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
Advertisements
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