prayer

Love your own cross

It’s easy to love other people’s crosses. I think especially about the heroic crosses borne by the martyr’s and saints through the ages, for the glory of God.

Today I was buried with assignments rapidly approaching, that I’m far behind on, so that these really must come before almost anything else. I’m not even able to spend long writing this post, because I need to catch up on sleep, so I can wake up and work some more. It’s painful.

I thought at one point, “Ah! If only I could be living and suffering for Christ’s service, rather than trapped in this work.” And then I saw once more, that this is my cross, this is my way to love and serve God. If I won’t accept this, there’s no way I’d ever accept the greater sufferings and service of the saints. This is how I’m meant to love God right now. This is my gift. This is my prayer.

 

Please pray for me. God bless you!

Pray When You Don’t Feel Like It

This is my best advice for all people, in all walks of life, of all ages, all backgrounds, heck, even of all religions and none. Whatever your lifestyle, whatever your past, whatever your vices and virtues, whatever your failures and successes. However much you pray, however “good” you are at it. Pray when you don’t feel like it.

Why? Because we always need God, and He always makes it better. Always.

We always need our Creator, our Father, our Saviour.

Bl. Mother Teresa quote

If you don’t feel you can pray right, pray wrong. Even if you can’t help swearing, swear in prayer. God loves it.

Even the smallest prayer in the worst sinner, opens us to God’s infinite creative love and mercy. Throughout each day, we grow stale (the “righteous” especially), and we need to be reinvigorated. We close ourselves off, from God, from others, from creation, and from ourselves. In this dying world to which we are subject, we must repeatedly open ourselves to the source of all life.

Whatever the situation, the briefest contact with God will bring life there.

As the winter deepens, we know that opening the door for just a moment lets so much cold in, and leaving one small window open freezes the whole house! That is how brief prayer and small prayer let God in.

Sometimes prayer will be genuinely painful. But however bad it may feel, this is the pain of life, and it is good. It burns and it crushes and it grinds, but it liberates, and fills us with light.

Sometimes, I don’t know the words; I pray remembered prayers (the Our Father and the Jesus prayer usually). God answers. Sometimes, all my words, all my thoughts, and all I am, seem empty and vain; I tell God I feel empty and vain, accepting that I feel empty and vain even as I confess this. God comes to the rescue. Sometimes, I can’t bring myself to say a word before God; I kneel in front of my crucifix, make the sign of the cross, and remain there, in front of the Lord, knowing I am seen. God is there. Sometimes, I’m too afraid to go to God at all; I go to a saint to help me (usually St. Therese). The saints bring me to God. And sometimes, I don’t take my own advice and don’t pray.

At those times God either keeps on disturbing me, or waits for me.

Evidently, I’m no prayer master. But I know for certain, that every time we pray, we open our lives to God’s work, and He always enters, and He always helps.

 

God bless you

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St Edith Stein quote

‘Prayer is the communication of the soul with God. God is love, and love is goodness giving itself away. It is a fulness of being that does not want to remain enclosed in itself, but rather to share itself with others, to give itself to them, and to make them happy. All of creation exists thanks to this divine love spending itself. However, the highest of all God’s creatures are those endowed with spirit, able to receive God’s love with understanding and to return it freely: angels and human souls. Prayer is the highest achievement of which the human soul is capable. But it is not merely a human achievement. Prayer is a Jacob’s ladder on which the human spirit ascends to God and God’s grace descends to people. The stages of prayer are distinguished according to the measure in which the natural efforts of the soul and God’s grace participate. When the soul is no longer active by virtue of its own efforts, but is simply a receptacle for grace, one speaks of a mystical life of prayer.’
– St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

Edith Stein is fast becoming one of my favourite saints. She was born in a German Jewish family, lost faith by her teenage years, earned a doctorate in philosophy, converted to Catholicism, was important in the German Catholic women’s movement, became a Discalced Carmelite nun, and was martyred by the Nazis in Auschwitz. She was distinguished by a great mind and a great heart.

The quote is taken from Edith Stein: Essential Writings, in which it is part of a larger selection taken from a “bio-historical sketch” of St. Teresa of Avila, her namesake in the religious life.

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St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us!

The struggle for prayer

‘The struggle for prayer is not an easy one. The spirit fluctuates — sometimes prayer flows in us like a mighty river, sometimes the heart dries up. But every reduction in our prayer-strength must be as brief as possible. To pray not infrequently means telling God of our disastrous state: of our weakness and despondency, our doubts and fears, the melancholy, the despair — in brief, everything connected with our condition. To pour it all out, not seeking to express it elegantly or even in logical sequence. Often this method of approach to God turns out to be the beginning of prayer as communion.’
– Elder Sophrony of Essex – On Prayer

Reading to Jesus

Today I did a reading in front of three thousand people, as part of my University’s carol service. I was a bit more than understandably nervous. It’s the very opposite of my comfort zone (my discomfort zone?).

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(It was much darker, and much, much more full)

As I sat nervously before it started, the salvation army band playing, I took the opportunity to silently pray, offering the whole thing to God. I asked that it may be for us an encounter with Jesus. Then it struck me (he struck me) that I should read for Jesus himself! That he was with us (in our midst, but particularly at the very back of the Cathedral) listening. I was to read not as history, not as duty, not as story, but as speaking to my Love about my Love. And loving the three thousand overhearers because my Love lives them.

So I went up, silently offered it to God, and read. I was terrified. I spoke loudly, but I feel my heartbeat was still louder than my voice. I’m not sure if anyone noticed, but my leg began shaking a couple times. I shifted my weight slightly to stop it, and the other leg would start. But I read, and read with love, and I’m told I did well.

The Carol Service was absolutely beautiful. At many times I had to remember there were angels singing with us, in order to explain the beauty (always listen for the angels).

Happily I found afterwards, that my reading was in fact today’s Gospel reading for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. God is good.

 

God bless Us, Every One!

Pray for the Islamic State (ISIS)

‘Love your enemies, bless those cursing you, do good to those hating you, and pray for those accusing you falsely, and persecuting you’
Matthew 5:44

With the atrocities being committed by IS, prayer for them may seem misplaced, and offensive to those they’re persecuting. But there is no competition between prayers.
I tremble to say it, but Jesus Christ was sacrificed for these people also.
So we should pray, and pray fervently, that God be good to them, and teach them mercy and peace. Please, join me in praying,

Almighty God, be with the persecuted minorities of Iraq at this time. Comfort and strengthen then. Bless them to know you now, and to bear faithful witness to you in their trials. Keep and protect them all, and hold them in your embrace.
And bless the people of and in the Islamic State, that this day love may be clearer than ever to them; in your creation, in your wisdom, in their friends and family and loved ones, and also in those they’re persecuting. Reveal yourself to them, as the one they are persecuting, as the crucified saviour of the world, as the Prince of Peace, as the Lamb of God, and as love itself. Reveal to them love, mercy, forgiveness, repentance, and mourning. Awaken their consciences, and rebuke their sins in visions and dreams also, and by your miracles. Bring peace to Iraq and Syria.
Lord God Almighty, please, be thoroughly present for Iraq.
Amen

St. Stephen, first of the martyrs, please pray for the Christians and other persecuted minorities of Iraq. Amen
St. Paul, you persecuted the Church before Jesus revealed himself to you, rebuked you, and transformed your life; please pray for those persecuting minorities in Iraq and around the whole world, for their blessing and incredible conversion. Amen
Mary, Queen of Martyrs, intercede for those facing persecution, for their every blessing and strength; for their faith, hope, and charity to grow stronger by their trials; for their salvation from their enemy’s hand; and that they know your divine son, ever better. Amen

Thank you

The Old News

Christians have been reporting the same piece of “news” for nearly two thousand years. And hundreds of years before that, the prophets were predicting this same piece of news. After all this time, we still call it news, and we still report it, each and every day, around the entire world.

And it truly is news, even to this day. Even to those who have heard it a million times. Why? Because it’s still relevant to every single soul in the world. The “Good News” isn’t just about a one time event. Of course, a few unrepeatable events are crucial components of it, but equally, it’s about God coming down to you and to me, on this very day.

It’s news to us, both because we didn’t know about it beforehand, and because now we know, it changes everything. The salvation of humanity is the greatest event in all of history, and it’s as important today as on the day Jesus was born, the day he was crucified, and the day he rose again. Everything else is fleeting, and fading away, and come tomorrow no one will care, but the good news of the Kingdom of God changes all things in creation for all of eternity.

What’s more, it’s news to me every time I hear it. Yes, I have heard before, but I am forgetful. And while it’s relatively easy to get into the habit of living by the belief that God is “good”, it’s far tougher (and far more wonderful) to live by the belief that God is love. It’s shocking every time: God is merciful. Even while I haven’t forgotten, I am, so to speak, being continually shocked by this great truth. Further, He’s not merciful to us from a distance, and He’s not love in a vague and confusing aura of love; He is love, and He has mercy, in the person of Jesus Christ, God who took on flesh for us, and then gave his flesh for us, that we may live forever in him, and he in us. God is love, and He comes to us!

The gospel of our salvation is incredibly wonderful, and the most important truth in the universe. We should aim never to forget it, and never to neglect it. Not in thoughts, words, or deeds. It is truly our life.

This ancient truth is what matters. The most meaningful and wonderful truths in existence are held within it. It is to this old truth that we should be always looking, and not for a new understanding. I have often tried to write something original and “deep”, but I find that these are rarely worth reading. Such ideas may have some small worth, especially in a good context, but compared to the uncountable riches of salvation, they are nothing.

I should focus on the riches of God’s grace. Hopefully, what others have not yet found, I may show them, and if God one day allows me to notice a previously overlooked trinket among His treasures, then God will have shown me yet more favour that I don’t deserve.

That said, it is clear that we can’t all be full-time “theologians”, and I’m not sure a people composed entirely of theologians would be desirable. I am obliged to think about events other than salvation, and men other than Jesus. But at these times still, I should aim to keep in mind the gospel of God’s grace, which changes how we view all of reality, from the soul within us to the ground upon which we tread. There is nothing in reality which is not God’s, and there is nothing we should do if not for God. All things relate to the good news of my God, the Creator and the Redeemer. Perhaps this is part of what is meant by “pray without ceasing” (1Thess 5:17).

[I’d like to end with a prayer, if that’s all right. Let us close our eyes and pray. Are they closed yet? Good.]

Dear God, who by your mercy has offered us the gift of salvation,

Thank you for saving us.

Remind us constantly, and prepare our souls, to hold on to the good news of Your Kingdom.

By your grace, grant us the help we need to give up our all to possess Your Kingdom,

and to live out Your gospel, in love.

Help us to remember those who have not yet heard Your news,

and give us the courage and everything else we need, in order to share it with them.

Simplify our souls, so that we may accept your gospel entirely,

and live honestly before you.

Help us to pray better.

Thank you for the good news! You are so wonderful.

Amen.

[You may open your eyes now.]

May God bless you in all that you do.