My Sanctuary, My Refuge

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King David Playing the Harp, Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

Sometimes when one is practicing meditation, or mental prayer, it is so frustratingly easy to get distracted! There you are, you’ve placed yourself in the presence of God and you’re trying to stay focused on Him. But then, your mind drifts to some far off place that may seem totally disassociated with anything else, and before you know it you’ve spent who knows how long down that path. When you eventually do realize how far you’ve strayed, you pull yourself back to the present moment and try to refocus on the Lord.

This happened to me yesterday. I was kneeling before the tabernacle in our Adoration chapel at church, giving thanks for His love and mercy, and just generally soaking up the grace of being in His presence. Then I got distracted. When I finally came back to the present moment I realized that I had just been replaying in my mind scenes from a favorite movie, Remember the Titans, a 2000 production based on a true story. A movie I haven’t watched in many years.

In the movie, Denzel Washington plays the role of Herman Boone, an African-American football head coach at a newly racially integrated high school in Alexandria, Virginia. Coach Boone is charged with integrating black and white students into a functioning and winning football team amidst a culture that not only has been segregated for generations, but one that lives for it’s high school football. The task seems insurmountable as it requires every ounce of his courage, leadership, and diplomacy.

After viewing Boone’s challenges of building a united team at summer football camp; attempting to build respect and cohesion with his white assistant coaches; and the ever present friction (including threats to his family) from the predominantly white community, we are taken to a scene at the football field the night before the first game of the season. Coach Boone walks out into the bleachers and, looking out over the lighted field, utters, “Yeah, this is my sanctuary right here!” The football field was where he could put the world, and all the problems in it, out of his mind. It was his safe harbor, his refuge. It was where he had some control.

It was after this “scene” that I realized I was daydreaming instead of praying. My first reactions were to apologize, thinking, “I’m sorry, Lord, I can’t even give you ten minutes without wandering off!”, and then to wonder, “Where in the world did that memory come from?”!

As I tried to get back into the moment, Coach Boone’s utterance, “Yeah, this is my sanctuary right here!” popped back into my mind. Then I realized what I was saying. I was in my sanctuary, my place of refuge, right there in front of Jesus in the tabernacle. The only difference was that, unlike it being Coach Boone’s place where he felt in control, it was my place of solitude where I could relinquish control and place all my trust in the goodness and mercy of God. It’s where I could forget the physical, economic and political messiness of the current world pandemic and simply bask in God’s love.

I recalled verses from Psalm 31 (vv. 2-6):

In you, Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me; incline your ear to me; make haste to rescue me!
Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to save me.
For you are my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me.
Free me from the net that has been set for me, for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, Lord, God of truth.

And, I thought, “Wherever I am, Lord, especially in the Adoration chapel, you are there, also. Yeah, this is my sanctuary, right here!”

“Lord Jesus, You are my rock and my refuge, my sanctuary. Thank You for Your generosity. And, thank You for the grace to realize that sometimes distractions aren’t that at all, but actually loving inspirations sent from You through Your Holy Spirit. Amen.”

(My Sanctuary, My Refuge was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Pope Francis: A Special Call to Pray the Rosary During the Month of May, 2020

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On Saturday, 25 April 2020, Pope Francis wrote a letter to the world inviting all people to pray a Rosary, either individually or, preferably, as a family, every day during the month of May (the Pope’s letter is included below). May is, of course, traditionally devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother. But, in light of the world pandemic that has disrupted our physical, social, economic, and spiritual lives, praying the Rosary can be a special way in which we implore Our Lady to intercede with Jesus for relief from our plight, and to let her help us stay focused on Him during this difficult time.

Many miracles have been attributed to the intercession of Our Lady as a result of praying the Rosary, and I, for one, believe that, considering the messy state the world is in right now, we need a miracle.

Many of you faithful may already pray a Rosary daily. Others may pray it periodically, but, unfortunately, too many don’t pray a Rosary at all. If you are unfamiliar with how to pray a Rosary, there are several resources available. Most parish churches offer a printed guide to praying the Rosary. There are on-line resources and applications, such as the Laudate app, that offer a variety of ways to pray the Rosary.

I suspect there are many reasons people do not pray it regularly, one of which is that they don’t understand the history and efficaciousness of the Rosary. The Rosary has been prayed since the early days of the Church. Over the centuries it has been instrumental in: helping Christian armies win battles when they were seriously outnumbered (e.g. the Battle of Lepanto, 1571, and the Battle of Vienna, 1683); defending against heresies; overturning of Communism in Eastern Europe in the 20th century; and, certainly, many personal miracles and answered prayers.

Another predominant reason many do not pray the Rosary, I believe, is that they think it is boring and repetitive, and they get nothing out of it. I know that was my opinion after I converted and thought I ought to pray the Rosary because that’s what I was supposed to do as a Catholic. I taught myself how to pray it by following step-by-step instructions printed on a trifold flyer that I picked off of a shelf in a church foyer somewhere. But, after praying a Rosary, I usually felt I had just wasted twenty minutes.

I eventually learned that, while praying the Rosary, we are supposed to meditate on the various events, or mysteries, in Christ’s life (e.g. Joyful, Glorious, Sorrowful and Luminous mysteries) by placing ourselves in the company of our Mother and, with her, contemplate the face of her son in the context of those various mysteries as each Hail Mary is recited. Understanding this helped me significantly in my spiritual growth.

A method of praying the Rosary that I find particularly effective is one called a “Scriptural Rosary”. When prayed with this method, a short verse from Scripture is recited before each bead of the Rosary. This method prompts one to reflect on each aspect of the mystery. A scriptural Rosary is available on the Laudate app.

Then I discovered a new “old” way to pray the Rosary. It is the method which Our Blessed Lady made known to St. Dominic in the early 13th century as he was fighting to convert Catholics back to the faith who had fallen to heretical views. Under her inspiration, St. Dominic gathered people together in their homes and shared with them the teachings of Jesus. Then, after each of five short teachings, he recited the Our Father and ten Hail Marys. In this way, St. Dominic, by teaching from the full Deposit of Faith, brought many fallen away Catholics back to the Church. The Holy Family School of Faith offers this method of praying the Rosary as a podcast that you can find here: Daily Rosary Meditation. (Note: be sure to click on the button, “Why do you pray the Rosary that way?”)

In his letter, Pope Francis emphasizes his desire that we pray as a family. Praying as a family brings us into union with one another and amplifies our prayers to Mary who brings them to Jesus. In normal times, “families” might be expanded into “groups” which might include friends and neighbors as well as family. Whether it’s just your family or a larger group who have come together to pray a Rosary, these settings are conducive to building friendship and creating good conversation through which all participants may grow spiritually.

Finally, I realize that there are occasionally non-Catholics (e.g. some of my own family) who read this blog and who do not understand why we have a devotion to the Virgin Mary nor why we invoke her intercession through a Rosary prayer. If any non-Catholic would like to join me in praying a Rosary, I will be happy to lead them through. I encourage you, also, as engaged Catholics to invite your non-Catholic family and friends to pray the Rosary with you.

I pray that you and all the faithful will renew yourselves spiritually during this month of May, especially since so many parishes still will not offer mass due to pandemic restrictions. May we all, in union with each other, grow closer to our Lord, Jesus Christ, through His and our Mother, Mary.


LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO THE FAITHFUL FOR THE MONTH OF MAY 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The month of May is approaching, a time when the People of God express with particular intensity their love and devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is traditional in this month to pray the Rosary at home within the family. The restrictions of the pandemic have made us come to appreciate all the more this “family” aspect, also from a spiritual point of view.

For this reason, I want to encourage everyone to rediscover the beauty of praying the Rosary at home in the month of May. This can be done either as a group or individually; you can decide according to your own situations, making the most of both opportunities. The key to doing this is always simplicity, and it is easy also on the internet to find good models of prayers to follow.

I am also providing two prayers to Our Lady that you can recite at the end of the Rosary, and that I myself will pray in the month of May, in spiritual union with all of you. I include them with this letter so that they are available to everyone.

Dear brothers and sisters, contemplating the face of Christ with the heart of Mary our Mother will make us even more united as a spiritual family and will help us overcome this time of trial. I keep all of you in my prayers, especially those suffering most greatly, and I ask you, please to pray for me. I thank you, and with great affection I send you my blessing.

Rome, Saint John Lateran, 25 April 2020
Feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist

Pope Francis

(Click here to be linked to the Vatican website to read the original letter and the two prayers mentioned.)

(Pope Francis: A Special Call to Pray the Rosary in the Month of May, 2020 was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Mission: Possible

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(A reflection on today’s first reading from Acts 9:1-20)

Ananais Restoring the Sight of St. Paul, Jean Il Restout, 1719, The Louvre Museum

One of my favorite television series as a child in the 60’s was Mission: Impossible. At the beginning of each episode, Jim Phelps (played by actor Peter Graves) received a tape recorded message describing a mission being presented to him that began, “Your mission, Jim, should you decide to accept it….”. Each mission was complicated and dangerous and had a high likelihood of ending with him and his team of secret agents losing their lives. Without fail, Agent Phelps accepted the impossible mission and successfully completed it.

This memory came from out of nowhere this morning as I read the Scripture for the day. The first reading from Acts is the account of Saul’s conversion and baptism. The Lord struck Saul, blinded him and left him to sit praying at the house of Judas for three days. Simultaneously, the Lord called upon Ananais, a follower of the Way, to go to Saul and lay hands on him so that he would regain his sight. The Lord told Ananais, “Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for in my name.”

Scripture doesn’t say, but Ananais either passed that message along to Saul or it came to Saul via the Holy Spirit, and he immediately began to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God in the synagogues of Damascus.

God created Saul just like the rest of us, with free will to accept him or to turn away from him. Saul chose to accept Jesus as the Son of God and, in so doing, accepted what had to seem like an impossible mission at the time: convince and convert the entire world to do the same. One difference between Saul and Jim Phelps was that Saul knew the mission, in the end, would definitely result in his death.

Saul, the other Apostles, and the saints throughout the centuries made a pretty good start at converting the world. But, the work is still not completed. God calls each of us in our baptism and confirmation to continue their work. With the condition the world is in today, it may seem like an even more impossible mission. Yet, we can do it one person at a time, because the other difference between our work and Jim Phelps’ is that, with God, all things are possible!

What can you do today to be part of the Mission: Possible team?

“Heavenly Father, thank You for Your love. Lord Jesus, thank You for Your forgiveness and mercy. Holy Spirit, thank You for opening my heart to the will of God and urging me to continue the work of the Apostolic Fathers and saints in this Mission: Possible.

“I resolve today, Lord, to reach out to a friend who is hurting and invite her to join my wife and I in praying a Rosary for healing during the month of May, per our Holy Father’s request. Amen.”

(Mission: Possible was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

The Cardinal at My Window

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Some people are keeping track of the number of days they’ve been in lockdown, or quarantine, or whatever you want to call it. I haven’t kept track because it really doesn’t matter. Today is today and it’s here that the Lord meets us. Not in our memories of yesterday or our worries about tomorrow. Today.

That’s easy to say, but lately it hasn’t been easy for me to feel the Lord’s presence. I’ve been faithful to my daily prayer and meditation, yet I miss receiving Jesus in the Eucharist and I feel my spiritual life has grown a little stale.

Yesterday morning as I was eating breakfast and trying to figure out what I would do during the day, I heard a tapping at my living room window. I curiously checked it out and found a bright red male cardinal fluttering his wings and striking the glass with his beak. He would tap for a few seconds and then fly to a nearby branch of a pink dogwood tree. Shortly, he would come back and repeat the performance.

That beautiful and persistent little guy kept up his routine throughout the day until nightfall and then came back this morning with renewed vigor. And, he’s been at it all day today! Tap, tap, tap on the window. It’s like there’s something in here that he wants.

Maybe he wants my attention.

I recalled reading somewhere that a cardinal sighting represents an angel or the spirit of a loved one who has returned to let one know they are with you and watching over you. Interested, I did an on-line search along those lines and I came up with a few hits from New-Age or psychic resources that point to this being a Christian belief. But, I know that superstition and Christianity don’t mix. I know that a black cat crossing one’s path isn’t an assurance of bad luck. And, I’m pretty sure there’s no reference in Scripture tying cardinals to the spirits of those who have passed.

Yet, while I don’t believe in superstition, I do believe that God sends us signs. Is a cardinal the definitive sign God has chosen to tell us that a loving spirit is watching over us? I don’t think so. But, can God send us a loving spirit as a sign through a cardinal? Certainly He can! God created it. He can do what He wants.

Needing to spend some time reading and meditating on the Scripture de jour, I set all those thoughts about cardinals aside and found my place of silence and solitude. I read in today’s first reading: “Jesus was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him… “(Acts 2:22); “I saw the Lord ever before me…” (v. 25); “my heart has been glad and my tongue exulted…” (v. 26); and “…You will fill me with joy in Your presence.” (v. 28).

In the Psalm (Ps 16), I read, “I keep the Lord always before me;…therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices.” (v. 8-9).

And, the Gospel, Lk 24:13-35, recounted the appearance of Jesus to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus; how at first they didn’t recognize Him, but, once they did in the breaking of the bread, their hearts were filled with joy and they hurried to tell the Eleven of their encounter with Him.

Collectively, these passages reminded me that Jesus is always with me even though I may not always recognize Him or feel His presence. He is with me in the people He has placed in my life and in my life’s circumstances. They reminded me of the joy I feel when I do feel Him near me. They reminded me that even in difficult times when the world pulls my attention away from Him, He is still there going before me. And, they reminded me that I ought not to keep quiet but to hurry and tell others about Him.

And, then, I thought about the bird again. Was God wanting to catch my attention with one of His truly beautiful creations as a sign to let me know of His presence? Whether it was His intention or not, it certainly worked.

Could that crazy cardinal have actually been a messenger sent to draw me away from the hum-drum of isolation so that I could refocus on His love for me? Possibly. If so, He succeeded by reminding me of the grace that He gives me each and every day. That His grace is here with me in the love I share with my wife and our support for each other during these unusual times. It was there in the video calls with all four daughters and grandchildren today. It was there last night in the good food, friendship and conversation we shared among a few friends as we “risked” getting together for the first time in over a month.

But, mostly, that silly, persistent, cardinal, who wouldn’t give up pecking at my window, reminded me to never give up on God’s love for me, and never give up loving Him in return.

“Good and gracious God, thank you for sending your fine feathered creation to draw my attention back to You. Even though I may lose sight of You from time to time, thank You for never leaving my side. Lord, thank You for Your angels who watch over me. And, I pray that the souls of all the faithful departed, through Your mercy, rest in peace. Amen.”

(The Cardinal at My Window was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Speak Boldly Like Peter

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Visit of Nicodemus to Christ, John La Farge, 1880, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Ever since Easter the first readings of daily Scripture have been from the Acts of the Apostles and have been accounts of Peter speaking and healing in the name of Jesus. In healing the man who had been crippled from birth, he and John astonished the other Jews who were going into the temple for their three o’clock prayer (Acts 3:1-10).

Filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8), Peter went on to speak with great confidence to the people of Jerusalem and converted thousands in the process. In spite of being arrested by the Sanhedrin, thrown in jail, and almost sentenced to death by them, he continued to speak boldly (Acts 4:13, 29, 31) and bear witness with great power to Christ’s resurrection (Acts 4:33).

Certainly, seeing Jesus twice since His death; having Jesus explain the purpose of His crucifixion (Lk 24:45-47); and committing to follow Jesus by being reminded that he denied Him three times (Jn 21:15-17), brought about Peter’s complete conversion. His heart was fully convicted and his will completely committed to obeying the Lord to “go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16:15). Any fear he and the Apostles might have had was replaced with fortitude to speak boldly, and to rejoice when they were persecuted and suffered dishonor for the sake of the name [of Jesus]. (Acts 5:41).

In addition to this recounting in the Acts of the Apostles, we have also, this week, been reading about Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus (Jn 3:1-21), a Pharisee and the teacher of Israel (Jn 3:10). Nicodemus came to Jesus one night after hearing about Him driving the money-changers out of the temple, and, more than likely, about His miracle at Cana. He questioned Jesus about His miracles, or signs, because he knew that they could only come from God. Jesus explains that the only way to enter the kingdom of God is to be born again by being baptized and receiving the Holy Spirit. Nicodemus doesn’t understand the concept of being born again and questions, “How can this happen?

As many times as I’ve read this I always saw Nicodemus’ questioning as trying to catch Jesus in blasphemy so that He could be imprisoned. I had a vision of the learned Nicodemus on an ego trip, and, when the conversation was over, him walking away shaking his head in frustration and disbelief. But, I’m wondering if I was wrong. Maybe Nicodemus actually believed Jesus was who He said He was but his questions were simply an attempt to better understand.

At the end of the Gospel on Good Friday, we read in Jn 19:39 that, Nicodemus, the one who had first come to Him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds, and, along with Joseph of Arimathea, helped bury Jesus’ body. Why would he do that? A hundred pounds of myrrh and aloe must have been worth a significant sum. A hundred pounds seems to be a measure that might be fit for a King. Could Nicodemus have come, through faith, to accept Jesus as the Messiah?

Nicodemus appears one other time in Scripture, in Jn 7:50. The Pharisees had sent officers to arrest Jesus but they came back empty handed because they, too, were amazed at the way He taught. They were reprimanded and accused of being deceived by Jesus like they perceived the crowds had been. Nicodemus stepped up and asked his fellow Pharisees, “Does our law condemn a person before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?”, to which he is ridiculed for forgetting that “no prophet arises from Galilee.” Could Nicodemus have been making an attempt to stand up for Jesus and protect Him?

I’m not a theologian and I haven’t consulted one on this subject. But, for the moment, I am going to assume that Nicodemus secretly believed, like Joseph of Arimathea, that Jesus was the Messiah. Maybe after that first encounter with Jesus and seeing the miracles He subsequently performed, Nicodemus came to believe that He was the Son of God. And, I’m going to suppose that he followed the doings of the Apostles after the resurrection and the Lord’s ascension and heard their witnesses. If that were true, then what would Nicodemus have said if he’d been asked if he believed in Jesus?

I think the fact that Nicodemus is never again mentioned in the New Testament indicates that he either never gave anyone a reason to ask him, or, if they did, he denied his belief. Admitting his belief would have been at odds with the rest of the Pharisees and certainly the Sanhedrin. He was a leader, a prominent figure in Jerusalem, and taking sides with Jesus and his rag-tag band of followers would have turned their entire law upside down. Believing in Jesus would have been tantamount to blasphemy and could have meant his death. He was, I’m sure, a wealthy man and, at a minimum, he would have forfeited many material possessions besides just his status and reputation.

Thus, as I pondered this all week, I concluded that if he did come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, he kept it to himself. Whereas Peter, who had nothing to lose but his life, spoke boldly with courageous faith, Nicodemus could never even whisper a word for fear of losing the things of this world which he so esteemed.

And, therein lies the question I have to ask myself – at the risk of losing everything, would I be Peter and boldly proclaim Christ as my Savior and rejoice in the prospect of persecution, or would I be Nicodemus and, out of fear, remain silent?

What would you do?

“Lord Jesus, thank You for Your love. You know I love You. I pray that my love for You will always grow stronger. I pray that if the day ever comes that I may have to choose between life and my faith in You, that I have, like Peter, the courage to choose You. But, I know I’m weak, so mostly I pray that I am never put to that test. Amen.”

(Speak Boldly Like Peter was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Let Us Rejoice and Be Glad!

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Today is a 2-fer day: two reflections from my prayer and meditation on today’s Scripture.

(A 100-word reflection on Luke 24:13-35 – Jesus’ appearance on the road to Emmaus)

Supper at Emmaus, Caravaggio, 1606

The two disciples with whom Jesus spent the day walking to Emmaus did not at first recognize Him. But, at day’s end, Jesus sat with them “at table, took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized Him, but He vanished from their sight.” (Lk24:30-31)

They thought Jesus had left them. But, He was still there….present in the bread that he’d just consecrated.

I can’t see Him, either. But, He’s still there in the Holy Eucharist which I will soon be able to receive again.


(A 100-word reflection on Ps 118:24)

Before my meditation this morning I looked out my window as the sun was rising in a cloudless bright blue sky over my frosted lawn. A red-breasted robin, perched on a branch of a blooming pink dogwood tree, was checking me out just inches from one window. A few feet outside another window were five goldfinches clinging to my bird feeder having their breakfast.

Then, I read the same verse from Psalms that’s been in the Liturgy every day this week: “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!”

I can do that!

“Good and gracious Lord, thank You for the beauty that You bring to each and every day. Help me to always see the beauty of Your handiwork, even in the cloudy and dreary days. And, Lord, may I never fail to rejoice and be glad when I receive Your Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Most Holy Eucharist. Amen.”

(Let Us Rejoice and Be Glad! was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Recognizing Jesus

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(A reflection on Jn 20:11-18)

As she wept at His tomb, Mary of Magdela encountered Jesus but didn’t recognize Him until He spoke to her compassionately, saying, “Mary, stop holding on to Me”. Then, obeying her teacher, Mary told the disciples with pure joy, “I have seen the Lord!”

I can’t see Jesus face to face in this life. But, I know He’s present every moment of my day. He sends His love to me through Holy Scripture and through my wife, children, friends and many of life’s circumstances. I need to better recognize Him and live such that others may recognize Him in me.

“Lord Jesus, today I resolve to recognize the kindness of others as Your love poured out through them. And, I resolve to be the instrument through whom your love and mercy may touch others. Amen.”

(Recognizing Jesus was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

From the Archives: Go to Galilee

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As I read today’s Scripture, the difference in my attitude between last week and this morning became apparent. Last week it was difficult to have a conversation with Christ. How could I bring to Him my piddly troubles when He was being sold out, scourged, mocked and crucified? But, this morning, as I read Peter’s speech to the people of Jerusalem (Acts 2:22-33), I felt renewed. To paraphrase Peter, my heart is glad….my flesh dwells in hope….and the Lord’s presence fills me with joy.

Then, as I read the Gospel, Mt 28:8-15, I realized that Jesus is wanting to be with me. And, I remembered having the same feeling last year on Easter Monday and sharing it with you then. It’s worth sharing again. He wants to be with you, too.

(Go To Galilee was originally posted on 22 April 2019)

Painting by Hans Memling – 1480

(A reflection on Mt 28:8-10)

As the two Marys rushed fearfully and joyfully to tell the disciples what they had seen and heard, they met Jesus on the way. Jesus told them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee and there they will see me.”

After the intensity of Holy Week – the exhausting emotion of reflecting on Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection – I need to meet Jesus again. And soon. I need to go to Galilee. My Galilee is that place of solitude and silence, where I can spend time with Him in meditative prayer.

Where’s your Galilee? 

GO THERE.

Reconciliation: A Grace-Filled Turning Back to God

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Each day this week I’ve offered related posts about sin, Spiritual Atrophy that brings about heightened opportunities to sin during these stressful times of self-isolation, and ways to recognize the sins you’ve committed (or omitted): the “Checklist”, CPR, and Analytical methods of examining one’s conscience.

So, what is the next step? You’ve utilized one of these methods and identified particular actions or attitudes that have damaged your relationship with either God, other people, or both. You’ve analyzed the seriousness of your sins, determined if they are mortal or venial, and now you feel remorse, embarrassment, or, even worse, shame for having committed them. If you’ve made it this far and genuinely have a contrite heart, you’re good to go on to the next step. If you don’t feel a real sense of remorse, then you probably ought to go back to step one and start over again.

The next step for the repentant soul is to let God love you! This means accepting that God loves you even when you are wounded and stained. It means turning back to God and loving Him in return by telling Him that you’re sorry for choosing an inferior good over Him. And, it means asking for God’s mercy, His forgiveness, and to be cleansed of your sins. Asking is necessary, for as St. Augustine said, the Lord who created you without your permission, cannot save you without your permission. We take this step by going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, confessing our sins, and receiving His mercy even though we don’t deserve it.

I have heard many and various reasons why people don’t want to go to confession: embarrassment, shame, fear of what God will think, fear of what the priest will think, etc. It’s important to remember that God is not scandalized by our sins – He already knows what they are! We may try to justify our sins in an attempt to lessen their severity, but God can’t be fooled. He wants humility and honesty and to see that our view matches up with His. God is like a father who is not scandalized when his teenaged new driver has his or her first fender bender.

Neither will the priest be scandalized. Every priest I’ve ever talked to about reconciliation has said they rejoice when a person confesses their sins. They see it as a win/win: a victory for the Lord that we have returned, and a victory for us that our sins have been erased. A common excuse many give for not going to confession is that the priest will be surprised with your sin. This time, you’re fooling yourself. There are very few sins he hasn’t heard. The devil is not that creative! Neither will the priest remember your sins. He hears so many there’s no way he can remember them all, and he doesn’t want to. Finally, the priest is bound by a sacred seal to never repeat anything that you mention in the confessional.

Another common excuse for not going to confession is that it’s easier to just talk to God and give Him your apology. The Protestants might think that works for them but it doesn’t work for us Catholics. Sorry. We go to confession because Jesus himself invented the Sacrament of Reconciliation, not the Apostles, not any one particular pope, not the Church in general, but Jesus. (Jn 20:19-23). Also, we are human, a combination of body and soul. We need to hear with our ears that we are forgiven and we hear Jesus forgive us through the priest just as we would have two thousand years ago if it was Jesus himself. (CCC 1441-1442)

Once you’ve moved past your fears and rationale for not going to confession and decided to show up at the confessional, it’s best to know how to make a good confession. First, one needs to be completely open and honest and be frank in saying their sins. There’s no need to explain or try to justify what you’ve done. If the priest thinks it’s necessary to know, he’ll ask. Perhaps even more importantly, one needs to truly repent and demonstrate a desire to not commit that sin again by reciting an act of contrition. Then, one needs to demonstrate a desire to change and be healed by carrying out the penance assigned by the priest, and give consideration to what will be done differently to avoid that sin in the future.

A good confession is rounded out by a prayer of thanksgiving and a feeling of love shared between God the Father and you, His beloved son or daughter. This reconciliation with God and the whole Church is truly a moving experience! God gives us His own life in the form of grace that restores and heals us. It gives us the strength to do good, resist evil, and begin again. And, it remits the eternal consequences of our sin (Hell).

Another way to show gratitude for the absolution of our sins is to encourage friends and family to visit this Spring of Living Water just as the Samaritan woman did when she invited the people of her town to meet Jesus. (Jn4:28) Is there any better act of charity than to help others who are stained with sin to be cleansed and reconciled to God?

I am late getting this posted so you will not be reading it until Saturday at least. Many parishes typically offer the Sacrament on Saturdays, and still do even with the pandemic, but follow the mandated social distancing guidelines. I pray that these posts this week will have encouraged you to examine your conscience; identify those particular areas where you’ve been less virtuous than you should; and, by better understanding the Sacrament, give you the fortitude to visit Jesus and receive the Living Water that He offers. Remember, He can’t fill your cup if it’s turned upside down.

I hope you have a truly faith-filled Holy Week in spite of not being able to participate in the celebration at your church. God bless you all!

(Reconciliation: A Grace-Filled Turning Back to God was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

How to Make a Thorough Examination of Conscience – Part 3: The Analytical Method

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This post presents the third of three methods for making a good and thorough examination of conscience. On Monday, I posted Spiritual Atrophy and the Need for an Examination of Conscience During Self-Isolation in which I emphasized the dangers of letting our spiritual lives decline during this difficult time of isolation; the associated risk of falling into sin more easily; and how a good examination of conscience can help turn us around.

On Tuesday, I posted How to Make a Thorough Examination of Conscience – Part 1: The “Checklist” Method. In it I discussed the types of sin, the general principles behind a good examination, and links to examples of questions to ask ourselves when making an examination.

And, yesterday I posted How to Make a Thorough Examination of Conscience – Part 2: The CPR Method. This method is less specific and more subjective than the “Checklist” method and begins by recalling the times God was present in your life during the day; looks at the events of the day and how you reacted to them; and finishes by making a resolution to improve.

Today, I am presenting the Analytical Method of examining one’s conscience. Like the CPR method, I am copying the following from Laudate, a very useful, comprehensive, and essential Catholic app. This method combines some of each of the previous two methods. It can be both objective with Yes/No questions, and subjective with open ended reflection.

The Analytical Method

A. Quiet your soul and enter into God’s presence, asking Him for light to know yourself and to know Him.

B. Review the major areas of God’s will in your life [e.g. roles and responsibilities], examining the level of your faithfulness to what God was asking of you. Trust that the Holy Spirit will draw your attention to what He wants you to reflect on. As you do this examination, keep asking yourself, “Why?”, so that you are sure to let God’s healing grace seep into the very roots of your selfish tendencies.You could arrange this examination by key relationships:

  1. You could arrange this examination by key relationships:
  • Relationship with God: prayer, obeying the Commandments;
  • Relationships with others (especially those closest to you): honesty, generosity, compassion, loyalty, purity, patience, etc.
  • Relationship with self: responsibility (work, school, home, money), laziness, healthy discipline, etc.

2. You could arrange this examination by the three “W’s”:

  • Way – How did I treat people? How did I go about my business? In a Christ-like way?
  • Words – Were my words worthy of Christ?
  • Works – Were my decisions and actions in harmony with my mission as a Christian?

C. Thank God for the good that, with His grace, you were able to accomplish; ask for (and accept!) His forgiveness for your shortcomings and sins.

D. Renew your commitment to follow him even more closely tomorrow (if you can identify a specific resolution to make your commitment even more concrete, all the better).

There are two aspects I like about this method. First, that it isn’t just a mental exercise for you. It involves entering into the presence of God through meditation and asking the Holy Spirit to show you your faults and failings, where they lie, and their root causes. Secondly, it focuses on relationships and roles: with God, others and yourself. And, like the CPR method, comparing your actions against God’s will for you enables you to make a better resolution to grow closer to Christ, which, again, is what it’s all about.

I will conclude this series tomorrow with some thoughts on what the next step is after a good and thorough examination of conscience, namely, attending the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Stay tuned!

Just as you are taking precautions to prevent exposure to the Coronavirus and subsequent ailment, I urge you to take necessary precautions and protect your spiritual health as well. God bless you all.

(How to Make a Thorough Examination of Conscience – Part 3: The Analytical Method was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.