MEDITATING ON THE OUR FATHER PRAYER

“A Christian who says the Our Father day by day with gradually increasing fervor, who says it from the bottom of his heart, for others as well as for himself, undoubtedly cooperates very much in the divine governance” (Father Garrigou-Lagrange)

Here is an easy way to meditate on the Our Father prayer, simply by saying it very slowly, very meditatively. We might say that the Our Father prayer contains an infinite amount of wisdom for leading the spiritual life – seeing that it comes from the very lips of Jesus Christ, the WORD made flesh. As the Catechism says, “The Lord’s Prayer is truly the summary of the whole Gospel” (CCC 2761).

There is no requirement here of having to be a meditation guru! Meditation in the Christian sense is a deeper application of our understanding – with the help of grace –  to the considerations and petitions present in the Our Father prayer. In other words it is a deeper reflection on the profound meaning of the prayer.

The method of meditation recommended here comes from Saint Teresa of Avila who simply urges us to say the Our Father prayer very slowly. As we say the prayer slowly we have time to reflect on its profound meaning and application to our lives. I remember reading about a saint who could never get past the first line of the Our Father: as soon as she said, “Our Father,” she got caught up in the loving realization that God is our Father!

Father Garrigou Lagrange states:

“Let us every day say the Our Father slowly and with great attention; let us meditate upon it, with love accompanying our faith.

This loving meditation will become contemplation, which will ensure for us the hallowing and glorifying of God’s name both in ourselves and in those about us, the coming of His kingdom and the fulfillment of His will here on earth as in heaven. It will obtain for us also the forgiveness of our sins and deliverance from evil, as well as our sanctification and salvation” (Providence, Chapter 18).

Sister Janet Schaeffler, O.P., relates the following:

“St. Ignatius suggested to those who were searching to grow in prayer to pray the Our Father very slowly and silently in harmony with the pattern of deep, relaxed breathing. Pray only one word with each slow breath, letting the mind, heart and
imagination dwell on that single word.

St. Ignatius also suggested a second method: become relaxed and dwell on the first word of the Our Father, for as long as it is meaningful. Then, move on to the second word. (A young novice once asked Teresa of Avila, “Mother, what shall I do to
become a contemplative?’ Without missing a beat, Teresa responded, ‘Say the Our Father – but take an hour to say it.’).”

Saint Therese of Lisieux states: “Sometimes when I am in such a state of spiritual dryness that not a single good thought occurs to me, I say very slowly the ‘Our Father,’ or the ‘Hail Mary,’ and these prayers suffice to take me out of myself, and wonderfully refresh me.”

Conclusion: Saying the Our Father prayer very slowly, very meditatively is bound to do a “good work in your soul.” A good source for further reflection on this important prayer is in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (see CCC 2761-2865). But simply by praying the Our Father very slowly, very reflectively, with love in your heart for God, you will be meditating in a very effective manner!

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

References: The quote from Sister Schaeffler is from her article, “Praying and Living the Our Father,” (available online). See also my post:

https://catholicstrength.com/2016/06/27/how-to-meditate-and-draw-closer-to-god/

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THE GREAT REWARDS OF ETERNAL LIFE

“Your faith will be like gold that has been tested in a fire. And these trials will prove that your faith is worth much more than gold that can be destroyed. They will show that you will be given praise and honor and glory when Jesus Christ returns.” (1 Peter 1:7)

In evaluating our lives, we should not discount the length of eternal life.  What God is offering to us, ETERNAL LIFE, is simply stunning, overwhelming and unfathomable! Certainly a fundamental part of the Ignatian Exercises is simply to do the math: to reflect on the shortness of life and the incredible length of eternity. And then to choose wisely, which is why we pray to the Holy Spirit for the gift of Wisdom. To miss out on Heaven – and all that Heaven is – simply cannot be an option. “Who could endure the loss?”

 As to death, it is a great grace to realize that we are going to die. In essence, our lives are but a preparation for death. God, in His providence, already knows the day and moment of our death, and He has already put in place the graces we will need to be saved. We need to cooperate with those graces, and all will be well.

Unfortunately, so many people live their lives without much thought about their impending death. They realize that other people die but they sort of see themselves as a bystander to the death of other people –  somehow convincing themselves that it won’t happen to them.

And although attending someone’s funeral may make such a person anxious about death, it is also the case that we are quite adept at putting in to place psychological defense mechanisms that quickly assuage such thoughts and turn our attention back to the world.

As I see it, there is a gigantic cultural conspiracy in place to convince us that we are not going to die. The plan is to outlive death by taking the right vitamins, wearing the best make-up, and seeing the best doctors. And yet everyone still dies. We are all on an absolute collision course with death.  Only God knows for sure how much time we have left.  And the clock keeps ticking.

I think it is interesting that in Saint Mother Teresa‘s mystical life the Virgin Mary told her to tell families to say the rosary (reference: Come Be My Light, Doubleday, p.99). This prayer not only helps us to contemplate the life of Christ, including his death and resurrection, but it continually reminds us of the two most important moments in our lives – the present moment and the moment of our death. We ask Mary to “pray for us now and at the hour of our death.”  It is in the “sacrament of the present moment” that we can choose to conform our will to God’s grace, and it is at the moment of death that we need all of Heaven (that great cloud of witnesses, Hebrews 12:1) interceding for us to persevere to the end.  It is important to pray for the grace of final perseverance and for the fortitude to die a good death. It is reassuring to know that we are asking Mary’s help in this regard when we pray the rosary.

 In First Corinthians it says (at 2:9):

“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Don’t put your trust in the passing things of this world (those idols have no power to save you). Be a little greedy for Heaven, and in the process transform that greed into love and gratitude for a God who, after dying for our sins and humbling himself to be our very eternal life-giving food, has prepared for us such an immense reward that the magnitude of the joy and love we will experience in Heaven is beyond our narrow understanding, lasting for endless ages, in the glory of the “ever-blessed” life of God. In short, to say that Heaven is going to be awesome is an incredible understatement.

“For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Inspiration: The Imitation of ChristThe Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola; and F.W. Faber’s The Creator and the Creature ( I am heavily indebted to him for the tone and content of the note). 

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TEN POINTS TO REMEMBER ABOUT THE REALITY OF INTERCESSORY PRAYER TO THE SAINTS IN HEAVEN

  • “I will spend my heaven doing good upon earth. I will let fall from heaven a shower of roses.” (Saint Therese of Lisieux)                                                                   

    “I believe in the communion of saints”  (Apostles’ Creed)

    1.  In the New Testament (at Hebrews 12:1) we are told that the saints who lived before us form a “great cloud of witnesses” who “surround” us and therefore are interested in the struggles we are enduring as part of the body of Christ.

    2. In the Book of Revelation, where we actually get a glimpse of what is going on up in Heaven, we see the saints (called elders) in Heaven bringing the prayers of God’s holy people on earth before the Lamb, Jesus (see Rev. 5: 8-9). This is an example of the charity that exists between the saints on earth (the church militant) and the saints in Heaven (the church triumphant).

    3. Having died in Christ the saints in Heaven are not dead (we pray to living saints); in fact, they are more alive than ever, being fully united to the infinite merits of Christ. As Jesus said at Mark 12: 26-27, speaking of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, our God is not the God of the dead, “but of the living.” And as the author of Hebrews says, “You have come to Mt. Zion…to the heavenly Jerusalem…to the [living] spirits of just men made perfect” (Hebrews 12: 22-24).

    4. We see from the Book of Revelation, which shows us the activities of Heaven, that the saintly martyrs under the altar (in Heaven) cry out to the Lord for vindication (Rev. 6: 9-11). We see here the saints in heaven petitioning the Lord for justice with respect to events taking place on earth.

    5. Another New Testament verse which demonstrates that the saints who lived before us are still active in the body of Christ is Mark 9:4 where, during his transfiguration, Jesus talks with Elijah and Moses.

    6. Some people quote 1 Timothy 2: 5, which states that Jesus is the one mediator between God and man, to argue against the doctrine of the intercession of the saints. But in fact if you read the verses immediately before 1 Tim. 2: 5, you will see that Paul clearly sees no conflict between intercessory prayer and Christ’s unique role as the one mediator. For example, at 1 Tim. 2: 1-3 Paul “urges that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all men….” Thus, it is clear that Christ’s role as the one mediator empowers those in the body of Christ to act as intercessors.

    7. The saints are powerful intercessors on our behalf because they are joined to God like branches are joined to a vine, forming, in essence, one organism which is kept alive by Christ’s own life. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, puts it this way in the Gospel of John (Chapter 15):

    I am the vine

    You are the branches

    Whoever remains in me, with me in him

    Will bear much fruit

    8. We see in the Book of Revelation that the saints (in this instance, the apostles) assist Jesus even in passing judgment Revelation 20: 4 states: “Then I saw some thrones [the thrones of the twelve apostles], and I saw those who are given the power to be judges take their seats on then” The saints, therefore, are not inactive in heaven; they are working with Christ to bring salvation history to its final stages.

    9.  Our mutual prayer for one another is very valuable. As James states in the New Testament: “pray for one another, that you may be healed” (5: 16). Paul, himself, offers up intercessory prayer on behalf of the community (Romans 1: 9). Now, in Heaven, Paul’s prayers united with our own are even more efficacious for the body of Christ. Paul also teaches that the sacrifices of one Christian for the benefit of another are profitable (see 2 Cor. 12: 15 and 2 Tim. 4: 6). Even veneration of the relics of a saint can benefit the body of Christ: It is said of St. Paul that “so remarkable were the miracles worked by God at Paul’s hands that the handkerchiefs or aprons which had touched him were taken to the sick, and they were cured of their illnesses, and evil spirits came out of them” (Acts 19: 11-12). The point here is clear: the prayers and sacrifices of one member of the body of Christ can benefit another member. The saints in heaven are members of the body of Christ!

    10.  All genuine prayer is ultimately directed to God (and originates from the grace and prompting of the Holy Spirit). Intercessory prayer is merely the joining of our prayers or needs with the prayers of the saints on earth or in heaven; intercessory prayer is therefore one example of the unity that exists between Christ and all believers (“all of us, in union with Christ, form one body” – Romans 12: 5). To claim that intercessory prayer detracts from our relationship with Christ would be as absurd as claiming that the love of neighbor detracts from the love of God when, in fact, the love of God and the love of neighbor are inseparable commandments (“anyone who says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, is a liar” – 1 John 4: 20). The saints in Heaven are fully united to Christ; they do not compete with Jesus for our prayers, but rather in union with Jesus they share in His life as members of the family of God.

    Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

    References: I have no doubt composed this note from information gathered from having listened to numerous Scott Hahn tapes. See, for example, Dr. Hahn’s tape series, Answering Common Objections. I’m sure other apologetic materials figure in as well.

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WE ARE SURROUNDED BY SAINTS WHO CARE DEEPLY ABOUT US!

(The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs by Fra Angelico, Public Domain, U.S.A.)

“…we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses….”  (Hebrews 12:1)

THE BIBLE AND PURGATORY

(Saint Paul Writing His Epistles by Valentin de Boulogne, Public Domain, U.S.A.)

                             “For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29)

In his encyclical on hope, Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI does a wonderful job of demonstrating how 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 clearly supports the doctrine of Purgatory. It is interesting to note, as well, that Dr. Scott Hahn, a Protestant convert, mentioned this New Testament passage in 1 Corinthians as being decisive for him in accepting the Church’s teaching on Purgatory (he says, “I must admit that theologically and psychologically 1st Corinthians 3 basically sealed it up. It was all sewn up for me when I worked through this, praying, studying, pondering. I think it’s strong and clear.”).

WE ARE NOT JUSTIFIED BY THE WORKS OF THE LAW BUT BY GOOD WORKS OF CHARITY

(Saint Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity)

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

“We are truly his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to lead the life of good deeds which God prepared for us in advance.” (Ephesians 2:10)

This note focuses on the importance of good works in the life of a Christian.

“There is no faith without good works” says Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great Lutheran theologian who died in a German concentration camp; and so he is right since the scriptures tell us in no uncertain terms (in language as plain as the nose on your face) that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).

The great debate in the early Church was whether Christians were obligated to keep the Mosaic law, those ceremonial and ritual requirements that St. Paul referred to as the “works of the law.” In the Council of Jerusalem described in Acts 15 the apostles, with Peter taking the lead, declared that Christians were not obligated to observe the Mosaic law “because we are saved through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts l5:11). It is for this reason that St. Paul declared in Romans (at 3:28) that we are justified by faith apart from the works of the law, i.e., justified by faith apart from observing the`Mosaic law.

Some Christians have confused the phrase “works of the law,” which refers to the legal requirements of the Mosaic law, with the term “good works,” as if to say that we are justified by faith apart from good works, even though we have been assured that faith without works is dead. But when Christians talk about good works, they are talking about acts of love which proceed from the Holy Spirit. Without these acts of love, which more specifically are acts of charity, i.e., acts of selfless love, faith is dead. Paul agrees wholeheartedly with James that faith without works is dead, for he states at l Cor.13:2 that if I have faith without charity (love) then I am nothing. And at Galatians 5:6 the apostle Paul tells us that we are justified by a “faith which worketh by love” (KJV). Jesus’ Parable of the Final Judgment at Matthew 25 emphasizes in dramatic terms the critical importance of good works (see CCC 544), pertaining specifically to how love of the Lord is shown through our treatment of those who need our help.

St. John also tells us that faith without charity is dead: “He that loveth not, abideth in death” (1 John 3:14). And: “He that abideth in charity abideth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). The new law which Christians are required to keep is not the works of the law contained in the Mosaic code, but rather the law of love. Thus, as Paul states, “Serve one another, rather, in acts of love, since the whole of the law is summarized in a single command: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:13-15). And: “Anyone who does not look after his own relations … has rejected the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8).

We have been created in Christ Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2:10) . We will be judged, according to Rev. 20:13, each one according to their works. Our good works evidence the presence of the Holy Spirit living within us, transforming us more and more into the image of Christ.

Jesus says: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5). It is Jesus Christ who produces good works in us. These works evidence the fact that our faith in Jesus is alive and that God is working in our lives. Otherwise, our faith is dead. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21.).

“Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:24 KJV).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Primary Reference: Various Scott Hahn Scripture Studies on tape; see also topical essay in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible entitled, “The Works of the Law” at Galatians 3, p.335.

Note: The key is to do our good works out of love for God (as sons, rather than as employees seeking to earn a wage). The question is not whether we have done enough good works, but rather what more can we do. The model for justification in the scriptures is divine sonship, whereby we cry out, “Abba. Father” in the POWER of the Holy Spirit indwelling us. It is an “inward process”. The “model is growth in relationship with God”. The more we love God, the more we will be willing to give ourselves to him.   

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THE AMAZING POWER OF GOD’S PROVIDENCE

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7)

A TRUE STORY: FATHER FRANCIS KELLER

“In 1909 Father Francis Keller took a long trip to Gillette, Wyoming. He had sent a letter to the Catholic settlers there telling them he would celebrate Sunday Mass with them. Many settlers hadn’t seen a priest in years.

After Mass, a man said to Father Keller, ‘Your train doesn’t leave until late tonight. After you’ve made your rounds, let’s take a horseback ride into the hills. They’re beautiful this time of the year.”

Later the two men rode into the hills. After an hour they saw a woman waving in the distance. As they rode up and she saw Father Keller’s collar, a remarkable expression came over her face. She said, ‘Father, my brother is dying.’

Her brother was inside a tent. He was about thirty-five years old and extremely thin. Father Keller heard the man’s confession and anointed him. In those days every priest in the West carried a tiny capsule of holy oil for just such an emergency. As soon as the priest finished, the young man closed his eyes in deep peace. He was dead.

Later the woman said to Father Keller, ‘Nobody told me that you were in Gillette today. But all his life my brother has prayed that a priest would be present at his death. This morning we prayed one last time for this grace.’

That incredible story recalls the words of the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, ‘More things are wrought through prayer than the world dreams of ‘ (From: Challenge: A Daily Meditation Program Based on The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, by Father Mark Link, S.J. (RCL), p.210).”

A PROFOUND REFLECTION ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PROVIDENCE AND PRAYER:

The great Dominican and 20th century theologian, Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, states the following in his book Providence:

“Prayer is not in opposition to the designs of Providence and does not seek to alter them, but actually co-operates in the divine governance, for when we pray we begin to wish in time what God wills for us from all eternity.

When we pray, it may seem that the divine will submits to our own, whereas in reality it is our will that is uplifted and made to harmonize with the divine will. All prayer, so the Fathers say, is an uplifting of the soul to God, whether it; be prayer of petition, of adoration, of praise, or of thanksgiving, or the prayer of reparation which makes honorable amends.

One who prays properly, with humility, confidence, and perseverance, asking for the things necessary for salvation, does undoubtedly cooperate in the divine governance. Instead of one, there are now two who desire these things.It is God of course who converted the sinner for whom we have so long been praying; nevertheless we have been God’s partners in the conversion. It is God who gave to the soul in tribulation that light and strength for which we have so long with our co-operation and as the result of our intercession.

The consequences of this principle are numerous. First, the more prayer is in conformity with the divine intentions, the more closely does it co-operate in the divine governance. That there may be ever more of this conformity in our prayer, let us every day say the Our Father slowly and with great attention; let us meditate upon it, with love accompanying our faith. This loving meditation will become contemplation, which will ensure for us the hallowing and glorifying of God’s name both in ourselves and in those about us, the coming of His kingdom and the fulfillment of His will here on earth as in heaven. It will obtain for us also the forgiveness of our sins and deliverance from evil, as well as our sanctification and salvation.

From this it follows that our prayer will be the purer and more efficacious when we pray in Christ’s name and offer to God, in compensation for the imperfections of our own love and adoration, those acts of love and adoration that spring from His holy soul.

A Christian who says the Our Father day by day with gradually increasing fervor, who says it from the bottom of his heart, for others as well as for himself, undoubtedly cooperates very much in the divine governance. He co-operates far more than the scientists who have discovered the laws governing the stars in their courses or the great physicians who have found cures for some terrible diseases. The prayer of St. Francis, St. Dominic, or, to come nearer to our own times, St. Teresa of the Child Jesus, had an influence certainly not less powerful than that of a Newton or a Pasteur. One who really prays as the saints have prayed, co-operates in the saving not only of bodies but of souls. Every soul, through its higher faculties, opens upon the infinite, and is, as it were, a universe gravitating toward God.

Close attention to these intimate relations between prayer and providence will show that prayer is undoubtedly a more potent force than either wealth or science. No doubt science accomplishes marvelous things; but it is acquired by human means, and its effects are confined within human limits. Prayer, indeed, is a supernatural energy with an efficacy coming from God and the infinite merits of Christ, and from actual grace that leads us on to pray. It is a spiritual energy more potent than all the forces of nature together. It can obtain for us what God alone can bestow, the grace of contrition and of perfect charity, the grace also of eternal life, the very end and purpose of the divine governance, the final manifestation of its goodness.

At a time when so many perils threaten the whole world, we need more to reflect on the necessity and sublimity of true prayer, especially when it is united with the prayer of our Lord and of our Lady. The present widespread disorder must by contrast stimulate us constantly to reflect that we are subject not only to the often unreasoning, imprudent government of men, but also to God’s infinitely wise governance. God never permits evil except in view of some greater good. He wills that we co-operate in this good by a prayer that becomes daily more sincere, more humble, more profound, more confident, more persevering, by a prayer united with action, in order that each succeeding day shall see more perfectly realized in us and in those about us that petition of the Our Father: ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ At a time when [evil forces in the world are] putting forth every effort against God, it behooves us to repeat it again and again with ever deepening sincerity, in action as well as in word, so that as time goes on God’s reign may supersede the reign of greed and pride.

Thus in a concrete, practical way we shall at once see that God permits these present evils only because He has some higher purpose in view, which it will be granted us to see, if not in this world, at any rate after our death” (Providence, pages 210-212, TAN).

Tom Mulcahy (see my personal reflection in the postscript)

 

P.S.  Faith involves trusting in God’s providential care for our lives, while taking positive action to do God’s will. It is a wonderful thought to know that we have always existed or had a “pre-existence” in God’s eternal knowledge. “He has loved us with an everlasting love.” God has willed for us to exist!  And God is Infinite Wisdom.

At the moment of death everything that we shall be for all eternity hangs in the balance. This is the moment that will settle everything. We shudder at the thought of losing God. All our life has been but a preparation for this one final moment. God has even shed His own blood to draw us near to Him. Oh what unthinkable ruin, says Faber, if we are not saved.

We need to pray for the grace of a holy death (that is, to die in a state of sanctifying grace). We need to pray for the grace to receive the last sacrament, and to confess our sins and receive Viaticum (Holy Communion given to a dying person). These are things we should pray for on a regular basis.

Father Faber (from whom I have derived the above considerations) points out in detail that the Blessed Virgin Mary has a special office or jurisdiction to help us die a good and holy death. We must have an immense confidence in her intercession. Saint Joseph is the Patron Saint of the dying, and it thus follows that we should pray to him frequently for the grace to die a happy death (that is, to die in a state of grace). Jesus shed His blood to save us from eternal loss. The Precious Blood comes to us through the sacraments. Immense regard and devotion to the sacraments, as Faber points out, is certainly a tell-tale sign that we are advancing towards Heaven. It is not a good thing to be indifferent towards the sacraments.

Recommended reading: Faber’s essay, “Death,” in Spiritual ConferencesThe Precious Blood (F.W. Faber); and Preparation for Death (Saint Alphonsus de Liguori)

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A SEVERE MERCY: OUR TIME OF VISITATION

(Christ Weeps Over Jerusalem, Ary Scheffer, 1851, Public Domain, U.S.A.)

In the following note, Peter Herbeck, a well known Catholic evangelist and author, offers some important Biblical and prophetic insights regarding the clergy sexual abuse crisis which has sent shock waves throughout the Church.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I’m writing to share with you a few thoughts as a follow up to Ralph Martin’s excellent and courageous letter, Dear Troubled Catholics, regarding the current crisis in the Church.

Ralph wrote that this current crisis, precipitated by the revelation of Cardinal McCarrick’s moral failures and the failure of leadership in the Church to prevent his rise to prominence, could be a “tipping point” for the Church. He sees in it a possibility for genuine repentance and change for the Church.

I perceive in this crisis—both here in the United States and around the world—an opportunity, given us by our Lord. I believe we are experiencing the discipline of the Lord; it is a severe mercy, a judgment upon the Church that is meant to lead to deep, thorough repentance, healing, and reformation. It’s an opportunity that demands a response from all of us, beginning with the leadership of the Church. If we cooperate with Jesus, with obedient and repentant hearts and total honesty and transparency in the fear of the Lord, Jesus will lead us out of this terrible crisis. If we fail to respond to this time of purification, I believe the Church in America will be severely weakened, the decline we’re witnessing in the Church will escalate, and the flock will scatter.

While on mission in Uganda in 2016, the Lord spoke to me about what we are now living through. Our team from Renewal Ministries was leading a week-long retreat for about 350 priests and bishops from five east-African countries. One morning during daily Mass, right after Communion, I sensed the Lord telling me to get out my journal and to write down the following: “The days ahead will be marked by growing chaos and confusion. I am coming to purify my Church. I am about to bring down the idols that hold my people in bondage; I will expose the hypocrisy of the mighty and the strong, both in the Church and in the world.”

Watching the mighty fall in the past few years—Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, Matt Lauer, Al Franken, and now former Cardinal McCarrick (now Archbishop McCarrick) and other cardinals and bishops—has been sobering. These revelations are meant to lead all of us to repentance and to instill in us a healthy fear of the Lord. The Captain of the Armies of Heaven, Jesus, the Lord, is purifying His Church and exposing the emptiness and hypocrisy of the world. Scripture tells us that the Lord disciplines those whom He loves.

It’s important for us to understand Jesus’ intent. He doesn’t come to humiliate or destroy; He comes to save. St. Peter tells us that judgment begins with the house of God. Jesus is purifying His Church for the sake of the salvation of the world. The Church is the hope of the world, the sacrament of salvation, the light of the world. When the Church is trapped in sin, her light goes dim and her salt goes flat.

Today, the Church is infected with deep strongholds of sin that are crippling her life and witness. In the period leading up to the Dallas Charter in 2002, Jesus began to expose the horrific corruption of homosexual sins of pedophilia and ephebophilia (sexual attraction to pubescent boys) among the clergy, and the cover up by some of the hierarchy of these crimes. Eighty-one percent of the victims were adolescent males.

Steps were taken at the time to respond to the crisis with the Dallas Charter and the “zero tolerance” policy instituted throughout the Church in the United States. The Charter was a start, but lacked complete honesty and transparency. The efforts by the bishops left the dishonest impression that the primary problem the Church was facing in this crisis was pedophilia and not ephebophilia. This allowed them to deflect attention from the fact that active homosexuality among the clergy was the primary source of the problem.

What’s clear from the revelations about Archbishop McCarrick is that the repentance in 2002 did not go deep enough. There was a cover up, a strategic decision to hide the bigger problem of active homosexuality among the clergy, including some of the hierarchy.

What we are seeing is the means to which Jesus will go to purify His Church. The wound of sin in this area is deeper than most of our brothers in the hierarchy are willing to acknowledge or to confront. But the Lord will not relent.

In the letter to the Church in Ephesus in the Book of Revelation, Jesus tells the leaders of the Church the following:

“I have this against you, that you abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (Rv 2:4-5).

Jesus warned the leaders of the Church that even though they had done many things right, they had lost their first love. He then gave them a three-step process to make things right: remember, repent, and act. They were to remember the place from which they had fallen, to repent, and then do the works they had done at first. In this crisis, this is a good guide for all of us, especially our leaders.

Jesus is calling our leaders to remember the purity and holiness to which they have been called, and to make a thorough examination of their lives before Him. They must then act decisively, with zeal and determination, to bring to light all that is hidden in darkness. They must remember that this severe mercy is an act of love that calls for total obedience to the Lord, knowing, “those whom I love I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent” (Rv 3:19).

Just as in Ephesus, so it will be with the Church in America, if we don’t respond wholeheartedly, with complete honesty. If the Church refuses to expose the truth, and in the fear of the Lord to cooperate with Him in this hour of purification, He will “come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”

That is what I believe is at stake at this time for the Church in America. To “remove your lampstand” means, in the words of Victorinus of Petovium, to “disperse the congregation.” The Church in many parts of the United States is already in decline. If we as a Church do not cooperate fully with the Lord at this time of visitation, the decline will escalate dramatically.

Cooperation means that policies, good public relations, the advice of lawyers, and the like are not enough. Just looking to the future is not enough. Positive platitudes are not enough. What is needed is action to root out systemic habit patterns of sin, to expose strongholds of sin to the full light of day.

This kind of stronghold of sin will not go away. It will keep producing like a deadly virus in the body or like a festering wound that has only been tended to on the surface. The infection will keep spreading. To date, the words of Jeremiah are a fitting description of the response of the bishops to this serious problem: “They have treated the wound of my people carelessly” (Jer 6:14).

The bishops can no longer continue to treat this wound carelessly; it has to be cut out, to the root. That means having to confront the fear that holds them back. To address this problem head on and to take appropriate action will likely cause serious disruption in the Church for a time, and serious pushback from forces in and outside the Church. There is no easy way forward; it will require great courage.

There is a way out of this: follow Jesus, obey Him. He will give all of us what we need. It’s time to awaken the graces of our confirmation, fortitude that is “prepared to suffer injury and, if need be, death for the truth and for the realization of justice” (Josef Pieper). And a healthy fear of the Lord to overcome the fear of men that so often leads to inaction and weak, foolish responses in the face of serious sin. “The man who fears the Lord will not be fainthearted” (Sir 34:14).

We have nothing to fear if we put all our hope in Him. It’s not our job to secure all the potential consequences that may transpire from a radical response to Jesus at this time. Our job is to obey and to entrust everything to His mercy and love, and to the protection and intercession of Our Lady.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world, he who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12). Even in the greatest darkness, we can walk in the Light.

Peter Herbeck

P.S. One of the best books I have read on the Holy Spirit is Mr. Herbecks’s When the Spirit Comes in Power (Servant).

Biographical note: Peter Herbeck is the vice president and director of missions for Renewal Ministries. For more than thirty years, he has been actively involved in evangelization and Catholic renewal throughout the US, Canada, Africa, and Eastern Europe. Peter is a co-host for the weekly television programs The Choices We Face and Crossing the Goal. He also hosts the daily radio show Fire on the Earth. He is a frequent conference speaker, has authored When the Spirit Comes in Power and When the Spirit Speaks, and has produced CDs and booklets about discipleship and life in the Spirit. Peter is involved with i.d.9:16, an outreach to Catholic young adults sponsored by Renewal Ministries. Peter and his wife Debbie have four children and reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Source: This article, used with permission, is in the October 2018 Newsletter of Renewal Ministries available with full citations at renewalministries.net

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THE QUEST FOR ETERNAL LIFE

“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3)

The Bible tells us that God has life in Himself (John 5:26). This statement is logically true inasmuch as nothing could exist unless there was an eternal source of Life to begin with. The human mind comprehends quite clearly that something cannot come from nothing. The Eternal source of everything else is God – who has life in Himself. The essential revelation of God in Jesus Christ is God’s desire to share His Eternal Life with his human creatures. Amazing, but true.

In the ancient literature of human civilization we hear a clear echo of the human heart’s desire for life everlasting in The Epic of Gilgamesh. Warren Carroll states: “The most striking characteristic of the Epic of Gilgamesh is its absolute honesty in facing the riddle of death.” For all his feats of heroism, Gilgamesh, the dragon-slayer, cannot slay death. After lamenting the death of his dear comrade-in-arms, Enkidu, Gilgamesh goes in search of eternal life in order to escape the “house of darkness.” When he finds the only man to have cheated death, Utnapishtim, he receives the grim news that Utnapishtim’s gift cannot be shared.  “What shall I do,” says Gilgamesh to Utnapishtim, “Death is dwelling in my bedchamber…wherever I set my feet there is death.”

Father Garrigou-Lagrange states that:

“In the preaching of Jesus, everything is directed immediately toward eternal life.”

The great spiritual writer, Father Lallemant, goes even further in associating Jesus with eternal life. He states:

“Everything in Jesus is a principle of eternal life.”

Jesus himself says, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6), and that “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). This eternal life is given to us initially in baptism (“the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” – see John 4:15; 3:5; CCC 694), and is continually nourished in us through the Holy Eucharist (“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” – John 6:54).

“The term eternal life is a central theme found in the Gospel of John. The very purpose of John’s gospel was that ‘you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’ (Jn 20:31; cf. 1 Jn 5:13), ‘life’ being synonymous with ‘eternal life’. Jesus says that, ‘this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent’ (John 17:3). Howard Marshall believes that ‘the most comprehensive term in John for what Jesus gives to people is life or eternal life, which is to be understood as sharing in the life of God [John 1:4]’ ” (from Theopedia).

Are you searching for eternal life? Stay very close to Jesus Christ in faith, hope and love, for he is the principle and source of what you are looking for.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Tom Mulcahy

References: The discussion regarding the quest for eternal life in The Epic of Gilgamesh is derived from Chapter One of The Founding of Christendom by Warren H. Carroll. In The Spiritual Doctrine Father Lallemant says, in a discussion on Holy Communion, that “Everything in Him is a principle of eternal life for Himself and for men; everything in us is a principle of corruption and of death for ourselves and for others.” In The Three Ages of the Interior Life the great Father Garrigou-Lagrange writes:

“In the preaching of Jesus, everything is directed immediately toward eternal life. If we are attentive to His words, we shall see how the life of eternity differs from the future life spoken of by the best philosophers, such as Plato. The future life they spoke of belonged, in their opinion, to the natural order; they though it “a fine risk to run,” without having absolute certltude about it. On the other hand, the Savior speaks with the most absolute assurance not only of a future life, but of eternal life superior to the past, the present, and the future; an entirely supernatural life, measured like the intimate life of God, of which it is the participation, by the single instant of immobile eternity.”

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Planet Earth: God’s Garden in the Midst of Unimaginable Space


“Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds Thy hands have made.”

It’s incredible how big the universe is. I mean, wow! The universe is big. Really big. Unbelievably big. The immense size of our universe is simply staggering.

The Milky Way (our galaxy) has over 100 billion stars and is 100,000 light years in diameter! And get this: there are billions of galaxies. Earth is like a small pebble floating in colossal space.

For a moment, we might even despair of earth’s seeming insignificance in the scheme of things. After all, our sun only has about five billion years to go before it burns out and dies of old age (estimates vary).

Despair? I think not. Let us look out into our universe just as far as we can. We see many things, but there is one thing we don’t see: life. Besides our own planet, the universe seems to be barren of life. So our little planet is special, very special. We are teeming with life. Life! Beautiful life.

Now if we think about this interesting set of circumstances – at least from a theological perspective – it is not hard to see that God has blessed Earth with His special providence. In ages past it was though that Earth was the center of the universe, but we now know this is not the case. Rather, if I might be permitted to say, Earth seems to be at the center of God’s heartfelt love for creatures. Just as Mary was blessed among all women, Earth seems to be blessed among all planetary bodies.

Now it is possible that there may be life out there in some distant galaxy a gazillion light years away. God’s prerogative does not preclude such a scenario. Perhaps one day we will be visited by some alien creature who also owes his life to God’s gratuitous love!

But as is stands, it appears that the only “alien” to have ever visited our planet was Jesus Christ; and he came with the most benign intention and wonderful purpose: to save us, and thus to make us children of God.

God’s plan of salvation will one day take us beyond time and space, to “loftier demarcations” of infinite scope and of eternal significance, where we may look upon our Heavenly Father’s face, and upon the universe he made, and say with great awe and love, “How Great Thou Art.”

(Dear Father, I never really understood how omnipotent your omnipotence is! For you are infinite, which means the universe is no bigger than a small bread basket compared to you! To think then, for a moment, who you are and that I am your creature!)

Tom

Inspiration: Studying natural science with Bridget; The Illustrated Atlas of the Universe by Mark A. Garlick; Chapter One of Called to Holiness by Ralph Martin; and F.W. Faber’s fascinating discussion of natural science in The Blessed Sacrament, pages 255-276. Faber refers to planet Earth as “God’s garden.”

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