Growing Apologist

Becoming a Defender of Truth

There Are No Cons

Jesus in Prayer

I struggle with spontaneous prayer, which as a former Protestant this is a bit difficult to admit; however, I have always been fond of talking to God. Then when I started on the road to Catholicism, the first structured prayer that I learned was the ‘Our Father’. It was odd to me. It seemed dry—I did not see the beauty in what I was saying. I did not realize that the ‘Our Father’ was the way that Jesus taught his disciples to pray. Now, the ‘Our Father’ springs to my lips easily, while I’m working and I struggle with people and projects; while I’m running and struggle to keep going; while I’m cleaning and thankful for all that God has blessed me with; while I try to fall asleep to still my mind on the peace of God. I have not abandoned spontaneous prayer. In fact, often times I couple the two together. Read the rest of this entry »

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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 »

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The Underestimated Holy Spirit

I don’t know about you, but I know something about me… I underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit. My first step towards Christianity as a Protestant was my belief in Jesus. I was still not quite right with God, but I was headed in the right direction. At that time, I believed that God was a very unkind God (the Old Testament was my proof—He wasn’t very nice to his chosen people. I know now that they had it coming to them as they just refused to listen) and the Holy Spirit was just this odd, third entity that I recognized as important, but less important than both God and Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is not at all less important in the Trinity, nor should he be any less respected. I could be totally off base here, but I think that as Protestants and Catholics (perhaps the majority of Christian believers), we put more emphasis on Jesus and on God and tend to remember the Holy Spirit as an afterthought. However, we must remember that the Holy Spirit does not come third to the Father and the Son, but is the third person of God. Read the rest of this entry »

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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>.

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The Meaning of Advent

Lëtzebuergesch: Adventskranz um drëtten Advent...

In the Catholic mass, Advent has been our focus ever since November 27th.  We have had bible readings and homilies, the churches are decked in with purple, and there’s a call to repentance and to “prepare a way for the Lord”.  But what does Advent really mean?

Here is a list outlining the different meanings of Advent.

  1. Dictionary.com defines advent as: “a coming into place, view, or being; arrival; the coming of Christ into the world; the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas, observed in commemoration of the coming of Christ into the world; Second Coming”. [1]
  2. Most obviously it is the season of preparation for the anniversary of Christ’s birthday. We consider the annunciation by the angel Gabriel to Mary; Mary’s acceptance of the Lord’s will; the Holy Spirit preparing her womb to be immaculate to receive Christ; the birth of Jesus. [2]
  3. It is also the season of rigorous preparation for the Second Coming of Christ into the world. For this, we consider John the Baptist and his cry to make straight a path for the Lord; the Prophet Isaiah’s encouragement for all to be vigilant in prayer and to recognize the signs of the coming of Christ. [3] We should always be preparing for the Second Coming of Christ for we do not know the day or the hour of his coming; however, this is the season to renew the effort and refresh ourselves in the mysteries of our God.
  4. Lastly, it is the season of preparation for the “third” coming of Christ, namely the descent of the Holy Spirit and the dwelling of the Lord in our own flesh. [2]  Upon baptism (and confirmation for the Catholics), the Holy Spirit enters into us and lives with us.  Advent is the time of the year when we should slow down and consider our lives, how we have been living it with the Holy Spirit, and how we can do better.

When I read this list, my heart almost sunk to my stomach.  There is so much that we do during this season—Christmas shopping, parties, decorating, baking, big meals, and so forth—and yet according to the Church, this is a very important season of spiritual growth.  Advent is already half over.  If you are like me, the list above is daunting to add on top of everything else.

We must remember that we are still in the season, and there is still time to focus on what really matters.  Even if we just take a few minutes a day to read a little scripture, to say a quick prayer, or to listen to Advent music or lectures in the car.  It does not take much to re-focus our lives this season.  My next posts will cover the list above and easy ways to incorporate the meaning of Advent in our lives.

Remember:  Advent may be officially celebrated during these four weeks, but it really should be celebrated every day of our lives.  [3]

References

[1] Definition of Advent, Dictionary.com 
[2] See Advent’s Meaning Through Mary, Pope Benedict XVI, Catholic Culture 
[3] Our Whole Life Should Be An ‘Advent’, Pope John Paul II, Catholic Culture 

Additional Reading

Advent: The Divine Silence Broken by Bellaverita blog
Advent – Luke 1:47-55 Mary’s Magnificent Response by Praying the Lectionary blog
Devotions for Advent Week 3 Tuesday Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13 Matthew 11:1-6 by Broad Meadow blog
Considering Eternity by Mark Mathia blog

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Ave Maria! Part 3

Previously…

This is a continuation of the posts on the Holy Rosary titled Ave Maria!  The previous posts are as follows:

This post will cover a couple of different ways to pray the Rosary.  I encourage all to visit the websites and documents that I reference at the end of the post for more information on the subject.

How is it Prayed?

While researching how the Rosary is prayed, I discovered that there are many ways based on culture, tradition and reformation.  In an essence, there are standard prayers in the Rosary, but I get this sense that as long as the Rosary is said with the meditative focus on the life of Jesus, there is no right or wrong way to pray it.  Of course, the Church does have a standard way for the Rosary to be prayed, however a person is not condemned for not following this standard or for not being able to meditate on all 20 Mysteries in  one sitting [1].

generally available marian image image created...

I personally have struggled with the Rosary for many reasons.  The top reasons was its devotion to Mary and that I did not understand that the Rosary is a meditative prayer.  I fell into the trap of just reciting the prayers to say that I’ve recited them.  I did not know that there was more than one way to pray the Rosary or that the Rosary can be practiced as just one Mystery at a time instead of five or twenty.  Pope John Paul II reminds us that the Rosary was a body and a soul– the body is the prayers and the soul is the meditations.  Without its soul, the Rosary is just an empty babbling of words.  The meditations are defined by the Mysteries of the Rosary [2].

But what is a Mystery?  The broad definition of a Mystery from the view point of the Church is an idea that we need revelation from God to understand [1].  The Trinity is an example of a Mystery; it is something that is difficult to understand without faith in God.  A Mystery in terms of the Rosary is a segment of Mary and Jesus’ life that is focused on during the recitation of the prayers.  The Mysteries of course were standardized by the Church, and these Mysteries highlight the critical points in Mary and Jesus’ life that the beliefs and foundations of the Church is based on [3].

These Mysteries are as follows [3]:

Joyful Mysteries

  • The Annunciation– The messenger of God visits Mary to ask her to carry the Son of God
  • The Visitation– Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth while both were pregnant
  • The Nativity– The birth of Jesus
  • The Presentation– Mary and Joseph present baby Jesus to the temple
  • The Finding of Jesus in the Temple– Mary and Joseph lose Jesus for three days only to find him teaching and learning in the temple

Luminous Mysteries (Added by Pope John Paul II)

  • The Baptism in the Jordan– The Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus when he was baptized
  • The Wedding at Cana– Jesus’ first miracle performed at the urging of his mother
  • Proclamation of the Kingdom–Jesus preached to the people about the coming of the Kingdom
  • Transfiguration of our Lord– Jesus’ face shone with the glory of God
  • The Last Supper– the institution of the Eucharist

Christ on the Cross cropped. Crop of old Mass ...

Sorrowful Mysteries

  • The Agony in the Garden– Jesus prayed while he was being betrayed
  • Scourging at the Pillar– Pilate had Jesus scourged
  • The Crowning of Thorns– The guards mocked Jesus, adorning him with a crown of thorns
  • Carrying of the Cross– Jesus fell three times while carrying the cross
  • The Crucifixion of the Lord– The death of Jesus

Glorious Mysteries

  • The Resurrection– After three days, Jesus rose from the dead
  • The Ascension– After forty days with his apostles, Jesus ascended into heaven
  • The Descent of the Holy Spirit– Like tongues of flames, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples
  • The Assumption– The Mother of God was assumed into heaven, body and soul
  • The Coronation– The Mother of God was crowned Queen

There will be a page added with a guide on how to pray the regular Rosary and also the Scriptural Rosary.

REFERENCES

[1]  The Rosary. Women for Faith and Family, http://www.wf-f.org/Rosary.html

[2]  Prayers, The Rosary Army, http://www.rosaryarmy.com/?page_id=583

[3]  The Holy Rosary, The Vatican Holy See, http://www.vatican.va/special/rosary/index_rosary.htm

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