Monday, July 21, 2014

TEN REASONS TO REJOICE EXULTANTLY!


St. Paul exhorts us in his letter to the Philippians to rejoice, not just once but twice:  Rejoice in the Lord; I say it again: rejoice in the Lord.” (Phil. 4:4).  Pope Francis’ Apostolic exhortation reiterates the same theme—“The Joy of the Gospel”.  St. Francis de Sales remarks on spiritual progress commenting that after sin the worse thing is sadness.   St. Ignatius agrees, warning us that when we are in a state of desolation—that is to say sadness and discouragement—that is the moment that we are a prime target for the fiery arrows of the devil.

Why then should we avoid sadness and be constantly living in a state of joy? There are many reasons, but we would like to offer ten simple reasons to be rejoicing constantly and exultantly.

The Blessed Trinity
1.    BAPTISMAL GRACES.  Once baptized we receive so many graces that we can barely count them. However of primary importance is that through Baptism we establish a deep Friendship with three Divine Persons—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In Baptism God becomes our Father; Jesus becomes our elder Brother; the Holy Spirit becomes both the Sweet Guest of our soul and our best Friend. Rejoice in God’s Friendship!

2.    SANCTIFYING GRACE.   If we can strive to live in the state of sanctifying grace then the Friendship with God is constant. We are never alone; loneliness becomes alien to our lifestyle. We can close our eyes and seek the God within the depths of our souls. How happy this should make us!

Divine Mercy and the Blessed Sacrament
3.    MERCY!  Even if we fall one hundred times a day, we know that our God is slow to anger and rich in mercy. As soon as our heart beats with the words “Jesus mercy, Jesus forgive me; Jesus I love you”—then once again this treasure of His Friendship is restored and it is sealed in the sacrament of Confession.  “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His mercy endures forever.”

4.     BLESSED SACRAMENT.   What overflowing and immense joy we should experience in knowing that Jesus said that He would be with us even until the end of the world. Where is He? Response: in the Church. However, most especially He is truly Present (The Real Presence) in the consecrated Host present in all of the Tabernacles of the world. Let us rejoice and come let us adore Him.
Archangel Raphael our companion in life

5.    ST. RAPHAEL.   An invitation!  Why not delve into your Bible and go to the Old Testament where you will find a short but truly inspiring book from the Wisdom literature with the title of the Book of Tobit.  In this spiritual masterpiece you will find a heart-warming Friend; he is actually one of the three Archangels mentioned in the Bible.  His name is Raphael, meaning God heals.   One of his special gifts is to befriend us and to fill us with joy. Why not invoke this holy angel every day for nine days (a novena) and you will notice that your sadness will melt as the snow exposed to the midday sun.

6.    SAINTS.  Not only should we walk and talk with the Archangel Raphael but we should be in constant contact and communion with the saints.  While on earth the saints were the most joyful men and women. However in heaven their joy is boundless.  Still they so earnestly long to share their joy, which is their Friendship with God, with us on earth. Call out to them now! By the way, who are your three favorite saints? Beg them to share the joy they experience with you now. Your joy will abound!

7.    HEAVEN.   The reality of the existence of Heaven and the knowledge that Jesus has already gone there to prepare a place for you should cause an explosion of joy in your soul right now. Listen to Jesus’ words: “I go now to prepare a place for you so that where I am you also might be. In my Father’s house there are many mansions.”  Wow!  Jesus has not only prepared a place for you, but a huge, beautiful, spacious, ineffable mansion for you for all eternity.  No cracks, dust, ants, cockroaches, leaks, mildew—none of these, but the best of resting places, all this is yours if you simply persevere in grace. Mary, full of grace pray for us!

8.    PRAYER.   If you wanted to talk to some celebrity, President, star, hero, high-class dignitary most likely it would take a year and a day to possibly set up a short meeting.  How extraordinary is God’s love for us that in any time, any place, any circumstance that we want to we can talk to God and He is ready to listen and respond.   Too often people are too busy and simply do not have time for us—sad to say, even those who should be closest to us!  Not so with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. They are always at our beck and call. How humble and loving our God is! Rejoice exultantly in the reality of prayer. Why not make a proposal right now to augment your joy: strive to pray a little bit more and a little bit better every day. Your joy will be like the fireworks of the fourth of July!
Prayer brings great joy to our soul

9.    GOD THE MOST GENEROUS OF GIVERS.  In all honesty, and with the most profound humility and deepest sincerity, we should all admit that everything that we have—except the sins that we willfully choose to commit—is a pure gratuitous gift from God.  As the Apostle Paul reminds us, quoting one of the Greek poets, “In Him we live and move and have our being.” Thank God constantly for His abundant and ceaseless gifts to you.  Have you ever noticed this fact: when you exercise gratitude towards God joy surges in your heart? Try it!
St. Dominic Savio's great love for Mary

10. OUR LADY: Our life, our sweetness and our hope!  One of the titles of Mary in her Litany is Cause of our joy.  After his death, St Dominic Savio returned appearing to St. John Bosco and told the great saint of the youth that his greatest joy in the short 14 years  and 11 months of his life was his great love and affection towards Our Lady. Savio exhorted St. John Bosco to follow that path of promoting love and devotion to Mary.  In your life get to know Mary, love Mary, invoke Mary, pray to Mary, consecrate your life to Jesus through Mary and spread devotion to Mary. If you do, then undoubtedly you will experience in the depths of your soul an ineffable joy which will overflow in your life to all those you meet.

In conclusion, friends in Jesus and Mary, let us strive to spread the joy of the Gospel right now and live out a life of constant joy. We might as well get into the habit of rejoicing now in the Lord because we will be rejoicing with exultant joy in heaven for all eternity!

Monday, July 14, 2014

PEACE OR WAR? THAT IS THE QUESTION!!!


Sometimes it seems as if some Biblical passages seem to contradict themselves. For example, Jesus is called the Prince of Peace, but at the same time He clearly stated that He has come not to bring peace but the sword.  Father will be against son and son against father…. Family members will be divided instead of united. Is there a contradiction here?

This is the case!  When somebody sincerely goes through a radical conversion in his faith to Christ, where he wants to follow the Lord Jesus not partially or at times or conditionally but fully, unconditionally and without any reservations and he decided to live out this conversion in the context of his family, then more often than not all hell breaks loose!

Unfortunately, many followers of Christ settle with a minimalist attitude—meaning, to do as little as possible to follow Christ.   In other words, huge numbers of Christians and Catholics live a mediocre, tepid, half-baked existence. They fling out the phrase: “I am a good person. I do not rob, nor kill, and now and then I will give a dollar to a poor person on the street.”

The Book of Revelation warns these types of people that because they are neither hot nor cold but lukewarm they will be vomited or spat out of the mouth of God. (Rev. 3: 15) Strong language, but very Biblical!

What might be some concrete examples where we see this total and radical following of Jesus as a source of sword and division in the family?  Let us enter into this explosive but all too prevalent reality!

1.    DAILY MASS.   After a radical conversion often there is a magnetic pull towards Holy Mass and Holy Communion.  Whereas before Sunday Mass was sufficient; now there is a real hunger for the Bread of Life on a daily basis.  However the mediocre criticize this  as going overboard—just too much! Why go to daily Mass if Sunday Mass is the requirement!

2.     DAILY HOLY HOUR.   The Psalmist offers us these consoling words: “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”   Once the converted soul has tasted the sweetness of prayer there is an inner yearning that can only be satisfied by spending longer blocks of quality time before the Blessed Sacrament.   The lazy and sensualist views this as mere madness. Better to spend hours in front of the television or the computer!

3.    ANNUAL RETREAT: 3-DAYS/8DAYS.   If a woman has gone through a sincere radical conversion she might feel the urgent need to follow the invitation of Jesus: “Come apart for a while and rest…. I am meek and humble of heart…my yoke is easy and my burden is light….” This invitation is materialized in a longer retreat which might be a weekend or even as much as an eight-day Ignatian retreat.   If her husband is a nominal catholic that attends Sunday Mass most of the time and that’s it, then this urgent appeal of his wife to get away for a week might seem to be preposterous!   It is interesting to note: how easy it is for families to go on vacation for two weeks or even a month almost every summer. However, to give Jesus a week of the year seems to be mere insanity for the worldly-minded.

4.    CONFESSION EVERY TWO OR THREE WEEKS!    The person who has undergone a radical metanoia—conversion experience—usually changes his outlook on life and with this his conscience becomes all the more delicate and refined. Consequently actions that he carried out before that did not bother his conscience now indeed do!  Such actions as telling a white lie, arriving late to work or Mass, viewing programs on TV with sexually explicit content, blurting out indecent words, listening to off-colored jokes—these actions never bothered him before; they were par for the course. Now these actions immediately provoke remorse of conscience. Therefore, he feels a call to purify his conscience more frequently through the Blood of Christ in the Sacrament of Penance. Now a worldly-minded person would call this person that goes to confession every other week as scrupulous or living with a warped conscience.

5.    DRESS-CODE.  Before undergoing a radical conversion that might come about by doing the Ignatian Exercises, Mary would dress according to the modern culture and society—TV. standards and Hollywood as  the norm and standard.   Of course her husband enamored with the world would be in full agreement. After conversion Mary can no longer dress as she did in the past; now, it seems to her as both repulsive and repugnant.  No longer is Hollywood her model and standard, but the Blessed Virgin Mary is now her model and guide in all, but especially in what it means to be feminine and a woman of God.  The provocative dresses of the past that she has in her wardrobe she looks at with both disdain and disgust. Her husband views her as if she has lost her sanity! He reasons: if God has given her physical beauty why should she not flaunt it for full view of the onlookers. He reasons, beauty is a gift from God and it should not be hidden. Mary, however, holds her turf and ends up by trashing her provocative (and she believes to be sinful) wardrobe, so as to imitate all the more perfectly Our Lady as Model, Mother, Teacher, Woman and Guide.

In conclusion, this article serves as a strong support of all of those good Catholics who have gone through a radical conversion in the course of their lives. As a consequence of this radical conversion they are not only mis- understood, especially by the members of their own household, but they are even persecuted by silence, harsh words, sarcastic or ironic remarks and derisive gestures.

We encourage all of you to persevere and to focus on Jesus and Mary and to cling to them. They must be our Models and guides. Finally read and meditate the last Beatitude of Jesus that He gave in the context of the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. They  persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Mt. 5: 10-12)  

 

 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

BETTER PREPARED, THE MORE THE GRACES!




Sacramental Theology teaches a key principal that all Catholics should know so as to derive the most abundant graces that flow from the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Sacraments.  Canon Law reminds us that the Sacraments are the Masterpieces of God.

This is called DISPOSITIVE GRACE.   What this term means in clear and unequivocal terms is that you receive graces from the Sacraments in direct proportion to your disposition of heart and preparation of soul.

Sacraments are like FIRE.  Fire can do immense good, but it can also do immense damage.  On a cold winter night, nothing more sweet and enjoyable than a sparkling, sparking, cackling bundle of flames in a chimney in the living room of your home. How often as a child was I thawed out by this gift from heaven—the chimney fire!

On the other hand fires that are not contained can cause huge forest fires. In California, fires have been  known to extend from San Diego County, through the County of L.A. reaching as far as Ventura County, cutting and burning through thousands of acres of land, devouring and consuming homes, and sad to say,  even people!

St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, chapter 11, warns us to be aware of whom it is we are receiving.  Some were eating and drinking and ignoring the poor and then celebrating the Meal of the Lord—the most Holy Eucharist— in this ill-disposed condition.

The fiery Apostle to the Gentiles fiercely reprimands those who would receive Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Our Lord, in such a condition. For that reason St. Paul said that some were eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Our Lord unto their own condemnation.  The same Apostle exhorted them as well as the Church at large (and that includes you and me) to be sure that we are in the state of grace before receiving Holy Communion.

In concrete how does this apply to you and me as well as Catholics at large in the modern world in which we live, where the conscience has been so poorly formed over the last half-century?

The Catechism has taught for centuries, with respect to the reception of Holy Communion—the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ--- that we must be in the state of grace.   Reception of the Eucharist requires that our soul be in the state of grace to receive Jesus worthily and receive the innumerable graces available for our peace of mind, joy of spirit, growth in holiness and eternal salvation for all eternity.


MORTAL SIN: HOLD OFF! If you are aware of having committed a mortal sin then you should abstain from receiving Holy Communion, simple and clear. Otherwise this will be a Sacrilegious Communion, the fire that burns, damages and destroys your soul rather than the fire that heats and warms.

Probably you are thinking to yourself: what then is a mortal sin. I have heard the terminology years ago, but I forgot the definition. Well done: here it is!

To commit a mortal sin there are three conditions.

1.    GRAVE MATTER.   The sin that is committed is serious or grave by its very nature. Sins against the 6th Commandment are by there nature grave or serious. Missing Holy Mass on Sunday, without any justifiable reason, is grave/serious matter--- to give just a couple examples!

2.    FULL KNOWLEDGE.   A mortal sin is not committed  if the person committing it is not aware of it. However, as followers of Christ, we are morally responsible and obliged to make it a constant effort in our lives to  study and learn our faith on a constant basis. This is called Permanent Formation! Some people, due to negligence and laziness, make no effort to grow in the knowledge of their faith. This is culpable ignorance that should be corrected.

3.    FULL CONSENT OF THE WILL. Finally, to commit a mortal sin, one has to give free and total consent of the will. This means that a mortal sin is not done by accident, as if one were to slip on a banana peel. No!  You know it is serious and you do it anyway against your conscience.

If these three conditions are present, then it constitutes a MORTAL SIN. By committing a mortal sin, the state of sanctifying grace is lost thereby excluding one from the reception of the Holy Eucharist until….

SACRAMENTAL CONFESSION.  Yes! So as to be able to receive the most Holy Eucharist worthily, as faithful and practicing Catholics, we must have recourse to the Sacrament of Confession, Reconciliation, or if you like The Sacrament of God’s infinite Mercy.

All too often today, even among Catholics you hear, “well I confess directly to God because He knows me, sees me, hears me and loves me.” If you are a Protestant this is fine, but not as a practicing Catholic. You must receive forgiveness through the proper means or channel that Jesus has determined through His Church and through the reception of the Sacrament of Forgiveness and  through the presence of the ordained priest. When the priest absolves you: “And I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” then it is not so much that the priest forgives you (He is only the instrument), rather it is Jesus Himself who forgives you and washes you clean through His Precious Blood that was shed on the cross on Good Friday!

WORTHY COMMUNIONS. Then after having received the Sacrament of Confession, Holy Communion can be received in the state of grace and will serve as the most powerful means of  sanctification and eternal salvation.

A WARNING!  A real danger for many Catholics is the danger of falling into the terrible pitfall of the “The Routine Communion”. In other words, Mass and Holy Communion are available in abundance and I receive Holy Communion with little preparation, poor participation in Holy Mass, with a cold heart and literally no thanksgiving after I have received the Eucharistic Lord. Jesus complained to St. Faustina because He said that many receive Him as if He were a mere OBJECT!  How terrible it is when we are treated like mere “Objects”. How much worse when Jesus is treated as a mere object---Remember, Jesus is God!!!!

USEFUL REMINDER!  In the sacristies in the convents of some nuns there is a reminder usually in eye’s view of the priest celebrant with this catchy admonition: “Priest, man of God, celebrate this Mass as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass and your only Mass.”  Should we not approach Holy Communion with the same disposition of heart—to receive Jesus with great fervor and faith and love as if it were our first Holy Communion, last Holy Communion, and only Holy Communion? If that is our disposition of soul, Holy Communion will definitely be the most powerful means for our constant sanctification and eternal salvation.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

PERMANENT FORMATION: WE ARE A WORK IN PROGRESS


 

Workshops for teachers, spring training for Baseball players, ongoing courses for professionals, coaching, reviewing, updating, cutting away the dead branches and debris--- life demands constant labor to improve, upgrade and perfect.

Even more important must be the constant labor at ongoing formation for followers of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.   All of us our a W.O.P.--- “A work in progress”, an incomplete project,  a task that can always be improved.

It is not uncommon for me to meet adults who received a poor catechetical formation to make their First Communion, and then from that day of their First Communion have had no spiritual formation until they decide to get married, upon which they must comply to do a six hour formation class to prepare them for the Sacrament of Marriage, to prepare them to be faithful and loving spouses, to prepare them to be the best of parents. Obviously the church encourages a more complete formation program for its children!

Therefore, here are some practical and concrete steps that we can take to implement an on-going program of “Permanent Formation”.

The Father encourages formation for the family
 
1.    SPIRITUAL READING.   Good books should be the best of friends. They are always available, ready to be opened and read, and when put down they do not get angry and if not visited for a long period of time they do not become resentful.  With the consultation and advice of a good Spiritual Director, formulate a good spiritual reading list.  Father Thomas Dubay stated that busy people only have time to read the best of books.  St Teresa of Avila would not admit women into the Carmelite order who could not read; the reason being, the saint knew how much wonderful and inspiring and educational material could be acquired by good reading! Establish your own library of good catholic books!

St. John of the Cross: patron of spiritual directors
 
2.    SPIRITUAL DIRECTION.   St. John of the Cross who is the patron of Spiritual Directors put it bluntly:  “He who has himself as a directee has a dummy as a follower!”  It is like the blind leading the blind. We all have blind spots that we cannot see, but to others they glare like the noonday sun!  Spiritual direction serves to help us to encounter God in our lives, to arrive at self-knowledge, to detect our major spiritual roadblocks, and finally to seek out and find God’s will in our lives.  St. Teresa of Avila would have never carried through with the reform of the Carmelites without spiritual direction.  She had St Peter of Alcanatara, St. John of the Cross and St. Francis Borgia to help her to discern God’s will!  St. Faustina Kowalska would have failed miserably to make known the treasures of Divine Mercy without the able assistance of Blessed Michael Sopocko.  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque never would have found acceptance of the famous apparitions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, had it not been for the timely appearance on the scene of the Jesuit, St. Claude de la Colombiere.  Divine light often radiates through the human prism of the Spiritual Director!

St. Ignatius and the Spiritual Exercises
 
3.     SPIRITUAL EXERCISE COURSES OF ST. IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA.    St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), God raised up to rescue a world in spiritual decline and spiritual battle:  the Protestant Reformation was in full force!  He founded the Company of Jesus—the Jesuits.  He wrote thousands of letters, anointed with gems of practical counsel and wisdom. The Holy Spirit inspired him to compose the Rules for Spiritual Discernment.  This spiritual masterpiece has proved to be a precious jewel in spirituality to help us to discern the motions or movements of the good spirit and open our hearts to receive and follow them. At the same time, the rules teach us to detect the “Bad vibes” of the enemy so as to reject them quickly, vigorously and constantly so  as to arrive at victory and receive one day the crown of glory. Finally, God inspired St. Ignatius to compose the Spiritual Exercises.  By doing the Spiritual Exercises and living out this divinely inspired program of spirituality one ascends from a mediocre, confused, apathetic spiritual life, to a vibrant, growing, dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ the King, a life-long pursuit of sanctity of life and an authentic witness to the world of holiness!

Two of the greatest sharers of the faith
 
4.     SHARING THE FAITH.   Personal faith is not lost by sharing it with others. On the contrary, by sharing your faith with others it results in a mutual, double process of enrichment.   The one who listens is enlightened and inspired by the spiritual treasure shared and you who give are enriched for giving!  Pray for and look for opportunities to share your faith with others!  Remember!  Nobody can give what he does not have!  The more spiritual treasures we have, then the more we can give to others.  A perforated container gives nothing; an empty mind and heart can give only hot air!

Pope Francis preaches by his radiant joy
 
5.     ELECTRONICS MEDIA EXPLOSION!    We live in a world with rapid progress, especially in the realm of the Mass media and the electronic media!  The mass media—means of modern communication—can be used for evil or for good.  As for us, we will use it as a means for our own sanctification!  The internet and good catholic websites—know them, save them and log in to them; this can be a great source of permanent formation!  “You-tube” videos--- a short spiritual message, maybe only a minute or two--- can enlighten us with an insight to console us and shed light on our path the whole day.  Podcasts!  These can be listened to at home, while cooking or cleaning, on the road on the way to work or in the quiet of one’s room before retiring for the night! Blogs!  Tap in to short but “meaty” spiritual topics, which might be on prayer, some virtue you need to practice, some heresy that must be understood and resisted, or some Marian reflection to lift up your mind and heart to “The Mystical Rose” who always points to Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Her last words recorded were “Do whatever He tells you!”

In conclusion, we are on a spiritual journey to heaven.  Ongoing Spiritual formation must be taken seriously. Many distractions can detour us from the purpose of our life, which is to praise God, reverence God, serve God and to save our soul for all eternity!

Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment and He responded: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your MIND! and your neighbor as yourself.” (Lk. 10: 27).    Final prayer to pursue ongoing formation:

Mary forming the future Good Shepherd
 
Lord, help me to take seriously my permanent spiritual formation so that I may be a worthy instrument in your hands to save many souls for time and all eternity! Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, pray for me!

TEN HELPS TO GROW IN PRAYER



The following is a short article to encourage all of us to desire to grow in our prayer life, seek the means to grow, but especially to persevere in this most important of activates—our salvation, the salvation of our families and loved ones, and the salvation of the whole world depends on men and women who have decided to dedicate their lives to prayer, which is the key to heaven!

1.    DESIRE to pray. We must pray for a firm desire to pray more and to pray better. Augustine says that we follow our hearts desire.  The same saints say: ‘We must choose the object of our desire and then to live with all our heart.” Of course the object of our desire should be God.

2.    CONVICTION as to the importance of prayer.  “As air is to the lungs, so should prayer be to our soul.”  As gasoline is to the tank of a car, so should prayer be our spiritual energy.” As wings are to the eagle to soar into the heights, so is prayer for the soul that wants to soar on high into the mystical heights.  As food and drink is to the hungry and thirsty body, so should prayer be to the thirsty soul.  The Psalmist expresses it in these beautiful words:  “As the deer yearns for the running streams so my soul yearns for you O God.”

3.    TEXT FOR PRAYER.  St. Teresa of Avila, Doctor of prayer, as beginners we should never go to our prayer time without the help of a good book.  This will help to forms good ideas and eventually ignite the heart with noble and heavenly aspirations.  In other words, we have to be trained and educated in prayer.

4.    WHAT TEXTS TO PRAY WITH? Of course, the first and best of all texts should be the Bible, the Word of God. In this God speaks to us directly. Highly to be encouraged would be the Gospels, the very heart of the Bible and the Psalms, the best prayer book ever composed by the Holy Spirit, using as human instrument King David.

5.    PRAYER METHOD.  Methods are helpful to learn any new art. This applies to prayer.  A classical method is that of  LECTIO DIVINA.   These are the steps: Lectio—read attentively, Meditacio—think/ponder the Word of God, Contemplacio—use your imagination to enter the scene and be part of it, Oracio--- pray and talk to the Lord, Accio—make sure that you put into action the fruits of your prayer.   This method could prove invaluable to help us on the highway of prayer.

6.    READINGS ON PRAYER.    There are many texts written on prayer and we should educate ourselves by reading some of the best. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, part IV, could prove to be an excellent tool as teacher of prayer. Read it and follow its advice!

7.    RETREATS.  The prime time and prime place to grow in prayer are retreats.  Ignatian retreats, with a competent director, have proven most efficacious over the centuries. If you have time, a thirty day retreat, or an 8-day retreat, or at least a weekend retreat.   The best way to learn how to pray is simply to pray. Retreats have as their primary purpose to go deeper in prayer.  Set aside some time every year. Jesus Himself invited the Apostles to come apart and rest—to be with Him, which is of course prayer.  This is a good “spiritual tune-up.”

8.     PERSEVERE IN THE STRUGGLE.  Prayer is not always easy!   The Catechism of the Catholic Church compares prayer to a wrestling match. Actually the Catechism takes as example Jacob wrestling with the angel all-night as model for prayer.  St. Teresa of Avila puts it succinctly:  “We must have a determined determination to never give up prayer.”  The devil will do all he can to trick us into believing that we are wasting our time in prayer and that there are many more noble and worthy pursuits that should override prayer.

9.    GET A LITTLE HELP FROM YOUR FRIENDS.  I find it to be of great help, while engaged in prayer, to beg for a little help from my friends. These friends are God’s faithful friends now and for all eternity: the angels and the saints. They passed the test and are confirmed in grace. They contemplate God face to face. They prove as most powerful intercessors before the throne of God and are patiently waiting for us to invoke them. Their prayers for us can help to enlighten our minds and ignite our wills to connect with God. Then read the lives of the saints.  The saints are all different in the sense that they come from a specific time, place, culture; they are sinners and have their own character and temperament. However, there is one point that all of the saints have in common: PRAYER!  Undoubtedly and universally, in all times and places, the saints were men of women who tenaciously clung to prayer, recognizing it as the breath and life of their souls and the key to success in their apostolic lives.

10. HOLY SPIRIT: THE INTERIOR MASTER.  St. Paul reminds us that we really do not know how to pray, but the Holy Spirit intercedes with ineffable groans so that we can say “Abba” Father.  St. Teresa of Avila, was struggling with her prayer life.  A Jesuit priest gave her the advice to pray to the Holy Spirit. From that time on her prayer life improved drastically.  The first Novena in the Church was in preparation for Pentecost and culminated in the descent of the Holy Spirit, transforming the Apostles into great warriors of prayer, warriors of Christ, and great saints. Praise and thanks be to the Holy Spirit—the Interior Master or Teacher. Why not also turn to the newly canonized Saint John XXIII who was presented as a man truly docile to the Holy Spirit and beg for his intercession, too.

In conclusion, let us turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who pondered the word of God in her Immaculate Heart as model for prayer and beg her for the grace to have a growing desire for prayer, love for prayer, growth in our daily prayer life, and perseverance in prayer. St. Augustine encourages us with these closing words: “He who prays well lives well; he who lives well dies well; he who dies well, all is well.”

Monday, June 30, 2014

HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW OR NOT KNOW?


 
This brief test is a challenge to see how much you really know with respect to your Catholic faith.  These will be ten simple questions that are rather simple but catechetical in nature.

PERMANENT FORMATION.  Professionals must constantly brush up, study, learn, and be on the cutting edge of learning and technology. The concept of permanent formation should apply even more seriously to Christian-Catholic followers of Christ.  The reason behind the urgency of this assertion is due to the primary importance of our soul and the importance of the eternal salvation of our immortal soul.

Jesus sums this up in this short but poignant phrase:  What would it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his life in the process.”   St. Ignatius persistently badgered Francis Xavier with this Biblical verse until Xavier capitulated, gave in, made the Spiritual Exercises and was radically transformed. He became one of the greatest missionaries in the history of the world!

St. Francis Xavier teaching
 
Now we will launch ten simple catechetical questions and see how we make out on these.  The questions will be posed, but it is up to you to research to answer for your own profit. Maybe these questions are overly simple for you. If so praise the Lord, but keep growing and climbing in your spiritual life. Then, make sure that you share this quiz with your families, friends, and why not even “non-believers” so that one day they may indeed become believers!

The Spiritual life is like climbing mountains. Once you have reached the summit and peak of one mountain, then there is always another mountain, higher and more challenging to climb. By way of analogy, we must keep climbing until we reach the mountain of God, which is heaven!  Off we go! Let us initiate our catechetical challenge and climb!

Moses receives the ten Commandments
 
1.    THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.  Name in order the Ten Commandments of the Law of God.  Who did God first give these Commandments?  Where can we find them in the Bible?

2.    THE SACRAMENTS.  Can you name them? A few more challenging questions!  How many can be received only once? Which of these Sacraments leave an indelible mark, which is called the Sacramental character?

St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II
 
3.    POPES?  Let us test you now on the Papacy!  Can you name in order the last ten Popes?  Which of these Popes lasted the longest? Which of these last ten Popes lasted the shortest? What was the present Pope’s name before he was elected and chosen to be Pope?

4.    GOSPELS! Can you name the Gospels in order! Great!  Now without looking can you tell the number of the chapters in each one of the Gospels? If you do not know, then of course you will have to look it up! Lastly, what does the word “Gospel” mean???

Gospels: do you know them?
 
5.    MARIAN TEST!  Can you name the four different series in the Rosary, starting with the “Joyful Mysteries?”(Oops, I gave you the first…) Now, name all of the twenty mysteries in their proper order. If you get an “A+” Our Lady will be smiling from heaven without a doubt!!! Take it one more step: get into the habit of praying the Rosary!

6.    MARIAN DOGMAS!  Can you name the four Marian dogmas that have been proclaimed in the course of the 2000 years history of the Catholic Church? Which was the last? Who proclaimed it? When? When do we celebrate this last one? Hint: it is in the middle of the summer and the very middle of the month of August!!! If you get an A+, Our Lady will smile all the more!!!! Get this question right? Maybe you are called to be a catechism teacher! 

Our Lady with Child
 
7.     TEST ON THE HOLY SPIRIT! Can you name the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit? According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, which would be the greatest of the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit? May the Holy Spirit enlighten you, or move you to find these all-important Gifts!

8.     ESCHATOLOGY!  The study of the Last things. Can you name the “four last things”? Once memorized make it a habit to meditate on these at least for two minutes every day. This will help us to distance ourselves from sin and focus on our eternal salvation!

Eschatology
 
9.    CHRISTOLOGY!  Jesus should be the very center of our lives. St. Ignatius, introducing us to contemplation, invites us to grow deeper in knowing Jesus, loving Jesus and then a real willingness to follow Him. Here is your question and challenge with respect to Jesus Christ: give five different titles or names for Jesus! The Gospels, of course, would be the best references for this Christological question!  If you really love Jesus, then you should get to know Him better through the different names and titles that he has! Then, these titles can even enrich our prayer life!
     
Jesus surrounded by the angels
 
10.  ANGELS! Can you name the different choirs of angels that were categorized by of course the Angelic Doctor Saint Thomas Aquinas? Then, after this challenging question, can you name three Archangels mentioned in the Bible? Still a greater challenge: can you tell the meaning of those three Archangels that you have just mentioned. They all have “Hebrew” origin!  Now, I wonder if the angels will be rejoicing in your testing on them? If you do not know, then it is up to you to find out! Then you will be a master of this knowledge of your friends—the Holy Angels of God. By the way, when we are speaking of angels, we are not referring to a Baseball team that plays ball somewhere in California!

Our Lady came to Fatima as catechist
 
 
 
Now, after you have completed successfully this catechetical test, why not take it one step further! Why not at the dinner table as a dynamic  to spice up summer vacation launch these questions to your family members, maybe guests or whoever happens to be invited to dinner that night!  Then whoever wins the most answers, reward him/her with ice-cream and cookies. The loser well maybe hit the sink and wash the dishes! Why not accept this dynamic learning game!