Sunday, February 27, 2011
Immaculate Virgin Mary, my Mother, I consecrate myself to you this day, and forever, so that you may dispose of me as you wish for the salvation of souls. I ask you only, my Queen and Mother of the Church, that I may co-operate faithfully with your mission in the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth. I offer to you, Immaculate Heart of Mary, all my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day:
That we may unite our hearts with our crucified Lord and do penance for those who do not believe in Him.
O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you, and for all who do not have recourse to you, especially for the enemies of Holy Church and those recommended to you.
From time to time, readers of our humble publication, The Little Troubadour, write in for advice of the friars. Their questions or troubles often concern things that affect us all. Over the past year I have dedicated some space in our magazine to answer these questions. I thought it might be helpful to share them here as well.
Heather from Queensland wrote in with the following question:
Dear Br Louis,
Many people get on my nerves and I just can’t stand them. How do I overcome these feelings? I want to be a good Christian, but I can’t forget what people have done to me and I find it difficult to be nice to them. What can I do?
Join the club! Every human being feels the way you do some time or later. We are all sinners and have been sinned against by others. Surely we have all wronged someone in our lives and we seek their forgiveness as we are called to forgive others who have wronged us. We inherit the consequences of original sin, including a disorder of our feelings. If we have to live or work with people we find disagreeable, these feelings can be a daily cross. Yes, these feelings can weigh you down, but as children of God, Our Lord has taught us that we must forgive and love our neighbour.
Remember the saying of St. Maximilian Kolbe: “Love alone conquers!” It is not always easy to do this, but remember, Christ gives us the graces we need through the sacraments, especially in Confession and the Holy Eucharist, to rise above our feelings and to forgive others. We also have the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation to assist us, if only we ask the Holy Spirit to help us. One should be honest about one’s feelings in the examination of one’s conscience, (a recommended daily practice). We are called by God not to let feelings or emotions to control the exercise of our will. God calls us to overcome our feelings with His Grace. Our Lord said we are to love, but that doesn’t mean we have to like everybody. We are called to treat all people who come our way in charity and not be vengeful and nasty. We are to do unto others as we would want them to treat us – to act with kindness and courtesy towards all, especially those we ‘cannot stand’, remembering all persons are created in the image of God. We don’t have to be friends to all, but we are called to be Christ-like to all. Yes it is not easy, but Our Lord calls us to try and try again each day, every moment.
There is a saying: “The grace of God is in courtesy.” Now, if people are nasty towards us, we don’t have to be their ‘doormats’. If we can avoid the situation, then we can rightly keep away from them. But if interaction is unavoidable, we should remember to be courteous. Ask your guardian angel to help you deal with these people in a Christ-like way.
To forgive doesn’t mean that we excuse what evil has been done to us. Instead, we ask God in prayer to help them repent of their wrongdoing and to help us to love them as a child of God. We do not seek to repay them with evil by treating them in a hateful way. Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to treat our enemies with mercy, not hatefully, remembering that in eternity God’s justice will be fulfilled, but on earth we called to be merciful as our Heavenly Father is merciful to us. In the words our Saviour gave us we pray, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Hate and bitterness poison the heart and cause misery and despair. Instead, trust in the Divine Mercy of Christ and ask Our Lady to help you to be charitable to the disagreeable and forgiving in Christ’s name.
God love you,
Saturday, February 12, 2011
".....To celebrate the mass with sentiments of love and with concentration puts the priest and the believer in a state that is more receptive and responsive to the will of God. It is this participation, marked by concentration and fervor, that allows the priest to imitate Christ, to be like him, and to offer his love or humanity once again, since it is the Eucharist itself which is the memorial of the passion and death of the Lord...." from The Eucharistic Dimension in St. Maximilian Kolbe, Fr Raffaele Di Muro , OFM Conv
As a young friar, St Maximilian Kolbe wrote "Holy Communion is nourishment. Only one Holy Communion suffices to make us saints. Everything depends upon our interior disposition and upon preparation. The first half of the day is dedicated to preparing for it; the second half to giving thanks for it."
The Eucharist was thus the source of St Maximilian Kolbe's interior journey, the foundation of his prayer, and the secret of his fruitful apostolate.
The saint himself wrote, in 1938... "There is no better preparation for Holy Communion other than offering it to the Immaculate…She will prepare our heart in the best way possible, and we will be sure to give Jesus the greatest of joys and to show him the greatest of loves...After Holy Communion let us pray to the Immaculate once more, so that she herself may welcome Jesus into our soul and make him happy as no one ever before has been able to do."
This belief is demonstrated in the care with which St Maximilian celebrated Holy Mass..."Fr. Maximilian Kolbe’s participation in the Eucharistic banquet strengthened his desire to be conformed to Christ. Being the memorial of the passion and death of the Lord, it afforded him the opportunity to reflect on the mystery that he intended to live out daily in his spiritual life. The time he spent at Zakopane, which was characterized by sickness and the uncertainty of his future life as a priest and apostle, gave him the possibility to reflect deeply upon the Eucharistic
mystery and the way to celebrate it with the utmost concentration and love. It was in this “desert” that he meditated at length on the value and centrality of the Holy Mass in his life as a religious, priest and missionary. Moreover, the Eucharist is the prayer that benefits one’s neighbor and those most in need of prayer; it was really and truly an exercise of charity. St. Maximilian recommended to the Lord his family, friends, enemies, those who had asked him for prayers, the catholic faithful, the entire Church, and even those in opposition to it. His communion with God enabled him to deepen his communion with his neighbor. Conformity to the Lord and love for him and his neighbor were the most beautiful fruits that he
derived from celebrating the mass with extraordinary fervor and recollection." The Eucharistic Dimension in St. Maximilian Kolbe
In the saint's own words.."With such a desire to participate in holy masses, it is clear that the interior life prospers, notwithstanding the multiplication of activities. The Eucharist is the strength of the soul."
St. Maximilian Kolbe can be seen to be a contemplative of the Eucharistic mystery through prayer, meditation, and his unshakable faith in the real presence.
He has shown us that the union brought about with Christ in the Eucharist is the most important
food for the spiritual life; it is the strength for our conversion and for our sanctification and is founded in the binding of God and our soul.
"Now come to me and unite yourself intimately to me under the form of nourishment...Your blood is already flowing in mine, your soul . . . fills my soul, you give it strength, and you feed it."
Monday, February 7, 2011
Let me be a fit instrument in thine Immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed Kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For wherever thou enters, one obtains the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through thy hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
V. Allow me to praise thee O Sacred Virgin.
R. Give me strength against thy enemies.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
To develop the interior life fully, one must offer to God that last “but”. This total offering,without reserve, is the condition for the complete development of the life of grace. Even the slightest obstacle can keep the soul from flying upward with the wings of a dove. Moreover, the dove can rise only to a specific height, while in relationship to God, as long as the soul places no obstacles, there is no limit to its advance in the love of God. God himself raises it up in love.
In the lives of the saints we witness things that make us wonder and surprise us. But it all would be comprehensible if only we were to look into the souls of these people. We read of others who lived in total confidence with the Lord. To us all of this may very well be a novelty, something unheard of or strange.
From God we receive at every moment all that is necessary for us in the natural and supernatural order. It is fitting that we would give all that we have received in offering to God, so that in our lives there would be no “but …”. Every reservation and attachment to anything or anyone is a hindrance.
The Immaculata is our Model
Let us pray much that we would understand more and more what the Immaculate Virgin said at the Annunciation: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy Word.” As God wills, so be it. In this thought all happiness is contained, already here on earth, all destiny fulfilled. God created us that we be his instruments, that is why he draws us to love of himself, and rewards us or punishes us. Desirous that souls become perfect and like unto him, he showers them with graces. But souls must cooperate with divine grace and permit themselves to be led.
Let us beg our Blessed Mother that she might teach us how our soul might be a “handservant” of the Lord, as was her own.
God did not reveal himself directly to the Mother of God, but rather through a messenger. We too have divine messengers, our superiors. Let us pray that we would know how to say to every one of these messengers: God’s will be done. And in this is everything that we are placed upon this earth to learn, and it is our task to teach this to the whole world, so that the will of every human being might be in accord with God’s will—through the Immaculata.
We must sanctify ourselves at every moment, for we know not if the next will be ours. It is for us to become holy here and now, for we cannot be certain whether we will be here this evening. The better we fulfil our obligations the more we give glory to God and respond to the will of the Immaculata. So important is the present moment that we must continually remind ourselves of it as the means of sanctification.
With God’s power, everything!
To get to our goal there are two paths: that of personal strength and that of God’s strength. It depends upon us which path we will take.
The angel in Paradise sinned when he said: “Should I not listen to God I will become equal to God,” and he fell into the bottomless pit, for God will not support a lie. When the cause is of zero value - that is, supported by our own strength - so, too, the effect will be zero.
This repeats itself unto our own day. Do we support ourselves by our own strength, or do we seek to work, supported by God’s own power? As long as we do not rely upon ourselves, we will be able to attain our goal. This is the most fundamental and general principle for the effective performance of every human action. With God, everything; without God, nothing!
Mystery of Strength: Humility
How often we hear the complaint: “I want to improve, I want to do better, but I just can’t.”
It could appear that such a confession of one’s weakness, under the circumstances, is a sign of humility, but meanwhile beneath lurks a hidden pride.
Such people admit in many instances that they can do one or another thing, but are not able, given the condition of their life, to correct something in particular. This proves only that they rely solely on their personal strength, and believe they will accomplish things in that context alone. This, however, is a lie, and untruth, for by our own strength, independently, without the help of God, we can do nothing, absolutely nothing. All that we are, and whatever we have and can do, is because of God. In every moment of our life we receive from him, for perseverance in our existence is nothing other than a continuous receiving of that existence. Of ourselves we can do only evil that is really the want of good, or order - and of strength.
If we would but admit this truth and look to God from whom we receive every gift at every moment, we would immediately see that he, God, is able to give us a great deal more as our best Father. Indeed, he wills to give us everything that we need.
(From Will to Love: Reflections for Daily Living by St. Maximilian Kolbe, ‘Prophet of the Civilization of Love’.)
The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord is celebrated each year on February 2. It commemorates the events recorded in Luke’s Gospel:
When the day came for them to be purified as laid down by the Law of Moses, the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord – observing what stands written in the Law of the Lord: Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord – and also to offer in sacrifice, in accordance with what is said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons. (Lk 2:22-24).
In remembrance of the Passover, the defining moment in the history of Israel, when God redeemed His people from slavery by slaying the first-born male of man and beast in the land of Egypt, the Jewish law required that the firstborn male child should be ‘redeemed’, consecrated to the Lord, by offering sacrifice in the Temple forty days after birth (cf. Exod. 13:2; Lev. 12:6-8). In faithful obedience to the Law, our Lady and St. Joseph took Jesus to the temple of Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.
Present in the Temple at the Lord’s presentation are the elderly Simeon and the prophetess Anna. Simeon is described as ‘an upright and devout men’ who ‘looked forward to Israel’s comforting’ (Lk 2:25). When the child Jesus is brought to the Temple, he takes the child in his arms and blesses God:
‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace,
just as you promised;
because my eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared for all the nations to see,
a light to enlighten the pagans
and the glory of your people Israel.’ (Lk 2:29-32
In this Canticle of praise, which has becomes enshrined in the Church’s daily prayer, Simeon is inspired to recognize the Child as the long-awaited Messiah and prophesies about Him. In proclaiming Christ to be ‘a light to the Gentiles’, Simeon anticipates Christ’s own revelation of Himself as ‘the light of the world’ (Jn 8:12). Accordingly, by the eleventh century, the custom had developed in the West of blessing candles on the Feast of the Presentation. The candles were lit, and a procession took place through the darkened church while the Canticle of Simeon was sung. Because of this, the feast also became known as ‘Candlemas’. The blessing of candles and procession remain part of the ritual of the Feast, as we pray that ‘we who carry these candles in your Church may come with joy to the light of glory.’
Hearing these words of Simeon, we are told that Joseph and Mary ‘marveled at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed”.’ (Lk 2:33-35). Reflecting on these words, Pope Benedict XVI noted that the words of Simeon to our Lady reveal “that her role in the history of salvation did not end in the mystery of the Incarnation but was completed in loving and sorrowful participation in the death and Resurrection of her Son. Bringing her Son to Jerusalem, the Virgin Mother offered him to God as a true Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. She held him out to Simeon and Anna as the proclamation of redemption; she presented him to all as a light for a safe journey on the path of truth and love.”
Mary’s ‘way’ of presenting Christ to the world as the source of ‘truth and love’ is to be followed by all Christians. In particular, it is the way of those men and women who have consecrated their lives to Christ in religious profession. By their profession, consecrated men and women proclaim that Christ is their everything – their light and salvation. The Feast of the Presentation therefore has special significance to Religious and is celebrated each year as the World Day of Consecrated Life. In his address to Religious on the Feast of the Presentation in 2006, our holy Father Pope Benedict acknowledged the connection between Christ’s consecration to the Father’s mission and the consecration of religious to the mission of the Church. “Just as Jesus' life in his obedience and dedication to the Father is a living parable of the ‘God-with-us’, so the concrete dedication of consecrated persons to God and to their brethren becomes an eloquent sign for today’s world of the presence of God’s Kingdom.”
Let us therefore celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord with devotion, and make our lives, like lighted candles, always and everywhere shine with the love of Christ.