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.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: The Person and Society

In light of recent events developing in the world, I want to refocus my efforts and turn back towards a series I haven’t worked on for some time – Quick Lessons from the Catechism.

I think there are Catholics who are unaware that the universal Catechism of the Catholic Church focuses on many things that pertain to our every day lives. For today’s QLC, I want to focus on what the Catholic Church teaches on when it comes to The Person and Society. The human community’s image lies in the image of God and focuses on the divine. Paragraph 1877 in the Catechism states,

The vocation of humanity is to show forth the image of God and to be transformed into the image of the Father’s only Son. This vocation takes a personal form since each of us is called to enter into the divine beatitude; it also concerns the human community as a whole.

In his encyclical, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (On Social Concern), Pope St. John Paul II says,

“Development that does not include the cultural, transcendent and religious dimensions of man and society, to the extent that it does not recognize the existence of such dimensions and does not endeavor to direct its goals and priorities toward the same, is even less conducive to authentic liberation. Human beings are totally free only when they are completely themselves, in the fullness of their rights and duties. The same can be said about society as a whole.”

For more on authentic liberation, I would encourage you to check out my QLC on The Freedom of Humanity and Religious Freedom.

With this being said, let’s examine quickly, what the Catechism of the Catholic Church states on The Person and Society –

There is a certain resemblance between the union of the divine persons and the fraternity that men ought to establish among themselves. [#1890]

The human person needs life in society in order to develop in accordance with his nature. Certain societies, such as the family and the state, correspond more directly to the nature of man. [#1891]

“The human person . . . is and ought to be the principle, the subject, and the object of every social organization” (GS 25 # 1). [1#892]

Widespread participation in voluntary associations and institutions is to be encouraged. [#1893]

In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, neither the state nor any larger society should substitute itself for the initiative and responsibility of individuals and intermediary bodies. [#1894]

Society ought to promote the exercise of virtue, not obstruct it. It should be animated by a just hierarchy of values. [#1895]

Where sin has perverted the social climate, it is necessary to call for the conversion of hearts and appeal to the grace of God. Charity urges just reforms. There is no solution to the social question apart from the Gospel (cf CA 3, 5). [#1896]

For more information on this topic, I would encourage you to read paragraphs 1878-1889. To read what Pope St. John Paul II has to say on Social Concern, I would encourage you to read the aforementioned encyclical. He experienced firsthand the destruction of the human person and authentic freedom in Poland after World War II.

Heads Up – June 2016

Now that we have entered the summer months and things have slowed down a bit for me at the parish, I wanted to update everyone on what you can expect from me over the next few months.

First, I am going to continue to write throughout the summer, as I have done in the past, but the writing may not be as frequent as in past summers. I will continue to focus on my “Mondays with Mary” and Quick Lessons from the Catechism series, but there might be some days (Mondays in particular) that you won’t find a new blog post. I am going to take some much needed vacation time to spend with family and friends.

Second, the reason why my writing is not going to be as frequent is because it is my hope to finish two manuscripts that I have begun. One is based on my “Mondays with Mary” series and other is focused on the Doctors of the Catholic Church, also part of my blog writing. I really need to get these finished, edited, into the hands of the diocese for ecclesiastical approval, and then to publishers. Pray that Catholic publishers are interested in my manuscripts so that you can purchase them in the future.

Third, although I am compensated well through my position at the parish, there is always a need for more financial support, especially for those of us who have chosen to work for the Church. If you enjoy what you read on my blog, would like to thank me for my blog posts, and want to see more posts faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church, please prayerfully consider making a donation. You can find the PayPal link on the main page of this blog or just click on the aforementioned link. Thank you in advance.

Lastly, please pray for me. Working for the Catholic Church is hard work, and more often than not, the devil is prowling around seeking to destroy and confuse. There are two scripture passages that I often think about – Ephesians 6:10-18 and 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 – they often bring me consolation knowing that even St. Paul endured sufferings.

Thank you for the support and enjoy your summer!

Praise Be Jesus Christ…Now and Forever!

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: Resurrection of the Body (and One Year Without Dad)

One year ago today, April 22, 2015, my Dad, Thomas Michael Perna Sr., passed away due to complications with Crohn’s Disease, which he endured for many years. It was the hardest day of my life as well as one of the hardest years for my entire family.

I can honestly say that this past year has taught me more about myself than any other year previously. I have realized how life short truly is. I have realized that the Christian lifestyle is not a bed of roses (not that I thought this before), but a life with experiences of suffering. And although the culture will say to us that suffering is bad and we should avoid it at all costs, enduring my Dad’s death has helped me grow more in love with Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. The one saying that I try to embrace/apply to my life is the quote from Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, “Suffering is not a problem to be solved; it is a mystery to be lived.”

I wouldn’t wish the pain, the nights feeling alone, and the nights struggling to sleep (like right now…it’s in the 2am hour and I am awake) on my worst enemy. Maybe it’s coming across that I am contradicting myself when I say I try to endure suffering, but wish the pain wasn’t there. This is something contradictory about death since we are made for life. It’s hard to write and explain what the last year has been like unless you have also endured this type of loss yourself.

For someone who talks about life and death on a daily basis, this year has challenged me in ways that I never thought were possible. Although I miss my Dad immensely and not a day goes by that I don’t wish I had just more day with him, he has provided me so much to teach others with – either through this blog or in my position at the parish. It was always his desire that I would be able to do the things I am doing in my writing and in my position as a catechist and evangelist in the parish. The eulogy I gave at the vigil and viewing last year was just the beginning of what Dad gave me with his exodus from this side of Heaven.

So as we do with all those that go before us – we pray for them and ask them to pray for us. We offer Masses for them in the hopes that our prayers will bring them to Heaven as well as ask them to intercede for us when we need prayers. It’s my hope that Dad is in Heaven or at least making his way to Heaven. In the end, we all will endure this thing we call death. Let us hope that through Jesus’ Resurrection, we will come to know and see our resurrection in the life to come.

So with this being said, for today’s QLC, let’s briefly examine what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say on Death and the Resurrection of the Body –

“’The flesh is the hinge of salvation’ (Tertullian, De res. 8, 2:PL 2, 852). We believe in God who is creator of the flesh; we believe in the Word made flesh in order to redeem the flesh; we believe in the resurrection of the flesh, the fulfillment of both the creation and the redemption of the flesh.” [#1015]

“By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. Just as Christ is risen and lives for ever, so all of us will rise at the last day.” [#1016]

“‘We believe in the true resurrection of this flesh that we now possess’ (Council of Lyons II: DS 854). We sow a corruptible body in the tomb, but he raises up an incorruptible body, a ‘spiritual body’ (cf. 1 Cor 15:42-44). [#1017]

As a consequence of original sin, man must suffer ‘bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned’ (GS § 18). [#1018]

Jesus, the Son of God, freely suffered death for us in complete and free submission to the will of God, his Father. By his death he has conquered death, and so opened the possibility of salvation to all men. [#1019]

For a complete understanding of this topic, I would encourage you to also read paragraphs 988-1014, especially the paragraphs that speak about The meaning of Christian death.

On this day, I ask for prayers for the repose of the soul of my Dad, Thomas M. Perna, Sr. Thank you.

All Glory, Praise, and Thanksgiving to Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: Sacrament of Confirmation

Over the past few days, through a variety of different avenues at the parish, I have either overseen or directly taught on the Sacrament of Confirmation. On Monday night, Fr. Chris Axline, Chaplain and Theology Teacher as Seton Catholic Preparatory, taught RCIA Mystagogy about the Rites of Baptism and Confirmation that happened at the Easter Vigil. Yesterday morning during our Tuesday morning adult faith formation book study, I taught on the writings of St. Cyril of Jerusalem and what he said about Baptism and Confirmation in the 4th century.

During both sessions that were taught about Confirmation, we both spoke briefly on the “slap” that once was given to those receiving the sacrament on the cheek from the Bishop. This light “slap” was to remind those receiving Confirmation that you are now a solider for Christ, and with that, will come combat and battles (read CCC 1303 – effects of the Confirmation). In my morning session from yesterday, there were numerous parishioners that remember receiving this from the Bishop when they received Confirmation. Many of the participants realize the importance of spiritual warfare and are prepared to combat Satan and his minions. Read Ephesians 6:10-18.

Satan's arse

I know for my generation (I was confirmed nearly 25 years ago at the age of 17), Confirmation was seen as a “graduation” of sorts from the Church. The overall general attitude among those receiving the sacrament, mostly cultural Catholics at the time, was – now that I am confirmed, I don’t have to go to church anymore and be involved. If I had to take a guess of where this disposition began it would have to be that we (members of the Church here in the USA) turned the sacrament of Confirmation into a sacrament of choice and not the final sacrament of full initiation into the Church. The sacrament of Confirmation was never meant to be a choice. The sacrament assists us in making good choices and should be given at the age of reason.

Before I descend to deep into this rabbit hole that I enjoy speaking about, let’s focus our attention to what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches on the Sacrament of Confirmation –

“Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:14-17). [#1315]

Confirmation perfects Baptismal grace; it is the sacrament which gives the Holy Spirit in order to root us more deeply in the divine filiation, incorporate us more firmly into Christ, strengthen our bond with the Church, associate us more closely with her mission, and help us bear witness to the Christian faith in words accompanied by deeds. [#1316]

Confirmation, like Baptism, imprints a spiritual mark or indelible character on the Christian’s soul; for this reason one can receive this sacrament only once in one’s life. [#1317]

In the East this sacrament is administered immediately after Baptism and is followed by participation in the Eucharist; this tradition highlights the unity of the three sacraments of Christian initiation. In the Latin Church this sacrament is administered when the age of reason has been reached, and its celebration is ordinarily reserved to the bishop, thus signifying that this sacrament strengthens the ecclesial bond. [#1318]

A candidate for Confirmation who has attained the age of reason must profess the faith, be in the state of grace, have the intention of receiving the sacrament, and be prepared to assume the role of disciple and witness to Christ, both within the ecclesial community and in temporal affairs. [#1319]

The essential rite of Confirmation is anointing the forehead of the baptized with sacred chrism (in the East other sense-organs as well), together with the laying on of the minister’s hand and the words: “Accipe signaculum doni Spiritus Sancti” (Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.) in the Roman rite, or: Signaculum doni Spiritus Sancti [the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit] in the Byzantine rite. [#1320]

When Confirmation is celebrated separately from Baptism, its connection with Baptism is expressed, among other ways, by the renewal of baptismal promises. The celebration of Confirmation during the Eucharist helps underline the unity of the sacraments of Christian initiation. [#1321]

For a deeper understanding of this sacrament, I also suggest you read paragraphs 1285-1314 in the Catechism. To read more about the Restored Order of the Sacraments, I would read this article from Our Sunday Visitor as well as a 2005 article from The National Catholic Register. Below is also a video explanation from Bishop Robert Barron.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism – The Seven Petitions in the Lord’s Prayer

Let us continue and finish up from last week’s QLC’s, which focused on the general understanding of the Lord’s Prayer and the first phrase of the prayer, Our Father Who Art in Heaven. Today, we will briefly examine what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches on the seven petitions in the Lord’s Prayer – “Hallowed by Thy Name”, “Thy Kingdom Come”, “Thy Will Be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven”, “Give Us this Day our Daily Bread”, “And Forgive us our Trespasses, as we Forgive those Who Trespass Against Us”, “And Lead Us not into Temptation”, “But Deliver Us from Evil”. To conclude, we will see what the Catechism says on the Final Doxology of the prayer as well.

In the Our Father, the object of the first three petitions is the glory of the Father: the sanctification of his name, the coming of the kingdom, and the fulfillment of his will. The four others present our wants to him: they ask that our lives be nourished, healed of sin, and made victorious in the struggle of good over evil. [#2857]

By asking “hallowed be thy name” we enter into God’s plan, the sanctification of his name – revealed first to Moses and then in Jesus – by us and in us, in every nation and in each man. [#2858]

By the second petition, the Church looks first to Christ’s return and the final coming of the Reign of God. It also prays for the growth of the Kingdom of God in the “today” of our own lives. [#2859]

In the third petition, we ask our Father to unite our will to that of his Son, so as to fulfill his plan of salvation in the life of the world. [#2860]

In the fourth petition, by saying “give us,” we express in communion with our brethren our filial trust in our heavenly Father. “Our daily bread” refers to the earthly nourishment necessary to everyone for subsistence, and also to the Bread of Life: the Word of God and the Body of Christ. It is received in God’s “today,” as the indispensable, (super-) essential nourishment of the feast of the coming Kingdom anticipated in the Eucharist. [#2861]

The fifth petition begs God’s mercy for our offences, mercy which can penetrate our hearts only if we have learned to forgive our enemies, with the example and help of Christ. [#2862]

When we say “lead us not into temptation” we are asking God not to allow us to take the path that leads to sin. This petition implores the Spirit of discernment and strength; it requests the grace of vigilance and final perseverance. [#2863]

In the last petition, “but deliver us from evil,” Christians pray to God with the Church to show forth the victory, already won by Christ, over the “ruler of this world,” Satan, the angel personally opposed to God and to his plan of salvation. [#2864]

By the final “Amen,” we express our “fiat” concerning the seven petitions: “So be it.” [#2865]

For a deeper understanding of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches on the Seven Petitions, I would encourage you to read paragraphs 2803-2856.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: “Our Father Who Art In Heaven”

Let us continue from yesterday’s QLC, which focused on the general understanding of the Lord’s Prayer. Today, we will examine what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches on the very first words of the Lord’s Prayer – “Our Father Who Art in Heaven” –

Simple and faithful trust, humble and joyous assurance are the proper dispositions for one who prays the Our Father. [#2797]

We can invoke God as “Father” because the Son of God made man has revealed him to us. In this Son, through Baptism, we are incorporated and adopted as sons of God. [#2798]

The Lord’s Prayer brings us into communion with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. At the same time it reveals us to ourselves (cf. GS 22 § 1). [#2799]

Praying to our Father should develop in us the will to become like him and foster in us a humble and trusting heart. [#2800]

When we say “Our” Father, we are invoking the new covenant in Jesus Christ, communion with the Holy Trinity, and the divine love which spreads through the Church to encompass the world. [#2801]

“Who art in heaven” does not refer to a place but to God’s majesty and his presence in the hearts of the just. Heaven, the Father’s house, is the true homeland toward which we are heading and to which, already, we belong. [#2802]

For a complete understanding of the first words of the Lord’s Prayer, I would suggest reading paragraphs 2777-2796.