I should call this one the Hand-Sanitizer Edition. I’ve managed to catch my daughter’s nasty cold and am looking at the screen with bleary, puffy eyes and sniffling like mad. Every five minutes (or less) I’m squirting yet another pool of sanitizing gel onto my hands and trying to maintain my train of thought. Fortunately I compile these Friday writings as I do almost all of my posts the night before at home and email them to myself to tweak or post. I say fortunately because I’m not sure my head is clear enough to think too much today.
As I said a week or so ago I’ve been studying and practicing much prayer, so you’ll see that theme reflected below. While I use the sanitizer to eradicate the germs from my hands I use those same hands in prayer to erase the barriers between myself and God. A sanitizer for the soul, if you will.
I apologize for the length of this post. It may be the last one for awhile due to the busyness of life in the coming week(s) so I got a little windy with my quotations.
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I’ll begin with a snippet from a daily blog recommended to me recently by my friend Fr. Hottovy called “Oh……….. Francesco: The meditations and reflections of a Secular Franciscan in the 3rd Millennium”. Last Friday’s entry:
If we want to be a real follower of Jesus, we must stop judging and gossiping. But how do we break these lifelong habits? How can we end these ways of thinking that are celebrated in western culture in reality TV and tabloid journalism? With prayer.
We will feel less insecure and feel less need to look around at the ways others live, if we really feel deeply in our hearts how much we are loved by God. Letting God love us, a love that transcends the very flaws we want to hide, will heal the need in our lives to look so harshly on others. We can allow God’s endless love to wash over us until we really feel how much God delights in us.
I have put this to work in my own life. I found that some people were frustrating the bejeebers out of me and I realized that in the end all I can do is pray for them.
Addendum: I don’t like how I phrased that. “…in the end all I can do is pray for them.” It seems to denote that it’s the least I can do, or the last resort left to me to offer or do for someone. In truth, it is the most important thing I can do for anyone and should be the first thing I do. I need to make sure I reorient myself in that endeavor going forward.
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Also last Friday Bishop James Conley of my home, the Lincoln (Neb.) Diocese, wrote in his weekly column on the subject of “The Joy of Religious Life—and the Joy of Christ”. It was a column about religious life and vocations, but not just for those considering the priesthood or becoming a religious sister, etc. It is a call for all of us. I’m going to share a few portions that I highlighted when reading:
The life of prayer, of contemplation, of silence, especially, that religious embrace is a witness to all of us in an era of disconnectedness, and noise, and distraction. The silence the religious embrace—the willful disregard for the distractions of this world—is what makes their joy more complete.
All truly profound things occur in silence: conception, the consecration, the sunrise, the blossoming of a flower, and true contemplation in the depths of prayer.
And in the quiet contemplation of Christ, all of us are called to the joy that makes the Christian life beautiful, and delightful.
The direct link to his column is not working for whatever reason so you’ll have to type it into your search engine of choice to try to locate it. I can only echo what Bishop Conley writes: it is in the depths of contemplation in prayer that I find great joy. In that joy I am renewed. I am ever young.
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In my continued research of the history and development of the Divine Office I was at long last able to obtain a rare and therefore somewhat expensive copy of The Breviary Explained by Pius Parsch. Originally written in German, the English translation was published in 1952. I first learned of the book due to excerpts from it being used in the introductory sections of the Baronius Press edition of The Roman Breviary that I use for prayer each day. I finally located a copy at Loome Theological Booksellers and in reading it so far have determined it was a good purchase. I plan on writing a book, guide or course of my own one day on the Divine Office (today known as The Liturgy of the Hours). Parsch will figure prominently in that research.
Back to the subject at hand. What I enjoy the most about praying the pre-Vatican II office is the clear order of the day and the week. I’ll write more of this later but I find that in this modern life in which we are pulled a million different ways by a million different distractions competing for our time and attention I require a footing…a foundation. It reminds me that there is an order to Creation and to this Life and that I need to be in tune to that. I don’t think I’m alone in this need. In praying the universal prayers of the Church at set times I join my own prayers to those of others around the world who are doing the same. That is both powerful and comforting. So building upon what Bishop Conley said above I turn to Parsch:
The Church lives in and along with time, a fact we see plainly in the Church’s liturgical year, and even more so in her Office. Through the latter we can sanctify and consecrate our entire day to God. Christ’s words, “Pray always and faint not,” become a reality in the Office. For each part of the day the Church has its special prayers to form an hour whose contents are suited to the needs of that hour of the day. The day is somewhat like a journey through the dry desert of life, where every three hours we come upon an oasis with the cool water of God’s grace in the pleasant shade of His protection. This is what each hour of the Office is, an ardent turning to God in our passage through the day.
From The Breviary Explained, by Pius Parsch. (B. Herder Book Co., London & St. Louis, MO) 1952. Page 29.
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I shall tell you something else which is very important for busy people like you who say they have no time to pray.
Try to look at the reality in which you live—your work, your commitments, your relationships, your meetings, your walks, the shopping, the newspapers, the children—as a single whole from which you cannot disengage yourself, a whole which you have to think about.
I shall say more: a whole by means of which God speaks to you and through which He guides you.
So it is not by fleeing that you will find God more easily, but it is by changing your heart that you will see things differently.
The desert in the city is only possible on these terms: that you see things with a new eye, touch them with a new spirit, love them with a new heart.
— Carlo Carretto, The Desert in the City
Source: Heather King
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A story from the life of Karol Wojtyla (Pope St. John Paul II) has always touched my heart as a father. It came on the heels of his mother Emilia’s death. His father, Karol Sr., was a lieutenant in the Austrian army. This excerpt speaks to the importance of our example as parents as well as peers.
From the time of Emilia’s death, Karol and the Lieutenant lived alone. They were extremely close. At some point, they even started sleeping in the same room. The Lieutenant was a force for rectitude and piety, one of several key influences in Wojtyla’s religious life. As pope, John Paul II remembered that, “Day after day I was able to observe the austere way in which he lived. By profession he was a soldier and, after my mother’s death, his life became one of constant prayer. Sometimes I would wake up during the night and find my father on his knees, just as I would always see him kneeling in the parish church. We never spoke about a vocation to the priesthood, but his example was in a way my first seminary, a kind of domestic seminary.”
I love that. A “domestic seminary.” The fact remains that the home is where life’s lessons are still taught. They are either poor lessons or good ones. And if absent the vacuum will be filled by lessons learned elsewhere: on the street, at school or the residence of friends. If you are not a father you still have a responsibility to yourself and to your loved ones to live those good lessons and pass on your own. And if you are a father, then these words from an article written by Deacon Branson Hipp are for you to show that it’s not just the parents of saints who set the example. And who knows? Your children may become those great saints that future stories will be written about.
My dad never read Chesterton in his life. He doesn’t smoke a pipe or dress like he lives in the 1930’s. He often wears jean shorts (sorry to sell you out Dad), and he doesn’t have a fancy beard. He appears as just another guy.
But my dad works hard, is good at his work, is faithful to his wife, and lovingly raised five kids with no complaints. Very often he would get the raw deal in birthdays and celebrations, but he never seemed to mind. I never, ever, heard him fight with my mom, because whenever they had a disagreement, they would go behind closed doors to rationally figure out what to do next. He goes to Church every Sunday and he prays daily for his family. He is an amazing cook and is funnier than I give him credit for.
He’s stubborn and often drives me crazy.
But he is a real man, and he taught all of us kids that to be a man means humility and faithfulness, holy steadfastness to one’s state of life, whatever that is. He is a man, and a great father. At the end of the day, the externals matter a whole lot less than we think they do. They are flashy, but they don’t endure.
*I acknowledge that I have readers who are single mothers raising children on their own. You are more than capable of setting this example for them as well and encourage you to do so. I know it’s hard, not from my own experience but due to the stories I’ve seen, heard and been told by you. I also believe that God has granted you special graces and strength you may not yet know to accomplish these things. I pray daily for you.
Prayer images source.