October 30, 2012

Denver Bishops Call for Prayer

Denver Bishops Invite Catholics to Pray for Nation


Archbishop Samuel Aquila and Auxiliary Bishop James Conley are inviting the faithful of the Archdiocese of Denver, and all people of faith, to pray for our nation ahead of the November 6 presidential election.

The bishops are also encouraging parishes throughout northern Colorado to organize rosaries and holy hours, beginning this weekend.

 “As Americans,” stated Archbishop Aquila, “we have a civic responsibility to vote and to participate in the political process. As Catholics, we have a moral duty to vote with an informed conscience, and to pray for wisdom and guidance as we head to the voting booth.”

 “Join me in praying for our great nation, beginning this weekend and through November 6,” he added. “Let us ask God to bless us with the courage to live in the truth, and for leaders who are dedicated to protecting the rights of the unborn and religious liberty.”

The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception will expose the Blessed Sacrament from 7:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., and from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 6.

All people of faith are encouraged to pray the following prayer ahead of the election.

 Prayer for America, by Cardinal Francis Spellman

God of our Fathers, Shepherd of Thy people, Lord of free men's souls, bless Thou our nation with a valiant, Godly spirit, with a vision to see, with the courage to try, with the power to achieve, that, marching behind Thee, Thy people shall not perish.

God, bless our America! Hear our prayer for our united peoples, grant guidance to our leaders, protection to our sons, and teach each of us Thy way of life in good will and peace. Amen.

October 29, 2012

Consciences Inflamed with Love

We must follow our consciences, but the heart frozen to a cause instead of warmed by the truth is not free to love.  Catholics who act against human dignity in the voting booth often justify themselves by claiming that they are following their consciences and that they did everything they could to form their consciences in accord with the Church.  They reason, but their reasoning is callous and this cold indifference is revealed by the degree to which their actions rob others of the dignity that is owed them.  Only the chill of darkness can form the heart so cold.

Although humbly presenting the truth is always a moment of actual grace that may solicit conversion, it is a mistake to presume that this kind of moral failure results from a simple lack of information.  Often such souls have stuffed themselves with all kinds of data and statistics.  In one hand, they hold vast array of "facts" at their command like weapons in an arsenal.  In the other, they are so weighed down with so many individual data points (all of which are proved by science we are told) that they cannot see the forest for the trees - and so they are lost in it.  Our efforts to find a way of this jungle of muddled thought are only fruitful to the extent they are drenched in prayer. 

The cause of bad judgment is most often not merely informational.  Better information technology cannot even remotely address the primordial ignorance against which humanity struggles.  This ignorance numbs the depths of one's conscience.  It consists in the diminished capacity to grasp the truth, to see through the facts to reality itself, to behold situations for what they really are. Until the blindness of ignorance is addressed with something more than the merely factual, individual judgment is subject to what is socially convenient and acceptable - standards easily manipulated by corrupt cultural and political powers.

This blindness is the effect of sin.  The guilty ego is like a star that has collapsed into itself.   The absence of light that ought to be there creates a distortion field between the soul and reality - especially the reality of the neighbor who has been entrusted to my care.   

No matter how much information we gather and data we organize, as long as we are plagued with this cold darkness, we never adequately understand those to whom we bear the responsibility to love nor can we clearly see what they are owed.  This is no private, individual or esoteric experience.  Because so many consciences are frozen in this darkness, pre-born babies, the elderly, the sick, the handicapped and all the other most vulnerable are no longer safe in our society while we entertain ourselves with violence, brutality and all kinds of sexual aggression.

Truth is not a data point or the product of my cleverness, the truth is what is: verum est ens.  Ultimate truth is knowing ultimate reality - and such knowing is transformative because ultimate reality has a claim on the human heart.   This is because ultimate truth is filled with the eternal love.  With this true love, the human heart was made to be animated.  By this loving light, the heart was fashioned to behold the wonders of what God has done.

God has called us into communion with Him and being vulnerable to this call through faith in Jesus Christ as the Lord of Life changes everything about our lives.  The cold world needs the warmth of this saving light.  It is this saving knowledge which ought to form the conscience -- aflame with truth, the heart can judge rightly about the circumstances and intentions that surround every moral act: it has the warmth and light it needs to love.

October 25, 2012

Prayer as a Theological Act

Some look at prayer as merely the indulgence of devout feelings or a pious exercise of the imagination or else a plunge into an empty abyss of meaninglessness.   Still others approach prayer as something to be mastered by technique, program or method.   Probably, there are religious traditions that advocate such approaches to prayer.   But the Catholic tradition, and traditional Christianity as a whole, discerns prayer as essentially theological: a sacred conversation with the Hidden God revealed by the Word made flesh.

An exchange of hearts between the Living God and dying humanity, true prayer involves the ordering of one's whole being to the saving truth communicated through sacred doctrine.  This is perhaps why we argue about our teachings so fiercely and why theology which is merely intellectual prattle falls so far short of its task: the truth is a matter, not only of the mind, but also of the heart.

This saving truth is at once ecclesial, scriptural, sacramental, objective and personal.   To pray as a Christian, our hearts must be vulnerable to this truth.  This is what faith is - faith assents to the truth so that we might suffer it in our hearts.  At the same time, faith connects our suffering, our misery, our inadequacies, our voids to the truth - and the truth fills all of this with eternal meaning.  One never prays as an isolated individual suffering outside of space and time - but with the communion we share in Christ one's prayer can order the full extent and duration of every suffering to eternity.  

Christian prayer is a theological act because it unites one's whole being, from one's highest thoughts to one's deepest needs, to the paschal mystery, the saving work Christ accomplished on the Cross.   Christian prayer is cruciform - it stretches from one horizon of human activity to the other, protecting us from every evil and allowing us to manifest God's glory in every situation.  This is because in this doctrinally informed prayer we learn to die to ourselves so that we might live by the life of Christ in us.

In this transformed existence we resist conforming to what is merely politically correct, socially acceptable or culturally safe - whoever beholds the loving eyes of the Crucified reflected in sacred doctrine can never be indifferent to the plight of the helpless.  Love's bold courage drives us to offer even our bodies as a living sacrifice and this becomes our true spiritual worship.  Prayer rooted in true doctrine is embodied and engaged.  As a theological reality, Christian prayer pushes to new horizons of human freedom because it infuses our frailty and brokenness with divine power.

October 24, 2012

Holy Spirit - Life of the Soul

The Fire of God never ceases to reveal the truth in love.  It burns in human nature without consuming it, but allowing God's holiness to be safely approached by the humble of heart.  This Holy Fire burns away impurities, it warms, it illumines.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth.  One of the most beautiful qualities of the truth is that its discovery always contains a note of surprise.  The truth is never exactly what we expect.  It reaches beyond what is calculable and dances outside the narrow confines of cleverness.  Precisely because it holds us accountable to things we would rather not face, we sometimes experience the impulse to deny the truth. Yet to do this would be to choose to live in myth, constantly blown around by the callous whims of our own egos.  On the other hand, if we are docile to the Fire of God's love, we are able to surrender our existence to the mystery of the truth so that something beyond ourselves shapes our being.

The Wind of God whispers primordial harmonies our hearts need to hear.  Out of tune with reality, we are unable to appreciate the symphonic wonders of what God is accomplishing the way we were originally meant to.  Uncreated Love speaks in our innermost being to remind us of the love we are created to know and manifest- convicting and confirming, admonishing and encouraging - that we might accept the truth about who we are and who God is and what we must do.  When we do - we find ourselves rectified, standing on solid ground and in a better place to safe-guard and protect our dignity - no matter the external circumstances that must be faced or endured.

The Holy Spirit is the life of the soul - the human spirit's only source of lasting refreshment.  The Spirit animates us with the life of the One who sent Him-- the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  To be open to the narrow way of truth the Holy Spirit teaches is to be vulnerable to the immense excess of divine love, and being immersed in this ocean of love is the secret to the fullness of life.  Conversely, to resist this Divine Inflow is a convenient but perilous path.  For humanity's spiritual thirst is unquenchable save by those living waters by which we die to ourselves and live by the life of Christ in us.

October 20, 2012

The Hope of God

Periodically, I like to refer to a beautiful mystery that plays out in the life of prayer.  Namely, in the midst of all kinds of difficulties and trials, we are able to hope in God because He hopes in us even more.   There are some who wonder whether this is true.  In the light of all our frailties and failures, does God really hope in us?

I cannot take credit for this idea.  It seems to be a theme in the writings of Charles Peguy.  I remember a gathering of youth where John Paul II used this same idea.  It is just not an idea we hear very often.

Is it Scriptural?  In fact, God the Father has such great hope in humanity that He sent His only begotten Son into the world.  He expressed the immensity of His hope in the most tender way by placing His Beloved Son into the hands of Mary and Joseph.  His hope in us never wavered even unto the Cross where the full extent of human wickedenss was revealed.  He still saw something good in humanity at that moment, He still had a reason to believe in us even as we utterly rejected Him.

Jesus, the Son of God for His part, allowed Himself to be totally dependent on us.  He revealed the extent of His trust He placed His life in the hands of the holy family and in the hands of the communities in which He lived in Bethlehem and Nazareth.  It is interesting to think that in both places, attempts on His life were made.   Nevertheless, He chose, like the Father, to trust us.  In fact, in making this decision not to lose hope in humanity, He was revealing to us just how much the Father hopes in us.  His trust in us never wavered.  He trusted us as a falsely condemned and completely humiliated man, even to His last breath.  

This divine trust, this sacred hope continues to live in the Church through the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The Trinity trusts us so much that through the Holy Spirit we are constituted into the very Body of Christ by faith and baptism.  This means that the Risen Lord entrusts the work He is continuing to do into our hands.   Through Holy Spirit working in the ministry of a priest, the hope of the Risen Lord is dynamically present in all of the Sacraments and the proclamation of the Gospel in the liturgy.  God's hope is especially communicated to us in the Blessed Sacrament where He continues to entrust Himself to us: Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.

What is the basis of this hope on the part of God?  What does the Father see in us?  What does the Son see?  Jesus is always driven by the glory of the Father -- for He loves the Father.  He sees everything that gives the Father glory.  Christ only sees and contemplates what is the most good and beautiful reality of our lives - He discerns the divine image and likeness with which we were fashioned and in this He knows our true identity and purpose.  He believes in us because He believes in the glory of His Father for which He was sent that we might manifest this glory too.

And the Father?  He contemplates his beloved Son -- because when His Son entered into our humanity and embraced it to Himself, He fundamentally transformed the meaning of humanity and restored the ancient dignity we lost by sin.  He sees each of us animated with the life of His beloved Son so that we might fulfill the great purpose He has entrusted to each of us uniquely and individually from the eternal moment He first thought of us.  He is confident in His Son and the power of His life in us - so He never loses His confidence in us.

But does this divine hope in frail humanity not shake the way we look at the Christian life?  So often I thought that God was counting on someone else -- but going deeper, one realizes that it is not someone else at all.  God places Himself into our hands every day not only in the Eucharist, in the Holy Scripture, and in prayer but also even more poignantly in the poor, the vulnerable, and all those He has entrusted to our care - because it is through them that the grace of the Risen Lord is at work and the glory of God made manifest to the world.  It seems impossible - but all things are possible through God who strengthens us.

October 17, 2012

Is Prayer an Escape from the Real World?

Some think that prayer is an escape from the real world.  To these, I say that there are prisons from which it is good to escape.   Lots of people banally exist imprisoned in what we call "the real world." Locked up in the fantasy land of adults and the culturally and politically powerful, they are not free to live life to the full.

All the same, I cannot agree that prayer is an escape from reality.  It is rather the opposite.  Those who do not pray are sometimes trying to escape basic truths about our existence - after all, life is short and eternity long, the way to salvation is as narrow as the path to perdition is wide, and divine justice will hold us accountable if we will not hold ourselves responsible before divine mercy.   Prayer is about facing this reality, this truth about our lives and about the world.

Those who ignore the impulse deep in our nature to cry out to God, those close their ears to all the ways God cries out to us every moment of every day, those who shut their eyes to the glory that is breaking in around us -- what they call "the real world" is an enchanting escape and hiding place from reality.  The problem is there are lots of dehumanizing traps in "the real world."  Anxious occupation over whether we are as comfortable, safe, successful and influential in our careers as we want is not a motivator toward excellence or the fullness of life -- it is to live imprisoned by fear.

There are self-appointed jailers who would rather that we never had this freedom.   They encourage us to grasp for and cleave to material bliss -- even as they know that this does not answer the pain in our hearts. They know this because they suffer from it too, even if they are very good at pretending they do not.   These are the culturally and politically powerful whose only joy is outweighed by the fear that it will be lost in an instant.  In their despair, they are inclined to keep our hopes locked up in some bright future that never comes or else shackled down with nostalgia for a past that was never as good as they suggest.

Christian prayer offers an escape from such oppression for the humble.  This prayer lifts up the heart and places it in the hands of the One who conquered death.  An ongoing conversation with Christ, this prayer teaches us to submit every thought to Him so that He can lead us into freedom - not in the future, but right now, in this present moment.  There is no earthly or celestial or under-worldly power that can come between us and the love of God.

Breaking with all manner of imprisonment prayer stands, prayer battles, prayer rises and this prayer professes the creed by which weak humanity is endowed with divine freedom.  Prayer stands on reality itself, the deepest truth of all that is, the Reality from which all other reality comes and to which it goes.  Prayer battles for all that is noble, good, holy, true and most vulnerable about humanity -- because our Savior would have us do no less.  Indeed, we are only following His example.  Prayer rises up like incense bringing to the suffering of earth into the glory of heaven - hoping with every reason to hope that it will be on earth as it is in heaven.

Our jailers are afraid to allow us to stand on our own in real prayer - prayer that expresses itself in all kinds of real works of mercy - because they do not understand the ground under our feet. They hate what our creed demands - so they mock while we must stand fast by the truth.  They cannot bear the bold stands we take in the public square - so they deride while we must appeal to their humanity. They do not want to deal with the truth - so they interrupt while we must try to make our case.  They fear our freedom to love the most vulnerable, so they concoct laws to take it away and then deny with aggrieved indignation that they have harmed us in any way.

But despite their efforts, the freedom that we know by prayer cannot be denied.  In the last century, ideologues tried to destroy the Christian faith - those cultural and political powers are no more.  But Christian prayer remains a reality in the real world, a sign of hope for those who most need one.  If anyone should want to break out of banal existence to live life to the full, including the jailers themselves, the Deliverer is just a prayer away.

October 13, 2012

Of Prayer and Politics

There are many who pray for a political end.   There is nothing wrong with this at all.  That is why it is good for people of faith to speak out on political matters.   Their views are often informed by the wisdom gained by engaging God in prayer.   They have something to contribute to the conversation and they have a stake in its outcome -- to which the Lord is not indifferent.  God, however, cannot be used as a tool for someone's political agenda.

Some who pray for a political end as if it were their ultimate end.  Having cloaked themselves in moral rectitude, their agendas and schemes become the standard of righteousness.  In a world where the end justifies the means, they shamelessly approach God demanding that He take their side.  Insofar as they are doing this, whatever they say they believe, they do not worship God - they worship politics.  And we cannot serve both God and mammon.  Such souls need our prayers.  Politics is a heartless god who is not kind to the integrity of his adherents.

 In prayer, God demands openness to the truth.  If we ask Him for something, He expects us to listen to Him, to let Him enter our hearts and speak to our consciences.  This means, among many other beautiful but difficult things, we need to take stock of His concerns when we ask Him about ours.   He does not care much for our agendas or power struggles.  He is concerned that societies thrive.  He is concerned that cultures develop in a way that builds up and protects all that is good, noble and true.  He is especially concerned about the most vulnerable -- the dying, the unborn, the foreigner, the hungry, the jobless, the homeless, the addict -- He implicates Himself in all these situations and He expects human society to do the same.

To help us understand God's expectations for our political prayers and action, the USCCB has put out Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.  The USCCB also responds to Catholics in public life who have abused their position and not spoken truth.  At a debate last week, the vice-president, a long time public servant and Catholic, grossly misrepresented the impact of the HHS mandate on the Catholic Church, its organizations and the faithful who try to live their their life in accord with its moral teachings.  In so doing, he has put at risk the religious freedom of all Americans and provided grave scandal.  The USCCB has spoken out about this as well. 

Politics a very difficult and those who have dedicated their lives to public service are owed our respect and deserve our prayers - even when we disagree with them.  We also need to pray for one another and our discernment during these days - because in America we all bear responsibility for public life.  Lets pray for those who vote and for those who are unable to.   By prayer and our faithfulness to God in the political arena, we will make space for God to help us build a culture of life and civilization of love.