Month: September 2017

MAKING A MEANINGFUL THANKSGIVING AFTER RECEIVING THE EUCHARIST IS ESSENTIAL

 

“The minutes that follow Communion are the most precious we have in our lives.”(Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi)

“There is no prayer more agreeable to God, or more profitable to the soul than that which is made during the thanksgiving after Communion.” (Saint Alphonsus de Ligouri)

A great spiritual writer, Father Lallemant, makes mention in his classic work,  The Spiritual Doctrine, a crucial consideration. He says : do not “shorten the time allotted to the thanksgiving [after communion], which, well made, may repair much that is defective in our penances” (p.88). In other words, the time we spend in union with Jesus after receiving Holy Communion, thanking Him for such a great gift, uniting ourselves to His Infinite Goodness, can truly rectify things that may be lacking in our spiritual progress. 

In his Apostolic Exhortation on the EucharistSACRAMENTUM CARITATIS, Pope Benedict XVI mentions the crucial importance of making an adequate thanksgiving after receiving Holy Communion. He states:

“Furthermore, the precious time of thanksgiving after communion should not be neglected: besides the singing of an appropriate hymn, it can also be most helpful to remain recollected in silence” (#50).

Further on in Sacramentum CaritatisPope Benedict XVI urges Catholics to “rediscover the Eucharistic form which their lives are meant to have, thus “making our lives a constant self-offering to God….” (#72). The practice of making a proper and meaningful thanksgiving after receiving the Holy Eucharist is one way to rediscover our Eucharistic form. Spending a few minutes after Mass in thanksgiving (in addition to our thanksgiving directly after receiving Holy Communion) is one way to accomplish this goal.

How important is our thanksgiving after Holy Communion to our growth in holiness? In his masterful treatise on the spiritual life, the great Father Garrigou-LaGrange (professor of Saint Pope John Paul II) devotes nearly six full pages to discuss the critical importance of making an adequate and meaningful thanksgiving after Holy Communion (see Chapter 32 of The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Vol. I). And Father Muller devotes an entire chapter to the subject in his book on the Eucharist (The Blessed Eucharist, Chapter Seven). Listen to Father Garrigou-LaGrange’s advice:

“A number of interior souls have told us of the sorrow they feel when they see, in certain places, almost the entire body of the faithful leave the church immediately after the end of the Mass during which they have received Holy Communion. Moreover, this custom is becoming general, even in many Catholic boarding schools and colleges where formerly the students who had received Communion remained in the chapel for about ten minutes after Mass, thus acquiring the habit of making a thanksgiving, a habit which the best among them kept all their lives.”

A few lines later Father Garrigou-LaGrange then says:

“In Communion we receive a gift far superior to the miraculous cure of a physical disease; we receive the Author of salvation and an increase of the life of grace, which is the seed of glory, or eternal life begun. We receive an increase of charity, the highest of the virtues, which vivifies, animates all the others, and is the very principle of merit.

Christ often gave thanks to His Father for all His benefits, in particular for that of the redemptive Incarnation; with all His soul He thanked His Father for having revealed its mystery to little ones. On the cross He thanked Him while uttering His Consummatum est. In the Sacrifice of the Mass, of which He is the principal Priest, He does not cease to thank Him. Thanksgiving is one of the four ends of the sacrifice, always united to adoration, petition, and reparation. Even after the end of the world, when the last Mass has been said and when there will no longer be any sacrifice, properly so called, but only its consummation, when supplication and reparation have ceased, the worship of adoration and thanksgiving will endure forever, expressed in the Sanctus, which will be the song of the elect for all eternity.

With these thoughts in mind, we can easily understand why for some time many interior souls have been having Masses offered in thanksgiving, particularly on the second Friday of the month, in order to make up for the ingratitude of men and of many Christians, who scarcely know any more how to give thanks, even after receiving the greatest benefits.”

These words of Father Garrigou-LaGrange may seem a bit harsh, but I am hoping that, as they have for me, they will encourage you  to spend a few minutes after Mass with our Lord thanking Him for having blessed you with the greatest of all possible gifts. Naturally, if you have small children, the duty of the present moment (as Mass ends) is to tend to their needs. However, I have seen families kneel together after Mass for a few minutes of thanksgiving. Moreover, you can attempt to stay recollected in a mode of thanksgiving even while leaving Mass and attending to external circumstances. Christian culture is rapidly disintegrating; it will be a special challenge for our children and grandchildren to maintain their Catholic faith without a deep appreciation for the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is our foretaste of Eternal Life.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

ImageVirgin by the Host, 1852, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (a public domain work of art in the U.S.A.)

References: The two quotes at the top of this note are from the Wikipedia article on “Thanksgiving after Communion,” which is quite beneficial. 

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MOVING MOUNTAINS BY LIVING MORE PROFOUNDLY BY THE MASS

 


    “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:20)


At every Mass, Jesus offers himself completely to the Father for the life of the world. It is through this offering of Jesus that souls are being saved and prepared for a blessed eternity of unimaginable joy! By way of our sacramental life, we are called to enter into this offering of Jesus which is made present to us on our altars. The Mass makes present the saving action of God in human history.

Father George Kosicki once roughly estimated that about “4-5 Masses begin each second,” and that “there are are approximately 8-9 thousand Masses going on at any moment” (Intercession: Moving Mountains by Living Eucharistically, p. 22, Faith Publishing Company). Even if Father Kosicki’s rough calculations are on the high side, it is truly inspiring and breathtaking to consider that at any given moment thousands of Masses are being said throughout the world and the infinitely perfect sacrifice of Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity is being lovingly offered to the Eternal Father. What a wonder! What an amazing phenomenon!

In his Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis, translated as “Sacrament of Charity,” Pope Benedict XVI urges Catholics to “rediscover the Eucharistic form which their lives are meant to have,”
thus making of our lives “a constant self-offering to God….” (#72). At every moment of the day we can offer our personal sacrifices and our sufferings in union with all the Masses being said throughout the world. Saint Paul
urges, among other things, that “prayers” and “intercessions” be “offered for all men” because God “wants all men to be saved and come to know the truth” (1 Tim. 2: 1-4). By “living Eucharistically” we can fulfill this all-important obligation of intercession by offering our merits and sacrifices for the salvation of souls in union with all the Masses being said throughout the world. Right now, at this very moment, you can unite the offering of yourself to the offering of our High Priest Jesus through all of the Masses being said in the world. This is a beautiful way to give your heart to the Lord.

We might pray: “I unite myself through Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, to all the Masses being said at this moment throughout the world, so as to offer myself and this day more completely to God through Jesus Christ in union with His sacrifice at Calvary” (Saint Pope John Paul II demonstrates in Salvifici Dolores, #26, that the very nature of meritorious, redemptive suffering is to spiritually unite ourselves to the cross of Christ, “and the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice” (CCC 1367; see also CCC 1368, 2010 and 1475).

Father Kosicki says: “Always and everywhere I can offer up the present situation. Nothing is too small to offer, nothing insignificant when offered Eucharistically, when offered in union with Jesus for the salvation of souls to the glory of the Father. It is called intercession. We are called to it” (Intercession, p.23).     

Do you have a thirst for souls? Our Lord taught Saint Faustina an effective way to intercede Eucharistically for the salvation of souls. He taught her a prayer of intercession known as The Chaplet of Divine Mercy. As Father Kosicki explains, “The Chaplet of Divine Mercy holds a special place of honor as a Eucharistic prayer because it is a continuation of the offering of the Mass” (p.31). In the Chaplet “we intercede with the power of the Eucharist” by offering to the Eternal Father the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.” Father Kosicki mentions that Our Lord encouraged Saint Faustina to say the Chaplet without ceasing (diary, #687). Here, then, by lovingly saying The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is a powerful way to intercede for the salvation of souls.

It is a tremendous grace to be Catholic, to participate in Holy Mass and to receive Holy Communion. Indeed, with profound gratitude to Jesus Christ, we are the special beneficiaries of Malachi’s prophecy that from the rising of the sun until its setting a pure sacrifice will be offered to God, and we can intercede for others through the Infinite Merits of Jesus’ sacrifice. Saint John Paul II has urged Catholics to make the Eucharist the very center of their lives (see The Mystery and Worship of the Eucharist, #7), and so I close with his own words taken from his Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia:

“The Second Vatican Council rightly proclaimed that the Eucharistic sacrifice is “the source and summit of the Christian life”. ‘For the most holy Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth: Christ himself, our passover and living bread. Through his own flesh, now made living and life-giving by the Holy Spirit, he offers life to men’.  Consequently the gaze of the Church is constantly turned to her Lord, present in the Sacrament of the Altar, in which she discovers the full manifestation of his boundless love.”

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Ref. I am relying entirely on Father Kosicki’s book, Intercession: Moving Mountains by Living Eucharistically, (Faith Publishing Company). Father Kosicki passed into eternal life on August 11, 2014.

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THE EFFICACIOUS PRACTICE OF SPIRITUAL COMMUNION


“Even in cases where it is not possible to receive sacramental communion, participation at Mass remains necessary, important, meaningful and fruitful. In such circumstances it is beneficial to cultivate a desire for full union with Christ through the practice of spiritual communion, praised by Pope John Paul II  and recommended by saints who were masters of the spiritual life” (no. 55).

Further on in Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI urges Catholics to “rediscover the Eucharistic form which their lives are meant to have,” thus making of our lives “a constant self-offering to God….” (no. 72). The practice of making spiritual communions throughout the day is one way to rediscover our Eucharistic form.

In his encyclical letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia,  Saint Pope John Paul II wrote:

In the Eucharist, “unlike any other sacrament, the mystery [of communion] is so perfect that it brings us to the heights of every good thing: Here is the ultimate goal of every human desire, because here we attain God and God joins himself to us in the most perfect union.” Precisely for this reason it is good to cultivate in our hearts a constant desire for the sacrament of the Eucharist. This was the origin of the practice of “spiritual communion,” which has happily been established in the Church for centuries and recommended by saints who were masters of the spiritual life. St. Teresa of Jesus wrote: “When you do not receive communion and you do not attend Mass, you can make a spiritual communion, which is a most beneficial practice;
by it the love of God will be greatly impressed on you” [The Way of Perfection, Ch. 35.].

According to Saint Thomas Aquinas spiritual communion consists of “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Holy Sacrament and a loving embrace as though we had already received Him.”

A prayer of spiritual Communion with Jesus can be made in a matter of seconds and repeated often throughout the day. The prayer is highly thought of by the Church since it is indulgenced (see Manual of Indulgences, 4th Edition, p.51). To make a spiritual communion you can simply say the following prayer in a recollected manner:

“My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You (From sacredheart.com).

The prayer of spiritual communion – which may even be made without words in the yearnings of our heart – shows our deep hunger for the Eucharist; it further shows our deep desire to be united to the Eucharistic life of Christ; it shows, as well, our profound love for the Sacrament of Love!

You can make this prayer throughout the day on days when you are unable to attend daily Mass, or you can say the prayer throughout the day as preparation for your next Holy Communion at Mass. Vinny Flynn relates that “Saint Francis de Sales resolved to make a spiritual Communion at least every fifteen minutes so that he could link all the events of the day to his reception of the Eucharist at Mass” (7 Secrets of the Eucharist, pp. 85-86). Flynn relates that Saint Maximilian Kolbe also made frequent spiritual Communions (p.86).

Flynn also refrences Saint Leonard of Port Maurice, who said:

“If you practice the holy exercise of spiritual Communion several times each day, within a month you will see your heart completely changed” (7 Secrets of the Eucharist, pp. 97-98)

In his book, Jesus our Eucharistic Love, Father Stefano Manelli explains what the effects of a well made spiritual communion may produce. He says, “Spiritual Communion, as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Alphonsus Liguori teach, produces effects similar to Sacramental Communion, according to the dispositions with which it is made, the greater or less earnestness with which Jesus is desired, and the greater or less love with which Jesus is welcomed and given due attention.” 

Two other books which highly recommend this practice of making spiritual Communions are: The Blessed Sacrament by Father Faber (beginning at p. 438), and The Blessed Eucharist by Father Muller (Chapter 11). Surely, this practice of making spiritual Communions will draw you closer to the Lord, and make you more desirous of receiving Him sacramentally at Holy Mass.

The practice of spiritual communion secures our life-long love of the Eucharist, for the Eucharist is constantly close to our heart. By this efficacious practice, our hearts are always longing to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Spiritual communion is a great preparation for Holy Communion at Mass.

“Oh Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, please place in our hearts profound gratitude for the Holy Eucharist.”

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

 

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 Brazillicense (per Wikipedia).

References: The quotes from St. Thomas Aquinas and Father Manelli were found in the Wikipedia article entitled, “Spiritual Communion.” The quote from Pope John Paul II was found in the Catholics United for the Faith internet article entitled, “Spiritual Communion.” See also Summa Theologica III, question 80, by Saint Thomas Aquinas, discussing the spiritual profit of spiritual Communions (as discussed in Flynn’s book, 7 Secrets of the Eucharist).



THE SINGLE OVERPOWERING FACT OF THE WORLD IS THE BLESSED EUCHARIST

A SHORT MEDITATION ON THE REALITY OF HELL

                                      

“God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1037)

Introduction: The Church gives us a sort of mini-Lent right now with the consecutive feasts of The Exaltation of the Cross and Our Lady of Sorrows. With this in mind I offer the following short meditation on the reality of Hell.

Meditation: It is a strange thing to know that we are going to live on after death – either in Heaven or Hell. We know it will eventually happen – our death and judgment – but still it is a strange thought and not a little bit unsettling. And yet all our life is being lived ultimately for this one moment – DEATH – when the decision of our eternal destiny will be made and we will either enter into the unimaginable joy of Heaven or the unthinkable despair of Hell. Under either scenario, God will receive praise that will never end (for we were made to praise Him): those in Heaven will praise Him for His mercy; those in Hell will render an involuntary praise of His justice – and so in the end the attributes of God’s Divine Mercy and perfect justice will both receive eternal praise and worship. There is no contradiction between the two.

Jesus died a terribly agonizing and horrific death to save us from going to Hell and to gain us entrance into the unspeakable joys of eternal life with our Blessed God in Heaven. Certainly, it is a great mercy to know that Hell exists, for many people disbelieve Hell and thus find mortal sin less offensive to their tastes than had they believed in Hell. But the merciful Jesus, the tender, loving Word proceeding from the eternal love of the Father, preached about Hell. Indeed, in The Spiritual Exercises Saint Ignatius makes the salient point that we know Hell exists precisely because Jesus told us so (Ignatius’ meditation on Hell is enough to scare the Hell out of you – which is precisely the point).

Jesus did not mince his words: he told us about the outer darkness, where the worm dieth not, and where there is wailing and grinding of teeth – horrible images, indeed, but probably far less horrible than what Hell will actually be like. Hell simply “cannot be an option” for us: what a “miserable eternity” it would make – to “waste away the ages” in Hell, and after ten million years in Hell – as Father Faber points out – you still have all of eternity to go. “Who could endure it?”

We certainly don’t need a weekly homily about Hell. But Oh how helpful an occasional sermon about Hell might have been for “Joe six-pack” in the pew who very well would have let go of mortal sin if he had better understood the consequences of his acts: but the sermon was never preached, and instead he heard multiple words about letting go of his inner hang-ups, a good word but not a very powerful one. Oh, how many souls are now in Hell – which might have been saved – if the doctrine of Hell had not been neglected (here I am not trying to be judgmental, but rather I am trying to make the point that faith in hell is a great deterrent to going there)? After all, the Church is in essence a soul-saving institution.

It is indeed a very merciful, loving God who warns us of Hell. For, in Jesus Christ, there is no need to go there. The great saints of our Church were adamant that meditation on the four last things – death, judgment, Heaven and Hell – is a very profitable exercise. Who could have talked us out of following their Holy Spirit filled advice?

In light of the above meditation, what could be more important than our devotion to the Sacrament of Reconciliation established by Jesus? When is the last time you went to Confession?

Tom Mulcahy
 

References: The first paragraph is drawn predominantly from the writings of Father Faber, and the third paragraph is essentially Faber (as I remember what he said); also, Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1861; The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola; andAll for Jesus and The Creator and the Creature by Father Faber. The source for this reflection, then, is essentially the awesome writings of Father Faber.

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JESUS: “AT THREE O’CLOCK IMPLORE MY MERCY”

             

                 “This is the hour of great mercy for the whole world”

Here is a simple devotion anyone can practice for just a few moments at the three o’clock hour or close thereto. It’s a way to lift your heart and soul to Jesus in prayer as part of a devotional practice that draws upon our Lord’s Passion and Death (our Lord gave up His life on the cross at 3 pm).

Now, please note that this quick devotion – taking only seconds – was promulgated by the Lord Himself: it’s His idea!  He revealed the practice to Saint Faustina, the visionary of Divine Mercy. By now, with her having been canonized, and the Feast of Divine Mercy having been established by the Church as Jesus told her it would!, it seems highly probable that the revelations of Jesus to this mystic are authentic.  Note how generous the Lord is: he promises significant graces for such a small amount of effort in making this lightning- quick devotion!

THE DEVOTION:

In His revelations to Saint Faustina, Jesus encouraged the following devotional practice:

“At three o’clock, implore My mercy, especially for sinners; and if only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in My Passion, particularly in My abandonment at the moment of agony: This is the hour of great mercy for the whole world. I will allow you to enter into My mortal sorrow. In this hour, I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion.”(Diary, 1320).

Please note that this practice does not require you to say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, as highly advantageous as that would be. It only requires a few brief moments of prayer in the manner Jesus describes. One thing you constantly find the saints recommending is the efficacy of meditating on the Lord’s Passion. Here’s a simple way to do it in the time it takes to tie your shoes!  The Lord is good to us. Could He make it any easier?

Sometimes when I practice this devotion, I walk directly to the crucifix in my home simply to gaze on the Lord’s sacrifice for me, and then to implore His mercy.

The three o’cock hour is surely a blessing each day for everyone who practices this devotion.

“Jesus, I trust in You.”

Tom Mulcahy

Image Attribution: Per Wikipedia, the image of Jesus above is the “Original painting of the Divine Mercy (by Eugeniusz Kazimirowski in 1934). This is the image which was done with Sister Faustina’s instructions and before her death in 1938, unlike the most known version by Adolf Hyła painted in 1943.” This work/file is is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. The author is listed at Wikipedia as HistoryisResearch.

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AT RISK CHRISTIANS

 

                        “Prayer is the lifeline of the soul” (Sister Mary Cordero)

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

In his highly acclaimed Apostolic Letter, Novo Millenio Ineunte, Pope Saint John Paul II talks about “at risk Christians.” These are Christians who, in the midst of an aggressive cultural attack on the very values given to us by Jesus Christ, lack a substantial prayer life. Because they are “at risk Christians” they are liable to succumb to the spirit of the age and the false wisdom of the world (see 1 Cor. 1:20).

Saint John Paul II puts it this way:

… it would be wrong to think that ordinary Christians can be content with a shallow prayer that is unable to fill their whole life. Especially in the face of the many trials of which today’s world subjects faith, they would be not only mediocre Christians but ‘Christians at risk.’ They would run the insidious risk of seeing their faith progressively undermined, and would perhaps end up succumbing to the allure of substitutes….It is therefore essential that education in prayer should become a key-point of all pastoral planning.” (#34)

It seems to me that it would be hard to overemphasize the value and necessity of “simple, humble persevering prayer.” Without devotion to prayer it is highly likely that a Christian will be absorbed into the emerging pagan culture without even realizing it. What a battle we are in!  Moreover, we contend against dark spirits intent on our destruction (see Ephesians 6:12). How are we possibly going to survive such trials without prayer?

A very neglected but great spiritual book is The Christian Life by the German Dominican, Father Albert M. Weiss. On page 83 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.” And on page 81 he discusses how prayer withdraws us from the world and “turns [us] wholly to God.” 

In another great spiritual book, The Spiritual Life, the great Father Lallemant mentions that “Saint Ignatius [of Loyola] in his Constitutions would have us regard this familiar converse with God as the chief instrument of our own salvation and that of our neighbor….” (p. 290).  “Nothing furthers more our spiritual advancement than the time and application we devote…to the interior life.” Let us resolve, then, to spend time in interior conversation with God so that He may “make Himself known unto us.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting that great advocate of prayer, Saint Alphonsus de Ligouri, says:

“Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned.” (CCC 2744)

Are you an “at risk” Christian? If so, it is essential that you renew your Christian walk by a deep and zealous attention to prayer. The scriptures say, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12). Turn your attention often to God in prayer. Prayer is your lifeline to Eternity.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

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