In our earthly lives God works in us; in eternal life God will rest in us, and we in God—although God is “always working and always at rest.” ( Confessions 13.37.52) Because God never ceases to do good, we exist and share in his life. He is peace, and we are called to share in his peace. But how can we know this peace who is the Triune God? Only, Augustine answers, through the receptivity of passionate prayer (see Matthew 7:7–8).

Matthew Levering, The Theology of Augustine: An Introductory Guide to His Most Important Works (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), page 110.

My notes: Professor Levering is commenting on St. Augustine’s “Confessions”, book 13, chapter 37, which is at the very end of Confessions. So our coming to know and experience peace can only happen with our receiving peace from God, through our passionate prayer life.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, gift to me your grace,
Fill me with your love.
So that I may be a witness to the world,
Of the love that your Sacred Heart has for the world.

For the heart is an expression for the human (passions)—i.e., not only man’s passions but also the “passion” of being human. …the heart is the epitome of the passions, without which there could have been no Passion on the part of the Son. The encyclical cites Justin, Basil, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, John Damascene, exhibiting different variations of the same theme, which it sees as common ground in patristic Christology: … passionum nostrarum particeps factus est (he has come to share in our “passions”).

Joseph Ratzinger, Behold The Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), pages 56–57.

(My Notes: Pope Benedict is commenting on the papal encyclical Haurietis Aquas “You will draw water”. In a similar way that we may have a passion for a sports team or a specific movie or a particular wine, Jesus has a passion for us, His brothers and sisters. Jesus is passionately in love with us, His heart is on fire with love for us. His love is so great for us that he came to earth and was born as a child and lived among us, taught and healed us, and then ever died a brutal death on the cross for us. A Roman solder ever pierced His heart with a spear. Can we not return some measure of passionate love back to Jesus?

A Priest who is a weekend associate at our parish and who was a professor of mine at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, has his 20th anniversary as a Priest.  So I edited a prayer for him based upon Sirach chapter 45.  Please share this with your Priest on his anniversary.

From his descendants the Lord brought forth a man of mercy,
who found favor in the sight of all flesh
and was beloved by God and man.

2 He made him equal in glory to the holy ones,
and made him great in the fears of his enemies.

3 By his words he caused signs to cease;
the Lord glorified him in the presence of kings.
He gave him commands for his people,
and showed him part of his glory.

4 He sanctified him through faithfulness and meekness;
he chose him out of all mankind.

5 He made him hear his voice,
and led him into the thick darkness,
and gave him the commandments face to face,
the law of life and knowledge,
to teach Jacob the covenant,
and Israel his judgments.

7 He made an everlasting covenant with him,
and gave him the priesthood of the people.
He blessed him with splendid vestments,
and put a glorious robe upon him.

8 He clothed him with superb perfection,
and strengthened him with the symbols of authority,
the linen breeches, the long robe, and the ephod.

10 with a holy garment, of gold and blue
and purple, the work of an embroiderer;

15 Moses ordained him,
and anointed him with holy oil;
it was an everlasting covenant for him
and for his descendants all the days of heaven,
to minister to the Lord and serve as priest
and bless his people in his name.

16 He chose him out of all the living
to offer sacrifice to the Lord,
incense and a pleasing odor as a memorial portion,
to make atonement for the people.

17 In his commandments he gave him
authority in statutes and judgments,
to teach Jacob the testimonies,
and to enlighten Israel with his law.

21 for they eat the sacrifices to the Lord,
which he gave to him and his descendants.

22 But in the land of the people he has no inheritance,
and he has no portion among the people;
for the Lord himself is his portion and inheritance.

24 Therefore a covenant of peace was established with him,
that he should be leader of the sanctuary and of his people,
that he and his descendants should have
the dignity of the priesthood for ever.

26 May the Lord grant you wisdom in your heart
to judge his people in righteousness,
so that their prosperity may not vanish,
and that their glory may endure throughout their generations.

32. A first essential setting for learning hope is prayer. When no one listens to me any more, God still listens to me. When I can no longer talk to anyone or call upon anyone, I can always talk to God. When there is no longer anyone to help me deal with a need or expectation that goes beyond the human capacity for hope, he can help me.

Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi  “Saved by Hope” (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2007).

What actually happens in prayer? If we ask this, we run into a second barrier, which in many respects explains the first. Our crisis in prayer is fundamental, yes, but it is also simply practical: we do not quite know how it is done, and perhaps all the great fundamental difficulties are after all just an ideological superstructure that is supposed to justify this practical inability of ours to cope with prayer. Because we are unable to do it, we invent a theory that tells us that we could not have been able to do it in the first place, because it no longer works at all and makes no sense any more.

How should we begin, then, to find a doorway? Now man is a disappointing, failing being, who again and again finds that he is helpless, and the most characteristic thing about him is precisely the cry of distress, the SOS call for help. And so the history of prayer begins, not just in the Old Testament, with the cry, “O LORD … we beg you!” (Psalm 118:25, cf. Numbers 12:13, and 2 Samuel 15:31), with this protest against affliction, with lament and struggle for God; yet the prayer that Jesus gave as the model for all prayer when he was asked, “Lord, teach us to pray” is a prayer of petition.

…If we really say Kyrie eleison, if we really cry to God out of the depths of our misery, this is a recognition of what we are and what he is; it is worshipping his glory. For in doing that we say, honestly, “Look at me, God, I am nothing, but You are everything; I am full of misery, but You are rich enough to heal all the misery in the world; I am sinful and wicked, but You are full of extravagant love. You do not love as men do, who love only those who are sympathetic to them; You also love the beggar in rags, the prodigal son. You do not love because we are good but, rather, because You are good.…”

To petition God really means nothing other than to place ourselves entirely in God’s hands. To petition God means humbly to acknowledge God’s surpassing glory and to let him have that glory without wanting to copy it.

(Pope Benedict XVI, Dogma and Preaching: Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life, Ignatius Press, 2011, Page 106-108.)

My notes: It is important to see that Pope Benedict is not describing prayer as only words or even as a dialog. I think it is a fair assessment to say that his understanding is that prayer is a movement of our heart to and ultimately into the heart of the Holy Trinity.

A friend of mine passed away a few days ago. He was 49 years old, married with three young children. He died within some 6 weeks of a diagnosis of cancer. Death is something that all humans must face at some point in time. This includes our death and the death of people we love.

I want to address how someone responds in prayer to the reality of death: hope.
An understanding of hope first is necessary before praying with it or for it. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. (#1817)

We were created to know God and love God for all eternity. Hope is our deepest desire that our relationship with God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is an eternal relationship. The Catechism contains a beautiful prayer from St. Teresa of Avila about hope and death:

Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end. (CCC #1821)

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