Monday, January 28, 2013

Prayer for Holy Living by St. Thomas Aquinas

In honor of St. Thomas Aquinas's feast day today 1/28/2013, wanted to share this prayer of his that I often prayed as a young woman.
Prayer for Holy Living
by St. Thomas Aquinas
Grant me, I beseech Thee, almighty and all-merciful God, that I may ardently desire the grace to investigate wisely, and perfectly fulfill whatever may be pleasing to Thee. Guide my course in this world unto the honor of Thy name. Vouchsafe to me the proper inspiration, will and talent for all that Thou demandest from me, that I may fulfill it as I should, and may my path to Thee, I beseech Thee, remain straight and clear to the end.
Give me, O Lord, a steadfast heart which no unworthy passion can degrade; give me an unconquerable heart which no sorrow can cast down; give me an upright heart which no lowly ambition can lead astray.
Fill me, O Lord, with understanding, that I may know Thee as Thou art; with zeal that I may seek Thee; with wisdom that I may find Thee; and with perseverance that I may finally embrace Thee.  Amen.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ocean of Grace

This is one of those Sundays that I wish I could relive.

Today is the Byzantine calendar's "Sunday of the Prodigal Son" when we hear Luke 15:11-12, and rejoice again at the reminder of the Father running to forgive and welcome his child home, and there was no line to the open door to the confessional room at the front of church.
From Priest's Homily today:  "We are all Prodigal Children.  But how do we act when we need to be the one showing mercy and forgiveness like the Father?  Do we want mercy for us, but for those that offend us justice like the older son?"
I went in and the priest, same one I went to last week, laughed when I said, "I know I was just here, but since there was no line . . . "  I think he was thinking the same thing.  But then he told me it is a blessing to repent and go to Confession on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, and that Our Lord's heart is filled with joy when someone repents and goes to Confession.  Nothing fills my heart with joy more than hearing that the simple couple steps from my pew to the confessional room bring joy to my Lord's heart . . .  well that my repentant heart in action brings joy to his Sacred Heart.

The priest gave me some great advice to meditate on a prayer of St. Faustina's that I have included below.  He ended by first putting his hand on my shoulder reminiscent of the embrace of the father in the Prodigal Son parable.  He then put his hand on my head for the Absolution, the words of which alone are beautiful, but the moment they are said is one I wish I had the spiritual sensitivities to absorb.

I am trying to say that words are too small to contain the ocean of grace that washes over a person to forgive, heal and strengthen as the priest in the person of Christ says the prayer of Absolution.

Then he left his hand there and prayed for the Holy Spirit to come upon "your handmaid".  He prayed for me, for my husband, for our children.  So beautiful and so powerful right after the grace of absolution.

This doesn't happen every time I go in.  He seems to know when I need the extra laying on of hands and praying.

My heart has been so peaceful all day and God's loving presence within my soul so obvious and wonderful.  In short . . . an ocean of grace.

Prayer of Absolution in the Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Rite (a.k.a. Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church):

May our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, by the grace and mercies of His love for us, pardon you, my child, N, all your faults, and I, an unworthy priest, by His authority given to me, pardon and absolve you of all your sins, in the name of the +Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Prayer of Absolution in the Roman Catholic Rite:

God, the Father of mercies, (2 Cor. 1:3)
through the death and resurrection of His Son
has reconciled the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:19; cf. Rom. 11:15; Col.1:20)
and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; (John 20:21-23)
through the ministry of the Church (2 Cor. 5:18-20)
may God give you pardon and peace, (Luke 7:50; Col. 1:14)
and I absolve you from your sins
in the name of the Father, and of the Son, +
and of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer of St. Faustina that he recommended I meditate on and pray, emphasis added by me:

163 JMJ The Year 1937 General Exercises
+O Most Holy Trinity! As many times as I breathe, as many times as my heart beats, as many times as my blood pulsates through my body, so many thousand times do I want to glorify Your mercy.
+I want to be completely transformed into Your mercy and to be Your living reflection, O Lord. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of Your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor.
Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors' souls and come to their rescue.
Help me, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors' needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings. Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.
Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks.
Help me, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. My true rest is in the service of my neighbor.
Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. I will refuse my heart to no one. I will be sincere even with those who, I know, will abuse my kindness. And I will lock myself up in the most merciful Heart of Jesus. I will bear my own suffering in silence. May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me.
+You yourself command me to exercise the three degrees of mercy. The first: the act of mercy, of whatever kind. The second: the word of mercy-if I cannot carry out a work of mercy, I will assist by my words. The third: prayer-if I cannot show mercy by deeds or words, I can always do so by prayer. My prayer reaches out even there where I cannot reach out physically.
O my Jesus, transform me into Yourself, for you can do all things.  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Back at the Front

Yesterday morning it was chilly and windy.  Still there was no question I was going to the "Witness to Life" at the Planned Parenthood Aurora with my kids' school.  Before I went my youngest was asking me how come I went so often.  He also said he knew why they made so much money killing the babies.  It was because, "The babies are worth more than millions of gemstones."

We didn't have a great turnout kid wise.  We almost had as many chaperones as kids, but we did have three new kids, 7th graders, come for the first time.

Sadly it was very busy yesterday, and there also seemed to be larger percentage of teenagers going in.  My "sidewalk counseling" position was on the side of the Planned Parenthood driveway that most cars turn-out of exiting the parking lot.  I saw the girls in particular crying.  I saw a woman in her 20s scrambling for her cigarettes as if that would make her feel better.

Because we were down in high school girl attendance, only 1 this time, I was the other primary counselor.  At this site, it is more parking lot yeller than counselor.  It was the first time I took this role as part of this is to give the girls the chance to act on their faith and love in a supported setting before they graduate high school, so they'll have the confidence and experience to do this in life.  So I usually just stand near-by, encourage them, keep them safe from traffic and any rude passer-bys.

Today was my turn though.  I was reading and posting scripture on the drive down, and felt strengthened by the Holy Spirit to make the most of my opportunity.  I've been going on these visits for 14 months now and this was the first time it was my role.

The window of opportunity for loudly speaking words that you hope will prick the mind, heart, and conscience of a woman, her friend, mother, father, grandmother, boyfriend are very brief.  It is also quite challenging as we know from personal experience when you are in pain you turn inward.  We also know from experience and scripture, that when one has made the decision to do evil, and suspend conscience and guilt until the follow-through is complete, you do not want to encounter anyone trying to get you out of auto-pilot and back into thinking with the better part of your God-formed mind and soul.

Also, as we were discussing on the bus, despite what Time magazine says about the pro-choice side losing, there is an increase of people that have had their thinking transformed by evil.  More and more we are encountering pro-choice advocates who acknowledge what is being destroyed is not a mass of fetal tissue, but a human pre-born baby, and their position is that life being extinguished is acceptable under various circumstances.  They'll begin with the emotionally charged circumstances of rape and incest (less than 1% of all abortions) and then increase it to include financial, emotional, relationship health of the mother.  This reminds me of a quote from a father who had incestuously abused his daughters over a long period of time, that the evil was so strong he believed that what he was doing was good for them and evidence of his love.

Similar, isn't it, to those who accuse us of intolerance and lack of compassion, when we consider ourselves to be the ones trying to defend life?  As I once explained to an anti-legislation Liberterian, if you as a parent or an uncle would be moved to action if your son or nephew were getting bullied and injured in the school playground and those in charge were doing nothing, turning a blind eye that it was some kind of social Darwinism or some other concoction to support their inaction and cowardice, so are we motivated to come out here in the face of legalized slaughter of innocent babies within the wombs, while our officials, many of them shamefully "Christian" or "Catholic" in their belief system justify its continuation and tax-supported funding (Planned Parenthood received $500+ million funds in 2011 while earning $1 Billion in profits).

The first moment for yelling something is when the car initially turns past you, to say something loud enough that it can be heard over the speaker.  Usually I can only get out, "If you are here for an abortion appointment today, we are here to help you.  There are other options.  The Waterleaf Women's Clinic is only a block and a half away and everything there is free."

Then you vigilantly wait until they emerge from their parked car.  Many times they try to park as far away from you as possible so as to not have to see or hear the pro-lifers across the street from the parking lot.  Far away is actually good, because then there is time to fire more comments, again - meant to prick the conscience and heart of those walking in.

Yesterday I said these things, not all of them with each woman walking in, just as they popped into my mind, praying and trusting the Holy Spirit would give me the words, better than a script:

"The joy and love of holding your newborn baby cannot be surpassed in this life."

"Planned Parenthood lies to you and to the public.  If you are here for an abortion appointment, we are here to help you.  There is women's center a block away, privately funded to help women choose to give their baby life, instead of death inside this center."

"90% of all women regret their decision to have an abortion.  If you care about your daughter, friend, girl friend, please get encourage her to reconsider."

"Women aren't the only ones wounded by abortion.  Men too are wounded and regret lost fatherhood."

After one woman gave me the finger quite strongly out her window while turning in I yelled all the louder as she was turning onto the sidewalk toward the escorts and the door, "Your baby, your little girl or boy, could have your smile, your eyes, your laugh. This is a life-ending and life-altering decision that you cannot undo."

Something about her belligerently giving me the finger gave me the fire to hit her with the strongest thing I thought I could say.

A gentleman that is in the field across from the center every Saturday yelled over to me, "Wow, a strong voice."  I let him know I was a basketball coach.  A strong voice is good for coaching and last minute defense of life witness.

On the more humble side, not everything came out of my mouth as smoothly as it does my keyboard now.  I wasn't studdering, but it was not in any means a smooth delivery.  There is this time pressure.  They want to get in and away from hearing you, and you want to get as many messages out as you can so that when they go in one of them will resonate and change their mind.

When the women come out after having an abortion, we try to let them know that we are still here for them.  I yelled,

"If you just had an abortion, we are here to help you.  Please get this counseling phone number.  There is healing and forgiveness."

"There are other women who have experienced the pain and grief you are going through, and they want to help you with Post-Abortive Depression.  Please stop and we can give you the information."

"If your daughter, grand-daughter, girl friend, friend is suffering, please look up Project Rachel, if you won't stop.  It can help her find healing and forgiveness."

Still very much aware of my inadequacy, which is why I kept praying the Jesus prayer for the women, the escorts, clinic workers, and all those working with me to defend life.  It is a consolation to trust in the power and effectiveness of God.  Of course I was also praying that the walls of the monster center would fall into rubble and gravel like the walls of Jericho as I was leaving.  Even just a small earthquake tremor would have been nice.  But that is my fallen nature.  Wanting to see God's action externally rather than trusting the same Holy Spirit that loves and strengthens me was also pursuing those on the other side of the private property line.

Here's the link to the video of our visit to Planned Parenthood, Aurora, IL on 1/19/2013:

Friday, January 4, 2013

Deep Trust in the Loving Care of God

"Her deep trust in the loving care of her God gave her the strength to be a valiant woman doing the work of Christ."  from American Catholic on St. Francis Xavier Cabrini.

Two nights ago I used Jennifer Fulwiler’s Saint's Name Generator program to have a saint chosen at random to be my patron for the year.  I was given St. Francis Xavier Cabrini.  I knew she had founded orphanages and hospitals.  Actually she founded 67 such institutions.  The number alone speaks to having the faith to move mountains.

"Deep trust" is what our Lord deserves from us.  When I think about what makes me strong it is my faith based on the teaching of Romans 8:28:

28 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.

I know this, but there is a chasm between knowing it, believing it, and having "deep trust".

Truly God is ever present . . . Almighty, all-loving, omniscient God, dwelling within my soul, and filling all things.

All of us are being drawn not just to a stronger faith and belief that he is ever present, but also to a more constant awareness that his loving care and the power behind his Providence is also ever present.

Yesterday I was re-reading from the teaching of St. Seraphim of Sarov.  I read:

"How great is God's compassion to our misery, that is to say, our inattention to His care for us, when God says: Behold, I stand at the door and knock (Rev. 3:20), meaning by 'door' the course of our life which has not yet been closed by death! Oh, how I wish, your Godliness, that in this life you may always be in the Spirit of God! 'In whatsoever I find you, in that will I judge you,' says the Lord."

"Woe to us if He finds us overcharged with the cares and sorrows of this life! For who will be able to bear His anger, who will withstand the wrath of His countenance? That is why it has been said: Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation (Mk. 14:38), that is lest you be deprived of the Spirit of God, for watching and prayer bring us His grace."

The highlighted parts speak to the chasm that stands between where I am now, believing yes, but without a deep trust and pervasive awareness of this truth.

How much more sensitive might I become to the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and how much more faithfully would I understand and respond to God's will in my life, cooperating with how he wants to use me, and where he is leading me, if my faith and belief turned into a deep trust?

The following passage will take you about a half hour to 45 minutes to read (more or less), but it is truly rich.  It enriched my understanding and provided great ordering of my priorities here at the beginning of another year.

St. Seraphim of Sarov's Conversation With Nicholas Motovilov