Monday, September 30, 2013

The Paradox of Prayer

Prayer is the most important thing in our lives, because it puts us in contact with God and with His Will. Unfortunately, it can also be one of the most difficult and confusing things we do. It is more than just saying memorized prayers. We have to seek the Lord’s face and talk to Him from our hearts. But we also have to wait for Him to speak and to lead, which can be very difficult for us who are accustomed to instant gratification.

The Lord wants us to seek Him, but with a seeking that waits. We can’t find Him by searching more frantically, nor can we find Him by merely sitting back and waiting for Him to reveal Himself. We must both seek and wait at the same time, as a mother eagerly seeks the face of her child as she awaits his return-as the Father waited for his prodigal son. We must be attentive and alert, looking for His presence everywhere, but yet waiting patiently for His arrival. For we cannot find Him unless He wishes to be found, and He will not be found unless we wish to find Him. I think this poem expresses it well:

“Waiting and Seeking”
Prayer is a seeking that waits
and a waiting that seeks.
It is impatient patience
and enduring expectation.

Prayer is searching the unsearchable
awaiting the unseen guest
it is unceasing labor
and unfathomable rest

Prayer is looking for treasure
and discovering that you are the Pearl
It is knowing your value
and selling all you have.

Prayer is seeking God
and finding that He is seeking you
it is waiting for the God
who waits for you.

+ Br. Ignatius Pio Mariae, CFR
Bronx, NY
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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Taking time to Aim

Before I donned the grey habit, I had the opportunity to go “clay shooting.”  One person launches clay discs (called “clay pigeons”, although the only thing they have in common with pigeons is that they fly) into the air with a catapult while another person tries to shoot them with a gun.  It’s one of those things that young boys dream of doing.  Needless to say, I was excited about finally fulfilling a childhood dream.  I had fired a gun before, but never at a moving target.  I was a pretty good shot, though, so I figured I would do well.  The first disc was launched and I quickly pointed the gun, shot, and missed.  The second one was launched and the same thing happened.  The trend continued.  The other guys who were with me were hitting one clay after the other, but I kept missing.  I started getting frustrated and embarrassed.  How could I be missing so many?  How could I be so much worse than the others?  Finally, my frustration boiled over and I grumbled aloud, “Why can’t I hit anything!?!?”  One of my companions asked, “are you using the sights to aim?”  There was an awkward pause.  “No”, I replied, as I felt my ego get punched in the stomach.

I hadn’t been using the sights because I didn’t think I had enough time.  The discs moved quickly after they were launched, so I just pointed the gun and shot for fear that I would miss the window of opportunity.  It’s not that I forgot to aim, but I deliberately chose not to aim because I didn’t think it was practical.  I didn’t rely on the fact that the bullet moves much faster than the disc.  When the next disc was launched, I took time to aim (it felt like forever) before I fired.  This time I nailed the disc!  All I needed to do was take time to aim.  Too bad I didn’t figure that out until my last disc!

We tend to live life the same way I approached shooting clays.  We rush from one thing to another without taking time to reflect.  We do all the pressing things, but neglect the important things.  We occupy ourselves with projects, but don’t bother to ask whether we should really be doing them.  We are impatient with the Lord and feel like we’re running out of time, forgetting that he can do more in a brief moment than we can in a year.  We are busy with many things, but forget the one thing necessary.  This can happen in even in prayer.  We can be busy reading scripture or a spiritual book or listing our intentions or reciting memorized prayers, but not be attentive to the Lord.  

We need to take time to A.IM. Before we rush off to do the next thing, we need to Adore God and IMplore His guidance.  This opens us up to His will, which is much better than our will.  It helps us to place our activities and endeavors in their proper order, by making our relationship with God our first priority, and thus makes our life happier, more fulfilling, and more peaceful.

+ Br. Ignatius Pio Mariae, CFR
Bronx, NY
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Friday, September 20, 2013

Overwhelmed by Gratitude

Once our Blessed Lady reveals the slightest glimpse of her love for us, we are overwhelmed by beauty. We cannot keep from rejoicing and loving God and our brothers and sisters as she did.

Mary reveals Jesus to us. She is the Immaculate Temple of Divine Love, with arms outstretched to all. Truly humble, her whole being is focused on worshiping and glorifying God, Who alone is worthy of all her love.

In her maternal embrace, our fears and cares melt away. We are reassured by the radiant smile in her eyes. With Jesus, she is “our life, our sweetness, and our hope.” She holds us inside her Heart.

What is beyond Mary’s power?

She is entirely united with God’s Will and clothed with His own Divine Power. She who never sinned now leads us, her beloved children, to overcome all sin.

The one who trusted God in her ‘fiat’ two millennia ago, from the Annunciation to the Crucifixion and her ultimate Assumption into Heaven, gives each of us courage today to give all that we have and are to God in grateful love and childlike abandonment.

Mama Mary, Model of Christian Discipleship and Terror of Demons, pray for us who have recourse to thee, and for all those who do not have recourse to thee, especially the enemies of the Church and those recommended to thee. +Amen.

+Br. Philip Maria Allen, CFR
St. Felix Friary, Yonkers, NY, USA
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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My Failed Drug Test

In our shelters for homeless men, we have a drug-free policy. No one is allowed to stay if they are caught using drugs. To enforce our policy, we administer random drug tests. One night, a man was so out of it that he couldn’t stand still for a minute without falling asleep. It took him an hour to eat because he kept falling asleep at the table. He insisted that it was his prescriptions that caused this behavior, but I was skeptical. When I tested him, I was shocked at how many drugs he had taken. He was positive for every category of drug on the test, except for the three that he claimed would show up because of his medication. He insisted that the test was wrong, but it was hard to deny the evidence. We told him to gather his belongings and called him a cab. He left the office complaining about discrimination and insisting that he was innocent.

As we waited for the cab, another brother and I looked over the test again. He was asking me how it worked and I was explaining the process and the diagram that showed how to read the test. As I was doing so, he suddenly said: “Wait, does that mean we read it wrong?” My heart sank and my soul was filled with guilt. “OH NO!” I was wrong! The man had been telling the truth the whole time. He really was innocent!

My humiliating mistake reminded me of an important principle: our problems are often internal, not external. We need to look at ourselves first before we start blaming others. As Jesus said, take the log out of your own eye before you try to help others with their splinter. 

It has been my experience that when I am upset with someone or with a situation, the problem is usually with me and not with the others involved. Even if others are blameworthy, I’m not usually upset because of justice, but because I have encountered my own woundedness and insecurity. Their faults reveal my shortcomings as well. . Thus, I find that if I come before the Lord and, with his help and guidance, focus on changing and healing what’s wrong with me, then the situation improves. After all, the only one I have control over is myself. As they say in AA, “Happiness is an inside job.”

+ Br. Ignatius Pio Mariae, CFR
   Bronx, NY
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Friday, September 13, 2013

Contemplation as Divine Therapy Part 2

In the first part of this therapy God presents us with a simple question. Who or what is God in your life? If we are honest with ourselves we probably have many gods that we worship; our reputations, physical appearance, money, food, sports, career, the clothes we buy, TV, our cell phones, etc. To spare us the disappointment placing our faith and hope in these things will bring, God begins this therapy by enabling us to experience the inability these other gods have in bringing us fulfillment and joy.

How does God the divine therapist do this? He creates in us an insatiable hunger that continually grows and gets worse the more we worship these other gods. The more faith and hope we place in the things of this world the more frustrated and anxious we become. The longer this search continues in this way the more likely we are led towards addictive, compulsive, destructive behaviors and towards feelings of despair. Hence, our attempts at finding peace and happiness in this world produce the opposite effect; confusion, anxiety and sadness. 

It is because God loves us so intensely that He does not allow us to find rest in this world. God does not want to bring us to despair, nor does He want us to spend our lives chasing after idols and false gods. We are made for the truth and He alone is the fullness of truth that our hearts are desperately in need of. Until God becomes the only God in our life we will be filled with this insatiable hunger that will often times leave us feeling like we are dying of starvation. The reality is we are not dying; because if God is not the center of our life we are not even alive yet! 

God, the divine therapist, whose desires that we “may have life, and have it abundantly,” (Jn 10:10) leaves us with this important question; who or what is God in your life? The wrong answer will lead to more pain, frustration, darkness and anger while the correct answer leads to healing, life, light and love.

+ fr jeremiah myriam shryock cfr
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Monday, September 9, 2013

Fear God Alone

Our world today is often filled with frenetic activity and bad news (at least in the secular media), and many people whom we love bear great burdens of fear and anxiety of all kinds. What does the Lord say to us about fear?

● “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
● “ ‘And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul…you are of more value than many sparrows.’ ” (Matthew 10:28a & 31b)
● “ ‘…do not be anxious about your life…’ ” (Matthew 6:25a)
● “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…” (Proverbs 9:10a)

What is fear? Fear in itself is a natural human emotion that ‘activates’ in response to a real or imagined threat. It is morally neutral. However, how you or I deal with fear is important in making good decisions.

If you are like me, you often wonder whether some of the fears we have are legitimate or not - are we afraid of a harmless illusion, or a genuine threat? Of course, we should be seriously concerned about someone driving while texting (May this not be you!! If you saw all the flowered memorials of the deceased which I pass by during my commutes, I pray that you would never do it again…); but should we really fear what other people think about us?

Jesus showed us that we need to trust in God: no matter what. God is greater than any danger or problem we could ever have – ever!

Christ already conquered our greatest enemies by His Holy Sacrifice of Love on the Cross: sin, suffering, death, the devil, and Hell. What do we have to worry about? Absolutely nothing! “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35)

Our only real fear should be a holy fear of God – a humble sense of awe, wonder and reverence that leads us to love Him and obey His holy will, avoiding sin at any cost. Let us pray to the Holy Spirit to fill us with this Gift of Holy Fear and all His Sevenfold Gifts. Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us fear God alone.

+Br. Philip Maria Allen, CFR
St. Felix Friary
Yonkers, NY, USA
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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Decisions in Loving

Previously I had written about vows as an act of decidedly loving where the commitment to love trumps the need to feel loved. If you think about it for three seconds, you’ll realize what a radical and supernatural disposition this demands of a person, for as life stretches us and pressures build, human nature reveals its weakness and vows are tried. Everyone will have to make two decisions: Did I mean it? and How do I honor my vows now?

Holy Matrimony is not for the faint of heart. It is not something to just fall into like a jazzercise class or a PTA meeting. It is the joining of one’s life to another’s—for better or for worse as they say. That’s a dangerous thing to do. You relinquish your autonomy and decide to live for someone else vowing to love him or her until death would part you, and the goal of love, if it is true love, is the well-being and salvation of another’s soul.

So what happens when the reality of living with another person becomes not merely difficult but dangerous or abusive? This is that very moment when “love, losing its emotional force, ceases to be a wind in our sails but a barge to be tugged.” Yet don’t misunderstand—tugging the barge doesn’t meaning enduring abuse and it doesn’t meaning submitting to a harmful situation. Appearances never need to be kept. Love is not a doormat and sometimes it needs to be an alarm.
Marriage is not meant to be a white-knuckled endurance test, but like our Lord’s, it is meant to be a heroic disposition of love that says, “I will spend my life for the salvation of your soul,” and rather than something forbidding this is a courageous and therefor hopeful disposition. In marriage you may even struggle with loneliness, doubt, fear, resentment or any other negative emotion, but that does not mean you have failed your vows, it means you now cling to them and love in a heroic way that will challenge your spouse to do the same. And that may involve outside help. It may involve living apart. In the long run, it will involve forgiveness. But most immediately it will involve difficult and prudent decisions made with the help of grace—God empowering us with his own divine nature; for love’s supernatural response will never be achieved in the meager confines of our fallen humanity. 

Therefore, the best way that you can personally love your spouse is to maintain and grow in a state of grace—regular confessions and reception of the Eucharist. The second way is by standing in the gap and interceding before God for his or her salvation daily. These are the two greatest acts of love you can give your spouse, and you can do it regardless of whether or not you find yourselves living under the same roof.

+ Br. Joseph Michael Fino, CFR
Most Blessed Sacrament Friary
Newark, NJ
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