Posted in CCC, DEVOTIO, HOLY WEEK, MORNING Prayers, Pope BENEDICT XVI, QUOTES on DEATH, The HOLY CROSS, The PASSION, The SEVEN LAST WORDS of CHRIST

Devotion of The Seven Last Words of Christ – The Seventh Word – 31 March – Holy Saturday 2018

Devotion of The Seven Last Words of Christ – The Seventh Word – 31 March – Holy Saturday 2018

The Seven Last Words of Christ refer, not to individual words but to the final seven phrases that Our Lord uttered as He hung on the Cross.   These phrases were not recorded in a single Gospel but are taken from the combined accounts of the four Gospels.   Greatly revered, these last words of Jesus have been the subject of many books, sermons and musical settings.

The Seven Last Words of Christ

” Jesus reaches the heights of the depth of his prayer to the Father during His Passion and Death, when He pronounces His supreme “yes” to the plan of God and reveals how the human will finds its fulfilment precisely in adhering fully to the divine will, rather than the opposite.   In Jesus’ prayer, in His cry to the Father on the Cross, “all the troubles, for all time, of humanity enslaved by sin and death, all the petitions and intercessions of salvation history are summed up … Here the Father accepts them and, beyond all hope, answers them beyond all hope, answers them by raising His Son.   Thus is fulfilled and brought to completion the drama of prayer in the economy of creation and salvation”  (CCC 2606)

Pope Benedict 7 March 2012

all the troubles for all time ccc 2606 - used on easter sat 31 march 2018 - quoted by pope benedict in the seventh word

The Seventh Word

“Into Your hands I commend My spirit” (Luke 23:46)

Gospel:  It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” and when he had said this, he breathed his last…Luke 23:44-46

The Word Incarnate utters His last sentence and in doing so, every last word takes on a special significance. In the act of dying, the God-Man teaches His brothers and sisters in the human family how to die.   What is the final lesson?

Jesus died resigned to the Will of the One Who sent Him.  However, we should not see this as passivity;  it is an active resignation, which sums up His entire life:  “As a man lives so shall He die.”

As we listen to the dying Saviour, two words draw our attention:  “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” “Father” and “thy” are the keys to the mystery of death.   Jesus, in His humanity, does not rely on His own resources but casts His cares upon His heavenly Father, the Abba (“Papa”) in Whom He encouraged His disciples to have complete trust.

His heart is thus other-directed or, better, Other-directed toward the One “who was able to save Him from death” (Heb 5:7).   With eyes fixed on Jesus (cf. Heb 3:1), then, Christians ponder what they need in death.   They are three: the grace of perseverance, the grace of final repentance and the grace of a happy death.

Such a gift then leads to that most blessed thing of all – the grace of a happy death. Several years ago I received an early morning call to the hospital to bring Viaticum for a cancer patient I had attended the entire summer.   Always thoughtful to a fault, she had restrained her family from contacting a priest during the night, lest he lose sleep.   Upon my arrival, the woman stirred herself to prepare for her final encounter with the Eucharist.   As I placed the Sacred Host on her tongue, she smiled, swallowed and died. Her son looked at me and said, “Father, that’s all she was waiting for all night.”

What a holy death! What a calming effect it had on her entire family!   What a powerful and unforgettable witness she had offered!   A holy death ensures a happy death because our eyes are “fixed on Jesus.”

Thinking about death – our own death – should not be an exercise in morbidity but a truly positive opportunity. St Alphonsus Liguori, author of the classic “Way of the Cross,” provides ample food for thought in his reflection for the Fifth Station  . It has within it all the serenity of Jesus’ serenity in His final moments and thus recommends itself to our thoughts and as a guide for our actions – perennially.

And so we are encouraged to say and to mean: “My beloved Jesus, I will not refuse the cross, as the Cyrenian did;  I accept it, I embrace it.   I accept in particular the death You have destined for me; with all the pains that may accompany it;  I unite it to your death, I offer it to You.   You have died for love of me; I  will die for love of You, and to please You.   Help me by your grace. I love You, Jesus, my love;  I repent of ever having offended You.   Never permit me to offend You again.   Grant that I may love You always and then do with me what you will.”  (St Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) Doctor of the Church) ...Excerpt from Fr Peter Stravinskas

Prayer of Abandonment to God’s Providence

Lord, Your Cross is high and uplifted;
I cannot mount it in my own strength.
You have promised:
“I, when I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw all to Myself.”
Draw me, then, from my sins to repentance,
from darkness to faith,
from the flesh to the spirit,
from coldness to ardent devotion,
from weak beginnings to a perfect end,
from smooth and easy paths,
if it be Your will, to a higher and holier way,
from fear to love,
from earth to heaven,
from myself to You.
And as You have said:
“No man can come to Me,
except the Father, who sent Me, draw him,”
give unto me the Spirit Whom the Father hath sent in Your Name,
that in Him and through Him,
I being wholly changed,
may hasten to You
and go out no more for ever.
Amen
(From a Prayer a Day for Lent – 1923)THE SEVEN LAST WORDS OF CHRIST - THE SEVENTH WORD - HOLY SAT - 31 MARCH 2018

 

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Posted in CATHOLIC-PRAYERS OF THE CHURCH, CCC, MORNING Prayers, PRAYERS of the CHURCH, PRAYERS of the SAINTS

Our Morning Offering – 21 March – The Memorial of St Nicholas of Flue (1417-1487)

Our Morning Offering – 21 March – The Memorial of St Nicholas of Flue (1417-1487)

My Lord and my God
St Nicholas of Flue (1417-1487)

My Lord and my God,
take from me everything
that distances me from You.
My Lord and my God,
give me everything
that brings me closer to You.
My Lord and my God,
detach me from myself
to give my all to You.
Amen

The above prayer of St Nicholas, is cited in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph #226.
CCC 226 – It means making good use of created things: faith in God, the only One, leads us to use everything that is not God only insofar as it brings us closer to Him and to detach ourselves from it insofar as it turns us away from Him.

prayer of st nicholas of flue no 226 - my lord and my god, take from me everything - 21 march 2018

 

Posted in CCC, DOCTORS of the Church, MARTYRS, MORNING Prayers, QUOTES of the SAINTS, QUOTES on PERSECUTION, SAINT of the DAY

Quote/s of the Day – 16 March – The Memorial of St Jean de Brébeuf (1593-1649) Martyr and Friday in the 4th Week of Lent 20

Quote/s of the Day – 16 March – The Memorial of St Jean de Brébeuf (1593-1649) Martyr and Friday in the 4th Week of Lent 2018

CCC 2473:  Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the faith:
it means witness even unto death.
The martyr bears witness to Christ who died and rose,
to whom he is united by charity.
He bears witness to the truth of the faith and of Christian doctrine.
He endures death through an act of fortitude.
“Let me become the food of the beasts,
through whom it will be given me to reach God”
[This quote at the end is from the Letter to the Romans by S. Ignatius of Antioch].

“Nothing can happen to me that God doesn’t want.
And all that He wants, no matter how bad it may
appear to us, is really for the best.”

St Thomas More (1478-1535) Martyrnothing can happen to me - st thomas more - 16 march 2018

“The smallest of life’s events are directed by the Lord.
Creatures are instruments but it is the hand of Jesus that directs all.

St Theresa of the Child Jesus (1873-1897) Doctor of the Churchthe-smallest-of-lifes-events-st-tofl.16 march 2018

“Martyrdom is a grace which I do not think I deserve.
But if God accepts the sacrifice of my life,
may my blood be a seed of freedom and
a sign of that hope will soon be a reality.”

Blessed Oscar Romero (1917-1980) Martyrmartyrdom is a grace - bl oscar romero - 16 march 2018

Posted in CCC, CHRISTMASTIDE!, DOCTORS of the Church, DOGMA, FATHERS of the Church, FEASTS and SOLEMNITIES, MARIAN QUOTES, MARIAN TITLES, MORNING Prayers, QUOTES of the SAINTS, SAINT of the DAY, The BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

Quote/s of the Day – 1 January 2018 – The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and the Octave Day of the Nativity of Our Lord

Quote/s of the Day – 1 January 2018 – The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and the Octave Day of the Nativity of Our Lord

“It becomes you to be mindful of us,
as you stand near Him
Who granted you all graces,
for you are the Mother of God and our Queen.
Help us for the sake of the King,
the Lord God Master Who was born of you.
For this reason you are called ‘full of Grace’…”

St Athanasius (297-373) Father & Doctor of the Churchit becomes you to be mindful - st athanasius - 1 jan 2018

“If anyone does not believe that Holy Mary
is the Mother of God,
he is severed from the Godhead.
If anyone should assert that He passed through the Virgin
as through a channel
and was not at once divinely and humanly formed in her
(divinely, because without the intervention of a man;
humanly, because in accordance with the laws of gestation),
he is in like manner godless.”

St Gregory Nazianzen (330-390) Father & Doctor of the Churchif anyone does not believe - 1 jan 2018

“What the Catholic faith believes about Mary
is based on what it believes about Christ
and what it teaches about Mary,
illumines in turn, its faith in Christ”

CCC No 487ccc no 487 - 1 jan 2018

Posted in ARCHangels and Angels, CCC, Pope BENEDICT XVI, SAINT of the DAY

Saint of the Day – The Holy Guardian Angels – 2 October

Blessed Memorial of Your Holy Guardian Angel – 2 October.

El Atocha- The Christ Child with Angel
El Atocha: The Christ Child with Angel

Perhaps no aspect of Catholic piety is as comforting to parents as the belief that an angel protects their little ones from dangers real and imagined.  Yet guardian angels are not only for children.   Their role is to represent individuals before God, to watch over them always, especially with respect to helping that person avoid spiritual dangers, to aid their prayer and achieve salvation.
The angel may also help the person avoid physical dangers, particularly if this will help the person achieve salvation. Guardian-AngelVitrailFlorac010609_09AngeGardien

The concept of an angel assigned to guide and nurture each human being is a development of Catholic doctrine and piety based on Scripture but not directly drawn from it.   Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:10 best support the belief:  “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

Devotion to the angels began to develop with the birth of the monastic tradition. Saint Benedict gave it impetus and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, the great 12th-century reformer, was such an eloquent spokesman for the guardian angels that angelic devotion assumed its current form in his day.

A feast in honour of the guardian angels was first observed in the 16th century. In 1615, Pope Paul V added it to the Roman calendar.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession.   Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.   Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God [CCC 336].guardian angel.2.

According to the general teaching of the theologians, however, not only every baptised person, but every human being, including unbelievers, has his own special guardian angel from his birth [Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 120].

This understanding is reflected in an Angelus address by Benedict XVI, who stated:

Dear friends, the Lord is ever close and active in humanity’s history and accompanies us with the unique presence of his Angels, whom today the Church venerates as “Guardian Angels”, that is, ministers of the divine care for every human being.   From the beginning until the hour of death, human life is surrounded by their constant protection. [Angelus, Oct. 2, 2011].angelorum-angel4b

The Congregation stated:  Popular devotion to the Holy Angels, which is legitimate and good, can, however, also give rise to possible deviations:

when, as sometimes can happen, the faithful are taken by the idea that the world is subject to demiurgical struggles, or an incessant battle between good and evil spirits, or Angels and daemons, in which man is left at the mercy of superior forces and over which he is helpless;   such cosmologies bear little relation to the true Gospel vision of the struggle to overcome the Devil, which requires moral commitment, a fundamental option for the Gospel, humility and prayer;
when the daily events of life, which have nothing or little to do with our progressive maturing on the journey towards Christ are read schematically or simplistically, indeed childishly, so as to ascribe all setbacks to the Devil and all success to the Guardian Angels [op. cit., 217].

Should we assign names to our guardian angels?  The Congregation stated:

The practice of assigning names to the Holy Angels should be discouraged, except in the cases of Gabriel, Raphael and Michael whose names are contained in Holy Scripture.angels-58

Detail From The Vision of St. Bernard
Detail From The Vision of St. Bernard FILIPPINO LIPPI c. 1475
Posted in CCC, DOCTORS of the Church, MORNING Prayers, QUOTES of the SAINTS, SAINT of the DAY, The BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

Thought for the Day – 5 August

Thought for the Day – 5 August

Theological debate over Christ’s nature as God and man reached fever pitch in Constantinople in the early fifth century. The chaplain of Bishop Nestorius began preaching against the title Theotokos, “Mother of God,” insisting that the Virgin was mother only of the human Jesus. Nestorius agreed, decreeing that Mary would henceforth be named “Mother of Christ” in his see. The people of Constantinople virtually revolted against their bishop’s refutation of a cherished belief. When the Council of Ephesus refuted Nestorius, believers took to the streets, enthusiastically chanting, “Theotokos! Theotokos!”….. ( Fr Don Miller, OFM)

“Mary is the Divine Page on which the Father wrote the Word of God, His Son.” … St Albert the Great (1206-1280)
German; scientist, philosopher, theologian and Doctor of the Church

” What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ and what it teaches about Mary, illumines in turn, its faith in Christ” (CCC#487).

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!

mary is the divine page - st albert the great - doctor

Prayer to Our Lady of the Snows

Mary, Mother of God,
it is our Christian belief that all who fashion their lives in imitation of your Son, Jesus Christ
and have placed their hope in Him,
are gathered together in a communion of saints.
Those who have gone before us live in intimate communion with Christ.
You are the most eminent of them, for you were drawn into His life and being as no other.
You who gave Him human life followed Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Mary, look at us.
Look at all who are centred on your Son.
At the present time some of His disciples are pilgrims on earth.
Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory,
contemplating ‘in full light, God Himself Triune and One, exactly as He is.
All of God’s people hunger to be intimately one with Him.
Mary, we are the wayfarers
and we hunger for this exchange of spiritual goods with you
who were so intimately close to Jesus Christ.
Your image, as protectress of the Roman people,
reminds us that you invite us to live in Christ.
Your arms embrace Jesus fully, effortlessly.
Jesus, whose burden is light and yoke is easy,
wishes to be as close to every individual as He is to you.
You are both wayfarer and guide to us wayfarers on our pilgrimage of faith.
Teach us, Mary, to embrace Christ fully, to make Him our Way, our Truth, our Life.
Teach us, Mary, to carry Christ to the world,
and, each in our own way, to give Him birth in the hearts of many.
Protect your people, Mary – protect your Church.
We ask this, as we ask all things, through Jesus Christ Our Lord,
in union with God our Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever. Amen

Church_of_Our_Lady_of_the_Snow_in_Lviv_(relief)
Church of Our Lady of the Snows – Lviv

 

Posted in CCC, FEASTS and SOLEMNITIES, MORNING Prayers

Thought for the Day – 28 May – The Ascension of the Lord

Thought for the Day – 28 May – The Ascension of the Lord

“As a mother who teaches her children to speak and so to understand and communicate, the Church our Mother teaches us the language of faith in order to introduce us to the understanding and the life of faith” (CCC No. 71, excerpt).    The life of true faith.  It is a stimulating and vigorous Catholic life of love and brightness; one which cannot be shaken nor injured nor destroyed by the appearance of any earthly catastrophe so long as we ourselves remain in the Light, remembering what we have heard from the beginning, never turning from our Beloved who ascended into heaven in order to appear in the presence of God on our behalf!

Lord Jesus Christ, seated at the Right Hand of the Father, intercede for us!

the ascension of the lord

Posted in CCC, CONTEMPLATIVE Prayer, MORNING Prayers

Catholic Meditation and Contemplative Prayer: What’s the Difference?

Catholic Meditation and Contemplative Prayer: What’s the Difference?

To answer this question, let’s look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In the glossary, we find the following definitions (I’ve highlighted several words and phrases in each definition to help us parse out the difference):

First, for meditation:

MEDITATION: An exercise and a form of prayer in which we try to understand God’s revelation of the truths of faith and the purpose of the Christian life, and how it should be lived, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking.

And now, for contemplation:

CONTEMPLATION: A form of wordless prayer in which mind and heart focus on God’s greatness and goodness in affective, loving adoration; to look on Jesus and the mysteries of his life with faith and love.

So immediately we can see that Catholic meditation is a cognitive exercise — prayer seeking understanding; whereas contemplative prayer sets aside that kind of mental effort, seeking instead a wordless, loving adoration of Christ and his mysteries.

Put another way:  in meditation we think; in contemplation we rest our thoughts and simply love (and respond to love).

To unpack this a bit further, we can look into the body of the Catechism itself, for further insight into both meditation and contemplation.    In sections 2705-8 of the Catechism we find further insight into a Catholic understanding of meditation.    In the interest of brevity I’m only going to post a few key phrases but look it up in the Catechism and read the entire section:

Meditation is above all a quest.  The mind seeks to understand the why and how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking… To meditate on what we read helps us to make it our own by confronting it with ourselves… To the extent that we are humble and faithful, we discover in meditation the movements that stir the heart and we are able to discern them… Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire… This form of prayerful reflection is of great value but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him.

Immediately following this (sections 2709-19) is the Catechism’s discussion of contemplative prayer.   Once again, here are just a few key phrases:

ccc2709-2719

 

Contemplative prayer seeks him “whom my soul loves.” … We seek him, because to desire him is always the beginning of love… In this inner prayer we can still meditate, but our attention is fixed on the Lord himself…. One cannot always meditate but one can always enter into inner prayer, independently of the conditions of health, work, or emotional state.   The heart is the place of this quest and encounter, in poverty and in faith… Entering into contemplative prayer is like entering into the Eucharistic liturgy:   we “gather up” the heart, recollect our whole being under the prompting of the Holy Spirit, abide in the dwelling place of the Lord which we are, awaken our faith in order to enter into the presence of him who awaits us… Contemplative prayer is the poor and humble surrender to the loving will of the Father in ever deeper union with his beloved Son… It is a gift, a grace; it can be accepted only in humility and poverty. Contemplative prayer is a covenant relationship established by God within our hearts. Contemplative prayer is a communion in which the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image of God, “to his likeness.”
Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus… Contemplative prayer is silence, the “symbol of the world to come” or “silent love.” Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love… Contemplative prayer is a communion of love bearing Life for the multitude, to the extent that it consents to abide in the night of faith… We must be willing to “keep watch with [him] one hour.”

The Catechism refuses to draw a hard and fast distinction between meditation and contemplation:  “in [contemplation] we can still meditate.”   Head and heart are both intimate parts of one being.   We may seek in contemplation to love and behold God in silence but thoughts will still dance in our minds.   But as “The Cloud of Unknowing” so helpfully teaches us, when meditative thoughts emerge during contemplative prayer, seek to be non-attached.   Let them arise and let them fall. Keep our focus “fixed on the Lord himself” — in contemplation our intent is to love God, not to think about God;   to know God rather than merely know about God.

Nevertheless, because meditation is an effortful prayer, there are times when we are simply too tired, or too angry, anxious, or whatever, to meditate.   Yet contemplative prayer, emphasising rest and silence, is always available to us.    Perhaps most important of all is the recognition that meditation is not the highest form of prayer: contemplation is.   Yet true contemplation is always a gift, a grace.   It’s not something we achieve, it’s something we receive.

To summarise:

  • Meditation is a quest;   contemplation involves rest.
  • Meditation is mental, cognitive, discursive;   contemplation is silent, heart-centered, beholding
  • Meditation is important, contemplation even more so.
Posted in CCC, CONTEMPLATIVE Prayer, MORNING Prayers

Contemplative Prayer – Making a Start

“Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No 2715).

Contemplation is the prayer of the heart and not of the mind.   Contemplative prayer may focus on a word or a saying or one may simply be in the presence of God.   It is the prayer of the listening heart.   The goal of contemplative prayer is to enter into the presence of God where there are no words, concepts or images.  It is the prayer of being in love.

HOW:  Before the Blessed Sacrament – sit or kneel.   Gaze into the Tabernacle or look into the Monstrance.   Be still.   Focus on your breathing.   Ask Mary to help you to pray. Pray to the Holy Spirit.   Then peacefully repeat a word or a phrase:   ‘Jesus; Jesus I love you; Jesus I trust in you; Father; Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’, etc.   Don’t continue to repeat the word or the words over and over again.   Only use the word or the phrase when your mind begins to wander.   Focus your gaze on the Eucharist.   Be open to whatever Jesus is asking of you.

At home – sit or kneel.   Close your eyes.   Again, be still and focus on your breathing.   Ask Mary to help you to pray.   Pray to the Holy Spirit.   As before, repeat a word or a phrase, rooted in the scripture, the creed, a prayer or an aspect of our Christian faith.   Do not repeat the word or words over and over again.   Remember to use the word only when your mind begins to wander.   Focus your gaze on the loving presence of God within you.  If you begin to feel embraced by God, be still and be silent.   Just allow the Holy Spirit to pray within you.

Jesuit Father William Johnston who has written much about contemplative prayer said: “Properly understood, contemplation shakes the universe, topples the powers of evil, builds a great society and opens the doors that lead to eternal life”.

What are the practical steps that we can take in order to incorporate into our busy lives daily contemplative prayer?

  • First of all, we need balance in our lives.   When was the last time that we enjoyed dinner with family and friends, or turned off our cell phone and refrained from checking our email at every moment?   Excessive work and travel, excessive involvement in sports and entertainment are tearing us apart.
  • Secondly, contemplation requires the capacity to be alone.   It is difficult to be alone in our contemporary society.   Even when we are alone, the noise of our own worries and fears drown out the silence of God’s voice.   Many people are incapable of being alone and they immediately feel an obsession to talk with someone on a cell phone or check their email.
  • We all need moments of solitude.   Spending a quiet time before the Eucharist, reading the Scriptures during a peaceful moment at home, taking tranquil walks through the woods or along the beach all are necessary for our soul.   In order to be with God, we must develop the ability to be alone with ourselves.

Excerpt from Fr James Farfaglia’s Homily on Contemplative Prayer

“The only trouble is that in the spiritual life there are no tricks and no shortcuts.   Those who imagine that they can discover spiritual gimmicks and put them to work for themselves usually ignore God’s will and his grace.”

“We do not want to be beginners.   But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners, all our life!”

“Hence monastic prayer, especially meditation and contemplative prayer, is not so much a way to find God as a way of resting in Him whom we have found, who loves us, who is near to us, who comes to us to draw us to Himself.”

― Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer

THOMAS MERTON ON CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER NO 1