Monthly Archives: November 2015

The Joy of the 99

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Shepherd and Sheep (1888) by Camille Pissaro

Shepherd and Sheep (1888) by Camille Pissaro

Being a disciple of Christ means being always for the Other.

The problem is we often do not like the other. The mere thought of putting someone else first repulses us. We think it means we will lose out. Our culture is steeped in the ‘me’ and has promoted for decades that ‘I’ come first. It is a societal belief that we have to look out for ourselves because no one else will. Especially in the United States, where clichés such as “Looking out for number one,” “Pulling yourself up by the bootstraps,” and “ God takes care of those who take care of themselves,” is the power that drives the engine of our culture. We may serve homeless meals to the sick, we may visit seniors in nursing homes, but if we are honest with ourselves, we still view these people as separate from us.

But this is not how disciples of Christ are to be. We are to be one with our brothers and sisters, no matter how annoying or repulsive. This is our calling. I confess, I have often fallen short of this call.

I love the idea of just Jesus and me. I love thinking of myself as the lost sheep in the Gospel (Lk 15:1-7). I imagine our Lord searching through the thorns of my life and scooping me up. There I am safe and secure on His strong shoulders high above those other smelly sheep. I am afraid if He puts me down and looks for another, He will forget about me.

Thanks to one of the treasures of our Catholic faith, the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, I am growing into our Christian calling. In a prayer series based on the exercises called, Lord, Teach Me to Pray, a group of women and myself weekly share about our personal prayer life. Each day we are given Scripture or a mediation to pray alone with God from between 15 to 60 minutes.

Once a week, we gather as a group and share what has happened in our personal prayer life, our daily encounters with Christ. We do not comment on each other’s sharing; we only share what the Holy Spirit is doing in our own life. This dynamic is transforming as it offers the freedom to witness and share faults, sinfulness and weakness in the Light of God’s Love. We discover the joy of the 99 sheep that brings us closer to Christ and to each other as we realize every single one of us is infinitely and personally loved – and every single one of us smells! We discover that though He constantly searches for the lost, He never takes His gaze off of us, His found.

None of this is possible without encountering each other and ourselves in Christ through a daily time devoted to personal prayer. In a culture that loves to separate, it is imperative that we spend each and every day talking with God who desires only to bring us all together as one. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are just one of the many ways our Catholic faith offers encounters with Christ.

I want to share Consuelo’s testimony from this year’s Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Catholic Women’s Conference. I am so encouraged by her story of how she brought her obstacle to ‘being repulsed by the other’ to prayer and discovered in this encounter with Christ, the beauty of the 99.  Here is her story

To learn more about Lord, Teach Me to Prayer, go to lordteachmetopray.com.

To learn more about the variety of ways the Pilgrim Center of Hope answers the call to the New Evangelization by providing encounters with Christ, visit us at pilgrimcenterofhope.org.

Praying to Save Souls

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The Souls - Joža Uprka (1897)

“The Souls” by Joža Uprka (1897), from a series of paintings depicting Czech All Souls Day prayer

“Jesus, I love you, save souls!” My husband, Tom, and I often say this prayer because we love Jesus and because we, too, are concerned for the salvation of souls.

Why should I care about others – whether they know about God? Whether they go to Hell or Heaven?

My answer has two parts: one is based on the two greatest commandments given to us by Jesus:

When a doctor of the law approached Jesus asking him “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”, he said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the fist commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40).

The second part to the answer is knowing Jesus Christ! Once you have encountered Jesus, Son of God, Lord and Savior, you want others to meet Him! You begin to have a desire for others to have the opportunity of receiving healing, peace, and hope.

I remember when I first began my search for God, it wasn’t long after that initial decision that I met Jesus through prayer, and a group of people who took time with me to speak about Him and pray with me. If you can only imagine the immense peace and joy I received when I pictured Jesus before me, extending His hand towards me. Yes, it was the grace of God.

“Grace is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit in our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1999).

This encounter with Christ brought about a desire to learn more about Him, the Scriptures and about the Catholic Church.

“Jesus, I love you, save souls!” It can be your prayer as well.   Do you think your faith isn’t strong enough? Don’t underestimate your prayer!

St. Therese of Lisieux said, “The Creator of the Universe awaits the prayer from a simple soul to save other souls.” So true! Our prayers (short and simple but prayed often) can help other souls. Susan Tassone, author of Prayers, Promises and Devotions for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, writes in her book, “More than 150,000 people die each day worldwide – through natural disasters, accidents, sickness, wars, and sudden deaths. How many die unprepared, not knowing the mercy and love of our Heavenly Father?”

Offer short, simple prayers for others – trusting the Lord will save souls.

The Pilgrim Center of Hope is a Catholic Evangelization Apostolate founded for the purpose to help people encounter Jesus and get connected to the Church through various ministries. Find out more about those opportunities by visiting www.pilgrimcenterofhope.org.