Tag Archives: prayer

What’s the Right Way to Pray?

By Orlando Hernandez

This Wednesday’s Gospel (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18) continues the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. This same Gospel is read at the beginning of the Lenten Season, when we resolve to give alms, fast, and pray. Of course, our love of God should lead us to do this all year round. However, our Lord warns us not to be “ show-offs” when we do good for others or when we fast from so many things that we have too much of. He warns us, “ do not blow a trumpet before you” nor “neglect your appearance” so people might admire your kindness and piety.
The part about prayer, though, is the section that has captivated my attention:

“ When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. ( Mt 6: 5-6 )

Jesus says that we will be rewarded. I believe that God’s repayment for our attempts at prayer happens then and there, at the moment of true connection. The increase in faith that our efforts and His grace give us, the consolation and joy that His luminous Presence gives us, the love we feel, from Him and for Him, are great rewards indeed. And during those dry, frustrating days, when prayer does not seem to “ work “ and we don’t get any of those consolations, the faith He endows us with gives us the hope that He, in His love and goodness will eventually “ repay “ us, perhaps for all eternity. Either way, something powerful always happens because we return and try again and again.

Our Lord seems to say, that, rather than a public display of piety, prayer is a very private activity. In the end, it has to be an intimate one-on-one encounter with the loving God, in that “ inner room“, within our inmost selves, where I know the Lord lives. The less  “babbling”, the better. The essence, it seems to me, is the knowledge of a being together, a silent mutual awareness of loving intentions, a union, all initiated by Him.

And yet, I have to say something in defense of those “ who love to stand and pray “ loudly and boisterously in churches and prayer groups, even in street corners! Nine years ago my Lord beckoned me back into the faith through His Body, His people: peasants on their knees, advancing painfully towards the Blessed Mother’s Shrine at Fatima, Portugal; hundreds of people singing and moving toward the altar to receive Communion during Mass in Miami, Florida;  women loudly praying the Rosary in perfect synchrony in a church in Puerto Rico; people full of devotion, with eyes closed and arms raised, praising God at he top of their voices in a Charismatic Meeting in Queens, N.Y.  They were all shining examples to me ( and to many others I am sure ), bringing the Presence of the Living God into my life. Of course, I believe that during those moments each one of them, at some point or another, were totally lost in the power and love of their God, in that place where He sees us all in secret. Private and communal prayer in the end must merge, because our Lord loves us, each and every one of us, together and individually, and calls us to communion with Him and community with each other.

In the end the mystery of prayer is beyond me. My spiritual director, Fr. Richard Schiner, used to say that the only right way to pray is to just pray, trying again and again. And so I push on and on, alone and with others. All I can say is that I feel so much cherished by this God who lovingly created each one of us. He calls me to love, and to work for His people, each one a shining light where He lives and loves.
Thank You Lord!

Leave a comment

Filed under Inspiration, Motivational

Friday Thoughts: Adolescent Cardinals

by Howard Hain

northern_cardinal_8

Adolescent Cardinal

.

Brilliant Red?

Not quite yet.

The color of martyrs?

That remains to be seen.

A touch of green?

Yes, that’s for sure.

It’s the obscurity of ordinary time.

But what about the shade of gray?

An undyed robe.

One way or another, the ascetic life.

They have to learn to let go.

But they seem so unaware?

Certainly the case.

Too busy with growth.

No time to kill.

Branch to branch.

Tree to tree.

Upward.

Onward.

“Let’s find a new field!”

Though they always follow the lead.

Willingly or not.

Of the one bright red.

Hot on his heels.

They tweet and swipe:

“Let me in.”

“I’m ready to fly.”

“Let me lead the way.”

But maybe not yet?

Thinking they’re ready.

Sure sign they’re not.

Blood orange.

The bitter color.

Right before red.

A shade.

A difference.

A single feather.

Off the top of the head.

But avoid the cat.

And their day shall come.

Red.

Like the exhausted sun.

About to explode.

End of a hot August day.

Crushing the horizon.

Making it almost disappear.

But there on the cusp.

Just before another world.

We see the spectrum.

All yellow now gone.

The orange too has disappeared.

And the green?

Vanquished for eternity.

Even purple is held at bay.

Only the sincerity of red can sustain.

A pure offering.

A humble heart.

The undyed pigment.

Of a completely different sort.

The deepest kind of red.

Almost a shade of blue.

Blinding even the sun.

For Justice is duly at hand.

And a small bird of mercy.

White as white can be.

Flies incredibly low.

In friendship.

With him who bowed down.

Hand in hand.

A cardinal and a dove.

Into the jaws of death.

Though ever so certain.

There will be at least one more.

Yes, certainly another.

An heir, an offspring, a sturdy new branch.

At least one more.

For the young one watches.

Witnesses the entire display.

He sees the fully mature.

Return to their mother’s nest.

And lo and behold.

Dusk becomes dawn.

The newest day of all.

Rising from the west.

For the brightest color.

Has none at all.

What a display.

Life outdoing death.

The power of meekness.

Gaining the upper outstretched hand.

And with a gentle gesture.

Breaking the gates of hell.

Opening wide.

Heaven’s once narrow door.

Red all a flutter.

Now only joy and peace.

A cardinal is no more.


 

red-cardinal

Mature Cardinal

2 Comments

Filed under art, Inspiration, Motivational, philosophy, poetry, Religion, spirituality

Morning Thoughts: Joy Of The Cross

by Howard Hain

.

My parish church was seriously damaged in a fire a few months back. It was pretty dramatic, devastating in many ways.

Since then the parish has continued on, celebrating Sunday Mass in a Union City public school gymnasium. Ironically, that public school is housed within a building that was once part of our parish community, built to stage an annual Passion Play—amazing how consecration begets consecration—grace begets grace.

Seeds long forgotten, suddenly popping up through cracks in the sidewalks.

———

“…where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…”

(Romans 5:20)

———

Overall, the parish community over the last few months—during this period of “destruction” and “darkness”, of “uncertainty” and “grieving”—has been more alive than ever before. Amazingly enough, surely by grace, the various parish ministries seem to have expanded, at least in my unofficial and non-statistically-supported opinion. All this despite the fact that most of us have been hiding in our own upper rooms—doors tightly locked. Praying nonetheless.

No, praying all the more.

———

“You are indeed Holy, O Lord….sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall…”

(Eucharistic Prayer II)

———

Well, sparing you the details of our own little acts of the apostles, we received official word from the Bishop just this past weekend—Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity—that the church building will be reconstructed.

Believe me, this was not a forgone conclusion. In fact, there was good (and perhaps a better way to express it, “sober”) reason to brace for news quite the contrary.

But it will be rebuilt.

And renewed.

Praise the Lord.

———

Sitting in the elementary school chapel of Saint Francis Academy this morning, just a few city streets from our still burnt-out parish structure, I thought about this fresh news. The Good News.

The Church will be rebuilt.

But that’s not how I heard it now.

No, that’s how man reported it.

God says it differently. He doesn’t report.

He speaks into being. God is the News.

And when He is most loving, He is most commanding:

“Rebuild My Church.”

———

The irony is delicious, I tasted and saw; I was sitting in a little chapel named after the Original Knight of Lady Poverty, Francesco d’Assisi.

It’s a beautiful, joyful chapel, where God becomes man over and over again, and where children become disciples time and again. It is also the place where we adults, so very much pretending to be in control, came crawling to receive sanctuary—to be cared for during our days of distress.

———

“Lord…look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church…”

(Order of Mass)

———

Irony upon irony. Saint Francis Academy was originally an orphanage. For the past several generations it has been a beacon of what true elementary education—what true human formation—should look like—when led by the Spirit.

We have celebrated weekday Mass in the academy’s chapel almost every morning since the fire. Such generosity. Such openness. Such hospitality.

So welcoming. So joyful. So Franciscan.

So Christian.

God uses everything, always and in every way, for Good.

And He is never so creative as when manifesting new forms of humility.

For there we are, day in and day out, the homeless “know-it-alls” within the home of tiny tots. Roles reversed. Upside down. Little lambs feeding the uncertain shepherds.

———

As I pondered this mystery this very morning, my little Francesca—my own little “flower”, my own little troubadour of God, my own incredible little girl—God’s little girl—to whom I have been chosen “to light and guard, to rule and guide”—tends to her studies just a few floors above.

The first-grade classroom at first glance seems impossibly small. But it’s truly a delight—safe, bright, full of promise—in spiritual reality, there is so much room.

Francesca finishes the school year this week, a week of events and performances and feasts, a week designed to catapult her and her fellow “novices” into a summer of playful absorption and merry-filled mission: public pools, French-braid festivities, and watermelon days and Italian-ice filled nights at the ever-popular Camp Grandma.

Ah, the goodness of God.

———

“O Bonitas!”

———

The old phase, “goodness gracious”, takes on totally new meaning. It becomes a sacrament. A sacred sigh. With divine significance. A poem made of breath. A cry announcing life.

That little one of whom I speak I love. Deeper and deeper each day. And I pray it’s all for the sake of God. For the love of God. Of His Divine Presence. The King of Kings—The Monarch of Mercy—an eagle and a butterfly—held completely captive—voluntarily held hostage—within the liquid heart of a ever-emerging child.

She is the entire universe within an ark of angelic giggles…all of creation within a jar of ceaseless surprise…the totality of God’s promise within a tabernacle of painfully-sweet joy—O Lord, may we truly learn how to pray!

———

“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.”

(John 16:12-13)

———

Francesca is all children. All children are Francesca. And by the Blood of Christ and the Holy Spirit of Adoption we too are now God’s children.

We are all God’s Francescas.

———

Thank You, Lord, for the news. The practical and the permanent. The circumstantial and the promissorial. And thank You for expressing it Your unimaginable way.

For it is You, Lord God—the very same God who spoke to Francis nearly a thousand years ago through the Crucifix of San Damiano, a church almost completely in ruins—who now says to me, to all parishioners of the parish of Saint Joseph and Saint Michael, to all of Union City, to all of New Jersey, to all of America, and to all the world—both the world that is and the world yet to be.

And You Lord, speak quite clearly.

In fact, You speak with unbelievable clarity:

“Rebuild My Church.”


.

.

1 Comment

Filed under art, Inspiration, Motivational, philosophy, poetry, Religion, spirituality

Thoughts Upon The Cross: Bold Humility

by Howard Hain

.

We should always strive to be fully united with The Body of Christ, in both thought and prayer. To think prayerfully, and to prayerfully think.

Let us then prayerfully embrace this particular moment:

Lord God, Father Almighty, let us use the talents, the gifts, and the abilities—that come from You, that will return to You, but that You have lent us for the time being—with maximum effectiveness, maximum efficiency, and bold humility—all for Your glory.

In the name of Jesus—in the person of Christ—as the Messiah Himself would offer.

Amen.

———

Now, let us think, prayerfully.

What is “bold humility”?

Let’s explore an answer, slow and steady.

First, like all manifestations of God’s glory, “bold humility” is a matter of transcendence.

Second, transcendence is not merely a type of balance. Balance is something else entirely. It is something less than divine. Balance is a man-made religious concept. It is practical human philosophy at work in the world, depending on and functioning within human limitation. Unlike transcendence, balance does not stem from the theological posture of divine providence, and more so, it does not rely on the acknowledged power and faithful acceptance of divine grace.

For example, with regard to the matter at hand, “bold humility” is not merely the balancing of boldness and humility—it is not a matter of being equally bold and equally humble—as if on a scale of 1-10, a score of 5 for boldness and a score 5 for humility is achieved simultaneously—adding up to 10 and at the same time keeping the “seesaw” of virtue straight and parallel to the earth lying below.

No, “bold humility”, like all Christian (and therefore preternatural) virtue is not a matter of equally limiting each natural characteristic in order to fit them all within the confines of human potential and logical limitations.

In plain language then, “bold humility” is not simply a healthy combination of two virtues, namely “boldness” and “humility”.

And most directly to the point: Christ didn’t balance. He transcended.

Then what does transcendence mean in this supernatural sense?

Well, let us rule out a few more false understandings before positing a possible positive understanding.

It will prove helpful to also establish this negation: To transcend is not merely to eliminate. Nor is it merely to deny. By transcending one does not destroy the categories it transcends. So in this particular case we can say that “bold humility” does not “eliminate” or “deny” the category of “boldness” or the category of “humility”.

Now let us begin to state positively what Jesus accomplished—for Jesus most certainly transcended.

To transcend is to rise above and beyond. It is to journey through. It is to transform.

Transcendence fulfills the “categories” it leaves below—it completely and utterly fulfills each and every virtue that man could ever conceive—and not only at the same time or simultaneously, but eternally and to a maximum degree. Transcendence is perpetual fulfillment of all “goodness” to an infinite “degree”.

Transcendence is then what we might call: Active Shalom.

It is living, breathing “Fullness”. It is “True Peace”. It is “Oneness” and the “Unity of God”—alive and constantly in motion. For to transcend is also to enter and live within the Internal Consistency of The Eternal Creator Himself.

Transcendence is the ultimate simplicity of “I AM.

It is Ipse Christus—Christ Himself—God made man, the Word made flesh, the magnificence of God brought into visible light.

And it is human redemption at work.

For the person of Jesus is just that: He is the glory of God woven into and through the very fabric of humanity—taking humanity above and beyond itself—transforming it on earth and simultaneously bringing it back with Him to the Father in heaven—as a new, glorified, and righteous form.

Jesus both lifts humanity into heaven and manifests fully God’s glory on earth.

Bold Humility” is Jesus Himself.

He alone fulfills completely both “boldness” and “humility” without ceasing.

And by doing so He straddles two worlds—making them one. But yet He is much more than a bridge, much more than a mere mystical ladder. Jesus, if you will, is Jacob’s Ladder but built of human flesh—upon Whom not only holy angels ascend and descend between heaven and earth—but through Whom the very helix of humanity is redeemed and glorified.

———

But enough words.

For they can never capture.

Jesus is profoundly free.

The best we can hope for is a glimpse—a fleeting image of the living, breathing manifestation of “Bold Humility” in ultimate action.

It takes silence.

It involves leaving the senses and faculties behind.

It requires “spirit and truth”:

We must stare at The Cross.

We must experience—firsthand—The Crucified Christ.


..

Let us then pray once more:

Lord God, Father Almighty, let us use the talents, the gifts, and the abilities—that come from You, that will return to You, but that You have lent us for the time being—with maximum effectiveness, maximum efficiency, and bold humility—all for Your glory.

In the name of Jesus—in the person of Christ—as the Messiah Himself would offer.

Amen.


.

.

1 Comment

Filed under art, Inspiration, Motivational, philosophy, poetry, Religion, spirituality

Thoughts Upon The Cross: Speak Life

by Howard Hain

Sandro Botticelli, The Last Communion of Saint Jerome, early 1490s (detail)

Botticelli, “The Last Communion of Saint Jerome”, early 1490s, (detail), The Met


.

Heal us.

In the form of bread.

Our tongues like cribs.

You come to rest.

A sacred place.

A mother watches.

A father can hardly believe.

Greatness simply conceived.

Silent.

Yes let us be.

Help us not to speak.

No words can be.

No thoughts except those that flee.

Yes.

Hold our tongues.

Into quiet place.

Stillness.

Let us wait.

Till hear You cry.

A hungry child.

Tucked in for night.

A drop of milk.

In reality blood.

In the form of wine.

The angels sing.

Holiness explodes.

Heaven down to earth.

Saints to and fro.

Blessings forth.

Grace abounds.

The sick are healed.

The blind can see.

The lonely find friends.

Children unwanted?

They finally reach home.

We look.

We see.

We wonder.

How could it be?

It’s Him!

It’s Him.

Right there.

The One nailed to the tree.

Alive again.

Within my mouth.

And at my right hand.

And to the left.

And straight ahead.

And there!

Yes, there too!

In that hopeless situation.

We thought all was lost.

But, no, it’s Him.

He really does care.

And He calls us over.

To Himself.

And yes.

Silence changes forms.

It’s again time to speak.

What else can we do?

The Eternal One.

The Son of Man.

The Conqueror of Strife.

Let us smile at one another.

Let us speak life.


.

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/435728

..

Leave a comment

Filed under art, Inspiration, Motivational, poetry, Religion, spirituality

Thoughts Upon The Cross: The Imitation of Christ

by Howard Hain

Francisco Goya, The Third of May, 1808 in Madrid, 1814-15 (detail), oil on canvas, (Museo del Prado, Madrid)

Francisco Goya, “The Third of May, 1808 in Madrid”, 1814-15 (detail)


.

I hear, ironically mostly among clergy, that the spiritual classic “The Imitation of Christ” is no longer really relevant—that it is too hard, too negative, too oppressive—written for a time when plagues and famines and wars were rampant, when men hardly lived to what we now call “middle age.” But most of all, perhaps, I am told through cute smirks and smug expressions that it is a book not for our “age”, that it no longer applies to our advanced “civilization”, that it no longer rings true in the triumphant “West”.

I ask: Are we free of plagues, free of war, free of famine?

Are not our priests and religious sisters dying off rapidly? Are not babies systematically massacred inside their mothers’ womb? Are not children starving for their fathers to marry their mothers, for there to be a man who actually lives in the same home?

Do we no longer thirst?

Or have we “moved passed” Christ’s inconvenient cry from the Cross?

It seems to me that Christ Himself put little value on living past “middle age”.

Perhaps imitating Him would not be such a barbaric idea.

Lord, have mercy on us.


.

Francisco Goya, The Third of May, 1808 in Madrid, 1814-15 , oil on canvas, (Museo del Prado, Madrid)

Francisco Goya, “The Third of May, 1808 in Madrid”, 1814-15, oil on canvas, (Museo del Prado, Madrid)


.

Leave a comment

Filed under art, Inspiration, Motivational, Religion, spirituality

The Song of Birds

Noah
Around 7 AM  I sit for a few minutes on the porch as the weather gets warmer.  The sparrows and the doves are usually singing away, but the other day they couldn’t be seen or heard.  I soon saw why: a big hawk flew by overhead.

After awhile the birds were back, singing and chirping as usual. Someone told me our ears are wired to hear the song of birds. Why? They tell us all is well, no dangerous enemies nearby.

Birds singing tell us the world’s in good hands. That’s why Noah sent a dove from the ark, I think. The dove not only brought back olive branches signifying all was well, but sang the good news to those in the closed boat.

By baptism we’re wired to hear God’s voice. We listen for God’s good news, despite the dangers. We listen for a world redeemed, a higher plan at play. Good reason to begin the day, listening to birds singing..

4 Comments

Filed under easter, Environment, Motivational, Religion