"Walking in the way and the love of the Lord"
Posted on February 20, 2012 by Angela Sealana (Santana)
For me, prayer is not easy. While this probably surprises most of my acquaintances and friends, prayer isn’t the first thing on my mind every day. (That award goes to ‘What’s for breakfast?’ or ‘Ugh, do I have to get up?’) Usually, I put off my daily prayers. My confessors know this well!
I admit my weakness not because I’m proud; it frustrates me terribly. I admit my struggle because you probably share it. And we’re not alone.
The Saints Were Sinners, Too!
Did you know that the saints were in our shoes, too? Yup, those people with the halos on our stained-glass windows and holy cards also struggled with prayer. This is often left out of books and biographies for piety’s sake. But every saint in heaven, at one point or another, wrestled with the issues we commonly face. For instance, I remember being shocked when I read this from the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux (‘The Little Flower’):
I am ashamed to confess it, but the recitation of the Rosary costs me more than to use an instrument of penance. I feel I am saying it so badly. Try as I may to make myself meditate on the mysteries, I never manage to fix my thoughts on them.
WHAT?? I couldn’t believe it. The Little Flower – a woman declared a Doctor of the Church – had trouble praying the Rosary? Wow, that’s like me! St. Pio of Pietrelcina, also called Padre Pio, is known for his holiness and closeness to God. But that closeness did not come easily or ‘naturally.’ He wrote to his spiritual director, Fr. Agostino,
My Faith is upheld only by a constant effort of my will against every kind of human persuasion. My Faith is only the fruit of the continual efforts that I exact of myself. And all of this, Father, is not something that happens a few times a day, but it is continuous…
Yes, the saints struggled just like us! A testimony from Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, a young man:
With every day that passes, I grow more and more convinced how ugly the world is, of how much suffering there is, and, unfortunately, of how it is the good who suffer the most. Meanwhile, we who have been given so many of God’s blessings have repaid Him poorly. This is an awful reality that racks my brain; while I’m studying, every so often I ask myself: will I continue on the right path? Will I have the strength to persevere all the way?
Reading the saints’ writings helps me renew my hope. Look at these three models of holiness – who spent hours of their day in prayer – yet they constantly struggled. St. Paul writes about his own struggle in his letter to the Romans: “I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want” (Rm. 7:19).
So, if the saints struggled like us, but they made it to Heaven, how did that happen?
Tips from the Saints
1. Ask God for the grace to love prayer.
“…I feel myself somewhat drawn to prayer, I have asked of God […] that He would give me the grace to love this holy exercise more and more, unto the hour of my death. It is the one means for our purification, the one way to union with God, the one channel by which God may unite Himself with us, that He may do anything with us for His glory. […] The counsel, or rather the commandment: Pray always, seems to me extremely sweet and by no means impossible.” – St. Claude de la Colombiere
2. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you to pray.
“The Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.” – St. Paul
3. Put prayer in perspective.
“Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; and there is only one Glory, which is eternal. If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing.” – St. Teresa of Avila (also called ‘Teresa of Jesus’)
4. Get a new hobby: Do good deeds; they turn your soul to God.
“Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul.” – St. Teresa of Avila (…she has lots of great advice)
5. Begin with the Sign of the Cross.
“The illusions of the devil soon vanish, especially if a man arms himself with the Sign of the Cross. The devils tremble at the Sign of the Cross of our Lord, by which He triumphed over and disarmed them.” – St. Anthony the abbot
6. When you pray, quiet yourself.
“What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language he best hears is silent love.” -St. John of Avila (also called ‘John of the Cross’)
7. When you pray, let God love you.
Prayer is the inner bath of love into which the soul plunges itself. – St. John Vianney
8. Use small doses of spiritual reading as a springboard to prayer.
“Read some chapter of a devout book….It is very easy and most necessary, for just as you speak to God when at prayer, God speaks to you when you read.” – St. Vincent de Paul
9. Don’t let prayer intimidate you. Talk with God.
“To pray is to talk to God, but about what? About Him, about yourself; joys, sorrows, successes, and failures, noble ambitions, daily worries, weaknesses! And acts of thanksgiving and petitions: and Love and reparation. In a word: to get to know Him and to get to know yourself: to get acquainted.” – St. Josemaria Escriva
10. Schedule time for prayer, but also pray throughout the day.
Aspire continually to God, by brief, ardent upliftings of heart; praise God, invoke His aid, cast yourself in spirit at the Foot of His Cross, adore His Goodness, offer your whole soul a thousand times a day to Him, fix your inward gaze upon Him, stretch out your hands to be led by Him, as a little child to its father, clasp Him to your breast as a fragrant bouquet. In short, enkindle by every possible action your love for God[…] – it may be interwoven with all our duties and occupations – St. Francis de Sales
By Michelle Medlock Adams
Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’
How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog–it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’ Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16, NLT).
I recently heard of a study involving the top CEOs of the biggest companies in the world, and one common theme was apparent.
When interviewed, the majority of them said something like this: “If I could do it all over again, I would take time to stop and smell the roses. I would take more walks with my spouse. I wouldn’t be so stressed and uptight. I would slow down and enjoy the journey more.”
This intrigued me, as I am also very career-driven and goal-oriented, so I researched this topic a bit more and stumbled upon an article about Bronnie Ware, author of The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. Ware, who cared for those who were nearing the end of their lives, wrote: “All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”
After pondering, processing and praying about all of this, I’ve come to this conclusion–being driven is a good thing, as long as you take time to enjoy the journey in all of your “driven-ness.”
That’s how we should live life.
We shouldn’t be so consumed with our goals in life that we miss the privilege of living. It’s important that we take time today and every day to appreciate the people and the blessings that God has given us.
If we don’t, when we finally reach our goals, after neglecting our friends and family along the way, we’ll have no one to celebrate with us. Or, we will have worked so hard and so long to accomplish our goals, that we’ll be too tired or in too poor health to savor that success.
We really can have it all, if we do it God’s way. Allow Him to prioritize your life and direct your steps. And, don’t be in too much of a hurry to bask in the beauty of the moment.
Every day is a gift, so treat it as such. Then, when we get to the end of our lives, we won’t have any regrets, only sweet memories of a life filled with love, laughter, success and satisfaction.
Here are 10 things you should take time to do in the near future:
1) Read a book to a special child in your life.
2) Slow dance with your significant other.
3) Watch the sun set, and thank God for painting the sky so beautifully.
4) Take your dog for a walk.
5) Visit or call your parents just to say you love them. (If your parents have already passed, then visit an elderly aunt or uncle.)
6) Stop by your best friend’s house with her favorite Starbucks concoction and share a few moments of cappuccino and conversation.
7) Put on some worship music and praise the Lord at the top of your lungs.
8) Go to that community concert that you’re always too busy for…you know you’re going to love it!
9) Look up into the night sky and find the various constellations, and then thank God for His handiwork.
10) Do something silly and fun with your family like have a picnic in your living room or have pancakes for dinner or wear your PJs all day on Saturday while having a movie marathon.
Pray this with me:
Father, I am thankful for the reminder that every day is a gift. Help me to not get so caught up in the busyness of life that I forget to enjoy living and appreciating all of the blessings You have given me.
And, Lord, please prioritize my life so that I will achieve the dreams You have placed in my heart while still enjoying the journey. In the precious Name of Your Son, Jesus, Amen.
Incline your ear, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and oppressed. Preserve my life, for I am devoted: save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God; be gracious to me, Lord; to you I call all the day. Gladden the soul of your servant; to you, Lord, I lift up my soul. Lord, you are good and forgiving, most merciful to all who call on you. Lord, hear my prayer; listen to my cry for help. On the day of my distress I call to you, for you will answer me. None among the gods can equal you, O Lord; nor can their deeds compare to yours. All the nations you have made shall come to bow before you, Lord, and give honor to your name. For you are great and do wondrous deeds; and you alone are God. Teach me, Lord, your way that I may walk in your truth, single-hearted and revering your name. I will praise you with all my heart, glorify your name forever, Lord my God. Your mercy to me is great; you have rescued me from the depths of Sheol. O God, the arrogant have risen against me; a ruthless band has sought my life; to you they pay no heed. But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in mercy and truth. Turn to me, be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant; save the son of your handmaid. Give me a sign of your favor: make my enemies see, to their confusion, that you, Lord, help and comfort me.
No matter what you are going through, God is worthy of our praise. "On the day of my distress I call to you, for you will answer me" God is good all the time and all the time God is good. So no matter your circumstance, good or bad, "Turn to me, be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant". Spend time in prayer today, thanking God for His goodness and praising Him for the good things He has done for you. Completely surrender your heart to Him,"I will praise you with all my heart, glorify your name forever". Gladden your soul and trust in Him. "Teach me, Lord, your way that I may walk in your truth" for we know, "that you, Lord, will help and comfort me."
Not fun being lost, searching
over and over again,
for answers that give
Not fun when clouds surround me.....
not fun being lost to myself...
can't even see the end of my hand,
asking the wrong questions,
over and over
and all the sign posts
seem to be missing...
lost, afraid, unrecognizable to myself,
simply and positively in darkness.
But if I am like those before me, then I am not alone.
Each one is my signpost and my companion....
I travel in good company; we all do.
The road is paved with their words of faith,
left for us like the stone path into a hidden garden.
One by one, step by step we follow after them....
Pick one stone to rest upon and listen.
St. Teresa of the Interior Castle explains...
St. Mother Teresa understands...
St. Padre Pio prays with us
and always, Mary our Mother intercedes for us.
All be well, I say
over and over and over
all will be well
by: Kathleen Aparo
A British newspaper once invited famous authors to contribute to its article, “What’s Wrong with the World?” We can imagine the responses—war, poverty, consumerism, etc. Yet one response stood out above the rest. Among the invitees was the witty writer G.K. Chesterton. He wrote:
Regarding your article “What’s Wrong with the World?”
Chesterton’s pithy response may seem quaint to some. Then again, perhaps his response is the only proper and effective one in the face of worldwide suffering; perhaps it is the only response capable of igniting the change the world so desperately needs.
In the Gospel today, Jesus speaks of his own suffering and rejection. He warns his followers that they, too, must bear crosses and hardships; that they must be willing to lose their life for the life of the world. Notice: Jesus doesn’t offer a formula to solve the infamous “problem of evil”; nor does he articulate a detailed list of “What’s wrong with the world?” Instead, he proposes the only sane response to suffering: “Whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.”
The Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky reiterates this point in his novel The Brothers Karamazov. Dostoevsky writes through the character of Fr. Zossima: “There is only one salvation for you: take yourself up, and make yourself responsible for all the sins of men. For the moment you make yourself sincerely responsible for everything and everyone, you will see at once that it is really so, that it is you who are guilty on behalf of all and for all.” Fr. Zossima goes on to explain that we must get on our knees, water the earth with our tears, and ask forgiveness from all of creation; we must pray daily “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me!” This, Fr. Zossima asserts, is the proper response to the wrongs of the world.
In this light, Chesterton’s response appears in no way a witty dodge, but rather a sincere confession. As Fr. Zossima says, “Truly, each of us is guilty before everyone and for everyone, only people do not know it, and if they knew it, the world would at once become paradise.”
Readings: Dt 30: 15-20 / Ps 1: 1-4, 6 / Lk 9: 22-25
You must find that quiet place to sit, this is where I will be. This is where I am waiting. Waiting for you my child. I wait for you to come to me. I wait until you are ready. Ready to listen, ready to talk, ready to be with me. My child, I love you. I love you as my child. I love you and want to share this with you. Come to me, let me hold you, let me hug you until you feel my presence. Speak to me, share with me your concerns, your worries and your fears. Then as you leave to go back to the world. Leave with my peace, leave with my love, because you know that I have all your concerns, so that you have all my peace. I love you my child.
Author: Joe LaCombe
GN 2:4B-9, 15-17
We were entrusted with the world. God asked us to care for the Earth and to cultivate it, to take care of the plants and animals and only use what we need. He gave us everything we needed, and the Earth would provide, as long as we cared for and nurtured it. There was only one condition – do not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. That was it. That’s all we had to do. Simple, right? Not so much.
You know the rest of the story, and we’ll be covering it in the coming days, but Adam and Eve fail to live up to that covenant. They’re like the kid and the cookie jar, who’s Mom tells them to stay out of it. What’s the first thing they do when Mom’s not around? They grab a cookie. It’s the same mandate with the reading in Genesis today, except there are much higher stakes.
The LORD God gave man this order:
“You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die.”
Wow! That seems pretty direct to me! How could Adam and Even give in to this temptation, knowing that if they eat from that tree they are doomed to die? Simple rule, right? I mean, most of us drive the speed limit (or close to it), or fasten our seat belt when in a car. We stop at stop signs and only go when the light is green. We know that if we do not follow these rules, then we are in danger of getting into an accident, hurting ourselves or someone else, or worse. We know the consequences. We see them everyday, and we know what can happen.
But when we read scripture, the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus, and they tell us exactly how we need to live to get to Heaven – why do we not listen? Jesus tells us what we need to do, and what we should not do if we want to live with Him eternally. It’s simple, it’s right there spelled out. Point blank. But it’s so hard to do, and it’s many times not the easiest, most popular way.
Just as it was in the Garden of Eden, we’re always being confronted with the easy route. We’re constantly being tempted with things that feel good, taste good, or look good. We’re constantly being bombarded with thoughts and ideas about a way that is easier, ways that seem to circumvent the trials and mountains we encounter in life. We don’t want the obstacles in life. We feel that we know everything; what’s good for us, what we don’t need and we feel we have the freedom to do whatever we like. We want to be our own god. Sound familiar? It should. This is the world that was cultivated in our hearts all those thousands of years ago. We couldn’t keep our hands out of the cookie jar.
God told Adam that the moment you eat from that tree, you are surely doomed to die. Well, Adam and Eve did not physically die that very moment they ate. But spiritually they did. They did not cultivate the earth as God had asked, but rather poisoned their soul. In the Gospel reading today, Jesus is telling the crowd that whatever they eat, regardless of whether it is clean or not, does not hurt you.
Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?
Adam and Eve were not to immediately die from eating from that tree. Whatever they ate simply passed through them. But they were doomed to die in that they tried to be like God through pride and disobedience. At that very moment, life became hard and their hearts were hardened. At that very moment sin was written into their DNA to be transcended over the generations.
This is Jesus’ point today in the Gospel reading from Mark. Even though sin is written into our very being, we have a model in Jesus that we can follow, to make up for the mistake in Eden. He gave us an out, that if we follow Him, we can overcome that sin and become better people. It doesn’t matter what comes into us. We are going to be flooded with all kinds of evil things in this world, and all kinds of pleasures. We’re going to be attacked from all sides. Some things that just seem right won’t be, while other things that just don’t make sense sometimes make the most sense.
Our duty in these times is to look to Christ and ask Him to help us discern and to help make the choice. We cannot do it on our own, and nothing is possible without Him. It may seem like we have it under control and that we can do it all, but it just seems that way. St Mark writes:
From within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”
We can curb the evils and temptations that confront us by changing what we read, or what we watch (or don’t watch) on TV, or who we hang out with. But this only helps to an extent. We cannot filter everything, and eventually we’re going to be tempted to join in. In these times, we need to turn to the One who got us here, the one true friend who can help us make the right choice. Go to Mass with Him. Go sit with Him in Adoration. Reconcile yourself with Him.
Look to Christ for His grace, because in the end, that’s the only thing that can save us from what is cultivated, deep down in our soul. We don’t want to give it water and let it take root, because if we give into the temptation and those evil thoughts become actions, we end up destroying everything that God created.
Hebrews 12:4-7, 11-15
Psalms 103:1-2, 13-14, 17-18a
At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain,
yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:11)
There been times when I thought I couldn’t last for long.
But now I think I’m able to carry on.
A change gon’ come.
Oh yes it will. (Sam Cooke)
Suffering can fall on us like a thief in the night: cancer spreads, jobs are cut, the drought worsens, depression returns. In this long night, existence is pared down to essentials. We grip the rock and try to hold on. In darkness our prayer is a cry of the heart. As light returns, we are not the same. A change has come. God is nearer and compassion is more real. There is goodness arising from our loss. I give thanks for my new heart open to the world.
Sometimes suffering is chosen. The 600 persons who first stepped onto the bridge in Selma, Alabama, 50 years ago to march to the state capital to secure voting rights saw the police massed for an assault. They “resisted to the point of shedding blood.” In his memoir, John Lewis recalls Bloody Sunday and the discipline arising from taking action and from time spent in jail. He learned faith in the spirit that moves in history and faith in their enemies’ capacity for change. The long struggles for justice teach patience and to “strive for peace with everyone.”
It is tempting to see suffering as punishment. Thomas Aquinas rejects this notion. To suffer is evil and we must seek to relieve it whenever possible. But suffering is not separable from human existence. To seek perfection and fully embrace his humanity even Jesus suffers. Returning to his village, his spirit droops in the face of sarcasm and doubt. His carping neighbors refuse to listen and readjust their expectations. From the “bitter root” of cynicism nothing grows. Without faith, our vision narrows; we speak but “our feet do not move.” As we open to love, the isolation ebbs. In the company of God and others, we become real.
When his wealthy parents surrounded him with pleasures, the young man was depressed. When the painted windows opened and he saw the four sights--persons aging, sick, poor, and dying--he learned compassion. The Buddha is always smiling.
Prayerful Path/Mary Maddox
Saint James, pray for us that we may be willing to leave everything to follow Jesus as you did. Help us to become special friends of Jesus as you were. Amen