In my ministry at a hospice, I pray with patients that are terminally ill.  As can be expected most of the patients have cancer, and most are elderly.  So this has effected my prayer with them as well as my personal prayer, for I am praying slower now.  With the patients, they need me to pray slowly so that they can pray with me and so that they can understand what I am saying.  This has had the effect on me that I also need to understand what I am praying, that I am not just saying prayers, repeating a predefined series of words written in the prayer books I use.

While I wear a watch at the hospice, I do not set a minimum or maximum amount of time to spend praying with any one patient.  I pray to help the patient encounter Jesus and God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.  The experience of prayer with the patients is about all about the encounter, not the speed of the words or the total number of prayers said.  Each line, each word of any prayer is important and has an effect on the person who is praying and/or a person being prayed for.

Our God is not a recording machine that counts the number of prayers we say and totals them up.  Jesus teaches us to pray by calling God “Our Father”, and our Father wants a relationship with us, for we are His sons and daughters, and He wants us to talk to Him…

A little while ago I started in a new ministry, volunteering at a Hospice. I pray with the patients and their families.  Tonight I prayed with my first patient who was actively dying, by active I mean they will pass away before the morning.  While the patient was barely conscious the family was in the room and asked me to pray.  Of the many prayers, there is one I wish to share, it is in the category called “Prayers of Commendation”:

Go forth, Christian soul, from this world
in the name of God the almighty Father, who created you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who suffered for you,
in the name of the Holy Spirit, who was poured out upon you,
go forth faithful Christian.

May you live in peace this day,
may your home be with God in Zion,
With Mary, the virgin Mother of God,
with Joseph, and all the angels and saints.  Amen.

Just as God assumed a body and entered the time and space of this world, so it is appropriate to prayer—at least to communal liturgical prayer—that our speaking to God should be “incarnational”, that it should be Christological, turned through the incarnate Word to the triune God.

Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, trans. John Saward (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000), page 76.

My comments:  To understand this think about John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. (RSV2CE)
It is through Jesus we can go the the Father as well as the Holy Spirit.

…prayer must become a path for ourselves on which we gradually learn to see more… Through prayer we must become more free, we must set less value on ourselves and more on him and thus discover the real purpose of prayer: to ask God for the salvation of the world…

Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, ed. Irene Grassl, trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), Page 299.

My comments:  It is stunning to understand what Pope Benedict asked(asks) us to do: pray to God for the salvation of the world.  If we compare our standard prayer requests/petitions to the “salvation of the world” we could think that our small needs are immature or selfish, but that is not what Pope Benedict is getting at.  In addition to asking Our Father for our little things, we need to ask for (pray for) big things. There is nothing bigger than asking for the Lord to save the entire world. Why? It is God’s will that the entire world be saved. So we are praying for God’s will to be done and for our cooperation in bringing about God’s will, bringing about the Kingdom of God. I can not help but think about the Divine Mercy chaplet: “…have mercy on us and on the whole world”. Yes the Divine Mercy Chaplet is a incredibly easy prayer with an incredible purpose: mercy on the whole world.

Again, in Confessions, in the ninth book, our Saint (Augustine) records a conversation with his mother, St Monica, whose Memorial is celebrated on Friday (August 27), the day after tomorrow. It is a very beautiful scene: he and his mother are at Ostia, at an inn, and from the window they see the sky and the sea, and they transcend the sky and the sea and for a moment touch God’s heart in the silence of created beings. And here a fundamental idea appears on the way towards the Truth: creatures must be silent, leaving space for the silence in which God can speak. This is still true in our day too. At times there is a sort of fear of silence, of recollection, of thinking of one’s own actions, of the profound meaning of one’s life. All too often people prefer to live only the fleeting moment, deceiving themselves that it will bring lasting happiness; they prefer to live superficially, without thinking, because it seems easier; they are afraid to seek the Truth or perhaps afraid that the Truth will find us, will take hold of us and change our life, as happened to St Augustine.

Pope Benedict XVI, Weekly General audience, Wednesday, 25 August 2010

A good interior relationship with God is an indispensable ingredient for a happy life. For only when this basic relationship is in order can all other relationships prosper. That is why it is important to learn and practice all one’s life long, from childhood on, to think with God, to feel with God, to will with God, so that love will follow and will become the keynote of my life. When that occurs, love of neighbor will follow as a matter of course. For if the keynote of my life is love, then I, in my turn, will react to those whom God places on my path only with a Yes of acceptance, with trust, with approval, and with love. To characterize love of neighbor, Holy Scripture employs a very wise and very profound expression: “to love one’s neighbor as oneself”. It requires no quixotic or spurious heroism. It does not say: “You should deny yourself and exist only for the other; you must be less concerned about yourself and more about the other.” No!—“as you love yourself”. Not more, not less. If we are not at peace with ourselves, we cannot really love anyone else. If we cannot accept ourselves, we will also reject the other. True love is righteous: to love myself as a member of Christ’s body—that is where it leads. Oneself as others—to be freed from that false perspective with which all of us are born, that the world revolves around me alone.

Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, ed. Irene Grassl, trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992),  page 276.

  • Title: Acts of the Apostles
  • Author: Rev. William Kurz, SJ
  • Series: Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture
  • Published by Baker Academic 2013, 397 pages, ($19 to $23)
  • ISBN: 978080103633

Print

The book has received both a Nihil obstat and an Imprimatur.

Two summers ago, I read cover to cover the Gospel of Matthew in this same series and it was fantastic. This summer I have spent reading and studying this book from cover to cover. This book is of the same quality. I have learned so much, it is difficult to summarize that learning.

I think the most important point I can write about is the author.  Fr. Kurz is a professor of Sacred Scripture at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he has been teaching there for over 35 years.  His expertise is St. Luke, both the Gospel and Acts. Fr. Kurz is not only an expert on St. Luke, but he is also a great teacher. The chapters read like you are listening to his class lectures, but it is important to note not on a difficult intellectual level.  The sentences, paragraphs, pages and chapters are understandable and interesting.  While this book can be and should be used in universities and seminaries to teach those types of students, the book is written in a way that it is usable and understandable for anyone who wishes a deep understanding of the Acts of the Apostles. I do mean deep understanding, 400 pages deep.

From the book’s introduction chapter, page 10:

A variety of features are designed to make the commentary as useful as possible. Each volume includes the biblical text of the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE), the translation approved for liturgical use in the United States. In order to serve readers who use other translations, the most important differences between the NABRE and other widely used translations (RSV, NRSV, JB, NJB, and NIV) are noted and explained. Each unit of the biblical text is followed by a list of references to relevant Scripture passages, Catechism sections, and uses in the Roman Lectionary. The exegesis that follows aims to explain in a clear and engaging way the meaning of the text in its original historical context as well as its perennial meaning for Christians. Reflection and Application sections help readers apply Scripture to Christian life today by responding to questions that the text raises, offering spiritual interpretations drawn from Christian tradition, or providing suggestions for the use of the biblical text in catechesis, preaching, or other forms of pastoral ministry.

Interspersed throughout the commentary are Biblical Background sidebars that present historical, literary, or theological information, and Living Tradition sidebars that offer pertinent material from the postbiblical Christian tradition, including quotations from Church documents and from the writings of saints and Church Fathers. The Biblical Background sidebars are indicated by a photo of urns that were excavated in Jerusalem, signifying the importance of historical study in understanding the sacred text. The Living Tradition sidebars are indicated by an image of Eadwine, a twelfth-century monk and scribe, signifying the growth in the Church’s understanding that comes by the grace of the Holy Spirit as believers study and ponder the Word of God in their hearts (see Dei Verbum 8).

A map and a Glossary are located in the back of each volume for easy reference. The glossary explains key terms from the biblical text as well as theological or exegetical terms, which are marked in the commentary with a cross (†). A list of Suggested Resources, an Index of Pastoral Topics, and an Index of Sidebars are included to enhance the usefulness of these volumes.

There are three important lessons I learned from this book:

1) The main people in Acts: St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Stephen, St. Philip make frequent use of Old Testament Scripture to talk about Jesus. Fr. Kurz explains all these usages of the Old Testament.

2) The Acts of the Apostles is the original evangelization, and Fr. Kurz explains how our new evangelization can learn from the original one.

3) Fr. Kurz does a great job of explaining how St. Luke shows the impact and effect of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the Apostles as they go about the mission of establishing and building up the Church.

In conclusion, I have been very impressed with this book. Reading the 400 pages of this book was not a chore or a difficult intellectual exercise, but it has been a joy. I have and continue to look forward to reading and studying it.

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