A short bedtime prayer from Psalm 4:
In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, LORD,
make me dwell in safety.
What a simple, child-like acknowledgment of God’s power and love.
The second joyful mystery is the Visitation. Mary visits St. Elizabeth. St. John the Baptist leaps in St. Elizabeth’s womb.
St. Elizabeth’s words – “how is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” — can be a key to deepening your Eucharistic faith.
What if you prepared for communion by changing her words just a bit – “How is it that my Lord comes to me? How is that bread becomes God…for me? How is it that God pours all of Himself into what was once bread … for me? How is it that He invites me to receive all of Himself without reservation as food? “How is that my Lord should come to me?”
Having grown up Catholic, the practice of seeking the intercession of the Blessed Mother and the Saints in heaven has always been second-nature to me, but like many things that are second-nature, not too well understood. Sure, I could explain why intercessory prayer was consistent with Christ’s role as the one Mediator. Sure, I knew where Second Maccabees told us that praying for the dead is a pious thing. But that was about it.
Today, though, I read a Scripture passage that deepened my understanding. The passage is Job 16:19-21. It reads:
19 Even now my witness is in heaven;
my advocate is on high.
20 My intercessor is my friend
as my eyes pour out tears to God;
21 on behalf of a man he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend.
Pause for a moment and imagine that. The Blessed Mother pleads for me and everyone else ‘as a friend.’ St. Francis de Sales pleads me and everyone else ‘as a friend.’ St. Joseph pleads for me and everyone else ‘as a friend.’ The entire heavenly cloud of witnesses pleads for me and everyone else ‘as a friend.’ Intercessory prayer will never be the same.
Finishing a post is always harder than starting, but today is easy:
Hail, Holy Queen! Mother of Mercy, our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve, to thee do we lift up our sighs, our mourning, and our weeping in this valley of tears
Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us and after this, our exile, show unto us the the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary, pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
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I read recently that pride, vanity, and sensuality lie at the root of all sin. Not only are they root sins, their very nature is such that the attempt to overcome them can easily backfire. The following is perhaps the scariest thing I’ve read in a long time:
The symptoms of vanity, this initial sin: intolerance of criticism, a thirst for praise, a search for easy paths, constant orientation upon others – what will they say? how will it appear? what will they think? …….
The same orientation upon an audience explains the sin of self-justification, which often creeps unnoticeably even into our confession: “I am no more sinful than the rest…. only insignificant sins…. I have not killed anyone or stolen anything.”
The demon of vanity is overjoyed, says St. John of the Ladder, seeing our virtues increase: the more successes we have, the more food for vanity. “When I keep fast, I am vain; when I hide my spiritual labors – I am vain over my piety. If I dress pleasingly, I am vain, and if I put on old clothes, I become even vainer. If I begin to speak – I am consumed by vanity, if I keep silent – I become still vainer. No matter how you turn this prickly plant – it always has its thorns sticking upward.” As soon as a kind feeling or a sincere movement arises in a man’s heart, immediately there appears a vain backward look at oneself, and thus – these most precious movements of the soul disappear, melt like snow under the sun. They melt, which means they die; which means that because of vanity the best in us dies; thus we kill ourselves with vanity and we replace a real, simple and good life with phantoms.
Increasing vanity gives rise to pride.
This is indeed melancholy. How many “precious movements of the soul” have I killed?
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We see praiseworthy works all around us. We little acts of charity – St. Thèrese’s little flowers – throughout the day. We see aggressively secular people acting in ways that put many Christians to shame. They do so outside of the Church; indeed, many deny the God even exists. Are these acts good? Are these acts holy? It seems at the very least churlish and disagreeable to say so, but if they are holy, is there anything special about Christian charity?
Over the centuries, there have been numerous profound responses to this question. The Holy Father himself addressed it in his first encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est.
Here is a simple thought that seems to cut into it.
Holiness consists of loving obedience to God’s will. An atheist may act consistently with God’s will. But it can be neither loving nor obedient because he does not acknowledge the One to be loved nor the One to be obeyed. We can see the act and praise it because we see God’s will being effectuated. We can hope that those works will generate a greater awareness of God’s love in his heart. We can then look in the mirror and ask what is God teaching us, ask if we are lovingly obeying His will in our lives? And that’s what it is about, after all?
Pope Francis’ recent comments have brought this topic to the fore again. I think the whole issue presents a philosophical dilemma, but is of little practical significance. We know for certain that Christ came to save everyone. We know that we have the freedom to say “no.” Pondering who is “in” and who is “out” changes our focus from seeing, loving, and following Him to figuring out and applying membership criteria, which He can waive. All we can do is to share God’s desire that all be saved and work toward that end in accordance with our particular vocations.
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