The Prayer that Jesus learned

Morning, Daily and Evening Prayer ABEL_-_Figure_Kneeling_in_Prayer

The first prayer that Jesus would have learnt from his mother, like all other Jewish children, was called the ‘Shema Israel, part act of faith, part prayer. Its first words proclaimed belief in the One God who should be loved ‘with the whole heart and mind and with one’s whole strength’. This embodied the essence of Jewish wisdom that Jesus had come to bring to perfection. The ‘Shema’ was the first prayer to be said on the Sabbath in the synagogue where it was also said three times a day to coincide with the sacrifices made in the Temple. For those who were unable to go to the Synagogue, it was said at work, in the fields, or at home, so that the whole day would be dedicated to the love of God.  more

from David

Battling the temptations of the flesh

Allegory of Virtues and Vices

We’ve been delving into temptations coming from the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Last week we discussed demonic temptations in detail. Today, we’ll examine temptations of the flesh and how to combat them.

We saw that people with melancholic or choleric temperaments tend to be more prone to the temptations that come directly from the Devil: pride, envy, and anger. Temptations of the flesh particularly plague the other two temperaments. More specifically, sanguines often struggle with gluttony and sins against chastity. Phlegmatics  struggle with sloth. (I will be writing more about the four classic temperaments throughout this year. I am creating a spiritual growth plan for you to use with your children of each temperament.)

As I have said before, the flesh can be the most relentless of the three sources of temptation. While the Devil may leave us alone for a time, and we can shut out the world to a certain extent, we can never get away from our own flesh. It remains with us every moment until the end of our life, but we can learn to resist it.
 Gluttony, lust, and slothThe Catechism defines concupiscence as “the movement of the sensitive appetite contrary to the operation of the human reason… Concupiscence stems from the disobedience of the first sin. It unsettles man’s moral faculties and, without being in itself an offense, inclines man to commit sins” (2515).

Sanguines are easily moved by what they experience through their exterior senses. Thus, immodest entertainment might lead them into sexual sin. An all-you-can-eat buffet might tempt them towards gluttony. They might start using vulgar and blasphemous language if they listen to the wrong kind of music.

Continue reading at Contemplative Homeschool.

How to overcome the Devil’s temptation

Dante’s Inferno, Canto 8 by William Blake (Wikimedia Commons).

Last week I wrote about the three sources of temptation. Now let’s look at temptation by the Devil in more detail.

Two Scripture passages show us how the Devil tempts us. Genesis 3 tells how Adam and Eve gave in to temptation and sinned. Matthew 4 tells how Jesus resisted the Devil’s temptation. The two stories contain striking similarities.
 The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of lifeWhen the Devil tempted Eve, the first thing she noticed was that the forbidden fruit was “good for food” (Gen 3:6).  Similarly, the Devil first tempted Jesus by telling Him to turn stones into bread (Mt 4:3). So we see that the Devil often begins by appealing to our natural appetites. In fact, he tempts us with the desires of the flesh.

Apparently, Eve was not completely swayed by this temptation, for she also noticed that the fruit was “a delight to the eyes.” Catholic tradition equates this delight with greed–the desire to have something that is not rightly ours, or to have it in overabundance, or otherwise outside of God’s will. Matthew’s Gospel sets this as Jesus’ third temptation. The Devil promised Jesus all the kingdoms of the world for the “small” price of worshiping him. It’s easy to see how this corresponds to temptation by the world.

Continue reading at Contemplative Homeschool.

Repentance

Our Father – Repentance

On the feast of Pentecost the Jews celebrated the day on which God had given the Law to Moses. However the first Pentecost after the Resurrection was the day on which God gave his new law – the law of love. This law was not primarily a list of rules and regulations like the laws that were given to Moses, but the same personal love that God had showered on Jesus. It was this love that enabled Jesus to practise to perfection the New Commandments that he taught his disciples. Namely, to Love God with their whole hearts and minds, and with their whole being, as he did, and to love others as he did too, and still does. read on

Becoming your children's spiritual director

File:James Sant - The Fairy Tale - Google Art Project.jpg

Have you ever thought of having a spiritual director for your kids or grandkids? Have you ever thought of being one? It’s not enough to teach children “religion”–i.e., Catechism. We also need to teach them how to become saints.

I am developing a spiritual growth plan for my three older children. (J is a little too young at age three!) Here are the areas I am considering:
TemperamentD is almost purely choleric, M is melancholic-phlegmatic, and C is primarily phlegmatic. (I haven’t completely figured him out yet–he’s eight and doesn’t know himself as well as the others do.)

Each of the four classical temperaments has a different perspective on life. Each has typical strengths and weaknesses. I seek to encourage my boys in their strengths and help them fight their weaknesses. I plan to do much of this through reading. Books will inspire them where lectures won’t.

Talents and interestsTemperament is only one part of personality. Each child has unique talents. For example, cholerics are bursting with energy, but one may be good at football and another at track.

Quiet and reserved M has a surprising acting ability.

How can my children use their gifts to glorify God? How can their talents help them choose a vocation and a career?

Continue reading at Contemplative Homeschool.

Church Authority

The authority of the Church, which was once accepted by the churched and respected by the secular, is in modern times no longer a means through which our belief system can be argued or upheld. This sad reality, while a cause for dismay, is also an opportunity for expansion of pedagogical and catechetical methods.

However, this expansion can not come at the price of the recognition that our beliefs stem not from our own intellect, as a sort of series of philosophical conclusions about how to live that were constructed by a group of 12 disciples some 2,000 years ago, but from the Church as guided by the Holy Spirit and led on earth by the Pope. As the noted communications mantra goes, “The medium is the message.”

This is why methods of teaching and conversion that do not ultimately stem from a belief in the magisterium, or teaching authority, of the Church are limited in scope. For example we as Catholics can point to Aristotle’s reason-based arguments for the existence of God, but we can not talk about God as Trinity without citing Christ’s teachings and the theology developed by the Church over thousands of years. The Church guards and passes on the deposit of faith given by Christ.

To believe in the authority of the Church, you see, is simultaneously to believe in Him who formed it, namely Christ. We must then ask ourselves rhetorically: why would Christ form the Church without equipping it with the means (councils, the Papacy, tradition, scripture, etc.) to construct correct dogma? And so to follow church authority means to believe in all of its teachings on faith and morals. This does not entail a blind faith that accepts a series of teachings simply because “Father ‘John Smith’ said so.” In praying each week in the Creed that we “believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,” we are instead embracing theology arrived at via reason and based upon the premises of faith.

Ryan Bilodeau
Prayer to Pen

You can make someone else’s suffering meaningful

Portrait de l'artiste avec un ami, by Raffaello Sanzio, from C2RMF retouched.jpg
Self Portrait with a Friend by Rafael.

In the middle of Lent, I received an email from a new reader I’ll call Jill. Jill shared with me her years of darkness in her personal and spiritual life. My heart went out to her. I wanted to do something for her, more than just writing an encouraging answer. So I thought about it and prayed about it. Then I had an insight.

Here, in part, is how I replied:

“I explore these questions [about God and suffering] a lot in my book. I will give you a brief version here. Rabbi Kushner, writing in When Bad Things Happen to Good People, said that we shouldn’t ask why when we suffer. Instead, we should ask, What now? How am I to react?
 Finding meaning in our suffering“Similarly, Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning wrote, “Suffering ceases to be suffering in some way in the moment that it finds a meaning.” He found that in the concentration camp, those who were able to survive and be psychologically sound found a purpose in their suffering. For Frankl himself, that purpose was to rewrite the manuscript of his book on helping his psychiatric patients find meaning in life. The Nazis had destroyed his manuscript when he was stripped of his possessions at the camp. So over the years he rewrote the manuscript, partly in his head and partly on any strips of paper he could find. He had the will to survive so he could publish his work…

“My question for your situation then was, How can your suffering become purposeful? Some people would counsel you to offer up your suffering. But if you are unable to complete even small projects because your darkness has sapped all your energy, offering it up may just be beyond your strength. What then?

Continue reading at Contemplative Homeschool.

Holy Communion

As a person tries to observe the new commandments by making acts of love through all they say and do, they are gradually able to rise step by step towards journey’s end. Their progress is made possible, because it is made in, with, and through Christ who claimed to be the vital living embodiment of Jacob’s mystical ladder (John1:51). He is The Way, The Truth, and The Life (Jn 14:6). He is the way to our destination, the Truth who both reveals and embodies that destination, and the eternal life that constitutes that destination. The journey stretches from here to eternity where the traveller finally enters into a profound and ongoing Holy Communion with the One who dwells in the eternal ecstatic joy, that flows from the mystical vortex of loving that constitutes God’s very being. read on David’s webpage

Thanksgiving

Continuing the theme: – Praying the Our Father –

 My earliest and happiest memories are of going to visit my grandfather. It wasn’t because he played games with me, gave me my favourite chocolate or even money to buy myself an ice cream on the way home, it was just because I loved him. He was such a lovable kindly man that it was more than enough just to be with him and feel myself enveloped by his love. This was before I even went to prep school. read on….

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http://www.davidtorkington.com

Some Consideration of the Heroic Virtues of Pope St. John Paul II

At his funeral in St. Peter’s Square in 2005, there were prolonged chants from the multitude gathered for “Santo Subito” (Sainthood Now!).  On April 27, 2014, the Catholic Church  celebrated the canonization of the 264th pontiff Pope St. John Paul II (born Karol Józef Wojtyła) along with the 262nd Vicar of Christ Pope St. John XXIII (ne Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli) in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.

Three American Presidents paying respects to Pope John Paul II, April 2005

 

Some Protestants bristle at the notion that the Church “makes” saints, as nobody (but Christ) is perfect and that we are all supposed to be called to sainthood in our Christian identity.  Certainly our baptism marks us as part of the Lord’s people and calls us to holiness.  The Catholic Church can recognize, based on investigation and guidance from the Holy Spirit,  that a person is already a saint, definitely in heaven and having led a life of great holiness that is worthy of veneration by the faithful.  Canonized saints are important examples to the faithful of how to live a heroic (not perfect) Christian life.

Pope John Paul II was a remarkable man who wore many hats in his life. He was a Laborer, Thespian, Playwright, Patriot, Priest,  Philologist, Philosopher, Pilgrim, Bishop, Theologian, Sportsman, Scholar, Statesman and Vicar of Christ.  The cause for John Paul II’s canonization however  is not premised on doctrinal dissertations, academic accolades or even geopolitical accomplishments. It is about how John Paul II lived his life to reflect the Christian virtue which still touches the faithful today.

After several years of investigation led by postulator Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints recommended Servant of God John Paul II’s heroic virtue to the Pope. On December 19, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed John Paul II as “Venerable”.  The Church normally requires that one miracle is attributable to intercessions of a Venerable, but the Vatican only investigates possible miracles after a candidate is declared Venerable. These miracles are almost always miraculous medical cures as these are the easiest to verify.

Sr. Marie Simon Pierre

Sister Marie Simon Pierre, a nun from the order of Little Sisters of the Catholic Motherhood in Aix au Province, France, had suffered with Parkinson’s Disease, like John Paul II, for four years. She intensely prayed along with her community for healing through the intercession of John Paul II only two months after John Paul II’s death.  Doctors determined that Sr. Simon Pierre’s neurological symptoms had disappeared inexplicably.   This was deemed John Paul II’s first miracle in 2011. 

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Floribeth Mora Diaz

In April 2011, Floribeth Mora, a 50 year old Costa Rican grandmother, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain aneurysm  and was sent home to die.  But on the day of John Paul II’s beatification, Mora saw a photograph of John Paul II and the photograph spoke to her saying “Get up” and “Be not afraid”.  Remarkably, her aneurysm disappeared that same day. Neuro-surgeons in Rome could not medically explain the disappearance.  This miracle satisfied the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the Vatican.

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The date of the canonization may well have been chosen because it was the 2nd Sunday of Easter, which Pope John Paul II instituted during his Papacy as “Divine Mercy Sunday”, due to his Devotion to St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938).  The vigil mass of the feast of Divine Mercy had just been celebrated at John Paul II’s bedside when he fell into a coma and soon after died.

Pope John Paul II at Auschwitz (1979)

The date of John Paul II’s canonization also occurs on National Holocaust Rememberance Day in Israel and during the March of the Living where people  gather in in  Krakow,  Wojtyła’s home for 40 years, to march between the Nazi death camps of  Auschwitz to Birkenau to remember the Holocaust.  John Paul II had strong connections with the Jewish community in his childhood home off Wadowice, where ¼  of the town’s 8,000 residents were eradicated for anti-Semitic aspirations of Nazi racial purity.  These events strongly influenced John Paul II’s weltanschauung, since during his pontificate, John Paul II made great strives to acknowledge the sin of anti-semitism, especially in the Holocaust, and to strengthen the Church’s relations with the Jewish Community. In May 1998, Pope St. John Paul II gave a formal apology about Catholic shortcomings in the Holocaust in the proclamation “We Remember: A Reflection of the Shoah”.
   

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Then Cardinal Karol Wojtyła was elected Pontiff in October 1977 during the Year of Three Popes.  While Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 454 years and was from a nation behind the Iron Curtain, he was chosen because of his theology.  John Paul II chose as his papal motto “Totus Tuus”, which reflected his Reflected his personal consecration to Mary which was based on the spiritual approach of St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1716)—“Totus tuus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt” (“I am all yours, and all that I have is yours”).  In Crossing the Threshold of Hope,  he explained that the “Totus Tuus” motto expressed the understanding that he “[c]ould not exclude the Lord’s Mother from my life without neglecting the will of God-Trinity”.  Polish born composer Henryk Gorecki (1933-2010) wrote the choral piece “TotusTuus” in honor of Pope John Paul II’s 3rd visit to Poland in 1987.

From the start of his Petrine ministry until his eventual death from Parkinson’s Disease 26 ½ years later, John Paul II’s message to the faithful was the Lucan exhortation “Be not afraid”.   In fact, John Paul II uttered the phrase three times during his homily at the Papal Inauguration.  This message “Be not afraid… open the door wide to Christ” was chosen as the slogan for his beatification.  

  It was the same message that he brought when he first visited his homeland of Poland in June 1979.  The documentary Nine Days That Changed the World showed the power that John Paul II message of “Be not afraid” had with the Polish people to instill the dignity of the individual to live out their faith and, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, renew the face of the Earth and their land.

The  millions of Poles who flocked to their favorite son’s first pilgrimage back to his homeland showed that the faithful were not alone in that officially atheistic state and served as a real retort to Stalin’s taunt of “The Pope! How man divisions does he got?”  Both Lech Walesa, the piously Catholic worker who lead the Solidarity movement (and eventually became Poland’s President), and Vaclav Havel, the less spiritual leader of a free Czechoslovakia, credit the fall of the Iron Curtain to the message “Be not afraid” embodied in John Paul II’s 1st visit to Poland. 

On May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot  four times at close range and critically wounded in St. Peter’s Square by Mehmet Ali Ağca, a trained Turkish gunman. Many belief that this assassination attempt was a hit job coordinated by the Bulgarian Secret Police with the complicity of the Kremlin.  Yet less than two and a half years later, John Paul II met with Mehmet Ali Ağca and forgave the gunman on Christmas, 1983.

[L] Pope John Paul II shot May 13, 1981, [R] Pope forgives Agca December 25, 1983

 

Pope St . John Paul II was convinced that Our Lady of Fatima kept him alive during the ordeal where he lost 3/4ths of his blood. The Third Secret of our Lady of Fatima can be seen as predicting the assassination attempt on the Pope. The John Paul II’s faith filled connection between his assassination attempt and the visions of Fatima that a bullet from his wounds now tops the golden finery of the Our Lady of Fatima processional statue. 
  
One of the hallmarks of Pope St. John Paul II’s reign was being a Pilgrim as Vicar of Christ to proclaim Jesus as the Redeemer of Humanity to all the Earth. Frankly, he came pretty close to covering it all.  It is speculated that the curia spent about a fourth of their time planning for and executing his 104 foreign trips to 125 countries which totaled 725,000 miles.  

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At the behest of Pope St. John Paul II, World Youth Days were held every couple of years at rotating international locations. Skeptics certainly questioned in disengaged youth would care about such events, but the youth loved to rally around the Pope and open themselves to the new evangelization.  The vitality of  World Youth Day tradition has not subsided in the loss of John Paul II.  These large conclaves of young people meeting to renew their faithful inclinations echoes how John Paul II loved to channel the energy of crowds in a positive manner to allow people to feel connected in a vibrant and visceral way.

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While Pope Benedict XVI did not formally recognize John Paul II as a martyr in his beatification mass, many feel that the manner in which John Paul II lived with his debilitating disease and how he died with dignity in the Vatican was exemplary.  His final words were uttered in Polish “Allow me to depart to the house of the Father”.  John Paul II had run the good race and was not afraid to go home to the Father by extending his life through extraordinary medical procedures for terminal illness.

In addition, Pope St. John Paul II left a large body of theology during his long pontificate, which will have a long lasting influence upon the Church.  [***]  Many feel that Pope St. John Paul II will be best remembered for his “Theology of the Body”, which was based on 129 lectures from his Wednesday audiences, which focused on Christian marriage, celibacy and virginity, contraception and the sacrament of marriage. 

In  Washington, DC, the new seminary  has dedicated to the now Pope St. John Paul II. The John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington DC has been converted into a Church and Shrine and will be rechristened the “St. John Paul II Shrine”.

Pope St. John Paul II’s example of the new evangelization, his example of forgiveness and fearlessness for standing up for the faith certainly gives the model to “Be Not Afraid” in our own paths toward being part of the Community of Saints.

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