Sunday, December 11, 2011

Old St. Joseph's Church

I've been having a busy Advent. On the First Sunday of Advent I was still in Rome for the meeting of the International Advisory Council of the Apostleship of Prayer. Last weekend I was in Alhambra, California at Sacred Heart Retreat House for their annual Advent Retreat. And this weekend I'm preaching at all the Masses at Old St. Joseph's Church in Philadelphia. I'm here to lead a parish mission which begins this evening.

Today, at 5 P.M., we'll celebrate Vespers for this Gaudete Sunday. My talk is entitled "Heart Calls to Heart: Deepening Our Personal Relationship with Jesus." Tomorrow evening at 7:15, in the context of an Advent Reconciliation Service, I'll talk about "Meeting the Merciful Heart of Jesus." On Tuesday we will close the mission with Exposition and Benediction and a talk entitled "Take, Lord, Receive: Living a Eucharistic Life."

Old St. Joseph's Church is the Jesuit church in Philadelphia and its oldest Catholic church. It was built in an alleyway at a time in U.S. history when most of the original 13 colonies did not allow Catholics to practice their faith.

Periodically the Magis Center for Catholic Spirituality asks me to write a daily reflection for their subscribers. Below I've included my brief reflections for today and tomorrow.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

“Pray without ceasing.” Thus wrote St. Paul and over the centuries people have tried to figure out how to do this. For some, primarily in the Eastern Churches, it has meant praying “The Jesus Prayer”: “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Or simply, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” uniting each phrase with one’s breath.

The Apostleship of Prayer encourages another approach—the Morning Offering. Here’s how the great Jesuit Fr. Walter Ciszek, whose cause for beatification has been opened, described this prayer in the account of his imprisonment in the Soviet Gulag and exile, He Leadeth Me:

In my opinion the Morning Offering is still one of the best practices of prayer—no matter how old-fashioned some may think it. For in it, at the beginning of each day, we accept from God and offer back to him all the prayers, works, and sufferings of the day, and so serve to remind ourselves once again of his providence and his kingdom. If we could only remember to spend the day in his presence, in doing his will, what a difference it would make in our own lives and the lives of those around us! We cannot pray always, in the sense of those contemplatives who have dedicated their whole lives to prayer and penance. Nor can we go around abstracted all day, thinking only of God and ignoring our duties to those around us, to family and friends and to those for whom we are responsible. But we can pray always by making each action and work and suffering of the day a prayer insofar as it has been offered and promised to God.

The Morning Offering, combined with an Examen or Evening Review of the day we have offered, can help us to seek and find God in all things, in all the people and events of our daily lives. In this way we better able to “pray without ceasing.”

Monday, December 12, 2011

Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe! Viva! Today we honor our Blessed Mother under her title “Our Lady of Guadalupe” and we remember how in December, 1531 she appeared to a humble Indian, St. Juan Diego, and gave him a miraculous image of herself as proof for the bishop of her appearance. The image, on material that should have disintegrated long ago, can be seen today in Mexico City.

When she appeared to Juan, she affectionately called him “Juanito” or “Johnny,” and said:

Know for certain, smallest of my children, that I am the perfect and perpetual Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God through whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near and far, the Master of heaven and earth. I am your merciful Mother, the merciful mother of all of you who live united in this land, and of all humanity, of all those who love me. Hear and let it penetrate your heart, my dear little one. Let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you. Let nothing alter your heart, or your face. Am I not here who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else that you need? Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain.

St. Ignatius had a deep love for the Blessed Virgin Mary and he often turned to her when he needed special help. He recommends the same to us during key meditations in the Spiritual Exercises. As Jesus could not refuse his mother’s request at Cana (see John 2: 1-11), so, St. Ignatius was convinced, that if we go to Jesus with his mother and then with Jesus and Mary to the Father, we will receive what we need.

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