is the shortcut to the Heart of God and Heaven. As breath is essential for the functioning of the lungs; so prayer is essential for the life-breath of the soul. Now the prayer that Mary loves most is of course the HAIL MARY! Better yet, Mary loves the Rosary or even many Rosaries! The more we say the Hail Mary and the Rosary with love and devotion, the more Mary loves us in return.  Finally, in those last moments of our life, when often the devil launches his last attack upon our soul, the Blessed Virgin Mary will be there to defend us against the evil one so that we can die in the loving embrace of Jesus, Mary and Saint Joseph.  Simply the name of Mary makes all tremble, as we are reminded by Saint Louis de Montfort! 

In conclusion, let us calmly look at the purpose and meaning of our life, our immortality which means that one day we will die, and humbly beg for the grace to renounce sin in all forms, colors shapes and types; let us live each day loving God totally and live each day as if it were our very last. Finally, let us live constantly in the presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary praying the Hail Mary with our soul the way the lungs breath in and out air! If done, our eternal destiny will be HEAVEN!!!

Monday, October 20, 2014

DEATH AND THEN WHAT???


 At funerals all too often you hear:  “Well, he is no longer suffering!” And, “Now he is in a much better place.”  And another common saying:  “Now he is in heaven with the Lord in glory!” Although the persons who have expressed these common niceties were most probably moved with good will and the best of intentions, they could be far off the target! Why this straight-forward and possibly startling remark? It is for this reason: the reality of PURGATORY!

Among the many heresies floating around in many catholic circles is that everybody goes to heaven and right away! In other words, simply being a baptized catholic and nothing more is a sure passport to heaven. No need for any intermediate state of purification; with death, the gates of heaven are open and the flight is non-stop and one way! The pearly-gates are opened and the Lord is ready to embrace forever!

Not only is this a false theology, but it is highly dangerous and damaging for the state of the deceased. Why? If all are totally convinced that “Uncle Harry” is rejoicing with God, the angels and saints meriting the fruits of his faith in God and earthly labors, then what is the purpose and reason for praying for him? No sense in praying for the saints in heaven, nor the condemned in hell, but only those detained in Purgatory.

Souls in the fire of Purgatory
 
It has been sound and solid Catholic teaching over the centuries that only those who are perfect in charity, have no impurities and imperfections on their souls and have done due reparation for the sins of their past will have access to  their Heavenly abode.  The Book of Revelation expresses this with the utmost clarity: “Nothing impure can enter the Kingdom of God.” Jesus reiterated this in the Sermon on the Mount, in one of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the pure of heart; they will see God.” (Mt. 5:8)

The point is this: none of us have the authority to canonize unofficially any person that has passed from this life to the next life! By doing so in proclaiming that such a person is in a better place, is no longer suffering, is in the eternal and everlasting hills of peace and joy is presumptuous, wrong, and simply  false-compassion. Worse yet, we are taking over the role of the Holy Father, the Pope. Only the Pope himself has a right to canonize or to declare that such a person is definitely in heaven.  And there is only one Pope—it is not you nor is it me!

Pope Saint Gregory the Great
 
Speaking about Popes and Purgatory, there is a story very apropos of the topic of Purgatory and the importance of much prayer for the dead.   The story can be found in the life of one of the greatest Popes in the history of the Church. In fact, rarely does the church add to the name of the Pope “The Great”. The Pope that we are referring to is POPE SAINT GREGORY THE GREAT! (540-604)

On one occasion the Pope was talking to one of his friends on the topic of the after-life and the importance to pray for the dead!  The substance of their talk was the following: whoever died first, then the survivor would make it a point to pray for the deceased.

It happened that the friend of Pope Saint Gregory passed away first. Shortly after his death, his friend appeared to Gregory suffering intensely the pains of Purgatory.  He certainly did not seem to be in “a better place” or was “not suffering” as so many presume today!!! Quite the contrary his suffering was very intense to put it mildly!

That being the case, Pope Saint Gregory made a concerted effort to pray for his friend so as to alleviate his pains and to deliver him as soon as possible from Purgatory!

By far the most powerful prayer in the universe is the HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS! Therefore, Pope Saint Gregory the Great, being of course a priest started to offer Masses for the intention and purification and relief of his dear friend. This the Pope did with the best of intentions!

What do you think happened?   This holy Pope, canonized and known to be one of the greatest of all Popes in two millennia, offered a Mass, Masses, weeks of Masses, and finally a whole month of Masses for the delivery of this one soul—who probably was not such a bad guy according to world criteria.  However, it was only after a full month in which the Pope offered Masses for him every day that he was finally delivered and had full access to heaven.

True, after the month, the Pope’s friend appeared to him in glory, thanking him profusely for the many prayers offered that served to purify him of his sins, diminish his intense suffering and gain full entry to the Kingdom of Heaven.

GERGORIAN MASS.  This is the history and origin of what we call THE GREGORIAN MASS.   This Mass, or rather a long line of consecutive Masses, is offered for the deceased (it can also be offered for the living…) for the purpose of purifying the soul of the deceased, alleviating his intense suffering, and gaining for him access to heaven as soon as possible. Indeed it is a great act of charity to pray for the dead. They can no longer merit for themselves and are totally dependent upon the mercy of God, but also the prayers, sacrifices, fasting, and Masses that could and should be offered on their behalf.

 
An Augustinian saint, Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, is often depicted in art as celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. However, the religious art-work displays the saint consecrating the Chalice—the Precious Blood of Jesus. Then Purgatory can be seen below and the angels descending into the fiery pit of Purgatory and leading them to their heavenly abode. It was noted that one of the primary reasons why Saint Nicholas wanted to become a priest was because he wanted to deliver as many souls from Purgatory to heaven through the celebration of the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

In conclusion, let us pray fervently for the dead; let us pray fervently and constantly for the souls in Purgatory. Let us not fall into the modern theological error in believing that everybody goes immediately to heaven. This is dangerously erroneous and false-compassion as well as presumptuous!

Our Lady's power to help the souls in Purgatory
 
Finally, pray, and pray and pray for the souls in Purgatory. However, offer the greatest prayer in the universe for the souls in Purgatory—the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.   The Prayer in the Chaplet of Divine Mercy connects us directly to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and its power to purify and save: “Eternal Father, I offer you the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world…”  May Our Lady, Mother of mercy, attain for us all a quick entrance into Heaven!

Monday, October 13, 2014

WHAT TYPE OF CATHOLIC ARE YOU???



Jesus gives us the Parable in which the King sends the invitation the wedding feast of his son and many make up excuses to beg out of the Banquet. Apparently they have other obligations more important and pressing, they insult the Kings servant and even kill some of them.  The King, infuriated, kills them and then destroys their cities. Not giving up and tenaciously persistent, the King sends out more servants, but this time he goes out to the hedge groves and allies and brings them in to the banquet. One is not properly dressed and has no justification; he is cast out of the Banquet hall. Jesus ends with these stark words: “Many are called but few are chosen.”  Parables of Jesus are human stories with divine messages. They challenge us to leave our complacency and to follow Jesus all the more authentically.

Let us look objectively at the society and the Catholic Church today and see where we are at. True there are a big number of Catholics, at least “baptized Catholics”, more than a billion. However, how many are really living out their faith.

Being a priest for more than 28 years and having worked in various countries—Europe, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and USA I would like to make these observations as to the reasons why so many Catholics, like the Parable above just cited, have almost countless excuses for simply not coming to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which in terms of the Parable is bowing out of the Wedding Banquet of the King and His Son!

Invite even from the streets!
This pastoral observation will serve to help us who are laboring strenuously in the Vineyard of the Lord to work zealously but in the right direction to save souls for the Eternal King.   In other words for us to bring back the wandering and lost souls we must know them, the reason why they have left and give a remedy or solution to the problem. Of course a deep reading of Pope Francis’
“Joy of the Gospel” will be of immense help in our work in bringing back the wandering sheep into the fold.   Remember the challenging words of Jesus, the Good Shepherd of the flock and our Model and example: “The harvest is rich, but the laborers are few.”  

Not properly dressed for the Wedding Feast!
Following are reasons why the sheep have wandered away from the flock—why these have left the practice of the faith and reception of the life-giving Sacraments!

1.    BAD EXPERIENCE.   Some wandering Catholics complain of having left the Church because they had an ugly experience with some other catholic that deeply hurt him. Priests (themselves), Deacons, Parish Secretaries, catechists, and simply practicing Catholics who have given bad example can alienate other Catholics that might be fragile or weak in the faith. A harsh and cutting word, a snide remark, a sarcastic gesture, being aloof and cold, a sharp rebuke—any one of these gestures done to a fragile soul could be the last straw that broke the camel’s back! This could be sufficient to expel this person from the practice of the faith. How to remedy this fatal flaw? Kindness and charity! Saint Augustine was once asked three times on what should be practiced towards others and the great saint said these words: Kindness, Kindness, and once again Kindness! Saint Francis de Sales coined a classic:  “You can catch more flies with a tea spoon of honey than with a barrel of vinegar.”
Catholic asleep at Mass!
 

2.    SCANDAL IN THE CHURCH.   It cannot be side stepped the painful and true reality of scandals in the Church that have been brought to light, especially over the past 10 to 15 years, that those who have chosen to serve the Lord as priests, some Religious and even Bishops have failed the Lord! Instead of giving example as Good Shepherd to the Sheep have been transformed into ravenous wolves to the flock! Obviously this scandal pierces the Sacred Heart of the Good Shepherd and has wreaked havoc in the flock. What can we say to repair for and to remedy such a serious blow to the Church? First, we beg for pardon and forgiveness to the world at large as the past recent Popes have done clearly and publically. Also, we must pray for future priests, but only those who are firmly committed to celibacy 100%, to love for Jesus as the center of their lives and to a fiery apostolic zeal to save souls and to go in search for the lost sheep.
Addictions-- internet!

3.    DISTRACTIONS IN THE MODERN WORLD.   On one occasion a Pastor came from Africa to the USA and he was asked what he thought was the greatest impediment in USA for the spreading of the Word and the Kingdom and the African Pastor, even without much thought, blurted out one word: DISTRACTIONS!  Interesting observation from a foreigner! What exactly did he mean? The following: T.V., radio, sports, movies, parties and picnics, the Mode, the Internet and the Electronics media, casinos and horse-races and gambling, and finally: “It is Miller time!” Not that all of these pursuits and entertainments are down- right sinful. However, how easy it is to be so totally absorbed and immersed in these diversions that on Sunday Holy Mass has been forgotten or relegated to a secondary place of importance. As one well-known priest put it:  “In the USA Sundays have become like another Saturday.”
Couples living together in sin!
 

4.    IMMORAL LIFE-STYLE.  Frequently disgruntled and angry Catholics will point their condemning finger of judgment against the Catholic Church for the church’s many failures, but in the heart of hearts of all too many today there is a serious personal problem. It is this: an inability to come to terms with and live out the demanding sexual morality that the Church has taught the past 2000 years! Our Lady of Fatima said in 1917 that many marriages are bad, modes will enter the world (most likely referring to dress codes) that will gravely offend God; finally, Our Lady said that most souls are lost and go to hell because of sins against the virtue of purity. With respect to leaving the Church, Mass and the Sacraments, many young people (and some not so young!!!) have decided to simply live together in free union or to simply have a civil-marriage. In the eyes of Jesus and His Bride the Church this is objectively wrong and choosing to live in a permanent state of mortal sin. This being the case, this couple has willfully severed themselves from the life-giving Vine. Jesus said: “I am the Vine and you are the branches; my Father cuts off the branches that do not bear fruit.” (Jn. 15) These couples, due their living condition that they freely chose, can no longer receive Jesus, the Bread of Life, in Holy Communion. This being the case, when going to Holy Mass and Communion time has arrived, many other people are getting up to receive Holy Communion and they are forced to stay in the pew—like spiritual “bench-warmers” (Sports image) and watch the others receive Jesus, the living Bread who came down from heaven to give us life and life in abundance. In time, feeling uncomfortable not being able to receive, this couple decides to either leave the Church or possibly go to some Protestant Church, where they can have free access to receiving  in the Communion service that may be available once a month. “Bye, bye Catholic church!  Welcome Protestant Church!” A possible remedy?  Why not invite this estranged couple to meet with a priest who could outline the conditions to have their marriage blessed in the Church so that they can be in full-communion with the Church. Also, invite them to some dynamic and well-prepared weekend marriage retreat to get the ball rolling down the right hill!!!
Honey, come' on!  Let's go to Mass!!!

Conclusion, we have just explained a few reasons for the enormous exodus from the Catholic Church in the past few decades. Our intentions is with this article to encourage fervent and zealous followers of Jesus to seek out these lost sheep and bring them back to the arms of the Good Shepherd. God-willing another article will follow to explain other reasons why many leave the Catholic Church and how we can bring them back to the loving embrace of the Father!

 

 

Monday, October 6, 2014

THE MARVELS OF SAINT TERESA OF AVILA


THE MARVELS OF SAINT TERESA OF AVILA

There are two weeks apart every year in the Church Liturgical Calendar that separate two marvelous, inspiring, and most loveable saints, who truly love us and want us to love them: SAINT THERESE OF LISIEUX AND SAINT TERESA OF AVILA.

Saint Therese Lisieux we celebrate October 1st; Saint Teresa of Avila we celebrate October 15th.  What do they have in common? Both are women, both are in the class  of the few women Doctors of  the Church, both were great contemplatives, both were Carmelite nuns, but most important both were and are and will be for all eternity great lovers of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In this short essay we would like to pay tribute to Saint Teresa of Avila and highlight ten of her great contributions to the Catholic Church and to us as a model of holiness, that we are all called to attain.  Remember the words of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the context of the Sermon of the Mount: “Be holy as your heavenly Father is holy.”(Mt. 5:48)   Being holy, arriving at sanctity of life, is not conditional, wishful thinking nor something that only a select group is called to, but all. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta challenges us with these stirring words: “Holiness is not the privilege of the few, but the duty of all.” Now let us lift our gaze to Saint Teresa of Avila who will point us to Jesus, our Lord, God, Savior and Faithful Friend.

1.    PRAYER. One of the key hallmarks of the spiritual heights of Saint Teresa of Avila is the importance of prayer. Even though she struggled for many years she teaches us this basic but indispensable spiritual truth--- PERSEVERANCE IN PRAYER! Meditate upon her immortal words of wisdom and memorize: “We must have a determined determination to never give up prayer.” Jesus taught us this supremely important truth in the Parable of the insistent would and the Judge.  This widow, due to her dogged and tenacious insistence finally gained the assistance of this cold-hearted Judge. (Lk. 18:1-8). St. Teresa insists that we must never give up in prayer. If you like an analogy: what air is to the lungs so is prayer to the soul. Healthy lungs need constant and pure air; healthy soul must be constantly breathing through prayer—the oxygen of the soul!

2.    DEFINITION OF PRAYER.  Saint Thomas Aquinas gives us simple but very solid advice: define your topic before you start to talk about it. By doing this you can avoid much confusion. Saint Teresa of Avila gives us one of the classical definitions of prayer in the history of Catholicism.  “Prayer is nothing more than spending a long time alone with the one I know loves me.” A short summary? Two friends loving each other! Jesus Himself called the Apostles friends—so are you called to be a friend with Jesus!

3.    LOVE FOR JESUS.   Saint Teresa gives us a hint to prayer growth! This woman Doctor of the Church said that she found many graces by meditating upon the Humanity of Jesus. By spending time with Jesus, the Son of God made man and entering into colloquy with Him is a sure path to growth in prayer. Try it! Saint Ignatius of Loyola, in the Spiritual Exercises insists upon us in begging for this grace: “Intimate knowledge of Jesus  that we love Him more ardently and follow Him more closely.”

4.    LOVE FOR JESUS IN HIS SUFFERING.   It seems to be a common denominator in many saints—the call to contemplate the love of Jesus through His sorrowful passion—Padre Pio, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Faustina and Teresa of Avila.  For Teresa, she had a mystical experience of “Ecce Homo”; she saw Jesus with His crowned Head and this moved her to a greater love for Jesus.

5.    HOLY SPIRIT: THE DIVINE TEACHER OF PRAYER.  On one occasion the saint was really struggling with prayer and she talked to a Jesuit priest for advice on overcoming her struggle. His advice was simple and to the point, but changed her life! The priest insisted on praying to the HOLY SPIRIT! From that point on, following this great advice to rely on the Holy Spirit, Teresa’s prayer life improved markedly!  Saint Paul to the Romans reiterates the same point: “In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.” (Romans 8:26) Let us be led by the best of all teachers, the Interior Master of prayer, the HOLY SPIRIT!

6.    SPIRITUAL DIRECTION.   To attain constant growth in the spiritual life, we must have some form of spiritual direction.  Spiritual blindness, we all experience.  The devil can disguise or camouflage as an angel of light. And the higher we climb in the spiritual life the more subtle are the tactics and seductions of the devil—“who is searching for us a roaring lion ready to devour us.”(I Peter 5: 8-9) During the course of her life, Saint Teresa of Avila had recourse to several spiritual directors and some of these are now canonized saints: Saint John of the Cross (Carmelite), Saint Francis Borgia (Jesuit), Saint Peter of Alcantara (Franciscan), and finally, Jerome Gracian—a well-known Dominican scholar and theologian. True, all of us cannot have three canonized saints and a brilliant Dominican theologian to guide us, but we can and must all find some form of periodic spiritual direction.  Saint John of the Cross put it bluntly: “He who as himself as guide has an idiot as a disciple.”  Bingo!

7.    CONVERSION AND REFORM.  A major highlight in the life of Saint Teresa of Avila was the whole concept of conversion or reform. With Saint John of the Cross, she was the primary instrument that God chose to reform the Carmelite Order. However, Teresa was keenly aware of this truth: to convert others we must start with ourselves—this she worked on during the whole course of her life on earth! Jesus’ first words in preaching were: “Be converted because the Kingdom of God is ate hand.”(Mk.1:15) May we constantly strive for a deeper conversion of heart through the intercession of Saint Teresa of Avila!

8.    SPIRITUAL MASTERPIECES—HER WRITINGS.  Without doubt, one of the major contributions to the Church as well as to the world at large are the writings or spiritual masterpieces of Saint Teresa of Avila. One of her basic themes is that of the importance of prayer, and striving to grow deeper and deeper in prayer until one arrives at the Mystical Union of the spouse with Jesus the Heavenly Spouse. Anybody who takes his or her prayer life seriously should know of Teresa’s writings and spend some time in reading some of her anointed writings. What are her classics? Here they are: “Her life”, “The Way of Perfection”, “The Interior Castle”, “Foundations”. In addition to these texts/books, she also wrote many inspiring letters.  Want to become a saint? Read and drink from the  from writings of the saints, especially the Doctors of the Church!

9.    THE CROSS AS A BRIDGE TO HEAVEN.  Jesus said:  “Anyone who wants to be my follower must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Another common denominator in the lives of the saints is the reality of the cross. Saint Louis de Montfort would bless his friends as such: “May God bless you and give you many small crosses!” Saint Teresa lived with a constant friend—the cross of Jesus. Her health was always very fragile; she almost died while very young. Furthermore, for Saint Teresa of Avila to carry out the Reform of the Carmelite, she suffered constant attacks and persecutions from many nuns in the convent who preferred a more comfortable lifestyle, from priests (Carmelites) and from other ecclesiastics. Instead of becoming discouraged and losing heart, she joyfully trusted in the Lord all the more--- anyway, it was His doing!

10. OUR LADY AND SAINT JOSEPH.  During the whole course of her Religious Life, Saint Teresa of Avila loved the Blessed Virgin Mary—as is common in the lives of the saints, and hopefully your life! The title of her specific Marian devotion was OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL.  Never forget, in your love for Our Lady, to wear the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This is your external sign of consecration to Mary. Furthermore, Saint Teresa of Avila cultivated a tender and filial love to SAINT JOSEPH. She attributed her recovery from a sickness that almost ended her life to the powerful intercession of Saint Joseph.  Also, every new convent that she established she gave the name of   SAN JOSE—Saint Joseph!

In conclusion, may the great woman Doctor of the Church—the Doctor of prayer—Saint Teresa of Avila, be a constant inspiration to you in your own spiritual pilgrimage to heaven. May she encourage you to pray more and with greater depth, arrive at a deeper conversion of heart, and finally love Jesus s the very center and well-spring or your life!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

TEN WAYS TO FALL IN LOVE WITH THE BIBLE!


 

At the end of September, the very last day of the  30th, the Church always celebrates the memory of SAINT JEROME. Born a saint, he was not!  A fiery and explosive temper that brought him many enemies, fierce and long temptations against chastity that he battled with prayer and prolonged fasting, and long prayer vigils—this was Saint Jerome.

Despite his temperamental defects and frequent assaults from the enemy, Jerome had a keen intellect, a love for study, but especially a love for the Bible, the Word of God.

The Church owes a huge debt of gratitude to Saint Jerome especially for his great love for the Word of God and his work in studying it. However, most important is that Saint Jerome, after many years, finished translating the Bible from Greek and Aramaic into the Latin—which we call the “Vulgate” and from the Latin Vulgate the Bible would eventually be translated into our own languages—English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, etc.  All thanks to the strenuous work of Saint Jerome.

The Second Vatican Council published four famous Dogmatic Constitutions, the pillars of the Church in the Modern world: Sacrosanctum Concilium, Gaudium Spes, Lumen Gentium and Dei Verbum.  In the later, Dei Verbum, which deals with Divine Revelation and the Word of God, Saint Jerome, is cited.  This has become one of the key citations in this Document and a key for appreciating the importance of the Bible, the Word of God. Here it is:  “Ignorance of Sacred Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”  How true!  If we do not read the Bible, especially the Gospels, then we cannot know who Jesus is; then we cannot really love Him; then consequently it will be hard to follow Him as His friend and disciple.   With this being said, let us offer our Lord homage, love and respect for His Word the Bible, by carrying out and implementing at least some of the following.
                  
1.    PURCHASE A CATHOLIC BIBLE.  There are many Bibles, but you should try to purchase a good Catholic Bible. A suggestion?  The Navarre Bible or the Jerusalem Bible are two Bibles with excellent translations. Check them out and buy one of them; maybe buy two!

2.    GIVE A CATHOLIC BIBLE AWAY! Weddings, Birthday parties, anniversaries, Confirmations, family gatherings—why not give a Bible, the Word of God? What could be better?

3.    BLESSING.  Take the Bible to the priest and let the priest, who represents Jesus, to bless it. This will be your friend and companion the rest of your life. Your Light, your shield, your Rock—good names for the Word of God.

4.    REVERENCE AND RESPECT. Enthrone your Bible in a special place. Never treat it irreverently. This means, never throw it, place it on the floor, place a beer mug on top of it. Remember!  This is the Word of God and should be respected with the greatest of reverence.
              
5.     READ AND MEDITATE.  The Bible is not a Christmas decoration or a collector’s item, or a souvenir!  Quite the contrary: the Bible is meant to be read, meditated, day and night. Remember Psalm 1:  Happy those who do not follow the counsel of the wicked, nor go the way of sinners, nor sit in the company of scoffers. Rather, the law of the Lord is their joy; God’s law (Bible, Word of God— my own interpretation) they study day and night.” (Psalm 1: 1-2). May we cherish reading and meditating on the Word of God day and night!
            
6.    MEMORIZE KEY VERSES!  Jesus is our example!  Fasting for forty days and nights, the devil tempts Jesus. The first of the temptations of the devil was to turn stones into bread. Jesus responded with these words: “It is written: One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” (Mt. 4:4).

7.    DEFEND YOUR FAITH WITH THE WORD OF GOD.   Saint Paul says that the Word of God is like a two-edged sword separating bone from marrow. Obviously, Saint Paul means that the Word of God, the Bible, is powerful and should be used for spiritual warfare to fight the enemies of the truth- Satan and his minions and those who promote lies! Read Saint Thomas Aquinas and the Summa Theologica and how this great saint defended doctrine relying heavily on the Word of God!

8.     HOLY MASS AND THE WORD OR GOD.   Attend Daily Mass—the greatest prayer underneath the heavens! The Dogmatic Constitution, Sacrosanctum Concilium—which explains the Mass and the Liturgy, states that there are two tables that nourish us at Mass: the table of the Word of God and the Table of the Body of the Lord—namely, the Eucharist! Go for this double nourishment—indeed a heavenly banquet!

9.     SPIRITUAL EXERCISES AND THE WORD OF GOD.  When you have the chance, try to make the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. This might be the retreat lasting a month, or eight days, or a weekend, or what is common today, retreat in daily life which can last from six months up to a year, done with an able Director. The bulk of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola is the meditation or the contemplation of the Word of God!  Try it! You will never regret it!

10.MARY AND THE WORD OF GOD.   Finally in your growing pursuit of love for the Word of God never forget to turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary carried the Word made flesh within her sacred womb for nine months. But the New Testament teaches us that Mary meditated upon the Word of God in her Immaculate Heart. After the Shepherds came to visit her Infant Child, the Evangelist points to a key activity of Mary: “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Lk. 2:19). May Our Lady encourage us to do the same—to daily meditate upon the Word of God in our hearts by reading the Bible, praying over the Bible, assimilating the Bible and like Mary living out the Word of God!