Act of Spiritual Communion

An Act of Spiritual Communion

My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen. 

An Act of Spiritual Communion

My Dear Lord and Savior! Though I am but a sinful servant, I approach Thee with confidence, for Thou hast said in Thy goodness and mercy: “Come to me all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.” Thou wilt not despise a contrite and humble heart. I am truly sorry for having offended Thee by my sins, because Thou art infinitely good. I have wounded Thy Sacred Heart by foolishly resisting Thy holy will and transgressing Thy Commandments; but I love Thee now with my whole heart and above all things. I adore Thee truly present on the Altar. I have a great desire, dear Jesus, to receive Thee in Holy Communion, and since I cannot now approach the Holy Table to be united to Thee in the Blessed Sacrament, I beseech Thee most earnestly to come to me at least spiritually and to refresh my soul with the sweetness of Thy grace. Come, my Lord my God and my All! Come to me, and let me never again be separated from Thee by sin. I wish to become like Thee. Teach me Thy blessed ways; help me with Thy grace to practice meekness, humility, purity, charity, and all the virtues of Thy Sacred Heart. Oh Thou Lamb of God! Who takest away the sins of the world, take away from me whatever may hurt me and displease Thee. With St. Francis of Assisi I pray: May the fire of Thy love consume my soul, so that I may die to self and the world for love of Thee, Who hast vouchsafed to die on the Cross for the love of me! Jesus, I consecrate to Thee my heart with all its affections, my soul with all its powers, and my body with all its senses. In union with Thee I will labor and suffer to do the Heavenly father’s will. I will ever be mindful of the presence of my God and strive to be perfect. Bless me in life and in death that I may praise Thee forever in Heaven. Amen.

Sacred Music in the Lenten Season

Who would ever think that seven months have passed since I arrived in the parish! But, from the very first day that I became your pastor, I have been observing everything regarding our parish and the community.
As I am reluctant to change anything within these first few months as your pastor, the change of liturgical seasons and people moving away necessitated the adjustments to the music at Mass. These changes will be effective at the start of Lent, all in keeping with the spirit of this penitential season.

If you wondered what the source of the chanted prayers are, that are sung before the 5:00 PM Vigil and 11:15 AM Sunday Masses and at communion during those respective Masses, they come from the Missale Romanum of 1962, translated into English from the Latin.

For the most part, the texts of the chants, Introit and Communion Antiphon, come from the Psalms or canticles in Sacred Scripture. There is another chant that can be sung after the Nicene Creed and Prayers of the Faithful, the Offertory Antiphon, but a hymn takes the place of it.

In keeping with the austerity during the Season of Lent, we will “give up” the Introit and Communion Antiphons as chanted before Mass and at communion, and only at the 11:15 AM Sunday Mass will it be sung as the priest and servers enter the church.

In all, I thank you for your patience and flexibility regarding the liturgical music with our use of various Mass settings. I thank our music coordinator, musicians, choir, and cantors for their service to the Lord.

The Rosary As The School of Mary

This Sunday is the usual day for the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary.

And even though the readings and prayers for Sunday take precedence over those of a Memorial, it is a good occasion to reflect upon this devotion. The rosary was developed during the High Middle Ages as a way of praying the Hail Mary or Our Father 50 or 150 times, partially to join with the practice of monks and nuns, who prayed all psalms a week as part of their vocation. People would use beads to keep track of the prayers. And gradually these prayers were organized into 15 groups (now called decades) of one Our Father, 10 Hail Mary’s, and a Glory Be.

These groups soon became associated with the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries, which reflect respectively the early life of Jesus, His sacrifice on Calvary, and then the Resurrection and its effects. As time went on, people added the Apostles Creed, an Our Father, and three Hail Mary’s to enter into this meditation, and the Hail, Holy Queen to conclude it. In 1571, when as the Ottoman Empire threatened an invasion by sea, Pope St. Pius V called upon Europeans to pray the rosary for the Christian fleet protecting Europe. When the Christian fleet under Admiral Don John of Austria won a decisive victory on October 7, 1571, Pope St. Pius V established October 7 as the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary, which it is to this day.

When Our Lady appeared to the children in Fatima in 1917, in the midst of world wide war, she called for them to promote praying the rosary to bring about conversion and peace. And she added a request that a prayer, now known as the Fatima prayer, be added to each decade. In his 2002 apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, St.Pope John Paul II built upon this venerable devotion by adding the Mysteries of Light to meditate on the public life of Jesus from His first miracle at the wedding of Cana to the Holy Eucharist He gave us on the night before He died. In so doing, he made the rosary a more complete reflection upon the entire Gospel. As St. John Paul II pointed out at that time, in praying the Rosary, we are not merely repeated the same words. Rather, the repeated prayers serve as a sort of bridge through which we can enter (with the help of Mary) into contemplation of the mysteries of our salvation.

As he wrote, , “With the rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of His love.”

World Day of Prayer

Here are some image of the 2018 World Day of Prayer celebrated at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church in Luray, Virginia

PRAYERS FOR THE DEAD

When reading great works, it is important to be attentive to the details that an author goes out of his way to record.  Such is particularly the case with the Bible, for even the details are the inspired word of God.  Thus, for example, when reading St. John’s account of the raising of Lazarus from the dead, it is noteworthy that Jesus concludes the miracle by instructing the family and friends of Lazarus to release him from the burial wrappings.  John 11:44.  Having raised Lazarus from the dead, could not Jesus have released the burial bands as well?  He could have easily done so, but He knew that it was fitting for the family and friends of Lazarus to participate in that glorious event; and so He called for them to perform the final offices that would restore Lazarus from the grave.

That detail not only makes the account more vivid and poignant, but also (as with all of the Bible) provides a theological message as well.  When people die, we entrust them to the love of God through the merits of Jesus Christ.  And if a person is willing to cooperate with grace, he will get to heaven directly or through purgatory.  However, as we help each other grow in grace and virtue on earth, it is only fitting that God allow the family and friends of someone who has died to help him arrive in everlasting glory.  And so, we are called upon to assist those who have died on their way to heaven.

For, if a person dies in the grace of God, but imperfectly so, God will bring that person to heaven.  However, because nothing attached to sin can enter into heaven, see Psalm 15:2; Rev. 21:27, a person must be purified of all sinful attachments before coming into that glorious realm.  God could by His power purify the person without help from anyone else.  However, God so respects human nature that He calls upon the imperfect soul to participate in that training through what we call purgatory.  As with all training, such as laborious studies for mastery of a subject, practices in music and art, or boot camp in the military, such a purification involves suffering, but it is also filled with the thrill of accomplishment.  And, by prayer, sacrifice and good deeds, we can help these souls, as we will be helped one day, on their final journey to the greater kingdom.

Emmaus & Holy Longing

In his last apostolic letter, Mane Nobiscum Domine (Stay With Us, Lord), St. John Paul II reflected upon our receipt of Christ in the Eucharist.  Much of that letter was based upon the experience of the disciples whom the risen Jesus met on the road to Emmaus, whose longings for Him were satisfied as our desire for Christ is fulfilled at every Mass.

As described in the Gospel according to Luke, Cleopas and another disciple had eagerly desired the fulfillment of Jesus’ promises, and were saddened by their apparent failure.  They did not let go of the promise, but rather continued talking about their hopes between themselves and then to Jesus, whom they saw only as a fellow traveler.  Speaking with Him about their hopes and anxieties was dangerous, for the authorities who crucified Jesus could next go after His disciples.  Jesus rebuked them for failing to understand the Scriptures, but then explained how the sacred words applied to Him, whom they still did not recognize.  They did not resent His rebuke, but rather listened eagerly with “burning hearts” to His discourse.  They then invited Him to stay with them that night, both to be hospitable and to continue hearing more of this divine wisdom.  Finally, when Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, they recognized Him who had done the same at the multiplication of the loaves a year earlier.  Jesus disappeared from their sight, but was still with them.  The disciples then ran seven miles back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples.  It was a dangerous journey, for the roads were not secure or lit, but they could not wait to share their joy.

As St. John Paul II pointed out, throughout our lives and particularly at every Mass, we also gather together with all our experiences, good and bad, and Jesus joins with us.  We long for Jesus and listen to His words from the Bible and the Church.  We recognize Him in the sacraments, and especially in the Eucharist, the bread from heaven.  And Jesus sends us forth to share the glorious message with others.  This holy longing to receive and share the life of Jesus will finally be satisfied when we meet Jesus face to face and receive the greater kingdom we have longed for on this earth.  For, as Jesus said in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” (Matt. 5:6)

Fasting for Freedom

Last week’s article discussed the goal of fasting and other acts of self-denial. This article will describe some ways of fasting and self-denial and the benefits that come from this practice.

For fasting can involve not only lessening food and drink, but also limiting entertainment, keeping more silence, exercising more control over time, and reducing unnecessary spending. The most obvious form of fasting involves going further than what is required in practicing more control over eating and drinking. That practice can mean eating less (e.g., avoiding eating between meals), giving up a favorite food or drink, or eating more simply.

By exercising more control over food and drink, one gains extra control over desires generally and makes the soul stronger and more alert for prayer and good works. Fasting can also involve giving up or limiting entertainment, such as a favorite television show, radio, computer games, or looking up unnecessary things on the internet. It can also involve limiting things that take up precious time and can weigh down the mind, such as limits on reading magazines and newspapers, or reducing use of Facebook, twitter, and the like.

Limiting access to easier forms of happiness helps a person gain extra time and become more alert to focus more on deeper realities, such as those from the Bible, the saints, the goodness of other people, or one’s own callings from God. For images and the imagination are not simply for fiction, but even more importantly can help us perceive realities that we cannot now see. And in the silence and peace that comes from limiting entertainment, one can hear the voice of God all the better.

On the point of gaining time, another practice of self-control is offering sacrifices based upon time or entertainment. Such practices can involve getting to bed earlier, and getting up earlier than usual or resolving to spend definite time each on one’s duties and responsibilities (e.g., tasks around the household, returning letters or calls, or keeping up with training or education) before spending time on more obviously enjoyable things.There is also the practice of using resources more carefully and avoiding unnecessary spending, or waiting longer for extra purchases.

Such extra control over entertainment, time and resources liberates the soul for prayer and works of charity, the latter of which is the topic of next week’s article.

Fasting and Making Space for God

The last three articles have discussed ways of increasing one’s prayer life.

This article will focus on another common Lenten practice, fasting, or giving things up for our friendship with God.

For Catholics often rightfully speak of giving something up for Lent, but often do not reflect upon why we do so. Fasting involves, not only limiting the amount of food or drink, but going the extra mile to limit any legitimate pleasure, such as eating not only less food, but simpler foods, reducing entertainment, games or electronic communications, or even getting up earlier than usual. (Any sinful pleasure, of course, should always be given up.)

At one level fasting and mortifications can be seen as negative, for they involve denying a lawful pleasure. But, at a deeper level, it is a positive idea, for in giving up pleasures that we are used to, we become more open to God and His guidance in our lives. Thus, the prophets from Moses to John the Baptist spent time alone with God on the mountains or in the desert in order to be more aware of His presence; and likewise, even Jesus fasted for 40 days before His public ministry, and often went up a mountain (and thus away from the comforts of life) to be with God in prayer.

As Blessed Pope Paul VI wrote in his 1967 Apostolic Constitution On Penance, acts of mortification (disciplining earthly pleasures) are essential to strengthening the soul and increase our control over our desires. As he wrote, “This exercise of bodily mortification, . . . does not imply a condemnation of the flesh which sons of God deign to assume.4 On the contrary mortification aims at the ‘liberation’ of man, who often finds himself, because of concupiscence, almost chained by his own senses.”

As St. Paul points out, athletes deny themselves many things to attain earthly glory; and all the more should we be willing to deny ourselves things to attain heavenly glory. See Romans. I also know from law practice that attorneys and businessmen will make all sorts of sacrifices, taking time away from things they would rather be doing, to get ahead in their fields. All the more can we make sacrifices to ascend to the realms of the spirit.

Next week’s article will describe some specific practices that can help us attain this goal.

Praying with Mary and the Bible

rosarybeadsLast week’s column discussed the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. This week, we will pick up on two common devotions in the Church, the rosary and lectio divina, a prayerful reading of the Bible.

The rosary was developed during the High Middle Ages as a way of praying the Hail Mary 50 or 150 times to match the practice of monks and nuns praying either 50 or 150 psalms as part of their vocation. Gradually, these groups of prayers were organized into the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries, which reflect the early life of Jesus, His sacrifice on Calvary, and then the Resurrection and its effects. In 2002, St. John Paul II built upon the ancient tradition and proposed adding the Mysteries of Light to meditate on the public life of Jesus from His first miracle at the wedding of Cana to the Holy Eucharist He gave us on the night before He died. As St. John Paul II pointed out at that time, in praying the Rosary, we are not merely repeating prayers, but rather, through the prayers entering (with the help of Mary) into contemplation of the mysteries of our salvation. The prayers are a path that brings us each day into the realms of divine wisdom.

Another source of divine wisdom is the Sacred Scriptures. And another common Catholic devotion is lectio divina, which is Latin for divine reading. With lectio divina, one selects a book of the Bible (perhaps a Gospel or a letter of St. Paul) and then meditates on each passage in succession very prayerfully. One carefully reads a specific passage (e.g., a portion of a psalm or a paragraph of an epistle). Then one prays over that passage, mediating upon it and open to insights from the Holy Spirit about its meaning. One then reads the passage again, and prays over it contemplatively, trying to gain a sense of God’s presence and to see how the passage impacts one’s life. One continues praying over the passage, speaking to God from one’s heart about one’s life, petitions, concerns, or anything else. And then the next day, or other time at prayer, one moves onto the next passage, eventually completing the book. In this calm, unhurried approach to Scripture, the Word of God sinks in and enlightens our path to salvation.

Liturgical Prayer: United with the Entire Church

Praying handsLast week, this article described the importance of prayer and recommended several types of prayer. This article and the next one will comment on four specific ways to deepen one’s prayer life: increased devotion to the Eucharist; the Liturgy of the Hours; the rosary; and lectio divina, which is a meditative reading of Scriptures.

The Eucharist is, as the Vatican II Council said in its Constitution on the Liturgy, “the source and summit of our faith,” for in the Eucharist is Jesus Himself, as much as He was with us when He walked the earth. And the Mass is the highest liturgy, where Jesus comes to us in that humble appearance of bread and wine.

Particularly during Lent, one could make a special effort to come to daily Mass in addition to Sunday Mass. If the regular 8:30 daily Mass is not feasible due to work, school or the like, one could still attend the Mass on Saturdays or holidays. One could also come early to Mass to be more in the presence of Jesus and read ahead of time the Scriptural readings and prayers for Mass. The readings for the Sunday Masses are available in our missals in church; and the readings and prayers for all Masses are available online at such sites as usccb.org (in the Worship
section), or in publications such as the Magnificatt.

Another liturgy that clergy pray each day is called the Liturgy of the Hours, an organized series of prayers that focus on the psalms and the other hymns and poems in the Bible. The term “hours” here does not mean a 60  minute time, but rather different times during the day that the prayers consecrate. The Liturgy of the Hours includes Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer, Night Prayer, and the Office of Readings, the latter of which involves longer readings from the Bible, the saints and Church councils. Priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters pray the Liturgy of the Hours each day. And the Vatican II Council also encouraged the laity to pray this liturgy, which is available either in the full four volumes, with passages for each day, or a simplified
version in what is called The Book of Christian Prayer. It is also available online at such sites as divineoffice.org.

Next week’s article will describe two popular devotions that also enhance our appreciation for the Mother of God and the word of God.