Peace? Prayer.

Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset. –St. Francis de Sales

If you have peace within, all things follow. St. Augustine defines peace as the “tranquility of order,” which for him is a life with priorities ordered around the Kingdom of God and its justice (cf Matt. 6:33). Around love of God, love of neighbor, and repenting of the dis-order in our lives contrary to those.

For a person of faith, the secret of peace is keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). And this by living firmly rooted in the present moment while accepting what is, trusting fully in the provident mercy of the One Who Is. Thus rooted in eternity, we can proceed confidently to do what is called for in each new moment, in peace with confidence. We can open all locked doors and be sent out by the Prince of Peace as a peacemaker. In the well-known words of the Russian saint, St. Seraphim of Sarov, “Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved.”

I will never tire of saying to myself and all, prayer is the primary path to this peace. Know prayer, know peace. No prayer, no peace. Because prayer sinks our soul’s tap root into God and allows us to thrive whatever may come.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit. — Jer. 17:7-8

While our family go-to for devotional prayer is usually the Holy Rosary, my primary personal prayer devotion that helps keep me centered is the Jesus Prayer, repeated over and over in slow meditative sequence synced with my breathing: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” I bought a chotki, a Russian prayer rope, back in the late 1980’s that I still use. For the many times throughout the day I lose my center, a brief return to this rhythmic soaking in divine mercy brings me back.

Especially in these days when so many cannot encounter God through the Holy Eucharist, those of us who have been baptized should remember that right now, deep within us, as in a Sanctuary, dwells the thrice-holy God in all His glory. I like to say when I speak of the theology of the Eucharist, “Remember, Jesus gave us the Eucharist not primarily to be seen, but to be ingested. Take, eat. Take, drink. Because the real locus, the real end game of God-with-us is to abide in the abode of the human heart. In your human heart.”

Try to remain there with Him, and breathe free in prayer.

It was St. John of the Cross, who spent 9 months in prison without any access to the Eucharist or Confession, who really taught this to me in a forceful way. His magnificent mystical poem One Dark Night, composed in his mind and committed to memory while he was imprisoned in that dark cell, witnessed to an overwhelmingly vivid sense of God’s nearness deep within him, in the solitude of isolation, burning in the dark night of faith.

In fact, St. John’s poem makes vividly clear it was there, in the isolation of that solitary (and filthy) cell — deprived of human interaction, books, a change of clothes, with very little food — that his longing for God grew to such an intensity, he finally found himself able to surrender all and entered into union with Christ.

Abide with the God of peace there, deep within, and thousands around you will be saved…

[if embedded video does not play, click here]

Esteem them very highly in love because of their work

[I wrote this in my journal after going on Facebook the other day…]

Therefore encourage [parakaleite] one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. But we beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. — 1 Thess. 5:11-13

So much is happening so fast. We are swimming in an ever-rising sea of new data, new experiences, new crises, new analyses, new opportunities which require a rapidly evolving assessment, analysis, judgment and response. Many wonderful breakthroughs have and will come, and many more mistakes are being and will be made. I already myself have a lengthy running tally of the latter!

This all calls for the very things panic can obscure — even-handedness, patient consideration, balanced judgment, humility, courage, charity, conciliatory forgiveness, constructive criticism that offers alternatives or helping hands instead of attacks, and a willingness to pray and offer sacrifices for those who bear the great burden of leadership. It’s an easy time to kick men or institutions or societies when they’re down, but it’s much harder to lower them down to Jesus on a mat, or to pick them up and carry them on your beast, at your own expense, to nearest Field Hospital.

I remember when Fr. Anthony said to me, after I completed a lenten penance, “From now on, for every charitable criticism you offer of another, ten brief acts of prayer for them. For every uncharitable one, ten brief acts of reparation.”

Who needs a parakaleite — an “advocate” and “encourager” — these days? Too many to name! All those who are suffering from job loss, illness, exhaustion, anxiety, et alia. Countless medical professionals. Men and women who ensure our safety and keep order. Those in public and private sector institutions providing our “essential services.” Our civic and religious leaders. Those tending to the homeless and vulnerable. Parents caring for children, children caring for their parents. Teachers who continue to educate us. Entertainers who try by creative means to lift our spirits. In a word, all those who are laboring long and hard on behalf of all, for the good of all.

Just thinking of all this humbles me to the dust, calls me out of my many comfort zones out into a greater gratitude.

All those out there who are the “humble yet great builders of the Kingdom of God in history” (JP2) we are to “esteem very highly in love because of their work.” And if we see the need to point out or confront any of the errors, failures or sins in others, we Christians do this not by cursing the darkness, but by lighting a candle — first always repenting ourselves, then offering correction “with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet. 3:16) while encouraging, when possible, each other’s better angels. And for back-up, people of faith’s first go-to is always imploring from the merciful Father, “with loud cries and tears” (Heb. 5:7), every good gift from above needed by each person who comes into our field of vision every day. Yes Cain, we are our brother’s keeper.

Thus, by fostering solidarity among all, we Christians are to become “as a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race” (Lumen Gentium #1). As “sign,” we must visibly embody unity, and as “instrument” we must allow God to accomplish this unity through us. Vatican II said it this way:

The promotion of unity belongs to the innermost nature of the Church … Thus she shows the world that an authentic union, social and external, results from a union of minds and hearts, namely from that faith and charity by which her own unity is unbreakably rooted in the Holy Spirit. For the force which the Church can inject into the modern society of man consists in that faith and charity put into vital practice, not in any external dominion exercised by merely human means (Gaudium et spes #42).

Seeing in us a sacrament, non-Christians should be able to look into the Christian community, whether online or in person, and say with stunned awe:

My God! See how they love one another and all! Even their enemies they treat as if friends. Now we see what it looks like to bring harmony into division…

…See! Where there is hatred, they sow love; Where there is injury, they offer pardon; Where there is doubt, they sow faith; Where there is despair, they bring hope; Where there is darkness, they shine light; And where there is sadness, they bear joy; Where there is suffering, they bring relief…

…“Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel!” (2 Kings 5:15)…

+++

May God give superabundant wisdom, creativity, strength, protection, peace, courage, joy, patience, endurance and perseverance to all those who labor among us or are in authority over us.

May God, in this time of lenten purification, turn us back to Him, reconcile us to one another and open our eyes to Truth to see among us, as St. Augustine said it, “one Christ loving Himself.”

May we never abort His will to gestate love in the world through us…

[in case below video does not play in this post click here]

 

“Laugh and grow strong” — St. Ignatius of Loyola

Mankind has unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution—these can lift at a colossal humbug—push it a little—weaken it a little, century by century; but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand. — Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger, chapter 10 (1916)

In case you need a little laughter for the good of your soul, here are a few of my favorites…

 

 

Spiritual Offering-Communion in this time of Eucharistic Distancing

I felt moved to write for my own use an amplified “spiritual Communion” by adding to it another key component of Holy Mass — our offering up to God before our receiving from God.

I offer my deepest thanks to God for all the priests and bishops who faithfully make present this Most Holy Sacrifice in our world every day. May these days of Fast increase our gratitude for the gift they make of their lives for us and for our salvation.

…So, for what it’s worth…

[After making an Act of Contrition]

Lord Jesus,
I offer myself now
as a living sacrifice
to your Father and my Father
through the eternal Spirit
in union with your Eucharistic Sacrifice.
I join now to this Great Mystery
my every prayer, thought and labor,
my every fear, struggle and weariness,
my every joy, rest and pain.
May my offering find favor in your sight.

[pause briefly in silence]

Lord Jesus,
I also ask you to open wide my spirit
that I may receive your Living Sacrifice
wholly present in the Holy Eucharist.
I beg you, through your Spirit,
to enter now under my roof and,
in this time of absence, dwell in my desire
with the fullness of your Presence.

May this holy exchange of Gifts, Lord Jesus,
be for my salvation
and the salvation of all the world
to the praise of your glory in that New Creation
where, with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
you live and reign as God forever and ever. Amen.

Some COVID-19 responses of Faith

Excuse second post…

Here are some creative responses to COVID-19:

Need to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation in Metairie, beginning today, over next few days? Fr. Andrew Gutierrez: calendly.com/frandrew/confession

Novel Eucharistic processions: https://youtu.be/EEB6wrC_tl0

Pope walks through Rome to pray to Our Lady: https://youtu.be/AmaLTjeLVl4

Priest celebrates Mass in an empty Church: https://youtu.be/pqwhTCvSf2U

Word on Fire daily Mass posted at 8:15 a.m. EDT daily: https://www.wordonfire.org/daily-mass/

Daily Mass live streamed from St. Louis Cathedral in NOLA Monday–Friday & 12:05 p.m. & Sunday @ 11:00 a.m.: https://thedailymass.com/mass/

Magnificat daily devotional offers a free online version during this time: https://us.magnificat.net/free

Making a spiritual Communion when you are not able to attend Mass: https://youtu.be/d_4xtxlKcK0

And: https://youtu.be/dIROUozX8Ug

And: https://youtu.be/iVd0zalRnJM