Monday, February 25, 2013

Letters of hope and consolation #21

The desire to establish a “prayer schedule” for your life is one that you will never regret. If you remain faithful to it you will realize the great blessings that come from having a certain structure of prayer in your daily life and those times you have set aside for prayer will be an oasis for you in the midst of your busy life.

Before you embark upon discerning the amount of time you will pray everyday and which spiritual practices you will adopt you must begin by simply asking the question, “Is the thing I’m considering even a possibility?” For example, attending daily mass is an excellent way to grow in intimacy with God, however, for some people, because of their work, family, health, etc it might not be possible. Therefore, to try and force this could cause a great deal of anxiety and unnecessary stress in your life that can become counterproductive in your relationship with God and with other people.

Before you make any decisions about your spiritual life you want to first ask the question, “Is what I am considering possible given my vocation, situation or state in life at this moment?” It would absurd for a married man to attempt to pray as much as a cloistered monk and just as absurd for a cloistered monk to pray like a married man. Hence, it might mean that you will not be able to adopt all the holy and pious practices other people are doing. The good news is that pious practices are not guarantees for holiness, whereas accepting and doing the will of God is.

This principle could be summed up in the phrase, “obedience to reality.” The circumstances of our life, our vocation and the situation we find ourselves in right now reveal to us just how much God requires of us in terms of prayer and meditation. Therefore, as you begin to make some decisions about your prayer schedule begin with the most credible place, reality.

God bless you,
Fr. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock, CFR

St. Felix Friary, Yonkers, NY
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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Transformative Power of the Living Word of God

One thing I must always remind myself before I prepare to read the word of God, is how much of a necessity it is to beseech the Holy Spirit for His help and light. I would like to share short story about an experience that I had early on in my conversion. When I was about 20 yrs. old, I started to come back into the Catholic Church and even went to daily mass when I could. Although I was now receiving Jesus in the Eucharist and even going to frequent confession, every time I went to open up the bible or when I would hear the word proclaimed at Mass, I had absolutely no idea what was going on. At this point I had still yet to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Needless to say, the next step I took was to get confirmed, to bring my Baptismal grace to completion along with bringing to full operation the Sanctifying gifts of the Holy Spirit. Almost instantaneously after I received my confirmation, the Word of God became absolutely alive to me. It became real, tangible and approachable. I can remember staying up half of the night more than a few times not being able to put down my bible and having no idea how many hours past or what time it was. The Prophet Jeremiah tells us in chap. 15:16 “When I found you words O Lord I devoured them, they became to me the joy and delight of my heart.” Now I could truly identify with this passage. What a treasure I had found, or rather, what a treasure that had been given to me by a loving Father, desiring to lead his prodigal son into His light and truth.

Now, if I could simply highlight a few things in regards to this experience and offer some brief reflections. To acknowledge that when we read the word of God, we must read it with a true hunger. We must seek the face of Christ, listen for the sound of His voice, and desire a real encounter with the living God whom we love through His word. Some things that I have found helpful to aid this are as follows: We should approach the Scriptures with faith, expectancy, & patience. We recognize that when we read the Scriptures using the approach through Lection Divina, we must set aside sufficient time and slow down! When we bring our time of the business of our lives and apostolates into our time of lectio, it could easily be difficult for one to have a fruitful encounter with the Word. We might need to take some prayer time before, to be able to have the proper disposition that is willing and ready to receive His living water. We must also recognize that we might not always feel like we received anything during our prayer time, but any time spent with God and the Scriptures is time well spent. Regardless of what we feel, Christ is always at work when we read His word with sincerity. It would also not be a surprise to me that in our driest time of reading the Word, is often the time in which it is bearing the most fruit for our souls and for the kingdom of God. We can read the scriptures time and time again, and not even in a thousand years would we exhaust what the Word of God offers us.

Faith: Throughout scripture we see the need for faith. We see in the gospels Christ healing many people. When we see Him heal, at times He heals with a word. Not just any word but He who is Himself the “Word of God” as we read in Rev. 19:13. God says in Gen. 1:3 ‘“Let there be light”, and there was light.”’ When He heals a leper He says “I will it, be clean”, and instantly he was made clean. He brings back to life the daughter of a centurion by the words “Rise”, and immediately, she arose and walked. He casts out a legion of demons by the simple word “Go”, and they fled. Isa. 55:11 says “Every word of God that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that for which I intend it, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” The thing that I would like to highlight is the fact we must read the word of God with expectancy and mountain moving faith. The belief that it can heal us, teach us, deliver us from evil, illuminate our minds and hearts, increase our faith, and give us perseverance for our life’s journey. We must come to believe and know, like the figures we read about in the gospels, that we too can experience this and become a living witness to the transformative power of Christ through his word. The most important thing of all to remember, is that God himself has a desire to speak to us, to me & you personally, to continue to transform and change our lives, to help us grow in faith, hope, and love, and to lead us into deeper union with His very self, and to share intimately in his very being.

Let us then pray for one another, that with, in, and through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, crying out to Abba Father, along with looking through the eyes of St. Francis and following in his footsteps, we many enter more profoundly into the word of God, with a new faith, a profound hope, a patient gaze and a listening contemplative stance that will continue be drawn by the voice of our Beloved, that is, into the Heart of Christ.

-Br. Roch Mary, CFR
Most Blessed Sacrament Friary
Newark, NJ
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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI

I’ve always had a tremendous respect for Pope Benedict XVI’s wisdom, clarity of thought, humility and courage, but today my respect for these virtues of his has increased a hundredfold. It is clear that our Holy Father is so concerned about the good of the Church that he is willing to humbly admit his growing frailty of mind and body, even at the risk of being misunderstood or suspected of ulterior motives.

When our Holy Father passes on to the Lord I will be asking his intercession when I have a difficult decision to make. I hope that at his canonization someday he will be nominated as the patron saint of making tough decisions. To be able to act truthfully, lovingly, courageously, to follow a path where almost no man has gone before, with clear-sightedness and profound trust in God – this is the legacy that he leaves us now more than ever. 

The timing is appropriate for the Church as we enter into the desert of Lent. These 40 days will feel a little more desert-like with this uncertainty before us. In the desert, as Our Saviour experienced in a truly human way for 40 days, we are left without our usual security and comfort. However, we may learn there to rely on the Lord in a deeper way, to listen more deeply to His Holy Spirit and to battle our lack of faith. We may feel alone, but we discover more deeply the fact that He is with us, inviting us to exchange our finite or false securities for the Rock of our Salvation. 

The saintly pontiffs of the past century and so many that went before them remind us that we need not be afraid. The Lord will protect and provide for His people in the desert in unforeseen ways. 

Let us pray daily during this Lenten season in gratitude for His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI and for a new Vicar of Christ who will feed us with Bread from Heaven. 

Happy Lent!
Fr. Richard, CFR
St. Crispin Friary
Bronx, NY
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Thursday, February 7, 2013


The “Year of Faith” has arrived!  Beginning this past October and continuing until November 2013, the Church has entered into a year given to deepening her understanding and experience of the life of faith and its witness in our world.  In his apostolic letter Porta Fidei (“The Door of Faith”), the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has said the purpose of this year will be “to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ.”  Here at our St. Francis Youth Center in the Bronx, we have been privileged to enter into this time of special grace with the helpful assistance of God’s “little ones."

This fall I have been continually reminded of the gifted perspective that our youngest children bring to our youth center, enabling us to see reality as it truly is through the eyes of faith.  I encountered this just the other day during a game of “freeze-tag” when a young boy, new to the Center, kept yelling the name of Jesus.  Turning toward him, I suddenly realized he was talking to me!  He thought that I was Jesus because that’s who he heard he would see when he came to “church” (The fact that we were in the gym was of little importance to him).  He was at “church” and so this must be Jesus who was playing tag with him.  While it was an amusing misunderstanding, the boy’s faith—which was ready to encounter Christ in a very personal and real way within the Church—was something we could learn from.

One of the great tasks of this “Year of Faith” will be to rediscover the intimate, and indeed, indivisible relationship between Christ and his Church.  Society today, both secular and Christian, often tends to approach Christ and the Church as two very separate entities.  With a growing trend to see faith as something private without a communal dimension the question is raised, “What does Christ have to do with the Church?” 

The letters of St. Paul reveal a man who very much wrestled with this mystery and came to a profound understanding of the relationship.  In the fifth chapter to the Ephesians he tells us that Christ and the Church are in fact “one body,” a unity so profound that it can only begin to be understood through the intimacy of marital love.  As man and woman are joined together in a deep communion of body and soul, so ever more fully Christ and his Bride the Church are “one flesh.”

Still, this communion of Christ and his Church is not always easy to perceive.  Even St. Paul says, “This mystery is a profound one” (Eph 5:32), but to understand this union is to know the full depth of the Lord’s fidelity and love and our greatest means to encountering Him.  As Pope Benedict writes, the Church’s history—“marked as it is by the unfathomable mystery of the interweaving of holiness and sin”—reveals her to be “the visible community of his mercy…and a sign of definitive reconciliation with the Father” (Porta Fidei);  it is His mercy and grace that has sustained her.  This union, which has endured the storms of every time and place, gives us the unshakable certainty of being known and loved by a God whose mercy and power knows no limits.  To enter into this mystery is one of the great calls of the Christian believer.

More than a simple tenet of belief, Christ’s union with his Bride the Church is something we must actively participate in if we are to experience its transformative power in our lives.  Just as the beauty of light streaming through a church’s stained glass window can only be fully enjoyed from within, so too only within the Church can we come to know the joy, peace, and strength that faith gives to our daily life.  But have we experienced this?  Are we willing to truly participate in the life of the Church so as to know the “the unutterable and exalted joy” (1 Pet 1:8) that is meant to mark our lives as believers?

Let us pray for the eyes of faith…that we might enter in.

-Br. Isaiah Marie, cfr
Our Lady of the Angels Friary
Bronx, NY