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What Do We Do Now?

12 Feb

conclaveIn just over two weeks, there will be a vacancy in the papacy until the college of cardinals elects Pope Benedict’s successor. Some of us may be wondering what we as lay people should be doing, if anything, during this time.

In his 1996 apostolic constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, Blessed John Paul II addressed this question directly in paragraph 84:

“During the vacancy of the Apostolic See, and above all during the time of the election of the Successor of Peter, the Church is united in a very special way with her Pastors and particularly with the Cardinal electors of the Supreme Pontiff, and she asks God to grant her a new Pope as a gift of his goodness and providence. Indeed, following the example of the first Christian community spoken of in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. Acts 1:14), the universal Church, spiritually united with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, should persevere with one heart in prayer; thus the election of the new Pope will not be something unconnected with the People of God and concerning the College of electors alone, but will be in a certain sense an act of the whole Church. I therefore lay down that in all cities and other places, at least the more important ones, as soon as news is received of the vacancy of the Apostolic See and, in particular, of the death of the Pope, and following the celebration of his solemn funeral rites, humble and persevering prayers are to be offered to the Lord (cf. Mt. 21:22; Mk. 11:24), that he may enlighten the electors and make them so likeminded in their task that a speedy, harmonious and fruitful election may take place, as the salvation of souls and the good of the whole People of God demand.”

Prayer at all levels—individual, family, parish, archdiocese, and beyond—is what the Church asks of the faithful as the cardinals convene to elect a new Pope. Here is one such recommended prayer that draws upon our rich liturgical tradition, courtesy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

PRAYER FOR THE ELECTION OF A NEW POPE

Veni Creator (Come Holy Spirit)

Come, Holy Spirit, Creator, come
From thy bright heavenly throne,
Come, take possession of our souls,
and make them all thy own!

Thou who are called the Paraclete,
Best gift of God above,
The living spring, the living fire,
Sweet unction and true love!

Thou who art sevenfold in thy grace,
Finger of God’s right hand,
His promise, teaching little ones
To speak and understand.

O guide our minds with thy blest light,
With love our hearts inflame;
and with thy strength which ne’er decays
Confirm our mortal frame.

Far from us drive our deadly foe;
True peace unto us bring;
And from all perils lead us safe
Beneath thy sacred wing.

Through thee may we the Father know,
Through thee, th’eternal Son,
and thee the Spirit of them both,
Thrice-blessed Three in One.

All glory to the Father be,
with his co-equal Son;
The same to thee, great Paraclete,
While endless ages run. Amen.

V. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created.
R. And you will renew the face of the earth.

Lord, by the light of the Holy Spirit you have taught the hearts of your faithful. In the same Spirit help us to relish what is right and always rejoice in your consolation. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lord God, you are our eternal shepherd and guide.
In your mercy grant your Church a shepherd
who will walk in your ways
and whose watchful care will bring us your blessing.
We ask this through Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.

I will raise up for myself a faithful priest; he will do what is in my heart and in my mind, says the Lord. —1 Sam. 2:35

The Time Is Now

11 Feb

High Definition SportsCenter Graphic - 2004While getting some exercise I often get my “sports fix” by watching ESPN’s Sports Center. As I do, sometimes I wonder about how “unreal” it is.

I’m not talking here about sports’ inflated significance in our culture. After all, in the shopping mall of life, sports is the toy store, or maybe Aunt Annie’s Pretzels–surely not the end-all we make it out to be.

Rather, what I’m getting at is that while I’m watching Sports Center, there is no sporting event going on at all. Rather, we keep moving back and forth from the past (statistics, rankings, scores of previous games, etc.) to the future (upcoming games, fantasy drafts, predictions, etc.). Sure, those things have a place, but it′s interesting how caught up we can get in the past (What was their record last year?) and future (Will the Chiefs draft a quarterback in the first round?), almost to the exclusion of the present.

The same is true in all areas of life. How often do we dwell on past glory or setbacks, or on future worries that may never materialize? All the while, life happens in real time. And what is real time? It’s the present moment. And because it’s the only time that’s completely real, it’s where we encounter God, where we receive actual grace, and where we respond in Christ-like fashion to others.

A little story from my young adult years will illustrate this point: Continue reading

Introducing the Devout Life

24 Jan

St. Francis de SalesToday the Church celebrates the feast of St. Francis de Sales, a 17th-century bishop and doctor of the Church. St. Francis de Sales is known as one of the true masters of the spiritual life. Through his spiritual masterpieces, such as Introduction to the Devout Life and Treatise on the Love of God, he continues to guide many men and women on the road to holiness.

I especially recommend Ralph Martin’s recent bestseller, The Fulfillment of All Desire, which synthesizes the insights of St. Francis de Sales and other spiritual giants into a single volume for contemporary readers.

In the Office of Readings for today, we are given the following excerpt from Introduction to the Devout Life, which exhorts all of us to strive for sanctity in our daily lives:

“When God the Creator made all things, he commanded the plants to bring forth fruit each according to its own kind; he has likewise commanded Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each one in accord with his character, his station and his calling.

“I say that devotion must be practiced in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of devotion must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular. Continue reading

Pope’s Intentions for December

1 Dec

AdventFollowing are the Intentions of our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI for the month of December, courtesy of the Apostleship of Prayer:

  • Migrants.  That migrants throughout the world may be welcomed with generosity and authentic love, especially by Christian communities.
  • Christ, light for all humanity.  That Christ may reveal himself to all humanity with the light that shines forth from Bethlehem and is reflected in the face of his Church

Of course, the beginning of December marks the beginning of Advent, the beautiful four-week season of preparation for Christmas. Check out this link for a list of some time-honored Catholic traditions for Advent and Christmas. Maybe you would like to make one or more these part of your own celebration of this holy season!

Pope’s Intentions for October

1 Oct

Following are the Intentions of our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI for the month of October, courtesy of the Apostleship of Prayer:

  • New Evangelization.  That the New Evangelization may progress in the oldest Christian countries.
  • World Mission Day.  That the celebration of World Mission Day may result in a renewed commitment to evangelization.

Since October is Respect Life Month and also the month especially devoted to the Rosary, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is offering these additional prayer resources this month, including a Rosary Novena for Life and a Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty that is prayed each day at our archdiocesan chancery office. We also recommend this novena that comes to us from Fr. Frederick Miller.

October also has more than its fair share of feast days of popular saints. Today, for example, we celebrate the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower. For those wishing to go deeper into her beautiful yet simple spirituality, we highly recommend that you pick up a copy of I Believe in Love, which will whisk you away on retreat with this holy Carmelite nun.

Why Doesn’t God Answer My Prayers?

25 Sep

I think all of us have had the experience of praying for something or someone and not getting what we asked for. In those instances, did God “hear” our prayer? If He did, why did He say no? After all, Our Lord encouraged us to ask for things in His name and He would come through for us (e.g, Mt. 7:7-8; 18:19; Jn. 15:7). So, we might be inclined to ask, “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?”

Let’s start by providing some context. There are basically four types of prayer: (1) adoration or praise; (2) thanksgiving; (3) contrition (asking for forgiveness); and (4) supplication or petition.

For the first three categories of prayer mentioned above, we seldom trouble ourselves with the question of whether God heard our prayer. However, when it comes to prayers of supplication or petition–in other words, when we ask God for specific things–we naturally wonder about the efficacy of our prayer when we don’t get “results.”

Three things should be kept in mind when this happens.

First, we should reflect on our own motivation in seeking divine assistance. Are we praying to the Holy Trinity as the center of our lives, as the source and goal of our earthly existence? Or are we merely seeking to “use” God just to get what we want? God is our heavenly Father; He is not a “vending machine.”

Second, are we asking for something that is truly good for us? If what we’re seeking is not good, or if our hearts are divided, then we shouldn’t expect God to give it to us. After all, He desires our well-being, even when we don’t. As we heard at Mass this past Sunday, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (Jas. 4:3).

Third, we must become truly convinced that we don’t know how to pray as we ought (Rom. 8:26). We turn to God in our need, not always realizing that what we truly desire is much greater and deeper than our feeble requests. Further, our Father already knows what we need before we even attempt to ask (Mt. 6:8), yet awaits our prayers out of respect for our dignity as His sons and daughters, eager to grant us His blessings.

Spiritual guides often remind us that prayer is meant to change us, not God. God does answer our prayers, but often in ways we don’t expect, as His ways are not our ways (Is. 55:8-9). As we grow in our relationship with God in prayer, we come to understand more intimately that God richly provides for all our needs.

The following quote from the early Christian writer Evagrius Ponticus (c. 345-99 A.D.) sums it up well:

“Do not be troubled if you do not immediately receive from God what you ask Him; for He desires to do something even greater for you, while you cling to Him in prayer.”

Got Wine?

21 Sep

Since Pope John Paul II introduced the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary about a decade ago, it’s been a joy and sometimes a challenge for my family to embrace these new mysteries. We are always on the lookout for new ways of approaching these rich episodes in Christ’s life.

As we’ve given more attention to the wedding at Cana (Jn. 2:1-11), the second Luminous Mystery, I’ve been amazed at the depth of this passage. There are so many ways to approach this event, where Christ worked His first public miracle. Let’s examine a few of them.

First, the fact that it’s a wedding itself is significant. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, “the Church attaches great importance to Jesus’s presence at the wedding at Cana. She sees in it the confirmation of the goodness of marriage and the proclamation that thenceforth marriage will be an efficacious sign of Christ’s presence” (no. 1613). In the midst of a culture that devalues marriage, this mystery redirects our attention to the fundamental goodness of marriage–both as a human institution and as a personal vocation in Christ.

The wedding at Cana also shows our Blessed Mother in action. As we pray in the Hail Holy Queen, Mary is our “most gracious Advocate” (Catechism, no. 969). As she interceded for the poor couple who ran out of wine at their wedding, she intercedes for each one of us. Her purpose is always to manifest and magnify her Son’s glory (see Jn. 2:11). She encourages each one of us, as she encouraged the servants at the wedding, to “do whatever He tells you” (Jn. 2:5). That, in an inexhaustible nutshell, is the essence of Christian discipleship.

The wedding at Cana is the first of seven “signs” in the Gospel of John that bring to light the glory of God shining forth through the Word made flesh. The Catechism succinctly describes the meaning of this “sign”: “The sign of water turned into wine at Cana already announces the hour of Jesus’s glorification. It makes manifest the fulfillment of the wedding feast in the Father’s kingdom, where the faithful will drink the new wine that has become the Blood of Christ” (Catechism, no. 1335; see also no. 2618).

During a private retreat, a less obvious dimension of this Luminous Mystery came to “light” for me. Continue reading

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