August 15, The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I completed reading the entire Bible on Pentecost Sunday, 2011. Since that time I have been studying and teaching the Bible, and there are certain verses in which God speaks to me.  I highlight these verses in yellow in my Bible and re-read them, pray with them and contemplate them.  I also try to memorize them.  The following ten verses speak to me about a vocation.

  • Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?  And who shall stand in his holy place?   Psalm 24:3
  • And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” Isaiah 6:8
  • Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,   and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”  Jeremiah 1:4–5
  • And he (Jesus) said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Matthew 4:19
  • As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.  Matthew 9:9
  • Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  Matthew 16:24
  • Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you;  Matthew 28:19–20
  • If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him.  John 12:26
  • And he (Jesus) said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Luke 10:2
  • Philip went down to a city of Samaria, and proclaimed to them the Christ.  Acts 8:5

I have some personal news to share: I have been accepted by the Archdiocese of Detroit into the first year of Deacon formation.  I return to Sacred Heart Major Seminary for classes in a few weeks. It is important to note, that after each year of formation the Archdiocese Deacon Formation Team will review and evaluate whether I should continue into the next year of formation.

My purpose in this blog has never been to write about myself, but to write about a life of prayer.  The ten verses above are not just for a man discerning a vocation to Holy Orders as a Priest or a Deacon.  All Christians are called to a vocation, to serve Jesus and His church, with the gifts of the Holy Spirit that have been uniquely given to each of us.  So all of us need to pray and discern what that vocation is: marriage, single life, religious life, Priest or Deacon.  Our prayer of discernment should also help us find who we are called to serve: the homeless, the poor, the sick, the dying, the disabled, the elderly, the young, the unborn, the addicted, the physically hungry or the spiritually hungry.  All of us are called to a vocation as disciples of Jesus Christ.

I have a vocation prayer to share, it is a simple summary of the ten Bible verses above:

Jesus calls me, I hear Him. Jesus leads me, I follow Him. Jesus is my King, I serve Him.

What is the secret of the heart? It is the tender clement love of the Holy Spirit for every human person. The Holy Spirit, the “hidden” Person of the Trinity, caries on a delicate “love affair” with the soul from deep within the human heart. The spirit yearns to make the seed of faith implanted at baptism grow and blossom. The Spirit, the breath of love between the Father and the Son, whispers God’s loving desires into the depths of an open, docile heart.

— “The Secret of the Heart: A Theological Study of Catherine of Siena’s Teaching on the Heart of Jesus. Sr. Mary Jeremiah, 1995 Christendom Press, page 114”

In prayer, one comes to know one’s self, one’s creatureliness and misery, and at the same time God’s immense love. If one turns the eyes of the spirit to the Heart of Christ, the soul contemplates the Word incarnate, divinity united to humanity. In this Heart of mercy, one comes to the knowledge of God and his infinite love for humanity. The cell of self-knowledge is found within the heart: the human heart and the Heart of God as revealed in Jesus Christ.
“The Secret of the Heart: A Theological Study of Catherine of Siena’s Teaching on the Heart of Jesus.” Sr. Mary Jeremiah, 1995 Christendom Press, page 17

… as we forgive those who trespass against us

Now—and this is daunting—this outpouring of mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us. Love, like the Body of Christ, is indivisible; we cannot love the God we cannot see if we do not love the brother or sister we do see (See 1 John 4:20). In refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters, our hearts are closed and their hardness makes them impervious to the Father’s merciful love; but in confessing our sins, our hearts are opened to his grace.

Catechism of the Catholic Church #2840

My Notes:
Our prayer to receive mercy from Our Father in Heaven is bound together with our prayer in which we give mercy to our brothers and sisters here on earth.

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).

Capella2_c

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.

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).