Weeks 331-340

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 331: Contemplative Prayer: A Reflection on Luke 10:41-42 

 

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and concerned about many things. Only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better portion, and it will not be denied her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

 

Saint Martha is one of my favorite saints because we can all relate to her. Martha is doing her duty. Martha is fulfilling her responsibilities. Martha is doing what everyone expects, but despite this, she seems to get a raw deal.

 

Martha invited Jesus and the apostles to her home. Martha has prepared the meal and is waiting on everyone, making sure everyone is well fed and comfortable, and when she makes her one request, which doesn’t seem unreasonable at all, “Lord, tell my sister to help me!” Jesus refuses her. Jesus refuses her because he’s not hungry for her food. Jesus hungers for her faith. That’s why Jesus answers her the way he does.

 

Please note; he never says what Martha is doing is wrong or bad. Rather he says, “Mary has chosen the BETTER portion, and it will not be denied her.” Martha has chosen the way of service. Martha has chosen the way of charity. There is nothing wrong with that. Many of us find salvation by choosing that path.

 

Charity and service to God is the road by which MOST of us go to heaven, but it’s not the only way, and it’s not the best way. A better way is the way of Mary, who sits at Jesus feet and listens to him teach. Mary has chosen the road of contemplative prayer.

 

Now we all pray, but that doesn’t make us contemplative pray-ers. What we do is meditative prayer. I know I’ve quoted it before, but Rev. Rick Warren in his book “The Purpose Driven Life” had one of the best explanations of meditation that I ever read. He said, “Worrying is thinking about a problem over and over again. Meditating is thinking about God, or an aspect of God, or a line of scripture over and over again. So if you know how to worry, you already know how to meditate; just shift the focus!” I thought that was brilliant! That’s meditation.

 

Contemplative prayer is when God takes over the experience. For instance when we read about the great mystics--Saint Theresa of Avila, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint John of the Cross, Saint Padre Pio—we discover that they spent their time meditating until God took over the experience and they went into ecstasy.

 

I am what is called a secular priest. That means my job is to work in the secular order, with you, the laity, and assist you in getting to heaven. Martha job to be certain. If I request to be transferred to another diocese, the Bishop has every right to refuse me. If I request to go into the military chaplaincy, the Bishop can refuse me. But if I request to transfer to a contemplative order, like the Trappists or Benedictines, the Bishop, according to Canon Law, CANNOT refuse me, because the life of a contemplative is a higher spiritual calling than the life of a diocesan priest.

 

Mary has chosen the better portion over Martha and it will not be denied her. Lazarus, I feel, gets the most raw deal of all, because Saint Lazarus doesn’t even GET a feast day! And he has the highest spiritual calling of all! His is the road of redemptive suffering. Remember it’s Lazarus who gets sick and dies and is in the tomb four days before Jesus resurrects him, and John’s Gospel tells us that many people came to believe in Jesus because of Lazarus. So when we suffer with faith, we can save souls, too.

 

The call of Lazarus is the highest call because in redemptive suffering Christ calls us to share his walk to Calvary. It’s not something we choose. He chooses it for us. How I wish I was a Mary, but like most people, I’m Martha through and through; paying off the debt, fixing up the churches, raising money to help the poor and needy; definitely Martha.

 

But to me and all my fellow Marthas out there who volunteer on Church committees and organizations, who clean the Church and are the go-to people in the parish, let me say this; where would the Church be without us? Oh yeah, it’s great to have all kinds of mystical experiences, visions of Mary, or locutions, that is, messages directly from the Holy Spirit, but someone’s got to extend the invitation to people to come to the house of the Lord. Someone’s got to cook the meal. Someone’s got to wait on table. And someone has to wash the dishes and clean up after. God bless us! God bless the Martha’s! Saint Martha…pray for us!

 

- Father Michael Anthony Sisco 

 

Quote from a Saint: “Whoever has not begun the practice of prayer, I beg for the love of the Lord not to go without so great a good. There is nothing here to fear but only something to desire.” – Saint Teresa of Avila 

 

Prayer by a Saint: “I beg you, Lord, let the fiery, gentle power of your love take possession of my soul, and snatch it away from everything under heaven, that I may die for love of your love as you saw fit to die for love of mine.”  (attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi)

 

Questions for Reflection: 

1.       Like Martha in today’s Scripture passage, do you ever find yourself so busy with necessary tasks and responsibilities that you miss out on spending time with God? What might you do in your life to put Him first? 

2.       Though Jesus no longer walks the earth in a human form, He is still right here with us, closer than our heartbeat. When you are busy with your day to day activities, do you take the time to recognize God’s presence with you as you work? Do you take time out to pray in between tasks?

3.       There is always plenty of work that needs to be done, and doing this work is necessary and admirable, but according to Father Sisco, Jesus is hungry for more than our works. He is hungry for our faith, for our eyes to remain on Him. How might you satisfy Jesus’s hunger for your faith? Discuss. 

4.       Father Sisco describes several paths or roads to get to Heaven. What are these various paths? Which path do you primarily follow in your life? Do you follow more than one at times? 

5.       According to the book “The Purpose Driven Life,” what is the definition of meditation? How can worry be transformed into meditation? 

6.       Mary’s road to salvation was through contemplative prayer. Describe this form of prayer. Why do you suppose Jesus considers this “the better portion”? 

7.       According to Father Sisco, what is the definition of contemplative prayer?

8.       Some of the great mystics had very beautiful experiences with contemplative prayer. Name several of these mystics. Consider reading the life of one of these holy men or women over the next few weeks. 

9.       There is a call which, according to Father Sisco, is even higher than contemplative prayer. What is this call? Is it something we can choose for ourselves or is it something that God chooses for us? Explain. 

10.   In today’s Scripture passage, Jesus tells Martha that she is anxious and concerned about many things. Can you relate to Martha? What things do you find yourself becoming anxious and concerned about in your own life? Make a list of these things. Over the course of the next week, bring them before God in prayer, asking Him to help you find His peace. 

 

--  Kimberly Lohman

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 332: Did Jesus Intend to Establish a Church?: A Reflection on Matthew 13: 10-17

 

Then the disciples came and asked him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’ He answered, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets* of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that “seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.” With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: “You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn—and I would heal them.” But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it. (Matthew 13:10-17)

 

Anytime when someone tries to argue with me that Jesus never intended to establish a Church of his own, I like to point out Matthew 13. The apostles ask Jesus why he always speaks to the crowds in parables. Jesus answers that He intended to speak to them in parables. He had a reason. “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God has been entrusted to YOU, not to them.”

 

Why not to them? Why can’t the mysteries of the Kingdom of God be entrusted to everyone? Why didn’t Jesus let everyone in on the meaning of the parables? It is as if Jesus said, “I want them to look and not see, hear but not listen or understand. That’s why I’m not telling them what the parables mean.”

 

Why? Why would Jesus want to keep people in ignorance regarding of the Kingdom of God? Because, when they can’t figure it all out, they have to come to the apostles for the answers. They have to depend on the authority of the Church, not on themselves, to be their moral compass. They can’t say, “Well, I don’t need a Church. I can go to Jesus on my own!” Jesus isn’t necessarily going to tell them on their own. They need the Church to help.

 

Jesus wants to prevent people from thinking they can always go to Jesus on their own and get right direction or right answers. Why can’t we just go to Jesus on our own? Because we need to be able to recognize when Jesus is talking and when we are talking, or satan is talking to us and fooling us into thinking it’s Jesus. Why do we need an authoritative body to interpret Jesus words and apply them to modern day situations? Because we color our interpretations with our own ideas. If the Old Testament proves anything to us, it’s that, left on our own, we will always turn to idolatry. It’s inevitable.

 

Look at the Israelites. As soon as Moses leaves them to go up the mountain and converse with God, trouble happens. Moses is their teaching authority, the one who converses with God, one on one, and who delivers God’s message to the people. Moses disappears on this burning, smoking, mountain, shrouded in fog and thunder and lightning. Days begin to pass. One. Two. Three. Ten. Twenty. Thirty. Forty. No Moses. What do the people do? They assume that Moses is never coming back. God isn’t trustworthy, they surmise. God must have killed Moses on the mountain or let him die there, they reason. They don’t want a God who kills their prophets, so, based on their false deductions, what do the people do? They demand that Aaron make a golden calf for them to worship.

 

Interesting, out of all the Egyptian gods that they Israelites could have told Aaron to make, they settle on the golden calf, Apis, the Egyptian god of money, sex, and power; because those three things are ultimately what every human being craves. Our craving for sex, money, and power are precisely what the Lord tries to weed out of us.

 

Why do we need the Church? Why do we need an authoritative body to interpret the words of Christ and apply them to modern situations? Because if we become our own authority in spiritual matters, we will always create God in our own image and likeness instead of making the attempt to be recreated in His.

 

Here’s an example. Have you ever noticed how we’re outraged by sins we’re never tempted to commit,

but we always seem to have an excuse for our own sins?           “Oh my sins are just little sins. God doesn’t care about my sins.” “Oh that isn’t a sin! That’s one of those man made rules!” We create God in our own image.

 

Saint Augustine said it best, “Having failed to convert ourselves we become intensely interested in the faults of others.”

 

Some will take it one step further. They will say, “Well, did Jesus REALLY say that? How do we know the Church didn’t add that later?” You say that and what are you really saying. You’re saying that you don’t trust the Church. You don’t trust scripture. Therefore, since these two authorities are, in your way of thinking, untrustworthy, you don’t have to obey them. You can do anything you want. You’re free to create God in your own image.

 

Idolatry. It always comes back to idolatry, which is why God dealt with idolatry in the first commandment he gave Moses. “I AM the Lord, your God. You shall have no strange gods before Me.” Of course, that’s if God REALLY said that.

 

Brothers and sisters, no matter how free thinking and independent we think we are, none of us can escape this simple truth. I need the Church. You need the Church. We all need the Church. Why? Because none of us is strong enough, wise enough, or loving enough to reach God on our own.

 

--Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint: If I should say anything that is not in conformity with what is held by the Holy Roman Catholic Church, it will be through ignorance and not through malice. This may be taken as certain, and also that, through God's goodness, I am, and shall always be, as I always have been, subject to her. (Saint Teresa of Avila)

 

 Prayer: Gracious God, you have called us to be the Church of Jesus Christ. Keep us one in faith and service; receiving the Eucharist together and telling the good news to the world; that all may believe You are love, turn to Your ways, and live to Your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

1.       Do you think idolatry is a problem in today’s society? Do people think it’s a problem? In Fr. Sisco’s terms, is idolatry a problem?

2.       How can we recognize if we have other gods before our mighty God?

3.       How does questioning the authority of the Church lead to idolatry?

4.       What are the golden calves of today? Describe each “calf” and tell why you selected that.

5.       How does God deal with idolatry? How should we deal with it?

6.       Do you suffer from idolatry? Discuss. How might you smash these idols?

7.       Discuss the quote from St. Augustine.

8.       Read the quote from St. Teresa of Avila. Which parts apply to you? Which don’t?

9.       Pray the prayer together as a group prayer.

10.    How can our words encourage others to remain loyal to the Church? How about our actions?

11.    How can you counter this argument: “You don’t need the Church. Just go directly to Jesus.”

12.    Ponder the days when Moses went up the mountain and never returned. How would you feel? What might be your choice regarding the golden calf?

13.    Do you think that people are striving for power, sex, and money? Is there any way to curb this tendency?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 333: Woe to you, Pharisees!: A Reflection on Luke 11:37-53

While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.

‘But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practised, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honour in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the market-places. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.’

One of the lawyers answered him, ‘Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.’ And he said, ‘Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, “I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute”, so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.’

When he went outside, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile towards him and to cross-examine him about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say. (Luke 11: 37-53)

This Gospel is both powerful and disturbing. This is one of those images of Jesus we would rather do without. This scene begins when a Pharisee, who invited Jesus to dinner, is scandalized that Jesus didn’t perform the ceremonial washing of his hands before eating. And this is what sets Jesus off on pronouncing 17 verses of woes. “Woe to you lawyers and Pharisee’s, hypocrites!” Woe, woe, woe, for 17 verses.

What is Jesus so upset about? I mean this is the same guy who talks about forgiveness and love, and here, he’s not just reprimanding the Pharisees, but he’s also condemning them to hell! Listen to his language! He calls them hypocrites, he calls them liars, he calls them murderers. And he tells them not only will they not go to heaven, but they’re keeping other people from entering heaven as well! That’s condemning them to hell!

I love the way this passage ends, “After Jesus had left this gathering, the scribes and Pharisee’s began to manifest fierce hostility toward him.” Really? If someone called me a liar, a hypocrite, and a murderer, and said that, not only was I going to hell, but I was also taking other people with me, I’d probably begin to manifest some fierce hostility toward them too!

What’s going on here? OK, the basis of the Mosaic law is the Decalogue, the 10 Commandments. Then the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus flesh out the Decalogue. They explain what’s entailed in the 10 Commandments.

There were some 614 precepts of the Law that had to be kept. Our equivalent today would be the Code of Canon Law. Canon Law explains what is entailed in Church teaching. Jesus doesn’t have a problem with ANY of that. What Jesus has a problem is what happens next.

When the rise of the Pharisaic movement about 200 years before Jesus was born, the Pharisees added ANOTHER set of laws that they called the “fence.” (I can’t remember what the actual Hebrew word is). But the idea was that this new set of laws made absolutely sure you didn’t break any of the other 614 precepts of the Mosaic Law.

For example, one of the precepts of the Law forbid the boiling of the flesh of a kid goat in the milk of its mother. The “fence” law that the Pharisees added was, ‘Don’t eat meat and dairy in the same meal,’ because if you heeded that, you’d be sure not to violate the precept of the Mosaic Law. Three things developed from these new rules.

One -- there were so many of these “fence” laws, even more than the 614 precepts of the Mosaic Law, that faith was reduced to ritual observance only, instead of changing hearts.

Two -- some of these fence laws actually under minded what the law was intending. One example Jesus uses when he says to the Pharisees, is this: “The Law says a man must take care of his parents when they are elderly, but you say if a man wants to take the money he had saved to care for his parents and donate it to the temple, he is justified.” That obviously under minds what was intended in the 4th commandment, “Honor thy father and thy mother.”

Third, and most significant -- the people who kept all these fence laws developed an attitude of self -righteousness that made it impossible for anyone who sinned to repent and be forgiven. THIS is what Jesus has the REAL problem with, because now instead of the Law preparing the people for the Messiah to fulfill and complete the Law, these fence laws were actually taking the people a few steps backwards. This is why he so relentlessly blasts the Pharisees in these seventeen verses.

One thing we must always keep in mind when it comes to our faith, my brothers and sisters, is that God’s intention is always to reconcile each one of us to Him personally, draw the world to Him, and transform us to be living reflections of Him. That’s the goal. May we always stay focused on it.

And blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint: Great occasions for serving God come seldom, but little ones surround us daily. – St. Francis de Sales

Prayer: Father of Mercy, forgive my failings, keep me in Your grace, and lead me in the way of salvation. Give me strength in serving You as a follower of Christ. May the Eucharist bring me Your forgiveness and give me freedom to serve You all my life. May it help me to remain faithful and give me the grace I need in Your service. May it teach me the way to eternal life. Amen.

Questions for Reflection:

1.       What is your reaction when you read this Gospel passage from Luke? Why did the Pharisees have the reaction which they displayed?

2.       How are “fence” laws dangerous to the faith? How were they detrimental to faith in Christ?

3.       When Christ was accused by the Pharisees of breaking the Sabbath by healing someone on it, what “fence” law was He breaking? When His disciples plucked grain and ate in the Sabbath, what “fence” law were they breaking?

4.       Can you think of any “fence” laws that people promote which are not actually Church teaching?

5.       Are you guilty of embracing “fence” laws instead of the actual teaching of the Church?

6.       Obtain a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Select a “hot topic” like abortion, homosexuality, birth control, gender choice, or married priesthood. What do you think the Church teaches about this topic? Consult the Catechism to see what the Church actually teaches. Have you heard any “fence” laws regarding this topic? What were they? How do they go beyond what the Church actually teaches?

7.       Discuss these words of Jesus: ‘Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” What examples from modern culture seem to illustrate this attitude? Examine your own spiritual life. Do you see any adherence to this attitude in your own life?

8.       Jesus condemns spiritual hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is saying one thing but acting differently. Do you know of any spiritual hypocrites? What influences have they had on the faith? How can you tell if someone is a spiritual hypocrite? How can you avoid spiritual hypocrisy in your own life?

9.       Discuss the above quote from St. Francis de Sales. What are some of the many daily occasions for serving God that we may miss?

10.    How can we keep from becoming self-righteous in our faith?

11.    Pray the above prayer. The Eucharist is mentioned as a source of grace. Discuss how the Eucharist fulfills this function.

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 334: Our Lady of the Rosary: A Reflection of Luke 1:38

“I am the handmaid of the Lord.”  (Luke 1:38)

On October 7, the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, but not many people know how this feast originated. A few centuries after Christianity, the religion of Islam was born. By the middle of the seventh century, Islam spread through the Middle East. But toward the end of the first millennium, the Moslem Turks began to invade and conquer the rest of the Christian world. This became known as the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire began a rapid expanse that extended as far East as Western Europe.  

Right around Halloween, we begin seeing Dracula movies on TV. Count Dracula was actually a historical figure, Vlad Dracula, also called Vlad the Impaler, who was a medieval warlord who defended his homeland of Transylvania from the invading Ottoman Turks. Transylvania is a region in modern day Romania. That’s how far west the Moslems expanded.

The Ottoman Turks also annihilated Christianity in the North of Africa, crossed the straits of Gibraltar, and invaded Spain. In Spain, the Ottomans became known as the Moors. In fact, “Fatima” in Portugal is a Moslem name. “Fatima,” was the name of the daughter of the Turkish warlord that managed that region. It’s ironic that the name “Fatima” brings nothing of Islam to our minds today because the name is synonymous with one of the most famous apparitions of our Lady.

The Moors remained in Spain until the late 1400’s, when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain married, combined their kingdoms and drove the Moors back across the Straits of Gibraltar into Africa. Ferdinand and Isabella are, of course, most famous for funding the expedition of Christopher Columbus several years later in 1492. But when they succeeded in driving the Moors out of Spain, it marked the beginning of the end of the Ottoman Empire.

This brings us to the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. In 1571, the Ottoman Turks, in one last ditch effort to conquer Europe, decided on a naval action. And launching their fleet from Northern Africa, they sailed across the Mediterranean in an attempt to take Lepanto and launch an invasion from there. Had they succeeded, they would have split the Christian world in two, and could divide and conquer it.

Since no one was expecting an invasion from the sea, no one was prepared for it.  Yet the Christian fleet sailed out to meet the Moslem one in an attempt to repel, or at least slow down, the invasion. The night before and the morning of the battle, the sailors of the Christian fleet, convinced they were sailing to their doom, repeatedly prayed the Rosary. At the same time, the Pope led a Rosary procession in Rome, praying for success against the Muslim invaders. And on October 7, 1571, the day of the battle and of the Rosary procession in St. Peter’s Square, the Christian fleet not only succeeded in repelling the Moslem fleet, but, for the Moslems, it was a complete disaster. The loss was so complete and catastrophic that the Ottomans were never able to launch a major offensive against the Christian world again. From there, the Ottoman Empire slowly began to retreat back to the Middle East.

Pope Pius V established the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary on the anniversary of that epic battle to demonstrate and celebrate the intercessory power of the Rosary. In fact, with the exception of the Mass, the Rosary is one of the most powerful prayers we have been given, since this devotion doesn’t just invoke the intercession of a saint, but it is a meditation on salvation history itself.

•           The joyful mysteries meditating on the incarnation and childhood of Jesus.

•           The sorrowful mysteries meditating on his passion and death

.•          The glorious meditating on his resurrection, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the taking of Mary’s place in heaven.

•           Pope John Paul II established the Luminous mysteries, which meditate on Christ’s presence in his world and in the sacraments.

The Rosary is a powerful prayer to defend us on earth and a powerful tool to help us attain eternal life. In every approved apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Lady stresses the need to pray the Rosary.

Getting back to our friends the Moslems, strangely enough, although our two religions have very little in common, one thing we share is a reverence of Mary. Even though the Moslems don’t acknowledge Jesus as God, they still revere Jesus as a prophet, and so they believe in the virgin birth. The prophet Mohammed himself was well disposed to the Blessed Mother. When he was sacking Mecca and destroying all the icons of the saints, there was one icon of the Blessed Mother and the infant Jesus, and he forbade any of his troops from damaging it. So in my personal prayer, whenever I offer up the 5th glorious mystery, the coronation of Mary as Queen of heaven and earth, I always offer that decade up for peace and unity between Islam and Christianity. Because if anyone can get the job done, Mom can.

It is my prayer today that more Catholics utilize the great spiritual gift of the Rosary for peace in the world and the salvation of all people.  

And blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint: “Pray the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace in the world . . . for she alone can save it.” (July 13, 2017, message of the Blessed Mother to the children of Fatima, Portugal)

Prayer: “When you pray the Rosary, say after each mystery: ‘O Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who have most need of your mercy.’ “ (June 13, 1917, message of the Blessed Mother to the children of Fatima)

Questions for Reflection:

1.    Do you pray the Rosary daily? Why or why not?

2.    Do you know of any healings or miracles that have taken place due to praying the Rosary?

3.    Why do you think the Rosary is the spiritual weapon of God’s choice? Why does the Blessed Mother always ask that the Rosary be prayed?

4.    What is your favorite mystery of the Rosary? Why?

5.    Take each of the mysteries of the Rosary and try to relate each one to an incident in your own life or in the world in general. Does this make the Rosary more relevant?

6.    If you were to add more mysteries to the Rosary, what might they be and why?

7.    Have you ever used the Rosary in spiritual combat, that is to pray against some evil? What was the result?

8.    How would you explain the Rosary to a non-Catholic?

9.    Do you believe that only by praying the Rosary will peace be achieved in the world? Why or why not do you answer as you do?

10. Father Sisco mentions the unexpected Moslem sea invasion. Did you ever feel assaulted by something completely unexpected? Did you think to pray the Rosary for your needs? If so, what was the result?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 335: The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor: A Reflection on (Isaiah 26:7-9, 12, 16-19)

The way of the just is smooth;
the path of the just you make level.
Yes, for your way and your judgments, O LORD,
we look to you;
Your name and your title
are the desire of our souls.
My soul yearns for you in the night,
yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you;
When your judgment dawns upon the earth,
the world’s inhabitants learn justice.
O LORD, you mete out peace to us,
for it is you who have accomplished all we have done.

O LORD, oppressed by your punishment,

We cried out in anguish under your chastising.
As a woman about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pains,
so were we in your presence, O LORD.
We conceived and writhed in pain,giving birth to wind;
Salvation we have not achieved for the earth,
the inhabitants of the world cannot bring it forth.
But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise;

awake and sing, you who lie in the dust.
For your dew is a dew of light, and the land of shades gives birth. (Isaiah 26:7-9, 12, 16-19)

The Lord hears the cry of the poor. That’s how this passage can be summed up. “Awake and sing, you who lie in the dust, for your dew is the dew of light, and the land of shades gives birth.” These words were spoken by the prophet Isaiah, who preached in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. One thing in common among the prophets is that they always end on a note of hope. Even when they’re warning the nation that disaster is imminent, they always end on a note of hope.

Hope. It’s one of the three theological virtues. And just like the word ‘love’ our word hope gets very confused in our modern day language. When we speak of hope in reference to our faith, it’s a completely different thing from, “I hope my team wins this year.” “I hope the concert is good.”

Hope is the confident expectation that God hears and answers our prayers. It also includes the expectation of possessing God in heaven by obtaining the necessary grace to reach this destiny. Throughout the scriptures we hear the prophets making reference to the poor. The prophets in the northern and southern kingdoms are always reminding the kings to remember the poor, the widow, and the orphan. Why?

This was more than a social justice issue, although it was that also. The prophets were reminding kings to remember the poor because the poor were sacred to the Lord because the poor had hope. Hope was all they had. Because they had no material wealth, they had to live by faith.

The above reading falls on the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Devotion to our Lady of Mount Carmel began in the thirteenth century when a group of hermits dwelt on Mount Carmel in Galilee and founded the Order of Carmelites devoted to the contemplative life under the patronage of Mary.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel is also a very special devotion among my people, the Italians, particularly the southern Italians. There was a great drought in Italy that threatened the lives of everyone in the country. The drought had lasted three years and devastated crops and livestock. The people prayed to Our Lady for relief and, on the feast day of our Lady of Mount Carmel, the rains came. I grew up with this devotion. Our church still has a procession to honor this. Those Italians had hope. They had a confident expectation that the Lord would deliver them.

When the German concentration camp Dachau was liberated by American troops, the soldiers found a word painted on the lintel of the gate post, spes. It was the Latin word for hope. It was probably painted there by a priest, long since dead. You should know that one out of every ten people that died in that camp was a Catholic priest, brother, or seminarian. Despite the horror in that hell, there was hope.

However, so many people go through life as though it were hopeless. So many people do not pray everyday or bother coming to Mass because they do not believe that God is able or willing to help them. We need to reach out to these people. Those are the people you should invite to come to Church with you. Those are the people we should pray with and pray for. Jesus said, “Come to me all of you who are wearied and find life burdensome, and I will give you rest.” As bleak as the world seems to be, we still have much to hope for, because God is still present to us.

Blessed be God forever. Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote: The rich man who gives to the poor does not bestow alms but pays a debt. -- St. Ambrose of Milan

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help me to spread Thy Fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Thy Spirit and Love. Penetrate and possess my being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine. Shine in me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus. Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine, so to shine as to be the light to others. --St. Teresa of Calcutta

Questions for Discussion

1. Can you think of an incident where something you hoped for came true? Had you prayed for this?

2. Can you think of an incident where something you hoped for did not come about? What were your feelings about this? Did you resent God for not giving you what you asked for?

3. Do you believe there is any sin that cannot be forgiven? What disposition of the mind and soul do you believe is necessary to be forgiven and attain heaven?

4. Have you known anyone who has expressed complete despair? What was their attitude of God? Did they lack belief in God, or stubbornly refuse to ask Him for help? Do you think God was rejecting that person, or rather that the person was rejecting God? Why do you believe the person rejected hope? What is it about this person that would make them feel this way, for instance, lack of formation, or a difficult childhood?

5. Why do you think God favors the poor over the wealthy, since it is by Him that a person gets his wealth or lack thereof? How can a wealthy person attain humility?

6. Do you see the value in self-denial such as fasting? Do you believe God is pleased with small sacrifices, especially when they benefit the poor, such as giving alms during Lent? Why do you believe this is, or is not?

7. Is it necessary to give up all one’s wealth to please God and attain salvation? Why or why not? In Scripture, Jesus tells the rich young man that, in order for him to be perfect, he must sell all he has and follow Christ. What do you think He meant by that statement? What did Jesus mean by being perfect?

--Lucy Fernandez, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 336: The Intercession of Queen Esther: A Reflection on the Esther 12

 

Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish, had recourse to the LORD. She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids, from morning until evening, and said: "God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand. As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers that you, O LORD, always free those who are pleasing to you. And now, come to help me, an orphan. Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion, and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy, so that he and those who are in league with him may perish. Save us from the hand of our enemies; turn our mourning into gladness and our sorrows into wholeness." (Est C: 12: 14-16, 23-25)

 

In the daily Mass readings, one day we hear the story of Jonah preaching conversion to the Ninevites, and the next day we come in on a very different scene, in a very different period of Israel’s history, Queen Esther, abandoning herself completely in prayer before the Lord. Why does the lectionary do this? Why does the Church drop us in the middle of two different stories, one day after the other, giving us a flash scene, with no apparent connection between the two? 

 

 But they are connected.

 

During Lent we reflect upon the many different images of Christ: Christ the king, Christ the new Moses, Christ the healer, Christ the deliverer, Christ the suffering servant. Jonah and Esther are two different pre-images of Christ. Jonah and Esther are two “types” of Christ, given to us in the Old Testament, to understand Christ more completely when he came in the New.

 

Jesus refers to Jonah when the Pharisees ask him for a sign to prove the authority of what he’s saying and doing. Jesus answers, “No sign will be given except the sign of Jonah. As Jonah spent three days in the belly of the fish, so shall the son of man be three days in the bowels of the earth.” 

 

OK. Who is Jonah? Jonah is a prophet who disobeys God by trying to escape on a ship, when the Lord tells him to preach repentance to the Ninevites. Nineveh was the capitol of the Assyrian empire. Jonah doesn’t want to do it, not because he’s afraid, but because he’s vengeful. Jonah WANTS God to destroy the Ninevites. He doesn’t want to preach to them, because he doesn’t want them to repent.

 

God raises a storm, the crew find out this is Jonah’s fault, they throw him overboard, and Jonah is swallowed by a large fish. Jonah spends three days in the belly of the fish, giving thanks and praise to God for sparing his life. The fish then vomits Jonah up on the shores of Nineveh, and Jonah is a changed man, ready to begin his mission. Preaching for three days, he changes the hearts of everyone.

 

Jesus goes to the Cross in obedience to the Father, after preaching repentance to the Israelites for three years, spending three days in the tomb where he releases from the bowels of Purgatory all the souls who had been waiting since Adam and Eve. He then emerges from the tomb changed, now in a glorified body, and ready to complete his mission to prepare his apostles to receive the Holy Spirit Who would change their hearts so they could in turn change the world. That is how Jonah is a “type” of Christ.

 

Esther is also a type of Christ. She is born during the Babylonian Exile, living in a foreign land. Shortly after Christ is born, his family flees to the land of Egypt, living in exile to escape the fury of King Herod. Esther’s parents die, so she is raised by her uncle Mordecai. Jesus is separated from his Father in heaven, but is raised by his foster father St Joseph. Esther is a peasant who becomes Queen. Jesus, a king, appears to be a peasant. Esther always turns to God for guidance and strength. Jesus always turns to his Father in heaven for guidance and strength. Esther risks her life and status as Queen to intercede for her people and save them from destruction. Jesus sacrifices his life to intercede for his people and save them from eternal destruction and in so doing, becomes King of all creation.

 

It’s a helpful spiritual exercise to pay attention to details in the Old Testament figures, and see what comparisons you can make to Christ. And in so doing, your understanding of Christ will be enriched.

 

Blessed be God forever, Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote: “Most people have no idea what God would make of them if they would only place themselves at His disposal.” St. Ignatius of Loyola

 

Prayer:

I arise, today, through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity. through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

 

I arise, today, through the strength of Christ's birth, with His baptism, through the strength of His Crucifixion, with His burial, through the Strength of his Resurrection with His Ascension, through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom. (from the Breastplate of St. Patrick)

 

Questions for Discussion

 

1. Name two or three attributes that Esther’s Uncle Mordecai must have had to have raised up an ordinary girl to the status of a queen, while remaining strong in the faith, and in loyalty to her people.

 

2. What physical and character traits must Esther have had to attract a king and remain in his good graces?

 

3. For those who know the story of Esther, King Ahasue'rus seemed to be easily swayed by persuasive speech. He was easily talked into dismissing his first queen, easily persuaded to announce the execution on a whole race of peoples, and turned the tables completely on those who advised him once he listened to Esther's appeal. Do you believe this was a good trait, or a bad trait? Why? Is this trait reflected in some of the politicians of this day?

 

4. Father Sisco has shown us how Queen Esther is a prefigurment of Christ. Do you think she could also be a type of Mary? If so, in what way does she resemble the Blessed Mother?

 

5. In preparation for interceding for her people, which could have resulted in her execution and that of her people, Esther, her companions, and all the Jewish people fasted, put on sackcloth and mourned and prayed for the deliverance of Israel. Do you believe this had anything to do with her success? In what way do you think this is a model for us in these modern times as it applies to intercessory prayer?

 

6. Do you believe there is a spiritual equivalent to what was happening to the Jews to the events of this day and age? If so, can you describe what is going on? In what way can the story of Esther be helpful to us in interceding for God's help?

 

7. Name at least three concerns you believe intercessory prayer would help with in your circle of influence.

 

8. Name one or two ways in which a person can one fast besides simply abstaining from all food at certain times. What other forms of penance and petition can one take? How do the sacrifices we make teach us to become closer to God?

 

9. Do you believe God will always protect us if we ask Him? Why do you think it appears as if He allows tragedy at times?

 

10. Why do you believe humility is important when asking God for help? What are some ways, in this day and age, that we can show our humility?

 

--Lucy Fernandez, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 337: Saints Peter and Paul

The Church celebrates the feast of the dedication of the basilicas of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Rome…two different basilicas, in two very different parts of Rome, built at two different times. So why do we celebrate the dedication of these two churches together? Because Peter and Paul are coupled together as apostles so often. This is despite the fact that they didn’t always get along or agree on everything.

In the Acts of the Apostles when all the Christians are having their meal after Mass, Peter sits with saint James and the Jewish converts of the faith while ignoring the Gentile converts.

There was a controversy in the early church about whether Gentile converts should have to become Jewish before becoming Christian. Saint James said yes, they do. Saint Paul said no, they don’t. Peter initially said no, they don’t, but in this gesture indicated he was sort of back peddling, and Paul publicly embarrasses Peter by calling him to the carpet on it!

And yet, the two of them have such splendid similarities. They both had dramatic conversions. Peter starts his day as usual on his fishing boat. After a luckless night of catching nothing, at Jesus’s word, Peter brings in a haul of fish so huge his boat is in danger of sinking. And immediately, Peter acknowledges his sinfulness and Jesus invites him to change his life forever.

Paul is traveling to Damascus and gets knocked off his horse. He’s blinded by a bright light and a voice calls out to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Paul answers “Who are you?” The voice answers, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.” And Paul’s life is changed forever. Both Peter and Paul have dramatic conversions.

Both of them are passionate about their causes, even when they’re wrong. Paul persecuted the Church and killed Christians before his conversion. Peter is always misinterpreting what Messiah is, and what Messiah means, and Jesus has to reprimand him often. But despite this, they both exhibit tremendous faith. They are both willing to go the distance for what they believe. After Paul converts, he becomes one of the Church’s most outstanding missionaries and suffers terrible persecution for the faith. Peter, despite his many failures, always turns back to Jesus.

Both men become outstanding leaders. Paul begins Christian communities all throughout the ancient world. Peter faces crisis after crisis in the early Church, and yet, through it all, he listens to his brother apostles, he prays with his brother apostles, and he makes decisions with his brother apostles. And I think one of Peter’s greatest qualities is that’s he’s not afraid to admit when he’s wrong and change his position on something.

Finally, both men suffer martyrdom in Rome at about the same time, though in different parts of the city. Peter is crucified up-side down in the emperor’s private garden in the center of Rome. It was Emperor Constantine who built the tomb of Peter over his place of execution some 300 years later. Paul was beheaded on the outskirts of Rome. 
 

Two very imperfect men, through whom the Lord was able to do extraordinary things, through their extraordinary faith. And that should be our lesson from the two of them. We all have imperfections. We all have faults. We don’t even have to necessarily like each other! But if we give the Lord our trust, which is in essence what faith is, He can do extraordinary things with us, and make us saints despite ourselves.

 

Saint Peter and Saint Paul, pray for us. – Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote from a Saint: “Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself…do not be disheartened by your imperfections but always rise up with fresh courage.” – St. Francis de Sales

Prayer: Raise us up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, by the apostolic assistance of blessed Peter and Paul, thy apostles, so that the weaker we are, the more mightily we may be helped by the power of intercession. May we not yield to any iniquity nor be overcome by any adversity. Grant us the grace to labor strenuously to bring the faith to others and to accept any trials and tribulations that come our way. Through Christ Our Lord.

Questions for Reflection:

1. Where are the basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul located? Why are the dedications of the basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul celebrated together?

2. Describe the relationship between St. Peter and St. Paul. Did they always get along? Explain.

3. The disagreement between St. Peter (Cephas) and St. Paul regarding the Gentiles can studied in Acts 15:7-11 and Acts 15:19-20, as well as in Galatians 2:11-14. Read these passages and discuss. If you were listening to their discussions, whose side would you have chosen?

4. Describe the conversion stories of Saints Peter and Paul. Were they dramatic? Why do you suppose God approached them each in the way He did? How did they die?

5. Describe your conversion story. Are you a “cradle Catholic” or a convert? At what point in your life did you really sense God’s presence and begin following Him? Discuss.

6. How did God use St. Peter and St. Paul. Where did their ministries take them?

7. Both St. Peter and St. Paul suffered greatly for their faith. Have you suffered for your faith? How so? If not, are you willing to suffer for your faith if called to do so?

8. Read the quote by St. Francis de Sales. How does this relate to the lives of St. Peter and St. Paul? Were these saints “perfect” or did God use them in spite of their imperfections?

9. Do you find yourself to be disheartened by your imperfections? How might you work to overcome this?

10. St. Peter and St. Paul were both used in mighty ways to further the Kingdom of God. Are you willing to allow God to use You in whatever way He sees fit? Discuss.

-- Kimberly Lohman

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 338: I Am the Lord: A Reflection on Isaiah 45

I am the LORD, there is no other; I form the light, and create the darkness, I make well-being and create woe; I, the LORD, do all these things. Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above, like gentle rain let the skies drop it down. Let the earth open and salvation bud forth; let justice also spring up! I, the LORD, have created this. For thus says the LORD, The creator of the heavens, who is God, The designer and maker of the earth who established it, Not creating it to be a waste, but designing it be lived in: I am the LORD, and there is no other. Who announced this from the beginning and foretold it from of old? Was it not I, the LORD, besides whom there is no other God? There is no just and saving God but me. Turn to me and be safe, all you ends of the earth, for I am God; there is no other! By myself I swear, uttering my just decree and my unalterable word: To me every knee shall bend; by me every tongue shall swear, Saying, “Only in the LORD are just deeds and power. Before him in shame shall come all who vent their anger against him. In the LORD shall be the vindication and the glory of all the descendants of Israel.” (Isaiah 45: 6c-8, 18, 21-25)

In this reading from the prophet Isaiah, God keeps reiterating the statement to the prophet; “I am the Lord and there is no other.” What are the characteristics that surround the Lord in this passage? “I form the light and the darkness…I make well-being and create woe…Let justice descend…let salvation bud forth…I am the creator of heaven…I am the designer and maker of the earth…(NOT creating it to be a waste but designing it to be lived in.)…Turn to me and be safe…Only in the Lord are just deeds and power…”

So why is HE the Lord and there is no other? Because everything that surrounds him is goodness and life, and that’s what being God is. Now, you may argue with me, “But Father, the passage says here, ‘I form the light AND the darkness…I make well-being AND create woe.’ So, isn’t God saying here he is also responsible for evil?” Not necessarily. First of all, darkness is as necessary for life as light is. We know this through photosynthesis in plants. Plants need light to collect energy from the sun, but at night they give off oxygen which WE need for life. Now science is also suggesting that our brains are dependent on light and darkness to function properly, but I don’t know enough of that research yet to comment intelligently about it. What is clear, is this--without darkness there is no life.

What about God creating woe? There are a few points to consider here. First, he never specifies woe on whom. He could be referring to woe on the evil doers, the people who deserve it. But we know that isn’t true. People suffer all the time who don’t deserve it. I just buried a 36 year old woman last week who died of cancer, and left two small children. She didn’t deserve that. So, what does God mean here? First, God is saying he’s in control during both the good and the bad times. Just because bad things happen, doesn’t mean he’s not God. Bad things don’t mean that he doesn’t have the power to prevent these things from happening. That’s the same lesson God was trying to teach Job in the scriptures.

Well then, why DOES God allow bad things to happen to good people if he has the power to prevent it? God allows woe, because times of woe can also be good. Just as darkness is as necessary for life as light is, so also times of woe also bring life.

How? Three ways. First of all, detachment. Attachment to possessions is a hindrance to salvation because it cripples faith. So, again, going back to the book of Job -- Job is the wealthiest man in the region. The real test of faith is if he maintains his faith when he loses all his possessions. The last thing Job loses is his health. He contracts a painful disfiguring disease. Often times people in suffering will say to me, “Why is God punishing me?” And I tell them, “God isn’t punishing you. He’s making you into a saint. He’s inviting you to share a few steps of his walk to Calvary.” The last earthly possession we need to be detached from is our own flesh. That’s the first way woe is a good thing: it strengthens our faith by testing our faith.

The second way woe is good is that it reminds us that this life is not perfect, but we are on a journey to a perfect world where there IS no woe. So, the bad times should motivate us to increase our devotion to God and focus more attention on THAT perfect world, and not get so hung up on the realities of this life. Therefore, the woe times also train us to grow in hope.

The third way woe is good is that when we see others going through their woeful times it presents us an opportunity to extend ourselves to them in charity. When someone’s house burns down, we offer them food and clothing and a place to stay. When someone is grieving, we offer a word of comfort and consolation. When someone is suffering, the least we can do is pray for them. So, woe makes us grow in faith, hope, and charity, the three theological virtues, and the three primary virtues that make us holy. Why? Because he is the Lord and there is no other.

 

--Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote: “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” -- St. Augustine

Prayer: “May God the Father who made us, bless us. May God the Son send His healing among us. May God the Holy Spirit move within us and give us eyes to see with, ears to hear with, and hands, that your work might be done. May we walk and preach the word of God to all. May the angel of peace watch over us and lead us, at last, by God's grace, to the Kingdom.”-- St. Dominic

Questions for Discussion

1.       Can you think of one or two people who have had more than their share of misfortune? How did each handle their situation? What was the relationship between their attitude towards God and their ability to cope? Do you believe hope in God helps toward a positive outcome? If so, how would you explain this?

2.       Many people believe that the presence of anything that is evil or involves suffering is to be avoided at all costs. Do you agree with this? Do you believe suffering has value in the eyes of God? If so, what?

3.       The prophet Jeremiah laments, “Why does the way of the godless prosper, why live all the treacherous in contentment? You planted them; they have taken root, they keep on growing and bearing fruit” (Jer 11: 18-20). Is this is so? If so, why do you believe God allows this? Some theologians have speculated that this temporary flourishing is an expression of His mercy. Do you think this could be so? If so, why?

4.       What is “a sacrifice of praise?” How is praise a sacrifice? How can we offer this sacrifice to God? What is meant when the Bible refers to giving thanksgiving and preaching the word “in season and out of season”? It is easy to give God praise when things are going well. Why do you think it would be a good thing to offer God thanksgiving when things are not going well? How could you do this?

5.       List at least 8-10 things you are grateful to God for. When you do this, what does this do to your heart and mind? Could focusing on this list in difficult times be of help?

6.       Everyone undergoes periods of consolation (joy and happiness), and desolation (sadness, difficulty). What do you believe the Lord would like you to do in each of these moments?

7.       St. Augustine tells us that we were not good, but God had pity on us and sent his Son to die...not for the just but for the wicked...”Let us live so as to be worthy of that great grace, and not do injury to it.” (Sermo 23). How can we live this way?

8.       Name two or three ways we can offer thanks and praise to God for His multiple gifts.

--Lucy Fernandez, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 339: Giving Thanks: A Reflection on Colossians 1: 1-8

“Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the holy ones and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the holy ones because of the hope reserved for you in heaven. Of this you have already heard through the word of truth, the Gospel, that has come to you. Just as in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing, so also among you, from the day you heard it and came to know the grace of God in truth, as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow slave, who is a trustworthy minister of Christ on your behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.” (Colossians 1:1-8)

“We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, whenever we pray for you.” Two very important points come out in this one simple sentence.

The first is the need to give thanks to God, and the second is the need to pray for others. 

Giving thanks to God. The fact that Paul can give thanks to God for anything is quite amazing when you think of it. He had a position of considerable influence before becoming a Christian. He persecuted Christianity, converted to Christianity, became an evangelist for Christianity, yet very few Christians trusted him because of his persecution of the faith before his conversion. Paul has to constantly defend his authenticity. He lost all the prestige and wealth he had before his conversion.

Paul is persecuted himself; he's whipped, beaten, stoned and left for dead, shipwrecked. Then, then, once he’s begun one of these Christian communities, he’s constantly having to write them letters and return to them because problems and abuses arise, and Paul has to straighten them out.

Yet despite all this, Paul can give God thanks. That’s a true mark of holiness, not because holy people are masochists, but, because holy people can see the big picture. Saint Pius the Tenth once said that even as a child, the spiritual world was more real to him than the physical world. That’s how Paul and thousands of saints after him could give thanks even in difficult times; they realized that the trails they endured were only adding to their future glory in heaven.

Personally, I’m half way there. I don’t give thanks in difficulty. I’m not there yet. But now I DO manage not to let myself give into sin when I’m discouraged or frustrated. That’s something. So, I’m not quite ready for heaven, but so far I got myself a decent seat in purgatory. So that’s the first positive step toward holiness, giving thanks to God even in difficulty. The second is praying for others. Intercession.

Christianity is in no way egocentric. Christianity is never about ME. Christianity is always about WE. So, the first step toward that way of thinking is empathy. Why do we pray for other people? Because we care about them! Praying for the needs of others gets us outside of ourselves. Jesus takes it to the next level and tells us not just to pray for our family and friends, but to even pray for the people we don’t like; our enemies and those who hate us. Anyone can pray for people they love. It’s even easy to pray for complete strangers. So, we pray for the flood victims and hurricane and earthquake victims. We don’t know them, so it’s easy to pray for them. Heck, they never did anything to hurt me. Why shouldn’t I pray for them?

But, it takes a saint to pray for people who make our lives difficult. Praying for those people truly forms our hearts to be like God’s who loves even those who don’t love Him. So, the second positive step toward holiness is praying for others. 

There is another positive step toward holiness. We see it in the incident in which Jesus left the synagogue, entered the house of Simon Peter, and cured his mother-in-law, and then healed a whole bunch of other people. All this AFTER Jesus left the synagogue. After He prayed and gave thanks to God, Jesus went out and did good to others. 

AFTER we pray for others, AFTER we give thanks to God, it’s time for us to put our words into action and see what good we can do for others. Christianity is only about me insofar as what I have to offer to everyone else. And we all have something to offer. Give thanks to God, even in difficulties, pray for the needs of others, help others any way you can—this is a simple, yet sure fire formula for getting to heaven.


--Father Michael Anthony Sisco

Quote: The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in his goodness. St. Gianna Beretta Molla

Prayer: O Lord, we ask for a boundless confidence and trust in Your divine mercy, and the courage to accept the crosses and sufferings which bring immense goodness to our souls and that of Your Church. Help us to love You with a pure and contrite heart, and to humble ourselves beneath Your cross, as we climb the mountain of holiness, carrying our cross that leads to heavenly glory. May we receive You with great faith and love in Holy Communion, and allow You to act in us as You desire for your greater glory. O Jesus, most adorable Heart and eternal fountain of Divine Love, may our prayer find favor before the Divine Majesty of Your Heavenly Father. --St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Questions for Discussion

1. Ask yourself, when was the last time I prayed for an enemy? 

2. It is easy to thank God for the good He brings to us. Sr. Lucia of Fatima called the abuse she received at the hands of her family and fellow villagers “caresses from heaven”. Why do you think she would describe it that way?

3. When things are going well for us, we typically believe God is pleased with us and blessing us. When things are going badly, we often believe God is angry or punishing us.  Do you believe that is true? Why or why not?

4. The greatest saints seem to have had the worst adversity in their lives. Jesus Himself was perfect in every way, yet, He experienced every kind of difficulty and persecution. In light of this, do you believe adversity and affliction is bad in the long term sense? 

5. Name two or three attributes sufferings and trials develop in us. Why do you think God is pleased to send these to us? 

6. To intercede in prayer is a spiritual work of mercy. To give alms is a corporal work of mercy. Which do you believe is more important or at least more effective? Why? 

7. According to the example of Our Lord, the best course of action is to intercede for people, then go out and physically help them. Give an example of how you can do this. For instance, it is a good practice to pray for help for the victims of a hurricane, but it is better to follow up that prayer with giving to the local Red Cross or other relief service as well. 

8. Prayerfully consider adding a prayer for someone who irritates you, someone you are having difficulty with or someone who has hurt you. How do you feel about doing this?

--Lucy Fernandez, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Reflection 340: Perseverance: A Reflection on Acts 13:16-42

 

Read Acts 13: 16-42 before beginning this reflection. You will find that it is a summary of the Jewish faith journey down through the centuries. Notice how God was at work throughout the history of the Jewish nation. The passage shows the need for perseverance as God consistently cares for His people.

 

So much of our faith life depends on perseverance. It’s easy to have faith initially. It’s easy to get excited about God in the short run. But the real test of faith is how it stands up to the test of time.

 

Our faith can grow cold for any number of reasons.

 

  • If God does not seem to be responding to an intention we’ve been praying for 

  • If people whom we love that are suffering. 

  • If we are continually rejected by family or friends because of our faith. 

  • If prayer has become routine so that it becomes just another chore we do instead of a conversation or relationship we engage in.

 

These are just some of the reasons why faith can grow cold.

 

On April 29, the Church celebrates the feast of Saint Catherine of Siena, a doctor of the Church, even though she was an illiterate lay woman, not a religious nun or sister. Catherine was a Third Order Dominican. That’s a lay order. She dictated all of her writings to another woman who wrote them down because Catherine could neither read nor write. In her dialogue, Catherine confesses that her prayer life had been dry for years. She found herself giving spiritual advice to others that she had not been taking herself! Yet this is a woman who chastised Popes, and they listened to her! This was a woman who experienced great mystical encounters with Jesus in her childhood. So if she experienced dry spells in her spiritual life, what makes us think any of us will be immune? If she persevered, so can we.

 

I visited Siena for a day while I was on Sabbatical in Rome. Concelebrating Mass in the chapel attached to the house Saint Catherine grew up in was one of the highlights of my experiences.

 

So what is the difference between the saints and everyone else?

 

  • We experience trials, and so did they.  

  • We’re opposed, and so were they. 

  • We’re despised, and so were they.  

  • We sometimes feel abandoned by God, and so did they. 

  • Sometimes we want to give up, and so did they.

 

But they persevered.

 

Saint Paul experienced rejection everywhere he went, even when he crafted magnificent talks to his listeners. Acts 13 records an incident where Paul went into a synagogue in Antioch on a Sabbath day. The Rabbi invites anyone to share a word of faith with the congregation. Paul stands. He begins by recapping the Jews’ own salvation history starting with Moses, who led their ancestors out of slavery. Then he speaks about the judges, David the king, and the prophets, and he uses that as his lead in to tell them about Jesus. But his magnificent homily doesn’t work. The people reject Paul’s message. Yet Paul perseveres.

 

St. John’s Gospel describes the incident of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples, a job reserved for the lowest servant, as an example of what he was calling them to do for others. Nevertheless, when he’s explaining this to them, he makes a point of saying, “He who partook of bread with me has raised his heel against me,” speaking of Judas Iscariot.

 

In one sense Peter sinned worse than Judas. Judas denied Jesus only once. Peter denied him three times. What’s the difference between Peter and Judas? Peter persevered. Judas didn’t.

 

Brothers and sisters, tough times come upon everyone. When the going gets tough, that’s the time to delve deeper into our faith, not turn our backs on it. We all experience our moments of failure when we temporarily turn away. Ultimately what distinguishes the sinner from the saint is who chooses to persevere. 

  • Father Michael Anthony Sisco

 

Quote from a Saint:

Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring. – St. Catherine of Siena

 

Prayer:

Keep me focused on You Lord and keep my heart steadfastly trusting You for all my needs. Help me not to function in my own strength, but in the power of the Holy Spirit. May I stand firm in the truth of the gospel and remain steadfastly looking to Jesus - trusting in Him to supply His sufficient strength for all occasions. Teach me all that You would have me to learn today and give me the courage and strength to press on toward holiness so that I may win the heavenly prize to which God is calling me. Amen

 

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Why is perseverance a virtue? How is it especially a virtue in the spiritual life?

  2. Would you consider yourself good at persevering? Why or why not?

  3. What, at this time in your life, requires perseverance?

  4. How does perseverance or lack thereof relate to Peter and Judas?

  5. Name some trials experienced by the early followers of Jesus. How did they cope?

  6. Name a few achievements in life that came because of perseverance.

  7. Father Sisco discusses St. Catherine of Siena as an example of a lay person who became a saint. Do you know of other sainted laity? Who? Do you know any lay people who you think are saints, even if the Church may never publicly recognize their sanctity?

  8. Father Sisco mentioned four problems that can cause faith to grow cold. List some techniques for persevering in the spiritual life.

  9. What one thing, do you think, is most important in fostering perseverance?

--Madeline Pecora Nugent, CFP

Oratory of Divine Love Weekly Bible Study, c/o Confraternity of Penitents, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN 46803 USA  OratoryDivineLove@gmail.com   260-739-6882