Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pope Benedict's Prayer for the Unborn

As posted on Father Z's blog, the following prayer, translated into English by Vatican Radio, written by Pope Benedict XVI.

Lord Jesus,
You who faithfully visit and fulfill with your Presence
the Church and the history of men;
You who in the miraculous Sacrament of your Body and Blood
render us participants in divine Life
and allow us a foretaste of the joy of eternal Life;
We adore and bless you.

Prostrated before You, source and lover of Life,
truly present and alive among us, we beg you.

Reawaken in us respect for every unborn life,
make us capable of seeing in the fruit of the maternal womb
the miraculous work of the Creator,
open our hearts to generously welcoming every child
that comes into life.

Bless all families,
sanctify the union of spouses,
render fruitful their love.

Accompany the choices of legislative assemblies
with the light of your Spirit,
so that peoples and nations may recognize and respect
the sacred nature of life, of every human life.

Guide the work of scientists and doctors,
so that all progress contributes to the integral well-being of the person,
and no one endures suppression or injustice.

Give creative charity to administrators and economists,
so they may realize and promote sufficient conditions
so that young families can serenely embrace
the birth of new children.

Console the married couples who suffer
because they are unable to have children
and in Your goodness provide for them.

Teach us all to care for orphaned or abandoned children,
so they may experience the warmth of your Charity,
the consolation of your divine Heart.

Together with Mary, Your Mother, the great believer,
in whose womb you took on our human nature,
we wait to receive from You, our Only True Good and Savior,
the strength to love and serve life,
in anticipation of living forever in You,
in communion with the Blessed Trinity.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Random Thoughts From a Long Walk on The First Sunday of Advent

This morning when I arrived at church for Mass, I encountered a woman standing at the foot of the steps, clearly daunted by the task of having to get herself and her walker to the top. I offered to carry the walker up for her and then I went back down to assist her up the steps. I was touched that she was not only physically handicapped but that speech was also an effort for her. Clearly, it was an enormous effort for her to get into that church, but here she was. Meanwhile, how many fit and able Catholics stayed home from Mass today because it was too much trouble to give an hour to God?

I'm not sure if I have shared this before on the blog, but before I returned to the Catholic faith, I belonged to an Anglo-catholic church where, for awhile, I thought I had died and gone to Heaven. I loved the interior of the church, with its beautiful stained glass window behind the altar and the rood screen depicting the Crucifixion. It was dark and somewhat medieval looking and I found the interior an easy place to meditate and pray. Surrounding the exterior of the church was a beautiful garden lovingly cared for by a core group of parishioners who often gave up their Saturday morning to to prune the roses and tend to the hedges. In the Gothic spire that rose high above the church hung a peal of bells that rang out on Sunday mornings in a compelling display of change-ringing. On Saturdays, I helped with the soup kitchen, where mostly homeless men and a handful of homeless women sought solace, a hot meal and warm place to go. The church had everything I had searched for and everything I needed - or so I thought it did.

One day, I was sitting in the pews during Evensong and Benediction, and as the minister raised the monstrance, I had an uncomfortable feeling. I doubted that the monstrance contained the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ and I thought that if I participated in this ritual again, it would be akin to worship of a false idol. Not long after, I found myself back in the arms of Holy Mother Church.

I was keenly aware that this being the First Sunday in Advent, a service of lessons and carols would be held at this church. I knew that benediction would not be part of the service, so I thought perhaps it wouldn't be a terrible thing if I went. The church has one of the best organs in the city and a choir of truly angelic voices, so what could be the harm in sitting in a pew and listening to stories from the Bible and beautiful music? I got to the doors of the church, and I just could not bring myself to enter. Why? Because there was a reason why God lead me away from this place, not the least of which was because for many of those inside, what goes on in that magnificent building is nothing more than entertainment. I remember being told of people withholding their pledges because they were dissatisfied with the quality of the music. Imagine if they'd been subjected to "Gather Us In" on a weekly basis? I had the feeling that I was no better than they were, seeking to enter a house of worship merely to be entertained. I wanted to hear the choir sing " O Come O Come Emmanuel", even though I knew He wasn't there in the Real Presence.

On my way home, I passed a Catholic church, not my own parish, that is just a few blocks from my house. I remember when this church held Vespers on every Sunday of Advent. It doesn't any more, and it closes after the last Mass on Sunday. Anyway, as I passed by the church on my way home today, I saw a man standing at the top of the steps. I recognized him as someone I frequently see at Adoration. He was going through all his usual gestures as he prayed, facing the altar. He wasn't going to let a locked church stop him from adoring the Lord. I stopped briefly to offer my own words of adoration, as I try to remember to do every time I pass a Catholic church, and then I headed home to finish getting Sunday dinner ready for the family.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

A few years ago, we were lazing around the house on Black Friday when suddenly, water started pouring out of the ceiling and onto the dining room table where, only 24 hours prior, the turkey sat waiting to be carved. Can you imagine if this disaster had happened while we were sitting down to dinner? We probably would have laughed about it years later, but I would not have found it funny at the time. In fact, I probably would have had a nervous breakdown. Despite the mess, I kept offering thanks to God that this calamity did not occur in the middle of my Thanksgiving dinner. Even in the "small stuff" I try never to forget that His hand is always there, guiding things that I might take for granted. Thank You, dear Lord, for all the ways, big and small, in which You look out for me and my family. I can never say it often enough - I love You.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sign of the Times

In today's Gospel, Jesus talks about the signs that will accompany the end of this life as we know it, with nation rising against nation and every kind of natural disaster occurring. Jesus speaks of signs in the sky, and I couldn't help but remember this Gospel later in the day when I heard the news about North and South Korea firing on each other. Here we are, ready to roll into Advent, when we commemorate His first coming and look forward to His next coming, and we have this ominous Gospel and events in the news. When the angel comes with his sickle to harvest the grapes, I do not want to wind up in the fire. God, grant me the grace to always do Your Will and set aside petty differences. Help me to avoid the trappings of this world, especially at this time of year when the birth of the Savior is an afterthought and is so easily forgotten in the rush to acquire material possessions. Help me to never take the Eucharist for granted, by being ever mindful of His Divine Presence, and by making sure that I receive Him worthily by avoiding sin and making frequent use of confession, prayer and sacrifice. And above all, grant me the grace, as St. Therese prayed also, to make You greatly loved by others who do not yet know You.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Prayerful Presence

In your charity, would you please say a prayer for Scott, Bob and Marlene? All are facing serious medical problems and have asked for prayers. Scott underwent surgery for cancer and his young son is already dealing with issues of loss;Bob is awaiting a heart transplant, and Marlene is awaiting test results after having symptoms notoriously linked to cancer. Sometimes I worry because now when anything happens at work, people come to me to ask me to pray for them. Not everyone is going to get the answer they seek, so all I can do is ask God to grant them what they ask for and if, in His Divine Wisdom, He sees fit to do otherwise, I beg that He will grant them the grace to accept what He has willed. Why do I say I worry? Because I don't want people to think of my prayers as if they're some kind of magic. A co-worker who is not religious and did not even baptize her children recently asked me about my brown scapular. I was disappointed when she asked me one day if I wanted to wave it over someone who was giving me fits. Her ignorant remark lead me to believe she didn't understand what I told her at all and that she was mocking the significance of the scapular. On the other hand, the fact that so many people do ask for my prayers tells me that I have been a satisfactory witness to the faith and have, through the grace of God, demonstrated my commitment.

Another thing happens after people who don't know me have been around me for awhile. They are very careful not to take the Lord's name in vain in my presence and they're also careful about their language. The latter doesn't bother so me much as the former. A priest once told me that every time we hear someone use the Lord's name in a profanity that we should stop immediately and offer some ejaculation of love, such as "My God, I love You!". It's a good practice, well worthy of exercising whenever the opportunity arises.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Small Mercies

This has been a doozie of a week. I think the father of lies threw himself into overdrive in an attempt to get to me. It started with one of my subordinates suddenly and quite unexpectedly launching into a vicious personal attack on me Tuesday evening. I was so stunned I hardly knew what to say. I could have disciplined the person, but chose to do nothing immediately except walk away and wonder what had happened. The following day, a surgeon suddenly and unexpectedly ripped into me, ending our phone conversation abruptly by slamming the phone down. I didn't know what to make of that either. I asked the priest to say a prayer for me yesterday morning after Mass before I headed off to work. "You-know-who is working overtime at my job," I told him and he understood.

In the midst of all this drama, a friend who belongs to another parish emailed me to say that her pastor had seen my son at church and wondered if he'd like to be an altar server. My son does not normally go to Mass with me on Sundays because he doesn't have the patience for the Latin Mass so he either goes with my husband or by himself to the church down the street. Father went so far as to ask if I thought Matthew had a calling. You just never know when God is going to hold out His hand and offer you help getting to next rung on the ladder. I was so saddened by the behavior of the two people at work and then I got this email and suddenly, none of the nonsense mattered.

I also prayed to God and to St. Rita that I would be able to reconcile with the two people in question. Yesterday, the subordinate asked to speak to me and told me she'd been sick for two days about what happened. Apparently, she was feeling ultra-sensitive and she took something innocent I said to mean something entirely different. We were both happy to bury the hatchet. As for Dr So and So.... I ran into him today and told him I'd lost the hearing in my right ear. "From what?" he asked, concerned. "From some fool slamming the phone down in my ear." He turned fifty shades of purple and walked away, muttering "you'll get over it." Apparently, he is feeling miffed because I didn't confide my future plans to him and he's feeling neglected and abandoned. He didn't choose an appropriate way to demonstrate his feelings, but there's no point in dragging something out. I extended my pinky finger to him, like I used to do with my best friend when I was 7 years old, and he extended his back and we made up.

Tomorrow evening, our pastor is coming to dinner. I've never had a priest over for a meal before so I've been in a panic. Nothing around the house looks clean enough or neat enough. I tried to get my mother to take the dogs for the night, but she wouldn't bite. I should have taken off today to get more of the house in order, but we have a big conference happening tomorrow for one of our surgeons and I had to get things ready today. Everything that could go wrong did, with one calamity happening after another. But with God's help, it all worked out. I had hoped to work a half day today, but as it turned out, I couldn't leave until nearly 5, so the work I intended to get done had to wait until tonight. On top of it all, my husband started getting the powder room ready to be repainted, but he lost track of time, so now the walls are primed but not painted. I was ready to throw his belongings into the middle of the street when I got home, but then who'd be around to help me with the heavy lifting tomorrow? My oldest is very entertained by all this. "What, a priest can't use an unpainted bathroom?" she laughed. Which leads me to the next moment of grace.

Amid all the turmoil of this week, the oldest asked me to help her with a project she's taken on. In return she promised to go to confession and Mass. OK, so she probably won't go to the Latin Mass with me, but the fact that she'll go at all is an answer to a prayer I've been praying for a long time. So try as he might, the father of lies did not succeed in driving me further from God. Thank you Jesus.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Let the Guilt Begin!

A few weeks ago, a friend wrote to me inviting me to travel to Italy with her church next Fall. "Pray on it", she said. The itinerary was to-die-for. Overnight flight into Rome. Visits to the Vatican including a Papal audience. Mass every day in some of Italy's most important Catholic sites including Cascia, St. Rita's monastery, the church where St. Padre Pio received the stigmata, the Grotto of St. Michael and other important monasteries and basilicas.

Pray on it I did, and I've decided I'm going to do it. I'm not sure how just yet, but God has always provided for anything I've wanted to do, and this could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Naturally, I'm being eaten alive with guilt because I'm not taking the family with me, but both of my sweet girls urged me to do it. "You might not get another chance," the youngest told me. "You work hard and you shouldn't feel bad about doing something you've always wanted to do."

As with the trip to Panama last year, I can justify going. Obviously, the former was an opportunity to help others. The trip to Italy is an opportunity to bolster my spiritual life while seeing some of the most beautiful places on earth.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Meditation for First Saturday of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The following is an excerpt from Father Benedict Groeschel's book, "Rosary, Chain of Hope."

"The bitter and iniquitous humiliation of the crown of thorns is almost incomprehensible to us. When most Western people think of thorns, we think of rose bushes, whose thorns are bad enough. But the spinae of Jerusalem grow three or four inches long. They were wove into something like a helmet and pressed down into the skull, ripping the flesh in every direction, perhaps even penetrating parts of the skull where there might have been an anatomical fissure around the edges. How terrible was this pain, how unimaginable! How did Christ even survive such an ordeal! And it was accompanied by mockery - mockery of the Son of God, the King of Kings.

In all our lives we live through unnecessary pain, and we may encounter the mockery of what is very good and very holy. By our own failures we have sometimes even participated in that mockery. The image of the crown of thorns should reach deeply into our souls. In the midst of the bitter sufferings that come to all of us at times, we should have hope because Jesus Christ sanctified suffering and the grief of death and the horror of mental illness. Mother Teresa used to say that mental illness is Jesus' crown of thorns. These words can be an immense consolation and hope to those whose lot it is to wear this crown."

Friday, November 5, 2010

To Dig, I Am Not Able

Today's Gospel according to St. Luke is most perplexing and I'm relieved to hear that lay people aren't the only folks who struggle with making sense of it. Our Lord tells a parable about a lazy steward who is dismissed from his position because he squandered his master's money. He realizes he will likely starve to death because he can't dig ditches and he's too proud to beg. He devises a scheme to make his master's debtors become ingratiated to him by falsely reducing the amount that they owe. Our Lord commends the ingenuity of this wicked servant, saying the children of this world are more prudent in worldly matters than are the children of light.

Finally, I heard a sermon today that makes sense of this Gospel. Our Lord is not so much commending the servant for his wickedness as he is lamenting that sinful man is not so resourceful with heavenly treasures as he is with worldly matters. Father pointed out that if we took advantage of every spiritual grace and blessing made available to us in the sacraments and prayer, we would be very well invested in that which matters most. In an excellent analogy, he asked to consider if all of Donald Trump's wealth was not material but spiritual. If he amassed in grace what he has amassed financially, Father said we would be calling him "St. Donald". Amusing, but true! How many people do we know obsess about their financial investments but haven't stepped foot in church or gone to confession in decades? Once we squander our opportunity to earn our Heavenly reward, we are at the mercy of God. Money, houses, jewels and I would throw in there political power are transient. Heaven or Hell are eternal. Will we be able to make an honest accounting to demonstrate we've earned a place among the elect? With God's help, I am going to do everything in my power to assure that everyone I know and love is aware of what's at stake.

As Our Lord advises in Matthew's Gospel, heard every Ash Wednesday, let us store up for ourselves treasure in heaven, where rust does not corrupt and thieves cannot break in and steal. None of us are too holy to stop and think for a moment how what we say, do and think is in conformity with God's will. The worst mistakes I've made have come when pride has interfered and I've allowed myself to think I could just coast along. Am I as holy as I should be? Am I as holy as I can be? There's always room for improvement.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Commemoration of All Souls

Yesterday, we remembered all those saints with a small "s" who were not necessarily canonized but have merited a place in Heaven for their faithfulness in carrying out God's Will in their lives. Today, we remember those faithful departed who must still undergo purification before they can enter the Kingdom of God. Some folks left this earth with little or no relatives or friends to pray for them. During this month of November, please remember to pray for those souls who have no one to pray for them, whether out of attrition or because of neglect. We may one day find ourselves in the same position and even in death, we are obligated to do unto others as we would have them do for us.

Monday, November 1, 2010

For All The Saints

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!