Prayer, Consecrating Time

(5th reflection in a series on the Liturgy of the Hours)

The knowledge that God desires dialog with us, that Christ prayed, taught us to pray, and is participating with us in prayer is a very powerful incentive for our participation.  But if left at that it sounds like we are playing a game of follow the leader.  There is so much more to the Liturgy of the Hours. This evening let’s look at one aspect: Consecration of Time.

From Sacrosanctum Concilium: ‘By ancient Christian tradition what distinguishes the liturgy of the hours from other liturgical services is that it consecrates to God the whole cycle of the day and the night.[1] The General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours references this quote and goes on to reinforce it. It reminds us that Christ taught us that we ‘ought always to pray and not lose heart.[2] And so in obedience to our Lord the General Instruction continues ‘The Church fulfills this precept not only by celebrating the eucharist but in other ways also, especially through the liturgy of the hours.[3] And finishes the section with one final quote from Sancrosanctum Concilium: ‘that the day may be truly sanctified and the hours themselves recited with spiritual advantage, it is best that each of them be prayed at a time most closely corresponding to the true time of each canonical hour.[4]

As followers of Christ we are called to go out and continue His ministry of finding the lost and lead the fallen to the heights of sanctity.  By our actions we can witness to the love that is God, and instill in those around us the urge to do the same – we are called to help sanctify where we are.  But this is a daunting task – impossible with just our own talents and strength.  Our minds wander, our will weakens, our attention tires.  Through the Liturgy of the Hours, joining the continual prayer of Christ, Holy Mother Church gives us those moments of re-energizing and strengthening.  We step from the daily routine and step into the dialog of God.  It reminds us of who we are by praying to who created us. By our participation in the structured prayer of Christ’s Mystical Body, we enter the divine to offer God our efforts since the last Hour (of prayer) and pray for His companionship till the next Hour.

This, then, reinforces in us that in our ‘episodic’ life the Liturgy of the Hours makes us aware that life isn’t a journey through ‘compartments’; rather it is one long and joyful pilgrimage with Christ. This in turn places Christ at the center.

Brothers and sisters, God is the origin and the goal – He is the constant in our lives no matter how hectic and disjointed we find them.  Christ’s continual prayer, and our participation with Him in the Liturgy of the Hours, assures us that He is the center of time; and we, in turn, live our lives as such.  By constant prayer we offer the world and its issues as well as offering our victories and failures. We make them a sacrifice of sorts – we offer them as to have God sanctify them – which He does.

But it is as important to realize that moments of prayer are special, grace filled, sanctified moments; and the Liturgy of the Hours done throughout the world means that every moment of the day there is the sanctifying action of liturgical prayer going up to the Father.  Day and night becomes a chorus of sanctifying praise. We, the Church Militant join with those in heaven who, as we in the Book of Revelation: ‘day and night they never cease to sing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”[5]

—————————————————————–

[1] SC art 83-84
[2] LK 18:1
[3] General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours (GILH) #10
[4] SC art 94 quotes in GILH #11
[5] REV 4:8b

Lessons From Family

(Allocutio given at a Legion of Mary Mtg (Mary Morningstar Curia Meeting) reflecting on a chapter in the handbook concerning confidentiality of meetings)

As I read today’s reading one word came to mind – over and over again.  As I listened to the words tell me about confidentiality and the importance of it in the health of the Legion and our Mother’s work I kept hearing one word – family.

What to some might seem like a tough and callous requirement is, in reality, how a family is built.  Think back to our childhood, or look to your own experiences with your children and you will see that it was by confidentiality that we bonded; it is how each of us grew both as individuals and as part of a society. Each of us could speak our mind, could ask personal questions, open our hearts with the knowledge that our family would embrace us for who we are and help us.  There was no other place that we could feel so secure and at peace – for our innermost feelings would never be betrayed.

Why? Why does family give us this assurance – love.  Brothers and sisters, it is through the bonds of love that we build a family.  We offer ourselves to each member and rely on their offering themselves to us – always with the knowledge in our heart that, in love, each of us will keep the bonds of confidentiality.  It is what builds us stronger together.

This is why the Legion puts such a strong emphasis on confidentiality. If it wasn’t for this shared love of our Legion family we could never carry out our Blessed Mother’s work. We can’t do it on our own, so we need to open ourselves to each other to do her work. We are not hiding things as if to keep secrets but instead we are nurturing each other, helping with our shortcomings and giving loving correction. We strengthen each other with honest opinions and shared knowledge.

It is true that when dealing with those we meet in our work of evangelization things will come up that we can’t let the whole family know – but we look to those in the family that can help with these situations such as our Priests and Spiritual Directors; and this too can strengthen the whole Legion family. Family will sit with each other not needing to know everything but only needing to know we are family. We sit with each other, we pray with each other, we support each other; nothing else is needed but the love in our Legion family. And we are secure in our knowledge that this is enough because with love is Christ and His Mother.

So as we reflect on this all important section about confidentiality let’s look at it not so much as a strict law that holds us but as a lesson in the importance of a family bond; after all it’s a lesson that our Mother has given us time and time again.

Luke 2:19 ‘But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.

Prayer, A Participation With Christ

(4th reflection in a series on the Liturgy of the Hours)

We reflected last week on daily periodic prayer and how it has been a staple over the millennia. Today let’s reflect on maybe the most important aspect of this prayer, especially the Liturgy of the Hours – participation with Christ.  As the Mystical Body of Christ Holy Mother Church participates with the constant work of our Lord and Savior.  As members of this Mystical Body, of which Christ is the Head, we are an integral part of this participation.

We are aware that in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass our active participation means that we are participating in Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on Calvary – in His offering to the Father for our sakes. Within this sacrifice we offer up our activities; our joys and sufferings, our hopes and fears. We participate through Christ, with Christ and in Christ.

The same action is in the Liturgy of the Hours. Though it is not the Mass, it is an extension and so:

We pray through Him,

As we read 1 Timothy ‘there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…[1]We pray through Christ the Lord of all, Mediator through whom alone we have access to God.[2]

We pray with Him and in Him as we are told in Sacrosanctum Concilium:

Christ Jesus, high priest of the new and eternal covenant, taking human nature, introduced into this earthly exile that hymn which is sung throughout all ages in the halls of heaven. He joins the entire community of mankind to Himself, associating it with His own singing of this canticle of divine praise.[3]

So brothers and sisters, our daily prayer that we offer to God in heaven is a participation with Christ in His constant prayer. As in the Mass where we participate in His great offering to His Father – so too is our prayer, especially the Liturgy of the Hours, a sharing in Christ’s work.

From the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours:

The Head is Son of God and Son of Man, one as God with the Father and one as man with us. When we speak in prayer to the Father, we do not separate the Son from him and when the Son’s Body prays it does not separate itself from its Head. It is the one Savior of his Body, the Lord Christ Jesus, who prays for us and in us and who is prayed to by us. He prays for us as our priest, in us as our Head; he is prayed to by us as our God. Recognize therefore our own voice in him and his voice in us.” [51]

 The excellence of Christian prayer lies in its sharing in the reverent love of the only-begotten Son for the Father and in the prayer that the Son put into words in his earthly life and that still continues without ceasing in the name of the whole human race and for its salvation, throughout the universal Church and in all its members.[4]

Our participation in Christ’s prayer is added to the eternal and continual prayer of the heavenly hosts – it is the obligation and delight of all faithful, in heaven and here on earth, to fulfill our vocation that St. Peter writes about: ‘and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.[5] And again: ‘you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood…[6]

I must admit that when I consider prayer in this light and what it means not to pray the Liturgy of the Hours; I can only think of one explanation: ungrateful and selfish.

————————————————————————————

[1] 1 TM 2:5
[2] General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours #6
[3] Sacrosanctum Concilium #83
[4] General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours #7
[5] 1PT 2:5
[6] 1 PT 2:9

Our Lady of many titles

Homily given on the Memorial of the dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Today is a special feast for Mary Queen of Heaven parish.  Today Holy Mother Church celebrates not just another church dedicated to our Blessed Mother but the first Marian Church in the west – St. Mary Major in Rome. Santa Maria Maggiore was erected in the 4th century in honor of the proclamation of Mary as Theotokos (God bearer) or as we say ‘Mother of God’ at the council of Ephesus.

We celebrate not only the dedication of a church named after the Blessed Virgin but we also celebrate another title given to Mary in connection with a miracle that led to its erection when in 352, legend has it, Mary indicated in a dream to a wealthy, childless Roman couple, who had prayed that Mary might show them how to dispose of their money, that she wanted a church built in her honor. The couple’s friend, Pope Liberius, also had a dream in which Mary told him that a church should be built in honor of the title ‘Mother of God’ and the site for this church would be covered with snow. The next day, August 5th, a hot, sultry morning, the Esquiline Hill was covered with snow. All Rome proclaimed the summer snows a miracle, and Santa Maria Maggiore was built on the hill; and from this event Mary was given the title ‘Our Lady of the Snows’.

And so, here at our church in Elmhurst Illinois 1,663 years later, dedicated to yet another title given Blessed Mary we celebrate almost two millennia of special honors given to this small maiden, from a small backwards village in a small backwater kingdom – who offered her whole heart and mind and entire being to God long before she gave her fiat to the Archangel Gabriel. A young maiden whose yes changed humanity. A young maiden who has time and time again come among us with love to do one thing – to lead us to her Son.

Brothers and sisters whether we proclaim her as: Our Lady of Good Help, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Guadalupe, or any of the other dozens of titles let’s make sure that we make it our mission to honor Mary by how we live our lives. Let’s make her total faith in her Son our own.  Let’s be like the Canaanite woman in today’s gospel and approach her Son with the confidence that Jesus will hear our prayer and say to us ‘O woman/man great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.[1]

Let’s not give in to the pressures of trying to fit into society if it leads away from where Mary is pointing.  The last week or so our first readings have shown us a stubborn and wayward Israel nation who at almost every step of their journey were tempted to return to slavery if it meant comfort. This is not our path; our path is that of our Blessed Mother – who trusted in God – come what may! She will help us to move towards her Son, she is our Mother; she will untwist the confusion and chaos we find ourselves in by pointing to her Son; which brings us to yet another title given her (and one of Pope Francis’ favorite) ‘Our Lady of the Knots’.

Oh, Lady of many titles help us to keep close to your Son and our Savior.

Amen.
[1] MT 15:28

The Disciple’s Way

Today, Christ tells us what it means to be a disciple.

Peter proclaims to Christ what has been revealed to him – ‘You are the Christ[1].  As He says this to Christ he is also proclaiming to history that we have a savior and He loves us. Great and glorious news – hearts should rejoice.

We too, say this – we know that Jesus isn’t just some famous thinker or just a great charitable do-gooder; though these are good things this isn’t who He truly is. He is the Christ, the anointed one – He is God Himself come among us.  We announce ourselves as devoted followers of God – not another person or wise thought.  We have total faith in Him – He is our savior. The heavens resound in celebration each time we proclaim this.  But Jesus tells us this is not enough. St. James writes, in another part of his letter ‘Even the demons believe that and tremble.[2]

Christ in response tells Peter, those around Him, and us – what it means to be a follower of His. ‘“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”[3] And to drive home the point Christ first tells them that He too will have to travel the same path even to the extreme end: ‘“the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed…”[4]

He is telling that we are not on a bandwagon of victors, riding high with no worries; the envy of all around us. We will be, and are, abused; we are the feared – therefore the targets of those who fear us. We will be, and are, tested and tried – all the time. If we wish to follow our Lord there is no other way. He tells us this much in the Gospel of St. John: ‘If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you[5]. The history of the church has given witness to this every day of every year since.  If we wish to follow Christ we must expect this treatment? Why? Because, as St. James tells us, we are called to do; true faith moves us to works. True faith turns the title Christian from a noun to a verb – it has action.

For me this is hard – for two reasons:

  • First: most in our society don’t want to have to act on God’s Word; they would rather be left alone, not having to address both the message and responsibility. When we come along and remind them of this truth they are threatened, they doubt their ideals and so they lash out against us – the messenger.
  • Second, and probably most importantly (at least in my life): today, St. James reinforces what Christ is teaching us in the Gospel; that comfort is not the norm His followers should expect. In fact, Christ calls us out of comfort to continue His mission of proclaiming the good news with words and action. ‘”Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation”[6] He commands His apostles and us. St. James, in the second reading, tells us what true faith needs to produce – works. ‘What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?[7] James, after some examples, continues ‘… faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead[8]  These are hard words – the call from a sedentary idea of faith to a faith of action is one we would rather not hear – at least most of us some of the time. I myself have fallen and continue to fall, time and time again, back into the ‘comfortable’, ignoring those outside.

As for the first reason: we shouldn’t fear with God at our side ‘for he has said, “I will never fail you nor forsake you.”[9]

And as for the second reason: I am ashamed! I need to change my habits! I need to move forward into the unknown and the uncomfortable.  I need to use my faith in Jesus and allow it to bear fruit in the world by my actions. These actions; mostly small and little, but at times large and great are what a disciple is called to offer! And not just when it suits us but constantly – we should live a life of Christian action – of love.

So, brothers and sisters I will close with some questions to reflect on:

How do each of us view our relationship with Christ? Do we keep it deep within not letting others know about it or do we wear our relationship openly?
How do each of deal with our crosses? Do we do everything we can to pass them on to someone else or do we embrace them, carry them and look to help others carry theirs?
Do we look for the easy way? Stay close to those who are most like us? Never leaving the safety of the community? Or do we knowingly look to go outside the box? Do we look for opportunities to bring Christ to situations and places outside our comfort zone as Christ did? Is my faith a noun or a verb?

I pray that each of us will take the time to look within and find answers to these questions.

Let’s make sure that, for each of us, faith is not a noun but a verb.

—————————————————————————————————

[1] MK 8:29
[2] JS 2:19
[3] MK 8:34b-35
[4] MK 8:31
[5] JN 15:20
[6] MK16:15
[7] JS 2:14
[8] JS 2:17
[9] HEB 13:5b

Time to Pray

(3rd reflection in a series on the Liturgy of the Hours)

 

In the past two weeks we have reflected on:

  • Why we can pray;
  • and that God calls us to pray, indeed has shown us how to pray.

This evening let’s start to look into the importance that continual, periodic prayer (such as this Vesper Service is a part of) is for us; by its importance throughout history.

As I mentioned in the first reflection, some people seem to dismiss the value of corporate prayer; others scoff at the idea of continual, periodic daily prayer. The idea of a day lived in prayer, to these people, is retreating away from the world and the responsibilities we have. In a sentence: ‘life is too short and we are too busy to stop again and again in prayer.’

The reasons, the fruits, of such prayer will be for next week, but a short review of the history of our faith shows us that this type of prayer; daily continual prayer is part of the structural integrity of our journey.  People, since the fall, have been striving to open their hearts to God in all that they do; and at certain times of the day stop and offer, as sacrifice, their valuable time to their creator.

If our Creator, the Living God, desires our dialog, then we should. After all it is He who gave us life, it is He who endowed us with divine dignity; it is He who gave the capacity for love, in all its forms. We need to offer it back to Him in adoration, praise, in hope and petition – return His love; and it is by prayer that we can do this. In addition, constant prayer throughout the day offered as a sacrifice back to God is a gift we give Him, because He has given us this day; the day in which we live His gift of life.

We can see from the earliest of times in the Old Testament, from the apostles, and the nascent church that it was understood that as community we must offer prayer; that constant prayer was an accepted obligation.

Seven times a day I praise thee for thy righteous ordinances.[1] We hear proclaimed in Psalm 119. Daniel we hear ‘… went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem; and he got down upon his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.[2] St. Paul comments many times on prayer ‘Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving;[3] he tells the Colossians and us.

And from the beginning of General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours we read:

Public and common prayer by the people of God is rightly considered to be among the primary duties of the Church. From the very beginning those who were baptized “devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the community, to the breaking of the bread, and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). The Acts of the Apostles give frequent testimony to the fact that the Christian community prayed with one accord.

The witness of the early Church teaches us that individual Christians devoted themselves to prayer at fixed times. Then, in different places, it soon became the established practice to assign special times for common prayer, for example, the last hour of the day when evening draws on and the lamp is lighted, or the first hour when night draws to a close with the rising of the sun.

In the course of time other hours came to be sanctified by prayer in common. These were seen by the Fathers as foreshadowed in the Acts of the Apostles. There we read of the disciples gathered together at the third hour.  The prince of the apostles “went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour” (10:9); “Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour” (3:1); “about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” (16:25).[4]

Our forefathers understood the importance of God in their lives and the need to keep this in the fore of all they did.  Prayer was a necessity and they built a structure within their lives to offer it. They understood the concept of sacrifice, of tithing, their first fruits – time is no different. Brothers and sisters the idea that prayer is a substitute good among the many in our day strips the awareness of the divine from this divine gift of life. 3,500 years, or so, of the tradition of tithing parts of the day to our God shows us that it can’t be just a temporal or cultural affectation – it is integral to our journey.  Our own hearts will tell us that it is important for our own spiritual and physical well-being. Our prayer community radiates the importance of this tithing in our relationships with each other.

So, our history teaches us, our community shows us, our heart tells us: Live a life of prayer by taking time in life to pray.

———————————————————————————————————–

[1] Ps 119:164
[2] Dan 6:10
[3] Col 4:2
[4] General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours #1