Tag Archives: prayer

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 containing psalms, prayers and personal reflections were important to those who could read and afford them.

Daily prayer and prayerbooks may not be high among our spiritual priorities today, I fear, but they should be. Daily prayer is probably going the way of Sunday Mass, becoming “occasional” prayer. But daily prayer has always been at the heart of Christian spirituality. So thank you, More and your family, for reminding us of its importance.

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.

An Immense Sea

View_of_Cliffs_of_Moher
Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

I wonder if St. Gregory of Nyssa ever stood 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.”

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

Silent Clay

The daily Mass readings for Eastertime, from the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of John, are so different in tone. The Acts of the Apostles is a fast-moving account of a developing church spreading rapidly through the world through people like Paul of Tarsus and his companions. Blazing new trails and visiting new places,  they’d be frequent flyers today, always on the go.

The supper-room discourse of Jesus from the Gospel of John, on the other hand,  seem to move slowly, repeating, lingering over the words of Jesus to his disciples. Listen, be quiet, sit still, they say. Don’t go anywhere at all.

St. Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionists, was inspired by St. Paul, the Apostle, to preach and to teach. Many of his letters end telling readers he has to go, he’s off to preach somewhere. He was a “frequent flyer.”

But the Gospel of John also inspired him; it was the basis for his teaching on prayer. Keep in God’s presence, in pure faith, he often said. Enter that inner room and remain there. Don’t go anywhere.

“It’s not important for you to feel the Divine Presence, but very important to continue in pure faith, without comfort, loving God who satisfies our longings. Remain like a child resting on the bosom of God in faithful silence and holy love. Remain there in the higher part of your soul paying no attention to the noise of the enemy outside. Stay in that room with your Divine Spouse…Be what Saint John Chrysostom says to be: silent clay offered to the potter. Give yourself to your Maker. What a beautiful saying! What the clay gives to the potter, give to your Creator. The clay is silent; the potter does with it what he wills. If he breaks it or throws away, it is silent and content, because it knows it’s in the king’s royal gallery.”  (Letter 1515)

 

Two Feasts for Tired Missionaries

The Passionists celebrate two feasts immediately before Ash Wednesday. Last Friday it was the Solemn Commemoration of the Passion of Jesus Christ. On the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the Prayer of Jesus in the Garden.

My intuition is that both feasts come from our missionary founder, St. Paul of the Cross, who spent lent for many years preaching in the villages and towns of the Tuscan Maremma, announcing the graces the lenten season promises.

It was a challenge. The Tuscan Maremma was a place where grace and good news seemed gone. An area in Central Italy facing the Mediterranean Sea of almost 2,000 square miles– roughly the size of Long Island and New York City together– it was the poorest, most troubled part of Italy in Paul’s day. Only gradually, towards the end of the 1700s, after his death, did it begin inching towards recovery.

St.PaulCross.017

The Tuscan Maremma is now a popular tourist destination; then it was an unhealthily mix of hills and swamplands. Malaria was widespread, roads were often impassible, dangerous because of bandits. Farmlands were abandoned; beggars were everywhere. The population in isolated villages and hill towns suspected outsiders.

Paul and his companions preached there for many years. Every year it was the same; it never seemed to change. You need other eyes and another kind of heart to work in a world like that and not get tired.

And so as they packed their bags for their lenten journey into the Tuscan Maremma they had to remind themselves what was there before them: the mystery of the Passion of Christ. They needed to pray so they wouldn’t forget. That’s what Jesus did before the mystery of his Passion.

It’s still so today. These are two feasts for tired missionaries.

The Prayer of Jesus in the Garden

Mount Olives 3


“Then going out Jesus went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived at the place he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not undergo the test.”

The Passionists remember The Prayer of Our Lord in the Garden in their liturgical calendar on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Lent is a time for prayer. At this time, St. Paul of the Cross and other Passionist missionaries prepared for their ministry in the lenten season. Leaving  their “retreats” they went out to awaken “those who sit in darkness…through the trumpet of God’s word.”

That can’t be done without prayer.

On the Mount of Olives Jesus prayed in the Garden before his arrest and crucifixion, while his disciples slept a short distance away. The executioners had not yet come, no scourging, no thorns, no nails had touched him, but here in the dark, Jesus faced death..

He saw before him the awful death by crucifixion, which a criminal faced. The Romans used that kind of death to frighten and keep order. They crucified their victims openly outside the city gate, a place chosen for all to see.

Jesus faced death in other forms too. There was the question the prophets faced: “Have I toiled in vain?” The sleeping disciples nearby, the towns that forgot his healing and teaching, the powerful enemies who rejected him. “Have I toiled in vain? Have I failed, have I accomplished anything ?”

Jesus does not pray in many words. He prays to God who cares for him–“Father, let this cup pass from me, but not my will but yours be done.” He gives himself into God’’s hands.

His fears are real, so real that “his sweat becomes like blood falling to the ground.” St. Vincent Strambi says Jesus’ bloody sweat is “the voice of his heart, proclaiming his great love and sorrow.”

“An angel came to strengthen him.” God hears and cares for and strengthens those who pray. “Pray, persevere in prayer.”