Monday, February 16, 2015

The Lord's Prayer with Fr. James Kubicki, SJ

The Milwaukee Catholics United for the Faith Chapter (CUF), had their annual day of reflection with their spiritual advisor, Fr. James Kubicki, SJ, the National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer, who also happens to be one of my closest friends, so I was happy to clear my calendar and attend the talk, pen and notebook in hand.

Fr. Jim, who had just flown in from a retreat he had given in warm and sunny California to cold and snowy Wisconsin, gave a brilliant talk on The Lord's Prayer with reflections from St. Teresa of Avila and Pope Benedict XVI.  His talk was so fascinating that two hours flew quickly by as if I had only been listening for ten minutes!  
Fr. Jim said that two versions of The Lord's Prayer could be found within the bible, a longer version in Matthew as part of the Sermon on the Mount, and a shorter version in Luke, Chapter 11, right after the story of Martha and Mary in which Martha was worried and anxious about many things and Jesus rebuked her for her anxiety stating that Mary chose the better part.  Martha wasn't really worried about serving Jesus, but she was more worried about herself and how she cooked and the work she was doing.  Whenever we're worried, Fr. Jim pointed out, it's because we are thinking about ourselves.  Jesus teaches us the great prayer of trust that counters Martha's worry and anxiety.

St. Teresa tells us that The Lord's Prayer is the prayer that we should esteem the most and can apply to our own needs stating, "I marvel to see that in so few words everything about contemplation and perfection is included."  And Pope Benedict states that "When we pray the Our Father we are praying to God with words given by God."

Our Father

Beginning with the name "Father", St. Teresa tells us that "this one word alone should lead to contemplation."  Every human person is made in the image and likeness of God and is a child of God with an immortal soul.  Adopted children don't have the same DNA as their adoptive parents, but as adopted children of God, flooded with sanctifying grace at our baptisms, we are filled with His DNA. As St. John tells us, "See what love God has bestowed upon us that we may be called the children of God, and yet, so we are."

It's natural for men and women to identify themselves with their success or their appearance.  Jesus tells us not to lose our identity on something that will come and go, but to find your identity in the love of God for you.  Rejoice because your names are written in heaven!  The Lord's Prayer reveals us to ourselves and reveals the Father to us. God loves us so much that he changes us and makes us His sons and daughters.  St. Cyprian teaches us that when we call God our Father, we ought to behave and act as sons and daughters of God with humility.  

We don't say "my" Father but "our" Father.  There is no individualism here.  God loves each one of us as though we were the only child made in His image and likeness, yet God's image is not just One but Three.  We recognize that we are called to love our brothers and sisters.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that when we pray the Our Father, we leave concern for ourselves behind, oppositions and divisions have to be overcome.  The baptized cannot pray the Our Father without bringing before Him all of His beloved children and the needs of all the Church and the world.

Who Art in Heaven

This line reminds us of our ultimate goal.  We are not made just for life on this earth.  St. Teresa says that "God is sought in many places but found ultimately within yourself.  Therefore, recollection is so important.  We collect our thoughts and find God in a quiet place, the chamber of our hearts." Heaven is within.  Heaven is not a place, but a way of being. God is within the hearts of the just as in His holy temple.

The Eucharist is the closest thing to heaven.  It's heaven on earth.  We find the entire communion of saints in the Eucharist, therefore, we should receive the Eucharist as often as possible.

Hallowed Be Thy Name

There is a sense of control and power in knowing another person's name.  Teachers, for example, can more effectively discipline their students by saying their name out loud.  But calling others by their name is also a sign of care.  To know a person's name is to be in relationship with that person.

In the second commandment we are told not to take the name of the Lord your God in vain but to treat that name as a holy name.  So in keeping this commandment we commit ourselves to only speak God's name in prayer, not as a word of surprise.

When we give scandal through our actions, we also give dishonor to God's name.  When we publicly sin people ask incredulously, "And you're a Christian?"  God said that we bring dishonor to His name when we rebel against Him and act sinfully.  We are responsible for the sanctification of God's name.

Thy Kingdom Come

Pope Benedict tells us that we acknowledge first and foremost the primacy of God.  Where God is absent, nothing can be good.  This refers primarily to the final coming.  This prayer engages us, this desire commits us all the more strongly to living Kingdom values in our own lives.  We ask God to reign here in our hearts and then to extend that reign to our friends and family through us.

Thy Will Be Done

Our Father desires that all people be saved and come to knowledge of the truth.  This is good and pleasing to God who wills that everyone be saved.  Pope Benedict tells us that where God's will is done, that's heaven.  Earth becomes heaven in so far as God's will is done.  We're here to learn to love God totally.  Jesus perfectly fulfilled the will of the Father.  Union with Jesus gives us grace and power to do the will of God perfectly.  St. Teresa  states that she believes that "the only way to come to heaven is to want only what God wants.  Let us place ourselves in His hands so that His will is done in us.  We cannot err with this attitude.  Trust that God's will is the best."

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

This is the most human of all petitions.  Give us the trust of children who look to their Father for everything, in contrast to the way of the world which is all about self-sufficiency and independence.   God told the Hebrews to gather manna in the desert, but to only gather enough for one day.  We have a human tendency to hoard and to find our security in things.

Epiousios, a Greek word not found anywhere else in the Bible but here is translated as "daily". But St. Jerome translated it as "superstansiolis" meaning "superstantial".  St. Jerome pointed to the higher substance that God gives us in this passage of the prayer.  This fourth petition of The Lord's Prayer is a Eucharistic petition; we are asking to receive the Eucharist daily.  This presents a challenge.  Do we value the Eucharist enough to participate as much as possible, even attending daily Mass during the week?  St. Thomas Aquinas said that what happened at the last supper was the greatest miracle of Jesus.  If we really believe that, how can we not be at Mass and receive the Eucharist every single day?

St. Teresa tells us that unless we give our wills entirely to the Lord we will never be allowed to drink from the fount of good prayer, that is, contemplation.  We can't do it on our own.  We're too weak and self-centered.  But when we receive the Eucharist we get the strength to unite our will with Christ.  We are more able to fulfill the will of the Father as Jesus did.  St. Teresa, speaking in this passage about herself said, "I know a person with serious illnesses.  Because the wonders this Sacred Bread effects in those who receive it, the Lord had given her such living faith that when someone said that they wished they could have lived at the time of Christ, she laughed, because when they receive the Eucharist, they have Him now, and not just one last supper, but He can do that for us everyday.  This person, though she wasn't perfect, strove to live His will every day.  Spend time after Communion to be with Him and converse with Him.  Strive to close the eyes of the body and open those of the soul and look into your own heart."

If we can't receive Communion every day, we should make a spiritual communion.  Say, "Lord, I wish I could receive You now.  Come to me spiritually." Then spend time reflecting on His Eucharistic presence.  With this we grow to perfection, not so much in how we are feeling, but in how we act; how we love.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses

Having received daily Bread we now have the power to forgive as Jesus did.  Pope Benedict tells us that forgiveness is a theme that pervades the whole Gospel.  It's astonishing because it makes a strict requirement of us.  When hurt or attacked our tendency is to hold on to a grudge.  But our petition will not be heard unless we have first met this strict requirement of forgiveness.  If we say we are without sin, we are liars, St. John tells us.  So with bold confidence we pray to Our Father begging Him to forgive us.  This is daunting.

Jesus often used the word "as" such as  "Be merciful as your Heavenly Father is merciful."  Holiness means loving and forgiving as Jesus did.  It is not in our power to forget or not to feel hurt, but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion.  Jesus transformed his hurt into intercession.  "Father, forgive those who are doing this to me."

It takes two to be reconciled.  The only sin that is retained is the one that we don't bring to the Lord for forgiveness.

We need to pray for the conversion of sinners.  We pray for the conversion of every human soul, not for their condemnation or destruction.  Being ready to forgive our enemies means praying for them and their ultimate conversion.

St. Teresa tells us not to trust too much in prayer that isn't forgiving.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

God doesn't lead us into temptation.  But God allows temptation, the temptation that comes from the devil.  We don't know why He allows it.  It could be for our self-knowledge and humility.  It could be as a penance that we experience temptation to dampen our pride and avoid forming too high of an opinion of ourselves.  It could be so that we grow in compassion because we suffer.  When we see others who are tempted we can say, "There but for the grace of God go I."  Because Jesus was tempted he can help others who are tempted, and so we can do the same, to help others who are tempted like us.

Finally, He could allow temptation for our growth.  To make real progress on the path from superficial piety with God's will, man needs to be tried and tested.  If you can identify your temptations, then God is calling you to grow in a particular virtue.  Exercise that virtue and grow in it.  St. Teresa tells us that the foundation of life consists in not only prayer, but also in virtue.  Look for virtue, not in the corners away from the din, but right in the midst of the occasion of sin.  We grow in union with Jesus when we fight temptation.  The greatest saints had the greatest temptation.  Jesus suffered our temptations to the bitter end.

Deliver Us From Evil

This last petition is also included in Jesus' prayer, "Don't take them out of the world but away from the evil one."  It touches each one of us individually, bu it is always "we" who pray for the conversion of "all."  With this petition we need to ask for nothing more.  We've come to the end of our prayer.  The last petition brings us back to the first three.  St. Teresa tells us that evils will continue but through the Eucharist we are given the Bread that helps us to overcome the world.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Mighty Deeds

"Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”   So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.  He was amazed at their lack of faith." ~from Mark 6:1-6

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to attend daily Mass on my lunch break.  Those thirty minutes of prayer in the midst of sharing bits and pieces of my client's lives at the clinic where I work helps me to cope with the stories I hear that are sad, stressful and difficult. And those thirty minutes of prayer allow me to deeply thank God when the stories I hear are happy, miraculous and joyful.

At a recent noon Mass, during his homily, Fr. Matt Walsh, SJ, spoke about Mark's  Gospel passage regarding the lack of welcome that Jesus received in His hometown.  He asked, "What could it possibly mean that Jesus wasn't able to perform any mighty deed apart from curing a few sick?  Wasn't curing a few sick considered a mighty deed?"   Fr. Matt explained that the mighty deeds that Jesus had wanted to perform weren't pertaining to the curing of the sick but rather to the increasing of faith in the people of his home town.  These people knew Jesus from His earliest days and they could not accept the fact that He was the Son of God.  They couldn't believe.

I reflected upon this as I prayed for the clients I had seen in my office that morning and for those that I would see in the afternoon to come.  So many of the women I see live lives of deep faith and trust, never really knowing where their next meal will come from, or waiting long hours for transportation while their restless children run and play in cold hallways, fearlessly fleeing from far-away countries for the promise of a better life in America where everything, including the language and the food, is strange to them, struggling to break free from abusive relationships and create a new life for themselves, selflessly giving their babies up for adoption, trusting that a stranger can promise a better life for the little ones that grow within their wombs.  Don't all of these situations require lives of faith and trust in a God who can bring good out of a seemingly hopeless situation?  

And how do I fit into the scenario of faith?  Perhaps I am more like those hometown residents of Jesus than I would care to admit.  Even when I am witness to stories of hope and faith through the course of my workday, when I see God performing miracles of love in lives that are extremely difficult, I fail to put my full trust in the Lord and believe that He will continue to carry me forward to a beautiful life abandoned completely to His love.  Too often I act as though all of the problems I encounter can be resolved through my own actions.  I dig my heels in and stubbornly resist God's plans for my life, rather than believing that with God all things are possible, even my own sanctity.

I do believe, Lord.  Help my unbelief.  Don't turn your back on my lack of faith but open my heart to  Your ability and desire to perform mighty deeds within my soul.  Amen.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Tree of Life Sea Glass Mosaic Final Post-Mary as the Tree of Life

"Happy the soul in which Mary, the Tree of Life, is planted; happier the soul in which she has acquired growth and bloom; still happier the soul in which she yields her fruit; but most happy of all: the soul which relishes and preserves Mary's fruit until death, and for ever and ever. Amen." ~St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of Mary

Tree of Life Mosaic with natural lighting
Christi Jentz and I completed our Tree of Life Sea Glass Mosaic this past weekend!  We began the project last June with the passage from the book of Revelation in mind, but as I prayed over this project during the past seven months, I came to feel that St. Louis de Montfort's explanation of  Mary as the True Tree of Life who bore the fruit of the tree, Jesus, to be more meaningful to my heart than the Revelation passage, although that is still very fitting and very beautiful.

I renewed my Marian Consecration on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.  While attending the noon Mass on my work lunch break on my consecration renewal day, I was pleased to hear Father speak about consecration and the need to renew the offering of our complete self, our bodies, mind and spirit to the Lord.  Father had no idea, of course, that I was thrilling from his words, feeling that this was a confirmation from God that my consecration must be pleasing to Him.

And the fact that we completed the mosaic in time for my Marian Consecration also felt like a little confirmation of my thoughts regarding the Tree of Life as a sign of Mary's self-giving for Christ.   For the past seven years as I bent down upon the shores of Lake Michigan to gather the small shards of glass, I always felt that each piece of glass I collected was a small prayer of praise to God from me, and a gift of love to me from Him.  So shaping the glass into a Tree of Life Mosaic became a meaningful prayer of completion.  It became a way that I could give the gift of sea glass back to Him, through my love for Mary and my desire to draw ever more closely to the Heart of Jesus.

What a glorious day this day of Consecration is-presenting myself to Jesus through Mary on the day that she presented Jesus to God, and then seeing that gift symbolized in this beautiful work of art, made with small, found pieces of glass arranged with love by the hands of artisan Christi Jentz, who patiently taught me as I worked beside her, just as our Lord learned his artisan craft of carpentry by working beside the ever-patient St. Joseph.  The Presentation has come full circle, hasn't it?  Mary and St. Joseph presented their Son as a gift, and I, in turn, present the offering of my life and my love for sea glass as a gift to glorify both Mary and Jesus.  How amazing this life of faith truly is and how much there is to ponder in the words of St. Louis de Montfort and his book The Secret of Mary!

Tree of Life Mosaic with white background
"Chosen soul, provided you thus carefully cultivate the Tree of Life, which has been freshly planted in your soul by the Holy Spirit, I can assure you that in a short time it will grow so tall that the birds of the air will make their home in it. It will become such a good tree that it will yield in due season the sweet and adorable Fruit of honour and grace, which is Jesus, who has always been and will always be the only fruit of Mary." ~St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of Mary
Tree of Life mosaic with blue background
"This tree, once planted in a docile heart, requires fresh air and no human support. Being of heavenly origin, it must be uninfluenced by any creature, since a creature might hinder it from rising up towards God who created it. Hence you must not rely on your own endeavours or your natural talents or your personal standing or the guidance of men. You must resort to Mary, relying solely on her help." ~St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of Mary
flowers in springtime details
"The person in whose soul this tree has taken root must, like a good gardener, watch over it and protect it. For this tree, having life and capable of producing the fruit of life, should be raised and tended with enduring care and attention of soul. A soul that desires to be holy will make this its chief aim and occupation." ~St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of Mary
leafing out in summer details
"You must guard against grubs doing harm to the tree. These parasites are love of self and love of comfort, and they eat away the green foliage of the Tree and frustrate the fair hope it offered of yielding good fruit; for love of self is incompatible with love of Mary." ~St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of Mary
autumn color details-if you look closely at the top orange triangle in this section, you will see that it is a seed, like a tiny mustard seed....
"You must offer yourself to Mary, happily lose yourself in her, only to find God in her. If the Holy Spirit has planted in your soul the true Tree of Life, which is the devotion that I have just explained, you should see carefully to its cultivation, so that it will yield its fruit in due season. This devotion is like the mustard seed of the Gospel, which is indeed the smallest of all seeds, but nevertheless it grows into a big plant, shooting up so high that the birds of the air, that is, the elect, come and make their nest in its branches. They repose there, shaded from the heat of the sun, and safely hidden from beasts of prey." ~St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of Mary
winter ice details
"Yet you need not be alarmed when the winds blow and shake this tree, for it must happen that the storm-winds of temptation will threaten to bring it down, and snow and frost tend to smother it. By this we mean that this devotion to our Blessed Lady will surely be called into question and attacked. But as long as we continue steadfastly in tending it, we have nothing to fear." ~St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of Mary

"You must not allow this tree to be damaged by destructive animals, that is, by sins, for they may cause its death simply by their contact. They must not be allowed even to breathe upon the Tree, because their mere breath, that is, venial sins, which are most dangerous when we do not trouble ourselves about them." ~St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of Mary

"It is also necessary to water this Tree regularly with your Communions, Masses and other public and private prayers. Otherwise it will not continue bearing fruit." ~St. Louis de Montfort, The Secret of Mary

the last of the sea glass from seven years of collecting

the last of the sea glass from seven years of collecting

with the soon-to-be finished project in the background

our next project-Mother and Child
For more on this Tree of Life project see the initial post here, a follow-up here, another follow-up here, and Christi's blog here.