Sunday, September 30, 2012

Padre Pio's Prayer

On September 23, the Catholic Church celebrates the life of St. Padre Pio, a Franciscan priest who lived during the twentieth century.  He was a remarkable mystic who bore the wounds of Jesus Christ for over fifty years.  He spent nearly every waking hour either in prayer or hearing confessions.  A remarkably common man, one of his legacies is the prayer that I offer to you below.  It is a prayer of pleading, gently reminding us of our need of the Lord's presence in our lives.  Contemplate and take it into your heart and it will go with you every moment of every day.

"Stay with me, Lord, because I need to have You present so as not to forget You.  
You know how easily I abandon You. 

Stay with me, Lord, because I am weak, and I need Your strength so as not to fall so often.  

Stay with me, Lord, because You are my life, and without You, I am without fervor.  

Stay with me, Lord, because You are my light, and without You, I am in darkness.
Stay with me, Lord, to show me Your will.  

Stay with me, Lord, so that I can hear Your voice, and follow You.  

Stay with me, Lord, because I desire to love You ever more and to be always in Your company.

  Stay with me, Lord, if You want me to be always faithful to You.  

Stay with me, Lord, because my soul is so poor that it desires to be for You a site of consolation, an abode of love."

Saturday, September 29, 2012

They Were Amazed!

Saturday's Gospel is a very short story.  It's not a story, really, just a snippet of one, but it is, nonetheless, filled with meaning.  The one thing that jumped out at me the most was the verse, "They were all amazed at his every deed."  (Lk 9: 43)

The Apostles had been with Jesus for some time.  They had witnessed miracles.  They had heard Him forgive people's sins and tell them that their faith had saved them.  They sat at His feet as He taught the multitudes and in even more intimate settings when they were the only ones with Him, soaking in all He taught.  They saw Him leave them in the evening, often to climb a hill or mountainside to pray all night long.  They had seen Him walk on water and calm the storm.

He told them who He was.  They heard the words, witnessed His deeds, and saw the reaction of the crowds as He taught.  Yet, somehow, most of the time, they could only see the man, not the Son of God.  They knew He was extraordinary, they knew He was virtuous, they knew He was very special, but they were still amazed at the things He did.

We who profess our belief in Jesus have the advantage of twenty centuries to understand just Who He is.  And yet, we, too, stand in amazement at the things He continues to do.  We may not personally witness miracles as did the Apostles, although they do continue.  However, we are witnesses to His mercy and love. We are the benefactors of His infinite love for us when we go to Him in sorrow and true repentance.

Every day, all around us, there are events taking place that seldom, if ever, are noticed.  Yet, these can be considered as miracles as well.  The change of heart in a son or daughter who declared one day in the past that they did not believe in all this ridiculous religious stuff because it was all pretty little stories empty of any meaning and based on some fairy tale god.  The businessman who appears to be quite successful, yet, who is wildly addicted to narcotics decides that these drugs are destroying his life and, so, he turns his life over to God.  These are but two examples of modern day miracles that happen but we fail to notice.  They seem to be such natural occurrences.

Yet, one wonders how many lives Jesus changed through these very same kinds of miracles without one of them being recorded in the Gospels.  That doesn't make them any less of a miracle.  Just not publicized.  Jesus changed hearts wherever He went because of His attention to detail.  The details of people's lives were important to Him because all were and are important to Him.  He listened intently.  He spoke honestly and with authority.  He loved genuinely.  And, yet, the Apostles were amazed!

Again, isn't that how we are?  We are astounded every time we recognize the action of Jesus in our lives as if we had never heard of it before or experienced it in our own lives.  We wonder at who this man is.  And we wonder if we aren't deceiving ourselves, finding someone that we very much would like to have in our lives but doesn't exist.

Faith is the key here.  If we but have faith in our Lord, our amazement will turn into sheer delight in knowing that Jesus works in all good things.  We would be able to recognize Him more clearly in the events of our lives and clearly be more willing to worship Him through lives dedicated to the Father's will.  We would be more charitable toward those in need who are around us.  There are those who are impoverished in terms of lack of possessions, but others are in need who have lost heart because of the way life has battered them about.  There are those who reach a point of emptiness because of their pursuit of worldly goods and fame only to be left hollow and a sense of nowhere to go because they have achieved all they wanted from life.  And then, Jesus comes into their lives, usually through another person.

In one way, we should be amazed at his wondrous deeds.  They are not human but divine.  They are beyond our comprehension.  And, yet, so often we are the instruments of is wondrous deeds.  His miracles are worked through us, we who believe in Him as the Son of God, Savior of the World.  Recount what He once said, "What you do unto the least of these my brethren, you do unto me."  (Mt 25: 40)

And so, when we begin to fully realize the real miracle of Jesus, of His unending love for us, we then, become truly amazed and no longer confused.

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Prayer for Friday

Here is a simple, yet, beautiful prayer that reminds us that Jesus is here to help us in all things.  This is especially to remember on Fridays, the day when Jesus gave us our freedom and salvation through His Passion and Death.

Jesus, help me, your servant,
whom you redeemed by your precious blood.

In every need let me come to you with humble
trust saying,


In all my doubts, perplexities, and temptations,

In hours of loneliness, weariness, and trial,

In the failure of my plans and hopes,

In disappointments, troubles, and sorrows,

When I throw myself on Your tender love,

When I feel impatient and my cross is heavy,

When I am ill and my head and hands cannot do their work,

Always, always, in your joys or sorrows, in falls
and shortcomings,

-John A Hardin, SJ

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"And He Kept Trying To See Him"

In today's Gospel, taken from the ninth chapter of Saint Luke, we see Herod trying to figure out who Jesus is.  Some of his "learned" priests were saying that this Jesus was john the Baptist raised from the dead.  Others claimed Jesus was Elijah or one of the ancient prophets.  None of their answers satisfied him.  He simply could not understand who this Jesus was and he tried, in vain, to see Him.

Are we so much different from Herod?  We know Who Jesus is because the Church throughout the centuries have taught us Who He is.  We call Him the Son of the Living God.  The Son of God.  Or, even the Son of Man, plus several other titles.  Yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we are seeking the true identity of Jesus.  Do we really know Who He is?  Oh, we do have all these titles that we have assigned to Him, but do we really know Him?

How often throughout the day do you stop for but a moment and say a little prayer of thanks for the life you have even if that life is not anything close to perfect?  We presume we know Who Jesus is and we tuck Him away in the recesses of our minds and hearts until Sunday or an emergency in our lives, whichever comes first.  We act as though we have faith, but, isn't it true that we, like Herod, would give almost anything just to see Him, experience Him personally in our lives.

And, yet, if we were truly believers, wouldn't it be easy to see Him any time we wished?  He, Himself, has told us that He is in the poor.  How many times have we passed a homeless man or woman without giving them a second thought?  Yet, there stands Christ.  How many times have we visited a relative or friend in the hospital, said about four words and then began the big countdown to the appropriate time to make our exit?  Yet, there, in that hospital bed, lay the Crucified Christ.  How often do we look at other people as little more annoyances who get in our way on the road and slow us down?  Yet, behind the wheel of the car that seems to be going about thirty miles under the speed limit, there is Christ.

The point is we, unlike Herod, already know Who Jesus Christ is.  He is the Son of God.  The Savior of the world.  And he is already visible to us if we but open our eyes and look.  Our eyes of faith, that is!  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Take Nothing For the Journey

"Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic."  (Lk 9: 3)  In the Gospel for Wednesday, Jesus is sending His Apostles out to distant towns and villages to proclaim the good news of the gospel.  He instructs them to take absolutely nothing along with them except the clothes on their backs.  They are to take no walking stick, a necessity in the days of foot travel.  The food they were to eat to sustain themselves must be from the kindness of the local population that they meet along the way.  Money is forbidden as well.  They aren't even allowed a changed of clothes.  

Think of how we today prepare for even just an overnight trip.  At least one bag is mandatory to accommodate a change of clothes.  Then there is toothpaste and a tooth brush.  Usually, there are other things that we slip into our bag like a book or other reading material we may be enjoying at the moment.  None of us would think of going somewhere without at least these kinds of things.  Many of us take more just in case something happens.

But Jesus tells us that our journey homeward to His Heavenly Father must be made unencumbered.  He knows that our nature is such that if we do take anything along with us, we will be distracted by whatever our bags contain.  If we harbor a grudge in our hearts, eventually, we will begin to think about that grudge and the actions that led us to developing this.  Long ago hurts may surface and preoccupy our thoughts and time, realigning our focus from where it should be, namely our relationship with God.  

What exactly does it mean to make our way back to God without any possessions?  It means that we must keep ourselves free of sin.  We must be always on watch to guard against even the smallest of distractions lest we lose our way to heaven.  This represents a real challenge to those of us who claim to follow Jesus.  It means that we must make amends with all those whom we may have hurt over the years.  It means that we must forgive those who have injured us throughout our life.  This may not be very easy since some people have been grievously hurt by others through nearly every kind of abuse you might be able to think of.  

We must travel with nothing, nothing, that is, with the exception of the love of Christ in our hearts.  Jesus encountered plenty of hate long before He was put on trial and crucified.  There were those who followed Him all throughout His ministry who sought to destroy Him by proving that He was a fraud.  There were others who said nothing, but quietly harbored the desire to see this itinerant preacher dispatched quickly and quietly.  Yet, He always maintained his focus, that being the will of His Father.  He never allowed anyone or anything interfere with that.  Neither should we.

We must always keep our minds and hearts turned towards the Father.  We must always seek forgiveness for those moments when we have allowed ourselves to be distracted from this goal.  One sure way of seeing to this is living our lives in the light of love rather than the shadow of hate, fear, and anger.  We must live as Jesus did, with complete faith and trust in the Father of us all Who, after all, created us out of nothing else but love.  Therefore, our inheritance is that of love and if we use this gift everyday, we shall make our way back to our Father as Jesus wished, unencumbered.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Cardinal Dolan's Benediction At the DNC

What follows is the text of the prayer offered by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York.  Here is a man of faith unafraid to face the party which promotes abortion, gay marriage, and a whole host of other things that the Church teaches against.  It took great courage to pray in this way before the delegates who, only days before had eliminated God from their platform.

With a “firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence,”  let us close this convention by praying for this land that we so cherish and love:
Let us Pray.
Almighty God, father of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, revealed to us so powerfully in your Son, Jesus Christ, we thank you for showering your blessings upon this our beloved nation.  Bless all here present, and all across this great land, who work hard for the day when a greater portion of your justice, and a more ample measure of your care for the poor and suffering, may prevail in these United States.  Help us to see that a society’s greatness is found above all in the respect it shows for the weakest and neediest among us.
We beseech you, almighty God to shed your grace on this noble experiment in ordered liberty, which began with the confident assertion of inalienable rights bestowed upon us by you:  life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Thus do we praise you for the gift of life.  Grant us the courage to defend it, life, without which no other rights are secure.  We ask your benediction on those waiting to be born, that they may be welcomed and protected.  Strengthen our sick and our elders waiting to see your holy face at life’s end, that they may be accompanied by true compassion and cherished with the dignity due those who are infirm and fragile.
We praise and thank you for the gift of liberty.  May this land of the free never lack those brave enough to defend our basic freedoms.  Renew in all our people a profound respect for religious liberty:  the first, most cherished freedom bequeathed upon us at our Founding. May our liberty be in harmony with truth; freedom ordered in goodness and justice.  Help us live our freedom in faith, hope, and love.  Make us ever-grateful for those who, for over two centuries, have given their lives in freedom’s defense; we commend their noble souls to your eternal care, as even now we beg the protection of your mighty arm upon our men and women in uniform.
We praise and thank you for granting us the life and the liberty by which we can pursue happiness.  Show us anew that happiness is found only in respecting the laws of nature and of nature’s God.  Empower us with your grace so that we might resist the temptation to replace the moral law with idols of our own making, or to remake those institutions you have given us for the nurturing of life and community.  May we welcome those who yearn to breathe free and to pursue happiness in this land of freedom, adding their gifts to those whose families have lived here for centuries.
We praise and thank you for the American genius of government of the people, by the people and for the people.  Oh God of wisdom, justice, and might, we ask your guidance for those who govern us:  President Barack Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden, Congress, the Supreme Court, and all those, including Governor Mitt Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan, who seek to serve the common good by seeking public office.  Make them all worthy to serve you by serving our country.  Help them remember that the only just government is the government that serves its citizens rather than itself. With your grace, may all Americans choose wisely as we consider the future course of public policy.
And finally Lord, we beseech your benediction on all of us who depart from here this evening, and on all those, in every land, who yearn to conduct their lives in freedom and justice.  We beg you to remember, as we pledge to remember, those who are not free; those who suffer for freedom’s cause; those who are poor, out of work, needy, sick, or alone; those who are persecuted for their religious convictions, those still ravaged by war.
And most of all, God Almighty, we thank you for the great gift of our beloved country.
For we are indeed “one nation under God,” and “in God we trust.”
So dear God, bless America.  You who live and reign forever and ever.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Wedding

A wedding took place today.  Not an unusual thing to have happen on a Saturday afternoon!  But this was a very special wedding for my wonderful brother-in-law Tom Smith took for his bride a very lovely Barb James.  I was honored to have been asked to perform the duties of lector during the Mass.  

One of the readings Barb and Tom chose was taken from Saint Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians.  In the particular passage chosen for the wedding, we hear Paul describe what love is and what it isn't.  Read this slowly and let it sink into your consciousness.

"If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all that I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."  (1 Cor 13: 2-7)

Most of us profess to love someone or something.  We throw the word "love" around very liberally and in doing so we have diluted its true meaning.  Saint Paul knew the difficulties of love.  He knew the true test love is and also knew that in order to succeed, we must turn over complete control to the Living God.  

As Barb and Tom set out on their married life, I ask God to bless them with daily reminders of the beauty of love between a man and a woman.  It is a love that reflects the love that God has for all of us.  

To those of us who have been married for some time, I challenge you to read and absorb the definition of love as outlined above.  Look at your own marriage and see if love is alive and vibrant based upon Paul's description.  Over the years it is so easy to become complacent about love that we take it for granted.  But there is no room for complacency in love.  Renew your marriage and your marital commitment to each other by looking at each element of love and refocusing your attention on that part of love and see what happens.

Above all, let all of us who have chosen the married life as our vocation, be reminded that the only truly successful marriage is one that is based on the love of God as the central focus of the union.  It may not make some days easier, but it will most certainly lead to the peace that God had always intended for us.

To Tom and Barb, may your love be always as fresh and alive as it is today, your wedding day.  May you grow old together with dignity and grace.  May you never take each other or the love that you have for one another for granted.  It is the greatest gift you have received this day and, unlike all the other gifts you receive on this day, will last for an eternity!  Happy Wedding Day!