Month: January 2016

THE INCREDIBLE POWER WE HAVE TO PRAY FOR OTHERS

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SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS: WHY IS HE PREEMINENT AMONG THEOLOGIANS?

DID THE UNIVERSE HAVE A BEGINNING?

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         “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1)

Not too long ago most astronomers and physicists held to the “steady-state” theory of the universe. This theory postulates that the universe has no beginning or end because it maintains a “constant average density” despite whatever change or expansion occurs.

But the scientific community began to chip away at the steady-state theory. “The death knell for the theory sounded when radio astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discovered [in the 1960s] the cosmic microwave background, the leftover radiation from the Big Bang. The steady-staters had no reasonable way to explain this radiation, and their theory slowly faded away as so many of its predecessors had” (pbs.org).

The evidence now generally accepted in the scientific community is that the universe did, in fact, have a beginning, exploding into being billions of years ago in what is referred to as the “Big-Bang” theory. The astronomer Robert Jastrow explains to us that “three lines of evidence – the motions of galaxies, the laws of thermodynamics, and the life story of the stars – pointed to one conclusion: all indicated that the universe had a beginning” (God and the Astronomers, p.111).

“Arno Penzias, who won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of the cosmic background radiation [a ghostly whisper from the original moment of creation] that corroborated the Big-Bang, said, ‘The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, and the Bible as a whole.'”

Astronomer Robert Jastrow concludes: “Now we see how the astronomical evidence [of the Big-Bang origin of the universe] leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commence suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy” (A Scientist Caught, p.14). “Astronomers now find that they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation…as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover” (God and the Astronomers, p.15).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Sources: My primary sources for this note, and for the quotes set forth above, are Norman Geisler’s article, “Big Bang Theory,” in the Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, and chapter eleven of What’s So Great About Christianity by D. D’Souza. I understand that astronomer Robert  Jastrow is an agnostic.

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A SHORT MEDITATION ON GOD

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         “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord”  ( Luke 1:46)

      I think it is probably true to say that we don’t spend enough time meditating on who God is, even though meditating on God’s attributes has a special capacity to fill our hearts with love for God. I’m in the process of reading Saint Aloysius Gonzaga’s biography by Father Meschler, and the author states on page 150, concerning the saint’s prayer lifethat Aloysius “often seemed to be rapt into another world, especially when meditating on the infinite attributes of God….” There is so much to be learned from the saints.
     Lately, I’ve been meditating on two of God’s attributes, to wit: that God is UNCREATED and INFINITE.
     God’s “unimaginable glory” is such that He has always existed and never has not been. He is uncreated because His very essence is to exist. In John’s Gospel, Jesus testified that “before Abraham was, I am” (8:56). Our beautiful God’s life is eternal, limitless and self-sufficient. There is simply nothing to compare to the greatness of God’s unbeginning, never-ending Blessed life. When we meditate on this wonderful mystery it fills our hearts with awe.
     God’s life is also INFINITE. As large and big and majestic as you can imagine God to be, He is still infinitely larger, bigger and more majestic than that. The immensity of His Infinite existence is simply inexplicable. It blows our minds to try and comprehend just how infinite God’s life is: but whatever your answer may be, His infinite existence is infinitely greater than what you are able to imagine (these human images fall hopelessly short of the spiritual reality).  God’s infinity is simply breathtaking. He is boundless beyond anything we can comprehend. He transcends space and time.The “infinite sea” of His being cannot be measured or quantified.
     OK. Stop for a moment. Take a breath. Take note: the Uncreated, Infinite God created you. And He loves you! – so much so that He entered into human history to save us from ourselves by suffering a  cruel and brutal death, and even now, out of love, abases Himself to be our very eternal life-giving food under the appearance of bread and wine. What kind of God is this?
     My heart is beating faster! I was created by this God. I am loved by this God!  And this God can only love with the immensity of His Infinite love. Who has words to describe the immensity of God’s love? To contemplate God’s love fills our hearts with a holy awe and an ardent desire forms deep within our souls to seek after Him with greater intensity and with a more fervent love. 
     Oh wonderful, glorious God! Thou art truly amazing; and thou art my God and Father.

Tom Mulcahy

Inspiration: I am completely indebted in this note to the style and content of Father F.W. Faber’s great book, The Creator and the Creature, and I have carved this short note out of his many reflections therein on the attributes of God (see especially the chapter, “Why God Wishes Us to Love Him”).

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THE HUMANITY OF THE UNBORN CHILD IN THE OLD TESTAMENT: A REMARKABLE PHENOMENON

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 “…the mere possibility of harming [life not yet born] is completely foreign to the religious and cultural way of thinking of the [Old Testament] People of God.”  (Saint Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life, no.44)

       I am looking at the Old Testament – the Hebrew Bible – and I am reflecting on a remarkable phenomenon: that amidst pagan and even demonic cultures the Hebrew people affirmed in a most remarkable way the humanity of the unborn child. Illustrative verses include:

“Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:4-5)

“What then shall I do when God rises up? When He punishes, how shall I answer Him? Did not He who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same One fashion us in the womb?” (Job 31:14-15)

“For You formed my inward parts; you covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.” (Psalm 139:13-14) 

“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.” (Psalm 127:3)

     Pope John Paul II, commenting on the Old Testament affirmation of life from its very inception in the womb, states:

“How can anyone think that even a single moment of this marvellous process of the unfolding of life could be separated from the wise and loving work of the Creator, and left prey to human caprice? Certainly the mother of the seven brothers did not think so; she professes her faith in God, both the source and guarantee of life from its very conception, and the foundation of the hope of new life beyond death: “I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws” (2 Mac 7:22-23).”  (The Gospel of Life, no. 44)

     The magnificent revelation in the Old Testament that both man and woman are created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27) was the foundation of a unique culture of life for the Hebrew people, from which would one day come a Savior safely hidden away in the womb of the Virgin before that first Christmas day.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Ref. The photo is of my daughter, Molly, when she traveled to the 2014 March for Life in Washington D.C. all the way from Benedictine College in Kansas.

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A TAPESTRY OF MARY’S POWERFUL PRESENCE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

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 “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true” (Luke 1:38)

If God’s own messenger, the Archangel Gabriel, hadn’t called her by the descriptive title, “Hail, Full of Grace” (Luke 1: 28); and if she had not been covered by the Holy Spirit’s “unspeakable shadow” (see Luke 1:42); and if St. Luke, in describing Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth, hadn’t drawn a stunning comparison between the Virgin Mary and the all-holy Ark of the Covenant (see link below); and if Mary’s visit (with Jesus in utero) to Elizabeth hadn’t unleashed a veritable explosion of grace; and if, at the sound of Mary’s voice, Elizabeth had not been filled with the Holy Spirit and boldly proclaimed Mary to be “the Mother of my Lord” (Luke 1:41-45); and if Simeon the prophet had not peered down through the decades to see that Mary, who had brought the baby Jesus to the Temple, was predestined to share closely in Jesus’ passion, saying to Mary, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2: 35); and if Mary’s role as a powerful intercessor hadn’t been so clearly manifested at Cana when she moved her Son to work His first public miracle against His own will since His “hour had not yet come” (John 2:1-12); and if the Lord Jesus Himself hadn’t bequeathed her to us (from the cross) as our Spiritual Mother as He was meriting our very salvation, saying, “Behold, your Mother” (John 19: 25-27) as she stood faithfully at the foot of the cross in fulfillment of Simeon’s prophecy; and if Saint Luke hadn’t specifically pointed out that she was present with the Apostles in the Cenacle in preparation for Pentecost” and the “birth of the Church” (quotations from Pope John Paul II; see Acts 1:14); and if Saint John hadn’t seen her in a vision of heaven, “clothed with the sun” and wearing her Queenly crown of twelve stars (Revelation 12:1-2); and if Old Testament typology and New Testament fulfillment didn’t point to her as the New Eve and Queen Mother (see especially Scott Hahn’s masterful book, Hail Holy Queen); and if the testimony of the Catholic saints didn’t overwhelmingly verify beyond all peradventure the amazing assistance she provides to those who accept her spiritual motherhood (which Jesus merited for us), leading them to greater union with Jesus, perhaps then you could persuade me not to accept all of the beautiful and sublime teachings about her by the Roman Catholic Church, the only church in Christendom which can trace its origin directly back to Jesus and the apostles (and thus to Mary herself, Mother of the Savior).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Sources:
Various Scott Hahn tapes including “Mary: Holy Mother,” and his book, Hail Holy Queen; various Father Faber books (I believe he used the beautiful phrase, “unspeakable shadow,” quoted above); internet article Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant (This Rock: October 2005); and other Catholic apologetic materials. See also, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible; Dictionary of Mary; and by Pope John Paul II (click on link ): Mary’s Presence in the Upper Room at Jerusalem
Image: The Virgin in Prayer by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato (1609-1685), a Public Domain work in the U.S. A. per Wikipedia.

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THE EUCHARIST, JOHN 6 AND JUDAS

Ref. The Gospel of John (audio series) by Dr. Scott Hahn

Photo Attribution

This photo of Pope Benedict XVI celebrating Mass on May 11, 2007 was taken by Fabio Pozzebom/ABr and produced by Agência Brasil, a public Brazilian news agency. This file is licensed under the Creative CommonsAttribution 3.0 Brazil license (per Wikipedia).

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THE IGNATIAN CALL TO SERVICE: LOVE DEMANDS LOVE IN RETURN

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                       “How can I repay the LORD for all the good done for me?”   (Psalm 116:12)

Reflection: At the heart of the Ignatian Exercises is a question. The question Ignatius poses is this: seeing all that Jesus did for you (becoming a fellow human being to die a brutal death so that you could be liberated from the tyranny of sin), what are you going to do in response to such amazing love?

After all, Ignatius is a soldier. He’s a man of action. He wants the whole world to hear the summons to salvation. His source of power is contemplation (prayer), but prayer leads to action: to service. If the King (Jesus) is fighting a battle for souls, then the soldier of Christ needs to be fully enlisted in the King’s service.

Ignatius has a battle plan. If we are to follow the biblical mandate to be in the world but not of it (see John 17 and Romans 12:2), then we must practice a certain indifference towards all created things so that the allure and charm of the world (its seductive power) has no power over us. Thus we are freed to use all of creation for its intended purpose: to give glory to God. This indifference places in our hearts “a calm readiness for every command of God” (Karl Rahner), and the courage to accept the unforeseen circumstances which God may permit to occur in our lives. In this battle plan the reference point for all that we do is God. “Our hearts are restless until they rest in God” (Augustine).

The call of the Ignatian exercises is to get spiritually fit for service. The training consists in a review of one’s life (part I), examination of conscience, cultivating a profound sorrow for past sins, learning to trust in God’s mercy, the practice of prayer and meditation, learning how to petition God with boldness for the graces we need, and learning how to become like the one who died for us primarily by an intense identification with the Savior’s life (part II).

“Love consists primarily in a sharing of all that one has with whom he loves.” This is the essence of Trinitarian love! The Savior has seen fit to give all of Himself to us so that we may ultimately share in the eternal life of the Trinity. In response to such amazing love, Ignatius asks: what are you going to do in return? The proper response to Ignatius is to LOVE God in return; and to Ignatius, to quote one of the most famous lines of the Exercises, “love ought to manifest itself in deeds rather than words.” Part III of the Exercises has, as part of its focus, contemplating the love of God. Contemplation leads to action. This is Ignatian spirituality: a “service-mysticism.” The grace we seek is to discern God’s will in the service of such a great King: the Lord Jesus Christ. The response then to such great love is love.

And love bears fruit.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

References:

1. Challenge: A Daily Meditation Program Based on The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, by Father Mark Link
2. Retreat with the Lord: A Popular Guide to the Spiritual Exercises of  Saint Ignatius of Loyala, by John Hardon, S.J. (Servant Publications)
3. A Do It at Home Retreat:The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyala, by Andre Ravier, S.J. (Ignatius Press)

Image: Painting of Saint Ignatius of Loyola by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), a public domain work of art in the U.S.A,

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THE INCALCULABLE POWER OF PRAYER

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                               “Pray without ceasing” (1. Thes. 5:17)

     Mark these words as so true and so important that they should be engraved in your mind and in your heart and possibly even tattooed to your hand so that you don’t forget them: – the decline of supernatural life begins when you start neglecting prayer. When prayer is completely abandoned you have simply returned to “the world” for your comfort and repose. You were made for prayer, and the language of the soul is prayer. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
     But do we have time to “be still” and be in the presence of God, to talk to Him and to listen to Him, and to make our needs known to Him? As a flower needs water and sunshine, we need prayer. And so it is incalculably harmful to us when we consciously or unconsciously make the decision not to pray, and thus put up a barrier between ourselves and our true happiness: a personal relationship with our God and Eternal Father. Oh Holy Spirit, give me a renewed and zealous attention to prayer; give me the grace to see the incalculable power of prayer; help me to see with Saint Alphonsus de Ligouri that those who pray shall be saved (see CCC 2744).
     Therefore, we must be committed to prayer.  It is akin to spiritual suicide not to pray. Prayer should be the very foundation of our lives as we grow closer and closer to God. And if we are in need of a certain virtue, say, for example, patience, or chastity, or the grace to pray better, we must relentlessly ask God for this grace in prayer. “Ask and it will be given to you” (Matt. 7:7).
     Why is prayer so important, other than it being the very basis of your loving relationship with God? Here are two reasons:

               1. Prayer directs our attention away from the passing things of this world (that so distract us) and toward God: in Whom all our happiness consists. Prayer, then, is a profound remedy against worldliness, since it augments our union with God.

               2. In God’s Providential direction of the universe He has ordained that we should pray to Him, and He continually gives us actual graces to pray when we would rather not. Father Hardon comments:

“And what is the primary source of grace that we always have at our disposal? It is prayer. ***  Why? Because part of the divine plan, which is what providence means, is that we should obtain many of the things we need only by asking God to grant them.” [Thus], “we have no choice; either we pray or we do not get the divine light and strength we need.”

I know that there are good reasons for not missing American Idol, or Hannity, or the Lions, or the 10 PM news, or playing that video game upon which relies the world’s safety from terrorism, but rest assured that it is a great mismanagement of our time to neglect prayer. Oh Happy Day when we understand this!

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Sources: I am relying primarily on Father Weiss. On Page 83 of The Christian Life by the German Dominican, Father Albert M. Weiss, he talks about how “the decline of the supernatural life begins…with…the neglect of prayer.”
He explains that this loss can only be “renewed” by a “zealous attention to prayer.” On page 80 he talks about the “incalculable…power of prayer.” On Page 81 he discusses how prayer withdraws us from the world and “turns [us] wholly to God.” You can see, then, that I have used these words of Father Weiss in several places in this note. Are you looking for a remarkable spiritual book?: get his book! I am not picking on any particular TV show, but I am suggesting that television and other electronic media often distract us from prayer (which should be a priority).

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MAINTAINING CONTACT WITH THE BEAUTY OF NATURE DURING THE DEAD OF WINTER

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“The aesthetic value of creation cannot be overlooked. Our very contact with nature has a deep restorative power” (Saint Pope John Paul II)

Once again, winter is upon us here in Michigan. The trees are leafless and the amount of sunlight has drastically declined. By dinner time it seems that we are already engulfed in physical darkness. And as it gets colder it seems as if we spend most of our time indoors. Under all of these circumstances it probably is not that unusual that some of us begin to experience a type of mild depression or malaise known as “seasonal affective disorder” (a/k/a the winter blahs).

I believe it is important and helpful under these circumstances to maintain contact with the beauty of nature, and that such contact with God’s creation enhances our mental well-being and outlook.  Father Irala, in his popular book, Achieving Peace of Heart, tells us that “we must live beauty.” He maintains that we need to be “reeducated” to “receive the external world.” This priest tells us that we need to learn to let “beauty enter deep into us.” Please refer to my previous post

Contact With Nature is Very Healing and Very Necessary …

Now maintaining this essential and curative contact with nature is fairly easy in spring, summer and fall, but how do we carry it out in the dead of winter? Some people head down to Florida for a while!, but many of us have to endure the cold and dark winter season.

My basic recommendation is that we should become highly cognizant of the fact that we need to maintain contact with the beauty of nature during the dead of winter. Some people ski, or snow-mobile, or do other outside activities that place them directly in the beauty of winter. But many of us look at winter as something to endure, to get through, until finally the weather becomes more bearable. If, like me, you fall into this latter category, then you run the risk of being cut off from the mental well-being contact with nature provides. Thus, it is essential that we hibernating types take positive steps to maintain contact with nature during the winter months. Here are some ideas that may help.

The other day it was dark and only 12 degrees Fahrenheit as I stepped outside at 6 am to get into my car, but I stuck to a ritual I have of momentarily looking up at the sky to glance at the stars. I probably spent less than 25 seconds looking up at the beauty of the firmament (yes, some days there are no stars, but most days there are!), and I then said a short prayer praising God for His Infinite Beauty, and then I got into my car and turned the heat on! But there you go: even though it was very cold I made some minimal contact with the beauty of God’s creation.

Another ritual I utilize in the winter is to open the top half of an upstairs window and to peer out meditatively – as the cold air brushes up against my face – at the sky, or at an evergreen covered with snow, or merely at the breadth of the world outside as it presents itself. The point is that this simple exercise assures me of some contact with the beauty of nature in a palpable, less attenuated, manner. Keep in  mind that the sky is an eminent (though frequently overlooked) source of beauty. Today the sun was out, along with a beautiful blue sky and billowing white clouds. The sky – even in winter – can be a source of profound beauty, a reflection of God’s grandeur (and yes, I realize that there are many days when the sky is dreary and depressing, so we must take advantage of the good days!).

But most importantly: get outside! Snow is very beautiful. Look at the snow. Study its beauty. As Father Irala says, train yourself to receive in the influx of nature’s beauty. If you walk a trail in summer, why not give it a try in winter! And when the snow falls and lands like countless ice-cycles on the barren trees, making them shine like a festival of heavenly lights, you can say in those immortal words of the poet: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”

Glory be to God for winter!

Tom Mulcahy

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