I have a new hobby, astrophotography.
The main focus of this photo is the star Capella, the 3rd brightest star in the northern hemisphere. Capella is the big bright star in the center, just above the tree line. Straight up from Capella is the constellation Perseus. On the lower right of the picture just to the left of the trees, is a cluster of stars in the shape of a question mark ‘?’. This is the constellation Pleiades. There are 2382 stars in this photo (counted using software called DeepSkyStacker).


The photo details: Nikon D5500, 18mm, 13 seconds, f/3.5, ISO 2500, image size is 6000 x 3610 pixels. The picture was touched up in Photoshop using the standard Curves Layer, adjusting both darkness and contrast. I took this photo on November 7, 2015, 21:34. It was taken at a fair dark sky location, about 1 hour west of the highly light polluted sky of Detroit.

So how do the heavens tell of the glory of God? If we think about the entire universe, estimated to be 300 billion galaxies each with 300 billions stars, we can come to a profound conclusion. God does not create only a “simple” solar system FOR us, He also creates a universe to SHOW us, to shows us His power. A dark sky with 50,000 stars is something we rarely, probably never, get to see, unless we specifically go hunting for it. Our big cities create so much light pollution we may only see 50 stars, perhaps 500 if we live in the far suburbs of a major city.

Think about this, the sensor in my camera is 6000 by 4000 pixels, and it captured photons from Capella, photons that travelled 246,900,000,000,000 miles (246 trillion miles or 405 trillion kilometers) to reach that sensor on my camera. A truly dark sky reveals not only the beauty of nature itself, but the beauty, power and wisdom of the One who created the stars. The heavens show us the glory of God.

Since many Christians, moreover, have lost their eschatological sense, death is surrounded by silence, by anxiety, or by an attempt to relegate it to the ranks of the trivial. For centuries, the Church has taught us to pray that death will not take us by surprise, that we will be given time to prepare for it; now a sudden death is looked upon as a blessing. But not to accept and respect death is not to accept and respect life itself.

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 358.


(bold emphasis above added by me)

My notes:   Eschatology is the study/understanding of the four final things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. We should NOT pray for a quick death. We should pray for a death which we have time to prepare for. Before our death we need to repent, ask Jesus for His Divine Mercy, and tell God we love Him (“Jesus I will love you forever!”). Praying direct to the Holy Trinity with a daily “Act of Contrition” is one of the best ways to prepare for the day we die. Another daily prayer to prepare for death is the “Hail Mary”. This is done with an understanding of the last verse: “…pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” We ask the Mother of Jesus to intercede for us in our final hour of life here on earth, so that we will be prepared to enter into a eternal life with her Son.

Eternal Father,
I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus,
in union with the masses said throughout the world today,
for all the holy souls in purgatory,
for sinners everywhere,
for sinners in the universal church,
those in my own home
and within my family. Amen.


St. Gertrude the Great (1256 – ca. 1302) was a German Benedictine, mystic, and theologian. Her feast day is November 16th.

Perhaps the most humbling aspect of the attempt to engage in prayer is the difficulty of controlling one’s thoughts. Yet the mercy of God is revealed in the divine patience toward such failures of attention (Explanation Of The Psalms. Ps. 85.7). In fact, the very difficulty, even impossibility, of controlling thoughts Augustine considered to be evidence of the necessity of grace (On The Gift Of Perseverance. 8.19–20).

Rebecca H. Weaver, “Prayer,” ed. Allan D. Fitzgerald, Augustine through the Ages: An Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), page 673.

My notes:
The above quote (bold emphasis added by me) concerns the mental focus we need to learn so we can pray better. Two of the additional attributes of disciple that St. Augustine teaches are:

1) Pray at set times. Not at just one time of the day, but multiple times through the day.
2) Use short prayers. Two good examples are:

a) The Jesus prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
b) The Doxology – “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.”

So ask Jesus for the grace necessary to focus better when you pray (pray for help to be better at prayer).

“My Lord and my God, take from me all that keeps me from you;
give me all that brings me to you.”

St. Nicholas of Flüe

I raise my eyes toward the mountains.
From whence shall come my help? (Psalm 121:1 NABRE)

In the Old Testament God makes Himself known on a mountain, Mt. Horab in Exodus chapter 3. The people of Israel were slaves for 430 years in Egypt, and their help came from God and Moses, from the encounter the two of them had on Mt. Horab “the mountain of God” (Exodus 3:1). The writer of the Psalm is thinking back to that encounter, some 500 years earlier. Psalm 121 has a confidence to it. There is a strong assurance that God will help all those who ask. In my ministry to patients in Hospice Care, Psalm 121 is one of the prayers I pray with almost every patient. I especially pray this Psalm with patients in transition and those who are actively dying.

Looking to the mountains for God is different from looking to heaven for God. Heaven can seam so far away, and even incompressible. How do we, how can we, think of God in heaven? Thinking of God on a mountain makes our encounter with Him more real, more possible. Climbing to the top of a mountain seams possible, if we prepare and train. God wants an encounter with us, so He comes down from heaven and meets us on His mountain. We have to cooperate in this encounter, we need to give the effort to climb the mountain just as Moses did, and that climb starts by looking up at the mountain and seeing that God awaits us at the top.

Note: The analogy used here is that the effort we spend to climb a mountain is the effort we need to spend on prayer.

The Mount of the Transfiguration.

The Mount of the Transfiguration.

The mountain. What does this mountain signify? If we read the Gospel, we find various meanings. The mountain is, above all, the place where Jesus prayed, the place where he was alone with the Father. If we do not ascend this mountain of prayer, if we do not enter into the dialogue of Jesus with the Father, we cannot find him. The mountain is also the site of the Beatitudes, the new Sinai of the new law. The mountain is his word. To go to the mountain of Jesus means, then, to wander on the majestic mountain of his words. The mountain of the Transfiguration combines both these aspects: the Transfiguration takes place while Jesus is praying; but it is also the revelation of the true content of the books of Moses and of the Prophets. The voice of the Father is heard at this moment: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5).

Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, ed. Irene Grassl, (Ignatius Press, 1992), page 316.

My notes: Bold emphasis added by me.  The picture of the Mount of the Transfiguration is from the Logos Bible Software (Faithlife Corp.)


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