Thursday, October 20, 2005

We do not know what is right to pray for

Ten years ago today I received the following email. It came at a time when I had hit rock bottom; it moved me immensely, and as a result, I sought out a Catholic priest for the first time in my life.

On this day I share it again to give thanks to God who gave us his son, who gave us so many through the ages who have worked so tirelessly that those in darkness would see a great light.

May God's blessings be upon you.

Subject: We do not know what is right to pray for

Today while praying the Office of Readings, the second taught me a thing or two about the nature of prayer and answered some questions that, I think, all of us have from time to time: Why does it seem that many times our prayers go unanswered? Doesn't God hear us? I thought that the answer supplied by Saint Augustine was inspired and I wanted to share it with all of you.

>From the Office of the Reading for Thursday in the 29th week in
Ordinary Time:

From a letter to Proba by Saint Augustine, bishop

(We do not know what is right to pray for)

You may still want to ask why the Apostle said: We do not know what is right to pray for, because, surely, we can not believe that he or those to whom he wrote did not know the Lords Prayer.

He showed that he himself shared this uncertainty. Did he know what it was right to pray for when he was given a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to bruise him, so that he might not be puffed up by the greatness of what was revealed to him? Three times he asked the Lord to take it away from him, which showed that he did not know what he should ask for in prayer. At last, he heard the Lord's answer, explaining why the prayer of so great a man was not granted, and why it was not expedient for it to be granted: My grace is sufficient for you, for power shines forth more perfectly in weakness.

In the kind of affliction, then, which can bring either good or ill, we do not know what it is right to pray for; yet, because it is difficult, troublesome and against the grain for us, weak as we are, we do what every human would do, we pray that it might be taken away from us. We owe, however, at least this much in our duty to God: if he does not take it away, we must not imagine that we are being forgotten by him but, because of our loving endurance of evil, must await greater blessings in its place. In this way, power shines forth more perfectly in weakness. These words are written to prevent us from having too great an opinion of ourselves if our prayer is granted, when we are impatient in asking for something that it would be better not to receive; and to prevent us from being dejected, and distrustfull of God's mercy towards us, if our prayer is not granted, when we ask for somthing that would bring us greater affliction, or completely ruin us through the corrupting influence of prosperity. In these cases we do not know what it is right to ask for in prayer.

Therefore, if somthing happens that we did not pray for, we must have no doubt that all that what God wants is more expedient than what we wanted ourselves. Our great Mediator gave us an example of this. After he said: Father, if it is possible, let this cup be taken away from me, he immediately added, Yet not what I will, but what you will, Father, so transforming the human will that was his through his taking of human nature. As a consequence, and rightly so, through the obedience of one man the many are made righteous.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Church of Transfiguration

This link is for a web page of pictures of the first stop on our recent trip to the Holy Land (Terra Sancta). Our first stop was Mt Tabor, the Church of the transfiguration.

On the darker side

This sign was on the Church of All Nations, which contains the rock over which Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Sort of sums up the post-Vatican II church, don't you think?

On the lighter side...

Preacher John!

Here's John trying it on for size. Don't you think it looks good?
(Chapel of Moses, Church of the Transfiguration, Mt. Tabor)

And yours truly sitting on the steps outside the home of Caiphas. These are the steps which Jesus would have had to walk after the arrest in the garden.

and with Father Bart de la Torre at the tomb of St. Jerome.

Charity, Social Justice, and Apostolic Consideration

Found these while reviewing a book I took to Israel. It sort of sums a consideration we all need to keep in mind!

God bless,

M. Eugene Boylan, in "This Tremendous Lover", wrote:

Let it be noted that charity does not compel us to like people, but to love them. And love is an act of the will wishing one well. Further what passes for fraternal charity is often not really Christian. Modern civilization is full of a humanitarianism which is not Christian charity, for its motive is not the love of God. It may be a love of man, though it is more often a love of management. Whatever be its motive, unless it be derived from the love of God, it profiteth nothing. It is on this point that many Catholics - even many Catholic religious - make a fatal mistake that renders much of their works for their neighbor sterile and unprofitable; for their motives are human. To them can be applied the warning of our Lord: Amen, I say unto you, they have received their reward. [p. 71]

But the result of popular misconception is that one often forgets that our principal duty to our neighbor is a supernatural one, and that the principal way of satisfying that duty is also a supernatural one. The most destitute man in the world is the man in the state of mortal sin. He cannot rise out of his sin without the help of a grace, which he cannot merit strictly for himself. The greatest work then of fraternal charity is that by which grace is obtained from God for those in moralt sin. And grace is only obtained by a spritual life. The greatest service we can render our neighbor is to santify ourselves. [...] There is no limit to the supernatural service we can render our neighbor by a life of faith, hope, charity, humility and abandonment to the will of God. [p. 227]

Prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem

In Jerusalem is what is known as the Western Wall or the Wailing Wall. It is the foundation of the temple mount, and as such is the closest remaining material thing of the third temple. To the Jews this is the holiest of holy places, as it bears direct connection to the ancient temple worship, which was overthrown by the Romans in 72AD.

We are also aware of the Jewish custom of writing prayers and inserting them in the cracks of the stones. For the Temple was the very dwelling place of God.

Yet we are Christians. As St. Paul said, Do you not know that you are the temple of God? In Ezechiel, God says that I will take away your stony hearts and give you hearts of flesh. The old temple walls are cold stone, like the heart without grace. The temple of the new covenant is a heart renewed by grace, no longer stony, but a heart of flesh. Because it is a heart of flesh, it can also be pierced by the sword of suffering, as Simeon prophesied to our blessed Mother. The Jews carry their intentions to the cracks of the cold stone, we Christians place our intentions into the cracks of our wounded hearts and there in love unite our suffering with our beloved neighbor, as Jesus taught us to do, in a sweet offering to the Father through the Holy Spirit.

Let us lift up our hearts to the Lord, and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Ascension meditation revisited

The Chapel of the Ascension, Jerusalem
contains the rock of the ascension

At this site I briefly shared a meditation on the ascension based on the works of St. Augustine, in particular the Expositions on the Psalms (PSALM LXXXIX, 7-9 ).

Read the rest here

Dominus Flavit - The Order of Preachers

This is a picture of the mosaic on the altar at the church of Dominus Flavit, the place where Jesus wept over Jerusalem. It is obviously inspired by the text of Mt 23:37.

This is just one of many traditional depictions of the maternal protection of the Order of Preachers provided by our Lady. A similar motif, is it not? In St. Louis-Marie de Montfort's book, True Devotion to Mary, he makes the observation that due to the fact that Mary is now united to her Son, devotion to Mary is devotion to the Son. This helps unite these two themes.

God bless,

Dominus Flavit - The Lord wept

How many times am I to forgive my neighbor? Seven times seventy was the response. We must always be prepared to forgive our neighbor, if we wish to be forgiven. The one who plays God is not the one who takes life, no, he plays the devil. To play God is to extend mercy, for God glories in His mercy. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Is there ever a situation where we may not forgive? No, as long as there is repentance, we are obliged to forgive, to act towards our neighbor as God does. This is the work of mercy incumbent on us, to be prepared to forgive from the heart, to rejoice with the angels over the conversion of a sinner.

Is there ever a situation where we can not forgive? This is different. For there is a sin which never can be forgiven, the sin against the Holy Spirit. This is the sin of refusing to repent and ask for mercy. One who does not ask cannot receive. Final impenitence for mortal sin brings one to hell, which is the exercise of God’s justice.

Who among us has not experienced the hurt from one who should love us, even who owes us their love and devotion, such as a child or a spouse? Is this not a shadow of what God receives from us, who in justice owe love to our creator, and gratitude to our redeemer? What parent is not quick to forgive a truly repentant child, and carries a deep hurt when they refuse our love and turn away?

So you see, repentance brings forth a response of mercy, which is the cause of joy in heaven and on earth. In stark contrast, impenitence brings forth justice, whose bitter fruit is sorrow, even the tears of God.

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets
and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I
have gathered together thy children, as the hen doth gather
her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldst not?
[Mt 23:37]

Holy Land trip

Over the next few days, I hope to post some pictures and reflections from the trip to the holy land. Mark Gross, John Keenan, and Fr. Bart de la Torre joined Steve Ray's trip for a delicious buffet of the holy sites. This was Gwen's gift, and it has been received with love.

Deo Gratia