Monday, May 24, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Daniel's church friends (my school friends) have contributed several touching comments to my status. They have expressed their sadness, prayed for his family, and told him they'd see him again soon. Their words struck me, because they seemed so...what? I can't express the exact feeling, but something was missing. And then I realized what it was. Daniel and his friends are non-denominational Protestants, and they don't believe in prayers for the dead. Ultimately, they can comfort his family, but there is nothing they can do for him. It's a very helpless position, it seems to me.
Of course, everyone feels helpless when confronted with death. It's life's one certainty, one of the few mysteries left unsolved. No one knows what it's like, why it happens when it does, or what we can do about it. As Catholics, however, there is something we can "do" about it. We cannot prevent death, but we can pray for departed souls. What an incredible, beautiful blessing! Until reading my friends' Facebook comments, I never thought about how great a gift this is. A person's earthly life is beyond the reach of our help, but his soul is not. We, the living, are still an important apart of the soul's journey, because we are linked to our loved one and every other member of the communion of saints. We are not helpless, and the soul is not without help. In the eyes of Catholics, "rest in peace" becomes more than a wish or a comfort; it becomes a prayer. And so, with that in mind, let's pray for the repose of souls. Rest in Peace, Daniel Parker.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
St. Louis de Montfort makes a similar point in True Devotion to Mary. “[Satan] fears her not only more than all angels and men, but in a sense more than God Himself… Satan, being proud, suffers infinitely more from being beaten and punished by a little and humble handmaid of God” (trans. Faber. TAN, 1985. 29). Our Lady is great because Satan gets beat by a girl, making the victory, in a way, even more glorious.
Humility is our best weapon: it most safely wins the most glorious victories. Humility doesn’t often jump on a faithful steed and ride into the battlefield with colors flying. Humility sneaks silently in the back door, like Frodo. Humility recognizes and admits its own weakness and inability, and because of this submits entirely to the will of God, like Mary. We win the war by not fighting battles; we win the most glory by seeking the opposite of glory.
The experts say -- and I am not an expert, but I say this too -- the best place to start is the Litany of Humility by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val, secretary of state under Pope St. Pius X. (I think the cardinal’s cause is open.) I first saw this taped to a dorm-room door at University of Steubenville. When I read it, I felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach. “Ugh. This is going to be good for me,” I thought. Here it is:
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That in the opinion of the world, others may increase, and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should. Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
1) Pick something you can manage. You don't have to read the Summa Theologica! There are many shorter books available if you want them. I am currently making my way through The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis, and Chesterton's Orthodoxy is also on the list. Asking friends for suggestions is an excellent way to find something appropriate.
2) Set aside a time and place for spiritual reading. You need to be able to focus if you want to learn something, so find a place with few distractions. Scheduling a time to read is also helpful to keep yourself on track. If you are a night person, try reading before you say your prayers. If you can't keep your eyes open, however, it might be more beneficial to read in the morning or at another time of day when you are more alert.
3) Give yourself a minimum reading limit every day. This could be in time intervals (as in, "I'll read for 15 minutes every evening.") or in reading assignments ("I need to read 10 pages every day."). Deadlines are always helpful!
4) Find a reading buddy. Talking about the book is a great way to motivate yourself to actually get the reading done, and it helps you understand and retain the material better. Since this is spiritual reading, make sure you're comfortable talking to this person: religion can get personal!
5) Pray! Ask for the perseverance to help you through, for the patience to read carefully, and for the wisdom to understand. If your book is by a saint, ask that saint for prayers, too!
It's hard to start (and finish) a lot of religious works, but in the end it's very rewarding. It takes a lot of practice and discipline (like anything else), but if it helps you to grow in your relationship with God, it's worth the effort. Happy reading!
Monday, May 10, 2010
"Lord, show me Thy ways."
-- Thaddaeus Daly, O.S.F., who was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Limerick, 1 January, 1579; witnesses report that his head when cut off distinctly uttered these words.
First of all, this is just cool.
Secondly- this seems something very strange to say after your head and body are physically separated. Given the circumstances, I would have expected something like "Jesus, take my soul" or "I forgive you." But "Lord, show me Thy ways"? This sort of prayer is generally followed with something like "that I might follow them," that is, the pray-er assumes that he will have more time to follow in His ways. I don't think that a man with a severed head could have expected to have much more time in this world.
I don't know anything about this martyr except what's quoted above. But I wonder if what he means is "hanging, drawing and quartering are not your ways, Lord. Show me Thy ways."
A good lesson for his persecutors, no doubt.
The saints pray for us in two ways. First, in Heaven, they pray for us--intercede on our behalf--to God. Second, and less obviously, they pray for us: they teach us how to pray through the prayers they left behind. To develop a more serious prayer life, start collecting these gems.
At the very least, if you kneel down to pray and can’t think of anything to say, the saints will teach you what you should be saying. (Warning: this is humbling. You will realize how far from holiness you really are... not a pleasant experience.)
The best-known saint’s prayer is probably that of St. Francis of Assisi (“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…”). Here is one by St. Thomas More that you probably haven’t seen:
Give us, Lord, a humble, quiet, peaceable, patient, tender, and charitable mind, and in all our thoughts, words, and deeds a taste of the Holy Spirit.
Give us, Lord, a lively faith, a firm hope, a fervent charity, a love of you.
Take from us all lukewarmness in meditation, dullness in prayer.
Give us fervor and delight in thinking of you and your grace, your tender compassion towards us.
The things we pray for, good Lord, give us the grace to labor for, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I particularly love this prayer because in it, St. Thomas was asking for all the gifts that we also need: humility, patience, fervor. Those are difficult virtues to acquire. I don’t find it terribly hard to avoid lying, cheating, stealing, or getting drunk, but being humble, quiet, peaceable, patient, tender, and charitable is another thing altogether. So it’s comforting to know that St. Thomas struggled, too.