Growing Apologist

Becoming a Defender of Truth

Lessons on Powerful Prayer from St. Scholastica

St. Scholastica, detail of the St. Lucas altar...

There is a story of two twins, St. Scholastica (whose feast day is today) and St. Benedict of Nursia. St. Scholastica being a nun and St. Benedict a monk, they would customarily see each other once a year, during which time the two of them would pray and sing praises together and discuss heavenly matters.

One year, St. Scholastica asked her brother to stay the night with her so that they could continue their discussions and prayer, but the brother was very devout and would not stay a single night outside of the monastery. This distressed her, so she immediately folded her hands and laid her head on them, praying hard to the Lord. As she looked up to heaven, lightning flashed across the once clear sky and as the tears fell from her face, great rain droplets pounded on the roof of the house. The storm that the Lord granted on behalf of Scholastica was so great, that neither Benedict nor the monks with him dared to set foot outside. Read the rest of this entry »

Leave a comment »

Learn All About Prayer From Jesus

Now that we have covered the high level of what prayer is, who can pray, and why, when and where we should pray, one major question remains. How do we pray? It seems like such a simple thing—just talk to God—and yet I feel no shame in asking this question as it is the very question that the disciples of Jesus asked of him.

From Microsoft OfficeIn the book of Mathew, when the disciples ask of Jesus how to pray, Jesus gives them the prayer of Our Father. The disciples were faithful Jews. They were taught at a young age how to pray, with formal and memorized prayers, in synagogues and the temple, and by the priests. Yet something they saw in the way Jesus prayed prompted them to ask him to teach them. Read the rest of this entry »

5 Comments »

The Five W’s of Prayer: Part 2

Praying Angel

This is a continuation of the series of posts on prayer, in particular The Five W’s of Prayer: Part 1.  See also the introductory post, In His Holy Name.

“Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer in the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God.” (Catholic Catechism 2725)

Previously, I asserted that prayer should be easy and natural, but thanks to Adam and Eve, it isn’t. In our sinfulness—our shame and guilt—prayer has become a difficult thing to do. Yet it, is a necessary and a good wholesome response to God’s love and a reflection of our own love for God and his commandments. We can read the bible, study his word and tradition, go to church, and perform acts of charity and mercy, but if we do not pray, there is no point to it. There is no relationship with God without prayer. The Catholic Church (and other sects of Christianity of course) knows this and knows that the tempter knows this. That is what makes prayer a ‘determined response on our part’ and ‘a battle’—for if we can be stopped from praying, nothing we can do will bring us to God or impart God’s grace in our lives and our hearts.

Before we can take up the shield and sword of God, let us take a moment to learn more about prayer, in particular the When and Where. The other three W’s (What, Who and Why) were covered in the first post here.

When Should We Pray?

“With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.” (Eph 6:18)

God gives us the aid of the Holy Spirit

Saint Paul directed us to pray without ceasing. By praying without ceasing, we welcome God to walk with us in our lives and establish our foundation in God. Prayer becomes a constant conversation with God. This is an easy thing to say, but perhaps a difficult thing to put into practice. There are many objections to prayer—no time, too many distractions, it is dry and boring, not being heard to name a few. I would be the first to admit the constant, ceaseless prayer is difficult at best, maybe even impossible. I would also propose that it is also very simple, all we have to do is ask for God’s help to make prayer a continuous practice, and in that way a prayer will make constant prayer possible through the Holy Spirit.

Some people pray only when the road becomes difficult, others pray only when the road becomes easy. As the Catholic Catechism beautifully states it, “We pray as we live, because we live as we pray it.” So the answer to when should we pray is clear; with the aid of the Holy Spirit, always, constantly, and without ceasing.

Where Should Prayer Happen?

“According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays. If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain.” (CC 2562)

The Immaculate Heart of Jesus

Just as our works are in vain without prayer, our prayer itself is in vain if it is just lip service. The bible speaks of this often, “The Lord said: Since this people draws near with words only and honors me with their lips alone, though their hearts are far from me, and their reverence for me has become routine observance of the precepts of men, therefore I will again deal with this people.” (Is 29: 13-14) While the Catechism asserts that the church is the proper and favorable place of prayer, as well as a sacred place in the home, monasteries, and shrines, the true place that prayer should happen is in our hearts. (CC 2691) As we see from Isaiah, it does not matter where our physical body is, if our spiritual body is far from God.

Let’s pray that God imparts the Holy Spirit upon us so that we can continuously pray with our hearts close to God!

References and Additional Reading

Catholic Catechism, available online

The Holy Bible, available online

Rahilly, Alfred. “Reason.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 1 Feb. 2012 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12673b.htm>.

1 Comment »

The Angelic Doctor: St. Thomas Aquinas

A Student’s Prayer

By St. Thomas Aquinas

Creator of all things, True source of light and wisdom, Origin of all being, Graciously let a ray of your light penetrate The darkness of my understanding.

Take from me the double darkness In which I have been born, An obscurity of sin and ignorance.

Give me a keen understanding, A retentive memory, and The ability to grasp things Correctly and fundamentally.

Grant me the talent Of being exact in my explanations And the ability to express myself With thoroughness and charm.

Point out the beginning, Direct the progress, And help in the completion.

I ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Taken from the Apple Seeds website, produced by Fr. Brian Cavanaugh of the Third Order Franciscan and is found here: http://www.appleseeds.org/aquinas_stdpryr.htm

What is a Doctor?

From Microsoft Office

The Doctors writings are used to educate

The title ‘Doctor of the Church’ does not refer to a medical practice, but is the title of an authorized teacher and theologian of the Catholic Church. [1] This is a special title given by the pope to people who fulfill three requirements: remarkable holiness even for a saint; depth of doctrinal insight; extensive body of writings that are an expression of authentic and life giving Catholic Tradition. [1]

Often times, these people are also considered fathers of Christianity and whose works are well respected by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. There are thirty-three official Doctors of the Church; each one is considered to not be infallible—meaning there may be errors in their writings and teachings, however their writing impacted and guided the Church none-the-less. [2] St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Francis de Sales and St. Catherine of Siena are a few of the Doctors.

Five Lessons from the Angelic Doctor of the Church

Saint Thomas Aquinas recently had a feast day on January 28th. Here are five key points about his life, a model for all to look up to.

  1. With his parent’s end goal of gaining prestige and power by their son becoming the Abbey of Monte, St. Thomas was submitted to the care of the Benedictines of Monte Casino at the age of five around the year 1231. [3, 4] There St. Thomas excelled in his education, even going beyond his peers in education and virtue. [4]
  2. At the age of 17, his father, the Count of Aquinas, sent St. Thomas to the University of Naples so to further his education. [3] To the distress of his parents, St. Thomas became inspired by the Dominicans and decided to join the order despite his family’s plans. [3, 4]
  3. His parents tried everything to dissuade him of this decision. During his two years of discernment, they went as far as sending St. Thomas an impure woman to tempt him. But St. Thomas remained chaste and for this, God rewarded him the gift of perfect, ‘Angelic’ chastity. [4]
  4. St. Thomas Aquinas’s writings and sermons flowed from his personal prayer life. [3] His greatest writing, Summa Theologiae summarizes and explains the entire body of Catholic teaching and is used even today to educate people. [5]
  5. He died in 1274, canonized as a saint and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1323. [4] St. Thomas Aquinas is the patron saint of Academics, apologists, theologians, chastity, lightning and storms. [5]

References and Additional Reading

On Doctors of the Catholic Church:

[1] Introduction to the Doctors of the Catholic Church; Definition and Complete List, The Crossroads Initiative, Marcellino D’Ambrosio, Ph.D., available online (1/31/12). 

[2] Doctors of the Church, Catholic Online, available online (1/31/12).

On St. Thomas Aquinas:

[3] St. Thomas Aquinas: His Life and Writings, The Crossroads Initiative, available online (1/31/12).

[4] St. Thomas Aquinas, Catholic Online, available online (1/31/12).

[5] January 28th, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor, CatholicCulture.org, available online (1/31/12).

Leave a comment »

FAQ on HHS Mandate

Losing My Religion

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has released a FAQ on the HHS Mandate for Contraception/Sterilization Coverage being enforced on the public.  This two page FAQ is very informative and imparts information that I think is missing from most of the secular news articles.  While I don’t normally like to push political documents to people, this is something that I feel is important enough for people to know.

Some key questions and answers that I found very interesting are as follows.

Didn’t HHS include a religious exemption?

Yes, an incredibly narrow “religious employer” exemption that fails to protect many, perhaps most, religious employers. To be eligible an organization must meet four strict criteria, including the requirement that it both hire and serve primarily people of its own faith. Catholic schools and hospitals would have to eject their non-Catholic employees, students and patients, or purchase health coverage that violates their moral and religious teaching. Jesus and his apostles would not have been “religious enough” for the exemption, since they healed and served people of different faiths. The exemption provides no protection at all to sponsors and providers of health plans for the general public, to pro-life people who own businesses, or to individuals with a moral or religious objection to these procedures.

Isn’t this an aspect of the Administration’s drive for broader access to health care for all?

Whether or not it was intended that way, it has the opposite effect. People will not be free to keep the coverage they have now that respects their convictions. Organizations with many employees will have to violate their consciences or stop offering health benefits altogether. And resources needed to provide basic health care to the uninsured will be used instead to facilitate IUDs and Depo-Provera for those who already had ample coverage. This is a diversion away from universal health care.”

In short, pro-life institutions such as parishes, schools and charity organizations will have to a) let go of people of a different faith under their employment or care, b) violate the law and risk being shut down, c) violate their own conscious in order to appease the government, d) stop providing health insurance all together.  This amendment to the law is NOT in the best interest of the people.

Read the rest of the two-page FAQ here:  http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/preventiveqanda2012-2.pdf

3 Comments »

Preaching for Christian Unity

From Microsoft OfficeI don’t like to preach. Some people might ask, well Pam what is it that you are doing with this blog then? And I would tell them, I’m sharing the truth. To me, preaching is more than sharing the truth—it’s forcing it upon people without listening or respecting their own personhood. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word preach as “to deliver a sermon; to urge acceptance or abandonment of an idea or course of action; specifically: to exhort in an officious or tiresome manner.” Like the word ‘religion’, the word ‘preach’ tends to be a loaded word.

Lord knows that I have a lot of opinions; some are in line with the Church and others he is working very hard in me to change so that my thoughts, words and actions do not contradict the Church. Today, I have a desire to preach on my thoughts about Christian unity and this whole religious freedom, abortion, health care controversies going on in America.

The Issue

I think that most people would agree that America is having some issues with her values and morals changing. The government is elected by the people to be From Microsoft Officea voice of the people, yet so many of us truly object to the way and the direction that America is being led. Personally, I have always thought that if you have a problem with how something is done, then do something about it. Sitting around, preaching (like I do so now) and complaining does not solve anything.

And the classic question: what can one person, who is not an elected official, do? Another thing that I do not like is politics. My general opinion on that is that politics means many tics and tics can’t survive without a host. But, as just one person of this country, I can vote. And when that fails, as it clearly did in the last election, I can pray.

The Solution

From Microsoft OfficeIt all comes back to prayer. In fact, it should have started with prayer. The classic question should not have been what can one person do, but what can God do. And the answer is anything, everything and the impossible. Being that this is an election year, it feels like America is holding her breath, just waiting to see which direction she will be led in next. It feels like a turning place, like Israel in the bible—will America follow God or will she be left to her own devices to be conquered by other countries?

This battle—will we follow God or not?—feels like it is taking place worldwide, rather than just in America. For if America, the very country that was founded in the name of religious freedom, trumps on people’s religious freedoms, who is to say that other countries will not fail when faced the same issue?

Yesterday was the last official day of the worldwide, church-wide prayer for Christian unity. Whether you joined in or not, now is definitely not the time to stop praying for Christian unity. It does not matter what sect of Christianity, it doesn’t matter where you live or your race or your gender, for we all belong to one church and one body with Jesus as the head. The theme was “We will all be changed by the Victory of Jesus Christ” and 1 Corinthians 15:51-58.

Let us pray continually that God will change us all, in his mercy, for his glory and because of the Victory that Jesus won for us.

I’m done preaching… for now…

From Microsoft Office

What do you think?

1 Comment »

In His Holy Name—New Post Series

There are some practices in the Catholic Church that I am not used to yet. For example, the Liturgical Year begins around November 27th (on the first day of Advent). Because the Church year begins on Picture from Microsoft OfficeAdvent and not January 1st, I totally missed the Pope’s declaration of the Year of Faith. Apparently, the Year of Faith begun on October 11, 2011 and will go until November 24, 2012. [1, 2] (I find it rather interesting—coincidence or something more?—that I started this blog on October 10, 2011). That’s great that the Pope declared a Year of Faith, but what does it mean?

The Church Liturgical Year rise and falls with the life of Christ. The Liturgical year starts with Christ’s birth, climaxes with the death and resurrection of our Lord, and ends with a reminder of our own mortality and a call to repentance so that we may always be ready for the second coming of Christ. Each month has a particular focus, so it seems natural to me that the year would have a theme as well.

The Year of Faith is the Pope’s call for all people in the Church to study our faith, to learn more, to grow, and to become stronger, so that we can defend it and evangelize others, in particular the people (and countries) who were confirmed Catholic but have left the Church. [2] In his apostolic letter titled Porta Fidei, Pope Benedict XVI states, “… the Church… clasping sinners to her bosom, is at once holy and always in need of purification. The Year of Faith, from this perspective, is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world.” [1] His apostolic letter is full of beautiful gems that are worth reading. You can read the entire letter here or highlights and summary by Catholic Online here.

Prayer?

At reading this, I rubbed my hands in anticipation and thought, this is great, it’s the whole reason I started this blog! But where do I begin? January is dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus (also a feast day on January 3rd). [3] Benedict Baur is quoted on Catholic Culture, “In His name we pray to the Father with assurance of being heard.” [3] It occurred to me, the best place to start anything is in prayer.

Picture from Microsoft OfficeAnd I must admit—I’m not very good at praying. When I was a little girl, I would talk and sing to God all the time, but then I became a teenager and an adult, and somehow I lost that ability. Praying feels awkward. Questions like, ‘Am I talking too much and not listening enough?’, ‘Am I asking for too much and not thanking enough?’, and ‘Is it selfish to be asking so much for me and not much for the rest of the hurting world?’ rise up and then I kind of flounder around like a fish out of water. It was so easy when I was a kid; why isn’t it easy now?

So in light of the Year of Faith, the Holy Name of Jesus, and all those barriers to prayer, here is my next series of posts this month.

  • The first post will be on the five W’s (who, what, when, where and why) of prayer during the week of January 8, 2012.
  • In the second post, I will explore the benefits of structured and spontaneous prayer in the week of January 15, 2012.
  • For the week of January 22, 2012, I will explain the meaning of various Catholic prayers such as Our Father and Hail Mary.
  • The month will wrap up in a list of ways to improve our prayer life.

Happy New Year my friends!

References

[1] Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei (11 October 2011), Online

[2] Keith Fournier, The Door of Faith: Pope Calls for Year of Faith, Issues Apostolic Letter (18 October 2011), Online

[3] Catholic Culture, Month of the Holy Name of Jesus (January 2012), Online

5 Comments »

%d bloggers like this: