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“Ask a Priest: How Could I Go About Making Sacrifices for the Lord?”
Q: I watch a lot of Catholic media and I keep hearing about making “sacrifices” to the Lord, such as the children of Fatima did by giving up certain things (like their daily lunches) for sinners. This seems like something I’d be interested in doing in small ways if only I understood it better. Could you give a few examples of what a sacrifice to the Lord is? Is there a specific prayer I’m supposed to say before making a sacrifice for sinners, or how should I go about starting it? Can I do sacrifices to the Lord for any intention I want? – M.O.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: That you feel inspired to make sacrifices to the Lord is great.
Before we turn to the practical points, it’s good to give a quick summary of the theology behind sacrifices.
Earlier generations commonly called the practice of sacrifices “offering it up.” If you had a headache or if you lost out on the last piece of apple pie, you could offer it up – for the souls in purgatory, for instance.
Offering up sacrifices was a way we could unite them to the redemptive suffering of Christ, who offered himself on the cross to God the Father for the salvation of the world.
By baptism we become members of the mystical body of Christ, the Church. In a sense this mystical body continues to suffer for the redemption of souls in every age.
When we freely embrace suffering for the sake of souls, we can merit graces for ourselves and for others. This is part of God’s plan. “The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace” (Catechism, No. 2008). “Our merits are God’s gifts” (No. 2009).
Sacrifices can be varied: less dessert, a bit of fasting, physical mortification (such as cooler showers or rigorous exercises) and almsgiving.
They can also take a prayerful path: recitation of the rosary, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, or praying the Way of the Cross.
There need not be any special prayer offered up before a sacrifice (in the case of the desserts or mortification), though it is good that you have some kind of awareness of why you are doing the sacrifice.
Sacrifices can be for any good intention, including our own salvation.
Sacrifices can also take the form of patiently accepting the crosses of daily life. This can include dealing with difficult family members or acquaintances or strangers, as well as dealing with the little annoyances of life (long waits at the checkout line, car troubles, unappealing work assignments, etc.).
All these things can be united with the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and thus they can have a redemptive meaning. God never allows a difficulty in our life unless he can bring something good out of it.
For more on this topic see Father Kenneth Baker’s article “The Need for Sacrifice.” Or check out the conference (third video) in the Retreat Guide “A Mother’s Tears.”
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Just a note to thank you Father Mcllmail for making this site available and your detailed answers to
questions. This is a great resource.
Regards and Best Wishes,
Joseph M. Zias (mike)