If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Prayer Strategy - The Chaplet


From my book, Prayer Strategies: A Series of Helps
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Another of my prayer strategies – one that has quickly become my favorite – is the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. The prayer uses the traditional Rosary beads, but the pattern of prayer is quite different. (For readers unfamiliar with the Rosary, these links here and here will help explain its history and use).

The Chaplet starts with the “Our Father,” moves to the “Hail Mary,”* and then to the Apostle’s Creed. Here the Chaplet departs substantially from the Rosary. Follow this link to the Chaplet beads.

The prayer on the bead that separates each series of ten beads begins with: “Eternal Father, I offer You the body and blood, soul and divinity of your dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.” On each of the ten traditional “Hail Mary” beads, petitioners pray: “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” Finally, at the end of the five ‘decades” (series of ten beads), the following is prayed three times: “Holy God, Holy, Mighty One, Holy and Immortal One, have mercy on us.”

The Chaplet can be prayed with our without music, but I use the musical rendition because the combination of the words and melody tugs at my emotions. For an example of the Chaplet set to music, Click here (this is Donna Cori Gibson’s YouTube version of the Chaplet. Start part one of the video at around 2:15. You can find part two here. I do not watch the video during my prayer time because it would distract me. Instead, I downloaded Gibson’s song from iTunes).

Although the music readily engages me, my personality is such that continual repetition becomes monotonous. Consequently, my mind drifts after the third or fourth “For the sake of His sorrowful passion . . ..”  I also have difficulty wrapping my mind around “ . . .  and on the whole world.”  The concept is too vast for me to not only pray with passion, but with purpose. Therefore, I modify the prayer this way:

Bead 1: For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on Nancy (my wife), and on our whole family.
Bead 2: For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on Kerry (our daughter), and on our whole family.  
Bead 3: For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on Zion (our eldest son), and on our whole family.
Bead 4:  For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on Nathan (our youngest son), and on our whole family.
Beads 5-10: I call the names of other family members on my side of the family.

On the second series of beads I call the names of those on Nancy’s side of the family. On series three through five, I call the names of my students, friends, members of our parish, and so forth. Praying for individuals in my personal ‘world’ helps me pray with passion and purpose because I know and care about the people for whom I’m praying. I like being able to put faces with names.

The Chaplet of Divine Mercy includes elements of several strategies I often use in my private morning time with my Lord: lists, music, and scripted prayers. And best of all, it's all about Jesus. From beginning to end, its focus is on my Lord, Saviour and Friend.

I enjoy this strategy so much that it has become my most used method of prayer during my evening time with the Lord. I encourage readers to try this method. You don’t need Rosary beads to pray the chaplet. You can just as easily use your ten fingers.

 * For those unfamiliar with the Hail Mary, Catholics say: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. (Readers might recognize two portions of Scripture in the Hail Mary – Luke 1:28 and 1:42).

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Appreciating the Tackles

I wrote this in 2011. I just remembered it. Here it is again:
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Learning to Appreciate the Tackles

Does not wisdom call, and understanding raise her voice? (Proverbs 8:1, NAB)

I remember reading many years ago of the 1929 Rose Bowl in which Georgia Tech and the University of California squared off on the California 30 yard line. Georgia controlled the ball. At the snap, Georgia fumbled and California player Roy Riegels grabbed the pigskin and took off down field. Suddenly, a roar rose from the crowd. Riegels didn’t know it, but in the confusion he had spun around and was racing toward the wrong goal. Not until another teammate tackled him six inches from the goal line did he realize his error.

Have you noticed, as I have noticed time and again, life’s fumbles often happen that way. We get turned around and, thinking everything is as it should be, we race in the wrong direction.

Just listen to the crowd! We commend ourselves as we run. I’ll be a hero!

Oh, how wrong we can be.

I am so very grateful to have experienced His tackles so often -- because He loves me far too much to let me continue unopposed in my error. Through reading Scripture, listening to homilies, hearing song lyrics or the challenging words of other Christians, Wisdom cries out: "Stop! You’re going the wrong way! Turn around! Repent while there is time!"

If necessary, God even sends circumstances to tackle me before it’s too late. Better to be embarrassed six inches from the goal line than to cross it into disaster.

Over the years, I’ve learned -- more than a few times I've had to relearn it -- to thank God for those tackles, regardless of how badly they hurt.

Or how long they hurt.

Which is why I now pray quite often that God will help me listen more closely for Wisdom’s call, because it is the voice of my loving Father drawing me away from the wrong goal. . .

And back to Himself.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

An Exhortation


Each week I fellowship with a two different groups of men –all of us part of the laity of our church – and who clearly love the Lord. Each week we use our varied gifts to teach and exhort and challenge others in our journey of Christian faith.

Sometimes I think some of us forget that God has not chosen ONLY the clergy and other professional religious folk to do the work of teaching and evangelism.  He did not empower ONLY the church hierarchy the proclaim the message of  the gospel.  He left that commission with all of His children of faith in Jesus.  Here, for example, is what St. Peter proclaimed to the crowds in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost:

But his is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: 17 ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams; 18 Even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit And they shall prophesy.”

Did you catch that?  All flesh. Old and young. Slaves, too. And women.  All flesh. Not just the 'professionals'.

Of course, with God’s promise comes the responsibility that we each walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. To please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in our knowledge of God – which we do primarily through reading and studying His Scriptures -- and for those of us who are Catholic -- the reception of the Sacraments..

God’s promise for service is for you. And me.

 Don’t let anyone rob you of that privilege -- and that gift.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Protection Against the Lies




I read Satan’s three temptations of the Lord in Matthew 4 again this morning. It’s a familiar passage to most of you:

1. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”

2. “Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning you’’, and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that You will not strike your foot against a stone.” Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

3. Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.”

I noticed once again at least two important points. 

First, the Lord Jesus used Scripture in His response to each temptation. Second, the Devil also knows scripture – and he abuses it, twists its context, so it will say what he wants it to say. Remember, he is the father of lies.

The point?

The Holy Spirit warns us through St. Paul about those who abuse Scripture from pulpits, classrooms, and, today, across social media: 

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.  No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

Our protection against being sucked into false and demonic-breathed teaching?

That’s easy.

1. Become so familiar with God’s word – reading it day after day after year after year – so when you meet temptation to do wrong, you can respond according to God’s revealed will in Scripture.

2. Become so familiar with God’s word that when Satan’s servants abuse and twist Scripture for their own evil purposes, you will not be seduced.

Need a Bible reading plan to get you through the entire Bible in a year? Do an internet search for key words such as ‘Yearly Bible Reading Plan.’

Or you can try mine at: http://bit.ly/2cv5cee

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Death is Dead

I read 2 Timothy earlier today. Verse 10 of chapter one has stayed with me. Here is the context, beginning at verse 9:

“[God] has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus . . . who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Timothy 1:9-10)

It’s that last clause that caught my attention: “[Jesus] abolished death.”

Let the impact of that ineffable truth seep through your spirit for a while.

Jesus Christ abolished death. He put an end to it. He annulled it. Made it void.

Jesus. Killed. Death.

That’s why He told Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.”

Oh! Christian – Encourage one another with that glorious promise!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Not Too Late

Those familiar with Bible history know first century travelers wore open-toed sandals – if they wore shoes at all. It was the household slave’s responsibility to wash the family’s – and visitors’ – feet when they entered the home.

With this bit of historical trivia tucked away in my mind, I read again through the story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. You’ll find the vignette early in John 13.

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”

“During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, Jesus . . . laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.”

Now this is important: Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus, was right there, in the room, among the Lord’s disciples. But more important, though the Lord knew Judas had already decided to betray Him, He nonetheless washed Judas’ feet.

Why? Verse one tells us: “He loved them to the end.”

Did you get that? Jesus loved the betrayer to the very end. And even in the garden of Gethsemane, as Judas led the soldiers to capture Him, Jesus called Judas, “Friend.” (Matthew 26:50)

Friend! Loved him to the end!

The Holy Spirit then connected the dots for me. Here is the picture it formed: “What do you think you’ve done that makes you think God is forever done with you? No turning back? No more chances?

Read that again. What do you think you’ve done that makes you think God is done with you?

Don’t believe the devil’s lie when he says you are now beyond God’s redemption, forgiveness and mercy. It is God Himself, speaking through His word, from cover to cover, God Himself promises us NO ONE who still breathes is beyond the reach of His love and willingness to forgive sin – your sin – whatever it is and however often you have done it.

No one. Even you.

What was it St. Paul wrote to those at Rome? “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

What does that mean? It means while you cursed Him – Christ loved you so much He died for you.  While you ran as far as you could from Him – Jesus loved you so much He died for you. And even if you have betrayed Him, He still calls you, ‘Friend.’

Judas, in his remorse, turned to the wrong people, and he killed himself. Peter, remorseful over his own form of betrayal, turned to Jesus, and he received forgiveness, and with it, eternal life (John 18 and 21).

Forgiveness and eternal life.

Please. It is not too late to turn to Jesus. His arms remain wide open to you. He’d wash your feet if He were standing in front of you.

And if you listen carefully, you will hear Him still call you, ‘Friend.’

Come.

Now.

Please.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Freedom!

I’m reading once again through John’s gospel. This morning I could hardly get through chapter nine’s discussion of the man who was born blind. If it’s been a while since you’ve read the chapter, I encourage you to do so sometime today when you have a quiet 15 or 20 minutes.
 
The immediate context around verse 14 caught my attention:

“Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also were asking him again how he received his sight. And he said to them, “He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Therefore, some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.”

How often did Jesus heal on the Sabbath? Lots of times. And each time, the religious leaders accused Jesus of sinning against God because He did not keep the Sabbath.

Theirs was a case of religion versus Jesus; Rules versus Jesus; The letter of the Law versus the spirit of the Law. They stood in defiant and stark contrast to God’s view of how we ought to live out our faith. That’s why the Holy Spirit spoke so often to this dichotomy of Law and Spirit.

“The letter kills,” Paul wrote to the church at Corinth (2 Corinthians 3), “but the Spirit gives life.”

To the Christians at Rome (Romans 8): "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

You might want to reread those last two clauses: “So that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

When we live by the Spirit of Christ, walk by the Spirit of Christ, we ‘fulfill the requirement of the Law.’

How freeing is that!

The New Testament gospels and epistles brim over with the contrast of Religion versus Jesus; Rules versus Jesus; The letter versus the Spirit.

That’s precisely why the crowds flocked to the Master. He lived the contrast between the letter of the Law and the spirit of the Law: Love God. Love each other.

To those two commandments He added: Repent, and sin no more.

That was it. And that's why the crowds loved Him.

Freedom.

St. Paul rejoiced in that New Covenant truth. That’s why he proclaimed to those at Galatia who had bound themselves with chains to the Law: “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

Christian! You and I are free from slavery to rules and the letter of the law. We have freedom to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Freedom to love our neighbor as ourselves. Freedom to repent of our sins and to go and sin no more.

Freedom! It’s why Christians have loved Jesus for 2100 years. Freedom! It’s the reason Christians have grown in their faith and love for Jesus.

Freedom. It is why I love Jesus.

And it is for your freedom that I very much hope you love Him, too.

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Juxtapositions

Ash Wednesday begins the 40-day period in the Christian calendar known as Lent. Many Christians use this time to prepare for Good Friday, and ultimately Resurrection Sunday (Easter).

This year, Ash Wednesday falls on February 14th – St. Valentine’s Day. Resurrection Sunday falls on April 1 – April Fools' Day.

I love the allegories nested in this juxtaposition of Ash Wednesday with Valentine’s Day, and Resurrection Sunday with April Fool’s Day.

In the first, I am reminded of the Biblical ‘love’ verse favored among many Christians: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

In other words, God loves us so much that He gave the best He could give, so we might live in His love eternally.

In the second allegory, this one juxtaposing Easter Sunday with April Fool’s Day, I am reminded of the Psalmist’s proclamation: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psalm 14:1) Then, to emphasize the point, he repeats himself in Psalm 53 –“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (verse 1)

In other words, the Resurrection of Jesus is God’s answer to the fool who mocks God’s existence, and who disdains the idea that God loves him, even as he mocks.

Christian, and you who are not-yet-a-Christian: It is no accident that you have read this far. Neither is it a coincidence that Lent and Easter fall this year on the days they fall.

Listen for His voice. God is still calling you to a deeper relationship with Himself through His son, Jesus.

Friday, January 5, 2018

His Sheer Goodness




As I prepare for next week’s Bible study in John’s gospel, I’m reviewing John 3:16-17. It’s a familiar text: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

Read it too quickly, and that message of hope and promise doesn’t have the impact it ought to have. At least, that’s what happens to me when I read it too quickly.

However, as I mulled the text in my mind, I suddenly associated it with the message of the Luke 15 parables. You remember them – The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, The Lost Son. I especially like verse 4 in the ‘lost sheep’ portion: “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?

Do you see the connection? God so loved us, that He sent – and He seeks, until He finds us.

Knowing that truth, my follow-on questions ought to be, “Why does He love us, and why does He seek us”?

The prologue to the Catechism of the Catholic Church has a pretty good answer:

“God, infinitely perfect and blessed in Himself, in a plan of sheer goodness, freely created man to make him share in His own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek Him, to know Him, to love Him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of His family, the Church.” 


“To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through Him, [God] invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, His adopted children and thus heirs of His blessed life.” 

I don’t think I’d ever heard it expressed so well.

But, as you know, the Lord Jesus did not stop at verses 16 and 17. Here is what He said next: This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” (John 3:19-20)

Have you ever pondered how the Father heartbreakingly grieves to watch so many of us turn our backs on Him who, in His ‘sheer goodness, freely created us to share forever in His own inexpressibly blessed life?’

I don’t think about that as often as I probably should.

Oh, Lord, please keep me close to Yourself. And I am so grateful to know that when I stray, you seek me until You find me.