How to Make a Thorough Examination of Conscience – Part 2: The CPR Method

Tags

, , , ,

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 and go flat since we cannot make it to Holy Communion. Unless a special effort is made we will experience a gradual decline that likely will lead to venial or mortal sin. Since the Ten Commandments are all about relationships with God and each other, any sin can damage those relationships. The mechanism we use to recognize our sins is called an Examination of Conscience.

In yesterday’s post, How to Make a Thorough Examination of Conscience – Part 1: The “Checklist” Method, I discussed the two types of sin: mortal and venial, and non-sins which we call imperfections, as well as general principles behind a good examination. And, I provided links to examples of questions, or “checklists”, that, when asked of ourselves and viewed from God’s perspective, will help identify our sins.

Because I was in a rush to finish the post I forgot to mention a couple things. First, the questions asked in this method are normally “Yes” or “No” questions. They are very specific and intended to pinpoint those actions for which you may not be too proud. They will not only expose your sins of “commission” (the things you did but shouldn’t have done), but also your sins of “omission” (the things you should have done but failed to do).

The second point I forgot to mention is that there are “checklists” designed for one’s particular state in life. Besides the general lists of questions for anyone, there are sets for children, young adults, singles and married people. An excellent place to find these is on the Laudate app which you can get for your mobile phone. It is an essential tool for anyone interested in consistently practicing and growing in their faith. A very good list for married people can also be found at Beauty So Ancient: A Wonderful Examination of Conscience for Married Couples.

By utilizing one of these lists of questions on a regular basis, a person can nearly memorize those areas that tend to come to the surface. It’s important to not skim over the small stuff. The small stuff can become big stuff.

Today, I want to introduce a second method called the CPR Method of examining one’s conscience. I discovered this method from the Laudate app. Unlike the “checklist” method, this one doesn’t ask specific “Yes” or “No” questions. Rather, it asks you to look at your day subjectively rather than objectively. (The following is copied directly from Laudate):

C = Claim Your Blessings

Reflect on the good things that happened to you today, and explicitly recognize God’s hand in them. He has been loving you every minute of the day, thinking about you, drawing close to you. Thank Him for the little blessings and the big ones. See His gaze of love directed toward you. Ask Him to help guide these few minutes of prayer.

P = Pinpoint Victories and Losses

Taking a kind of “helicopter” view of the activities of the day, examine how you lived them. Where were you selfish in your decisions, attitudes, words, and actions? Where were you virtuous and generous? Also, examine how you responded to the Holy Spirit’s inspirations throughout the day. As you do this, ask for (and accept!) God’s forgiveness for the times you gave in to selfishness or temptation, and thank Him for the graces He gave you to do good and to be faithful to His will.

R = Renew Your Loving Commitment to Christ

Finish by renewing your faith in God and your desire to know Jesus more clearly, to love Jesus more dearly, and to follow Jesus more nearly every single day. If possible, make a specific resolution (proposal of amendment) regarding something you will have to do tomorrow – something you can do to show Christ your love in a concrete way. End with an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and the sign of the cross, or another favorite prayer.

This method is best practiced after one has spent some time using the previous method and getting used to their various faults. I particularly like this method because to begin requires placing yourself in the presence of God, recognizing His love for you, and returning your love back to Him. And, making a resolution in the third step is a sign to God that you really do want to make the effort to grow in virtue and closer to Him. As I mentioned yesterday, this is really what it’s all about – amending your ways and refraining from near occasions of sin in the future.

Tomorrow I will introduce you to the third method of examining your conscience: The Analytical Method.

God bless you all. Be safe and stay healthy. I pray you use some of your newly found free time growing close to God.

(How to Make a Thorough Examination of Conscience – Part 2: The CPR 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.

The Lonesome Lenten Fish Fry Blues

Tags

, , ,

Ever since this Coronavirus pandemic kicked in it seems our world has been turned upside down. Well, at least we’ve experienced out of the ordinary inconveniences. For us Catholics it’s been so disheartening to not be able to attend mass and receive Jesus in the Eucharist. Many parishes have suspended hearing confessions, leaving our souls at risk. Throw in all the Bible studies, retreats, and social gatherings that have been canceled or postponed, and we’re all in a tizzy. But, for some of us, the worst nightmare of all has been missing the Parish Lenten Fish Fries. I know, I feel your pain.

I was rueing over this yesterday and my mouth began to water for that deep-fried flavor of filleted fish. Here in Ohio, folks prefer their fish beer battered, and sometimes there’s more batter than fish. Personally, I prefer a Southern fried corn meal breading. But, I’ll take what I can get. As I was pondering this, the line came to mind, “It really doesn’t matter if it’s corn meal or beer battered”, and I realized I had something around which I could build a future Billboard #1 hit song. Well, maybe I’ll post it at the top of my home bulletin board. Maybe.

But, I know so many of you share my angst about having to sip tomato soup on Fridays. I know you’d rather be at your parish hall loading up on fish and french fries and washing it down with a cold one. And, you miss catching up on all the gossip that you’d be confessing the next afternoon. So, I dedicate this little ditty to all of you fellow fish fry fanatics.

Oh, by the way, I can write lyrics but I have no musical ability. So, I have to steal tunes. This one is loosely fashioned around Jim Croce’s 1974 hit, “Working at the Car Wash Blues”. Maybe some of you baby boomers will remember it. If not, you can Google it.

The Lonesome Lenten Fish Fry Blues – Lyrics by Jerry Robinson

Well, I was all fired up for the Lenten season,
Had my resolutions typed up neat,
Quitin’ ice cream, layin’ off a cold beer,
And on Fridays I’d abstain from meat.
I planned to fast all week so that I could eat
And stuff myself to the point of abuse,
But I don’t smell the grease fryin’, so now I be cryin’
And singin’ the Lonesome Lenten Fish Fry Blues.
Now this COVID nineteen’s got the world in a mess,
Social distancing’s the new way to roll.
Now I’m stuck at the house and I have to confess
My home cookin’ simply got no soul.
My tastebuds are lackin’ and my lips ain’t a smackin’
On that delectable dish that I choose,
It really don’t matter, corn meal or beer batter,
When I got the Lonesome Lenten Fish Fry Blues.
Yeah, it’s sacrifice and penance I still have to live
‘Cause the Lord gave it all up for me,
But this Co-rona-virus, man, it’s sure gonna try us!
When will the CDC set us all free?
And, this self-isolation has turned to frustration,
I hate it ‘cause I have to refuse
From trekkin’ on down to the church hall in town,
Now I got the Lonesome Lenten Fish Fry Blues
Lord, You know I believe, so please send a reprieve
From these Lonesome Lenten Fish Fry Blues!

I love you all! God bless! Enjoy your tomato soup!

(The Lonesome Lenten Fish Fry Blues 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 1: The “Checklist” Method

Tags

, , , , , , ,

In yesterday’s post Spiritual Atrophy and the Need for an Examination of Conscience During Self-Isolation I promised to provide various methods of making a thorough examination of conscience. The first of the three ways I will offer is what I call the “Checklist” method. This, I believe, is the most common form used and the best for anyone who does not regularly make an examination, and for those just beginning.

However, before we look at this method, let’s take a more general look at why we should do an examination of conscience, and what to look for.

An examination’s main purpose is to help us see which actions and/or attitudes we have exhibited that are sinful or less than desirable so that we can make amends. We need to know these so we can stop sinning in a particular way and make changes to get better at obeying God’s Commandments and trying to live lives of virtue.

In making our examination, we particularly want to look at the sin and its gravity, that is, it’s seriousness – is it a mortal sin, a venial sin, or simply an imperfection.

Mortal sins are those sins which deplete our souls of sanctifying grace. Three things are necessary for a sin to be mortal:

  • It has to be serious (grave);
  • One has to have knowledge or a firm belief that the act is seriously wrong prior to committing the act;
  • One must commit the act with full consent of one’s will.

All three of these things must be present for a sin to be considered mortal. Thus, if you did not know the act was of serious nature, or if you did not will it, e.g. you were forced to commit it or it was committed in a dream, then you are not guilty of committing a mortal sin.

All mortal sins committed since one’s last confession must be confessed, both the nature of the sin and how many times it was committed. It’s important to remember that one needs to confess all mortal sins prior to receiving communion as receiving communion while not in a state of grace is itself a mortal sin.

Venial sins are those committed which are not grave in nature or were not committed knowingly such as those committed out of habit. Venial sins are not required to be confessed in the Sacrament of Reconciliation however it is good practice to do so. By bringing these into the light of Christ’s forgiveness, we more easily grow in the virtue of humility. It helps us pay attention to our actions so that we may refrain from sinful habits and, thus, grow in holiness.

Imperfections may include dispositions of one’s soul that are not necessarily sinful but which one would like to amend. It is not necessary to bring these to confession but it is a good idea to be aware of them and the habits from which they originate. These are areas that could become sinful if left unchecked. They could be those little things that weigh on the conscience of someone who is earnestly trying to grow in holiness. Examples of imperfections may include: trying to be controlling instead of seeking God’s will; being content with spiritual mediocrity; failing to defend the Church; failing to spend time in prayer; or taking your spouse or a parent for granted.

As I mentioned above, the most common method of examining one’s conscience is what I dub the “Checklist” method. This entails reading a printed list of questions that are based on the Ten Commandments, the Precepts of the Church, and the Cardinal, Theological, and Capital Virtues; and then reflecting on your actions from God’s perspective, to uncover one’s sinful instances. Below, I am providing links to various websites that offer these checklists, all of which, except for the last one, are printable. Note that they are all a little different. Some may frame a question in such a way that it helps to determine if a sin is mortal or venial. Some may not make the distinction but leave it up to you to decide.

Of course, it doesn’t do much good to do an examination of conscience if you don’t intend to try and amend your ways and refrain from sinning again or avoiding future near occasions of sin. That’s what it’s all about.

Tomorrow I will present a second method of examining one’s conscience: the CPR method.

God bless you all!

Links:

(How to Make a Thorough Examination of Conscience – Part 1: The “Checklist” 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.

Spiritual Atrophy and the Need for an Examination of Conscience During Self-Isolation

Tags

, , , , ,

I pray this finds you physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy on this nth day of your isolation. Hang in there, this storm shall pass. Talking about storms – the thunderstorms that galloped through our area of southwest Ohio the night before last were replaced with beautiful sunshine and cloudless skies today. A sign, perhaps, to not lose hope.

Today’s Gospel is from Jn 8:1-11, the story of the adulterous woman. After Jesus challenged the accusing Pharisees to cast the first stone at the woman only if they themselves were without sin, they all departed without further condemnation. Likewise, Jesus, out of his great and merciful love told the woman, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

In the verse before the Gospel, God speaks through His Prophet Ezekiel, “I swear I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” (Ez 33:11)

Our God is a God of second chances, and third chances, and fourth…. He loves us so much that as long as we earnestly try to turn from our evil ways, from our sinfulness, He will not condemn us. And, to allow us to receive His loving mercy and forgiveness, He has given us the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Although the communal penance services that are normally offered during Lent have, like Mass, fallen casualty to the social distancing precautions of the pandemic, confessions are still being heard on a normal and regular basis in most parishes.

I know many of you are using this time of isolation to grow spiritually in your relationship with God. You’re staying spiritually active by watching live-streamed masses, praying a Rosary daily, and living charitably by reaching out to help others in need. Perhaps you’re focused on fulfilling the obligations of your God-given vocation by getting things done around the house. Maybe you’re the husband who’s been telling your wife, “I’m going to do it, you don’t have to remind me every six months!”

I also know that for many, especially for those who have lost their jobs, or have taken on the responsibility of home schooling their children, life is difficult and frustrating. You may be in desperation mode and the last thing on your mind is your spiritual health.

But, I also suspect there are many who are using this time as a hiatus from their spiritual lives. Although it may not be intentional, their spiritual lives may have waned, or atrophied, simply because they cannot go to mass on Sundays as they have been accustomed. Atrophy is defined as “a gradual decline in effectiveness or vigor due to underuse or neglect”. It is a progressive decline that can happen so slowly we don’t even notice it.

The cure for atrophy is action – that is, to create a force to overcome the inertia of inactivity, sloth, and procrastination. Spiritually, God has given us that cure in the form of actual grace, the gift that helps us conform our lives to His will. It’s the same grace that urges us to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation when we’re in a state of mortal sin and bankrupt of sanctifying grace.

I have been trying to stay spiritually alive during my isolation. But, after reading this morning’s Scripture I see where I’ve unconsciously neglected an important part of my daily prayer life: my nightly examination of conscience. My wife and I have taken this opportunity to do more things together and one of those things is putting together jigsaw puzzles, something we enjoy. We just finished our sixth, one thousand-piece puzzle in the last two weeks. We’ll start one after dinner and, since it takes us about six hours to complete one, we may not get to bed before one o’clock in the morning. By then I’m mentally wasted and too tired to remember to do my examen before turning in. Left unchecked, this can be a slippery slope.

God wants us to turn away from our sin and turn back to Him. The mechanism to begin that about face where we can know our sins, both mortal and venial, is through an examination of conscience. To paraphrase St. Augustine, it means to turn inward and see God as our witness in everything that we do. It means asking ourselves if we are following the Ten Commandments, the Precepts of the Church, and if we are imitating Christ by living lives of virtue. The answers will tell us what we need to work on and what we ought to take with us to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

If you regularly make an examination of conscience, now is not the time to stop. Rather, it’s a good time to double down and concentrate on those personal faults and failings that impact our relationships since, for many, it is our relationships with family and God that are easily strained under the current circumstances of our isolation.

If you do not regularly make an examination of conscience, or if you do but want to be more thorough, I will, over the next few days, provide various methods of making a thorough examination of conscience. Check in tomorrow as I offer what I call the “Checklist” method. Until then, God bless you and stay healthy.

“Loving and merciful God, thank You for the grace to realize that I am a sinner and that I need to always bring into the light those areas where I fall. Thank You for the grace to make an examination of conscience and then, with a contrite heart, bring my sins to You in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And, thank You for Your forgiveness, always giving me another chance to do Your will and follow the lead of Your Beloved Son, Jesus. Amen.”

(Spiritual Atrophy and the Need for an Examination of Conscience During Self-Isolation 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.

Believing Without Signs

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Yesterday was odd: a Sunday forced to be away from church and not be present for mass. In the seven years I’ve been Catholic I’ve missed mass twice. Once because I had the worst “man-cold” in the history of the world, and once on vacation in Arkansas when we were sixty miles from the nearest Catholic church. Other than that, I’ve fulfilled my Sunday obligation no matter where I’ve happened to be. I know most of you are the same and yesterday was difficult for you, too.

My wife and I tuned into a live-streamed mass from St. Peter in Chains Cathedral in Cincinnati. That was odd, too. The only people in the entire cathedral were the Archbishop, a deacon, an altar server, a lector and a cantor. The Archbishop gave a very good homily. I assume it was the Archbishop – it sounded like his voice but the camera was so far away it was impossible to tell for sure. At the moment we would have received Holy Communion had we been there in person, we recited the Prayer of Spiritual Communion.

As much as I desired the grace that comes with receiving the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist in a state of grace, the circumstances with the Coronavirus pandemic weren’t going to allow it. I had to believe that Christ is still with me. I had to believe that the grace I received in receiving Him in the Eucharist the previous Sunday was enough to nourish my soul until I can receive Him again. I thought, “I can do that.”

This morning’s Gospel, Jn 4:43-54, The Second Sign at Cana, helped me to better come to terms with that resolution. Today we read about the royal official, a non-Jew, who traveled a long distance to ask Jesus to cure his dying son. Jesus, knowing that He would not win many hearts in Galilee, harshly replied to the man, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” The man, in humble supplication, responded, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Seeing the man’s faith without the need for a sign, Jesus replied, “You may go; your son will live.” John then tells us, “The man believed what Jesus said to him and left”, and during his two day journey home discovered that the fever had left his son the previous day at the exact time Jesus told him his son would live.

Most of Jesus’ miracles were performed in person and usually involved Him touching the one in need of healing followed by a required action on the receiver’s part. Since the recipient wasn’t present in this miracle, Jesus did neither in extending His healing grace because He sensed the father’s faith.

The Eucharist is the source and summit of our Catholic faith. We believe and take Christ for His word when He said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life” (Jn 6:54). He instructed us to “Do this in memory of Me” (Lk 22:19), which we do every Sunday, and even, if we’re so inclined, every day of the week.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that “The sacraments are perceptible signs (words and actions) accessible to our human nature. By the action of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit they make present efficaciously the grace that they signify.” (CCC 1127). It’s like a husband giving flowers with a sincerely spoken and affectionate “I Love You” to his wife as a sign of his love.

But, the Catechism goes on to say, “Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them.” (CCC 1128).

What does this mean? It means that when you go to mass and receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist, you may not necessarily be receiving all the graces that are possible. Even though the Eucharist is always an infinite amount of grace, just because one goes to the Fount of Living Water doesn’t mean that one always drinks from it. Total refreshment comes only through a strong faith and living a life of prayer. Going back to the analogy of the flowers, the love felt by the wife is a function of the disposition of her heart and is independent of the love expressed by the husband.

So, where does this leave me? I know I cannot receive Jesus in the Eucharist at the present time nor the sacramental grace that goes with it. But, I can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, dispose my heart to loving Jesus more through deepening my faith, a deeper prayer life, living a life of virtue, and showing God more gratitude, thus receiving an increase in sanctifying grace.

How does one do this? Developing a deeper prayer life may mean spending 20 to 30 minutes a day reading daily Scripture and reflecting on it; meditating on the Word of God and asking the Holy Spirit to show you what His will is for you that day; and, then making a resolution to take action and follow His lead and do His will.

It may mean taking time for silence and solitude where you can simply love God more, feeling His presence, and trusting that His love will carry you through the day.

We can deepen our faith by seeing God around us in the people we meet, our family and friends; in the words and help offered by a kind person; by the phone call from someone you care about. We can imitate the virtue of Christ and serve others; call upon our loved ones; seek to serve the vulnerable elderly while they are shut-in.

And, we can pay attention to and give thanks for the circumstances of our lives: take pleasure in the flowers that are starting to bloom in our gardens; the birds who are feeding at the bird feeder; and the beautiful sunrises and sunsets (if there are such things in Ohio in the grayness of March!).

I believe our God is an understanding and loving God. He knows we long to receive Him in the Blessed Sacrament. But, in His infinite Wisdom, He has permitted the current situation. Maybe He’s giving us the opportunity to grow closer to Him, to show our faith without the sign that we cherish so much.

God bless and may the Peace of Christ be with you.

“Oh my Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.”
(Prayer of Spiritual Communion)

(Believing Without Signs 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.

Coping with Sacrifice and Sadness Through a Month of Holy Saturdays

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Earlier this week the bishops in most dioceses in the United States, if not all, decided to suspend all public masses and other sacramental gatherings through Holy Week, including Easter Sunday, as a means to minimize the spread of the Coronavirus. Like most of you, I have had mixed feelings. I know the “social distancing” directions which are currently imposed on us are the right thing to do. But, to be forced to go without receiving our Lord in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a hard pill to swallow. I can accept the trial of staying home Monday through Saturday and missing daily mass. I don’t want to but I can live with it. But, missing Sunday, and especially missing Easter Sunday, the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection, will be difficult.

Priests and bishops around the country have done a marvelous job, in my opinion, of producing podcasts and live streaming videos of their personal masses from their rectory chapels. They are also televising the praying of the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplets and going the extra mile to keep the faithful engaged. But, it’s still not the same.

A young priest, Fr. Jeffrey Starkovich from Lake Charles, Louisiana (and a high school classmate of my daughters), posted on his Facebook page the other day an anecdote, if you will, that helped me wrap my mind around this emptiness. He said:

“Every priest acknowledges a powerful reality when we say the words of our consecration at Holy Mass. We take the bread into our hands and say, ‘This is my Body, which will be given up for you.’ The priest has a unique perspective at that moment. Indeed, he gives up his own body to make the Body of Christ present: celibacy for the Kingdom, obedience to his bishop or superior, and availability to his people night and day, just to name a few.

“Today was hard. I sat in my empty parish church when mass was normally scheduled to be held…but the church was empty. Why? Because, ‘This is my Body, which will be given up for you.’ Now [you] the lay faithful exercise a particular sacrifice in their priesthood of the baptized. You are being asked to sacrifice your body, your physical presence at mass, to protect the Body of Christ at large. Now, you, too, are being asked to make a sacrificial gift.

“When you watch the priest raise the Host from your tablet or cell phone and he says, ‘This is my Body,’ you have something to give up, too. You give up your physical presence in the church. In that moment, you are giving up your body for the Body of Christ. That’s what priests do, too.”

I have tried to keep his words in mind as I’ve tuned in to live streamed masses each day this week. In watching the televised masses, praying and participating in the Liturgy of the Word, reading the scripture passages, and meditating on the homilies, we have everything but the Eucharist, the food that nourishes our souls, the source and summit of our faith. But, as a substitute for the physical communion with our Lord in the Eucharist, we are offered a special prayer by which we can express our love for Jesus and which brings us into “spiritual” communion with Him. The prayer is as follows:

Oh my Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.

Receiving spiritual communion in this way through televised masses has relieved some of my uneasiness. Although, I still feel as a friend mentioned to me today, “This must be what Purgatory is like: you can see the celebration of the mass happening, but you just can’t receive Jesus.”

For a long time, I have faithfully recited a Rosary each day and praying for Mary’s intercession has been most helpful to me in staying close to Jesus. A friend and mentor, Fr. Alessandro Borraccia, posted in a Facebook video some consoling words:

“These are hard times. These are times when we feel like the Apostles who didn’t really know what to think when Jesus was taken from them. Do you remember there was that time on Holy Saturday when Jesus is dead, the Son of God is dead, and the Apostles are confused and angry and their hope is crushed? They don’t know how to respond. They are sad. Jesus is not with them. Where is He?

“You know, maybe we have the same sense of loss now that we can’t participate in the Eucharist. We can not receive our Lord, at least sacramentally. Yes, we can receive Him through this beautiful practice of spiritual communion. Yes, we can see a lot of live streamed masses but we know it’s different.

“So, what did the Apostles do? The Apostles relied on Mary and her faith. Holy Saturday is a time when the Church relies heavily upon the faith of Mary, upon her prayer, because she knows and she keeps everyone together, all her children. We, like the Beloved disciple, have been entrusted to her.

“And, so, these times are the same for us, when we feel the same loss, confusion, anger, sadness. It’s a time for us to rely heavily on the faith of Mary, asking Mary, ‘How did you do it? What was going on in your heart, your sorrowful heart? What can you teach me today in my situation?’

“The Rosary is a great prayer. Maybe just sit in front of an image or a statue of her and have a heart to heart with her: ‘Mary, teach me. I’m living in a very prolonged Holy Saturday. There must be a way to stay intimate with Him, to feel His consolation. Like a good mother, you know how to take care of your children and to soothe their pain, to find words of consolation, and whisper those little words of love.’

“In this time, I encourage all of us to turn back to Mary to ask her to protect us, to teach us how to seek the Lord when He is missing, when the Eucharist, the food for our journey, has been taken away from us. And, so, in this communion we can bring fruit, we can be good disciples, good apostles, and go through all situations of life, strengthened by the faith of Mary our Mother, by the faith of our Church, by the prayer that we, the Church as the Body of Christ, raise up to God together in time of distress. And, so, before we know it, a long time will pass. We don’t know how long. But, resurrection will come and we will be so different, strengthened by the faith of the Church.”

Today’s Scripture also provided some relief. In the first reading, Hos 6:1-6, we hear God, through the prophet Hosea, reprimand the Israelites for practicing ritual sacrifices and burnt offerings but with only a “piety as thin as a morning mist, like a dew that early passes away.” This reminded me that I, first and foremost, need to love and trust in God. I know He wants to give Himself to me in the Eucharist, but, aside from that sacrifice, He wants, above all, a loving relationship with me. Through my spiritual communion and daily prayer I can give Him my heart-felt love without receiving him personally in the Eucharist. I find comfort in that.

Like you, brothers and sisters, I pray this Coronavirus pandemic ends soon. I would like for life to return to normal. But, in the mean time, I will use this time to deepen my faith through study, and grow in my relationships with Christ through prayer and meditation, and with my family. I hope you will, too. Who knows, perhaps it will lead to a new normal that will be better than what we had! That would be nice.

God bless you all. Wash your hands. Stay home. Stay healthy.

“Lord God, thank You for the many blessings in my life. Thank You for the love You give that nourishes my soul. I pray that your absence in the Holy Eucharist will help me to love You more. And, thank You for the situation we currently find ourselves in. I don’t know why it is happening, nor how long it will last. But, I believe that You do and that You will bring about good for those who trust in You. Amen.”

(Coping with Sacrifice and Sadness Through a Month of Holy Saturdays, 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 Greatest Commandments & St. Wulfram of Sens

Tags

, , , , ,

Moses with the Ten Commandments –
Rembrandt, 1659

When I admitted in yesterday’s post, Tradition and Commandments, that I needed to commit to memory the Ten Commandments, I didn’t know that the Gospel reading today would also be about the Commandments. Actually, in today’s Gospel, Mark 12: 28-34, Jesus consolidates the ten into two. He explains to the scribe that the First Commandment is to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’” Jesus follows this up by saying, “The Second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There are no other commandments greater than these”.

I may not have had all ten Commandments memorized but I did know that the first three of the ten were directed at loving God, and the last seven were intended for loving other people in our society, our “neighbors”. I’m pretty sure they are arranged that way on purpose. Unfortunately, we humans often get confused and get it backwards. We let our pride make us think we are God, that we are in control. We love ourselves but forget the “neighbor” part.

I say, “we”, in a general sense. We are all sinful by nature, of course, but some humans, often those who choose to totally ignore the Commandments in the first place, can take this to extremes. The pride that tells them to play “God” also tells them they can control their surroundings and circumstances, including other people, to suit their personal preference or agenda. The most extreme case of this in our society today is our Culture of Death – that is, the widely held belief that we can arbitrarily kill the most vulnerable in society: our unborn, through abortion, and the elderly, through euthanasia. No matter how sinful I might be, it just blows my mind that anyone can stoop so low as to intentionally kill their own children or parents for convenience sake.

During my morning prayer time, I like to read about the Saints of the Day. Today is the feast day of St. Wulfram of Sens. I know, who is St. Wulfram of Sens, you ask? Well, St. Wulfram of Sens was a 7th century Archbishop of Sens, France, who gave up his bishopric to return to a simple priesthood so that he could evangelize the Frisians. Frisia was a small pagan kingdom that is now part of The Netherlands and northern Germany.

The Frisians had a custom of sacrificing their children to their heathen gods by hanging them, or tying them to posts driven into the sea floor where they were left to drown when the tide rolled in. Another custom was to draw lots and see who from the community, possibly a family member, would be sacrificed by hanging or by being chopped to pieces. All in the hope of bringing about some improvement in their lives.

Close your eyes for a moment and picture a scene from both of those practices. If you can, that is. Even to the most insensible, non-psychotic, among us, it almost defies imagination! The first thing that comes to mind is pure horror that begs the question, “How could they do such a thing?”

Well, fast forward thirteen hundred years and our society is still doing it. Except that we’re chopping up our babies both inside and outside the womb, and smothering the elderly by removing their ventilation tubes. To us Christians, like St. Wulfram, it’s still an unimaginable heathen practice born from pride and selfishness by people who desire to be their own god and be damned to anyone who might keep them from it!

Oh, the rest of the story: St. Wulfram, finally did convert the Frisians by praying for a man named Ovon who was being hanged. After two hours of hanging, the spectators left him for dead. But, once they left, Ovon’s rope broke, he fell to the ground, and lived. St. Wulfram’s faith convinced the Frisian king and his subjects that our God was the real God.

Let’s all remember and keep the Great Commandments in the right order: first, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and second, to love our neighbor as ourselves. That God is God and we are not. And, please, let’s all be St. Wulframs and pray for an end to abortion and euthanasia.

“Heavenly Father, I know You love me. I love You because You loved me first. I thank You. You love me even though I am broken and often sin by not following Your Commandments. Lord, have mercy on us all and forgive us when we place ourselves first and relegate You and Your Son, Jesus to second place. Lord, give us the faith of St. Wulfram to pray for conversion from a culture of death to a culture of life and love for our neighbor. Amen.”

(The Greatest Commandments & St. Wulfram of Sens, 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.

Tradition and Commandments

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Icon of The Sermon on the Mount

Like many of you, I’m at home in self-imposed semi-quarantine due to the Coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world. I pray this finds you in good health physically, and not losing your sanity sitting at home.

For the two weeks prior to this week, while I was traveling and spending time with family, I unfortunately let my prayer life lag. Thus, in my semi-isolation this week, I’ve found consolation in returning to my morning routine of prayer, meditation and study.

My inspirations for yesterday came from the daily scripture readings. The first was from the first reading, Dt 4:1, 5-9, which tells us of the beauty and importance of the Commandments. Verse 9 particularly caught my attention: “Be on your guard and be very careful not to forget the things your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your heart as long as you live, but make them known to your children and to your children’s children.”

Isn’t this exactly what the Apostles did when they passed along from Jesus’ teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit?[1] Obvious to all Christians is how they did this through the Sacred Scripture of the Gospels and the letters of the New Testament. We all agree that these works were written by men but inspired by God even though there are some minor inconsistencies between them.

But, what about the first generation of Christians who did not yet have a written New Testament?[2] How was the faith handed down for them? It was handed down by word of mouth and stories from the Apostles and disciples that conveyed what was seen with their own eyes and held in their hearts to their children and others to whom they evangelized. For us Catholics, this is what we call Sacred Apostolic Tradition, and it is the second component of what we refer to as the Deposit of Faith.

Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are bound closely together and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing and move towards the same goal. Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own always, to the close of the age.[3]

Fortunately for us, the Catholic Church, unlike our Protestant cousins’ insistence on Sola Scriptura, does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.[4]

The idea of Apostolic Tradition, even before I ever actually heard it called Apostolic Tradition, made total sense to me. Forty-three years before I became Catholic I was sitting in a history class in the 7th grade at an all boys school in southern England learning about the Protestant and English Reformations. We were lectured about Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, written in 1517, which, for good reason, denounced the Catholic practice of the day of selling indulgences. But, Luther also decreed that salvation could only be achieved by faith alone without regard to good deeds; and, in declaring that the Bible was the only source of divine revelation, effectively threw the baby out with the bathwater when he denied Sacred Tradition. We were especially expected to accept the teaching that King Henry VIII, in 1534, had the authority to defy Tradition and break away from the Catholic Church because he didn’t agree with the Church’s teaching on divorce. And, we learned about John Calvin who, in 1536, also denounced Tradition in favor of Scripture alone; and denied good works as a component of salvation, preaching that man’s destiny was predetermined at birth by God.

In the mind of a 12 year old who had very minimal Christian education, and virtually none about Catholicism, I thought, “How can Protestants simply erase fifteen hundred years of history and start over again?” I could understand their issue with the selling of indulgences, but wiping out tradition to suit their own convenience certainly didn’t seem right. In a way, I knew then that if there was a true Christian faith, it was Catholicism.

As I read that verse from Deuteronomy these memories came back to me and I realized this is one of the reasons why I love being Catholic! Having a faith that is based on both Sacred Scripture and Apostolic Tradition is like being able to trace one’s family tree back two thousand years and not just a few generations. It’s like hearing stories told and retold of things our ancestors personally did and believed and not simply a synopsis of what it was like living in their time.

After reliving this memory, I pulled my attention back to the passage and focused on it’s real intent of urging us to live and obey the laws of God and to hand those down to future generations. As I read on to the Gospel for the day, Mt 5:17-19, Teaching about the Law, I received my second inspiration of the morning. In these passages, Jesus teaches his followers about the importance of living, obeying, and teaching the commandments. In my reflection on the Gospel, I asked Jesus, “What, Lord, are You wanting me to take away from this today? What is Your will for me today and how will it help me grow closer to You?”

In my subsequent meditation, it didn’t take long for me to hear the Holy Spirit begin this conversation:

HS: Are you living My Commandments?

Me: Yes, I’m trying to.

HS: Okay, can you tell me what they are?

Me: Sure! They are: Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain; keep the Sabbath holy; love our parents; um, don’t steal; er, don’t lie; ….okay, You got me, I don’t remember the rest.

HS: Son, don’t you think it would be good for you to memorize these so you can live them?

Me: Yes, Lord. I will do that.

HS: Thank you. I love you.

Me: Thank You. I love You, too!

My resolution for the day was a no-brainer: begin committing the Ten Commandments to heart by writing them down and inserting them at the front of my journal where I can read them daily and be reminded of the basics God is asking of me.

“Heavenly Father, thank You for Your love, generosity and patience with me as I work to grow closer to You. Thank You for Your mercy as I swerve a little trying to keep it between the ditches on Your road to salvation: loving You with all my heart, mind, and soul on the left, and loving my neighbor as I love myself on the right. And, thank you, Lord, for our One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church as the true depository of our faith in You. Amen.”

______________________________________

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Para. 83 (CCC 83)

[2] ibid.

[3] CCC 80

[4] CCC 82

(Tradition and Commandments, 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.

God Returns Our Generosity

Tags

, , , ,

After writing today’s post, Please Pray for Our Priests, I thought I would write something a little less somber and with less gravity. I posted Looking for God Moments on Monday about an experience of grace I received the previous day. Well, the Lord didn’t wait long to bring me to another one of those moments. Let me tell you what happened yesterday.

On Monday night in a meeting with 13 other men, we talked about qualities we need to exhibit to imitate Christ. Two of those were generosity and forgiveness. With respect to forgiveness I mentioned that I easily forgive others and have never held grudges. On the other hand, I feel I struggle with being generous to others in the form of encouragement and affirmation. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, just that I wish I were better at it.

Yesterday morning after reading the Gospel from Mark 3:35 where Jesus says, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother”, and knowing that the will of God is to love him and others, I recollected the discussion from the previous evening. I realized I could love others more effectively by improving my generosity and making others feel valued. My resolution for the day was to look for and take advantage of any opportunities that might arise.

Finishing my prayers, I noticed I had a notification on my FaceBook page saying that it was the birthday of my Tuesday afternoon Holy hour prayer partner. Since I would see her later in the day I saw this as an opportunity for which I had just prayed and resolved to take action. I found a nice blank note card and wrote an encouraging birthday greeting inside. Then later, just before I headed out the door to go to church for my hour of Adoration, I was looking for a book to take and read. I noticed in my book case that I had two copies of Henri J.M. Nouwen’s book, Life of the Beloved. Deciding that I didn’t need two copies, I thought one might make a nice birthday gift for my friend.

As I pulled into the church parking lot my prayer partner was doing the same. With book and card in hand I approached her and gave her my gift. The joy she showed in receiving the gifts bounced straight back to me.

She exclaimed, “How did you know?”

I replied, “Well I saw on FaceBook that it was your birthday.”

She said, “No, I mean how did you know I’ve been wanting to read this book and I planned to go to the bookstore after work tomorrow to get it so I can take it with me on a silent retreat this weekend!”

I replied, “Ha, I didn’t know. I just realized before I left the house that I had two copies on my bookshelf and thought that you might enjoy having one to read.”

Then, as she gave me a quick hug, I looked upwards and thought, “Lord, this is your doing. Thank You for the grace to be more encouraging today and thank You for Your generosity and affirmation for doing the right thing.”

I can’t make this stuff up, folks. God is good and He must chuckle to Himself when He shows His love to us in surprising ways such as this.

“Good and gracious God, thank You once again for Your great love and generosity. You never fail to deliver in surprising ways. You encourage us to keep our eyes, ears and hearts open looking for the God-moments that You bring. Amen.”

(God Returns Our Generosity, 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.

Please Pray for Our Priests

Tags

, , , , , ,

A couple days ago a friend messaged me and asked me to pray for a priest, Fr. “V”, in his diocese who is having doubts about his worthiness to be a priest. Then, today, I read with sadness an article from the Catholic News Agency that a Kansas City, Missouri priest took his own life yesterday (KC Priest Harkins remembered as ‘A good man and a good priest’). The story alludes to the possibility that Fr. Harkins suffered from depression and anxiety which may have led him to suicide.

I don’t suffer from depression or anxiety nor have I ever had thoughts of committing suicide. Unfortunately, however, I have had two friends who succumbed to the pressures of life and took their own lives. I understand that, for someone like me who does not suffer these conditions, it is nearly impossible to know what it is like to be in their shoes. I give thanks to God that I don’t know.

But, there are two things I share with priests about which I do know: a love for our Lord, and the spiritual warfare that we wage against the devil because of our pursuit of holiness. They go hand-in-hand. As the former gets stronger, so the devil works harder against it. Priests, by the virtue of their vocation, are the devil’s prime target. If he can create chaos among the shepherds, the sheep will get lost. Often, the battle waged by the devil can be debilitating and when we feel we have lost that battle, it can lead to depression and anxiety.

A parish priest’s role can be unbelievably difficult and thankless. He is expected to be not only a shepherd of his parishioners but also the parish CEO, finance manager, HR director, activities coordinator, facilities superintendent, IT manager, and wear many more hats. While he’s trying to take care of business the best way he knows, his boss, the bishop or archbishop, often pulls him away to support the overall diocese. Having been a manager in the corporate world, I know how difficult it is to wear all those hats. It’s impossible to please everyone and when you can’t, they default to thinking they can do your job better than you can. Employees don’t always air their discontent, but that’s not always the case with a thousand or more parishioners who have no inhibition about complaining that something is not to their liking. All too often priests get bombarded with suggestions from well meaning parishioners on how to run the parish more effectively; requests to spend money on special interests; threats to withhold their time, treasure and talent if they don’t get their way; innuendos that they aren’t as good as the previous priest; and scathing letters of complaint to the diocese. It can be discouraging and cause a well meaning priest to doubt his ability and choice of vocation.

In many parts of the country we have too few priests to go around. They may have more than one parish. A pastor may have a Parochial Region and have the responsibility for overseeing an Associate Pastor or Parochial Vicar. Add all of the responsibilities of running a small business, and there is little time left to attend to the flock. The priest feels his inability to be there to care for the spiritual needs of the parish and begins to doubt his worthiness. The devil laughs. He doesn’t really care that the sheep are not being fed as long as the shepherd despairs over their hunger.

The responsibilities of overseeing a parish are enormous and the time commitment can be grueling. With masses to be conducted every day of the year, it’s difficult for a priest to take a vacation or get a day off. Even when they do schedule a day off, they often get called in to hospitals for anointing the sick, for conducting funerals, for impromptu confessions, among other things. And, because of the shortage of priests, the luxury of a week’s vacation may only be realized if a substitute priest can be found to offer daily masses to the faithful.

In my work life I knew the feeling of loneliness of being at the top of your organization. You know your employees but you can’t afford, nor have the time, to be close friends with them. Often, employees choose to be detached from their boss because they know they’ve not given their best shot. It’s no different for priests. Parishioners don’t talk to their priests because they think they’re too busy, or because the priest knows what their sins are from the confessional. It can be a lonely profession.

And finally, another thing priests and I have in common is that we are men and we are born with the God-given gift of sexual desire. As husbands, we take a vow of fidelity and chastity to our wives, to use that gift in a loving, self-giving way for the purpose of procreation. Yet, through our concupiscence, which the devil fully exploits, it can often be difficult to harness our natural urges. The devil is a master of taking something good and turning it into an evil under the disguise of goodness.

A priest’s bride is his Church and to Her he takes a vow of chastity. But, just because he’s a priest doesn’t mean he loses his humanness. No, just like us regular men, the innate desire remains in him and has to be controlled. Just like us, priests may have to take cold showers from time to time. And, just like us, we sometimes fail. We feel ashamed and we seek forgiveness through reconciliation. But, it’s not shame, rather the doubting of our faithfulness and love, that the devil desires.

So, why would anyone want to be a priest, you ask, when the road is so rough? Well, he has a secret weapon called “love “- something the devil detests. A priest discerns his vocation because he has an undeniable love for Jesus and a desire to commit his life to Him, along with a strong desire, born from love, to lead others to Christ. In the throes of despair, however, from constantly fighting the mind games that assault him, the power of that love can diminish and may ultimately be depleted. Fortunately, it has a rechargeable battery fueled from our love, yours and mine, through our prayers that provide the supernatural energy needed for the recipient to persevere. Every one of us needs prayers to sustain us but nobody needs our prayers more than our priests, bishops, deacons, religious, and, most of all, our pope.

Won’t you join me in praying every day for our spiritual leaders, those who are at the forefront of spiritual warfare with the Enemy? Let’s be loving, encouraging and grateful for our priests and let them know how much we appreciate them. Let’s offer up our sufferings – those things we do not like, did not choose, cannot change and do not understand – and unite them to the Cross of Christ for the benefit of our friends, and our enemies, but, especially, for our priests and religious.

Please share this post. Priests all across the country and around the world need our prayers, especially in many third world countries where they are being martyred for their faith. Thank you.

“Heavenly Father, may Your love and mercy be with Fr. Harkin, and with all priests like Fr. “V” who, through the wickedness and snares of the devil, are losing hope and abandoning themselves to despair. Pour Your grace upon us, O Lord, by reminding us daily to pray fervently for the Pope, our bishops, priests, deacons and religious, and all those who, through their love for You, are working to grow in holiness. Amen.”

(Please Pray for Our Priests, 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.