Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Lord’s Prayer – What It Really Means

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The place where Jesus taught the disciples to pray

Pilgrims at the place where Jesus taught the disciples to pray

Even before the Apostles asked the Lord to teach them to pray, He had revealed to them something important about prayer; to go off to a certain place. We can pray anywhere, and we should pray everywhere and always, however it is important to have a special place and a special time dedicated to being in communion with God. This is how we enter into a personal relationship with God so that we can discover more about who He is and who we are in relationship with Him.

The very first thing we should pray for is Fear of the Lord, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit. In Psalm 111 we are told, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” This is not a cowering fear, but a realization that God who is Almighty has created each one of us personally out of love and it is possible for us to offend Him deeply by choosing to sin.

OUR FATHER

This brings us to the prayer that Jesus himself teaches us to pray. We all pray the Lord’s Prayer everyday, but do we really think about what we are saying? We are to say, “Our Father,” which implies the relationship He wants us to develop with Him as a community. He wants us to approach Him with every need and concern, even as a young child would approach its parent. Jesus wants us to approach his Father even as he himself approaches his Father.

HALLOWED BE THY NAME

And when we do, we say, “…hallowed be thy name.” In this first petition we are praying that all humanity will come to recognize the goodness and the greatness of Almighty God and we should remember the Greatest Commandment, “We must love the Lord Our God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength.” When God is first in our lives we will have a desire to do His will and we will want to give Him praise and glory.

THY KINGDOM COME

It is the will of God that His Kingdom come now. When Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs, he told them to proclaim, “The kingdom of God is at hand” (Lk 10:9). Jesus also said, “whereever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.” Jesus promises that he will be present whereever people believe in him and whereever he is, the kingdom of God is present. When we pray “Thy Kingdom come,” we are praying for our own conversion and the conversion of the whole world because the Kingdom of God is nothing less than that. It is not only about eternal happiness in heaven, but about experiencing the presence of God in our lives right now.

GIVE US THIS DAY…

When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we are asking for God’s providence. We realize we have many needs that only God can satisfy. In another place in Scripture Jesus says, “Do not worry about life, what you will eat or drink or use for clothing” (Mt 6:25). All these things are necessary, but they are secondary to placing our total trust in God. He is the only one who can free us from our worries. Another reality is, he provides for us our daily bread in the Holy Eucharist. He loves us so much that he gives us himself in this Holy Sacrament. The most important thing we can do is to develop a deep faith in the true and real presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. If we truly believe in his presence, he will give us the help and strength we need when we receive him, sometimes in a miraculous way. If we truly believe in the Holy Eucharist, the Holy Mass will be the center of our lives because it is a profound encounter with Christ in Word and Sacrament. And we will want to spend time with Him in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

FORGIVE US OUR SINS

When we pray, “Forgive us our sins,” we admit we have offended God and offended others. Immediately after, we say “…as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We will be forgiven by God as we forgive others. This is not a casual statement. Forgiveness is essential for our own freedom; for our psychological and spiritual development. Unforgiveness is destructive and it is so natural for us. We enjoy holding grudges, which lead to bitterness, resentment and eventually hatred. Unforgiveness ruins lives and causes chaos. Even Peter didn’t grasp the importance of forgiveness when he asked the Lord how often he must forgive. He thought he was being generous when he was willing to forgive seven times. The Lord said seventy times seven as the number of times we should forgive, meaning always. Yes, we should pursue justice — especially if there was a crime committed — but somewhere along the way we must forgive every hurt we experience, even if we have not received justice.  If you can’t forgive someone, say, “Lord you know I can’t forgive this person, and I know that you want me to for my own good. Please give me the grace to do this for you and for me and for the good of the Church.”

LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION

We are asking for the grace to deal with temptation in a right way.  A Scripture commentary mentions there are three levels of temptation. The first level is similar to Christ’s temptation in the desert: we recognize the temptation and immediately dismiss it and avoid sin. The second level is when we begin to entertain the temptation, or when we voluntarily put ourselves in a place or situation that we know may lead to sin. Even though we have not yet given consent, we have compromised our conscience and there is some sinfulness. The third level is when we give consent and this is always sinful. This is why the Sacrament of Reconciliation is so important: not only are our sins forgiven, but we receive grace to help us to recognize and overcome sin. The more often we go to confession, the more aware we are of our weaknesses.

The Lord’s prayer is so important that the Church uses it in every liturgical gathering; every time we come to together to pray. If we pray this prayer from our heart, embracing every aspect it presents, it will help us to deepen our spiritual life.

The only prayer that isn’t answered is the one we give up on. If we persevere, the prayer will either be answered as we hoped, or we will understand it is being answered in a different way. The Lord wants us to persevere in prayer, praying everyday throughout the day for our needs and the needs of others because this prayer helps us to develop a relationship with Him – He who is our Heavenly Father.

If we continue to ask, seek and knock He promises to send the Holy Spirit to us, so that we may have what we need, moment by moment.

5 lessons Mary Magdalen has taught me

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"St. Magdalena" from Albrecht Durer's "Great Crucifixion" c. 1521

“St. Magdalena” from Albrecht Durer’s “Great Crucifixion” c. 1521

Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means. (Luke 8:1-3)

1. Jesus can heal anyone, of anything. You and I can so easily write off people as “lost causes” or look down on them for their ‘status’ in society. But the fact that Mary Magdalen had seven demons driven from her demonstrates that no one is a lost cause; in Scripture, “seven” indicates something has been fulfilled or completed. Mary’s slavery to sin could clearly have gone no further. She’s what we would call a ‘lost cause’ — perhaps she committed all seven of the ‘deadly sins’. Yet even that was nothing to the Lord. So, who am I to question anyone’s worth?

2. Conversion empowers women. This passage names the “many” women who supported Jesus and the Twelve. Each had experienced a transformative conversion; the ultimate ‘beautification’ through their individual encounter with Jesus. Their role — providing the means and support necessary for Jesus and the Twelve — was a radical thing. These women were like the ‘CFOs’ and ‘Chief Benefactors’ of Jesus’ ministry. In other words, they were essential. God had freed them and raised them up. Today, this empowerment continues in the Catholic Church. We women contribute our gifts toward the successful ministry of bishops and clergy. Like Mary Magdalen and the “many others”, our conversion has empowered us to move beyond the slavery of sin, into our ultimate liberation found in Christ.

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” (John 20:11-13)

3. My past is my past. Especially for those of us who’ve struggled with trauma, flashbacks, and trudging through therapy sessions, Mary Magdalen’s story can be a comfort to us. We can assume she was devastated, completely overwhelmed with emotion. She’d witnessed her beloved friend and Teacher experience perhaps the most violent execution dealt by the Roman Empire, watched him die and see his body buried in the ground. Now his tomb was empty? I can only imagine the immense grief, frustration and despair she felt. Yet, when she recognized Jesus and proclaimed the Good News to the Twelve, she undoubtedly recognized that her old self was finally dead — dead and gone. “For we know that our old self was crucified with him […] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:6-7).

But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. (Luke 24:11)

4. God chooses the weak to shame the strong. The woman who had once epitomized sin, Jesus chose as the first witness to his Resurrection. Though she clung to him, Jesus sent her to declare the Good News to the Twelve (cf. John 20). As men do when they’re feeling weak, the Twelve seem to have put up an emotionally-defensive wall. Who was this woman to claim such preposterous things? They did not believe. Yet, Jesus’ appearance to them set the record straight. When I feel unqualified for the task God has entrusted to me, when I would much rather stay and cling to his feet, I have to remember Mary Magdalen. Of her, the Church sings St. Paul’s words, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring [the] good news!”

5. Jesus is the most important person in my life. Mary Magdalen’s faithfulness to Jesus, remaining by his side even as his dead body was laid in the tomb, demonstrates Jesus’ essential role in her life. She is traditionally called ‘Apostle to the Apostles’ because she was first sent to them, to tell them Christ is risen. I can relate to this woman in many ways — as one who was sinful, wounded, and ultimately empowered by faith in Jesus. Her example teaches me that Jesus is always first. I pray that she’ll help me — and you — learn dependence on Jesus above everything else.

A Wake Up Call: What Do I Really Know?

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WashingtonDCCapitol

Every American should visit Washington, D.C. Last week my husband, sons and I visited our nation’s capitol and left with our cynicism overwhelmed by renewed love of country and the spirit of patriotism. At every governmental building we visited, our history and great form of governmental rule — the Democratic Republic — came to life in the quotes on the walls, in the monuments and at every site which witnessed to the spirit of a nation built by many different people for all the people.

I am embarrassed to say that until our tour of the Capitol building I did not know that E Pluribus Unum meant Out of Many…One, nor that it was our country’s motto. It is the title of the film the Capitol tour presents and as we watched I became painfully aware that I had a lot to learn.

The film showed how our Founding Fathers’ sacrifice and vision of a diverse people uniting for the common good gave us the freedom we enjoy today. It spoke of the three branches of government designed to govern equally and, through compromise and common sense, to provide for a society where all people are offered the opportunity to pursue life, liberty and happiness as are our inalienable rights endowed by our Creator.

As we filed out, I heard several people snickering that our congressional representatives should see this movie. I agree, but so should every American. The movie made me realize our form of government is not broken. It works because it is founded on the idea of the dignity of every person and that our rights come from God. What has been lost is the notion of sacrifice, compromise and — most of all — seeking unity and common ground. Most citizens will agree that our congressional representatives have let the protection of their own well-being and views of what they think ‘should be,’ cloud their duty to sacrifice and their responsibility to seek unity among diversity.

After this thought, I realized I could also point a finger at myself. Often I criticize other Catholics because they’re not practicing our faith as I think they should. Do I know all that the Catholic faith professes or have I, too, let my own views cloud my duty as a daughter of God and my responsibility to reflect Truth with love to all?

That afternoon as we rested in the hotel, I took out my Kindle and added to my summer reading list the Constitution and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Just as the Constitution is the ‘rule of law’ of the United States of America, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the ‘rule of law’ of the Catholic faith. “We the People” begins the Constitution and “We Believe” begins the Catechism.

Our Constitution, given to us at great sacrifice by our Founding Fathers, still works— as does the teaching of the Catholic Church, given to us at the ultimate sacrifice by Jesus Christ. Our week in Washington, D.C. taught me that a system founded on the principles of God will always work.

What doesn’t work is when We the People are ignorant of what We Believe.

Memo to Christians: Now is the time. Are you ready?

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It is not for us to decide when we will be most useful to God – it is our responsibility to be ready. Saint Paul says, “Bear your share of hardship along with me like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3).   The Soldier of Christ stays at his post and remains obedient to the present task at hand. And Saint Paul adds,

be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient… (2 Timothy 4:2)

It is not for us to recognize the time of our usefulness, but to just keep showing up.

St-Joan-of-Arc

St. Thérèse of Lisieux, in costume as soldier St. Joan of Arc

Showing up…with a kind word or friendly smile.
Showing up…to lend a hand to someone in need.
Showing up…to listen with the intent of really hearing what that person is communicating.
Showing up…each day in silent prayer with our God.
Showing up…for daily, routine, unglamorous faithfulness in our homes and at our jobs.

As Saint Thérèse of Lisieux shows us, it is in the path of simple, daily, hourly showing up that God uses His people in ways far beyond anything we might imagine. We do not know how God is going to use our most common, seemingly insignificant steps to love Him and bless others. I am certain that St. Therese had no idea that her “little way” – of trusting in Jesus to make her holy and relying on small daily sacrifices, instead of great deeds – would have such a huge impact in guiding others to find holiness in their daily lives.

Satan doesn’t care what we do for God, as long as we do it tomorrow. And one of his most deceptive strategies is to get us focusing on our usefulness in the future so as to distract us from our usefulness in the now.

Whom do we follow? – A reflection for U.S. Catholics

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"Christ Leading the Apostles to Mt. Tabor" by Lorenzo Lotto (1512)

“Christ Leading the Apostles to Mt. Tabor” by Lorenzo Lotto (1512)

When Elisha decided to follow Elija he went back and killed the oxen and burned the plowing equipment that supported his previous occupation. He burned his bridges, so to speak, that he would not be distracted from his new calling.
We are all called to follow Christ without reservation. What is it that we need to burn? What keeps us from being focused on the vocation that Our Lord has called us to through our Baptism?

In Paul’s Letter to the Galatians he says: “For the flesh has desires against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. These are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want.”

Jesus Christ came into the world to show us how to live in relationship with our Heavenly Father. He came not to do his own will, but the will of the One who sent him. Our vocation, our happiness is also realized in our faithfulness to God’s will as He has revealed it through the Church and the Scriptures. We cannot just do what we want; we must be faithful to His plan.

So what is His plan? We must love God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength. There can be nothing more important in our life than our relationship with God, and this relationship depends upon our daily commitment to prayer and faithfulness to the Gospel. If we love God above everything else then we will be able to love our selves and our neighbors, which demands self-denial on our part and a generous use of the gifts God has given us. Because this life of self-denial and generosity does not come natural for us, Our Lord has given us the Church and the Sacraments as the source of grace we need to live a supernatural life – beyond our human tendencies. We can only be faithful to His plan with His help.

If we would have the humility to learn from Biblical history, human history and our personal history, it should be obvious that when we insist on doing things our own way with no regard for the will of God, we end up experiencing personal and social unhappiness, confusion and hopelessness.

Let’s take a look at the world we now live in. Atheism is growing faster than ever before and we have allowed that influence to remove prayer from our public schools and public assemblies and any reference to God or use of Christian symbols is often treated as a criminal act. The most dangerous place on this earth is the mother’s womb because that is where most life is intentionally and legally terminated and there is little mention of the suffering of those who have made the choice to abort a baby.
NYStockExchangeThe entertainment industry, the media, our secular educational system and our government have made an all-out effort to push an agenda to re-define marriage, rejecting God’s own definition of marriage in Holy Scripture.

This country was founded on Christian principles which are now being threatened by our government. We are in the middle of a prayer crusade organized by our Bishops to reverse the dangerous direction in which our nation is headed. We must pray for the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, for the sanctity of marriage as between one man and one woman as defined by God, and for religious freedom from government intervention that violates our rights to fulfill our God-given mission to serve Him and His people.

In the Gospel, Jesus is approached by those who want to follow him, but they have excuses why they cannot follow him “now”. There is no convenient time to follow Jesus; the time for all of us to follow him is “now.” He says: “No one who sets his hands to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” We cannot be Jesus’ followers and look back to living our life according to our own will, by just doing what we want. We must either choose God’s plan or the plan of the world. We cannot have both.

Sunday, June 29th, happened to be the feast of Saints Peter and Paul who both gave their lives to serve God and His Church. Countless men and women through the ages have made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives not only for their own salvation, but for the continuation of the Church. What sacrifices are you willing to make to live in the light of God’s grace and to preserve the integrity of Christianity?

July 4th Independence Day. What we celebrate is more than fireworks and barbeque. We celebrate freedom, a freedom that was built on the expression, “In God We Trust!” If we want to participate in an effort to maintain that freedom in the Christian spirit with which it was established, then we must be willing to pray with great fervor, make personal sacrifices (not to just do what we want, but to do what is right) and we must decide to follow Christ now without any excuses. As Christians we must believe that our happiness can only reach its potential in a faithful relationship with Jesus Christ. Anything else is not freedom, but slavery.

Stars & Stripes and the Cross

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How many of you when hearing the Star-Spangled Banner sung, or sing it with others, get a lump in your throat? Well, I do! I even get teary-eyed; because I think about the many men and women who sacrificed their lives for our country – America. I think of my father who served in the U.S. Army for over 25 years, fought in several wars and almost lost his life – because he was serving our Country. I think about other relatives I never knew, because they died in World War II. And I can’t help but imagine how they all must have felt when they were in the ‘fields’ of war, or what they thought when they were close to facing death. I also think about the many in our country who pray for those serving in the Armed Forces. And for the spouses and families who sacrificed their fathers, mothers, sons, brothers, relatives because they gave their lives for true freedom, for our nation.

Fr. Emil Kapaun

Fr. Emil Kapaun

I recently learned about a Catholic hero —  Father Emil Kapaun, a U.S. Army chaplain who died in a North Korean camp in 1951 and received the Congressional Medal of Honor on April 11, 2013.  His cause for canonization is open, and already several cures may have been due to his intercession.

In a homily Kapaun prepared, while he was still a young parish priest, he wrote that if a crisis ever came, a person who wants to help others should imitate Christ.  And that’s what Father Kapaun did.   He was a parish priest and was called to serve during World War II. A Christian, a priest, a soldier, Father Kapaun offered his life loving and serving others.  He wore the Cross, the sign of Christianity, on his military uniform.  The Cross is the sign of Christ’s death and resurrection, it is a sign of victory and hope!

As we celebrate our Independence Day on July 4th, these words of the Star-Spangled Banner should remind us that our nation was founded with Christian values:

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Yes, the Stars and Stripes fly in our Flag, but I also think of the Cross, and the many heroes who imitated Christ by helping others.

Some people regard the meek man as one who will not put up a fight for anything but will let others run over him …. In fact from human experience we know that to accomplish anything good a person must make an effort; and making an effort is putting up a fight against the obstacles. – Father Emil Kapaun

Read more about Father Kapaun:
The Miracle of Father Kapaun: Priest, Soldier, and Korean War Hero” by Roy Wenzl and Travis Hexing