Posted by: liturgicalyear | July 23, 2014

St. Brigid of Sweden

Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Bridget of Sweden, patron saint of Sweden and co-patron of Europe. I share with you today’s meditation from Magnificat which I found to be a necessary & timely reminder.  I believe you will as well. 

The Virgin Mary appeared to and said this to her:

“I, who speak to you, am the Queen of heaven. I am as it were, a gardener of this world. For when a gardener sees the rise of a strong wind harmful to the little plants and the trees of his garden, at once he runs to them quickly and binds them fast with sturdy stakes as well as he can. And thus he comes to their aid, in various ways according to his ability, lest they be broken by the rushing wind or wretchedly uprooted.

I, the Mother of mercy, do the same in the garden of this world. For when I see blowing on the hearts of human beings the dangerous winds of the devil’s temptations and wicked suggestions, at once I have recourse to my Lord and my God, my Son Jesus Christ, helping them with my prayers and obtaining from his outpouring of some holy infusions of the Holy Spirit into their hearts to prop them up and savingly confirm them that they may be kept spiritually uninjured by the diabolic wind of temptations lest the devil prevail against human beings, breaking their souls and plucking them up by the stem in accord with his wicked desire. And thus when, with humility of heart and active compliance, human beings receive these said stakes of mine and my assistance, at once they are defended against the diabolic onslaught or temptations; and remaining firm in the state of grace, they bear for God and for me the fruit of sweetness in due season.”

~Magnificat, July 23, 2014

In response, I conclude with this most excellent & powerful prayer, the Memorare:

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

Amen.

St Brigid of Sweden, pray for us!  Anne

Posted by: liturgicalyear | July 20, 2014

A Catholic Understanding of Spiritual Warfare in Daily Life

ladder of divine ascent icon

When Catholics think of spiritual warfare, they tend to think of this battle as up in heaven or somewhere external; rarely do they identify the battle within. This article helps you heighten your awareness of spiritual warfare in the everyday struggles of life as well as equip yourself for attuned prayer for protection. I frequently prayer before our copy of the icon, Ladder of Divine Ascent, featured above. The reality of our journey to Christ in heaven is that scores of demons seek to pluck us from our ascent. But God oversees the journey, so we we have nothing to fear as long as we remain mindful and prayerful of the reality of spiritual warfare.

Today’s Gospel reading features a series of parables, with the first focused on an enemy who sows weeds in the midst of a farmers wheat seeds. He tells his workers that they cannot pull out the weeds because that will harm his crop; instead, they need to let them grow together and separate them at harvest:

Let them grow together until harvest;
then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
“First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn. (Matthew 13: 24-43)

Theology of Spiritual Warfare

At the beginning of creation, Lucifer and a number of angels (estimates are one-third) rebelled against God and separated themselves from communion with Him. This introduced division into the world. We know that the devil, in the form of a dragon-like serpent, tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden to disobey God, indulge her senses in sweet fruit, and aspire to be equal to God in knowledge and power.

The results of this are known as The Fall of Man. Adam and Eve, who had walked with God in the garden “in the cool of the evening,” were now separated from his presence and unable to return. They were to labor for their survival, and women were to suffer in childbirth. They were subject to sickness and death — a life outside of God’s communion and vulnerable to physical hardship and spiritual warfare.

In Dante’s Inferno, he is lead through the circles of hell to hell’s epicenter, where he encounters a giant devil upside down. This images the fact that the angel fell from heaven, and Dante portrays him as having fallen head first. Dante has to climb over Lucifer to escape hell. In this imagery, Dante pinpoints a reality about spiritual warfare: Not only can one NOT avoid spiritual warfare, but one must climb through this to advance in the spiritual journey and to enhance in communion with the Trinity.

The Reality of Spiritual Warfare

The Catechism establishes the full expanse of spiritual warfare by clarifying that as Christ comes to save us for full communion with God, so Satan seeks to disrupt our full communion with God in hopes to draw others to himself.

[E]vil is not an abstraction, but refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God. The devil (dia-bolos) is the one who ‘throws himself across’ God’s plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ. (CCC 2851)

In order to remain in communion with God, we need to stay on the path to heaven and remain in full communion with the Church. This requires Sunday Mass attendance and frequenting of the Eucharist. This also requires Confession for mortal sin; and, for venial sins, either general confession at Mass, private confession with blessed holy water, or sacramental Confession to help us get to the root of those bad habits that lead to the minor infractions that trip us up daily. In addition, we must work hard to live a life of virtue and to purge our soul and habits of vice. We must also be generous in our service to others within the reaches of our station in life.

A life of prayer is essential to growing in Grace. Spiritual reading and reading the Bible enriches our prayer life and knowledge to help us grow more fully as children of God. Performing acts of mercy — spiritual and corporal — are also vital. Supporting parish life, financially and with our time and talents, is also vital.

The Personal, Familial, and Local Character of Spiritual Warfare

While Satan’s domain began with a battle in heaven, his demons torment us in the particular. Satan uses our weaknesses — mental health challenges, physical suffering, self-doubt, vices and graver sins to divide us from God.

Remember in the Gospels when Jesus healed the man possessed of demons and transferred the insanity to the pigs that ran off the cliff (Luke 8:26-39)? Note that the young man’s father could not help him. Note that his village lived in fear. The battle was local, and the pain specific to a particular family and one fearful village.

Remember Jesus’ own temptations in the desert, where Satan tried to seduce him with bread during his 40-day fast, total power over the kingdoms of the Earth, and asked him to test God’s protection (Matthew 4:1-11)? Satan tried to tempt him through physical need, faith and pride.

Cultivating a Vigorous Prayer Life and Trust in God to Combat Spiritual Warfare

Pray is our principal defense against the devil. We should pray the Prayer to St. Michael daily and before all hardship:

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen

This website offers a variety of specific prayers for specific spiritual challenges.

The Catechism specifies two challenges in prayer that need our vigilance: lack of faith and acedia. Acedia is a more pervasive danger, as the Catechism specifies:

The spiritual writers understand by this a form of depression due to lax ascetical practice, decreasing vigilance, carelessness of heart. “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (CCC 2733)

Ultimately, we must trust in God through all challenges and live a posture of gratitude for all the blessings God provides. Most importantly, note in the following Gospel passage the juxtaposition of faith in God’s providence with the essential role of the Church in ensuring our spiritual protection:

I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. (Matthew 16:18)

Awareness of spiritual warfare should lead us to fear separating ourselves from full communion with Holy Mother Church and should keep us mindful that underlying many of  the challenges of life lies a spiritual battle. Yet, remain fully trusting in God’s providential care, and know the devil can’t stand a chance in your life because God is your protector.

St. Paul gave us a roadmap for spiritual warfare:

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness….(Ephesians 6:11-15)

Barbara

 

Posted by: liturgicalyear | July 5, 2014

Being Catholic in America: 4th of July Reflections

crucifix american flag

July 4th weekend in the US aligns with a vital Gospel passage for the universal Catholic Church. Christ tells us:

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light. (Matthew 11:29-30)

How do we carry the yoke of Christ — as individuals as well as a nation?

I don’t know about you, but between work and family needs, I rarely feel lightness in my burdens. And I feel great heaviness of spirit as I read newspapers and view news reports. As I watch our nation pressed by the flow of illegal adolescent Mexican immigrants, I know that no one in the southwest US feels lightness in these burdens. As I watch American leaders falter in public discourse as ISIS overtakes Iraq and Syria, as new reports of Taliban insurgency strike in Afghanistan, as 300 Nigerian school girls remain missing and acts of terror appear daily in many regions of Africa — no where do the burdens seem light.

Then again, while Jesus seems to emphasize the easy yoke and light burden, the preliminary point might be overlooked — “take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” To take this yoke means to accept the harness of God’s commandments and to allow God to lead us. It takes humility to accept this harness; it takes docility to follow another’s lead. Jesus gently states that only by accepting this yoke meekly will we find rest while carrying a yoke that “is easy” and a “burden light.”

The reality is that we live in a world that has cast off the yoke of Christ. We live in a world  and in a nation unhinged. Watch the daily news to realize the horrors unleashed by beasts charging out-of-control. Sometimes these unyoked beasts trample the earth in broad daylight, but often they trample souls unaware.

America’s Severed Founding

As America celebrates the birthday of its independence, Catholics in the US must remember that America’s founding and history have never been accepting of the yoke of Christ. In the founding of America, few Catholics had flourished in Colonial America. There are exceptions. Charles Carroll of Maryland was the one Catholic who signed the Declaration of Independence. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton had fled New York to find more acceptance in Maryland as a Catholic convert, only to find protestants overtaking the state once declared a haven for colonial Catholics. She fled to western Maryland and founded a school and order. Despite the growing numbers of Catholics throughout America’s history, the principles that Catholics hold dear remains a minority voice in the US. Yet saints abound.

Even among faithful protestants Christians, their views did not hold sway in the founding of America. Instead, the Deists dominated. Deists believed in a distant Creator who established the world on mechanistic principles that required no further divine intervention. God was imaged as a clock-maker who created the clock to operate on its own.

There was a religious battle in the early forming of America, but the Christians did not win; they were relegated to the margins. Catholics had an even harder struggle to gain acceptance in America, and it seems the only Catholics who are fully accepted in America today are those who reject tenets of their faith. I think of those who call themselves “pro-choice” and Catholic, including all-too-many “Catholic” politicians. Oxymorons abound.

Both True Catholic and American Patriot?

When we examine the dominant culture pulsing through American media, public schools and town halls, being Catholic in America is a challenge. We don’t need to overdramatize this tension; we are not in danger like our Catholic, Coptic and Orthodox brothers and sisters in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The challenges we face are more subtle and pervasive. The enemy does not carry a gun or a suicide bomb and endanger our physical lives. The enemy eats away at us inwardly or through our children. A culture of tolerance presses us to accept homosexual couples as an act of loving acceptance. As we live “in the world,” we don’t want to restrict too harshly our children’s participation in all aspects of American life. For Catholics are not the Amish.

Then I think about the 57 million babies aborted since the US Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, and the position of being Catholic in America seems increasingly untenable. I think about the march toward redefining marriage that continues to gain acceptance across the US, and I wonder how our children will hold to the basic tenets of natural law. I watch the bombardment of pop culture which accepts immorality of language and action as “normal,” and I wonder how our children will learn to live by true principles. Too often, our Catholic voices seem faint amidst the roaring dominant culture.

The Principle of Subsidiarity

Yet, God placed us here — in our particular families, within our particular communities and parishes, and in our particular nation. This is not accidental but providential. Given that fact, we must ask God how we are to serve where He has placed us.

Through the principle of subsidiarity, the Church tells us we are to serve in the closest spheres first: our home, our parish, our communities. This is where we have the most effective impact. Likewise, nothing should be delegated to a central authority that can be managed more locally.This principle should guide our votes as citizens too.

Catholic principles align with the protection of individual rights and the goals of local, state control with limited federal government. The Catholic commitment to life aligns perfectly with the first principles established in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

This alignment in principles,however, often leads to conflict in practice. Catholics play a vital role in reminding America of its fundamental principles, and we continue to take an active role as citizens to witness to those principles in all aspects of life. Recent Supreme Court decisions have reaffirmed freedom of religious expression as individuals, through our intellectual property, and through our privately-held businesses. We need to continue to press for free expression in our schools, universities, town halls and state houses. The clarity of recent Supreme Court decisions provide a glimmer of hope that the Court will defend the Constitution even as the President, Congress and powerful groups seek to erode this foundation.

Pope St. John Paul II on Patriotism vs. Nationalism

JPII reminded us that our love of country is appropriate whereas the impulse toward nationalistic pride is not. As Americans this 4th of July weekend, let’s embrace our patriotism while reaffirming our Catholic witness within a culture that has never accepted the yoke of Christ and whose direction remains precarious. In Memory and Identity: Conversations at the Dawn of a Millennium (2005), Pope St. John Paul II distinguished patriotism from nationalism:

Patriotism is a love for everything to do with our native land: its history, its traditions, its language, its natural features….The cultural and historical identity of any society is preserved and nourished by all that is contained within this concept of a nation.”

“Whereas nationalism involves recognizing and pursuing the good of one’s own nation alone, without regard for the rights of others, patriotism, on the other hand, is a love for one’s native land that accords rights to all other nations equal to those claimed for one’s own. Patriotism, in other words, leads to a properly ordered social love.

Let us love our country’s best principles and reaffirm our commitment to giving witness to what is true and good and beautiful in all the spheres of life where we can have an impact. If we accept the yoke of Christ and respond to His direction, He will guide us home and keep us safe.

And remember that He has guided us in placing us within the United States of America. Follow His lead as you serve and witness as Catholics in America. We each have a role to play, and if we embrace the yoke and listen to God’s direction, we will grow in trust that God is in command, and we but have to do His bidding as we carry our burdens with ease in His light.

Barbara

 

Catholic images of the Sacred Heart are often perceived as gruesome to non-catholics. Jesus’ heart sometimes drips blood and is encased in a chain around which light radiates. Countless novels poke fun at the Catholic faith through descriptions of such images adorning Catholic homes. Yet each Catholic home should include an image of the Sacred Heart because Jesus’ heart truly lies at the center of our faith.

The Sacred Heart in the Scriptures

The Lord revealed himself to the chosen people as an act of love.  Our Jewish brothers and sisters are distinguished by the love God revealed to them and by the love the chosen people were called upon to show to God. This exchange of love is the energy source which drives the covenant. As Christians, we consider ourselves God’s adopted children whom Jesus embraced universally.

Note that the Scripture uses the phrase the Lord set his heart on you and chose you (Deuteronomy 7:7). The image of God setting his heart upon us is powerful. To set one’s heart defines an act of will to choose to love. Our faithfulness to God is a return of love:

Understand, then, that the Lord, your God, is God indeed, the faithful God who keeps his merciful covenant down to the thousandths generation toward those who love him and keep his commandments… (Deuteronomy 7:10). The covenant is defined by this exchange of love.

St. Paul states this directly:

Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love…No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us(1 John:4:8-9, 16). God’s act of sacrificing His Son to us was love. Jesus’ entire ministry preached love. Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross was the ultimate act of love. Christ’s sacraments are outward expressions of His loving embrace. The Church embodies Christ’s love and is the conduit through which we grow in love.

The heart of Jesus is also “pierced” by our sins, as the facts about His crucifixion attest: But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. (John 19:34) This blood and water poured out like a flood — so much more than what one human heart can hold. This image helps us understand Divine Mercy — the pouring out of heavenly grace in a great flood that wipes away all our sins.  This is the ultimate love.

Jesus also tells us that to love involves gentleness, humility, and ultimately suffering. Our hearts get broken; and as they experience breaks, we enter into the Passion of our Lord. He heals our brokenness; and, in the process, He expands our ability to love.  These sufferings, Jesus tells us, gradually lighten our hearts. As our hearts become more at one in His Sacred Heart, He lifts away our burdens: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:29-30).

Devotions to the Sacred Heart

Devotion to Jesus’ Sacred Heart took specific liturgical form in the early 1000s, and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque popularized this devotion after a series of revelations in the mid 17th century. The point of all these devotions is best captured in this refrain to a Rosary-like prayer sequence to the Sacred Heart: Jesus most meek, make my heart like unto Thine.

In addition to having an image of the Sacred Heart in your home, you should begin your day with an Offering to Jesus’ Sacred Heart:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all our associates, and in particular for the intentions of our Holy Father.

You should participate in the Nine First Friday Devotions, which bring abundant graces to you and to your family, as well as great assurance in our passage to eternal life. This involves attending Mass on the First Friday of nine consecutive months, going to Confession, praying an act of consecration, and praying in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Learn more about First Friday Devotions.

Prayer to the Sacred Heart

O most holy heart of Jesus, fountain of every blessing, I adore you, I love you, and with lively sorrow for my sins I offer you this poor heart of mine. Make me humble, patient, pure and wholly obedient to your will. Grant, Good Jesus, that I may live in you and for you. Protect me in the midst of danger. Comfort me in my afflictions. Give me health of body, assistance in my temporal needs, your blessing on all that I do, and the grace of a holy death. Amen.

May your heart grow in love as you cleave to the Sacred Heart of Jesus!

Barbara

 

Posted by: liturgicalyear | June 27, 2014

Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus – Day 9

Efficacious Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

I. O my Jesus, you have said: “Truly I say to you, ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you.” Behold I knock, I seek and ask for the grace of…… (here name your request)
Our Father….
Hail Mary….
Glory Be to the Father….

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

II. O my Jesus, you have said: “Truly I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” Behold, in your name, I ask the Father for the grace of…….(here name your request)
Our Father…
Hail Mary….
Glory Be To the Father….

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

III. O my Jesus, you have said: “Truly I say to you, heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away.” Encouraged by your infallible words I now ask for the grace of…..(here name your request)
Our Father….
Hail Mary….
Glory Be to the Father…

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, for whom it is impossible not to have compassion on the afflicted, have pity on us miserable sinners and grant us the grace which we ask of you, through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, your tender Mother and ours.

Say the Hail, Holy Queen and add: St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, pray for us.   ~ St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Padre Pio recited this novena every day for all those who requested his prayers. (source)

Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, to Thee I consecrate and offer up my person and my life, my actions, trials, and sufferings, that my entire being may henceforth only be employed in loving, honoring and glorifying Thee. This is my irrevocable will, to belong entirely to Thee, and to do all for Thy love, renouncing with my whole heart all that can displease Thee.

I take Thee, O Sacred Heart, for the sole object of my love, the protection of my life, the pledge of my salvation, the remedy of my frailty and inconstancy, the reparation for all the defects of my life, and my secure refuge at the hour of my death. Be Thou, O Most Merciful Heart, my justification before God Thy Father, and screen me from His anger which I have so justly merited. I fear all from my own weakness and malice, but placing my entire confidence in Thee, O Heart of Love, I hope all from Thine infinite Goodness. Annihilate in me all that can displease or resist Thee. Imprint Thy pure love so deeply in my heart that I may never forget Thee or be separated from Thee.
I beseech Thee, through Thine infinite Goodness, grant that my name be engraved upon Thy Heart, for in this I place all my happiness and all my glory, to live and to die as one of Thy devoted servants.

.– St. Margaret Mary Alacoque    (source)

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