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Archive for the ‘hope’ Category

March is the month dedicated to St. Joseph. The Carmelite Sisters here have a good article on St. Joseph and HOPE.

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“The Lord has always revealed to mortals the treasures of his wisdom and his spirit, but now that the face of evil bares itself more and more, so does the Lord bare his treasures more.”

~ Sayings of Light and Love #1 (by St. John of the Cross)

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Elijah is the prophet of mercy. Why? Because mercy is a gift and a call. It is a generous gift and a call to conversion. This can be seen in the life of the “father” of prophets. After considering a reign like that of Ahab, who wouldn’t be left downcast and sorrowful in spirit? Dark clouds loom, every light seems extinguished, and voices are silenced – with death on the horizon. What a scene where all seems to be in the control of Satan himself! But God had a plan. In His mercy, He raised up a prophet. Elijah was to be a witness bringing light and power.

God is wise and full of compassion.

“As a father has compassion on his children,

so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.

For he knows how we are formed,

remembers that we are dust.” (Ps 103:13-14)

It is the mercy of God that raises up a prophet in a day of ruin. This He does with Elijah. God seeks out Elijah who is deserting, hiding under a broom tree! But God does not say, “Get up, go back to Jezreel!”

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God is wise and full of compassion. 

The Lord tells Elijah first to rest and sleep. “ “Get up and eat!” He looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again.” (1Kings 19:5-6) It has all been too much for Elijah, and he is crushed and unable to think or act clearly.

God is wise and full of compassion. 

He knows that Elijah is unable to process any correction nor is he able to take in any instruction. First, in order for him to be profitable, he needs to regain his physical and emotional strength.

“After Elijah had learned mercy during his retreat at the Wadi Cherith, he teaches the widow of Zarephath to believe in The Word of God and confirms her faith by his urgent prayer: God brings the widow’s child back to life.” (CCC 2583) The Catechism goes on to explain that it is “in their “one to one” encounters with God, the prophets draw light and strength for their mission. Their prayer is not flight from this unfaithful world, but rather attentiveness to The Word of God. At times their prayer is an argument or a complaint, but it is always an intercession that awaits and prepares for the intervention of the Savior God, the Lord of history.”(CCC 2584)

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According to the visions of St.          Faustina, the Divine Mercy chaplet’s prayers for mercy have a threefold purpose. First, to obtain mercy, then to trust in the mercy of God, and finally to show mercy.

Christians know that they are not called to bring judgment. They know that they are to bring the Good News of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice to others. When faith is weakened people soon abandon the path to conversion because of their many sins. Then they are ladened with the guilt of these sins which slowly devour them. The role of the prophet is to help others to accept their faults and weaknesses while trusting in the mercy and hope that is found on the road towards forgiveness and conversion which leads to Jesus Christ.

To obtain “mercy” means to be given something that we do not deserve. As sinners we clearly do not deserve anything from God. But here is where we insert the prophetic message – God is merciful:

Merciful and gracious is the LORD,

slow to anger, abounding in mercy.

He will not always accuse,

and nurses no lasting anger;

He has not dealt with us as our sins merit,

nor requited us as our wrongs deserve.

For as the heavens tower over the earth,

so his mercy towers over those who fear   

him.” (Psalm 103:8-11)

When we live in, with, through and for Christ, He will supply us with every grace.Then we can show others the way with God’s mercy. Mercy is God’s love, a compassionate love that seeks and meets the needs of others and relieves them of their miseries.The prophet, Elijah, prays for the widow’s son and he is returned back to life for her. “The woman said to Elijah, “Now indeed I know that you are a man of God, and it is truly the word of the LORD that you speak.” (1 Kings 17:24) 

Sadly, prayer among Christians is a neglected exercise and especially at at time when it is needed most. There is a mutual weakness felt among us, and along with this there should be a united utterance of this weakness that would therefore result in a renewal of our collective strength. From a shared, heartfelt prayer we could, no doubt, expect an outpouring of God’s refreshing grace that would revive those who are resting and satisfied with their dead, cold lives.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that, “St. James refers to Elijah in order to encourage us to pray: “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”” (2582) On this Feast of Divine Mercy and inspired by Elijah, the prophet of mercy, let us renew our efforts at prayer entering into that “one to one” encounter with God, and from this draw light, and strength, for our prophetic mission.

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4331084-praying-in-the-dark-with-a-rosary Today’s feast reminds us of the power of the Rosary and the value of prayer. It was established by St. Pius V on the anniversary of the naval victory won by the Christian fleet at Lepanto. Mary’s intercession was invoked through the praying of the Rosary by the faithful. The victory was attributed to her aide. The Rosary is a meditation on the life of Mary and a penetration into the mysteries of Christ. When we pray the Rosary we are following Mary’s example and are associating ourselves closely with the mysteries of salvation: the incarnation, passion and resurrection of Christ, the Son of God. To say the Rosary well requires recollection. Saying the prayers well and meditating on the events from the Gospels will nourish our interior life. The Rosary said well becomes for us a quarter of an hour’s meditation.

Lord, fill our hearts with your love, and as you revealed to us by an angel the coming of your Son as man, so lead us through his suffering and death to the glory of his resurrection, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and  ever.   Amen

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This is a question I would love to ask a group of young people. I don’t think I would be surprised by their responses. That is because I believe that prayer is something quite innate to our human nature more than we realize. I also was thinking about the Catechism of the Catholic Church in that beautiful section on prayer where this very question is asked.

What is prayer?

And who does the Church quote? Of all the saints and doctors over all the many centuries who have passed before us, the Catechism quotes a young person, a young and modern person.

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”  (CCC #2558)

This is St. Therese of Lisieux’s definition of prayer from her autobiography. Therese was a little Carmelite nun in France who died at the age of twenty-four. That is who the Catechism quotes, and fittingly so. This child of God was so filled with the theological gifts that they spill out of her definition. Charity is that “surge of the heart”, Faith is “a simple look turned toward heaven”, and Hope is the “cry of recognition and of love”. These are deeply imbued in us, given to us at baptism and increase within us every time they are exercised.

There is no better way to exercise these virtues, faith, hope and charity, than by praying. Prayer is an exercise of faith. Every time we pray we are saying “I believe”. I believe God is there, is with me, can hear me, and cares for me. Prayer is simple, it has to be, because to complicate it with excessive reasoning destroys it. And it is a look, but not the look done with the physical eye. Faith is, as St. Paul writes to the Hebrews, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1) So the faith-filled person is convicted even though he has not seen.

Prayer is the activity especially intended for making fervent acts of charity. It is during prayer that we lovingly meet with God. Our love for God should be with a pure heart; a heart that loves Him so much that it seeks only after His glory and His will. When our prayer is that of a soul that loves God, we forget ourselves and are ready to sacrifice every wish for Him. Love grows stronger and will continue to grow as we perform all our actions with our whole heart and with all of its capacity for goodwill.

The Christian expands its capacity to love, through prayer. Prayer – contact with God. And what do Christians ask of God?

-for the gift of Himself

-for His grace

-for the gift of the Kingdom

The life of a Christian is and ought to be a continual prayer. Surely, then one can see that this is interior. But, all prayer attracts or leads to an act of love (at least it ought to).

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In the Ascent of Mount Carmel, St. John of the Cross prepares advancing souls for the gift of God. In his treatise on memory, found in the third book of the Ascent, he teaches that there must be a void in order to make a place for God. This void is often referred to as “nakedness of spirit”.
“In each of these books readers must keep in mind the intention we have in writing. Failure to do so will give rise to many doubts about what they read. They may already have them concerning the instructions given for the intellect, or they may experience them on reading what we say about the memory and the will.” 
“Observing how we annihilate the faculties in their operations, it will perhaps seem that we are tearing down rather than building up the way of spiritual exercise. This would be true if our doctrine here were destined merely for beginners who need to prepare themselves by means of these discursive apprehensions.” 
“But we are imparting instructions here for advancing in contemplation to union with God.”

Souls advancing along the way in prayer toward union need to keep in mind that God operates the union. There is only one way to allow Him to do it, that is, to make the void which forces the powers, in this case, the memory, to deny its natural operation. Once there is a void in the memory a place can be given to God and to the supernatural infusion.
St. John instructs souls in a method they will need to apply to the memory in order to leave it empty. It is done by changing its habits. Firstly, its habits are changed by putting a bound to its limits- constraining its power. All this is so that it can be elevated above itself, elevated above all distinct knowledge and above all it possesses in order to place it in Hope.
“To begin with natural knowledge in the memory, I include under this heading all that can be formed from the objects of the five corporeal senses (hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch), and everything like this sensory knowledge that the memory can evoke and fashion, It must strip and empty itself of all this knowledge and these forms and strive to lose the imaginative apprehensions of them. It should do this in such a way that no knowledge or trace of them remains in it; rather it should be bare and clear, as though nothing passed through it, forgetful of all and suspended.” (Ascent of Mount Carmel Book 3, chapter 2)
Keep in mind that for St. John of the Cross the memory is a repository of forms that were received through the fives senses. The soul takes this sensory information, along with the work of the imagination, and is able to synthesize these forms into more and various ways to produce still other forms with which the soul is not directly familiar. Given then the nature of this faculty and its ability to synthesize new material to present to the intellect and will, it is imperative that all principles involved in the negation that St. John proposes need to be applied before union can take place. The reason is clear for this negation. God is Spirit and is contrary to nature. For the soul to be transformed, the memory, as well as the intellect and will, must be stripped of its own natural activity in order to enter into union with God.


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