“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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“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26)

Saint Pope John Paul II was once asked the question, “How does the Pope pray?,” to which he answered, “You would have to ask the Holy Spirit! The Pope prays as the Holy Spirit permits him to pray” (Crossing the Threshold of Hope, p.19). I am no expert in mystical prayer, but the Pope’s answer leads me to believe that he had reached a very high level of prayer.

Ralph Martin relates in his book, Hungry for God, that he had the privilege of attending Mass with Pope John Paul II in the Pope’s private chapel. Martin relates what he witnessed when he entered the chapel:

“As we entered the small chapel…the Pope was already there, kneeling in personal prayer, as he usually was before Mass. But this time there was a difference. Audible groans were coming from the Pope as he prayed. And they continued during Mass as the readings were read, as Communion was distributed. And I knew it wasn’t simply that the Pope had physical or spiritual suffering to contend with, although he certainly did, but that we were experiencing that prayer of the Spirit Paul speaks about in Romans 8, where the Spirit helps us pray in groans and sighs too deep for words. Experiencing the Pope’s personal prayer has opened me to more dimensions of the Spirit’s work in my own prayer” (pages 57-58)

The Pope’s incredible intimacy with the Holy Spirit was no doubt the fruit of having yielded his life to God. Pope John Paul II was probably the most extraordinary person of our times. I read in another book that the Pope once told a group of people that he had prayed a daily prayer to the Holy Spirit since he was 12 or 13 years old (The Spirit and the Bride Say, “Come,” p. 7). How important it is, therefore, for us to increase our devotion to the Holy Spirit,  for the Holy Spirit is the “master of the Christian life”. The Holy Spirit fills us with the graces, virtues and charisms we need to imitate Jesus. Oh, Come Holy Spirit, Come! Beseech the Holy Spirit!

It is well known that Saint John Paul II was deeply devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He had entrusted his life to Mary’s maternal care and mentioned at one point during his papacy that his consecration to Mary was a major turning point in his life:

‘The reading of this book (True Devotion to Mary) was a decisive turning-point in my life. I say “turning-point,” but in fact it was a long inner journey. . . . – This ‘perfect devotion’ is indispensable to anyone who means to give himself without reserve to Christ and to the work of redemption.”

One way to draw nearer to the Holy Spirit is through devotion to Mary, the spouse of the Holy Spirit. Saint John Paul II’s life is, no doubt, a testimony to this remarkable phenomenon, and confirms in a dramatic manner what Saint Louis De Montfort had said in True Devotion to Mary:

“The more the Holy Ghost finds Mary , His dear and inseparable spouse, in any soul, the more active and mighty He becomes in producing Jesus Christ in that soul, and that soul in Jesus Christ” (#20).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

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(The Angelus by Millet, 1859, Public Domain, U.S.A.)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) was prepared and promulgated under the papacy of Saint Pope John Paul II and he indicated in the document itself that it is “a sure and authentic reference text for the teaching of Catholic doctrine….” The Catechism of the Catholic Church is divided into four main sections, and the entire fourth section is devoted to Christian prayer – specifically paragraphs 2558 through 2865. Reading the entire portion of the CCC on prayer is very valuable, but here in a quick note are ten or more important points on prayer as set forth in the CCC.

1. Prayer is vitally necessary. Indeed, prayer and the Christian life are inseparable. Without perseverance in prayer, we risk falling back into the slavery of sin (CCC 2744, 2745).  It is the life of prayer that places us in relationship with God (CCC 2565).

2. Humility is the foundation of prayer. We should go to God in prayer as “a beggar,” asking Him to bestow on us “the gift” of prayer (CCC 2559).

3. An effective means to begin prayer is to consciously place ourselves in the presence of God (CCC 2803).  St. Francis de Sales states: “Begin all your prayers, whether mental or vocal, in the presence of God. Keep to this rule without any exception and you will quickly see how helpful it will be.”

4. After placing ourselves in the presence of God, the basic movement of Christian prayer should start with adoration (CCC 2626).  In this type of prayer, we adore the Trinitarian God who is the source of every blessing.

5. Before turning to prayers of petition, where we ask God for help with our needs, it is essential to first ask God for mercy and forgiveness. This “is a prerequisite for righteous and pure prayer.” This can be done simply by saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am a sinner” (CCC 2631). Then in “boldness” and “deep faith,” tell God what it is you need (CCC 2610), asking the Father in the name of Jesus (CCC 2614).

6. During our prayer time, it is appropriate to pray for others (intercession), 2634, and to spend time praising God “simply because HE IS” (CCC 2639).

7. An effective means to end prayer is in Thanksgiving, thanking God, in the name of Christ Jesus, for all He has done for you, and even for your trials and tribulations (CCC 2638).

8. An effective means to enter into meditative prayer is to read the Bible or the writings of the great Saints in order to to stir our thoughts, imagination, emotions and desires towards the love of Jesus Christ (CCC 2705 – 2708).

9. Ejaculatory prayer. The Catechism of the Catholic Church specifically recommends that, throughout the day, we invoke the name of “Jesus,” which contains the entire economy of salvation, and also that we invoke the Holy Spirit saying, “Come, Holy Spirit” (CCC 2665-2672).  It is the Holy Spirit acting within us that makes prayer possible (CCC 2672). The Catechism of the Catholic Church also highly recommends prayer to and with the Virgin Mary, stating in paragraph 2679 the following:

“Mary is the perfect Orans (pray-er), a figure of the Church. When we pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father, who sends his Son to save all men. Like the beloved disciple we welcome Jesus’ mother into our homes,39 for she has become the mother of all the living. We can pray with and to her. The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope.

10. How important is prayer? Those who pray will be saved; those who do not pray will be lost (see CCC 2744 quoting St. Alphonsus Liguori).

As mentioned, the entire fourth section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is devoted to Christian prayer – paragraphs 2558 through 2865 – and is well worth reading.

Remember, the best way to pray is to pray! Lift your heart to God!

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

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(John 13:23: “Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved”)

The Creator is the creature’s home. Neither spirit of  angel nor soul of man can rest short of God. They can anchor nowhere save in the capacious harbor of HIS Infinite perfections. All things teach us this beautiful truth. All things that find us wandering lead us home again to the Bosom of the Eternal Father…. God is our Last End as well as our First Cause. O that the day were come when we shall be securely at His Feet forever!”  (F.W. Faber, The Creator and the Creature, p.343).

If you have read Father Michael Gaitley’s well-regarded book, Consoling the Heart of Jesus, then you are keenly aware that Father Gailtley emphasizes in that book a special mode of love which involves consoling Jesus and sharing in His sorrow. This mode of love is called by Saint Francis de Sales the love of condolence. There are other ways in which we express our personal love for God, and this note explores one of those ways, namely, what Saint Francis de Sales calls the love of complacency (what I have called resting in God). With the love of complacency we are simply content, as Saint Francis tells us, “to be with the beloved.”     

Psalm 23 seems to be an invitation to rest in God. “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastureshe leads me beside still watersHe restores my soul.”

When is the last time you rested in God the Father’s love? When is the last time you sat, so to speak, on His lap (to use an image from Saint Therese of Lisieux she drew from Isaiah 66:12) just soaking in His eternal love for you? It is in the Father’s Heart that we find green pastures and still waters: it is in Him that we renew our soul. God is the Eternally Good Shepherd.

Like me, you’ve probably prayed the Our Father a gazillion times, but have you ever stopped just for a moment to rest in the wonderful truth that God really is your Father? He made you. He has known and loved you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3); and He loves you with the full might of a God Who Is Love (1 John 4:8). We are truly His children (1 John 3:2).  Amazing, but true!

It is a breakthrough in the spiritual journey, as Father Faber points out, when we first begin to allow ourselves to be loved by God. God is Infinite love. We sometimes run from Him, or fear that we are not worthy of His love. But since He allows us to call Him Father, we can rest assured that He loves us with an “indescribable” love. As Saint Augustine said, “God made us for Himself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.” Jesus has brought us home to the Father.

Saint Francis de Sales calls this resting in God the love of complacency. Since God is Infinite Goodness and Infinite Love, our true rest and delight is in Him. Father Faber defines the love of complacency as “being content with God. It not only wants nothing more, but it only wants Him as He is….Complacency fixes its eyes upon what it knows of God with intense delight and with intense tranquility. It rejoices that HE is what HE is. It tells Him so. It tells [Him so] over and over again. Whole hours of prayer pass, and it has done nothing else but tell Him this” (p.183).

In his Treatise on the Love of God, Saint Francis de Sales says, “He is the God of our heart by this complacency, since by it our heart embraces Him and makes Him its own: He is our inheritance, because by this act we enjoy the goods which are in God, and, as from an inheritance, we draw from it all the pleasure and content: by means of this complacency we spiritually drink and eat the perfections of the Divinity, for we make them our own and draw them into our hearts” (Chapter 5). “Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

Saint Paul exclaims at Romans 11:33,36 (TLB translation):

“Oh, What a wonderful God we have! How great are His wisdom and knowledge and riches!  For everything comes from God alone. Everything lives by His power, and everything is for His glory. To Him be glory evermore.”

And at Philippians 4:4 (AMP translation) Paul tells us to renew ourselves in God. He says, “Rejoice in the Lord always – delight, gladden yourselves in Him –  again I say, Rejoice!”

Prayer is an invitation to rest in God. In prayer, God allows us to take refuge in His “incomprehensible goodness”. And if it is true what the spiritual writers say, that we become more and more like that which we love, what a thought!: to become more like God!  What joy we will experience resting in the “incredible sweetness” of God the Father’s love for us! When we rest in Him, will we not be tempted to say, like the King  in The Song of Songs“How beautiful you are, my beloved, how beautiful you are” (1:15).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

SourcesSaint Francis De Sales, Treatise on the Love of God; F.W. Faber, The Creator and the Creature; Beverly Courrege, Because of the Cross. Saint Therese of Lisieux saw in Isaiah 66:12 an invitation for a little child to be rocked upon the lap of God (see The Way of Trust and Love, Page 10, by Father Jacques Philippe).

Key idea: Methods used by the saints to increase their love of God. The method discussed here is the love of complacency. We should remember that God dwells within our baptized souls as long as we are in sanctifying grace.

Image: Damiane. “Jesus Christ and St. John the Apostle”. A detail of the Last Supper fresco from Ubisi, Georgia. 14th century. At Wikipedia. Public Domain, U.S.A.

Book Recommendations: A short and instructive book on interior prayer is Time for God by Father Jacques Philippe.

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 2048px-Johannes_(Jan)_Vermeer_-_Christ_in_the_House_of_Martha_and_Mary_-_Google_Art_Project (1)

Returning College Students: The New Atheism has Serious Flaws


“The Big Bang, which nowadays is posited as the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine act of creating, but rather requires it”  (Pope Francis)

     The so called “New Atheism,” which even refers to itself as a venture in improbability, is permanently flawed (for as the genius of G.K.  Chesterton points out, “if there was no God, there would be no atheists!”).  As far as I’m concerned, the only thing different about the new atheism, when compared to the old atheism, is that the new atheism is newer than the old atheism! In fact, David Hart (who wrote a book on this subject) is of the opinion that the old atheists were actually better atheists than the new ones. He laments:

 “The principal source of my melancholy, however, is my firm conviction that today’s most obstreperous infidels lack the courage, moral intelligence, and thoughtfulness of their forefathers in faithlessness.”  (“Believe it or Not”

     The real appeal of atheism is not its intellectual prowess (atheism requires a positively irrational faith in blind chance); no, the real appeal of atheism is moral autonomy so that God can be conveniently pushed aside. “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God'” (Psalm 14:1).

     Frankly, these new atheists need to show a little more humility. It’s not like they’ve suddenly discovered the answer to the age old question: “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Point in fact: the well known physicist, Stephen Hawking, who responded to the question, “Why does the universe bother to exist?,” by saying: “I don’t know the answer to that.”

     I have to admit that it is always a little amusing to me when a mere creature, who has only been alive no more than a handful of decades, proclaims with noticeable hubris that his mind has reached the conclusion that the universe – and human beings – are nothing but an accident. I have greater respect for the deist who sees the implausibility of denying a creator, but has a great distaste for actually having any sort of relationship with such a being. In any event, if the computer I am typing on was to suddenly start shouting at me that it had no ultimate designer, and that it came about by mere chance, I would have to tell it to, well, shut-up!

       Recently I had the idea of pretending to be an atheist. I wanted to see what it felt like to be an atheist (to believe somehow that all that we see, hear, feel and touch is nothing but an accident). I even thought of praying to the ungod of the accidental universe to see how he managed to bring it all together by accident (although here I could be accused of reverting to primitive religious superstition). But I prayed to this ungod anyways.  And as I prayed my lovely wife walked into the room: and I said, “ungod, you are truly amazing.”    

     There’s my wife, and she is sort of like a perfect partner to me! She’s all so feminine (thanks for those gentle curves), and I’m masculine (I played football in seventh grade). I must be insane to think that you pulled off this amazing complementarity between my wife and I by accident, and so hats off to you, ungod, because the chances of this happening by accident must have been, well, zero.” I paused then to see if ungod would say anything back to me, but he didn’t, and the whole thing actually backfired on me as I began to see the complementarity between my wife and I as a rather obvious revelation that I did have a creator. Then I remembered that quote by C.S. Lewis: “A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.” In my case, it simply wasn’t a good idea to pray to ungod.     

     Years ago Carl Sagan (the astronomer) was the unofficial High Priest of atheistic scientism. Sagan helped to popularize Haeckel’s theory of recapitulation, a theory that maintains that human embryonic development recapitulates in miniature the grand course of human biological evolution. It is well known, now, that Haeckel forged some of his well known drawings of human embryonic development (ones that were standard for years in biology texts and tended to dehumanize the fetus), and the theory is now generally regarded as defunct. We therefore need to be careful not to grant to scientific theory an aura of infallibility that ultimately serves merely as a disservice to science. Even scientists need to distinguish carefully between scientific fact and scientific theory. Thus, in the current debate over evolution, it is important to know that the two leading proponents of the theory – Dawkins and Gould – have seemingly diametrically opposing views as to how evolution happened , i.e., the dispute between gradualism and punctuated equilibrium. Gould opted for punctuated equilibrium due to the paucity of the fossil record. We still have a lot to learn about the “mechanics and pace” of biological evolution. Pope Francis points us in the right direction, having said: “The evolution of nature does not contrast with the notion of creation, as evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.”

      Dawkins’ book, The Blind Watchmaker, shows just how unscientific scientists can be. Frankly,  Dawkins (one of the top “new atheists”) must be embarrassed for having said what he said. In his book, Dawkins maintains that if one was to see a statue of the Virgin Mary wave its hand, such an occurrence, although improbable, could be explained by the laws of physics and chemistry. Here are Dawkins own words from the book:

“In the case of the marble statue, molecules in solid marble are continuously jostling against one another in random directions. The jostlings of the different molecules cancel one another out, so the whole hand of the statue stays still. But if, by sheer coincidence, all the molecules just happened to move in the same direction at the same moment, the hand would move. If they then all reversed direction at the same moment the hand would move back. In this way it is possible for a marble statue to wave at us. It could happen. The odds against such a coincidence are unimaginably great but they are not incalculably great. A physicist colleague has kindly calculated them for me. The number is so large that the entire age of the universe so far is too short a time to write out all the noughts! It is theoretically possible for a cow to jump over the moon with something [[171]] like the same improbability. The conclusion to this part of the argument is that we can calculate our way into regions of miraculous improbability far greater than we can imagine as plausible.”

Let’s give Dawkins a break. Perhaps he was having a bad day when he wrote this rubbish. But how can I trust anything he says in light of the scientific foolishness employed by him in the just cited quotation.

      Michael Corey, in discussing the possibility whether our “wondrous universe could have evolved by blind chance” quotes the distinguished University of Montreal psychiatrist Karl Stern as  labeling such a view of the universe as “crazy.” He further quotes Stern as saying: “And I do not at all mean crazy in the sense of a slangy invective but rather in the technical meaning of psychotic. Indeed such a view has much in common with certain aspects of schizophrenic thinking” (God and the New Cosmology, p.220). Stern is basically maintaining that it is flat out irrational to believe the universe came about by chance or accident.

     Theism – belief in God –  is grounded in common sense. It need not be intimidated by the “bio-mythology” of an accidental universe. College is not the place to stop praying: it is rather a great place to deepen your prayer life and trust in God. If you make the effort to advance in prayer, the reality of God will become more and more an experiential reality to you. You will “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Ref. Answering the New Atheism (Wiker and Hahn). Concerning the complementary relationship between faith and science, see Catechism of the Catholic Church, sections 159, 283 and 284. In October of 2014, Pope Francis stated the following: “The Big Bang, which nowadays is posited as the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine act of creating, but rather requires it. The evolution of nature does not contrast with the notion of creation, as evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.”