Rekindle the Fire of Faith : Weekly Message for 2-22-18

February 20, 2018 by  
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Dear Friend in Christ,

Leading up to the start of the Lenten season, we always receive a number of questions asking about fasting along with other penitential practices and why we should practice them.

In his recent message for Lent this year, Pope Francis would simply say it has to do with “rekindling the fire of faith in our hearts”. Pope Francis urges us to renew our enthusiasm for the faith, using this season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving as an opportunity to stoke the flame of charity in our heart.

“Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life, I would like again this year to help the entire Church experience this time of grace anew, with joy and in truth.”

In a nutshell his message warns against the coldness of our hearts and listening to “false prophets”. Seeing the problems in the world and within ourselves, he recognizes how we all struggle with many experiences that probe to “whittle away all of [our] enthusiasm and zeal”, commenting on the theme: “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold (Matt. 24:12).”

He described several signs of a cold heart: “selfishness and spiritual sloth, sterile pessimism, the temptation to self-absorption, constant warring among ourselves, and the worldly mentality that makes us concerned only for appearances.A cold heart has no room for charity, and that it, “leads to violence against anyone we think is a threat to our own ‘certainties’: the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the migrant, the alien among us, or our neighbor who does not live up to our expectations.

To combat these evils and to turn up the heat in our hearts with the fire of faith, the Pope highly encouraged the traditional Lenten penitential practices of:

  • Prayer: “By devoting more time to prayer we enable our hearts to root out our secret lies and forms of self-deception, and then to find the consolation God offers.” He explained that devoting more time to prayer also helps us to find consolation in God, who is our Father and who “wants us to live life well.”
  • Almsgiving: Almsgiving is a way of setting us free from greed, acknowledging that “what I possess is never mine alone.” Almsgiving is very fitting during Lent that “even in our daily encounters with those who beg for our assistance, we would see such requests as coming from God himself.”
  • Fasting: Lastly, he claimed that fasting provided us an opportunity for growth, “Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbor. It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.”

“Above all, I urge the members of the Church to take up the Lenten journey with enthusiasm, sustained by almsgiving, fasting and prayer…if, at times, the flame of charity seems to die in our own hearts, know that this is never the case in the heart of God! He constantly gives us a chance to begin loving anew.”

“May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds, by listening to God’s word and drawing nourishment from the table of the Eucharist, may our hearts be ever more ardent in faith, hope and love.”

Here at RCSpirituality, all we desire is for your relationship with God to go deeper. If that happens, then you will find all the light and strength you need to fulfill your mission in the Church and the world.

May this Lent be a privileged time for continuing to stoke the fire of faith in your hearts.

God bless you!

In Christ,
Lucy Honner, CRC
Director, RCSpirituality Center
lucy@rcspirituality.org


PREFACE I FOR THE DEAD

February 17, 2018 by  
Filed under Finding the Plug

PREFACE I FOR THE DEAD

For more information on prefaces in general, see The Eucharistic Prayer (2) and The Eucharistic Prayer (3)

This preface is used in Masses for the dead, such as funerals, anniversaries of death, and All Soul’s Day.

The hope of resurrection in Christ

When you lose someone you love it leaves a hole in your life that nothing else can fill, no matter what your philosophy or creed. Christian hope does not fill in that hole, but it eases the sadness of losing a loved with the knowledge that death does not have the last word for those who believe in Our Lord. Our separation by death with those we love does not last forever. Life lasts forever, and, as the preface says, “life is changed not ended.”

“In him the hope of blessed resurrection has dawned, that those saddened by the certainty of dying might be consoled by the promise of immortality to come. Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended, and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven.”

The Book of Wisdom states well how disconcerting death can be for those without faith: “the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality” (Wisdom 3:1-4). These words are often used as the First Reading in Masses for the Dead.

In the eyes of the world death strikes someone down after a successful or failed life, seemingly disaster in either scenario. Death is a disaster; it came into the world with sin, from the moment Cain slew Abel, and has loomed starkly over our hopes and expectations ever since. Our Lord’s Resurrection shines a light in the pitch black of death. It shows a new life dawning for those who believe in him, just beyond the trial and suffering that death entails. The “earthly dwelling” of our world and our bodies will give way to a world and a body (in the Resurrection of the dead) that will never crumble or fade away. For believers a place awaits beyond the pale of death that makes all they had to suffer worthwhile.

We’re still on this side of the curtain, and we all have loved ones beyond it. Let’s entrust them to Our Lord consoled by his promises and remembering, in faith, that upon death life is not ended, only changed.


Rose Petals and Ashes: Weekly Message for 2-13-18

February 12, 2018 by  
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Dear Digital Pilgrim, pax Christi:

This year Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day coincide.  Just a coincidence?  I doubt it.  As the Catechism reminds us, “The witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history” (CCC 303).  So nothing is random with God.  He has something to tell us through this coincidence.  What is it?  Maybe he is hoping to receive a Valentine from each one of us.

I am not making this up.  We are all familiar with how Valentine’s Day gifts use hearts: a heart on a card, a candy in the shape of a heart, roses the color of blood to symbolize the depths of one’s passionate love… It’s all about the heart.  And that’s how the liturgy for this first day of Advent begins.  The Lord tells us in Ash Wednesday’s First Reading: “…return to me with your whole heart…” (Joel 2:12).  Do you hear the Lord’s plea?  He doesn’t want us seeking our happiness where it can’t be found!  He doesn’t want us investing our love in things that end up perishing like ashes  – passing pleasures, popularity and the approval of others, wealth and worldly success and the “right” car or home or promotion.  He wants us for himself, because he knows that living in a deep, intimate communion with him is the only way to find our heart’s true desire: “Find your delight in the Lord, who will give you your heart’s desire” (Psalm 37:4).

Lent is an invitation from the Church for us to stop, quiet down, and look calmly and deeply at the state of our hearts as we prepare for the grace-filled days of Holy Week.  Our new Lenten Retreat Guide, Teacher and Lord: A Retreat Guide on the Last Supper, could be a useful tool for you to make that happen.  But don’t forget about all the other Lenten Retreat Guides still available, they can be helpful too: Father of Mercies, The Faithful Steward (on St Joseph), The Widow’s Might (that’s not a misspelling), Trouble with Trust (one of our most popular), and The Colors of the Cross (one of my personal favorites).

Our hope and prayer is that resources like those Retreat Guides will continue to help you find fresh and encouraging ways to go deeper in your friendship with Jesus Christ, a friendship more beautiful than roses and much, much more lasting than ashes.

God bless you!
In Him,

Fr John Bartunek, LC
contact@rcspirituality.org


COMMON PREFACE VI

February 10, 2018 by  
Filed under Finding the Plug

Common Preface VI

For more information on prefaces in general, see The Eucharistic Prayer (2) and The Eucharistic Prayer (3)

This preface is used on weekdays in Ordinary Time.

The mystery of salvation in Christ

In the Apostle’s Creed, we profess that Christ “descended into Hell.” When Christ died, like all of humanity after the Fall, Hell is where he was destined to go, but sin and death got more than they bargained for by trying to condemn and contain him. Some artists depict Our Lord, upon his death, kicking down the doors to Hell and crushing hapless devils underneath. The mystery of salvation in Christ is that he did not just save those who lived with him or would live after his Redemption; he saved everyone, a mystery we remember by commemorating his descent into Hell on Holy Saturday.

“Fulfilling your will and gaining for you a holy people, he stretched out his hands as he endured his Passion, so as to break the bonds of death and manifest the resurrection.”

The state, situation or location of the just souls who died before Christ in need of a Savior is still widely debated by theologians, but the important thing is that his death liberated everyone who deserved it, no matter when they were born.

When the People of God, Israel, were constituted as a people at Mt. Sinai, the covenant was sealed between them and the Lord through the blood of a sacrifice. Our Heavenly Father from eternity wanted us to stand before him one day, believing in his Son, the definitive People of God, and the sacrifice of Our Lord on the cross sealed that covenant. We were entrusted to him by Our Father and no one can take us away from him if we cling to him (see John 17:6–19).

The direct and most fearful consequence of sin that continues to haunt humanity is death. Saint Paul observed that even when people were clueless about sin, the Law, and any violation thereof, death showed to all that there was something wrong (see Romans 5:12-17). Our Lord used something wrong to set something aright. That doesn’t mean he committed an act of injustice; rather, he subjected himself to an injustice and overthrew it for everyone who believes in him. What would have been justice for us—death for our sins—was injustice for him, but he took it upon himself for our sake.

Our Lord has broken the bonds of death and shown it does not have the last word. Let’s take Paul’s words to heart: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:4–5).


A Testament Ever New: Weekly Message for 2-6-18

February 5, 2018 by  
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Dear Friends in Christ,

It used to be tempting to view some of the New Testament texts as chronicles of Christian battles from a long-gone pagan past.

In the last 10 years or so those scriptural texts have taken on a fresh relevance. Things that were once unthinkable are disturbingly common and increasingly accepted.

Be it phone porn, transgenderism, terrorism or toxic politics – all these make the first century seem tame by comparison.
How do we deal with such a world?

Here again, Scripture rings truer than ever. Notice how Moses exhorts the Israelites toward faithfulness as they prepare to enter the promised land: “For this command which I am giving you today is not too wondrous or remote for you. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?’ … No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do I” (Deuteronomy 30:11-12, 14).

That’s a solution in a nutshell. Our Lord has given us Commandments to guide us. If we live by his commands, if we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, the Almighty will transform us, and through us the world.

That notion isn’t simplistic. Rather, it recognizes the power of grace. Individual lives and whole societies can rise out of the ashes if we give Our Lord first place.

There is no better time to take a step in that direction than Lent. Now is the time to see what Jesus is asking of us. More prayer? More almsgiving? More patience and charity?

If we give him what he wants, we can start to let the Holy Spirit change the
world through us.

Let this be a Lent that changes you.

With my prayers,
Father Edward McIlmail, LC
Ask a Priest contributor
contact@rcspirituality.org


COMMON PREFACE V

February 3, 2018 by  
Filed under Finding the Plug

Common Preface V

For more information on prefaces in general, see The Eucharistic Prayer (2) and The Eucharistic Prayer (3)

This preface is used on weekdays in Ordinary Time.

The proclamation of the mystery of Christ

The life of Our Lord is mysterious, and that doesn’t mean it simply contains things whose explanation is beyond us, like an unsolved crime. The mystery of Christ includes a crime—his Passion and death at the hands of evil men—but it goes way beyond it. The Christian and New Testament understanding of mystery is the saving plan of God that is revealed by Our Lord. If something needs to be revealed, then it needs someone to reveal it, which is why Our Lord, before his Ascension, commanded us to proclaim the Gospel everywhere. Our Lord has revealed it to us so that we can reveal it to others. He is the mystery.

“His Death we celebrate in love, his Resurrection we confess with living faith, and his Coming in glory we await with unwavering hope.”

As believers, our difference in lifestyle from non-believers can be traced back to the mysteries of Christ.

If we strive to show what true charity is through our love for the Lord and for others it is because we know and proclaim that Our Lord died for us, on the cross, out of love for his Father and for us. Through our charity, we proclaim Christ’s charity.

If our actions and attitudes are shaped by our belief that death does not have the last word, and is not the end of our existence, it is because we believe, just as our ancestors in the faith have taught us, even to martyrdom, that Our Lord rose from the dead and promised that, in him, those who believe will also be raised one day in glory, just as he was. In faith, we proclaim that Christ has risen from the dead.

Lastly, bolstered by his love for us and our faith that he has conquered death through the Resurrection, our life is characterized by an unshakable optimism and trust in the Lord that no matter how dire things may seem, everything will work out. Every tear will be dried (see Revelation 7:17, 21:4). Our hunger for justice will be satisfied (see Matthew 5:6), along with all the other promises Our Lord made in the Sermon on the Mount, the promises we call the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12). In hope, we trust Our Lord and know he will keep his promises.

It’s no coincidence that soon after the Beatitudes Our Lord taught us that we are the light of the world and that our light is meant to shine: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). That light is Christ, and that’s the way we can proclaim his mystery.


Living Billboards: Weekly Message for 1-30-18

January 29, 2018 by  
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Dear Fellow Digital Pilgrim, pax Christi:

Every year on February 2nd, the liturgical feast commemorating Mary’s presentation of Jesus in the Temple, the Church celebrates in a special way the gift of the consecrated life. Here at RCSpirituality, we have very personal reasons to give thanks for it. Our Director, Lucy Honner, is a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi. Myself and the other three regular priest contributors are members of a religious order, the Legionaries of Christ.

I believe God’s wisdom shines through in a special way through his gift of consecrated life to the Church and the world.  When men and women hear and heed a call to follow Christ more closely through making vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, they are sounding a shockingly counter-cultural note.  In a sense, every consecrated person in the Church is a living billboard for the reality of God’s existence, God’s love, and God’s promise of eternal life to those who believe in him and follow the Lord Jesus.

In my 25 years of living as a consecrated religious, I have had countless conversations with people who simply don’t understand how anyone could ever desire to follow this path.  Many of the most interesting ones happen in airports and on airplanes.  These days, the aspect of religious life that most people find particularly intriguing is our consecrated celibacy.  It simply befuddles the post-modern, secular mind to think that any sane human being would voluntarily – and joyfully – renounce the natural human impulse to get married and have a family.  I have found that engaging in these conversations gives me, on a regular basis, privileged opportunities to speak to people about my experience of Jesus Christ.  And I am amazed at how many times the mere fact of my priestly collar opens the door to heart-to-heart exchanges.

If you have benefited from anything that we have produced over the years, please join us in thanking the Lord for consecrated life in general, as a gift of light and inspiration for the Church and the world, and also for our own vocations and the grace we have received to persevere in them up to now.

Although it is our calling that has nourished all that we strive to do and provide through this apostolate, it is your generous support through prayers and donations that has actually sustained the platform itself. So once again we also extend our thanks to you for making our own work for the Kingdom possible. On February 2nd, and on every other day of the year as well, you can count on our gratitude and on our prayers for you.

God bless you and keep you.

Peace in Him,
Fr John Bartunek, LC
contact@rcspirituality.org


COMMON PREFACE III

January 27, 2018 by  
Filed under Finding the Plug

COMMON PREFACE III

For more information on prefaces in general, see The Eucharistic Prayer (2) and The Eucharistic Prayer (3)

This preface is used on weekdays in Ordinary Time.

Praise to God for the creation and restoration of the human race

Imagine if the Lord gave you a wonderful toy or gadget that gave you hours of enjoyment. Now imagine if you broke it. It’s not the end of the world. You’d survive, sad but, hopefully, wiser for the experience and more appreciative and careful in the future.

Imagine that you’re in the Arctic and the Lord gave you shelter and a space heater. Now imagine that you broke both. It’s not a nice optional thing to make life more enjoyable: cold death is spilling in through that hole in the wall and you have nothing to stop it from leaching the life from you.

Adam and Eve were given a world to enjoy. They were given a place to live and thrive. The Lord deserved praise for that (and still does), but instead, he received mistrust. The Fall broke the world and it broke us: it turned a garden with all we’d need into a cold and harsh losing battle for survival at the end of which the only thing that awaited us was spiritual death to cap off our physical one.

For just as through your beloved Son you created the human race, so also through him with great goodness you formed it anew.

When you’re experiencing a harsh winter you almost forget that the warmth of spring ever existed at all. The Lord created the world “in spring” and we turned it into “winter.” Our Lord came and reminded us what “spring” was like again: he showed us the perfection which humanity could achieve after millennia of disfigurement and futility. He not only started patching up the shelter; he huddled with us to warm us and help us feel a little of the spring inside him. He showed us how to warm ourselves again and leave a cold world behind.

You don’t have to imagine that the Lord gave you life itself; he did. You don’t have to imagine that we “broke” it; we did. Our Lord came and fixed it all. That deserves some praise.


Educated Zeal: Weekly Message for 1-23-18

January 22, 2018 by  
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Dear Friends in Christ,

In two days we celebrate the Conversion of St. Paul. Paul’s conversion story helps us understand that conversion is a life-long process. Paul considered himself “called to be an apostle” (Romans 1:1), set apart before birth by God and called through Christ (Galatians 1:1,15), but he didn’t start out among the Lord’s disciples.

At first he was spiritually committed, but lacked the big picture: He considered himself a Pharisee and approved of St. Stephen’s murder (cf. Acts 7:58; 8:1, Acts 9:14). God’s call to holiness, a call we all share, does not always proceed linearly and includes and permits human mistakes. We can be very zealous, but if we don’t educate that zeal it can quickly go off track.

When “Saul” met Jesus on the road to Damascus the experience not only knocked him off his feet literally, but spiritually. Conquered by Christ’s love, Paul later said: “…whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…” (Phil 3:7-9).

If Paul’s encounter with Our Lord on the road to Damascus captivated his heart and zeal, his grasp of the mission to which he was called still required more time. In the Acts of the Apostles Paul recalls his conversion story three times (9:1-20, 22:5-16, 26:9-18), and each shows a progressive understanding of his mission. His first description is not much different from the call of every disciple: he felt called to bear the name of Jesus before the nations and suffer for Jesus’ name.

In his second description he starts to see his vocation and history as a part of salvation history: through the expression “the God of our fathers” Paul reconnects with his religious past and, through seeing and hearing Our Lord, the “Just One,” he establishes a personal relationship with Christ and discovers a new vocation. We build on past successes and learn from past failures, and our faith journey is no different.

Despite a growing understanding of his mission Paul just preached at first to the Jews and saw himself as the most qualified to do it, given his past. Our Lord had other plans: “Depart; for I will send you far away to the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21). Paul doesn’t get it and continues preaching to the Jews until they try to kill him. The community of Jerusalem sends him to Tarsus (Acts 9:29f.), probably for his own safety. Paul gradually realized that his expectations for his mission were not the same as Our Lord’s, but it took time for this realization to take root.

In his third description his mission finally becomes clear and explicit: in meeting Jesus Paul became his apostle and his witness who would bringing the Gospel to the pagans (Acts 14:4,14; Galatians 2:9). As apostle he’d received a special call from Our Lord, and in the call to evangelize the pagans he received mission that even the Twelve had not yet fully understood or undertaken.

Paul had an intense spiritual experience on the road to Damascus, but it took him a long time to unpack all its ramifications. You may not realize it, but you too have had an intense spiritual experience of Christ: at Baptism. Perhaps you’ve had an intense moment of conversion after Baptism. We too need time and guidance from Our Lord to unpack all that implies in our lives. In doing so you may regret past decisions and mistakes, but Our Lord keeps forgiving us and teaching us as long as we keep trying. If you want to explore this in prayer for your own faith journey you might want to do our retreat Messenger of Mercy: A Retreat Guide on St. Paul.

May Our Lord’s grace and Paul’s example help you progress on your own faith journey this week.

Father Nikola Derpich, L.C.
author, Finding the Plug
contact@rcspirituality.org


COMMON PREFACE IV

January 20, 2018 by  
Filed under Finding the Plug

COMMON PREFACE IV

For more information on prefaces in general, see The Eucharistic Prayer (2) and The Eucharistic Prayer (3)

This preface is used on weekdays in Ordinary Time.

Praise, the gift of God

Our Lord has done many praiseworthy things, but he hasn’t done them for the praise. Does God need affirmation, motivation, or encouragement? He doesn’t actually need anything since he is God. However, he has given us a way to praise him that does justice to him and is beneficial to us.

“For, although you have no need of our praise, yet our thanksgiving is itself your gift since our praises add nothing to your greatness but profit us for salvation, through Christ our Lord.”

When we praise anyone for something they’ve done it makes him or her feel appreciated and acknowledged, but it also shows us to be appreciative. Like any virtue, we need opportunities to exercise it and show it, and a habit of praise is a virtue.

When it comes to Our Lord we have something even more special: he has given us a way to praise God that not only does justice to God but sanctifies us: the Eucharist. Every celebration of the Eucharist, no matter the occasion, consists of praise, worship, and thanksgiving. On the natural level, it makes us considerate, religious, and grateful. On the supernatural level it makes us grow in communion with the object of our praise (God), and all those who praise him as well.

Our Lord doesn’t need our praise or gratitude; he doesn’t need anything. That shouldn’t make us feel it is futile to thank him or to praise him for all he has done. He has also established justice, which is the obligation to give each their due. He deserves our praise and gratitude and in his goodness has made those virtues means for our growth and sanctification. Let’s never cease to praise and thank him.

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