While sharing a conversation with a friend recently, he mentioned that he finds it difficult to see any joy in the world today. The news always seems negative, stories are always about tragedies, and we are stunned by shootings in schools, the difficulties of war and the poverty and anguish that so many people endure, especially the immigrants and refugees who are just seeking a safe place for their families to live in peace.
I mentioned that Easter is to be a time of joy, since it celebrates the victory over sin and death that the Lord Jesus has won for us. I suggested that he seek some joy in volunteering in an outreach program to assist the poor and needy of our community and he thought that might be interesting. He started by helping out in a ministry that provides clothing and small home articles to the poor. He said that in helping in this way, he felt his faith was really doing something positive to change the lives of people. I encouraged him, saying there are many ways we can celebrate our faith, especially in good works to the needy and the marginalized.
He recalled how in helping others, he found a sense of joy in his heart that was missing in his daily life, and also a greater sense of purpose for his own life. He realized that the Lord can direct and influence us to use our time and our talents, especially in helping others, and this can be a sign of joy and goodness in our world and for each of us in our lives.
The Easter story, so familiar to us all, is about life and sharing. Jesus through his suffering, death and resurrection, won eternal life for us and shares his life with us through faith. As we gather in many ways this Easter, as faith communities, as families and as neighbours, let us give thanks for the abundance that we share. Let us consider how we can show gratitude for our many gifts in our outreach to the poor and to the marginalized of our society. Let us demonstrate that we can help make a difference in someone’s life through our actions of charity or generosity and in giving some time to organizations that reach out to the poor and homeless of our community. In doing so we will find some of that joy which is so needed in our lives and seemingly so lacking in our world today.
The entrance antiphon for our Easter morning Mass reads: “I have risen, and I am with you still, alleluia. You have laid your hand upon me, alleluia. Too wonderful for me, this knowledge, alleluia, alleluia.” Easter is a feast of wonder and of joy, and it is visible in the good works and outreach that people share for this feast. It is a spiritual time and a time to ask the Lord to help us see His presence in our lives and in the things that we do. Easter proclaims life and strength, even in the midst of sadness and struggle. This is what Easter joy is about, and it can be within us through our prayer, our sharing and our loving concern for one another.
As we celebrate this great feast, let us remember that Christ has won for us a share in his eternal life. And this should touch our hearts with joy and goodness – so much so, that we share this with one another, especially through out acts of kindness and generosity. A Happy and Holy Easter to all!
Most Rev. Fred J. Colli
Bishop of Thunder Bay
HOW TO PRAY THE ROSARY MORE DEEPLY
It is interesting that in her appearances at Lourdes, Fatima and other locations, the Mother of God repeatedly recommends praying the Rosary. She does not invite us to pray the Divine Office, or to do spiritual reading, or Eucharistic Adoration, or practice interior prayer or mental prayer. All the mentioned forms of prayer are good, recognized by the Church and practiced by many saints. Why does Mary “only” place the Rosary in our hearts?
We can find a possible answer by looking at the visionaries of Lourdes and Fatima. Mary revealed herself to children of little instruction, who could not even read or write correctly. The Rosary was for them the appropriate school to learn how to pray well, since bead after bead, it leads us from vocal prayer, to meditation, and eventually to contemplation. With the Rosary, everyone who allows himself to be led by Mary can arrive at interior prayer without any kind of special technique or complicated practices.
This does not mean – and I want to emphasize this point – that praying the Rosary is for “dummies” or for simple minded people. Even great intellectuals must come before God as children, who in their prayers are always simple and sincere, always full of confidence, praying from within.
All Christians are called to the kind of interior prayer that allows an experience of closeness with God and recognition of his action in our lives. We can compare the Rosary to playing the guitar. The vocal prayers – the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Glory Be – are the central prayers of Christianity, rooted in Scripture. These are like the rhythm in a song.
But simply strumming a guitar is not a song. And mindless repetition of words is not interior prayer. In addition to rhythm, keys are needed. The Mysteries of the Rosary are like the chords on the guitar. The vocal prayers form the framework for meditation on the Mysteries.
There are always these five chords to the rhythm of the repetition of the prayers, which make the lives of Jesus and Mary pass before our eyes. With meditation, we go on reflecting on what happens in each Mystery and what it means for our lives: At Nazareth, the Son of God is incarnated in Mary. In Holy Communion, He also comes to me. In Gethsemane, Jesus sweats blood. He suffers, is in anguish, and yet his friends remain asleep. Can I keep vigil with Him or do my eyes close with tiredness? On Easter morning, Jesus rises and breaks forth from the tomb. The first day of creation brought light. The first day of the week conquered death and gave us life. Christ can change the darkness in my life into light.
And so, our prayer begins to change into music. That is to say, it is no longer monotonous and boring, but now it is full of images and thoughts. And when the grace of God permits, it is also filled with supernatural illuminations and inspirations.
There is one more thing needed to have really great music, or to have a prayer that is even more profound and intimate: the melody that the heart sings. When playing the guitar, a voice is needed to interpret the song. When praying the Rosary, it is the song of our heart, as we place our own life before God, to the tempo of the prayers and meditations.
It is this song of the heart that allows us to enter into the mysteries of the Rosary: For my sake you were scourged, and it was I who struck you. Forgive me! You have ascended into Heaven, Lord. I long for You, I long for your kingdom, my true homeland.
In contemplation, the person praying sees the mysteries pass before his eyes, and at the same time he abides in particular affections or movements of the heart before God. The one who prays sings the song of his own life, in which naturally there can arise specific desires: You wanted to be the son of a human Mother; help my sick mother! You were crowned with thorns; help me in this financial difficulty which I can’t get out of my head. You sent the Holy Spirit; without You I don’t have the courage or the strength to make a good decision.
With this understanding, the following tips can help those who pray the Rosary move from vocal prayer to meditation to inner contemplation:
1) Schedule the time
Our schedule is full of appointments. More or less consciously, we also plan out the time we’re going to need for each task or appointment. Sometimes it is good to set aside 20 or 30 minutes to pray the Rosary, and write it down in the schedule. This “appointment” with Jesus and Mary is then just as important as all the other ones planned. For all of us, it is possible to set aside a time to pray the Rosary, at first, once, twice or three times a week. Over time – and this is the goal – it will be easier to find a time to pray the Rosary daily.
2) Don’t rush
We can learn a lesson about prayer by observing people in love. During a romantic candlelit dinner, no one would be constantly looking at the clock, or choking down their food, or leaving the dessert to one side to finish as quickly as possible. Rather, a romantic meal is stretched out, maybe lingering for an hour to sip a cocktail, and enjoying every moment spent together. So it is with praying the Rosary. It shouldn’t be treated as sets of Hail Mary’s to be performed as if one were lifting weights. I can spend time lingering on a thought. I can also break away from it. I can, principally at the beginning, simply be peaceful. If I keep this peaceful attitude and an awareness of how important this 20-minute “appointment” is, then I will have prayed well. It will have been a good prayer, because my will is focused on pleasing the Beloved and not myself.
3) Savor the experience
Saint Ignatius recommends what’s called the “third form of prayer,” which consists in adjusting the words to the rhythm of one’s own breathing. Often it is sufficient in praying the Rosary to briefly pause between the mysteries, and to remember that Jesus and Mary are looking at me full of joy and love, recognizing with gratitude that I am like a little child babbling words every so often to in some way affirm that I love God. To do this, it can be useful to pause and take a few breaths before resuming vocal prayer.
4) A gaze of love
The vocal prayers of the Rosary only provide the rhythm of the prayer. With my thoughts, I can and should go out from the rhythm to encounter the Mystery which is being contemplated. This is more clear in German, where the mystery is announced not only at the beginning of each decade, but before each Hail Mary. It’s a time to look your Beloved in the eyes and let Him look back, with eyes full of love.
5) Allow yourself to be amazed
One of the first and most important steps for inner prayer is to go from thinking and speculation to looking upon and being amazed. Think of lovers who meet, not to plan out what they’re going to give each other or what they might do on the next vacation, but to enjoy the time together and to rejoice in each other. Looking at a family photo album is very different from looking at a history book. In the photo album, we see people who are important to us, whom we love – and even more – who love us! That’s how our gaze at Jesus and Mary ought to be in the Rosary.
6) Allow your “inner cameraman” to notice details
Some people close their eyes while praying in order to concentrate. Others find it useful to focus their eyes on a certain point (such as a crucifix). Either way, what is important is for the eyes of the heart to be open. Praying the Rosary is like going to the movies. It’s about seeing images. It’s useful to ask yourself: Who, What, Where am I looking at when I contemplate the birth of Jesus, or his crucifixion, or his ascension into Heaven? And on some occasions, like a good cameraman does, come in for a close-up image of some detail: contemplate the warm breath of the ox that’s warming the Child, the pierced hand of Jesus that spread so much love, the tears in John’s eyes as he gazes at Jesus rising up to Heaven.
7) Pray in words, mind, and heart
The words accompany, the mind opens, but it is the heart that has the leading role in prayer. All the great spiritual authors agree that inner prayer is about dwelling in the affections, that is, the inner sentiments and movements. Teresa of Avila says very simply: “Don’t think a lot, love a lot!” An elderly lady was ruefully complaining to me that she could not reflect while praying her daily Rosary, and that in that situation she could barely say “Jesus, Mary, I love you!” I congratulated the lady. That is exactly what praying the Rosary ought to lead us to.
By Msgr. Florian Kolfhaus
GOD’S ABUNDANT LOVE AND MERCY
(ON THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION)
BY Fr. Allen Baclor Abadines
It seems so unfair that we too have to suffer with the matter of consequences of what Adam and Eve did in paradise. They disobeyed God and as result we inherited the original sin. Our parents pass along the original guilt of Adam and Eve. Romans 5:12 clearly says “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” Shall we, then, blame Adam and Eve for our present plight? Not at all, let us not be too judgmental of them. In fact, if we were in the place of Adam and Eve, I am certain that we would have done the same. Whether we admit it or not, we too are weak. And just as, at present, we continue to commit sins,we have no one to blame but ourselves. We are all responsible for our own actions. We always hear people say, “Nobody’s perfect!” So true! We all have our shortcomings and weaknesses. Romans 3:23 says “For everyone has sinned, we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
But the good news is that, God looks into our hearts. We may have our flaws. But God knows that still there are goodness in our hearts. As a matter of fact, there was purity and innocence before the fall of Adam and Eve. It was actually our original state before the fall. Everything in us was good. Because, we were created in the image and likeness of him who is pure goodness and beauty. “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.’ . . . God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26–27) Man, therefore, is not evil in nature. Still there is goodness in everyone’s heart. We only have to search the heart of each individual. I think , it is safer to say man is by nature weak but not evil.
This is the reason why every year we enter into our Lenten journey i.e. to spend time to reflect and to contemplate. This is the time when we search our hearts. Where are we now when it comes to our spiritual life? Are we advancing or regressing? The season of Lent provides us an opportunity to humble ourselves before the Lord so that we may come to terms with true repentance and conversion. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is an invitation for each one of us to come home. It is a beautiful Sacrament where we experience God’s forgiveness and his healing touch. This is the reason why God in His abundant Love and Mercy instituted the Sacrament of Penance, so that we may always make a fresh start. That we may always obtain forgiveness of our sins and reconcile with God and His Church.
John 20:21-23 ” Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” It was Easter when Jesus uttered these words, it was like telling his apostles “I have authority to forgive sin, now you may do the same with one another. Thus Jesus wants us to confess our sins to a priest in the Sacrament of Penance.The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a visible sign that our sins are forgiven.
How often should I go to Confession?
I should say, as often as there is a need.
Catholic who has committed mortal (grave) sin is obliged to seek God’s forgiveness in this sacrament as soon as possible.
From the Catholic Teachings:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church statement, “after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year” (CCC 1457), includes a footnote reference to the Code of Canon Law: “After having reached the age of discretion, each member of the faithful is obliged to confess faithfully his or her grave sins at least once a year” (CIC 989).
As we continue our Lenten journey in anticipation of the joy of Easter, let us humble ourselves. Let us avail of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and find peace and solace in the loving embrace of a merciful and compassionate God.
We are fortunate because despite of our sinfulness, God is always ready to forgive. As what St. Paul says “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)