Monday, July 28, 2014

FIGHT FOR THE SALVATION OF YOUR SOUL!


David conquers Goliath-- so can we win the spiritual battle through the Rosary
 
Our life is very short and the stakes are very high: salvation or condemnation! It is for eternity—forever and ever and ever!  We will either be with God the angels and saints and Mary the Queen of the angels and saints in heaven forever! Or we will be lost forever in hell with the devil and his minions in the fire that is never extinguished,  and the worm never dies.

These are eternal truths that we should meditate upon day and night so as to attain the crown of eternal life in heaven.

MAYOR OBSTACLE: THE BATTLE FOR PURITY OF LIFE!

Our Lady of Fatima made the sad but all too true comment that most souls are lost for all eternity in the fire of hell due to the sins of the flesh or the sins against the virtue of purity.  Our Lady appeared to the three shepherd children—Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia in 1917.

Since then the world has descended into an almost endless swamp of immorality and impurity.  Young people cohabiting, the legalization and promotion of homosexuality, adultery spreading like the wildfires of California, movies almost always portraying indecent scenes, immodest dress that provokes to no limits, addictions to pornography and masturbation, the sins against the sixth and ninth Commandments go on and on almost like an endless abyss. St. Teresa of Avila, woman Doctor of the Church made this wry comment: “Those who live in sin, we should not be surprised what they do but surprised what they do not do.”  In other words this saint asserts that the ability to sin and its malicious creativity has no limits—like the infinite abyss!

However, in the midst of the world inundated by materialism, sensuality, hedonism and worse yet—moral relativism, which really means nothing is really wrong, but all is permissible—we should always have hope. Why?   By nature we are the epitome of fragility and weakness. However, God is a strong, immovable Rock!  The Archangel Gabriel said to Mary in the account of the Annunciation—“All is possible for God!”

To attain this virtue of purity, that all of us must strive for on a daily basis mastery is demanded, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church so clearly teaches. (CCC) I would like to suggest one simple practice: a loving, tender and growing devotion to Our Lady, consecrating our whole being to her, especially our purity! This love for Our Lady we should discover and cultivate and try to plant this deeply in the very heart of our families, our children and especially our youth who are assaulted constantly every day (almost every hour) with temptations against purity!  

What can we do?  I would like to suggest five simple but very powerful devotions directed to Mary. A side note! Never forget that the more we love Mary then the more we will love Jesus and the Blessed Trinity. Mary is the Daughter of God the Father, the Mother of God the Son and the Mystical Spouse of the Holy Spirit. She is also the Mother of the Church and our dear Mother in the order of grace!

St. Maximilian Kolbe and Mary
1.    CONSECRATION TO MARY. As soon as you hear the alarm clock, out of bed, on your knees and consecrate your whole being to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Cure of Ars said that those who begin well will end well. The Founder of Opus Dei, St. Jose Maria Escriva Balaguer, calls the first moment of the day “the heroic moment”. If at first we conquer the flesh and give ourselves to Jesus through Mary then it will be easier to win the subsequent battles in the course of the day.

2.    ANGELUS.  Get in the habit of praying that beautiful Marian prayer that the Holy Father prays publically at noon every Sunday that is called the Angelus. If possible pray the Angelus three times a day: 9:00. A.m. to sanctify the morning hours through the aroma of Mary. Noon, to sanctify the afternoon through the breath of Mary; then 6:00 p.m. to sanctify the evening hours through the beautiful memory and fragrance of Mary!

Jesus conquers the tempter; so can we through prayer
3.    TEMPTED?   When tempted, especially against the virtue of purity, quickly but calmly, pray the HAIL MARY! By doing this, the most pure and Immaculate heart of Mary will expel the bad image or temptation.   The devil has a mortal fear of the Holy Name of Mary and especially the prayer the HAIL MARY! Never was it known that anyone who fled to her protection was left unaided. (The Memorare)

4.     LIVE IN THE PRESENCE OF JESUS, MARY, AND ST. JOSEPH.   St. Teresa of Avila asserts that we sin especially because we forget about the Presence of God.  If we can strive to be constantly living in the Presence of Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph then the enemy and sin cannot get into our lives.   It is highly recommended the reading of “Brother Lawrence and the Presence of God”.  This humble lay brother achieved holiness by this one simple practice: living constantly in the Presence of God!

David conquers Goliath; the Rosary is the spiritual slingshot
5.     DAILY ROSARY!  David had to confront a formidable enemy: Goliath! According to any military standards, David would have never been able to conquer this giant in battle.  The odds were all against him, to say the least! Goliath was bigger; he had sword and spear and armour-bearer. Goliath had experience and age on his side. However, David went trusting God and with one launching of a small stone grounded the giant and finishes  Goliath off by cutting off his head, with Goliath’s own sword(what irony!!!)  With regard to sexuality and purity, on a daily basis we are surrounded not by one Goliath but by a huge army of Goliaths! Humanly speaking from all external appearances it seems as if we and our young ones are doomed!  But no!  If we can lift our minds, our hearts, our souls and trust to Our Lady by praying the most Holy Rosary on a daily basis, the victory will be ours!   The Rosary is the sling shot and the stones the Hail Marys!

Have the Rosary in your hands daily
In conclusion, friends in Jesus, Mary, and St. Joseph, if we want to conquer the world, the flesh and the devil and attain the virtue of purity let us lift up our heart, mind, soul, and bodies to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the victory will be ours through her powerful intercession!

 

PRAYER IS THE LIFE OF THE SOUL

St. John of the Cross says: “The person who flees prayer is fleeing everything that is good.”  Without air to our lungs it is just a matter of minutes that we will suffocate and die; what air is to the lungs, prayer is to the soul.  St. Paul exhorts us: “Pray without ceasing” (I Thes. 5:17). To the Ephesians ha says “Pray at all times.” (Eph. 6:18).  In the Garden of Olives Jesus earnestly warned the Apostles to pray: “Watch and pray”. (Mt. 26:41). Because they failed to pray the Apostles failed Jesus when He most desperately needed their company and their friendship.  There is an obvious connection to lack of prayer and succumbing to sin.  The more and better we pray, the more graces we receive from God and the more power we have in our will to resist the imperious demands of the flesh, the insistent attacks of the devil and the astute and ever-present seductions of the world that surrounds us with its glamour and allurements.

The following is an acronym to help us to pray with greater fervor and determination. We will title this the FIVE Ws OF PRAYER!  Let’s start!

1.    WHEN?   When can we pray?  The response is simple and to the point: any time you desire you can lift up your mind and heart to your loving Father. He is patiently waiting for you at all times.  If we call someone on the phone often we suffer frustrations because the line is busy. God’s line to heaven is never busy. As soon as we dial H. E. A. V. E. N., God immediately picks up the receiver and is lovingly waiting for us to talk to Him. How great God is!

2.    WHERE?   Not only can we pray to God at any time, but we can also pray to Him in any place in the created universe.  One of the attributes of God is His omnipresence—that means, that God is absolutely everywhere. St. Paul, quoting a Greek poet, reminds us of this truth: “In Him we live and move and have our being.”  We can easily obliterate God from our consciousness, but God never forgets us even for a split second and He always loves us unconditionally.

3.    WHY?  Why should we pray? For many reasons!  However, a most powerful reason might be this: for the salvation of our immortal soul. Listen to what two great saints teach us on the importance of prayer for the salvation of our immortal souls.  Let us start with St. Augustine, who struggled for many years to break the slavery of lust.  The Doctor of grace teaches us in a simple and poetic fashion: “He who prays well lives well; he who lives well dies well; he who dies well, all is well.” Bravo Augustine! Now let us turn to one of the greatest teachers on almost all spiritual topics you can imagine, St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori.  He is quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the section on prayer with these cogent and convincing words: “He who prays well will be saved; he who does not pray will be damned.” Boom! Powerful assertion, what do you think?

4.    WHO?  In prayer then “Who” can I talk to?  The response is both simple and complex!  You can obviously talk to God. You can talk to any one of the Persons in the Trinity—the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit.  However, in heaven where God lives is family. Therefore, you can pray to Mary, the Mother of God, the angels and the saints. In a certain sense, there indeed is true liberty in prayer.  You can talk to any of the above-mentioned, at any time and in any place and whatever words you might feel inspired to express yourself! Still more you can talk to more than one of them at the same time! No strait-jacket exists with respect to prayer; rather, the freedom of the sons and daughters of God.

5.     WHAT?  The next question that surely crosses the mind of so many people with respect to prayer is what do I say?   Once again, total liberty! An extremely helpful acronym that can help you with the expression of various sentiments or feelings in prayer is the word A.C.T.S.  A stands for adoration.  Why not unite your heart with the angels to praise, adore and glorify God.  C   stands for Contrition.  If we hurt somebody we apologize with a sincere: “I am sorry!”  When we sin we hurt God and should practice contrition and tell Him we are sorry! T stands for thanksgiving. Indeed all that we have in this world is a pure gift from God and we should render Him constant thanks. If you like we should cultivate an attitude of gratitude. S stands for supplication. This word simply means that we should ask God for what we need.  Jesus Himself encourages us with these words: “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened. Whoever asks receives; whoever seeks finds; and whoever knocks the door will be opened for him. (Mt. 7:7-8)

To encourage us to pray let us carefully meditate the words that St. Peter of Alcantara wrote taking from St. Lawrence Justinian on the powerful effects of prayer.

In prayer the soul is purified from sin, charity is nurtured, faith takes root, hope is strengthened, the spirit gladdened. In prayer the soul melts into tenderness, the heart is purified, the truth reveals itself, temptation is overcome, sadness is put to flight. In prayer, the senses are renewed, lukewarmness vanishes, failing virtue is  reinvigorated, the rust of vices is scoured away; and in this exchange, there come forth living sparks, blazing desires of heaven, in which the flame of divine love burns.

Remember then the Five  Ws of prayer to motivate you to soar high in the divine atmosphere of prayer: 1) When, 2) Where, 3) Why, 4) Who, and 5) What. May Our Lady model of prayer, who pondered the Word of God in her Immaculate Heart pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

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!