In prayer God searches for us. He wishes to bring about a communion of love with us who he has created and revealed to us in his son, Jesus Christ, his word made flesh. Our prayer is a response to His call. There is only one prayer, and that is the prayer of Christ. It is a prayer that continues in our hearts day and night, and is the fruit of the Holy Spirit living in us.
"if any man is thirsty, let him come to me!
Let him come and drink, who believes in me.
As scripture says, from his breast will flow
fountains of living water". (John.7:38)
So prayer is not something I do but is something that takes place in me. It is the Holy Spirit who prays in me.
"The Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead
lives in you........
When we cannot choose words in order to pray properly,
the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way
that can never be put into words......... (Romans.8)
So prayer is mainly not learning how to do something, but learning what needs to take place so that the Holy Spirit can move freely within us. All methods of prayer are about establishing within us a state of receptivity. That is what our journey in life is all about, it is the purpose and goal for which we have come into being. It is the stream of love passing through us back to the Father.
The journey of prayer requires a change of life, a commitment. Clear out the rubbish of past faults and mistakes of selfishness, learn to begin again. Slow down, be still and listen and allow God to speak.
A faithful priest prepares himself well to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and is mindful that every action he makes carries a deep spiritual meaning. There should be nothing of himself for every action is the action of Christ.
In prayerful recollection he goes to the sacristy and washes his hands and says to himself quietly the ancient prayers as he puts on each item of vesture. He puts on the whole armour of God so that clothes in Christ he is renewed and a new creation of Christ. With firm resolve he asks for blessing and protection before he goes to the Altar of God. For the Mass is a serious business. This preparation is a gathering up of spiritual energy to become nothing so that the wonder of Christ's sacrificial love is more clearly shown through his hands. Hands anointed at Ordination to give and to bless, which are the action of Christ Himself.
It is a serious business but he goes with joy in his heart to the God who renews the joy of his youth. The Mass is not entertainment but an encounter with the living God and certainly not the "Fr Joe show". Sadly when a priest loses a supernatural faith it effects how he says Mass. Caught up in a love of social activities the centre of focus shifts from quiet prayerful encounter with the Lord to distracting gimmicks to entertain people. But the action of the Mass should deepen a persons faith and desire to become holy.
Truly the Church at this time is going through its own "dark night". She is suffering, a suffering willed by Our Lord as a process of purification because of her foolish love affair with secular approval and thus the wholesale abandonment of prayer and a supernatural faith even by some of its Bishops and Priests. We are faced with a situation of a Church that is ineffective in demonstrating the truly transformative power of prayer in the life of the Christian.
Therefore we are called to give prophetic voice amidst the turmoil being lead by the Spirit into a truly authentic encounter with the Lord, in the Scriptures, in the Church and sacraments, in prayer and conduct of life. Waiting in patience and humility before the Lord in this time when all the "little ones" of divine grace are striving to keep safe their baptismal garment. May the Lord give us the strength to hold our lamps burning brightly with joy and expectancy so that the Mass is THE prayer in which we go out of ourselves to meet Him.
In everything Our Lord does He is teaching us something. His truth is without ambiguity and in the clear light of His divinity all error is exposed.
God does not need Lent but we do! So when the Holy Spirit drove Our Lord into the wilderness for forty days to do battle with the Deceiver He was showing us and teaching us the perfection of His Fathers love. In the wilderness the All Good, Perfect, Holy and Innocent one as Holy Trinity confronts the unholy trinity of the world, the flesh and the devil.
Now God has given us all good things to enjoy and these things give us happiness which is appropriate to our human life. Without humility we cannot take wings and fly above our pride. We are called to trust the Lord and ask Him for the strength to resist temptation before it becomes sin. It is not temptation itself that leads to sin but our lukewarm surrender. Do we have a real genuine desire to do only Gods will? The will to do the good is strengthened by forming good habits of virtue.
The devil is an opportunist. He seeks to exploit our weaknesses and tempt us to despair. Watchfulness rooted and grounded in prayer helps to overcome and avoid temptation. If we cease to pray, we cease to watch and the devil knowing this suggests to the tempted soul that it is unworthy to approach God by reason of sin. Sometimes it is a real struggle but we should never despair. By careful self-examination discover your weak spots and concentrate your energy in building the virtue which is lacking or weak.
What are you doing with your life?
Do you give yourself time to ask and ponder that question, for it is a question that one day we must answer. So instead of putting off the moment let us begin to acquire the habit of self reflection so that we deepen our awareness of ourselves and our relationship to the Lord.
All the time we have is NOW. The mental effects and impressions of the past give to our present perceptions a distorted reality for the memory is always playing tricks with us.
Especially when past sins carry with them an emotional attachment. This is how the devil seeks to drag us down into despair. Being aware of this, the true soldier of Christ arms himself in the present moment, especially by keeping a watch over his senses. To avoid anything unhealthy that may pollute the mind and open up an attachment which is a form of demonic oppression.
At the start of each day offer yourself to God and at its end commend your soul into His safe keeping. Tomorrow may be your last day upon this earth and so try to live as if it were.
Be free from Mortal sin by going to Confession immediately. Be clear as to the purpose and reason of whatever you are doing otherwise your energy will not have a positive effect.
Your mind will be clouded and you will not see the way clearly by the light of Christ.
Lord Jesus help me and guide me
To see your love for me.
Keep me strong to do your will,
And protect me from the evil one.
Let me give myself to you in freedom
Trusting in your faithfulness.
Help me to give you everything
So that your glory will shine
Through my weakness
Keeping me safe
In your most Sacred Heart.
The parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-23 provided the Fathers of the Church, and provide us with a Lenten reflection to help us deepen our Faith.
A journey that begins with an honest acknowledgement of sin and ends in reconciliation. In the parable we see three points on the journey: Conversion, Contrition and Reconciliation. God our Father opens his arms to urge us forward despite our frequent turning aside. St John Chrysostom says, "The younger son set out into a distant country, not locally departing from God, who is everywhere, but in his heart. For the sinner flees from God that he may stand afar off". St Augustine sees the distant country into which the sinners departs as forgetfulness of God in turning aside from his loving Father each person, as St Ambrose says, "severs himself from Christ" and "is an exile from his country and a citizen of this world. Fitly then does he waste his patrimony who departs from the Church". Every time our conscience is reawakened a new conversion begins. We come to our senses or as the parable puts it, "he came to himself" (V17). St Augustine says, "he brought back his mind to the inward recesses of his conscience".
From this awakening comes true contrition. As the son in the parable says, "I will go to my father and say, "Father I have sinned against heaven and before you" (V18). In this renewed declaration all pretence and dishonesty is done away. It is only when this happens that a true meeting between father and son can take place. Each time a sinner returns to God as Tertullian says he "receives back his former vesture, that state, I mean which Adam lost by his former vesture "transgression". In the moment of conversion the sinner knows he is reconciled by the Fathers love and that he is part of the mystical body which unites him in faith and love to the family of the Church. He says "I will go to my father" (V18a) that is he "is established in the Church by Faith, where there may yet be a lawful and effectual confession of sins".
Through confession we are restored to the father and receive back what we have lost. In the parable the prodigal son is given a ring and a cloak by his father as a sign of his restoration. Ambrose calls the cloak, the cloak of the Holy Spirit and the ring the seal of faith. Now that the reconciled sinner has received from his father the signs of his pledge to new life, he is taken in to the feast which has been prepared for him. A fatted calf is killed for his return. For St Chrysostom and St Augustine and others the fatted calf refers to Christ himself and is of great importance in the argument from Tradition for the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist. "But the father did not himself sacrifice the gift, but gives it to be sacrificed to others. For the father permitting the son consenting thereto by man was sacrificed to others".
There is great rejoicing (V23) because "the food of the father is our salvation; the joy of the father, the redemption of our sins". This feast is none other than the Eucharist. "Those banquets are now celebrated, the Church being enlarged and extended throughout the whole world. For the calf in our Lords Body and Blood is both offered up to the father, and feeds the whole house".
To share the banquet of the Lord presumes a serious striving after a holy life and it is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation that we are given the grace to do so.
St Ambrose 337-397
St Augustine 354-430
St Chrysostom c349-407
(footnotes available on request)
Confession and Holy Communion go together. If we deepened our awareness of the great gift we receive from Our Lord who gives us His Body, the living bread, we would prepare ourselves. This preparation means that in prayer we examine our conscience in order to be reconciled and at peace with Him who is perfect love. We should then come to the Sacrament of Confession often because as a member of the Body of Christ, the Church, my personal sin affects the whole body. St Paul said to the Corinthians "Let a man examine himself" (2:28). Paul in addressing the Corinthians warns against a superstitious regard for the Eucharist in which some believed that their participation in the Eucharist assured them against any possible forfeit of future salvation and so it did not matter how they lived their lives. They might commit idolatry (10:7) and fornication (v8) they might tempt God (v9) and complain against Him (v10), without fear because they were baptised and received the Eucharist. The punishments of the children of Israel who put God to the test will be their lot if they escape from the continuous and renewed act of faith and obedience that every person must make each time he receives the Body of the Lord. The Eucharist, the Holy Mass, does not save a man but makes possible salvation. The abuse of the Sacraments will bring upon the Corinthians the destruction of Satan (10:10).
Behind 1 Corinthians 11:27 Paul makes an important link again between the divisions of the community as being an abuse of the Eucharist. Eating without discerning the Body of Christ, the living Lord, who is truly present. To realise Christ's presence every person must prepare themselves suitably and approach with the right dispositions (cf.2 Cor 13:5). Of this St John Chrysostom (c349-407) says, "Not discerning the Lords Body, that is not searching, not bearing in mind, as he ought, the greatness of the things before him, not estimating the value of the gift. For if you should come to know who it is before you, and who He is who gives Himself, and to whom, you will need no other argument, but this is enough for you to use all vigilance" (Patrologia Graecia, vol 61,p223)
The Task Before Us (continued)
The person with eyes to see the spiritual warfare. A warfare which shows itself in conflict and division against a supernatural faith does not loose heart. He resists a secular mindset whos diversionary tactics are to find refuge in political ideology or simple avoidance by a negative silence. When faced with the truth delivered to the Saints there are those within the body of the Church who actively seek to recreate a new Church in their own image. The action of the Deceiver is to clothe himself in a semblance of reasonableness. In safeguarding the Traditional Catholic Faith the man of faith does not waste his energy but makes full use of the spiritual weapons given to us which the enemy lacks.
Penance and prayer
Love of the Holy Mass
Practise of the moral virtues
These are the weapons which help us in our daily counter-revolutionary struggle. Indeed, we find a mention of this struggle in Holy Scripture itself. St John, under the dictation of "He that hath the seven spirits of God and the seven stars", that is, under the dictation of Our Lord, addresses himself to the Angel of the Church of Sardis by saying "Esto vigilens et confirma quae moritura errant" which means "Be watchful and strengthen the things that remain, which are ready to die" (Apoc 3:2)
It is our sacred duty to protect "the things that remain", the unbroken cord of Apostolic tradition and faith. For when the Master comes it is necessary that He finds us vigilant. Those that understand God's plan and who seek to comply with it, form, one will agree, "the few" to whom Our Lady of Salette appeals when she says "Fight, children of light, you, the few who can see".
What is the significance of this few, in terms of the supernatural order, and what can one expect of it in our earthly fight? God always gives strength to the few when humanly speaking it all seems lost. Often to a single man For example Moses had only his staff, and his faith, to take the Hebrews out of Egypt. David too, had only his sling and faith to overcome Goliath. Also, at the time of the incarnation, a single family was perfect, the Holy Family, the head of which was St Joseph.
So for us God has given us the weapon of prayer to which must be added penance which gives wings to prayer.
Our Lady has shown herself to us by her solicitude and anxiety in the face of the rise of iniquity so that we would not lose heart. By the prophetic words she gave us at Fatima. She consoles her little ones and fulfils before us the celebrated prophecy contained in the Canticle of Canticles:
"who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array" (Cof .6a)
The Task Before Us.
When we talk of the crisis of the faith in our times, when we desire the true renewal of Christian life we must not put or hope in any outward solution. For the struggle in which we are engaged is a spiritual one against the heresy of Modernism. This system of thought believes that the Church must accommodate itself to the world by changing the essentials of faith given to us by Our Lord in sacred scripture and tradition. It finds refuge in endless changes and projects, always avoiding a truly supernatural faith as witnessed in the lives of the Saints. Of the unknown saints, the good and humble men and women of the past, who lives their lives in humility and hiddenness.
The face of the Church is the face of Christ and it is a thing of beauty. No Church reform that is not faithful to tradition, to a supernatural faith, can draw souls to that beauty. Rather a distoration a rupture takes place. Nothing lasting has or will come from this as we see all around us. The springtime of renewal that was promised decades ago has become the chill winter of discontent. Everywhere the "experts" began making change after change thinking in making a pact with the values of the world it would win respect and be listened to in the marketplace of babel.
The way to go is another: "Thus says the Lord: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls"
The way of the ancient path is that of working every day in the education of souls to live the Mass faithful to holy tradition. To help everyone to understand its sublime beauty, the face of Christ.
Intelligent fervent priests are needed, able in prayer, study and sacrifice to teach, help and support their people to rediscover this divine beauty so that they can strive to be saints passionate for the work of God.
Human games of continuous change are the sign of the bored man, always in search for the latest novelty, always restless, never still, fearing the silence of the Divine gaze.
There is nothing external that can replace our conversion to sincere personal devotion, to an authentic love of Christ. Our conversion, however, worked through grace, will spring from the prayer of the Church which Tradition has given us and which is the prayer of Christ Himself.
People raise every conceivable kind of objection to making their Confession, and give a hundred reasons. I can give you another hundred, but they are completely useless and I can tell you where they come from. They come straight from the devil, the father of lies, who tempts us to think that we are in complete control of our destiny. The sin of our first parents was the sin of pride. All sin is pride and that pride makes us resist the light of the Holy Spirit that searches our inmost conscience. We fear surrendering ourselves, we fear inward changes even though it will give us freedom from the burden of an unexamined life. I can't make anyone go to Confession, I can't make them have a shower, but I know it is a good thing to have a shower and I know it is a good thing to go to Confession. Our Lord wants to make us clean from the odour of sin. For this odour impairs our relationship in knowing Him and loving Him.
All I can do, as any other priest, is to tell you that this Sacrament of the Lords healing and mercy helps us to grow in holiness. Daily examination of conscience will help us prepare to come to this sacrament. There is nothing to fear if you have been away from Confession for a long time for the priest is there to help and guide you. Remember there is no sin that the Saviour cannot forgive if you are truly sorry and make a commitment to a new beginning. It is not the number of sins that matters but knowing our need of the Lords healing and forgiveness that sets us free. And this I know, that every priest on the day of his personal judgement will be asked this question by the Lord: "Did you teach the people this way of forgiveness?".
What is it then, to be a priest? (part 3)
The Mass is the Sacred Action of the whole Church in a particular place and moment in time. It is the offering that Christ has made by his Passion upon the Cross and the fruit of that Sacrifice is that a new relationship between us and the Blessed Trinity has come about in a new Covenant, sealed by the blood of Jesus. This is an eternal offering made once and for all time, the graces of which continue in time and beyond it. It's effects hold out the promise of eternity. That is the intimate union with God which is mans destiny.
The mediation of grace through the Sacraments comes through the hands of the priest, in Persona Christi. On the human level this is an awesome responsibility because the priest is a sinner like everyone else. But the path of his own particular call to holiness is in being faithful to the call to "feed my sheep". His call is to give only what Christ gives. God chooses the weak and makes them strong if they are faithful to Him in love and service. He must preach and teach a supernatural faith so that he can be a signpost to mans eternal destiny. He cannot afford to be trapped in the worldiness of the world for his mission is to draw all souls to Christ.
It is true that he has many things to do each day and he must use that time well for it is given to him on trust. An internal discipline, formed by a life of prayer, will give him the discernment to know how to respond to his peoples needs. But whatever he does there is one fundamental thing that underlines every moment of every day, what St. Francis de Sales declares,
"at every moment of the day I am preparing myself to celebrate Mass".