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 »

Advertisements
1 Comment »

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 »

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 »

The Five W’s of Prayer: Part 1

From Microsoft OfficePrayer should be easy and come naturally from us. After all, God created us to have a relationship with him, and a huge part of any relationship is communication, the ability to talk to one another. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, that natural, easy communication with one another and with God became broken. Adam ate the forbidden fruit, suddenly became aware of his iniquities and hid from God in shame. [3] God never stopped communicating with Adam—Adam stopped communicating to God out of shame and fear.

We inherited this brokenness. As such, it is our own fears, desires, shame and sin that make prayer difficult. However, the story doesn’t end with Adam. We can learn about prayer from many different people in the bible—Abraham and the prayer to save others (Gn 18:27), Moses and the prayer of the mediator (Ex 33:12-17), David and the prayer of the king (2 Sam 18-29), Elijah and the other prophets regarding the conversion of heart (1 Kgs 18:36-37), the Psalms as a prayer of the assembly, Saint Paul and his many letters (Rom 8:27), and Mary the mother of God (Lk 1:46-55) are just a few. [1,3] The most important figure for us to learn from is Jesus. It was Jesus, God made man, who came down from heaven to restore our relationship back to God.

We inherited that brokenness, but Jesus came to heal us and to teach us how to have a relationship with God. With his help, we can learn to communicate with God again.

What is Prayer?

“Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.” (CC 2559) [1]

From Microsoft OfficeSome people might think that prayer is just talking to yourself or delusions that the invisible will listen to you. Others only pray in time of need or only of requests of God. In fact, prayer is much more. Prayer is communication with God. It is spending time with him and the basis of our relationship with him.

Mother Angelica says it beautifully in her book titled Journey into Prayer.

The word Prayer means many things to many people. To some it means asking for “things”—for health or success. To others, it means repentance, imploring God’s Mercy for their sins and infidelities. Prayer is Praise and Thanksgiving to many and to the majority it is a cry in times of distress.

Prayer is all these things, but it is more. It is Union of Love: God’s Love and your love; it is an awareness of God’s love for you—His personal love.” [2]

Why Do We Pray?

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chr 7:14, emphasis added) [3]

From Microsoft OfficeJesus said to ask and it shall be given (Mt 7:7). [3] Let us keep in mind however our feelings for a family member who only speaks to us when they want something. It becomes irritating, and there is little for a relationship to build on. While it is good to ask of God our needs, as he wishes to provide for us, let it not be the only reason we pray. Let prayer be a covenant, a communion and a seeking of the face of God.

Who Can Pray?

From Microsoft OfficeAnyone. This may seem like a silly answer, but it is the basis of Christianity. There are no barriers based on gender, race, or (oddly enough) religion. Anyone can come before God, humble themselves and pray. God listens to what is in our hearts and responds accordingly. I remember when I was not yet a Christian; I fell to my knees and asked God for his salvation. I do not find it a coincidence that I became a Christian a month later and was baptized a month after that. God still heard my prayer to him, despite my lack of willingness to follow him and his church.

There are examples of pagans praying to God in the bible. One such example is the book of Jonah. Jonah, a prophet of the Lord, was sent to the pagan city Nineveh to warn them that the judgment of the Lord was upon them and that if they did not repent, the Lord would destroy the city. The people listened, put on sack cloth and repented. They called to God to spare them, and God listened. [3]

When and Where will be covered in Part 2.

References

[1] Catholic Catechism (CC), available online

[2] Mother Angelica, Journey into Prayer, available online

[3] The Bible, available online

1 Comment »

%d bloggers like this: