Suffering is one of the hardest subjects for me to write about. Yet, it is one of the most powerful topics. It is, in fact, so powerful that I will divide the the topic of suffering into two parts.
Last night, we had our monthly Teams of Our Lady meeting. Earlier in the week, we had learned that one of our sector Teams members very unexpectedly lost their 2 year old son to a massive brain hemorrhage. The little boy leaves behind his parents and 4 siblings, one of which is still in his mothers womb. There were many tears shed at our meeting for this lovely family. Even as I tell you this story, I am wiping away tears. No parent can imagine the horrific tragedy of burying their child. No sibling can imagine the pain of never seeing their brother or sister again. It begs the question, if God is all good, then why does He allow suffering?
God never promised to take away suffering. Instead He invites us into suffering. Why? Because suffering is redemptive. Suffering will transform us. When we offer our sufferings to Christ, He will use those sufferings to make us stronger. He will give us clear vision of His saving grace. God will transform suffering. God makes our suffering have meaning.
St. Paul frequently wrote about suffering with Christ, and the redemptive privilege that suffering could bring. "For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ, our comfort flows. If we are distressed, it is for Your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for Your comfort, which produces in You patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for You is firm, because we know that just as You share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort." (2 Cor. 1:5-7) Let's digest this.
Christ suffered. He suffered in the ultimate way. He suffered so that we may be comforted in the knowledge of His promise of Heaven. Mary suffered. Her own heart was pierced by a sword. Mary knows the pain of seeing her son suffer and die. Christ and Mary's suffering was redemptive. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines redemption as "the action of saving from sin." Christ's redemptive suffering allowed His love to be poured out on all mankind by offering Himself as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins by which to open the gates of Heaven. Mary's suffering was redemptive in that through the death of her only Son, she became the Queen of Heaven.
When we unite our distress with Christ, we comfort Him because we place our full trust in Him. When we go through the sufferings of life, we become broken. We become empty. We become silent amidst the distractions of life. It is when we are in this broken, empty silence that we can truly be transformed by God. He will take our distress and transform us into something beautiful for His glory. When we unite our distress with Christ, we unite with His distress on the Cross. Life is full of distress, or slivers of the Cross. Don't carry your Cross with resignation. Carry it firmly on your shoulders. God has chosen to give you a minute particle of His Cross so that you can transform the world.
We hope in Christ. All of the great saints had crosses that they carried. They all maintained their steadfast hope in Christ and thereby allowed themselves to be transformed. When you unite your sufferings to the Cross, you will find great strength to endure. Jesus will never let you fall. Jesus loves you and He will comfort you. Jesus will never forsake you. He wants you joined to Him. St. Paul was beaten, whipped, shipwrecked, cursed and spat upon. He still maintained his positive hope in Christ. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20)
Hope is a theological virtue. Its immediate object is God. Hope is given to each soul, along with Charity and Faith, by the Almighty God. Hope contains goodness and love. As such, our Creator is the direct object of goodness and love. When we hope in Christ, we look for goodness and love. When we hope in Christ amidst our sufferings, we know that we can receive the Almighty's love and goodness. God will never let us suffer for nothing. When we unite our suffering with Christ, we allow ourselves to be open to the blessings of goodness and love by our Heavenly Father. We will allow ourselves to be taken into the arms of Mary and receive her loving, comforting embrace. God is a merciful, tender and loving God. He will always comfort us, no matter the depths of our sufferings. Life, love, goodness, hope, faith and charity will always prevail.
"Each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ." -St. John Paul II
Last night, a group of us were sitting around the table at our Parish's Lenten Soup Supper trying to convince my 3 year old picky eater to try a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I was reminded of an email that my dad sent me very recently that he titled, PB&J - the "P" is for St. Patrick, the "B" is for blessings and the "J" is for St. Joseph. My family is heavily Irish. While it's fun to celebrate being Irish, we can't forget about the Saint that inspires our March 17 celebrations. Additionally, St. Jospeh's feast day is on March 19. Let's not forget about the foster father of Jesus, who is the patron saint of fathers, workers and carpenters. Thus, we have a PB&J spiritual sandwich, with blessings in-between the powerful intercessions of St. Patrick and St. Jospeh. My Dad is my guest blogger this week. I couldn't imagine a better man to write about St. Patrick and St. Jospeh. My dad is Irish and he embraces the example of St.
On March 17 and 19 we celebrate the feasts of St. Patrick and St. Joseph.
Have you ever thought about any of the prayers that are attributed to or for them? I have two favorites that I'd like to share since from each prayer many blessings flow (thus, the "B" in PB&J)!
As you can tell, the first prayer, the Lorica of St. Patrick, is lengthy. And of course, in today's "McDonald's" world of needing everything made to order; condensed; compacted; or as brief as possible you may be discouraged. But take heart!
A "Lorica" is a protective sheath or covering. Take the time to prayerfully meditate on the words of this prayer and you'll see just how protected St. Patrick wanted to be (and us too!)
Every day you rise (by God's grace!) Every day you should be prepared for the daily battle for your soul. Despite what you may hear (and quite loudly I might add) you are in a daily battle for your soul! Now many things will seek to distract you. Or, an intellect may do its best to convince you that evil powers are merely made up of so much ancient nonsense. But look carefully around you, your city, your state, your country, your world. Tell me now that there is no evil, but, if you acknowledge that there is, perhaps it's not on your doorstep...so why worry? Do you think the evil you're seeing or witnessing happened as a mistake, an impulse or just a natural occurrence? No, it started in someone's heart. In the deep, quiet, holy recesses of their heart where an evil thought, desire or compunction came to life and overwhelmed them. And then, through an act of their will they committed an evil act. And that act or acts now reverberates throughout your city, state, country, world, or perhaps merely in your family.
St. Patrick first invokes the Holy Trinity; then Christ's life, death and resurrection; God's holy Angels; God's creation; God's omnipotence....to combat every known evil. Finally, he puts on Christ!
So, how will you arise today? And everyday?
Lorica of St. Patrick:
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.
I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.
I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation
St. Patrick (ca. 377)
The following prayer to St. Joseph is said to have been sent by the Pope in 1505 to Emperor Charles just before he went into battle. It is said that whoever invokes, reads, hears or keeps this prayer will not die of a sudden death, be drowned, be poisoned or fall into the hands of their enemies, be overpowered in battle or burned in any fire. While the history of this prayer may be lost, it is still a beautiful prayer.
St. Joseph's protection was indeed great by its promptness and strength. St. Joseph was a most loving father. First, he accepted his foster Son with all humility and commitment. He saved his life by adhering to the direction of the angel to flee to Egypt. He fretted and worried over having lost Jesus in the temple, the same temple where he heard Simeon's words about this child that was in his care. Nonetheless, he obviously persevered in being the most loving of fathers. Can you not see him holding the baby Jesus in his arms? Quieting his fears, his cries, his helplessness?
Prayer to St. Joseph
Oh, St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God.
I place in you all my interests and desires.
Oh, St. Joseph do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of fathers.
Oh, St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while he reposes near your heart.
Press Him in my name and kiss his fine head for me and ask him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath.
St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us.
May you be clothed and sheathed with the Lorica of St. Patrick and assisted by the intercessions of St. Jospeh along your life's journey.
But Mary treasured these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19
"Think. Think and wonder. Wonder and think."
These are words from one of my favorite Dr. Seuss Books titled, "Oh, the Things You Can Think."
Very recently, we celebrated Dr. Seuss' 113th birthday with "Read Across America"- a program that is designed to encourage children's literacy. At the same time, Pope Francis has called for us to consult the great book, the Bible, as often as we consult our cell phones. There is a common theme. We are being encouraged by both "Read Across America" and by Pope Francis to incorporate daily reading and meditation into our lives that are exceptionally overrun with digital devices or other modern-day distractions.
The digital life certainly has its place in our world. Our children need to know how to use it- safely, properly and effectively- in order to make scientific, etc advances in today's world for the good of the whole. However, it cannot replace personal, human conversations and relationships. There must always be a balance, for our children and for adults, that includes time with friends, physical exercise, academic rigor, and most importantly, time with God. Both "Read Across America" and Pope Francis are calling for this balance.
Pope Francis is especially calling for us to balance life with making room for spiritual growth with Christ. When we consult Scripture, we open our hearts to Christ. By opening our hearts to Christ, we begin to deepen our prayer relationship with Him. When we deepen our prayer relationship with Him, He will begin to grant us many fruits of prayer. Matthew 7:7 tells us, "Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock on the door and it will be open to you." This is why our Holy Father encourages us to consult the Bible as much as our cell phones. Think of how many times a day you consult your cell phone- and then, think of how much depth and understanding you would obtain from Sacred Scripture if you spent the same amount of time consulting the Bible as you do your cell phone.
Pope Francis is the shepherd for the Church's flock. We are his sheep. It is the job of the Pope to guide us along the straight and narrow path. As our Holy Father, he wants only the best for us. Therefore, he wants us to be able to obtain the fruits, or the gifts, of prayer and meditation on Sacred Scripture.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible, (granted I have many favorites) is Luke 2:19. "But Mary treasured these things and pondered them in her heart." When Mary was visited by the shepherds shortly after Jesus' birth, they relayed to her all that the archangel Gabriel had told them about the man that Jesus would become. Mary treasured, or stored, these words in her heart and pondered them. She would have over 30 years to ponder these words relayed to her from the shepherds, as well as all that she would learn from her Son throughout His short, but powerful, world changing life.
Pondering, or contemplation, of Sacred Scripture found within the Bible is vital to maintaining a deep prayer relationship with the One True God. The Carmelite Order is known for its deep contemplation within its prayer life, thus resulting in a direct relationship with Jesus Christ. A Carmelite-like devotion is a way to experience Jesus through walking the path that He laid before us in the Bible. Each time we read and meditate on the Bible, new mysteries are revealed to us through the work of the Holy Spirit.
When we have a friendship with Jesus, we are set free. We know that Jesus will always love us as our Father. When we love Him in return and give ourselves completely to Him, we can trust that He will take care of our every need. There is freedom and peace in the verse found in Matthew 6:26; "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" This Bible verse provides us with the reassurance that we will always be provided for in God's Holy and perfect way...and timing. We must be patient; God's timing is not our timing. If we ask for what we need in accordance with God's will, we can be assured that our Heavenly Father will provide for us, His children. But remember, even as we ask for things, "Your Heavenly Father knows what you need, even before you ask it." (Matthew 6:8) This makes sense, God is omnipotent after all!
I challenge you in these early days of Lent to spend time each day by reading and contemplating the Sacred Scripture found within the good book, the Bible. We can trust Pope Francis to lead us in obtaining a deep, personal relationship with Christ through the Bible and prayer. Think of how much peace we could obtain by spending as much time consulting the Bible as we consult our cell phones!
I have recently learned that today marks the 190th anniversary of the dedication of the Altar and Sanctuary in our church. My family's church is the oldest in the State of Virginia. Let me paint a virtual picture for you of the aesthetically beautiful artwork found just above the Altar.
On the ceiling of my church there is painted a beautiful dove to represent the Holy Spirit. Behind the painting of the Holy Spirit and above the Altar is a stained glass window of the Paschal Lamb. Below the Paschal Lamb is a beautiful sunburst painting with IHS in the middle. Below the golden IHS painting is the crucified Jesus. Below the crucified Jesus is the tabernacle. In front of he tabernacle, is the Altar. At the Altar, the priest consecrates the bread and wine to become the body and blood of Jesus through transubstantiation. When the priest holds up the body and blood, one can see the Holy Spirit transcend into the beauty of the Holy Eucharist. It is appropriate that the body and blood are present below the artwork of the Holy Spirit, the Pascal Lamb the IHS painting, the crucified Jesus and the tabernacle. I'm sure that this was all very intentional in the design of the church.
When the priest raises the Holy Eucharist over the Chalice of Blood, it is an awe-inspiring and inspirational view to behold. The Eucharist comes full circle. The love that transcends from the Holy Spirit through the Paschal Lamb, into the crucified Jesus and into the Eucharist is nothing short of amazing and incredible. There are simply no words to describe the deep love and yearning that Christ has for all of us. He takes us as we are and inspires us to be more than "good Christian's," but instead to be "incredible Catholics."
Listen to the priest as he prays during the transubstantiation. The Spirit descends like the dewfall and the Eucharistic Banquet becomes a joint sacrifice. We offer ourselves completely to Him, and He offers Himself completely for us. Thus, the Holy Mass is a joint sacrifice. I oftentimes tear up at Mass because I begin to comprehend Christ's deep love. It is an overpowering love. When the Priest says "Lift up your hearts" our hearts do indeed become present in Heaven with the angels who, at that very moment, are engaged in the heavenly Mass.
Let's examine each part of my favorite view of the Holy Mass. The dove has been used for thousands of years to represent the Holy Spirit. In fact, it was a dove that descended upon Jesus when He was baptized in the Jordan River. See John 1:29-34. The dove has also been known to represent peace and purity.
The Paschal Lamb is used to represent Christ because He shed His blood in the Eucharistic banquet, which has become known as the New Passover. The Israelites were commanded by Moses to sacrifice a lamb and paint its blood over the doorpost so that the Angel of Death would pass them over. As such, the New Passover, or the Paschal Lamb, has allowed us to avoid a Spiritual death by taking part in the sacrifice of the Eucharistic banquet.
The Christogram of IHS is a Greek abbreviation of the powerful and Holy name of Jesus. It is appropriate that the IHS is contained within a sunburst painting. For Christ's love bursts out to all of us when we speak His name and meditate on His love and mercy. The Jesuits are especially known for their use of the IHS Christogram.
The Cross showing the crucified Jesus is truly a magnificent sight to behold. When we attend the Eucharistic Banquet contained within the Holy sacrifice of the Mass, we make reparations to Christ. The Mass is a joint sacrifice. It is a sacrifice of great love. Christ offers Himself to us out of pure, great love. In turn, we give Him our greatest love.
The tabernacle contains the consecrated host. It contains Jesus. We have a school chapel where I work. No matter what the age of the students is that I'm around, I always ask them, "who's in that chapel?" The students (sometimes) roll their eyes at me and say, "Jesus, of course!" I respond with, "so, what should we do when we walk by the chapel?" They respond, "We make the Sign of the Cross." I know that every student knows who is in the tabernacle of the school chapel. And I know that they know to make the Sign of the Cross when they walk by. I just don't want them to get complacent in their knowledge. Anybody, no matter their age, needs to know that Jesus Christ is contained within the tabernacle of all Catholic chapels and churches throughout the world. There can be no mistake or doubt. Doubt comes only from Satan. Full faith comes from God. Faith is when our soul is enlightened with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The Eucharistic Banquet is the central, vital part of the Holy Mass. It is, in fact, what sets a "Mass" apart from a "Service." The term, "Mass" implies the Eucharist. A "Service" is absent of the true body and blood of Christ. The first part of the Mass is Liturgy of the Word. The second part of the Mass is called, the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
The Catholic faith and doctrine is so deep and so detailed, that I have only barely scratched the surface of the Eucharistic Banquet. It is my very favorite part of Mass. What is your favorite part of Mass?