Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Catholics Do Read, Study, and Meditate on Holy Scripture!

Time to bust a myth!

There is a myth out there that Catholics do not read the Bible.  That Catholics get a Bible for Baptism, or Communion, or Confirmation, or Matrimony and then they find a place for it on a shelf somewhere.

This is not the case for many, many individuals that love to be known as Catholics.  I believe many of you reading today are examples of Bible reading Catholics that love to read, study and meditate on Holy Scripture.  In fact many of your blogs' names were inspired from scripture verses.

Here are some miscellaneous reasons why I read, study, and mediate on the Bible often, several times a day actually, besides what scripture I hear proclaimed while attending Mass or Divine Liturgy (Eastern Rite).
  • My Mom used Vacation Bible Schools (VBS) as a form of very reasonable daycare, and week-long sanity breaks during the summer; VBS's usually have some excellent cheap toy motivational prizes for scripture passage memorization.
  • Seeing "Jesus of Nazareth" as young girl inspired me to read the four gospel accounts of the Passion, and then the rest of the Gospels.
  • My Dad started us reading the Bible together one summer.  I don't think we made it out of Exodus as a family, but still, it was a good beginning.
  • During each period of emotional trial whether triggered by grief or relationship stress, I turn to the Bible.  Not always first place I turned for help (regretfully) but when I do turn to God's Word for help, it is there, HE is there and I am helped.
  • More recently, was inspired that Sarah Palin said she reads the Bible first thing in the morning and last thing before she goes to bed because she wants to hear what God wants to tell her.  This is unrelated to my opinions about her politically.  It is just she did inspire me, because at the time I read that she read her Bible twice a day, it was two times more a day than I was reading it!
  • Even more recently, one of our priests read the excerpt at the end of this post from St. John Chrysostom during a homily.  Note that St. John Chrysostom lived between 347-407 and how relevant his examples are to what you are living through today!  In case you weren't familiar, Chrysostom means golden-mouthed.  People would sit on logs and listen to him preach for 2 hours and then get into a mild uproar when he would stop because they wanted to hear more!  The priest also explained that the Bible is the handbook for living.  It has practical advice and commandments, new and old, for how to live as disciples of Christ our Savior and King.  
  • I love that Jesus is our Our King!  (Just makes me happy and want to give that thought its own bullet.)
  • Finally, I am in a Moms-In-Touch prayer group at my kids non-denominational Christian School.  I have to confess a bit of a sin of Catholic pride when one mentioned, "I am really surprised how well you know your Bible.  I haven't met many Catholics who do." 
What are some motivations you have had that either inspired you to more regularly reading the Bible, or reasons you continue to regularly turn to God's Word?  Please share in the comments, as it would be edifying to myself and other readers.  

If you want to see a few beautiful posts on favorite scriptures, Google in blogs "Three Favorite Scripture Verses" as there was a MEME for this last month that yielded some great verses and reflections.  Many of the authors in the Community of Catholic Bloggers participated in that MEME.

St. John Chrysostom says laypeople must read Scripture more regularly than monks because Bible study corrects the harmful effects of life's circumstances on our spirituality.  (Paraphrasing Bert Ghezzi from "Saints on Scripture" in The New Jerusalem Bible: Saints Devotional Edition.)

I AM ALWAYS encouraging you to pay attention not only to what is said here in church, but also, when you are at home, to continue constantly in the practice of reading the divine Scriptures .... For let not anyone say to me those silly, contemptible words,
  • "I'm stuck at the courthouse all day."
  • "I'm tied up with political affairs."
  • "I'm in an apprentice program."
  • "I've got a wife."
  • "I'm raising kids."
  • "I'm responsible for a household."
  • ''I'm a businessman."
  • "Reading the Bible isn't my thing. That's for those who are set apart, for those who have made the mountaintops their home, who have a way of life without interruptions."
What are you saying, manIt's not your business to pay attention to the Bible because you are distracted by thousands of concerns? Then Bible reading belongs more to you than to the monks! For they do not make as much use of the help of the divine Scriptures as those who always have a great many things to do.... But you are always standing in the line of battle and are constantly being hit, so you need more medicine. For not only does your spouse irritate you, but your son annoys you, and a servant makes you lose your temper.  An enemy schemes against you, a friend envies you, a neighbor insults you, a colleague trips you up. Often a lawsuit impends, poverty distresses, loss of possessions brings sorrow. At one moment success puffs you up; at another, failure deflates you. Numerous powerful inducements to anger and anxiety, to discouragement and grief, to vanity and loss of sense surround us on every side. A thousand missiles rain down from every direction. And so we constantly need the whole range of equipment supplied by Scripture....
Since many things of this kind besiege our soul, we need the divine medicines, so that we might treat the wounds we already have, and so that we might check beforehand the wounds that are not yet, but are going to be, from afar extinguishing the missiles of the devil and repelling them through the constant reading of the divine Scriptures.  For it is not possible, not possible for anyone to be saved who does not constantly have the benefit of spiritual reading.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Seek His Face

Of you my heart has said, 'Seek his face!'
Your face, Yahweh, I seek; 
do not turn away from me.  
Do not thrust aside your servant in anger,
without you I am helpless.
Never leave me, never forsake me, God, my Savior.
Yahweh, teach me your way,
lead me on the path of integrity. ~ Psalm 27:8-9, 11a

From The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
"All we must do is recognize God's intimate presence within us and speak to Him at every moment, asking Him for His help.  In this way we will know His will in doubtful things and we will do well those things that He is clearly asking of us, offering them to Him before doing them and giving Him, thanks for having done them, once we have finished."

I noticed that when I don't start the day concentrating on this reality there is some weight, some difficulty in my spirit that I can't just start speaking lovingly to God.  I think this is the enemy.  Today I am starting realizing I am not helpless.  My God is here as He is with you.  He is real, and he wants to be with us and for us to be with Him all day.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Putting Yourself in the Presence of God

I've noticed since the kids are out of school that my routine of a daily meditation time with The Better Part has disappeared.  Instead of daily, I think I am only managing 1-2 a week and they are not at the same time each day.

Daily meditation was a big step forward for me when I began it the week of Ash Wednesday this year as it really helped to begin the day grounded in the realization of the reality of God's love, God's presence within me, and taking into the day the teachings of the Holy Spirit for me for that day, and the strength that comes from this.

Paraphrasing from The New Advent Encyclopedia :

Recollection is attention to the presence of God in the soul. It includes the withdrawal of the mind from external and earthly affairs in order to attend to God.

Recollection is of two types, Active, that is brought about by our own concentration and is helped by developing prayerful habits, and Passive, that does not depend on our efforts, but is extraordinary grace when God manifests his presence.  

I have been blessed to have enjoyed Passive Recollection, and at different times in my life the frequency of this experience is greater.  

Way of Perfection, Chapter 28, St. Teresa of Avila wrote, "However quietly we speak, He is so near that He will hear us:  we need no wings to go in search of Him but only to find a place where we can be alone and look upon Him present within us."

St. Francis de Sales’ has four steps for putting yourself in the presence of God - Active Recollection
He writes that we should not use these techniques all at once, but only one at a time and that briefly and simply.
  1. [Cultivate] a lively, attentive realization of God’s absolute presence, that is, that God is in all things and all places. There is no place or thing in this world where he in not truly present…Blind men do not see a prince who is present among them, and therefore do not show him the respect they do after being told of his presence. However, because they do not actually see him they easily forget his presence, and haven forgotten it, they still more easily lose the respect and reverence owed to him. Unfortunately, Philothea, we do not see God who is present with us. Although faith assures us of his presence, because we do not see him with our eyes we often forget about him and behave as if God were far distance from us…This is why before praying we must always arouse our souls to explicit thought and consideration of God’s presence…When you prepare to pray you must say with your whole heart and in your heart, “O my heart, my heart, God is truly here!”
  2. Remember that God is not only in the place where you are but also that he is present in a most particular manner in your heart and in the very center of your spirit. He enlivens and animates it by his divine presence, for he is there as the heart of your heart and the spirit of your spirit. Just as the soul is diffused throughout the entire body and is therefore present in every part of the body but resides in a special manner in the heart, so also God is present in all things but always resides in a special manner in our spirit. For this reason David calls him “the God of his heart,” and St. Paul says that “we live, and move, and are in God.” Therefore in consideration of this truth excite in your heart great reverence toward God who is so intimately present in us.
  3. Consider how our Savior in his humanity gazes down from heaven on all mankind and particularly on Christians, who are his children, and most especially on those who are at prayer, whose actions and conduct he observes. This is by no means a mere figment of the imagination but the very truth. Although we do not see him, it remains true that from on high he beholds us.
  4. The fourth method consists in the use of simple imagination when we represent to ourselves the Savior in his sacred humanity as if he were near us, just as we sometimes imagine a friend to be present and say, “I imagine that I see such a one who is doing this or that,” or “I seem to see him” or something similar. If the most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar is present, the Christ’s presence is real and not purely imaginary. The species and appearance of bread and like a tapestry behind which our Lord is really present and sees and observes us, although we do not see him in his own form.
What advice or experiences of Recollection, Awareness of the Presence of God would you like to share? Please leave a comment, inclusive of posts to your own blog.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Witness by Word and Example

The last part of the prayer from the previous post had:

Holy Spirit,
send us forth to witness to the
Gospel by word and example.

Most of us have seen the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" where the moral is that one man living justly does not realize how many lives are impacted positively, so much so that they are praying and want to help the one that has touched them.

In Micah 6:8, we read:
"What is good has been explained to you, man; this is what the Lord asks of you:  only this, to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God."

I chose this topic because I wrote something in a high school graduation card this past weekend that resulted in this note from the mother of the dear girl graduating:

"Your card made her cry.  I do not think she realizes how she impacts people and how the Lord uses her.  I am glad you shared with her.  Thank you and God bless your summer."

Then I wrote back:
"What a great thing for her to learn now, how she impacts others.  A younger friend of mine, 24, sometimes gets down wondering what she is here for.  I told her every day, several times a day is chance to show Christ's love, caring, strength to someone."

This is what the prayer is asking for, that with the Holy Spirit's assistance we can witness to the Gospel.  We can witness each day in unexpected ways to people we know well, and people we don't know well, and to people of all ages.  

We don't know if the person we show Christ to indirectly will connect the dots in the near term or distant future, but we can do whatever good we can for them when we can, under the guidance and trust in the Holy Spirit.

I'm going to try to keep this post short as my very novice blogging skills need to do less endurance testing of you, the dear people who stop in here.

After I published this, I noticed two other posts that went up within the past few hours on the same topic:
Please see:  New evangelization must begin with the heart, Pope teaches and Community , A Common Union.  As Mary says this seems to be a God-incidence.

* - * - * * - * - * * - * - * * - * - * * - * - * * - * - * 

I read some great posts today that I really want to share:

First, this one by Karinann confirmed which of the three planned posts I would do first because it dealt with when we ask God into our ordinary life.  There is a mention of St. Ignatius in the post, and it reminded me of the daily examine I learned about in Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Michael Gaitley.  

He taught the B-A-K-E-R method, where the B is for listing out the blessings of God for that day.  Fr. Gaitley also mentioned how St. Ignatius became so in tune with God's goodness and love active in his ordinary life that he would often be moved to tears several times during a given day.

The next two referrals go together:

  1. beautiful prayer for three sisters that left this world from a car accident in post by Abigail.  If you haven't already, please pray for them and their family.
  2. Spiritual Legacy by Jean Wise I especially liked because of the reflection by Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose birthday is today:

  • Her sixth child, Charley, died of cholera in July 1849  “It was at his dying bed & at his grave,” Stowe writes in an 1853 letter, “that I learnt what a poor slave mother may feel when her child is torn away from her…I have often felt that much that is in this book had its root in the awful scenes and bitter sorrows of that summer.”
That really made me think because it is so sad when parents lose a child.  I reflected only briefly on the impact of Uncle Tom's Cabin, helping to change enough of the country's hearts and minds to bring about an end of slavery in this country.  

Then my next thought was on the monumental impact of the loss of Jesus by Mary and the Father, and the immense gift of salvation and peace that came from that grief.

This last one, many of you have probably already read, since it was a referral from Mary at Beautiful Gate, and that is God Always Saves the Best Wine For Last.  This really has some soul stirring reflection on things we have to look forward to in our spiritual lives.

God Bless You and may he bless us all with his presence, like in this tremendous conversion story by Elizabeth Malou.  (one last, last one :)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Veni Creator Spiritus

While I love the scriptures chosen for Pentecost Sunday, an excerpt from The Divine Consolation of Blessed Angela Foligno was especially helpful for understanding personal relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Holy Spirit, Stained Glass Image
The Holy Spirit appeared to her and said, "I have not willed to send thee another messenger.  I am the Holy Spirit, who am come unto thee to bring thee such consolation as thou hast never before tasted . . . I will bear thee company and will speak to thee all the way . . . My daughter who are sweet unto me, my daughter who art my temple:  My beloved daughter, do thou love Me, for I do greatly love thee and much more than thou lovest me . . . . My beloved and my bride, love thou Me!  All thy life, thy eating and drinking and sleeping and all that thou dost is pleasing unto Me, if only thou lovest Me."

In a later appearance the Holy Spirit said to her, "Infinite is the love which I bear thee, but I do not reveal it unto thee -- yea, I do even conceal it . . . . for I desire that in this world thou shouldest hunger and long after Me and shouldest ever be eager to find Me. . . . So great is the love I bear thee that I no more remember thy sins, albeit Mine eyes do see them, for in thee have I much treasure."

Blessed Angela was overwhelmed by the consolations when she perceived so strongly her sinfulness.  She asked the Holy Spirit for a sign, for a ring.

The Holy Spirit told her, "Therefore will I give thee another sign, better than the one thou seekest, and which will be forever with thee, and in thy soul thou shalt always feel it.  The sign shall be this:  Thou shalt be fervent in love, and the love and the enlightened knowledge of God shall be ever with thee and in thee.  This shall be a certain sign unto thee that I am He, because none save I can do this."

Beautiful, right?

Some scripture references for the Holy Spirit:

Joel 2:
28"And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.
29And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

Numbers 11:
27And a young man ran and told Moses, and said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”
28So Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, one of his choice men, answered and said, “Moses my lord, forbid them!”
29Then Moses said to him, “Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!”

Ezekiel 36:
26“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
27“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
28“Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.

John 20: (institution of Sacrament of Confession)
21So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you."
22And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.
23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

John 7:
37On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
38He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.
39But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

John 14:
15If you love Me, keep My commandments.
16And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever-
17the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
25These things I have spoken to you while being present with you.
26But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
27Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Acts 2:
1When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.
4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.
6And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.

Psalm 51:9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners will return to thee.

Pope Benedict XVI on June 8, 2011 greeted young people in Vatican City telling them the Holy Spirit will make them "fearless witnesses of Christ".
He told them and tells us, "I exhort you, dear young people, to frequently invoke the Holy Spirit who makes you fearless witnesses of Christ."

Prayer to the Holy Spirit:

Holy Spirit,
Open our minds to know Jesus.
Open our hearts to receive His Love.
Holy Spirit,
Send your cleansing wind.
Blow away our doubts and fears.
Give us the wisdom to know
Your will and the courage to follow it
Give us the mind of Jesus.

Holy Spirit,
Ignite your holy fire in our souls.
Burn away anger and resentment
Warm us with love for You and for
one another.
Make us all one as you, the Father
and the Son, are one.

Holy Spirit,
Send us Your light.
Drive out confusion and despair.
Teach us to know Your truth.
Teach us to understand one another.

Holy Spirit,
lead us on the path
of justice and peace.

Holy Spirit,
send us forth to witness to the
Gospel by word and example.
May all who have been redeemed
by the blood of Christ, come to
know You, the one true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom
You have sent.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Supremacy of Christ

Pentecost Novena for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit is the novena I have been praying since the day after Ascension, the period of time when Our Lord instructed the apostles to pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

In two recent conversations I learned that two of my friends from church are also praying novena during this time, but they are praying different ones.

Have any of you been praying this novena, or a different novena that you might want to tell us about in the comments?  

I was pretty much given my marching orders by one of our priests who told me to meditate on the 7 gifts and to meditate on the Holy Spirit, and also to do some reading to better understand and appreciate the relationship between Our Blessed Mother and the Holy Spirit.

Part of my studies led to an appreciation of the Holy Spirit being brought to us by Jesus, that by his leaving in his redemptive act, we have the great and awesome gift of the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  I came to a deeper appreciation of this by reading On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World (Amazon) or online reading, by Blessed John Paul II.

He explains that in the Last Supper Discourse, and specifically John 16:7, that it is Jesus's departure through the cross that has the power of the Redemption---and this also means a new presence of the Spirit of God in creation:  the new beginning of God's self-communication to man in the Holy Spirit. 

7Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.

Jesus Christ, Pantocrator, The Lord Almighty
Praise Jesus for the Gift of the Holy Spirit!  Praise the Father, that in Jesus name he gives us the Holy Spirit!

Here is the passage from Colossians that Scott Hahn tells us in the 
Ignatius Catholic Study Bible  is an ancient hymn extolling Christ's deity and supremacy over creation.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.  ~ Colossians 1:15-20

Three verses preceding this are a prayer Paul and Timothy were making for the Colossians, but I would suggest we all pray this for each other while we pray our novenas.

 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;  10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and long-suffering with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. ~ Colossians 1:9-12

Come, let us worship Christ the Lord, who has promised us the Holy Spirit, Alleluia.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Ever wonder what heaven will be like? I had a friend whose mother was dying, and as she was already a widow, the mother was really wanting to die, not just to join her husband, but because hope and the promises of Christ were REAL to her, and she longed to enter into everlasting communion with her God.
This friend, I'll call her Kate, which is close to her real name, was really sad and torn. She gets heaven and why her mom wanted to leave here, but was very sad and unready to lose the Mom she loves so much. Her mom was refusing further attempts at resuscitation and she was really saddened by this.
Her mom did pass shortly after this. I had stumbled upon the following excerpt from St. Francis de Sales (great, great writer, although at times verbose). I hope you find this as beautiful as I do. I shared this with her, and Kate wiped her tears and smiled.
On the instant that the soul enters heaven, and sees by the light of glory the infinite beauty of God face to face, she is at once seized and all consumed with love. The happy soul is then as it were lost and immersed in that boundless ocean of the goodness of God. Then it is that she quite forgets herself, and inebriated with divine love, thinks only of loving her God. ... As an intoxicated person no longer thinks of himself, so a soul in bliss can only think of loving and affording delight to her beloved Lord; she desires to possess Him entirely, and she does indeed possess Him, for every moment she offers herself to God without reserve, and God receives her in his loving embrace, and so holds her, and shall hold her in the same fond embraces for all eternity. 
~ St. Francis de Sales