Tag Archives: prayer

Hail Mary

 

Praying the Hail Mary, we ask Mary the Mother of Jesus to lead us to God.  The prayer’s earliest form  developed  in the middle ages with the simple greeting of the angel Gabriel at Nazareth, from St. Luke’s gospel:


Hail Mary,
full of grace,
the Lord is with you.

You are favored by God, the angel announces to her. She brought Jesus Christ into the world. That message continues through the ages and is reflected in us.  Like her, we are favored by God and called to bring God’s Son into the world.  God’s promise of grace to Mary echoes in God’s promise to us. As  promised  to Mary, God will be with us.

Over time her cousin Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary, also recorded in St. Luke, was added to the prayer:
Blessed are you among women
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

Finally by the 15th century, the remainder of the prayer appeared:
Holy Mary, mother of God,
pray for us sinners
now and at the hour of our death.

The prayer asks Mary, full of the grace of her Son, to intercede for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. She is a model for believers and she knows what it means to believe. She who knew her Son so well, can teach us  the way to him.

On Calvary Jesus entrusted her to us as a mother when he said to his disciple “Behold your mother.” Ever since, she brings Christ into this world. She knew Jesus from the beginning and witnessed his life, death and resurrection. She helps us to know him. She also knows our needs. Aware of  the needs of the newly married couple at Cana in Galilee, she approached Jesus, her Son. She is aware of our needs too.

By the end of the 16th century the practice of saying 150 Hail Marys in series or decades of 10 became popular among many ordinary Christians. Helped by her they remembered  the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. That practice of prayer is known now as the Rosary.

Mary is a model of faith for Christians. When the angel Gabriel came to her, she believed the words he spoke even to the dark test of Calvary. She helps the family of believers on their journey to believe..

The Hail Mary and the Rosary are blessed prayers,  simple and profound. They’re not beyond anyone’s reach; their repetition brings peace to the soul. They draw us into  the joys, sorrows and glory of Jesus, the world Mary knows so well.  We hope to “imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through Christ, Our Lord. Amen”

We will be celebrating the Feast of the Assumption of Mary this month..

St. John Vianney

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August 4th  is the feast of St. John Vianney, (1786-1859) the patron of parish priests. Born in Lyon, France, he had to struggle to become a priest. Once ordained he was made pastor of a small parish in an out of the way place called Ars. “He cared for this parish in a marvelous way by his preaching , his mortification, prayer and good works,” his biography says. He was especially good in hearing confessions and soon people were coming from everywhere to Ars.

Good to pray for parish priests, struggling to minister in the church today as it goes through difficult times of change and questioning.We need more John Vianneys.

John Vianney knew the value of prayer. He wanted to become like St. Francis of Assisi and St. Colette who “used to see our Lord and talk to him as we talk to one another. How unlike them we are! How often we come to church and have no idea what to do and what to ask for. We know how to speak to another human being, but not to God. “

His simple sermons challenged and changed those who heard him.Hurray for simple sermons and priests who preach them.

Praying with Mary and Ann

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Western Wall, Jerusalem

A novena preparing for the  Feast of Saints Ann and Joachim, the parents of Mary, the mother of Jesus, July 26 has begun, reminding us of the role parents and grandparents play in raising children.  A few years ago I visited the ancient ruins of the temple in Jerusalem from the time of Jesus where  Jewish women were fervently praying with their daughters before the temple’s western wall.

Ann and her daughter Mary must have prayed here too.

Temple

The picture above is a model of the temple from Jesus’ time at the Israel Museum. Tradition says Ann and Joachim were closely associated with the temple and may have lived nearby.  An ancient church honoring St. Ann stands today near the Pool of Bethesda, near the temple. There, a paralyzed man was healed by Jesus. (John 5, 1-18) That’s the church below.

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Church of St. Ann, Jerusalem

A statue of Ann and her daughter Mary is in the Jerusalem church. Ann is teaching her daughter at her side.

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What is she teaching her? Some statues show her teaching Mary the scriptures. I’ve seen a statue, like the one below, showing Ann teaching her the ABCs and numbers. That’s what parents and grandparents do, isn’t it? they teach children life’s basics: how to live and how to pray.

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Cathedral, Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Still true today. Parents and grandparents, the next generation is at your side. Ann and Joachim pray for us; show us the way.

There’s a Harvest Nearby

In yesterday’s gospel, Jesus says, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” We think immediately about praying for priests and religious when we hear these words, and we certainly need priests and religious today.

But they’re not the only laborers needed for God’s great harvest. What about laborers for places where priests and religious will never be? And what about the harvest itself, where does that happen?

I’m sure at one time or another you have overheard people at a restaurant (Not these days, of course) discussing religion. “What do you think of the pope?” “Do you think there’s life after death?” “Do you think Jesus is really God?” Often the questions go unanswered or wrongly answered because there’s no laborer there to cast in seeds of truth.

The harvest is waiting in a lot of places..

Jesus spoke about the laborers for the harvest as he moved from town to town in Galilee and saw  “troubled and abandoned” crowds, Matthew’s gospel says. Maybe we need to ask for laborers to walk among crowds like that today. Maybe we need to recognize there’s a harvest not far from where we are, “troubled and abandoned,” at a table nearby.

Your Kingdom come on earth

The wise St. Teresa of Avila says, “We’re people who don’t feel rich until we feel the money in our pocket.” So, we have to pray, “Your kingdom come… on earth.”

We’re earthy people with our feet on the ground, today’s ground. We find it hard to pray: “Give us whatever is good for us.” We find it hard to grasp that God’s kingdom is coming with blessings far beyond what we ask for.

We’re earthy people. We find the prayer of Jesus in the garden hard to imitate: “Not my will, but yours be done.”

“But you know us, my Lord, and you know that we have not given ourselves up to the will of your Father as completely as you did. For us, it is best to pray for specific things…or else we won’t accept what God chooses to give us (even if it is far better than what we asked for) because it’s not exactly what we asked for.”

So we pray that God’s kingdom come “on earth” –for my cousin’s friend who’s paralyzed, for Dennis, Joan, Camille, Mary, and Betty who lost their jobs, for the disturbed woman who visits our garden, for our President and our country, for Vincent in the hospital.” Our prayer is about “specific things” because we live our lives in them; we only know through what we see and feel and experience.

And so, “the good Jesus places these two petitions – Hallowed be thy name and Thy kingdom come next to each other, so that we can understand what we are asking for and why it is important to beg for it and to do all we can to please the one who is able to give it to us.”

The petitions lead us to the prayer of Jesus, “your will be done.”

A wise woman, St. Teresa. No wonder she’s a Doctor of the Church. (The Way of Perfection)

An Immense Sea

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Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Did St. Gregory of Nyssa ever stand at a place like this? He must have:

“The feelings that come as one stands on a high mountain peak and looks down onto some immense sea are the same feelings that come to me when I look out from the high mountain peak of the Lord’s words into the incomprehensible depths of his thoughts.

“When you look at mountains that stand next to the sea, you will often find that they seem to have been cut in half, so that on the side nearest the sea there is a sheer drop and something dropped from the summit will fall straight into the depths. Someone who looks down from such a peak will become dizzy, and so too I become dizzy when I look down from the high peak of these words of the Lord: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“These words offer the sight of God to those whose hearts have been purified and purged. But look: St John says No-one has seen God. The Apostle Paul’s sublime mind goes further still: What no man has seen and no man can see. This is the slippery and crumbling rock that seems to give the mind no support in the heights. Even the teaching of Moses declared God to be a rock that was so inaccessible that our minds could not even approach it: No-one can see the Lord and live.
“To see God is to have eternal life – and yet the pillars of our faith, John and Paul and Moses, say that God cannot be seen. Can you understand the dizziness of a soul that contemplates their words? If God is life, whoever does not see God does not see life. If the prophets and the Apostle, inspired by the Holy Spirit, attest that God cannot be seen, does this not wreck all the hopes of man?
 “It is the Lord who sustains our floundering hope, just as he sustained Peter when he was floundering in the water, and made the waters firm beneath his feet. If the hand of the Word stretches out to us as well, and sets us firm in a new understanding when these speculations have made us lose our balance, we shall be safe from fear, held safe in the guiding hand of the Word. Blessed, he says, are those who possess a pure heart, for they shall see God.”

Daily Prayer

We celebrate the feast of St. Thomas More today, June 22. Holbein’s painting of More and his family, holding their books, portrays a family that prized learning and prayer. More made sure his daughters were well-educated.

Some of those books, I would say are their prayerbooks, not unusual in those days.. Daily prayer was part of Catholic life and prayerbooks with psalms, prayers and personal reflections were important to those who could read and afford them.

Is the pandemic calling us to personal prayer and prayerbooks (and blogs) today? Our loss of Sunday Mass and parish based sacraments makes us aware we have to fall back on ourselves.. So thank you, More and your family, for reminding us what we might do at home.

The prayer Jesus taught his disciples, the Our Father, was a daily prayer, one of the ways we get ready for what God sends each day. We’re children of God and should act like God’s children each day.

We need to live each day with large vision, doing our part that God’s kingdom come, “on earth as it is in heaven.” We need “daily bread” of all kinds. We’re part of a messy world that’s torn apart by selfishness and smallness and pride. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We need light to go by the right path. “Deliver us from evil” and guide us to do good.

I don’t think St. Thomas More could have lived so heroically in the world he lived in without daily prayer. It brings vision and grace to us; it’s daily bread.

Thy Will Be Done On Earth

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. “This is not that God should do what he wills, but that we may be able to do what God wills,” St. Cyprian says in reflecting on this petition of the Our Father.

Weak as we are, we find it hard to know and to do God’s will, and so Jesus, “ showing the weakness of the humanity which he bore, said Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, and showing his disciples an example, that they should do not their own will but God’s, he went on to say nevertheless, let it not be my will, but yours.”

 Cyprian describes at length how we humans do God’s will: by dealing with others humbly, by holding steadily to our faith, by being just and merciful in what we do, by being moral in our lives.

But God’s will is to be done “on earth,’ we pray. Are only humans involved in doing God’s will, or is the earth itself involved in this petition? 

The psalms call for the earth and all creation to “bless the Lord.” The earth itself is called to do God’s will. It has a place in God’s plan. Our responsibility is to discern what God’s will is for our earthly home and see that it is done. 

Doing God’s will involves more than ourselves and human relationships. It extends to the earth as well.  One of the points Pope Francis makes in Laudato sí.

The Elusive Prayer

by Orlando Hernandez

The Gospel readings for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of the 7th Week of Easter present to us the whole of Chapter 17 of the Gospel of John, Jesus’ beautiful prayer at the end of the Last Supper discourses. Cardinal Fulton Sheen, in his book Life of Christ, calls this chapter “Our Lord’s ‘My Father’”. Jesus must have said these words out loud in front of the Apostles, otherwise it could not have been recorded. I imagine Him, His eyes streaming with tears of joy and sorrow, arms open, facing heaven, saying these words like a nightingale in full-throated song.

Cardinal Sheen writes : “In the Our Father which He taught men to pray there were seven petitions. In His ‘My Father’ there were also seven petitions, and they had reference to His Apostles who are the foundation of His Kingdom on earth. First, their continual union with Him; second, their joy as a result of this union; third, their preservation from evil; fourth, their sanctification in the truth which is Himself; fifth, their unity with one another; sixth, that eventually they may be with Him; and seventh, that they may perceive His glory.”

I try to find the parts of Jesus’ prayer that illustrate these points. I almost seem to find them, and then I forget what they were; it’s so strange. This is the chapter of the Bible that I have read the most, and it always eludes me in some mysterious way. There is so much to it. I still cannot wrap my mind around it. It is like some of my deepest, most powerful prayer experiences. My heart is humming afterwards. My eyes might be full of tears, but I cannot find the words to express what I experience, almost as if I have forgotten most of it, like waking from a dream.

The part that remains with me the most is where Jesus, after praying for His Apostles, says, “I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as You Father are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that You sent me.” (Jn 17: 20-21)

In his book The World’s Religions, Huston Smith comments on how perhaps the greatest psychological force that prompted so many thousands of people throughout the Roman Empire to consider Christianity, was the impressive unity, solidarity, and mutual sacrifice that the followers of The Way exhibited.

When our beloved leader and teacher, Fr. Owen Lally CP was alive, we would conclude our Charismatic prayer meetings by holding hands around the altar with the Monstrance containing the Living Blessed Sacrament, and would sing:
“Father, make us one.
Father, make us one,
that the world may know
That You sent Your Son.
Father make us one.”

I always felt it was the most powerful moment of our prayer meeting, when the presence of God was the most palpable to me. I felt as if our prayer group would never break up. I would realize that Jesus’ prayer in John 17 was being fulfilled right then and there. Years later, we still conclude with this song even in the absence of Fr. Owen, and of the Blessed Sacrament, the effect is still so unifying and holy.

Jesus, High Priest and Teacher, I thank You for this prayer that You say even for me. May it be always a “holy space” where I may be able to go and meet You. May it inspire us all not to lose hope in this “world” that refuses to accept Your words of love and peace. May we, as Your Church, be able to look into each others eyes, smile and say, without fear or embarrassment, “Father make us one.”

Orlando Hernández

Let Us Pray

We are not alone during this pandemic. Emmanuel means God is with us every step of the way. May these uncertain times be an opportunity to grow in prayer.

Lord, have mercy.
Jesus, Eternal Son of God, have mercy on us.
Jesus, born into the human family,
Jesus, rejected by the world you came to save,
Jesus, bargained for and sold for money,
Jesus, foreseeing your torments and sweating blood,
Jesus, betrayed by a false friend,
Jesus, deserted by those you loved,
Jesus, slapped in the face and spit upon in a court of justice,
Jesus, accused by liars,
Jesus, disowned by Peter,
Jesus, insulted by Herod,
Jesus, condemned to death by Pilate,
Jesus, beaten with whips,
Jesus, crowned with thorns,
Jesus, rejected for the murderer, Barabbas,
Jesus, burdened with a cross,
Jesus, stripped of your clothing,
Jesus, nailed to a cross,
Jesus, taunted in your pain,
Jesus, abandoned,
Jesus, shedding the last drop of your blood,
Jesus, dying for us,
Jesus, laid in a tomb,
Jesus, rising in glory,
Jesus, ascending into heaven,
Jesus, sending down the Holy Spirit,
Jesus, our ransom,
Jesus, our brother,
Jesus, our God, have mercy on us.

From Lent-Easter Meditations and Prayers 

by Fr. Victor Hoagland, C.P.