An Object in Motion…

SEPTemberdaysPriestly Fraternity of St. Peter

There seems to be a spiritual application to Newton’s First Law of Motion. “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

I see personal application to this in my own spiritual journey. I have known times in my life that there was little discipline to get up on time, and what I read was the news or sports stories or social media, and while I may have filled my mind with current events and other facts, it didn’t do anything to move me closer to God. So in this case my body at “rest” stayed at “rest” and the “rest” was not good for my soul. I can look back to those times and lament how much time I wasted being passive in my spiritual life.

Conversely, when I am actively engaged in my spiritual devotion, my spiritual life and fervor stays in motion and is fueled by the motion to continue to be in motion. For example, getting up at 5:00 a.m. and getting right into spiritual disciplines, followed by 6:45 a.m. Mass, praying the Rosary on my way to work, and sprinkling prayer throughout the day keeps me connected to the Source of my spiritual life. Motion begets motion and generates a daily commitment to stay in motion.

The turning point that changed the direction of my life was when I became structured and disciplined in my spiritual practices. I wasn’t Catholic yet, but I can’t help but believe that it was one of the portals God used to lead me to the Church. As I stated in an earlier blog it was a commitment to daily lectionary readings that gave me a foothold in the spiritual disciplines.

I share all of this to draw an analogy. As I have delved deeper into Catholic spirituality I am discovering that there are many practices and disciplines that once were commonly practiced among Catholics. For example, there were more holy days of obligation, fasts, Rogation Days, Ember Days, etc., and many of these things including the changes in the Mass go back to the years following Vatican II. For some reason, in the United States especially, the tendency was to deemphasize certain disciplines and decrease the frequency of others. My wife’s experience pre-Vatican II was going to confession every Saturday before Mass on Sunday. “But now only 2 percent of Catholics go regularly to confession, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, a nonprofit organization affiliated with Georgetown University—and three-quarters of them never go, or go less than once a year.” And now some are putting it as low as 25 percent!

In 1955, 75 percent of Catholics attended weekly Mass. That number has dropped to 39 percent in the period between 2014-2017. Why are we surprised that there is little distinction between Catholics and the general population when it comes to marriage and divorce, birth control, abortion, homosexuality and conduct in general? We also shouldn’t be surprised at the current state of affairs in the Church relating to sexual behavior in the clergy and the laity.

The theory of expecting less from the faithful and hopefully opening the door to those who were outside the Church was ill-conceived and now seems to be an idea hatched in hell. Thousand and thousands of people have left the Church, given up on the Church or never entered in because they were not challenged with a life-changing message and something worth giving up their lives for. Inside or outside, it pretty much seemed the same.

Thank God for faithful bishops, priests, religious, deacons and laity who over the past 50 years have carried the torch of spiritual life and discipline for the rest of us. May their number increase! May we take our place alongside of them! What can we do?

Pray the Rosary daily. Find an Eucharistic Adoration Chapel and spend time there. Make a commitment to go to daily Mass as often as possible. Read the Sacred Scriptures. Pray. Fast. Go to confession at least once a month or even twice a month. Observe Ember Days.

Okay! What are Ember Days? Check the link above. The September Ember Days are Wednesday, September 19, Thursday, September 20, and Saturday, September 22. These are ideal days to abstain from food, not a full fast, and pray for our Mother Church and our Holy Priests. And pray for our Holy Father, Pope Francis. Let’s turn the tide. Let’s be “objects in motion” that will remain in motion for the glory of God. Amen.

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An Object in Motion…

Prayers for Our Pope

Now more than ever we need to be in prayer for Pope Francis. Let us lift him in prayer especially this week as he seeks the Holy Spirit’s direction.

O God, the Shepherd and Ruler of all Your faithful people, mercifully look upon Your servant Francis, whom You have chosen as the chief Shepherd to preside over Your Church. We beg You to help him edify, both by word and example, those over whom he has charge, that he may reach everlasting life together with the flock entrusted to him. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty and Everlasting God, have mercy on Your servant Francis, our Supreme Pontiff, and direct him, according to Your loving kindness, in the way of eternal salvation, that with Your help he may ever desire that which is pleasing to You and accomplish it with all his strength. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lord Jesus, shelter our Holy Father the Pope under the protection of Your Sacred Heart. Be his light, his strength and his consolation.

Prayers taken from “Our Catholic Prayers

Prayers for Our Pope

Faithful Shepherds

Faithful Shepherds

These are challenging times in the lives of the faithful in the Catholic Church. What we once thought was behind us after the uncovering of the sex abuse scandals in 2002, has now flared into white-hot reality with the ex-Cardinal McCarrick revelations, the Pennsylvania grand jury report, the uncertainties swirling around Cardinal Wuerl, and the eleven-page testimony from Archibishop Carlo Maria Viganò.

Now the president of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) Cardinal DiNardo and team have visited with Pope Francis, and just yesterday Bishop Michael Bransfield of the diocese of Wheeling-Charleston (WVA) has retired under the shadow of sexual harassment of adults. You may be scratching your head along with me wondering what is coming next. You may be asking if there is a side you should take, or if it’s worth soldiering on.

If you have followed along with me on this blog you know that I have asked some of these questions. I go back and forth thinking I should address the whole “enchilada” to trying to keep a local or even diocesan focus. I have written my bishop asking for clarification. I’ve heard from him, but many questions still remain. A few nights ago we had a group of friends over to watch our story on “The Journey Home” and after answering a few of their questions about our personal journey into the Church, the conversation inevitably turned to the crisis that we are living.

What does a faithful Catholic do? Of course, we know the first answer is to pray. Pray for the Church at large, pray for your bishop, and pray for your priest. If you sense there is not a commitment to purification and restoration of the Church, pray into that and let your voice be heard on the local and diocesan levels.

Recently I came across a website called “Faithful Shepherds.” You can do a search of your diocese or of your bishop, even auxiliary bishops and find where they stand on the following issues that are related to the issues that we face in the Church today:

  • Viganò Testimony
  • Amoris Laetitia
  • Pro-Life Leadership
  • Homosexuality
  • Abortion Politics
  • Contraception
  • “LGBT” Ideology
  • Liturgy
  • Marriage and Family Life
  • Education

While some bishops have spoken clearly one way or another, many bishops have not addressed any of these topics. You have the right to ask your bishop where he stands on issues that are very important to faithful Catholics. Check it out and prayerfully consider how you can take a stand for Christ and His Church in this challenging time.

O Virgin Mother of God, most august Mother of the Church, we commend the whole Church to you. You bear the sweet name of “Help of Bishops”; keep the bishops in your care, and be at their side and at the side of the priests, religious, and laity who offer them help in sustaining the difficult work of the pastoral office.

Faithful Shepherds

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

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May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14 NRSV).

Today we celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross dating back to the fourth century when St. Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine (the same who legalized Christianity), traveled to the Holy Land in search of the holy sites associated with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

A pagan temple had been built over the site of the Holy Sepulcher and the empress ordered it razed. Underneath were discovered the empty tomb and three crosses.

Theodoret (died c. 457) in his Ecclesiastical History Chapter XVII, gives what has become the standard version of the finding of the True Cross:

When the empress (St. Helena, mother of Constantine) beheld the place where the Savior suffered, she immediately ordered the idolatrous temple, which had been there erected, to be destroyed, and the very earth on which it stood to be removed. When the tomb, which had been so long concealed, was discovered, three crosses were seen buried near the Lord’s sepulcher. All held it as certain that one of these crosses was that of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that the other two were those of the thieves who were crucified with Him. Yet they could not discern to which of the three the Body of the Lord had been brought nigh, and which had received the outpouring of His precious Blood. But the wise and holy Macarius, the president of the city, resolved this question in the following manner. He caused a lady of rank, who had been long suffering from disease, to be touched by each of the crosses, with earnest prayer, and thus discerned the virtue residing in that of the Savior. For the instant this cross was brought near the lady, it expelled the sore disease, and made her whole.

To this day tiniest slivers of the True Cross exist. They serve as a powerful reminder of the sacrificial death of our Lord that conquered once for all our age-old problem of separation from God.

I grew up singing a song that actually makes more sense now as a Catholic.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown. (George Bernard, 1913)

“[Jesus] for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 NRSV).

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

The Great Accuser

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We first meet the “great accuser” in Genesis 3, in the Garden of Eden. It is there that the serpent engages Eve in  conversation. He asks her a question about God and begins to plant doubts in her mind. Eve falls into the serpent’s trap, as would we, and when she restates God’s command with additions, the conversation continues with Satan accusing God:

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5 NRSV).

We see the “great accuser” again in the book of Job, in the first chapter, and there Satan presents himself before God along with the other heavenly beings. Job becomes the subject of conversation and evidently he had become a source of irritation for the evil one who accuses Job of being faithful to God only because of God’s many blessings. Thereupon the conversation takes a fateful twist. Satan is given the power to afflict Job, but not take his life, in order to prove his allegiance to God. That’s a conversation we hope doesn’t ever take place with our name inserted! The story ends with Satan disproved and Job faithful to God and all things he lost and more restored to him, but the “great accuser” doesn’t hang up the tools of his trade.

We see him again in the early chapters of the synoptic Gospels after the Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness after his baptism. During a period of 40 days and nights, during which time Jesus fasted, Satan plies his trade attempting to defeat his greatest target to date. We know of three of the temptations or category of temptations, matching the same tactics that the devil uses on each of us. Jesus is tempted to turn stones into bread (desire of the flesh), to jump off the pinnacle of the temple into the rescuing arms of the angels (desire of the eyes), and to bow down and worship Satan and be given all the kingdoms of the world (the pride in riches). “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 NRSV).

The “great accuser” is referred to again in the book of Revelation. There we read the words of the apostle John:

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have salvation and power come,
    and the kingdom of our God
    and the authority of his Anointed.
For the accuser of our brothers is cast out,

who accuses them before our God day and night.
They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
    and by the word of their testimony;
    love for life did not deter them from death. (Revelation 12:10-11 NABRE)

What we see in every one of these situations where the “great accuser” is at work, he is falsely accusing: God, Job, Jesus, and our brothers whose holy reputation is being dragged into the mud by Satan. How do these brothers in Revelation overcome the accuser? By the blood of the Lamb–their sins were covered by His blood–and by the word of their testimony–they lived a life beyond reproach–and the accuser’s accusations could not stick.

Yesterday Pope Francis made this statement in his homily at Mass: “It seems that the Great Accuser has been unchained and is attacking bishops. True, we are all sinners, we bishops. He tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible, in order to scandalize the people.”

We want to give the Holy Father the benefit of the doubt, but honestly his comment confuses. Our sins are not uncovered by the Great Accuser, but by the Holy Spirit. And when [the Spirit] comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.” (John 16:8-11 NRSV). We can trust the Holy Spirit to poke and prod at our lives, convicting us of sin. And if we do not respond, for our good and the good of his holy Church, he will bring to light the things that have been hidden in the darkness (1 Corinthians 4:5).

We are living in challenging times! Don’t let the work that the Holy Spirit is doing scandalize you. Satan and the scandals he has authored are being exposed. The deceiver wants to pull the wool back over our eyes.  Pray for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I heard someone respond to the statement that our Blessed Mother must be weeping over the Church. His answer was: “No, Mary is not weeping, she is sweeping!”

Lord, cleanse your Church and begin with me! Lord, have mercy! Christ, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

The Great Accuser

See You This Evening!

Tonight  our televised interview with Marcus Grodi on the “Journey Home” program will air on EWTN, at 8:00 p.m. If you don’t have access to EWTN on your provider, you can go to ewtn.com and click on “Watch/Listen” on the lefthand side of the screen. From there you will scroll down and click “Live” and then click on “EWTN United States” and then click on the live video.

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I would love to interact with you after you see the “Journey Home” episode. Feel free to reach out to me through the comments portion of the blog. Or email me directly at orationi2015@gmail.com.

God bless!

See You This Evening!

I’ll Say a Little Prayer for You

When we were first married, my wife used to ask me to “whisper a prayer” whenever a situation would arise. At that time I thought her expression was quaint, maybe even lacking a degree of seriousness. However, it was not like her to not take prayer seriously. In those years of our marriage when prayer was struggle for me, Charlotte was steadfast and committed to “whisper up” a prayer that always seemed very effectual.

My track record with prayer was somewhat spotty. My reputation on prayer was “when all is said and done, more is said than done!” In seminary I took a class on prayer with a requirement to write a final paper. I didn’t get the paper in, but my professor gave me the grade anyway. He retired at the end of the semester. When I confessed the paper fail to his successor, he told me to write the paper and get it to him. That was 36 years ago!

I’m not saying I didn’t pray. I did, probably not as consistently as someone in ministry should have, but I prayed. And it always felt like a burden to pray for everyone I should pray for, and it took a lot of energy to state to God how those prayers should be answered. I am being a little facetious, but pastors are good at framing prayers to either instruct the listeners or give coaching hints to God on how everything should come down.

I dabbled in all kinds of prayer techniques and programs: “Change the World School of Prayer,” praying for the “10-40 Window,” “Freedom in Christ” prayers, “Concerts of Prayer,” 24-7 prayer, prayer retreats, all good in and of themselves, but after a while I would have to move on to something else.

Over many years, and especially in the last five, I have learned that the key components to prayer are first, making time for it, second is a commitment to pray for specific people, specific needs and specific causes, third is the commitment to spend that time with Jesus. A growing conviction in my life has been the challenge from Jesus himself, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:40-41, NRSV).

For me it started by incorporating a daily prayer guide. I started with Phyllis Tickle’s multi-volume Divine Hours. From there I moved on to the Book of Common Prayer. And as I was journeying into the Catholic Church and to the present I have made the Divine Office: Liturgy of the Hours my daily companion. I couple that with the Saint Paul Daily Missal that incorporates the readings and prayers of the Mass.

That is great! But how do I pray effectively for the concerns that I have, the people who ask me for prayer, and the burdens I sense from the world around me? Over time I have developed quite a list of prayers and pray concerns. There are prayers that I pray every day, prayers have a specific day focus, and even a monthly focus. I incorporate well-known prayers from the Church as well as ask for the intercession of my patron saint and other saints who are known to have specific concern for marriages, different illnesses, and world affairs.

I would be remiss if I did not mention again the important place the Rosary has played in my devotional life and growing discipleship. Who better to guide and instruct us in prayer than the one who knew how to ask of her Son, and then who tells us “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5 NRSV). Another great gift to prayer is spending time in the Adoration Chapel. There, as I sit or kneel before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, I can wait before Him, open my heart and leave with Him the concerns that He wants me to share. I have been privileged to spend specific time there praying for my bishop, my priest, my loved ones, my friend who is soon to announce his resignation as pastor to come into the Catholic Church and many other things to come.

I love to pray, now! I haven’t written that paper, but Jesus has been writing it on my heart. So, “I’ll say a little prayer for you!”

I’ll Say a Little Prayer for You