Fr. Keyes first time at St. Eugene as Deacon
Ian Parelius first time as Thurifer
Fr. Roa's first time as Priest in a Solemn Mass
Fr. Keyes first time at St. Eugene as Deacon
Ian Parelius first time as Thurifer
Great article. Click here
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, we hear a whisper of a future conflict. Straight from the waters of His baptism in the Jordan, hearing the words, “This is my beloved,” Jesus is immediately thrust into the desert.
We see a hint of the future here. The reign of God will be opposed, as is evidenced by the “handing over” of John. Soon Jesus will begin speaking about His own "handing over," but the disciples never seem to want to listen to that. They are not aware, or they forget, that this conflict is the prelude to the whole contest. All too soon, Jesus himself will targeted for this "handing over."
Jesus had to be prepared for this contest, so the "Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him."
The wilderness is reputed to be the home of darkness and disorder, and wild beasts are symbols of the foreign, the alien and the strange; thus, it is in the very home of evil that evil is overcome! It is not by being taken away from evil that evil is conquered. It is mastered in the midst of the disorder and the darkness, and the very strange bestial forms become symbols of the new age. In the Messianic new age, these evil, bestial forces will have no power. The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. [i]
Jesus enters into Galilee with great confidence, not beaten down by the desert experience, but strong and direct in his proclamation of the Gospel. The saints and ascetics want us to rise from our deserts with the same confidence. Temptation will not defeat us if we depend with ever growing confidence on the Redeemer.
We profess to be followers of Christ. We profess to be in Him; to be the elect. Experience has taught us, as it taught the early disciples, that we will be faced with disappointments, disagreements and even defeat. We enter into spring by proclaiming that there will be an end to this winter of defeat, just as there was an end to Jesus' forty days in the desert. The temptations and the tests will pass. We can expect no more than Jesus received. We know that as followers of Christ, at the bare minimum, we will be handed over to the court of public opinion.
But we enter into this struggle nonetheless, because we are in Jesus. And it is time to face the choice again: to whom does our life belong? Will we be victim of every defeat and disappointment or will our lives be a sign of new birth into this Christ who is victorious over every test, even death itself. (“… the covenant that is between God and us and every living creature....; and the waters shall never again become a [sign of a] flood to destroy all flesh."[ii]
We do not like to be in trouble. The desert is a lonely place. We despise difficulties, and we abhor struggle and hardship. There has to be some medicine for this headache. There needs to be found some escape. Cannot there be an easier way than this? We fill our lives with so much activity, noise, entertainment, possessions, anything to avoid the pains and the difficulties of life. Everything is designed to give us relief and to make our lives easier. (How do you spell relief?)
Love is not easy (and easy love never endures). To truly love, one must give of oneself, letting go of demands, judgments, opinions and expectations. We struggle to do this, but this is precisely who Jesus is and what Jesus does.
We do not imagine a God who struggles. The Arians and Nestorians of old could not imagine a God who dies, so of course, they believed such a one could not be God. We find it difficult to be with Jesus when He is in trouble, but He struggles to find a way in to our hearts, and our distance from Him troubles Him.
He faces the struggle directly. He does not shrink away. He shows us the tools He used to stand against the winds and shadows of this world. In the face of evil, He holds up the word of God. This is not just a collection of words or a quoting of scripture in the wind, but an immersion in the truth that there is more to life than bread, and that serving God benefits us with His grace. The Word of God here is the expression of a living, direct, tangible, personal, human, intimate relationship with God.
It is therefore the time to be handed over to the struggle. Jesus had to be prepared for this contest, so why do we think we can or should avoid it? He calls us to the desert to face our struggles directly; emboldened by His confidence, armed with His word and strengthened and nourished by His body and blood. Head into the desert! There may be darkness and little felt consolation but know that the angels are ministering to you as well.
As a priest, I hear lots of confessions. One of the sins that is increasingly confessed is an addiction to pornography and self-abuse. In this sex-obsessed society, many are caught in this as it is so readily available and there is so much opportunity. Once hooked, there seems little possibility that the addiction might be overcome. When tired or lonely, there seems to be an overwhelming urge or trigger that says the person deserves to feel better or to be cared for. There is no felt need to be in struggle here. The draw is so powerful that soon, the individual is acting out, but then feels ashamed and worthless, but since confession is a few days away, there is no preventive to keep him/her from acting out multiple times, digging the hole of shame ever deeper.
Ancient ascetics and monks, when treating this illness, say that the malady needs a physical remedy as well as access to the spiritual armaments. The body must be involved in the repentance. This is where Adoration or the Rosary come in. In Adoration, you place your body in reverence before the Divine Presence and with the Rosary you are praying by hand.
Adoration is the direct opposite of pornography. In pornography, you are dealing with real people who have become objects. As objects, you are using them for your own gratification and it is impossible to do otherwise. You are prevented by the circumstance from having any relationship with them. Adoration is the opposite. The Host appears as an object but it is a real person, and you are not prevented from being in a relationship. It is not immediate gratification but calls for faith from the individual. It is a struggle of faith that enables one to experience from the Eucharist a care and love that is eternal. The struggle of faith is essential.
Life is meant to be a struggle. It is time for you to be handed over to this battle. It is more than a struggle. We are at war. The demons and the angels surround you much like the wild beasts surrounded Jesus in the desert and the angels ministered to him. If we go on in our life as if our principle goals are consolation, blessings, success, prestige, honor, possession, rest, relaxation, and our own sense of right and justice, we will fall asleep to the struggle and continue to acquiesce to each and every temptation.
We are not greater than our Master. He indeed is our Savior, so we must go where He goes, and do what He does, for He taught us how to conquer sin and gave us the means to do so. So, go to Confession regularly, and enter willingly and joyfully into the desert struggle. Life is meant to be a struggle.
[i] Isaiah 11:6
The Rosary is a familiar form of prayer for many Catholics, but it is also a greatly misunderstood prayer as well. Many Non-Catholics believe it is an exercise in mindless repetition or idolatry of Mary. Many Catholics believe that rosary will gain us extra favors or that it can be used as jewelry.
The heart of the Rosary is a living relationship with the Lord Jesus and a desire to spend time in his company immersing oneself in the mysteries of his life, death and resurrection. Meditating on these mysteries enables us to remember and to live the heart of the gospel. Knowing these fifteen to twenty stories, not only with our minds, but with our hearts enables us to walk with Jesus, to pray with him, and to do his will.
The Rosary is essentially a prayer, contemplative prayer. All the emotions of wonder, awe and reverence go with this prayer. All the aims of the ancient practice of Lectio Divina are relevant here. Meditating on the mysteries enables one to “read” the life of Jesus each day. More than reading, meditating on the mysteries in this manner enables one to “chew” the words, to taste them in much the same way as Ezekiel took the scroll on which the Word of God was written and ate it.(1) The use of imagination helps us to enter the story, to hear the voices and to feel the emotions. As the Angel greets Mary in the Annunciation we feel her wonder and doubt. Imagine, the creator of the world being given to you to hold and to care for. Imagine yourself saying “be it done to me according to your word.” Immersing ourselves in the mystery of the Visitation allows us to join in the chorus of “blessed is the fruit of your womb” and to celebrate that “nothing will be impossible for God.”(2)
The praying of the rosary is not about the repetition of many prayers, but a time piece to mark the moment of prayer. Spending time with one another is exactly how a relationship grows and we are drawn into a communion with one another. The prayers we use to mark this prayer experience are fundamentally conversations with the Word of God drawn from the Scripture. The first part of the “Hail Mary” is two passages from the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel. The second part of the “Hail Mary” is the prayer of the church in response. So too, in the rosary we add our own voice, listening to the Word of God and responding from our heart.
The Rosary is an incarnational prayer. The Word was made flesh. In this prayer we use not just mind and heart, but voice and hands as well. In the rosary we are impelled to offer our “bodies as a living sacrifice.”(3) Many of us carry the rosary in our pockets or purses as a reminder, as a tool to carry the prayer with us throughout the day. In this way we follow the command to “pray without ceasing.”(4)
It is through Mary that the Word was made flesh and so in this prayer we also honor the mother of God. She is the one who believed.(5) She is the one who pondered all these things in her heart.(6) She is the one who stood faithfully at the foot of the cross.(7) She is the one given to us to take into our home.(8) For people who remember the saints devotion to Mary, the Rosary is an important prayer. It is a tool by which we imitate the saints who accomplished everything by prayer, we pray with Mary to whom they were so devoted, and we accompany one another in the bond of communion which they so wonderfully witnessed. Without the correct understanding of Jesus and Mary, without the knowledge of the scripture and the mysteries of the Life of Jesus, the Rosary would be incomprehensible. But with all these things, the Rosary enables us to enter more completely into that intimate communion Jesus established in his own blood.
(4)1 Thess 5:17, see also Luke 18:1
Of what avail will human praises be
if after death the Lord will censure thee?
Reasons to be humble:
To safely reach your final goal.
To acquire lasting peace of heart.
To acquire peace and consolation.
Temporal effects of true humility:
Your soul will wear all virtues.
Your heart feels neither grief nor bitterness.
Offense and scorn are soothing to your soul.
You are able to bear with others’ faults and with his own.
Eternal benefits of humility:
The Lord will impart eternal glory to the humble.
Bear mockery and contempt with humility, and you will find a rich and priceless treasure.
To hate our sins in true humility will win God’s love for all eternity.
God always delights in true humility.
Effects of pride:
Without humility all earth is nothing but glittering vanity.
You who are proud are hiding your utter nothingness from yourself.
I am a worm, born of ashes and dust, and yet so proud that I trust in my own strength.
To ridicule or disdain your neighbor is a sign of vanity.
How will human praises help you if after death the Lord censures you?
How to become humble:
Be quick to forgive offenses.
First call God to mind, then behold yourself.
Do not be attached to the views of your own mind.
Abstain from self-complacency.
Subject your will to others cheerfully.
Esteem your fellow man and disdain yourself.
Bear correction due your errors in peace and patience.
Acquire trust in God, not yourself.
How to avoid pride and bear wrongs and humiliation:
Consider well your utter wretchedness.
Remember you are but of lowly station.
Remember that you are made of worthless dust and ashes.
Remember that all gifts you have been given are favors flowing from God’s hand.
Recall that it is God who sends us gifts of every kind.
Behold the dismal grave awaiting you.
When you fail in your work, remain calm and humble; God is still in control.
An important part of any prayer is the act of listening. Certainly when we come to God we ask for what we need and we praise God for his goodness. But we must also come with an openness seeking to listen to his will and to his way. Worship means that we listen to the Master’s voice and respond. The Holy Scriptures in our own day call us to listen to the voice of Jesus’ Blood which speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.
The scriptures speak of the Good Shepherd who brings out his flock and goes before them. They follow him because they know his voice. (John 10:1-10) If many of us do not live on farms this image may not speak to us, but if we have ever had a family dog, we know that the sound of our voice is enough to call the pet to our side. This is the kind of listening we need to develop with God.
How do we listen to God? How do we pay attention to his heart, to his way and to his word? The ancients used a practice known as Lectio Divina or Sacred Reading. There are many ways of using this practice down through the centuries and it is described in many ways. Lectio is a reading of the Bible or other sacred texts like the Fathers of the Church in a prolonged contemplative prayer and dialogue. This is different from spiritual reading where one might read several chapters of a spiritual book in one sitting. In Lectio one reads a passage slowly in a way that enables one to “chew” the words, to taste them in much the same way as Ezekiel took the scroll on which the Word of God was written and ate it. (Ezek 3:3) Some find it helpful to read the text aloud and this was very common as an ancient practice. It may take an hour or so to read the Gospel of Mark, but with Lectio it would take several weeks or months.
The first task is to bring yourself, your life and situation to a place of prayer. Prayer is not about a life we imagine we might want to live, but about the life we are living. Then select a passage from a book in the bible or from another of our sacred texts. Read the passage over a few times. Maybe read the passage aloud. Try not to form any response to the text, but listen to what is being said. Go beyond to the text to the person speaking. Now sit for a few moments of silence with what you have heard. What was said? What did God say? Then read the passage again a few more times. This time ask yourself how the passage made you feel. What feelings did these words or this situation provoke in you? Try to avoid thoughts, opinions or judgments but stay with the feelings. What is the heart of Jesus saying? How does my heart respond to his feelings? Then rest for a time in silence with these feelings. Read the passage again a few times. This time ask yourself how God wants you to put his word into action. What is the invitation or the challenge? What must I do to see the Word made flesh in me? Select one concrete action that you can accomplish in the coming day or week. Make sure that it is something you can do, and commit to doing it. Close with a short prayer, maybe the Our Father or another favorite prayer.
Lectio is a reading of God’s word with the eyes and ears of a spouse. It is not a prayer to confirm my own understanding of life. It is a word that desires to break in, to upset my prejudices and lead to a fuller revelation. Lectio is long term activity, not a source of immediate gratification. Lectio is about vocation, the call of God. We are to hear God as he is and not as we want him to be, and we are called to respond. This is a prayer that is to be applied to my own life situation. This time of prayer is supposed to be purposelessness with a sense of gratuity, leisure, and peace. It is about a relationship of love and is not intended to be utilitarian. Reading and praying is not just for the mind. The body must be involved. At the end of the prayer take a passage, a sentence or a word to remember through the day and to bring us back to the encounter.
Because Lectio Divina is dialogue it is therefore reception, self-gift and communion. It is reception by attention and reflection; self-gift through our response; communion through encounter. Our companion on this journey is Mary who kept all these words in her heart.
Omnia Christus Est Nobis
Christ is everything for us!
I am a Roman Catholic Priest from California. I spent 13 wonderful years years as a member of the Province of the Pacific in the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. The outline of my life can be traced here.