Quick Lessons from the Catechism – What is Prayer?

Since today is the National Day of Prayer here in the United States of America, and since I have not written a Quick Lessons from the Catechism (QLC) in many months, I thought I would quickly review with you what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) says about prayer. Now it should be noted, the entire last section of the Catechism focuses on Christian prayer. It should also be noted that I have written on other aspects of prayer in the past. You can check those out on the QLC page on this website.

Recently, I have had two excellent experiences with prayer – first, was on Monday night with my Brother Knights of Knights of Columbus. Since it is May – the month of Mary, I thought it would be good to get together and pray the Holy Rosary. We had 32 men show up to pray the Rosary. It was pretty awesome to pray the Holy Rosary with so many Brothers. Because they enjoyed it so much, this is going to become a regular prayer gathering before our monthly meetings.

Second, during the Season of Lent and into the Easter Season, I have been praying the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office), which is actually the official prayer of the Catholic Church. Priests and Religious are required to pray it daily. What I have been doing, since it is bit difficult to get into a habit on your own (most times it is said in community), is that I try to pray 1-2 offices a day (morning prayer/daytime prayer/evening prayer/night prayer). Personally, I have found that when I do pray it, my day is more complete and my relationship is better that day with Christ and His Church. The app, iBreviary, is a great way to start praying the Liturgy of the Hours without purchasing the four-volume set.

Sassoferrato – Virgin Mother

Now let’s quickly examine what the Catechism says about the question – What is Prayer? The CCC answers the question directly with a quote from St. Therese of Lisieux –

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”

Furthermore, the Catechism says,

“Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God” (St. John Damascene, De fide orth. 3, 24:PG 94, 1089C). [#2590]

God tirelessly calls each person to this mysterious encounter with Himself. Prayer unfolds throughout the whole history of salvation as a reciprocal call between God and man. [#2591]

The prayer of Abraham and Jacob is presented as a battle of faith marked by trust in God’s faithfulness and by certitude in the victory promised to perseverance. [#2592]

The prayer of Moses responds to the living God’s initiative for the salvation of his people. It foreshadows the prayer of intercession of the unique mediator, Christ Jesus. [#2593]

The prayer of the People of God flourished in the shadow of the dwelling place of God’s presence on earth, the ark of the covenant and the Temple, under the guidance of their shepherds, especially King David, and of the prophets. [#2594]

The prophets summoned the people to conversion of heart and, while zealously seeking the face of God, like Elijah, they interceded for the people. [#2595]

The Psalms constitute the masterwork of prayer in the Old Testament. They present two inseparable qualities: the personal, and the communal. They extend to all dimensions of history, recalling God’s promises already fulfilled and looking for the coming of the Messiah. [#2596]

Prayed and fulfilled in Christ, the Psalms are an essential and permanent element of the prayer of the Church. They are suitable for men of every condition and time. [#2597]

For a more complete understanding, I would encourage you to read paragraphs 2558-2589. If you are looking for Catholic prayers, here is EWTN’s page on Prayer. If you are interested in learning more about the Liturgy of the Hours, you can read about it here.

“Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady Queen of May

Since today is the 1st of May, I wanted to briefly explain to you why May is the month of Mary. During the month of May, we celebrate the Queen Jewel of all human creatures, the most beautiful and purest flower of all – the Blessed Virgin Mary.

On April 30, 1965, Blessed Paul VI promulgated a document titled, Menso Maio (the Month of May). The encyclical on the “Occasion of the First May” is written about the importance of the month of May and how Mary through her intercession and throne brings mercy to all of God’s people in a magnitude of great abundance (remember: the mercy comes from God as she intercedes for us). I would suggest reading 1 Kings 2:19-21 to see where the Tradition of Mary as Queen began. I have also written on this topic many times in the past. You can read those articles here.

As the Queen of May, Mary is also celebrated in her most magnificent role – Queen of the Universe. With Jesus, she rules from her Heavenly throne always seeking to bring all of humanity closer to her Son. Although many reject Christ, she still longs for them to be close to Him. As a good mother watches over her children, so too, does Mary as Our Queen Mother watch over us.

Queen of Heaven – Diego Velázquez

Even though Catholic devotion and admiration (not worship and adoration – that’s meant for God and God alone) is rooted in her love, mercy, and tenderness for us, it is truly Mary’s holiness and purity that unites us to her and assists us in having a deeper devotion to Jesus through Her. She seeks us the Immaculate Conception and the Perpetual Virgin to protect us from all sin and Satan, for she did not know either. She is the fairest of all of God’s creatures and seeks for us to know that sacrificial love that unfolds in her.

As we celebrate this month dedicated to her, let us appreciate the Immaculate Conception, who is our Mother. She who is “full of grace,” can intercede and aid us in our own impurities, which in turn will help us grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Our Lady Queen of May…Pray for Us

“Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of Jasna Gora

On Wednesday, May 3, in the country of Poland, they will celebrate the Marian feast of Our Lady of Jasna Gora, commonly known as the Black Madonna and Our Lady of Czestochowa.

Jasna Gora, which means, “bright hill” is the name of the monastery in the central region of Southern Poland known as Czestochowa. The monastery, along with other rooms of sacred art, has in its collection the Black Madonna, Our Lady of Jasna Gora. It’s one of the most important pilgrimage sites in all of Europe, in comparison to Lourdes, Rome, Fatima, Santiago, and Guadalupe, drawing in nearly 5 million pilgrims from around the globe. Jasna Gora is the spiritual epicenter, the heart of Poland, and the country’s national shrine.

The genesis of the image, which has miracles surrounding it, is not completely known. However, according to some traditions within the Catholic Church, it is believed to be the portrait of Our Lady painted by St. Luke the Evangelist sometime after the Crucifixion of Our Lord.

It is believed that the image of Blessed Mother remained in the Holy Land for the early centuries of the Church, until St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine found the image in the 4th century. History and tradition tells us that Constantine sent his mother to Jerusalem to locate certain relics of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, after he legalized Christianity. The image was carried to the city of Constantinople where Emperor Constantine built a church for the sacred image.

At one point in the history of Constantinople, Saracen invaders attacked the city, however they became very frightened and fled after the people carried the picture around the city in procession. The image of the Blessed Mother remained in the city for nearly 500 years. Eventually, it became part of dowries and was taken to a region of Eastern Europe that became known as Poland.

While in Poland, the sacred image became the possession of St. Ladislaus, a Polish prince who reigned during the 15th century. As the image was kept in the castle, Tartar invaders attacked his castle and pierced the image with an arrow.

Determined to keep the image from being attacked any longer, St. Ladislaus decided to bring it to his birthplace. As his entourage stopped to rest in the town of Czestochowa, the sacred painting was placed in a small wooden church named for the Assumption of Mary nearby Jasna Gora. As St. Ladislaus was ready to set out the following morning, the horses that carried the image on a wagon refused to move. He took this as a sign from Heaven that the image of the Black Madonna was to remain in Czestochowa.

On August 26, 1382, he enthroned the image in the Church of the Assumption. St. Ladislaus wanted the image to be protected and guarded by the holiest of men. He asked the Pauline Fathers to take on this mission, now known as the aforementioned monastery. The monastery continues to protect the image to this day.

Although Our Lady’s image was attacked previously, more attacks would come upon it in the years ahead. Followers of the heretic priest, John Hus, attacked the Pauline monastery in 1430 and destroyed the sanctuary. The Hussites stole the image and placed it in a wagon, but as before, the horses refused to move. Getting frustrated because the horses would not move, they threw the painting on the ground. The image broke into three pieces.

One of the pillagers drew his sword and slashed the image twice causing two deep gashes. It is said that the image bled from these marks. While trying to cause a third slash, the man endured great anguish and suddenly died. The two slashes on the cheek of the Black Madonna and the mark from the arrow on the neck have always been depicted on the image. Artists have tried to repair the marks in the past, however, the marks just reappear.

In 1655, a band of 12,000 Swedes ventured to destroy the image. The 300 men who were protecting the image in the Jasna Gora Monastery battled the vandals and routed them out. The image itself is acclaimed to helping the men of the monastery rout out the invaders.

In 1656, the Holy Virgin was announced as the Queen and Protector of Poland.

In 1920, the Polish people prayed to Our Lady as the Russian army was about to invade Poland at the River Vistula. As the image appeared in the clouds, the Russians withdrew their attack. This is known as the Miracle of Vistula in Poland.

During World War II, 500,000 Poles made a pilgrimage to the city of Czestochowa in defiance to Hitler’s orders, which stated that all religious pilgrimages had to cease. After Poland was liberated from Nazi rule, one and half million people gave thanksgiving to the Black Madonna by praying before the sacred and miraculous image.

In 1948, as the entire nation of Poland was held captive by Communist Russia, nearly 800,000 courageous Poles made a pilgrimage to the city and sanctuary of Czestochowa at Jasna Gora Monastery on the Feast of the Assumption.

The Black Madonna to this day is honored by not only the Polish people, but even in America at the Shrine in Doylestown, PA on August 26. It is known as the Black Madonna because of the dark colors on Our Lady’s face and hands. The color is ascribed simply not because the image is old but also because it was kept in places where the smoke of votive candles changed the pigmentation of it. Many Popes, including Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI have traveled to venerate the image.

Our Lady of Jasna Gora…Pray for Us.

“Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of Good Counsel

Since this upcoming Wednesday, April 26, is the feast of Our Lady of Counsel, I thought I would share with you the story behind the image and how devotion has unfolded since the mid to later fifteenth century.

In the small town of Genazzano, in the Alban Hills, not that far from Rome, Italy, is the where the image of Our Lady of Good Counsel (Mater boni consilii in Latin) is located and venerated by the faithful. In 1467, during the Feast of St. Mark, pilgrims to the area heard beautiful music playing. As their attention was drawn to the sky, they witnessed what seemed to be a cloud slowly descending upon a wall of the church that was unfinished. The wall where the cloud came to rest was dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God with the title of Good Counsel. For five centuries, the image rests suspended, with no visible support. The image is painted on plaster, which is no thicker than a card. It has remained there all these many years. It is not known to this day who painted the image.

The two figures represent the Mother and the Child after their return from the Temple where they presented Jesus and also where Simeon spoke the sad prophecies to Mary. Our Lady’s eyes are half closed as she is in contemplation – she is taking counsel with God. Our Lord, the little child, does not look at us, but He looks to his Mother, showing us that we must turn to her for Counsel – the Seat of Wisdom. It is an image that should be in every home.

Mary became the Mother of God when the Holy Spirit overshadowed her at the Annunciation. She now holds the gifts of the Holy Spirit – wisdom, understanding, and counsel. Since she is the spouse of the Holy Spirit, the Blessed Virgin Mary has become our Mother of Good Counsel. Mary was the given the responsibility and duty to counsel Our Lord Jesus Christ as a child. Knowing this, we should look towards her when seeking counsel for our own lives.

Original image

Since the moment on the cross when Jesus gave her to us through the Beloved Apostle, she has been diligently watching over all of us. Through protecting us, leading us closer to Jesus, and aiding us in all things – she is Our Lady, Our Mother of Good Counsel. The Blessed Virgin Mary was trusted by God to watch over the Son, so too must we must learn to entrust ourselves to her loving care and watchful eye.

Under this title of Mother of Good Counsel, the Blessed Virgin is also known as the Madonna of the Popes. Many Popes in the history of the Church have had a devotion to her. The greatest devotee of among the Popes would have to be Pope Leo XIII. During his Papacy, he created the white scapular, which is worn by the servants of the Mother of Good Counsel. As a motto he said to her followers, “Children, follow her counsels.”

In an address from October 1979 in Washington, D.C., speaking about Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, which is connected to Our Lady of Good Counsel, the Great Polish Pope said this –

“To succeed in your intention, entrust yourselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary always, but especially in the moments of difficulty and darkness. ‘From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in all things. From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone. From Mary we learn to love Christ, her Son and the Son of God…Learn from her to be always faithful, to trust that God’s Word to you will be fulfilled, and that nothing is impossible with God.’”

I would encourage you to place an image of Our Lady of Good Counsels in your homes, if you don’t have one already.

Our Lady, Mother of Good Counsel…Pray for Us.

Our Lady of Good Counsel by Pasquale Sarullo, 19th century.

Source:

Fongemie, Pauly. “Mater Boni Consilii.” OUR LADY OF GOOD COUNSEL. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.

750th Blog Post 

The Knights of Columbus: A Band of Brothers Going Into the Breach

Recently, as in the past couple of years, I have become more active with the Knights of Columbus at my parish (Council 13779). In the past month, I was appointed by the Grand Knight to be the council’s new Lecturer. The position speaks about the good of the order and encourages the men to live good lives and to practice their faith well on a variety of fronts, since we all need that encouragement from time to time.

I have also taken the initiative to get more involved with the Fourth Degree Assembly and will participate, as my schedule permits, with the Honor Guard. Last Thursday, for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, was the first time I wore the Knights of Columbus Regalia in nearly 10 years. I was incredibly blessed to be a part of it. It brought reverence and respect to an already solemn and sacred Mass (see pictures).

Processing into the Holy Thursday Mass – April 2017.

Me dressed in my regalia.

For the past twenty-four years, since I was nineteen years of age, I have been a member in the Knights of Columbus. It was my Dad who first joined the Knights, and then a few months later, I followed his example and joined. We were both charter members of Council 11007. During my junior year of college, I served as the Grand Knight and Membership Director at the University of San Francisco College Council.

While a Theology teacher at St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Phoenix in 2006, I was a part of the Fourth Degree Assembly that help found the Columbian Squires Circle #5000. It was a great honor being part of this endeavor! Currently, there are two young men studying in seminary for the Diocese of Phoenix that were members of Circle #5000.

There is so much that the Knights of Columbus engage in, it would be impossible to tell you everything in this one article, however, I want to briefly explain the 4 Principles of the Order – Charity, Unity, Fraternity, and Patriotism.

In Charity, members of the Knights of Columbus are called to love their neighbors. Through our faith in God, and from our Baptismal call, we are to do the mission of Christ today by serving those in need. The Knights do this by having food drives, clothing drives, and giving food to local soup kitchens/food pantries. We are involved with the Special Olympics, Culture of Life Fund, Coats for Kids, Christian Refugee Relief, Food for Families, and many others. The Knights are one of the largest charitable organizations in the world today.

In Unity, we remain together in a brotherhood, a “band of brothers”, focusing on our roles and duties as Catholic men. We all struggle at different times in our lives, being united as this “band of brothers” gives us strength in numbers, because together we can accomplish more than being alone. We will disagree and have different opinions, but in this “band of brothers,” we will always have each other’s back. One of the great aspects of this is always asking for prayers and sending out messages when a brother or family member needs prayers (my council does this often).

In Fraternity, the Knights of Columbus provides assistance to the individual Knight as well as his family. The founding of the Knights, by Venerable Michael J. McGivney, found in its cornerstone this very element – to assist widows and children that were left struggling when the head of the family died, most often prematurely. The insurance program provides such assistance to this day. Through fraternity, the Knights serve millions of service hours a year in order to provide mercy and compassion to those most in need.

In Patriotism, we in the Knights are composed of many heritage backgrounds. We are Americans, Canadians, Mexicans, Cubans, Filipinos, Poles, and Dominicans – all patriotic members of society. Our devotion for God and country allows us to profess the importance for religious freedoms for everyone. We serve our Veterans and seek to care for them when needed. Whatever sector we work in, public or private, as Catholic men, it is our duty to serve our countries and be counted among the best citizens possible.

In the end, the Knights of Columbus are a Band of Brothers Going Into the Breach!

Fourth Degree Assembly #3327 in regalia.

To conclude, here are the words of the great Polish Pope, St. John Paul II, from a letter to the Knights of Columbus he penned in 2002,

“For this reason [blossoming of the New Evangelization], I am most pleased that the Knights have continued to emphasize the need for profound spiritual renewal as the basis for the many and varied initiatives undertaken in support of the Church’s mission…As the Church in America seeks to move forward with sincere faith and confidence in the Lord’s sustaining grace, I urge all the Knights and their families to intensify their prayers for the authentic renewal of ecclesial life and the preservation of “that unity which has the Spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force” (Eph 4:3)…I express once more my gratitude for the Knights’ unfailing commitment to promoting vocations to the priesthood and the religious life…I pray that the Knights of Columbus, in full fidelity to the vision of Father Michael McGivney, will make every effort to draw young people to Jesus Christ and help them to understand that the true meaning and value of life is found in the generous gift of self to God and to others.”

If you are a Catholic male over the age of 18 (or know of one) and not in the Knights of Columbus, I would highly encourage you to join and get involved with the Knights of Columbus. Catholic men need to stand up and join the fight of this post-secular culture – the Knights of Columbus is a great way to engage in that battle (and yes, we carry swords!)

To join, ask any Knight of Columbus or contact your local parish Membership Chair.

Venerable Michael J. McGivney…Pray for Us.

Postscript: Please – any comments made should be done with charity and respect. Any comments attacking the author (me), the ceremonials of the Knights of Columbus, or each other will not be approved. Just because the ceremonials are not public, doesn’t mean they contradict Church teachings. I am sorry and apologize if someone in the Order offended you, hurt you, or caused you pain in the past. We should not put blame on the entire Order because of individual members. All comments are read by me and only approved with my discretion. Thank you. He is Risen! Happy Easter!

“Mondays with Mary” – Was the Blessed Virgin Mary the first to see the Resurrected Lord?

In a recent homily at our monthly Latin Mass, my boss and Pastor, made reference to something he once heard – the Blessed Virgin Mary was the first to see Jesus after his resurrection instead of St. Mary Magdalene, as the Gospels proclaim. It was a footnote in his homily more than anything else. As he said it, I thought to myself that I had never heard of such an idea. I just know what the Gospels tell us.

After Mass, Father said he was looking towards me when he said it thinking that I would have heard of it somewhere in my studies and in my writings on Mary via this blog. I told him I had never heard of it and asked him where he read it, but he said he didn’t read it. He heard it somewhere, however, he couldn’t remember where it was specifically.

Not thinking about researching that idea that night, I just came home and wrote on something else. As I was trying to figure out what to write for today’s “Mondays with Mary”, I was doing some online searches since I hoped to incorporate Mary with Easter. Not thinking I was going to find anything specific, I came upon an older Catholic website asking that same question I am asking today – Was the Blessed Virgin Mary the first to see the Resurrected Lord?

The website lead me to the Papal Audience of none other than – Pope St. John Paul II!!

Christ Appearing to His Mother – Rogier van der Weyden; Flemish, ca. 1445

Before you read this, I would say – go into it with an open heart. This is not definitive Church doctrine, but something we could reflect and contemplate in our hearts during this Easter Octave. Again, I don’t believe the Catholic Church doctrinally teaches on this point anywhere specifically, I would be interested to know the Orthodox view; but John Paul II gives us the opportunity here to use both our reason and our hearts to discover something about the relationship between Jesus and His Mother we may have never thought happened.

Instead of providing you with the entire text, here is the link to the Vatican website – General Audience – May 21, 1997 – Mary was witness to whole paschal mystery.

Pray about it this week and if questions come up – feel free to write me one in the comment section. I may or may not be able to answer them completely. If you are a Scripture buff, just keep in mind that the Gospels themselves do say that many other things happened which is not recorded in these writings. Could this interaction between Jesus and Mary be one of them? Remember also that the Gospels talk about Jesus appearing after his Resurrection to more than 500 individuals – if such a big event – why wasn’t it recorded either? Something for us to think about then.

Post Script: Just as I was about to publish this post, I found this article from May 2011 on The New Theological Movement.

I hope that you all had a blessed and joyful Easter Sunday and that your Easter Octave is as equally blessed.

HAPPY EASTER!

God raised up Jesus on the third day and granted that he be seen, not by all, but only by such witnesses as had been chosen beforehand by God — by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and to bear witness that he is the one set apart by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets testify, saying that everyone who believes in him has forgiveness of sins through his name. – Acts of the Apostles 10:40-43 (From today’s Morning Prayer Reading)

To all of my followers/readers through WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media and Catholic sites, I wish you a very Blessed and Joyful Easter Season! Thank you for your support and your prayers.

Christ has Risen, indeed! Alleluia!