Advent — 60 Things to Remember

This year Advent feels like it is one week longer. In the past week I’ve gone to a 50th wedding anniversary, a wedding, and had a great time with my wife’s family for Thanksgiving. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to friends and family at the various events. At the anniversary, my cousin and I talked about prayer and the rosary. We touched on many ideas and I can’t go into detail on all of them in this post (but I will probably bring them up in the future). However, there was one rosary prayer of her’s that I found particularly interesting that seemed relevant to Advent and preparing our souls for the Lord.

Advent wreath, Frist Advent Sunday
Image via Wikipedia

Welcome to the wonderful season of Advent!  My wife and I were so happy about the start of this blessed season that we tore into our closet, took out all our Christmas supplies, and got busy decorating.  I hope that everyone feels energized and excited about the best four weeks of the year.

This year Advent feels like it is one week longer.  In the past week I’ve gone to a 50th wedding anniversary, a wedding, and had a great time with my wife’s family for Thanksgiving.  I’ve spent a lot of time talking to friends and family at the various events.  At the anniversary, my cousin and I talked about prayer and the rosary.  We touched on many ideas and I can’t go into detail on all of them in this post (but I will probably bring them up in the future).  However, there was one rosary prayer of her’s that I found particularly interesting that seemed relevant to Advent and preparing our souls for the Lord.

The prayer is simple.  On each bead of the rosary you remember someone who needs prayers, something you are thankful for, something you are sorry for, or any other situation that you feel needs remembering.  You don’t need to say a long prayer on each bead.  Just saying someone’s name will suffice.  So that is sixty thoughts total (counting the small beads at the start and the crucifix).  The point is to just think about people and situations so that they go to the front of your mind, heart, and hopefully your actions.  I think this helps prevent us from making our prayers too general.  When we say someone’s name, we attach a face and a real soul to our prayers.  It gives our prayers, sacrifices, and offerings a real, human dimension that we sometimes miss when we just pray generally.

What do you think is more effective?  Saying, “Lord please help those in need” or, “Lord, please look over my aunt during her surgery?”  Now, God knows everyone’s needs whether we voice them our not.  But we don’t need to be specific for God’s sake, but for ours.  Suppose you really do have a family member going in for surgery.  Perhaps actually thinking and voicing his/her name will remind you to give that person a phone call or visit in the hospital.  Or maybe you can fast specifically for that person.  In other words, by thinking of specific people you focus your prayers and spiritual energy towards their specific needs.

Sounds easy?  That’s what I thought until I gave it a try.  Sure, the first twenty or thirty beads are simple enough since I can rattle off friends and family members.  However, I found it quite challenging to think of sixty people and circumstances that are in need of prayer.  That is a little disappointing considering the millions of things to be thankful for, people to pray for, and sins to feel genuine remorse for.  So that will be my challenge for this Advent — to say my sixty small prayers after praying the rosary so that I may remember the needs of those for whom I haven’t prayed enough.  In doing so, in making room for others in my prayers, I will also be making room for Jesus when Christmas arrives.

Give this a try and let me know what you think.  Have a great Advent!

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Souls Need Our Prayers More than Once a Year

The Catholic Church celebrated All Souls Day on November 2. On that day we prayed for the souls in Purgatory who are undergoing their final purification before entering Heaven. However, I want to remind everyone that these souls are in constant need of our prayers. Praying for them should not be something we do once a year after we come down from our Halloween sugar high. We should remember the deceased every day throughout the year in all our prayers.

A Procession in the Catacomb of Callistus
Image via Wikipedia

The Catholic Church celebrated All Souls Day on November 2.  On that day we prayed for the souls in Purgatory who are undergoing their final purification before entering Heaven.  However, I want to remind everyone that these souls are in constant need of our prayers.  Praying for them should not be something we do once a year after we come down from our Halloween sugar high.  We should remember the deceased every day throughout the year in all our prayers.

The Church’s tradition is that the souls in Purgatory need our prayers to complete their purification.  They no longer have the ability to pray for themselves so they are completely dependent on God’s mercy and our prayers.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church recommends “almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead” (CCC #1032).

To think of it another way, one day you will be completely dependent on others’ prayers just as the dead are dependent on your prayers today.  So don’t just pray alone for the deceased, but ask other people to pray for souls as well.  As more people pray, the more souls will enter into God’s kingdom for all eternity.  And one day, the people who you teach to remember the deceased in their prayers will be helping you enter into Heaven.

Purgatory must be a crowded place.  Our Lord dictated the following prayer to St. Gertrude the Great to release 1,000 Souls from Purgatory each time it is said.  Imagine how great it would be if we all prayed this every day so that millions of souls could enter into eternal rest?

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.

PS: Sorry for the long delay between postings.  I’m trying to finish up some rosary meditations but I’m having problems finding the right message.

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In the News — Astrophysical Discoveries Point to a Creator

I read this article on the Catholic News Agency today and thought it was worth sharing. Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J, PhD is a philosopher and physicist who says that the more we learn about our universe, the more it points to the idea that it must have a creator.

a few years after the big bang
Image by gari.baldi via Flickr

I read this article on the Catholic News Agency today and thought it was worth sharing.  Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J, PhD is a philosopher and physicist who says that the more we learn about our universe, the more it points to the idea that it must have a creator.

Here is a snippet from the article explaining the theory of of “singularities”:

“Every single Big Bang model shows the existence of what scientists call a ‘singularity,’ and the existence of each singularity demands the existence of an external ‘element’ to the universe,” Fr. Spitzer said.

The priest physicist then proceeded to explain the different, complex versions of the various Bing Bang theories.

He quoted Roger Penrose, the world-famous English mathematician and physicist, who corrected some of the theories of his friend and colleague Stephen Hawkins to conclude that every Big Bang theory, including the one known as Quantum theory, confirms the existence of singularities. Therefore, said Spitzer, the need to find an explanation to the universe’s existence drives us to seek “a force that is previous and independent from the universe.”

Fr. Spitzer also quoted the 2003 experiments by three leading cosmologists, Arvin Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin, who were able to prove that any universe which has, on average, been expanding throughout its history cannot be infinite in the past but must have a past space-time boundary.

“The concept at this point is clear: nothing is nothing, and from nothing, nothing comes, since nothing is… nothing!” Fr. Spitzer said, to explain the fact that contemporary astrophysics demands “something with sufficient power to bring the universe into existence.”

“It sounds like a theological argument, but is really a scientific conclusion.

“There is no way to ignore the fact that it demands the existence of a singularity and therefore of a Creator outside space and time,” he added.

According to Fr. Spitzer, “this theory has become so scientifically solid, that 50% of astrophysicists are “coming out of the closet” an accepting a metaphysical conclusion: the need of a Creator.”

Personally, I’ve always seen it as very logical that something must have existed outside of the universe and created the dense matter that would later become the Big Bang.  Read the full here.

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Medjugorje Message: August 25, 2009

The August 25, 2009 message from our Mother Mary at Medjugorje:

Dear children! Today I call you anew to conversion. Little children, you are not holy enough and you do not radiate holiness to others, therefore pray, pray, pray and work on your personal conversion, so that you may be a sign of God’s love to others. I am with you and am leading you towards eternity, for which every heart must yearn. Thank you for having responded to my call.

Medjugorje Mary Statue

The August 25, 2009 message from our Mother Mary at Medjugorje:

Dear children! Today I call you anew to conversion.  Little children, you are not holy enough and you do not radiate holiness to others, therefore pray, pray, pray and work on your personal conversion, so that you may be a sign of God’s love to others. I am with you and am leading you towards eternity, for which every heart must yearn. Thank you for having responded to my call.

Mary isn’t pulling any punches in this message.  She basically tells all of us that we need to step up our game and become holier.  She even has tough words for those who do try to live a good and holy life of prayer and avoiding sin.  Mary says that it is not good enough to be holy in private, but we must “radiate holiness to others.”  All too often I think we have a tendency to erect a wall between our spiritual lives and our “normal” lives.  Mary challenges us to make our spiritual life our normal life for all to see.

Her message has many connections to the mysteries of the rosary.  She tells us that we must orient ourselves towards eternity which means we must orient ourselves towards God.  This is the message of the Transfiguration that we become oriented towards God whenever we listen to His son and follow Jesus’ teachings.  Mary calls us to go out and spread Jesus’ message by living  holy life.  We do this with the help of the Holy Spirit as seen in the Pentecost.  We are also called to lead a holy life through the Institution of the Eucharist where we act as holy vessels of Jesus Christ by being His hands, legs, and voice in this world.

This message reminds me of a story I heard from Father Corapi.  He talked about one day when St. Francis asked one of his fellow friars to go and preach throughout the village.  They walked around all day in their robes and conversed casually with the townspeople.  They never got up and gave a formal sermon.  At the end of the day the friar asked St. Francis when they were going to preach God’s word.  St. Francis replied that they had been doing that all day.   They were “radiating” holiness by making others aware of God’s presence in the world by the simple act of making themselves, and hence, the Catholic Church, available to others in the community.  It is as true today as it was back in the time of St. Francis that small acts of holiness can go a long way in bringing people closer to God.

So, how will you radiate holiness today?

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Is God One of Your Friends?

I’m taking another break from my usual rosary meditations to talk more about my thoughts on prayer in general.  Why?  For starters, the remaining mysteries are ones that require a bit more thought and personal meditation in order to present them in a meaningful way.  Also, while meditating on the holy rosary is an important part of our prayer life, it is also important to understand our motivations for prayer so that we can get the most out of it.

Have you ever heard of facebook?  That’s fine if you have not and don’t worry, I won’t go into too much detail or pitch its many uses.  It is a social networking web site where you build a community of family and friends.  One of its most-used features is that you can broadcast your status to others in your network.  People use this to express anything from small, mundane details of their lives to announcing important events.  Different status updates include:

  • “I don’t feel like studying right now.”
  • “I’m sick.”
  • “Wish me luck on my big date!”
  • “I just finished my taxes and I can enjoy life again!”
  • “I just came back from the doctor’s office and I’m waiting on my test results.”

What I find most interesting is the ease in which we share every detail of our lives with one another.  We have no problem expressing our joys, disappointments, angers, frustrations, and gratitude to each other whether it is on a social networking web site, the phone, email, or in person.  And the reasons we broadcast are just as diverse as the content of the messages.  Perhaps we need advice on a particular subject or problem.  Maybe we have a big announcement or we are excited about something and we want everyone to know.  But I think we update our status, regardless of the message’s importance, mostly because we want to feel connected to one another.

Unfortunately, we often cut God out of our daily status updates.  While we seem to have no problems informing people about everything we do, we shy away from discussing our hopes, fears, frustrations, and gratitude with God.  Perhaps we figure that since God is omniscient and He already knows everything about us whether we inform Him or not, maybe we don’t feel like bothering Him with our daily problems.  However, the purpose of relating our lives to God is not for His benefit, but for ours.  Just as social networking sites connect us to each other, prayer connects us to God.  And we are not only connected to Him, but His network of saints, angels, and the Church.  That’s one powerful network!

It is so incredibly important to build our relationship with God through earnest prayer.  When we vocalize our worries and frustrations we also open ourselves to His intervention.  How can He help us if we don’t ask for His assistance?  In the Gospels numerous people ask Jesus for healing and forgiveness and He never refused them.  But the healing required them to first make the effort, approach Jesus, and ask Him for help.  As we learn in the Gospel of Matthew 7:7,  “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”  We must make the effort to talk to God through prayer if we are to receive His guidance and graces.

The other important aspect of vocalizing our thoughts through prayer is that we begin to better understand how God will answer us.  God always answers us, but because we do not understand the true nature of our problems we cannot understand His solution.  It is like someone handing you wooden boards, nails, and a hammer and you do not know what you need to build.  When we begin to formulate our concerns in prayer we won’t overlook or dismiss God’s response.  If we pray continuously to God then we are always on the lookout for His response in whatever form it may take.  Similar to my thoughts on prayer as spiritual exercise, when we include God in our network of family and friends and talk to Him constantly, His influence grows in our lives.

Let us learn from the example of Don Camillo — a fictional Italian priest who talks to Jesus Christ regularly as you would to a friend or relative.  Don Camillo is far from perfect.  He has a short temper, steals, and fights with the local, communist party members.  But take note on how he has a very personal relationship with Jesus and allows the Lord to guide him especially when he finds himself in a difficult situation.  If you have never seen the movies or read the books, I highly encourage you to check them out.

Let us go out and really work towards incorporating God more into our lives through prayer.  Let us not be afraid to include our Lord, Jesus Christ into our inner circle of friends and family.

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Rosary Meditation: The Second Luminous Mystery

Miracle at Cana
Image by Loci Lenar via Flickr

Today’s rosary meditation is the second Luminous Mystery — The Miracle at the Wedding at Cana.  At a wedding party, Jesus turned water into wine in His first public miracle.  This started his ministry of healing the sick, giving site to the blind, and mobility to the paralyzed.  There are two main threads that are common to all the Gospels and they are Jesus’ miracles and parables.  Why are Jesus’ miracles so critical to his ministry?  And, if He could perform all these miraculous deeds, why did He not eliminate everyone’s problems and hardships instantly?  Why do we still have sick, blind, and paralyzed people today if it is so easy for the Lord to heal someone?

In order for Jesus’ miracles to have any meaning you must understand the reason behind them.  They are not performed for the sole purpose of making peoples’ lives easier.  We cannot reduce Jesus to a mere genie who will grant us all our wishes.  They are performed in order to increase our faith and open us up to His word.  When Jesus gives sight to the blind He does a lot more than just heal one person.  The miraculous act is a sign of His divinity and power so that many more will come to recognize him as Christ our king and follow His path.  We are like children where His miracles are a way of getting our attention so that we will be more receptive to His message.  The miracles are not only for the one who is healed, but also for those who witness them so that our doubt will be transformed into unquestioning faithfulness.

However, Jesus’ asks a lot of those whom He heals.  They must make a firm commitment to transform their lives, follow Him, live according to His will, and have faith that He will guide them to His heavenly kingdom.  Luke’s Gospel talks of Jesus healing ten leapers.  Of that ten only one came back to thank and praise Him at which point Jesus said that his faith made him well.  The other nine eventually died, as we all do, so their physical healing was only temporary.  But the one who returned to the Lord received more than temporary, physical healing.  He received the gift of faith which is the true purpose of the miracle and more important than any physical healing we receive in this life.  Ask yourself, would you return and thank Him for His wonderful works?  If yes, then ask yourself how many times you have thanked our Lord for the great miracle of a new day?  For the miracle of friends?  For the miracle of family?  Many times we are the nine healed leapers who are given so much and yet we never return to thank the one who provides it all.

Do we pray for miracles for the right reasons?  Do we ask for them in order to grow in our relationship with our Lord or do we ask for them just so that our lives will be made easier?  We must remember that a miracle that only makes our lives easier is worldly and temporary and will eventually fade away and be replaced by different challenges.  Let us remember that God always hears us even when our request for a miracle goes unanswered.  God, in His infinite wisdom, knows that many of our requests only serve to make our present lives easier and would not bring us any closer to Him.  Like a good parent, He knows when to tell us “no.”  Jesus did not come to us to make our lives easier in this world, but rather He came so that we may be with Him for all eternity in our next life.  Let us pray this decade that Jesus’ miracles heal our soul, increase our faith, and lead us closer to His love.

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