The Pope’s August 2018 Intention — The Treasure of Families

Take a look at the news and ask yourself, do politicians generally support laws that promote or limit family freedoms?  What importance do current laws and legal rulings place on traditional family structures?  Think about rulings trying to redefine marriage, the limiting of rights parents have over how to best raise their kids, and just the overall societal devaluing of marriage’s role in promoting a stable, peaceful, and strong society.

In that light, here is Pope Francis’ intention for August 2018:

Universal – The Treasure of Families

That any far-reaching decisions of economists and politicians may protect the family as one of the treasures of humanity.

I think it’s obvious that governments in general, and individual politicians specifically, are acting increasingly more hostile to the traditional family ideal.  Much of it comes from politicians knowing that people need to be part of a close-knit unit.  But unfortunately for politicians, the original close-knit unit, the family, acts as a political ideological wall.  It acts like a wall because parents can act as a political filter and are usually a much closer role model for their kids.  But if politicians can chip away or tear down that wall, they know that people will seek the guidance from another community, one where the politicians wield more control — the government.

Politicians are human and have human weaknesses.  Many are greedy and seek increases in political power.  When they obtain that power, they want to keep it and grow it.  That endeavor becomes easier when they have more control over the population.  One such lever to increase control is to reduce the influence of a mom and dad.  In other words, as the independence of the family goes down, the influence of the government increases because it fills that decision-making, rule-enforcing vacuum.

Once again, we have the Catholic faith taking the now counter-cultural view of promoting the value of the traditional family.  In a world where there is a separation of church and state or an open hostility towards religion, then where else but the family will people learn and love God?  When Pope Francis asks us to pray for the protection of the family, he does so to our benefit and ultimate happiness.  It’s through the family that parents pass their love of God and the importance of faith to their children.  It’s that love of God and reliance on Him and His grace that people find strength and motivation to not only endure life’s challenges but prosper and find a meaningful peace.

The Rosary Connection

The Fourth Joyful Mystery, The Presentation in the Temple, is a wonderful Rosary mystery to reflect on the value of family.  In this mystery, Mary and Joseph impress the importance and value of living their faith and passing on those traditions to Jesus.  I find it interesting that of all the events in the Gospel, this one made the cut of being worthy of a Rosary mystery.  Our Mother Mary obviously wants us to understand the importance of family and sharing in God’s love with one another.  Following the pope’s intention, let’s remember to pray for politicians, economists, and employers as well in respecting the importance of family.

Remember, the pope is asking us to pray for a group of people (politicians) that are currently skewing in an anti-family direction.  We are essentially praying for a change of hardened hearts.  Pray for the people in power when you pray the Third Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Call to Conversion.  Remember that Jesus’ message wasn’t always well received, especially by the authorities in the Sanhedrin because it challenged their power.  So too, does a free and independent family challenge modern politicians’ power.  After Jesus’ resurrection, the apostles also encountered a lot of hostility establishing the early Christian Church.  Saint Stephen was even martyred on the order of Jewish officials (Saul, later Saint Paul, being one of them).  We too are called to the same mission as the apostles — spreading Jesus’ teachings to everyone, especially the powerful who may be hostile towards them.

Priests are People Too — Pope Francis’ July Intention

I don’t know if you’ve ever encountered this uncomfortable situation when you were young — running into your teacher outside of school at a restaurant, bank, or supermarket.  I was often confused on how I should act because there was a person who was an authority figure in one context but a “regular person” in another.  It was hard seeing my teacher as anyone other than my teacher.

As I  got older, I realized how isolating that must have made teachers feel if their encounters outside of school with students were so awkward.  To many of the people in their lives, they would only be that red pen using, sticker distributing, detention giving teacher.

The same goes for priests.  Growing up, I always viewed priests, not as regular people with hobbies and interests, but as men who spent all their time conducting Mass, teaching, visiting the sick, and praying.  In my mind, they didn’t watch sports, read non-religious books, play musical instruments, or browse the internet.  Nor did they have normal faults that I could relate to like impatience, selfishness, greed, laziness, etc.  Like teachers, my interaction with priests always felt awkward because I couldn’t figure out how I should act around them.  After all, how do you act normally around someone who has heard all your sins in the Sacrament of Confession?

Pope Francis’ July 2018 intention is for priests, who experience fatigue and loneliness in their pastoral work, may find help and comfort in their intimacy with the Lord and in their friendship with their brother priests.  It’s important to understand that priests lead hard lives.  In many instances, they are away from their friends and families and the area where they grew up.  They are always on call for emergencies like administering the Sacrament of Healing to the sick or need to counsel those who are having difficulties in life.  I’m sure that they would appreciate some normalcy in their lives.  It’s not that they want to get away from their vocation, but instead, not have people act awkwardly around them because of their vocation.

The Rosary Connection

Vocation is a central theme of the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary.  In this mystery, God calls Mary to a very specific life.  And that’s what a vocation is — a calling.  Mary responds with a humble yes with an idea that her vocation would be difficult even without full knowledge of what she was accepting.  And so it is for priests who freely enter the priesthood with an understanding that it will be a difficult vocation but probably not fully realizing it until they’ve lived it for years.  The Annunciation should teach us to really discern our vocation and once we say yes to it, to work as hard as we can to make the most of it.  We should be mindful that priests, as learned and experienced as they are, are also discovering new aspects of their vocation and can benefit from the lay faithful’s support.

Moving on to the Fourth Joyful Mystery — the Presentation.  There are many vocations at play in this mystery.  We see Mary and Joseph living their vocation as husband and wife and parents to Jesus.  The presentation shows that they are committed to raising and teaching Jesus their faith.  It’s a model that all parents should imitate — that we are responsible for teaching our children the Catholic Faith.  This means setting a good example and actively practicing our faith.  In keeping with Pope Francis’ July intention, it also means educating our children on religious life and the important role priests play in our spiritual development.  Parents should be open to the idea that their sons may have a calling to the priesthood and help them explore that vocation.

Another important person in the Fourth Joyful Mystery is Saint Simeon.  In the Gospel, all that is really said about him is that he was a righteous man who spent most of his time praying in the temple after the Holy Spirit came to him with a promise.  Doesn’t that sound like the call to the priestly vocation?  Saint Simeon’s life revolved around prayer and he was one of the first to introduce the world to the Chosen One, Jesus Christ.  This parallels the role of priests — introducing the lay faithful to Jesus.  But Saint Simeon’s life must have been difficult; one of solitude and uncertainty.  When you pray this mystery, think of the solitude your parish priest may feel as he works on bringing Jesus to his congregation.

Finally, think of the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery — Jesus carrying His cross.  Jesus was exhausted and close to death as he fell three times and could barely walk.  I think priests must feel the same way at times — exhausted by the years of living their vocation.  We need to be like Veronica; making an effort to comfort and support the priests we know in our lives.  It can be something as simple as inviting a priest you are close to (like the one who married you, baptized your children, etc.) out for coffee or breakfast; something “normal” and relaxing.

What will you do?  Stand on the side like so many people did when Jesus carried His cross?  Or make an effort to let priests in your life know how important they are and that you appreciate their sacrifices?

Make Lent a Time to Practice Patience

Have you ever heard the term, the patience of a saint?  Like many virtues, patience is a hard one to demonstrate as that quality seems to be reserved for the select few.  Lent is a great opportunity to reflect on and practice the virtue of patience.

One of the most obvious ways of practicing patience is sticking to your promise to fast and give up something pleasurable.  I know it can be hard, but keep in mind that you will get back in 40 days whatever you give up during Lent.  You aren’t giving up sweets, alcohol, or Facebook permanently.  You just have to be patient.  Lent is the perfect time to push yourself and say, “I know this is hard but exercising patience in small things will help me be patient in the large things.”

What do I mean by patience in large things?  Look at last Sunday’s Gospel about the leper.  My parish priest gave a great homily about how there are many lepers around us.  They may not have the physical disease of leprosy but we cast them out all the same.  These lepers are the friends and family that we hold grudges against.  They are the poor and helpless that we ignore.  And they are the people who we are short-tempered with and don’t show much patience.  We quickly snap at them because they inconvenience or annoy us.  Maybe we are even impatient with ourselves and are too quick to beat ourselves up over the smallest imperfection.

By showing patience by giving up something small for Lent, we establish a base that we can build up to show patience with others, especially the lepers in our lives.  If we can go 40 days without a particular treat, we show ourselves that we can handle certain challenges and inconveniences in doing God’s Will.  And that shows us that we are capable of pushing ourselves and opening our heats up to what God really wants of us — to love and be patient with each other.  Because ultimately, the purpose of Lent isn’t about giving up treats.  Lent is not some sort of Church mandated diet plan.  It’s about opening ourselves up to what God is asking of us by clearing our hearts and mind of earthly pleasures and showing patience for the Holy Spirit to work through us.  By practicing patience in the small, we can work our way up to the true level of patience God asks us to demonstrate.

Your Rosary Meds

We can turn to the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary and see Saint Simeon‘s demonstration of patience.  He prayed and waited in the temple because God promised him he would see the Chosen One.  It couldn’t have been easy for Saint Simeon waiting and preparing to see the baby Jesus.  Did he have other plans for his life that didn’t include spending much of his time in the temple praying?  Did he ever grow frustrated as the days passed without seeing the Chosen One?  Do we grow impatient when God’s plans for us aren’t immediately obvious?

We can also meditate on Saint Joseph and Mother Mary in the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.  Both of them seemed to have been planning for a normal life together before God upended those plans in the Annunciation.  Joseph even had doubts about God’s plan when he tried to divorce Mary (Matthew 1:19).  But ultimately, he showed patience and great faith by protecting Mary and Jesus even if he didn’t completely understand God’s ways.

Pope Francis gave a great homily on the virtue of patience.  Meditate on his words and think about them throughout Lent.

So often we are impatient: When things don’t go our way, we complain. But, step back for a moment, think about the patience of God the Father, embrace patience, as Jesus did. Patience is a beautiful virtue. Let us ask the Lord for it.

Make Rosary Prayer a High Priority

Many of us, including myself, often think we are too busy to pray. We may understand the value of prayer and enjoy praying and yet we too often find ourselves bogged down in day-to-day responsibilities (and let’s be honest, leisure) that we don’t pray as much as we want or should. I know that my goal of a rosary chaplet and scripture reading every day often goes only partially filled.

Cardinal Beniamino Stella, when addressing seminarians, had this to say about prayer:

One hour each day is necessary, a time for the Lord, to allow oneself to be encountered by Him and to grow in His friendship . . . The time that we dedicate to the Lord in prayer, in meditation, and in a personal encounter, is never lost time.” “On the contrary, the more generous we are with those times offered to God, the more we will be able to go to brothers with a pastor’s heart and as precious instruments of the Father’s tenderness.

And yet, I think many of us do see prayer as lost time. It may not be consciously, but what we put ahead of prayer does reveal the priority we put on it. For example, what was I doing right before writing this article? I was watching clips from The Simpsons on Youtube. And while downtime after a busy day is important, was rewatching a Tree House of Horror episode really more important than Rosary prayer or Bible reading?  If actions speak louder than words, then my actions are saying that I don’t always put a high value on prayer.

Also, note that Cardinal Beniamino Stella is talking specifically about meditative prayer.  Not all of us have time to sit quietly for an hour and meditate. However, there are other ways to integrate prayer into your day.  For example, look at St. Therese’s Little Way as a means of incorporating God and reflecting on your relationship with Him in everything you do:

Catholics would do well to imitate St. Therese’s Little Way if they want to be happy in this life, as well as happy in the next.  That “Little Way” consists of simplicity in life, prayer from the heart to Jesus, total trust in God as our Loving Father (not a stern judge), being a true child of God our Father rather than doing our own thing, seeking God’s will in our everyday activities, doing everything for the love of Jesus with humility, being kind to people we can’t stand, and a sincere desire to be with Jesus forever rather than to be in this world.

Let’s look at the Rosary and what it says about prayer.  Prayer was obviously important to Jesus.  In the First Sorrowful Mystery, Jesus turned to God at His darkest hour to find strength.  What did the disciples do after witnessing Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven?  They went to the temple and praised God (Luke 24:53).  Look at Saint Simeon and Anna in the Fourth Joyful Mystery who spent their time in the temple praying and praising God.  Prayer surrounds Jesus in these Rosary mysteries and hence we need to surround ourselves in prayer if we are to have a deep and meaningful relationship with God.

How the Rosary Teaches Us Humility (Again)

Have you ever thought about all the ways the Catholic Church teaches us the value of humility?  I never really gave it much thought, but there is an intimate connection between faith and humility.  To have faith in the power of God you must first be humble enough to realize that there is a power greater than us.  If you don’t have humility then you wouldn’t acknowledge God’s awesome power.  And if you didn’t have faith or trust in God then you are exercising pride, not humility.

Despite what some may lead you to believe, the Catholic Church is based on faith and humility, not pride and judgment.  We aren’t people thinking we are so great while others are so bad.  We are people who acknowledge our sinful nature and work together to always do better.  Fr. Nnamdi Moneme, in his article on CatholicExchange, does a great job outlining the many ways the Church is built on the value of humility such as:

  1. The nature of the Church — we are humble enough to know that Jesus is the head of the Church.
  2. The Eucharist — we are humble enough to know that the bread and wine are Jesus’ bloody and body.
  3. The ordained priesthood  — we show humility to accept that there are a select few with the power to forgive sins and offer the Eucharist in Jesus’ name.
  4. The Church’s Magisterium — we acknowledge the role of the Pope and other leaders in helping us understand Christ’s teachings.
  5. Confession — we humble ourselves to confess our sins and have faith that God, through the priest, forgives us.
  6. Mary and the saints — we show humility asking others to pray for us and looking to them for guidance and inspiration.
  7. The mission of the Church — we are called to serve God by serving others.
  8. The Church’s liturgy and prayer — the humble soul continues to pray to God even in the absence of visible results.
  9. Suffering — the humble person acknowledges that God has a great plan, even if that means temporary suffering in this life.

I could probably pick any of the 20 mysteries of the Rosary and tell you how it teaches us about the value of humility.  I’ll focus on the Fourth Joyful MysteryThe Presentation in the Temple.  When I first started praying the Rosary, this mystery always confused me because I couldn’t find the lesson I was supposed to draw from it.  Jesus took part in many Jewish rituals throughout his life.  Why was this one important enough to make it into the Rosary?

You need to focus on Saint Simeon in the Fourth Joyful Mystery.  The Holy Spirit promised him that he would see the Chosen One before he died.  And day after day he worshiped in the temple waiting for that day to come.  The pride-filled man would have given up after days, months, or even years of waiting for God to fulfill that promise.  But Saint Simeon showed the humility and patience to allow God’s plan to manifest itself which, as we know, it did when Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the temple.

Let us all be like Saint Simeon and put aside our pride and show sincere humility.  We may not like the particular plan God lays out for us at times.  We may not like the pace of God’s plan.  We may be envious that others seem to have it so much easier.  But being one of Christ’s disciples means being humble enough to let go of what we want and have faith that what God wants for us is infinitely better.

I’ll end with the words of Saint John of Avila who I think sums up how a humble person approaches life’s challenges:

A single “Blessed be God!” when things go wrong is of more value than a thousand acts of thanksgiving when things are to your liking.

Gospel for Janurary 16, 2011 — God’s Plans

St John the Baptist
Image by Lawrence OP via Flickr

The Gospel for January 16, 2011 is from John 1:24-34 and, like the previous week’s Gospel, focuses on Jesus’ baptism.  In John’s Gospel, Jesus’ baptism takes the role of the Fourth Joyful Mystery — The Presentation in the Temple.  John does not write about Jesus’ birth or childhood but starts with His baptism as an adult.  This Gospel shows John the Baptist as the one who presents Jesus to the world through baptism.  John understands and accepts God’s special role for him and this Gospel and rosary mystery calls us to also reflect on how God calls us to live.

A few verses earlier in John’s Gospel, the pharisees ask John the Baptist if he is the Messiah, Elijah, or another prophet.  Each time John responds, “no.”  When pressed on why he baptizes people, John responds, “the reason why I came baptizing with water was that He might be made known to Israel” (John 1:31).  John’s mission, or vocation, is to prepare people for Jesus’ coming.  God’s plan for John wasn’t an easy one as it called for a life of constant prayer, penance, and fasting.  John’s life eventually ended in his arrest and execution.  I’m sure many people saw John the Baptist as some crazy person who wondered the desert.  After all, how many of us would probably roll our eyes if someone came into town yelling, “repent, repent!”  But John knew that preparing people for Jesus’ coming was so important that he dedicated his life to it.  I sometimes wonder if John, and many of the saints, had other plans for themselves earlier in their lives that they abandoned because it was not what God asked of them.  Maybe John wanted to be a banker, a carpenter, or own a vineyard.  But he knew that his passions wouldn’t amount to anything if they did not line up with God’s plans.

Simeon in the Fourth Joyful Mystery is very similar to John the Baptist.  Simeon spent his entire life in the temple in Jerusalem waiting and praying for the Messiah to appear.  Like John, Simeon was probably ridiculed and dismissed as a fool.  And I’m sure Simeon, as a boy, didn’t think that his entire life would be spent in the temple waiting for God to reveal Himself to him.  He probably imagined a “normal” life of living in a small village and working in the fields.  But that was not God’s plan for him.  And like John the Baptist, upon seeing Jesus, Simeon announced how Jesus was “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” (Luke 2:32).  Both John and Simeon served to announce that God was made man and came into this world to lead us into His kingdom of Heaven.

When you read or hear this Gospel or meditate on the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the rosary, ask yourself:

  • Are you living according to God’s plans or your own?
  • Are you looking for how Jesus presents himself to you in your life?  Do you search for Him in routine prayer, fasting, and meditation?
  • Are you patient with God’s plans for you or are you looking for God to give you a “quick fix?”
  • Are you open to God’s plans even if they are difficult or run contrary to how you would like to live?
  • Do you have the strength to live up to God’s plans for you even if they are at odds with accepted societal practices?
  • Are there parts of your life where you live contrary to God’s plan for you?
  • What will you do to align your life more with God’s Will?

Our Lady’s Messages: October 2010

Statue Virgin Mary Medjugorje - Hotel Pansion ...
Image by gnuckx via Flickr

Mary’s message at Medjugorje on October 2, 2010:

Dear children, Today I call you to a humble, my children, humble devotion. Your hearts need to be just. May your crosses be your means in the battle against the sins of the present time. May your weapon be patience and boundless love – a love that knows to wait and which will make you capable of recognizing God’s signs – that your life, by humble love, may show the truth to all those who seek it in the darkness of lies. My children, my apostles, help me to open the paths to my Son. Once again I call you to pray for your shepherds. Alongside them, I will triumph. Thank you.

Mary talks about patience and love in Her message which is a central theme to The Fourth Joyful Mystery of the holy rosary — The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.  We recount the story of Simeon who waited and prayed in the temple his entire life before seeing the Anointed One, the baby Jesus.  Patience is a virtue that is often found lacking in today’s culture of instant gratification.  Whether it be new gadgets, a new home, a promotion at work, or a relationship many of us don’t have the patience to wait and build up something we will appreciate.  We often hear stories how people’s impulsiveness ends in misery when hasty marriages turn rough or they get in way over their head trying to live a lavash lifestyle.

Similarly, we are often impatient with God’s plan for us.  We want God to answer all our prayers instantly to get us out of difficult situations.  When we don’t get that instant response we believe God is not listening or does not care.  But perhaps God does answer our prayers and we just do not see it.  Perhaps we become so fixated on a single solution that we do not see the alternative and better path God provides.  And that is why Mary asks us to be patient so that we will notice the signs God lays before us on how to live in His grace and one day enter His heavenly kingdom.  Remember, Simeon was graced with seeing the Anointed One before his death.  Simeon had faith that God would reveal Himself at the appropriate time.  Mary asks us to show that similar faith and patient love.

Mary’s message at Medjugorje on October 25, 2010:

Dear children! May this time be a time of prayer for you. My call, little children, desires to be for you a call to decide to follow the way of conversion; therefore, pray and seek the intercession of all the saints. May they be for you an example, an incentive and a joy towards eternal life. Thank you for having responded to my call.

Mary asks us to follow the way of conversion which is the message of The Third Luminous Mystery of the rosary — The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Call to Conversion.  Notice how She uses the word “decide.”  Ultimately, it is our choice whether we want to convert our ways to God’s ways and build a meaningful relationship with Him.  Living in God’s grace requires effort and is not something that happens by accident.  No one ever became a saint by accident.  All the saints made a conscious decision to follow God.  Similar to Mary’s first message, deciding to follow God also means showing faith and patience to follow the path He lays before us.  It may not be an easy road or one that we would have chosen ourselves.  But it is the road that ultimately leads to His kingdom.  But no one can walk that road for you.  You have to decide whether you will follow that road wherever it takes you.  Ask yourself, “did you decide to follow God today?”

Ask and it Shall be Given

I discuss how the Gospel of Luke relates to the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the rosary and how persistance makes us spiritually stronger.

Azulejos of Presentation of Jesus in temple, i...
Image via Wikipedia

I discuss how the Gospel of Luke relates to the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the rosary and how persistance makes us spiritually stronger.

Today’s Gospel contained many homilies-worth of themes.  You have Jesus teaching His apostles how to pray in which He gives them the “Our Father.”  Jesus also discusses the idea of persistance when trying to obtain graces from God through a parable of a man trying to get bread from his neighbor.  I find one passage particularly interesting:

I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it to him for friendship’s sake, persistence will make him get up and give his friend all he wants (Luke 11:8).

I tried to think about what rosary mystery applies to this week’s Gospel.  What mystery deals with the idea of persistance and also asking God for direction, strength, and grace?

I can’t think of a better example of persistance than Simeon waiting for the Son of God and finally seeing Jesus at The Presentation in the Temple.  Simeon came to the temple every day hoping to see the Messiah.  And every day he came back unfulfilled until the day he died after seeing the baby Jesus.  Simeon never gave up or lost faith.  Chances are people ridiculed him and labeled him as the crazy man who is waiting to see the Son of God.  But despite never seeing the Lord until his dying day, Simeon lived according to God’s plan for him which ultimately led him to Heaven.

How easy is it for us to lose faith when we think God does not answer our prayers, sacrifices, and good works?  Would anyone have blamed Simeon if he gave up after a few years of disappointment at the temple?  Our human nature wants God to immediately reward us for good actions and punish those who are bad.  We often ask ourselves, “why me?” when confronted with hardship.  However, while we may not know it, God is doing us a favor by not immediately answering our prayers or answering them in unexpected ways.  It is that perceived silence which builds a longing for grace.  That longing leads to persistance and that persistance builds spiritual strength.

If God immediately gave us everything we wanted we would never build up spiritual muscle for life’s obstacles.  We would become so weak spiritually that the slightest difficulty would knock us down and keep us down.  But our perseverance builds strength.  Constantly working to live in a state of grace builds our resistance to evil and sin.  To use a gardening analogy, getting everything we want is like over watering a plant.  The plant does not develop a strong root structure and cannot survive under stressful conditions.  A little stress and some challenges really help us develop strong spiritual roots.

When we pray the Fourth Joyful Mystery may we remember to show the same level of persistance as Simeon.  Remember, God does hear our prayers and answers them accordingly.  In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says that when we ask, God will answer.  It may not be in the way we would like or it may lead us down a difficult road, but God answers our prayers in the way that will ultimately lead us to Heaven.  And at the end of the day, that is all that really matters.

Rosary Meditation — The Fourth Joyful Mystery

This rosary meditation focuses on The Fourth Joyful Mystery — The Presentation of our Lord. In this mystery we see Mary and Joseph present Jesus at the temple as was the Jewish tradition. They encountered a man named Simeon whom the Holy Spirit said would not experience death until he had seen the Anointed One. Upon seeing Jesus, Simeon said “Now Master, You can dismiss Your servant in peace; You have fulfilled Your word” (Luke 2:29). Simeon is an example on how our faith requires patience, endurance, and moral fortitude. While there are times when we may not feel God’s presence in our lives our faith tells us that He is always near and always hears our prayers.

La Présentation de Jésus au Temple
Image via Wikipedia

This rosary meditation focuses on The Fourth Joyful Mystery — The Presentation of our Lord.  In this mystery we see Mary and Joseph present Jesus at the temple as was the Jewish tradition.  They encountered a man named Simeon whom the Holy Spirit said would not experience death until he had seen the Anointed One.  Upon seeing Jesus, Simeon said “Now Master, You can dismiss Your servant in peace; You have fulfilled Your word” (Luke 2:29).  Simeon is an example on how our faith requires patience, endurance, and moral fortitude.  While there are times when we may not feel God’s presence in our lives our faith tells us that He is always near and always hears our prayers.

I sometimes come across postings on the Catholic Answers web forums from people who feel discouraged since they do not feel close to Jesus.  They talk about how they pray, go to Mass, fast, and read the Bible and yet they do not feel the Lord’s grace.  I think we can all look to Simeon as an example that even the most just and pious need to be patient and have faith that the Lord will present Himself in the way that will ultimately lead us to Him.  However, while God desires all of us to be in His heavenly kingdom, the road is a long one fraught with temptation and sin.  But if we can hold on and remain faithful, even when it seems like God does not hear our prayers or notices our good deeds, we will be rewarded with the eternal happiness of Heaven.

Why must our faith be difficult to live at times?  Why don’t we get direct answers to our prayers from a thundering voice in the clouds?  Why must we endure such hardship and struggle?  I think Mother Teresa can help us find an answer.  In her private letters to Rev. Michael Van Der Peet she once said (as reported in this Time article):

Jesus has a very special love for you,” she assured Van der Peet. “[But] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, — Listen and do not hear — the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak … I want you to pray for me — that I let Him have [a] free hand.

Here was a woman who embodied everything great about the Catholic faith and yet at times she felt distant from God’s love.  She, like Simeon, was just and pious and yet she endured periods of time when she felt a great emptiness in her heart. Kolodiejchuk, a senior Missionaries of Charity member, explains that perhaps that emptiness is what drove her to do such great work.  She never felt like her job was done or that God was prematurely rewarding her when there was still so much for her to do.  Perhaps this was God’s way of making sure that pride did not hinder her important work.  Mother Teresa still continued to do the Lord’s work and even put up a good face to others (the statements about her spiritual difficulties were not known until after her death).  And, like Simeon, her patience paid off as she is now closer to Jesus than any of us ever can be in this world.

When we meditate on the Fourth Joyful Mystery let us remember Simeon and how his faith and patience was ultimately rewarded.  We must pray for those who have fallen on the long and difficult road of faith that they get back up and have the strength to live as Jesus calls them.  Remember, God has a plan for each of us and that plan will ultimately lead us to His heavenly kingdom.  We just need to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, especially in those times when it feels like God is the most distant from us.  It is those times of great hardship when Jesus presents Himself to us although it may not be in the way we expect or we may not be listening.  Remember in your prayers to not only speak to the Lord, but also allow Him to respond for He will show you the way to Him.