Friday, November 15, 2013

Praying Always

"Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?" Lk 18:7

Persistence in prayer is an important Christian virtue. Jesus reminds us of this more than once, and the widow who pesters the local judge to help her attain justice is only the most dramatic example of this. In St Matthew's Gospel Jesus tells his disciples to "Watch and pray always, lest you enter into temptation," and (26:41) St Paul echoes Jesus' call to pray always in first Thessalonians. "Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances."

Praying always can seem like an impossible challenge. For most, when we try to pray, distractions fill our minds and hearts almost as soon as we begin. Even when we pray the rosary or other devotional prayers, we find ourselves thinking about everything but the prayer! Just the same, our willingness to put everything and everyone in God's hands each day is a very powerful prayer although it is often difficult to manage. Trusting God completely is something most of us aspire to, but rarely accomplish. That is why the practice of prayer is so important.

Getting in the habit of saying the Jesus prayer, Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner helps many. Others, especially those helped by 12 step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous use the serenity prayer often. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. Repeating both or either of these prayers regularly will help any well-intentioned believer create a space in their lives for God to be God which is, after all is said, the purpose of all prayer.

Today, choose a simple prayer and repeat it throughout the day.

What is your favorite prayer?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Living and Dying Well

"Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it." Lk 17:33

The instinct to survive is strong. Very few people when facing the end of their life let go without a struggle. Although we see friends and family wrestle with cancer and wonder why they are willing to try almost any treatment, the fear of the unknown can overwhelm the best of intentions. In our everyday lives, we are urged to diet, exercise and relax regularly in order to live more healthily, and while this is understandable and good, we can become obsessed with preserving our lives.

Jesus is clear about all of this. While it is important to care for ourselves, we also need to examine our motives. Spending thousands of dollars for gym memberships and exercise equipment that we rarely use and ingesting all kinds of vitamins and herbs in the transparent attempt to resist the natural process of aging can be a not so subtle way of denying God's place in our lives.While it is important to eat well and reasonably, to walk regularly and care for our body as a gift from God, we ought also acknowledge and accept the reality of our own deaths.

The Christian who reads the Gospel with an open heart knows that the most basic Gospel challenge is to think and act on behalf of others, especially the suffering. Not to respond to the people of the Philippines because we are so obsessed with our own well being and fear of death is an offense against God and God's people. Only after meditating regularly and deeply on death and accepting its inevitability can we be sure that our efforts at self care are balanced with a heartfelt concern for others.

Today, give some time you don't have to help someone struggling to survive.

What are your biggest fears about death?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wisdom's Power

"Wisdom is the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image of God's goodness." Wis 7:26

The scriptures today invite us to think about and pray in gratitude for all the wisdom figures in our lives, those special people whose presence encouraged, consoled and challenged us along the way. The quiet power they radiated provides us with wonderful memories and a commitment to offer others the same gifts we received.

Some of these women and men we met only in books. St Augustine, St Francis, St Clare and St Therese of Lisieux, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day and Nelson Mandela, to name just a few, impacted our lives and left a mark that endures especially when we are struggling. We can return to their writings and the books about them many times over and not be disappointed. Their lives live in us and act as a compass for our own journey.

Other wisdom figures like our parents, aunts and uncles, teachers and mentors, though unknown to most, also fill us with hope and assurance that life, no matter how cluttered or confusing, is a great gift for which we need to be grateful everyday. When we think about the gracious and unstinting love and sacrifice our forebears expended on our behalf we realize that all is gift, and that God has provided us with friends and prophets whose memory strengthens us whenever we call upon them.

Today, thank God for the wisdom figures in your life.

What wise faith lessons do you most treasure?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

St Frances Xavier Cabrini

“Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?" Lk 17:18

Two things marked the early life of Mother Cabrini. She was frail and sickly as a child and only four of her 10 siblings survived adolescence, but neither situation shuttered her imagination. When her father would read to his children about the great men and women who left their homelands to go around the world as missionaries, Frances dreamed of joining them. Frances' faith was bigger than her weakness.

Faithful to her parents until their death, Frances helped them on their farm and went to school, but soon after their death she began to explore a religious vocation. Rejected at first because of her poor health, Frances persevered and soon the local bishop asked her to found a new congregation of religious women. Sure that Frances' efforts would benefit the local church, the bishop was excited by Frances' new congregation, but Frances had bigger ideas. Soon after making vows, she added the name Xavier to Frances, after the famous Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier, and went to Rome to establish a convent. Soon after, still hoping to go the Orient as a missionary, Frances was asked to help Italian immigrants in the United States. Resistant, she asked the Pope Leo XIII for help in discernment, and the Pope assured her that she should go West to the United States, and from this point her life exploded with activity and zeal.

St Frances Xavier Cabrini was a brilliant organizer and administrator. She founded 68 missions and, though she hated ocean travel, crossing the Atlantic more than thirty times. Her work took her to New York, South America, Chicago and New Orleans, and all of this with failing health. A woman of our times, Frances Xavier continues to inspire women and men of the 21st century with passion and zeal.

Today, pray for the young to accept the call to discipleship.

Monday, November 11, 2013

St Josaphat

"When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’” Lk 17:10

How we respond under pressure is often the measure of our faith and courage. St Josaphat, a 17th century martyr, reminds us of this. Committed, as a bishop, to the cause of trying to heal the Great Schism, of reuniting Rome and Constantinople, he first reformed both the local church to which he was assigned and his own life. Though some thought he was too demanding that people live simple lives, his personal witness to frugality and honesty convinced many of his cause, but not all.

Josaphat was killed by a mob, certain that one of their number had been abused and imprisoned by those committed to reconciliation with Rome. After his martyrdom, he as thrown into a nearby river along with a dog that had tried to protect him, but it was the Jewish people who should be held up as faithful to the Torah in defense of Josaphat. When Josaphat and his servants were being beaten and killed, Jews rushed into the courtyard of the bishop and rescued many, and it was Jews who mourned his passing. Because they recognized his goodness before God, the Jews refused to be intimidated or drawn into a fight not of their making while the Catholics for whom Josaphat died hid in fear of their lives.

No doubt Josaphat would have echoed St Luke in the Gospel: I am an unprofitable servant and have done only what I was obliged to do. We ought to follow his example.

Today, stand up for someone whose name is being dragged through the mud.

What are your biggest challenges to live faith despite the cost?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

St Martin of Tours

"The apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our Faith.'" Lk 17:5

Faith, though a great and free gift, is fragile. Frequently, especially when we are moving along in life confidently and without too much effort, we forget how central God and God's love for us is to our everyday life. When we remember to pray, we pray too quickly or by rote, and everything becomes more important than our spiritual lives. We rush to get things done, don't even see friends and family in need, and find ourselves focusing on others faults rather than their good qualities. Although there are dozens of reminders along the way, we fail to see them and without realizing it, our faith wavers.

While none of us wants to be tested, neither can we deny that the challenges we face strengthen us. When a parent falls ill, a friend struggles with mental illness or old friends divorce after many years of marriage, we pause and wonder. What is happening within and around us? What ought to be our faith response? When we have been walking at God's pace, attending to God's way in our lives, the responses come naturally and simply. Pray. Be with hurting friends and family as companions. Don't instruct. But when we have taken faith for granted, we find ourselves muddled, overly upset, angry and confused. What should we do? Pray. Slow down. Listen. Ask for an increase in faith.

Today, take five minutes to sit in God's presence without an agenda

What kinds of situations most test your faith?