A Clarion Call to the Ministry of Intercession by: VENATIUS OFORKA- reblogged

A Clarion Call to the Ministry of Intercession

VENATIUS OFORKA

 

The Ministry of Intercession

“Ministry” is the English translation of the Latin word ministerium, which means “service.” In its sociological usage, it is applied to institutions or establishments that give aid and services to people. Its Christian understanding is defined by the manner in which Jesus exercised His mission among men: He “came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28; cf. Mark 10:45; John 13:1–17). Christian ministries are thus selfless services rendered to people in the name of God for the salvation of souls and for the glory of God. Such services are driven by Christian love and for the sole purpose of higher values.

Intercession is the act of intervening between parties with a view to reconciling differences, or mediating in order to obtain favor from one of the parties for another. It is an interposing or entreaty on behalf of another person. Intercession in a Christian sense means, therefore, to stand between a needy soul and God, praying for God’s mercy and gracious considerations. It is a vicarious supplication where one is given to agonize in prayer for the welfare of others.

As a ministry, intercession becomes an organized service in which people can individually or collectively send ceaseless prayers to the presence of God and entreat His help for distressed souls or situations. It acts as a form of spiritual legal aid for needy souls, which argues their cases in the divine council. In spiritual warfare, the ministry of intercession stands out as a manifest way of resisting the kingdom of darkness.

Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:18–19).

Not everybody can be a literal missionary by going to the nations and spreading the good news of the kingdom or can engage in the formal ministry of spreading the gospel and saving souls. But one can become a missionary nevertheless through the ministry of intercession. There are so many places, for instance, where the gospel has been impeded or where some political policies have impaired the message of salvation.

There are situations and conditions that need the urgent attention of heaven. These situations are such that one may not be able to reach and tackle them directly or even do anything directly to change them in order to save people from unnecessary suffering, break yokes, and bring restoration.

Believers can handle such problems through the ministry of intercession. One can become a missionary like St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, who, without ever being a missionary in the conventional sense, brought many souls to God through a hidden, simple life of prayer.

The salvation of souls is the Master’s supreme concern. In Ezekiel 34:6, He complains: “My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.”

Through the ministry of intercession, one participates actively in the redemption of the world, in seeking the lost sheep of the Master. A single person who opts to be an intercessor can make a great difference. People who really believe in the power of intercession, graced with a passion for souls, can greatly influence the divine council in favor of lost souls. Accordingly, the apostle James points out: “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects” (James 5:16).

This article is a preview of The Art of Spiritual Warfare.

Even souls gained through preaching and teaching of the word may not be retained without constant intercessions on their behalf. Intercession is a ministry that the Christian Church cannot do without.

Sometimes we need to go beyond our own problems and ourselves when we pray. We need to realize that we should pray for sinners, for backsliders, and for those who do not even know they need prayer or divine help. Praying for divine intervention in the lives of those who are at the brink of eternal damnation and the lives of the wretched of the earth is a very noble missionary service. Intercession is indeed a very profound way of extending the ministry of Jesus and saving souls. When Fulton J. Sheen was describing the profundity of passion for souls, he said: “What nobler work could there be than zeal for souls? What finer way to spend oneself and be spent than in drawing souls to the love of their Lord and their God?”

Who wants to be an intercessor? Who cares for lost and perishing souls? Is there really someone who can go before the Lord and pray until tears flow for wretched souls? It is only this kind of prayer that can heal our wounded world and battered humanity. It takes hot tears of men and women passionately dying for souls to bring down the mercy of the Father on sinful men and women and on the world. It takes kneeling knees and upraised holy hands to draw down the power of God to heal, to break yokes, to restore, to console, and to bless. You are called to be a member of this noble class: an intercessor.

The Early Church and the Ministry of Intercession

The Church, the sacrament of salvation instituted by Christ, would not have survived the mortal persecutions that confronted her at a very tender age, and buoyantly flourished nonetheless, if the community of believers was prayerless and slumbering. The Church knew that her Master succeeded in establishing her because He was and remained a great intercessor, who never slept with two eyes closed.

It was clear to the early Christians that the ministry of spreading the gospel, which was entrusted to them by the Lord, would not survive the heavy enemy artillery unless they could “lift up holy hands” (see 1 Tim. 2:8) to the heavenly sanctuary. They knew, therefore, the source of their strength and survival — intercession — and exploited it to the full. Thus, before Pentecost, they were gathered in the upper room and “with one accord devoted themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14). Because they had been saturated with passionate prayers during this time of waiting in the upper room, Pentecost became a great harvest of souls. Following the Pentecost experience, the apostles began the ministry of intercession in earnest, having been equipped with the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

The Acts of the Apostles helps us to appreciate the commitment of Jesus’ early disciples to the ministry of intercession: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (2:42). That means that they continued with the tradition that the Master had handed over to His apostles.

Their central preoccupation revolved around three cardinal traditions:

  • (1) the teachings of the Lord handed over to the apostles (the Word);
  • (2) the breaking of bread (the Eucharist) which was the sacrament of unity, love, and the real presence of the Lord in their midst; and
  • (3) prayer (the vehicle to attend the divine council).

Through prayer they made themselves always present at the divine council, where they obtained the grace to expand the number of those who believed and to dismantle the roadblocks of the forces of darkness. Accordingly, “fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles” (Acts 2:43). Through the ministry of intercession, they were able to move the hand that moves the universe, overthrow spiritual territorial powers, and hoist the emblem of the Master, marked with the blood of the Lamb and the power of the Resurrection. Because they maintained the tempo of the required commitment and did not relent in participating in the divine council through constant prayers and flooding heaven with tearful petitions for the salvation of souls, the Pentecost anointing continued to flow generously.

The power associated with the ministry of the early believers was made amazingly manifest after Peter and John were released by the Jewish authorities, following their arrest after the healing of the cripple at the Beautiful Gate. When they gave to the other disciples the report of their encounter with these authorities, who were resisting the power of God, they called upon the name of the Lord as a team of intercessors with one mind and one voice. They pulled their spiritual energies together and besieged the divine council: “And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretchest out thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29–30). Heaven responded with a blessed assurance. The evangelist Luke reported the consoling manifestation that confirmed the response of the divine council to their supplication: “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).

Intercession was the glory of the early Church.

There are so many instances of the early Christians’ commitment to the ministry of intercession and how this paved ways for the expansion of the Church and the harvest of souls. The story of the experience of Peter in prison will, however, suffice for these pieces of evidence that indicate the place of intercession in the life of the first-century believers.

After he had killed James the brother of John, Herod arrested Peter and put him in prison, intending also to kill him, “but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the Church” (Acts 12:5). The early Church was a praying Church. She had no other defensive or offensive weapon more effective than prayer. She knew that her advantage was “not by might, nor by power, but by [God’s] Spirit” (Zech. 4:6). Thus, while Peter was in prison, believers were in the divine council, wrestling with the intrigues of the accuser and asking the Supreme Judge for justice. They knew that it was “the time when kings go forth to battle” (1 Chron. 20:1) and not the time to slumber or to get drunk. They thus blew the war trumpet, gathered their army, and went to battle. The experience of Joshua, the successor of Moses, was then repeated with the apostles.

When Joshua gathered his army and marched out to take over Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. He went up to him and asked, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” The man replied, “No; but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come” (Josh. 5:13–14). That is to say, “If you are for the Lord, then I have come to lead you to battle. But if you are against the Lord, I am here to command the Lord’s army against you.”

Whenever the army of the Lord gathers for battle, the Lord always sends His angel to lead it to battle. It was this same experi­ence that the disciples of the Lord had when their army filed out for battle against the spiritual forces personified in Herod. The Master sent His angel to lead them in battle even though they were not conscious of this like Joshua. As the commander of the army of the Lord, this angel went into the prison and released Peter unconditionally.

The intercession of believers has the power to obtain the services of heaven. The early Church was always in contact with heaven and always present in the divine council. This was how they made heaven always present in the world of their time.

Do we still wonder why the Church appears today more or less feeble and battered? Do we still wonder why demons can perch comfortably on the pews of our churches? Pope Paul VI sadly noted, “It is as if from some mysterious crack — no, it is not mysterious — from some crack, the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God” and has sometimes even infested its sanctuary.

Believers have grown more and more ignorant of their roots and neglected their source of strength. They have grown too fat to go to war and too busy and distracted to appear in the divine council. The devil has used the enticements of the world as a lullaby and soothed them into drowsiness and stupor. When it is the time for kings to go to war, they stay at home like David (2 Sam. 11:1), romancing the devil.

As a result of this situation, the devil has been enjoying a field day, wreaking havoc in the world and steadily dragging millions of souls to destruction. Would that the Church, the Body of Christ, might rediscover herself and exploit her powers once again. Would that believers might reclaim their dignity and measure up to their calling. End Quotes

Editor’s note: This article is from a chapter in The Art of Spiritual Warfare: The Secret Weapons Satan Can’t Withstandwhich is available from Sophia Institute Press.

By Venatius Oforka

Venatius Chukwudum Oforka comes from the town of Isiokpo in Ideato Local Government Area of Imo State, Nigeria. He holds bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and theology from Urban University Rome and masters degrees in the same areas of study from Imo State University and the University of Lampeter, Wales, respectively. He did his doctoral studies in moral theology at the University of Tübingen, Germany.

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Open Borders Is Not a Moral Immigration Policy by JONATHAN B. COE; reblogged

Open Borders Is Not a Moral Immigration Policy

“Where there is no guidance, a people falls; but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Prov. 11:14). Such ancient Hebrew wisdom is relevant as we look at major public policies through different prisms (empirical, pragmatic, moral, anecdotal, sentimental [i.e., feeling]) and seek to make prudential judgments that will cultivate national stability and human flourishing.

A helpful resource in engaging in such an endeavor for American immigration policy is the 2003 memoir and extended essay, Mexifornia: A State Of Becoming, by classicist and military historian Victor Davis Hanson. Two previous essays in this magazine have shown that Hanson’s book has aged well and his cautionary tale has proven prophetic.

He writes with the authority of an eyewitness and fifth-generation farmer of hardscrabble, Swedish lineage, who knows the Mexican immigrant well and has lived in central California, the epicenter of immigration upheaval, all his life. There are few, if any, books available that help the reader see the issue through an anecdotal lens, as Hanson recounts in sobering detail what it’s like to live in Mexifornia, a place that is half-California, half-Mexico, and hurtling toward economic and social disintegration.

Daily life in Mexifornia means that Hanson’s property is a frequent target of general theft, a waste disposal site for tons of unwanted refuse, and a place for inebriated illegal aliens to abandon their unregistered and unlicensed vehicles (this happened five times in a twenty-year period) after careening off the highway and crashing into his vineyards, causing thousands of dollars of damage. He writes of other chilling realities: “Hundreds of gang-bangers venture out into the rural counties [of central California] to fornicate, shoot drugs, steal, rape, and murder. I pick up their needles and condoms, brandy bottles and tampons, nightly near our farm pond.”

When the anecdotal lens is quantified it becomes an empirical prism through which to see public policy. Anyone who is at least moderately conversant with the issues surrounding immigration will recognize the basic laundry list of profoundly negative outcomes that Hanson mentions that continue to this day: high crime rates among non-citizens; lack of assimilation of both first and second-generation Hispanic immigrants who end up sequestered in ethnic enclaves; alarming metrics concerning high school drop-out rates, illegitimacy, and welfare dependency.

As far as the politics of the situation, according to Hanson, there’s plenty of blame to go around. Those on the economic-libertarian Right like open borders because the influx of cheap labor means a better bottom-line, while those on the Left see millions of people who need their assistance and will become members of the Democratic Party.

The first is motivated by greed; the second by power. The former is seeing the issue exclusively through an economic prism; the latter through a political one.

Neither is looking at it through a moral prism that should provide crucial clarity in all discussion of public policy. Searching moral questions are not being asked:

Years ago, James Q. Wilson accurately pointed out that not fixing the “broken windows”in your neighborhood leads to more law-breaking. Can a country practice such a cavalier attitude towards the rule of law without disastrous consequences?

Scores of people from other countries have followed all the rules and waited years to immigrate here from, say, someplace like Senegal or the Ukraine. Is it uncompassionate to tell the undocumented that they need to go to the back of the line?

Are open borders a fair policy when legal citizens are seeing their wages driven down because of the presence of the illegals? Is this just especially to the black communitywho are losing unskilled and entry-level jobs to the undocumented?

Low-skilled illegal aliens have high rates of welfare dependency. Is it right for those who are here legally to pick up the tab?

Is it moral to not build a wall along the southern border and continue to enable the well-heeled oligarchs in Mexico City, who benefit from billions of dollars a year in remittances, to maintain their racist and oppressive policies against the masses of poor, rural Indians from central Mexico? Could the act of building a wall be like the co-dependent wife finally telling her husband, “No, I’m not calling your boss anymore to tell him that you have the flu when the truth is that you’re hung-over”?

Is it fair to those who are not of but who live in Mexifornia, and this includes millions of assimilated Mexican-Americans along with non-Hispanics, to have to put up with the cultural, moral, and economic disintegration that characterizes much of Mexifornia? How easy it is for white, liberal elites who live in their gated communities and upper middle-class enclaves to say, “Build bridges, not walls!”

This brings us to the pragmatic prism, and, as the late Charles Krauthammer notes, there’s a reason that people have been building walls for 5,000 years: they work. Exhibit A: the wall in San Diego has reduced apprehensions by 92 percent; Exhibit B: the wall in Israel has effectively neutralized terrorist infiltration.

In a chapter called, “The Old Simplicity That Worked,” Hanson can’t help but notice that the vast majority of Mexicans he grew up with in the 1950s and 60s learned the language, assimilated into American culture, and achieved economic and social stability as policemen, tradesmen, school teachers, business owners, state employees, etc. Until 1970, in California, there were “unapologetically coarse efforts [that insisted] on assimilation” rooted in the politically incorrect premise that “the United States is a place far superior to Mexico.” (Emphasis Hanson.)

This premise was not based on racial superiority but the superiority of the American experiment manifested in “democracy, freedom, uncensored media, diversity in politics, religion and ethnicity, open markets, private property, a vibrant middle class, secular government, civic and judicial audit, and more…” Much of the assimilation happened in grammar school, where, Hanson says, “teachers with degrees from normal schools in Texas and Oklahoma knew far better the fundamental differences between a flourishing multiracial society and a failed and fractious multicultural quagmire than do our present Ph.D.s from Stanford and Berkeley.”

These teachers knew that the Mexican immigrant could and should retain a pride in the music, dance, art, literature, religion, and cuisine of his native land, but should also be wise enough to jettison many of the core political, economic, and social values of the country he left behind. Why else make great sacrifices to come to America in the first place?

Concerning the Mexican immigrant in the 1950s and 60s, Hanson writes: “…he was here to stay and become an American, not to go back and forth between the old and new country. He was to become one of us, not we one of him. He was here because he chose to be here, and so was required to learn about us, not we about him.”

The old approach reminds me of Milt Stark, one of my English teachers in high school. He was a dinosaur. Yes, he was a bit stern, and, for the first six weeks of his class, he taught grammar (eee-gads!).

There was no grade inflation and he expected critical thinking and writing skills commensurate with a student in the eleventh and twelfth grade.

There was nothing therapeutic, touchy-feely or politically correct about him. More than anyone else he prepared me for college.

Hanson admits that the old policy that worked was not perfect, a bit stern and needed some fine-tuning here and there. However, the outcomes were far superior to those resulting from the current approach characterized by white, liberal elites and the Chicano Studies departments of California’s universities since the 1970s, who emphasize ethnic pride and past and present racism against the Mexican and the Mexican-American.

While writing the book, Hanson looked at a list of classes from the University of California at Santa Barbara for the academic year 2001-2002. He found sixty-two classes were listed under “Chicano Studies” with an additional thirteen similar courses on Latino and Chicano issues in the history department.

The entire catalog had only one course on the Civil War and no classes on the Revolutionary War or World War II. Looking back through the empirical and pragmatic lenses, what has such an emphasis wrought?

Just as an emphasis on self-esteem and victimhood didn’t raise test scores in our public high schools, the same approach, prominent now for over four decades, has failed to dent the negative metrics in the Hispanic community concerning crime, high school drop-out rates, illegitimacy, and welfare dependency. John Adams was right: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

In looking at the issue of immigration policy through the prism of sentiment, it often seems like the Left emotes accordingly: “I feel compassion for the plight of the illegal alien; there has been a history of racism that continues to this day; I want open borders.” As far as the present outcry: yes, it is a bad idea to separate parents from children at the border, but where, pray tell, was the outcry when the Ninth Circuit handed down the decision and the Obama administration implemented it just a few years ago?

As someone who was born and raised in a predominantly Mexican neighborhood, eighteen miles east of Los Angeles, I have my own feelings about the situation. I do feel compassion for the Indian native of rural Mexico who finds himself and his family in grinding poverty with no hope of the fat cat oligarchs in Mexico City reforming national policy so he can improve his lot.

If I found myself in a similar situation, I would probably also come to the US illegally. However, when millions of people do such a thing, you end up with Mexifornia.

Again, building a wall forces Mexico City to implement policies that will have long-term, salutary effects for both countries. Open borders may feel good in the short-term, but it doesn’t do much good down the line as Hanson has demonstrated.

What compassionate Catholics and other Christians can do in the meantime is give of their time, talent and treasure to the poor in Mexico. In giving to organizations like Food for the Poor, over 95 percent of your charitable gift reaches the person in need. A number of organizations build houses for the poor in Mexico.

Such efforts come tumbling short of the Left’s dreams of a multicultural utopia, but at least, for the most part, fulfill the Hippocratic Oath in addressing the ills of Mexifornia: do no harm.

(Photo credit: ICE)

Jonathan B. Coe

By 

Jonathan B. Coe is a graduate of Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. Before being received into the Catholic Church in 2004, he served in pastoral ministry in rural Alaska, and in campus ministry at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. He has written for Catholic Exchange and The Imaginative Conservative. He is the author of Letters from Fawn Creek, a volume of spiritual direction, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.

The Bitter Truth about Feminism   by Lorraine V. Murray: reblogged

The Bitter Truth about Feminism

When I tell people I’m an ex-feminist, some seem shocked and offended, as if I were suggesting the world isn’t round. Others get a look of joy upon their faces, as if they’re thinking, “Oh, how wonderful that someone else feels the same way I do!”

            I’m certainly not opposed to women going to college, nor do I think women should be prohibited from pursuing their dreams, whether that means motherhood, medicine, or meteorology. As someone who lived the feminist agenda for many years, however, I can attest that giving women more access to education and careers is the mere tip of the feminist iceberg. If you dig a bit deeper, you find a soul-numbing array of lies.

            The first lie took me years to see through. Although I’d been raised in a staid Catholic household, during my junior year in college I abandoned the Faith as well as my moral principles. By the time I was in graduate school, the Women’s Liberation Movement was rumbling through campus, and one of the rallying cries was “free love.” This saying had nothing to do with the reality of the behavior, which involved engaging in loveless sex with strangers, as if it were just another ordinary activity.

            As a budding feminist, I bought into the mistaken notion that casual sex caused no harm to men, and thus it should be perfectly fine for women as well. After all, feminists were intent on leveling the male/female playing field, which meant dismantling traditions like marriage and commitment, and, in the process, encouraging women to imitate masculine behavior.

            It was emotionally painful becoming intimate with men whom I hardly knew and trying to pretend I didn’t expect a relationship – or even another date – but I assured myself that my emotions would eventually change. Despite the fact that my female friends and I kept getting our hearts broken, we didn’t arrive at the obvious conclusion, which was that feminism had it all wrong.

            Women are created by God to connect sex with commitment and love, since we know in the deepest recesses of our hearts that a baby is the obvious purpose of sexual intimacy. Since I was too naïve to see through the lie, I concluded that I had to give the new experiment more time, and I would eventually achieve true “liberation.”

            I was also ensnared in the web of the second big lie of feminism, which proceeds directly from the first. Feminists are well aware that casual sex can lead to pregnancy, even when a couple is using contraception. There simply is no device or chemical that can completely guarantee a pregnancy won’t result from sex.

            Feminists, however, don’t see this obvious fact as a good reason to avoid pre-marital sex. Instead, in their continued attempt to break the God-ordained tie between sex and babies, they propose another “solution,” one that has led to the deaths of millions of innocents since abortion was legalized.

*

            Tragically, I was one of the women who bought into this deception. I truly thought that a woman’s freedom to pursue education or a career trumped an innocent baby’s right to be born. Thus, when I found myself pregnant but unmarried, I chose what I thought would be a simple solution. In all the feminist articles I pored over – and there were quite a few – no mention was made of the emotional repercussions that so often result when a woman ends a pregnancy.

            I made the appointment at a feminist clinic, walked in, and signed the paperwork. In my mind, what was about to happen was as matter of fact as a tooth extraction. What I didn’t realize was that I was about to experience the first chink in my feminist armor, because the “procedure,” as I referred to it, was horrifyingly painful, both physically and emotionally.

            In truth, as I left the clinic that day, I felt a rush of relief because the immediate “problem” was over. What I didn’t realize was that I would be facing many years of much more serious problems, as my womanly emotions reacted with horror and regret over what had really happened that day.

            I began experiencing flashbacks and nightmares. I would see a baby in a mall and feel tears stinging my eyes. I also felt terribly alone because even my feminist friends, many of whom surely had undergone the same “procedure,” studiously avoided any mention of their own abortions.

            As the years passed, I was filled with a bitter, unending regret. No matter what the feminist pundits claimed in the scholarly articles they churned out, the truth of the matter became blatantly clear: I had taken a life and I would never quite get over it.

            When I returned to the Catholic Church in my forties, I finally freed myself from feminism’s many deceptions. I saw that it is impossible to claim to be pro-woman while also being anti-baby. I realized that in the feminist game plan, children are the big losers. And it was only through a mature understanding of Catholicism that I discovered what it means to be pro-woman in a sane and beautiful way.

            Looking at a figure of Mary gazing with love at the Christ Child in her arms reveals the truth that triumphs, once and for all, over the lies of feminism. There is a deep, abiding connection between mother and child – and taking babies away from their mothers leads to devastating results for both.

            I found forgiveness through the sacrament of Confession, and finally experienced emotional healing through a Catholic ministry called Post Abortion Treatment and Healing. The deep scars left from feminism, however, will never be completely gone.

            If I could turn back the hands of time, I would let that little baby thrive. Like millions of other women who regret their abortions, I’d give anything to gaze on the little face of my precious baby, who never saw the light of day.

 

*Image: Madonna and Child by Giovanni Bellini, 1510 [Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, Italy] This was among Bellini’s last paintings, completed when he was 80.

 

The Immeasurable Charity of Praying for the Dead by:MAURA ROAN MCKEEGAN reblogged

The Immeasurable Charity of Praying for the Dead

MAURA ROAN MCKEEGAN

At Mass this past Sunday, as the lector read the Prayers of the Faithful, I was stunned to hear a familiar name in the intentions. It took me a moment to register the shock as I realized that we had just prayed for the soul of an elderly gentleman I knew. Until that moment, I’d had no idea that this man had died.

Some years ago, he had prayed over me for healing, and I remembered the quiet sincerity and intensity of his prayers. Since then, I had seen him often at daily Mass. I noticed how he struggled physically — he had a hard time kneeling and standing during the liturgy — yet he seemed to make every effort to participate in the Mass with the same sincerity and intensity that I had felt the day he prayed over me.

As I stood there in the pew, these memories hit me with unexpected force. When I realized that I would never again see him at daily Mass, tears flooded my eyes.

Well, I thought to myself as I grasped for consolation, at least he is free from suffering now. He’s in a better place.

Then I stopped myself. Here I was, falling into the same trap that tempts me every time someone dies. Even though I’ve written articles about this very experience, I still have the same immediate tendency, when I hear about a death, to console myself by declaring that the person is in heaven.

I believed this was a holy man — why wouldn’t he be with the angels and saints?

Even Holy Souls Might Need Prayers

For all I know, he very well might be in heaven. But he hasn’t been canonized, and so I don’t know with certainty the state of his soul. It was a consolation for me to think of him in heaven; but if he was in purgatory, he wouldn’t benefit from my consoling thoughts. He would benefit from my prayers.

When I realized what I was doing, I stopped assuming he was in heaven and started praying for him to be there.

The Church has a longstanding tradition of praying for the dead because many souls, even holy ones, spend time in purgatory, and our prayers can help them reach heaven faster. It is beautiful to hope that our loved ones are in heaven. And in God’s mercy, He grants us a way to help them get there—on the wings of our prayers.

Even {now saint} Padre Pio, when he was on his deathbed, asked his brothers to pray for his soul.

So did Fr. Balley, a holy priest who, disguised as a carpenter, risked his life to bring the sacraments to Catholics during the religious persecution in France at the turn of the 19th century. One boy to whom he surreptitiously gave First Communion returned to him years later as a seminary student. Fr. Balley spent countless hours helping the intelligent, pious, prayerful, but academically challenged young man to pass the tests for ordination.

The grateful student, who also became a dear friend, was St. John Vianney.

“I have encountered beautiful souls,” Vianney said, as told in Leon Cristiani’s book St. John Vianney: The Village Priest Who Fought God’s Battles, “but never any more beautiful than his.”

When Fr. Balley was on his deathbed, he reached beneath his pillow and pulled out a hairshirt and a discipline — two instruments he had used regularly to mortify his flesh in penance — and gave them to St. John Vianney.

“Take these things, my poor child, and hide them,” Fr. Balley said. “If these objects were found after my death, people would think I had sufficiently expiated my sins. And then they’d leave me in purgatory until the end of the world.”

He risked martyrdom to minister to his people; he interceded for his parishioners with nearly constant mortifications and penance; he helped raise a saint; and still, he begged prayers for his soul.

This story inclines me to hope that if I’ve ever written a holy word or done a charitable deed, they will all be hidden at my death, and my family will tell of my (many, many) shortcomings so that no one will ever be tempted to think I’m already in heaven and “leave me in purgatory until the end of the world!”

The charity of praying for the dead cannot be measured.

How to Pray for Souls

There are many ways to pray for the souls in purgatory. In November, the Church offers a plenary indulgence that we can obtain for them, but we can pray for them in other ways throughout the year.

One simple way is to pray this version of the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on the souls in purgatory.”

Another way is to attach this prayer to grace before meals: “May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”

Or we can lift up a spontaneous prayer, in words or in silence, from the heart.

Many people also turn to this prayer of St. Gertrude, said to release 1,000 souls from purgatory for those who pray it devoutly:

Eternal Father,
I offer You 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,
for those in my own home,
and in my family. Amen.

Even if we pray for a loved one and it turns out that his soul is already in heaven, those prayers will not be wasted; God will use them to help other souls who need them. And since God is outside of time, we can pray for souls who died months, years, or centuries ago, and our prayers now can assist them at the time of their death.

A  Two-Way Street

The Catechism assures us that our prayers help souls in purgatory — and that it’s a two-way street: When we pray for them, these souls receive extra ability to pray for us.

“Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them,” the Catechism (958) says, “but also of making their intercession for us effective.”

I walk this two-way street, literally and spiritually, several times a week, when I visit a nearby cemetery. Over two centuries old, it has become a beloved place for me to think and pray. I read the headstones and pray for all the souls whose bodies were buried here. To keep my mortality before me, I sometimes imagine my own name on one of the headstones and hope that, when it becomes real, someone will see it and pray for my soul.

I also ask these souls to pray for me, giving them special intentions that are weighing on my heart. When I do, I feel surrounded by an invisible force field of love. Their prayers have brought tangible, powerful graces into my life, and I think of these souls as friends in the Mystical Body of Christ.

If every person reading this takes a moment to pray for the souls in purgatory, how grateful they will be for our assistance. When you pray for them, remember that you can ask them for their prayers, also. In the Mystical Body, God’s mercy enables us not only to give graces to one another, but to receive them as well.

The holy souls will not forget you when you remember them. END QUOTES

By Maura Roan McKeegan

Maura Roan McKeegan is the author of a series of children’s picture books about biblical typology, including: The End of the Fiery Sword: Adam & Eve and Jesus & Mary; Into the Sea, Out of the Tomb: Jonah and Jesus, and, most recently, Building the Way to Heaven: The Tower of Babel and Pentecost (Emmaus Road Publishing; available spring 2018). Her articles have appeared in publications such as Catholic Digest, The Civilized Reader, Franciscan Way, Guideposts, and Lay Witness.

 

This saint bore the stigmata every Good Friday for 38 years  by Larry Peterson

This saint bore the stigmata every Good Friday for 38 years

 Larry Peterson

Blessed Elena Aiello was cured of stomach cancer by St. Rita’s prayers.

Elena Aiello was born in Cosenza, Italy, on April 10, 1895. She was the third of eight children born to Pasquale Aiello, a tailor by trade, and Tereseina Pagilla. Sadly and unexpectedly, Tereseina died at an early age, leaving her husband with eight children in his care.

Pasquale was a man of great faith, and he imparted this to his children. In fact, he must have been one special man because his one-year-old child died after his wife’s passing and while carrying the extra grief, Pasquale diligently plied his trade and did his best to care for the kids.

Even as a young child, Elena was devout. She practiced penance on a daily basis and offered prayers for the souls in Purgatory. She received her First Holy Communion when she was only nine (at the time the customary age to receive was 12 to 14) and received her Confirmation when she was 11 years old.

She already was feeling a call to religious life, but her father asked her to put her plans on hold because of the war (World War I began in 1915). During these war years, Elena helped refugees, assisted prisoners, nursed invalids and tended to the dying.

She never worried about the possible dangers to herself or of catching some contagious illness (this was before the age of antibiotics). She, in effect, had begun her earthly ministry on her own, before entering the convent.

After the war, Elena’s father gave her permission to enter the convent but insisted she join the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood; he gave no reason. Soon after joining the sisters, Elena was forced to leave because of a diseased shoulder that had been operated on improperly and had turned necrotic. Also, she now had stomach cancer and could not even hold down liquids.

When her doctor said she was incurable, Elena decided to turn to St. Rita for help. She told the doctor, “I will not die from this disease because St.Rita is going to make me well.”

Elena and her cousin went to a church and prayed to St. Rita begging her for a cure. Elena wrote in her notebook of how she saw flames all around St. Rita’s statue, while her cousin saw nothing. That night she dreamt of St. Rita who told her she wanted devotions held in Montalto in her honor to help rekindle the lost faith of the people.

These astonishing miracles led to St. Rita’s canonization

Elena started a Triduum to St. Rita. St. Rita appeared to her and asked her to do a second triduum, telling her she would be cured. However, she also told her the pain in her shoulder would not go away because she had to suffer for the sins in the world. (Her spiritual director documented all these facts.) One night Elena went to bed as usual. When she awoke in the morning, she was (except for the painful shoulder) completely cured. The year was 1921.

Elena Aiello was lying in bed on Good Friday in 1923. The time was 3 p.m. Her left shoulder was screaming in pain as she prayed her devotions. Suddenly, Our Lord appeared to her dressed in a white garment and wearing a crown of thorns. Jesus asked for her consent and then removed the crown from His head and placed it on hers. Blood began to flow, and Jesus told her He wanted her to be a victim soul, asking her to suffer for the many sins committed in the world.

Elena Aiello experienced the Stigmata each Good Friday until right before her death in 1961, a period of 38 years. Doctors tried to stop the bleeding; tried to understand the bleeding; tried to diagnose the bleeding; there just was no explanation known to modern medicine.

5 Stigmatics you might not know about

During this time Elena began having visions. Not only Jesus, but the Blessed Mother, St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. Francesco Paola also appeared to her.  In 1928 she founded a new religious order and named it Minim Sisters of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Pope Pius XII, who knew of Elena, gave pontifical approval for the order in 1949.

Lastly, the many prophecies of Elena Aiello have been documented.

Pope Benedict XVI recognized the second miracle attributable to Elena Aiello on April 2, 2011. Her beatification was in September 2011.

Blessed Elena Aiello, please pray for us. END QUOTES

Do you know Jesus too well?  by Brother Silas Henderson, SDS ..re-blogged

 

Do you know Jesus too well?

 Brother Silas Henderson, SDS

 

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we see that the people’s “certainty” prevented them from seeing the gift that was being offered to them.

“Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!” —Mark 6:2

If someone were to ask you who Jesus is, how would you answer? Would you begin to think of a beloved childhood image or a statue in your parish church? Perhaps you might recall a theological word or phrase that speaks to you of his divine and human natures, of the Incarnation, and the Paschal Mystery. Many of us might recall stories of Jesus recounted in the Scriptures. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have all these possibilities competing for your attention because each is valid and good, in its way.

Our Gospel this Sunday seems to indicate that the people of Jesus’ hometown thought they knew exactly who he was. After all, they had watched him grow up. His parents were their neighbors and they knew his extended family. And so, when Jesus broke out of the “box” they had made for him, they “took offense.” Their experiences of him—what they knew—limited their ability to see the presence of God within Jesus or to recognize God’s power at work among them. Sadly, Mark implies, they were satisfied with the small, limited knowledge of Jesus because they thought they knew all there was to know about him.

Our Gospel Readings this Sunday and next mark a turning point in St. Mark’s Gospel. Jesus is now ready to set out with the Twelve and begin his work of proclaiming the Reign of God. Up to this point, the Gospel of Mark has been trying to help us reflect on who this Jesus is and on what his mission will mean for the People of Israel and for the entire world. And now, we see Jesus setting out—leaving the nest, as it were—because, as St. Mark tells us,

“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.

The people’s “certainty” prevented them from seeing the gift that was being offered to them. To say it another way, their certainty eclipsed the possibility of faith.

Ordinary Time is a season of growth when the Readings of the Mass encourage us to expand our understanding of who and what Jesus is, even as they call us to conversion and to the hard of work of helping build up God’s Kingdom through our works of mercy and justice. While we might know these stories from Scripture by heart, the Holy Spirit is always speaking to us, inviting us to enter into the mysteries of our faith in new ways. As Pope Francis has reminded us time and again, our God is a God of surprises. This week, we are being invited to open our minds and hearts to a new encounter with Jesus and to allow ourselves to be surprised by grace.

When has your “certainty” prevented your from being open to something new and life-giving?

What images and stories of Jesus do you hold onto that might be preventing you from entering into a deeper relationship with him?

What story from the Gospel challenges your faith and understanding of Jesus and his message?

Words of Wisdom: “They said: Is this not the son of Mary, and of Joseph the carpenter? Now kings and rulers worship him as Son of the true God, and himself true God, and he has glorified and continues to glorify those who worship him in spirit and in truth.”—St. Symeon the “New Theologian” END QUOTES

 

Spiritual Works of Mercy A Contemporary Retelling of Matthew 25:31–46: by Peter Kwasniewski re-blogged

 

Spiritual Works of Mercy A Contemporary Retelling of Matthew 25:31–46

by: Peter Kwasniewski

The twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew is surely one of the most rousing of all chapters in the New Testament. It has shocked into spiritual wakefulness unnumbered Christians down through the centuries; it has inspired the art of church doors and altar pieces from one end of Christendom to the other; it has prompted a never-ending examination of conscience.

And when the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty. And all nations shall be gathered together before him, and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.

Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee; thirsty, and gave thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and covered thee? Or when did we see thee sick or in prison, and came to thee? And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.

Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you covered me not: sick and in prison, and you did not visit me. Then they also shall answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee? Then he shall answer them, saying: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me.

And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.

This passage is the key (although not exclusive) Scriptural basis for speaking of the seven “corporal works of mercy”:

To feed the hungry.

To give water to the thirsty.

To clothe the naked.

To shelter the homeless.

To visit the sick.

To visit the imprisoned, or ransom the captive.

To bury the dead.

Parallel to these acts of mercy that belong to man in his materiality are the seven “spiritual works of mercy” that look to man in his spiritual nature:

To instruct the ignorant.

To counsel the doubtful.

To admonish the sinners.

To bear patiently those who wrong us.

To forgive offenses.

To comfort the afflicted.

To pray for the living and the dead.

In many ways, the spiritual works have a far greater importance—as much more as the health of the soul eternally outlasts the health of the body. This is poorly understood today, when materialism has subtly infected even the mentality of Christians and prompted them to take more notice and care of bodily needs than of the hunger for truth, without the possession of which man will starve in hell forever. Think of how so many funerals today are conducted as preliminary canonizations, where we rejoice in the eternal rest of the deceased and reassure one another, in cheerful American fashion, that it’s all good. In no way is the modern Catholic funeral helping Christians to exercise the merciful work of praying and offering up sacrifices for the repose of the dead, whose fate is usually far from clear. As for “admonishing sinners,” we only see that attempted nowadays when Pope Francis decides to sink his teeth into a new vague category of people who exhibit whatever bizarre mixture of character traits he has extracted from the Gospel of the day.

On Judgment Day, we will be judged on these works of corporal and spiritual mercy—and as Scripture assures us, the more mighty, those who are responsible for the welfare of more people, will be judged more severely. What does that mean for Justice Kennedy, who has placed his personal signature on an entire culture of relativism, or for Nancy Pelosi, who has the blood of millions of children crying out from the earth to heaven, as the blood of Abel cried out? You and I, too, may not be Kennedys or Pelosis, but we have our fair share of sins of commission and omission, where we acted contrary to the works of mercy, or failed to perform some that we we might have done.

As with other familiar Scripture passages, we can think that we have totally understood the message of Matthew 25, without realizing that it includes far more than first meets the eye.

As we approach the eleventh anniversary of the promulgation of Benedict XVI’s motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, I can’t help thinking of a re-reading that extends beyond the old catechisms. A fresh look at verses 42–45 against the backdrop of the contemporary Church suggests a major area of examination and reproof that will be spoken to many ecclesiastical shepherds as they go before the tribunal of the Good Shepherd.

I was hungry for reverent divine worship, I was starved for the sacred, I was desperate for a Latin Mass in my area—and you gave me not to eat.

I was thirsty for the beauty and solemnity of the Mass, famished for the dignity of the sacraments, and you gave me not to drink.

I was a stranger in my own parish and diocese, wandering, looking for the Church’s traditional liturgy, that nurse of saints and fountain of holiness, and you took me not in. You wanted to have nothing to do with me or those like me.

I was naked, left uncatechized, exposed to evil books and films, and you covered me not, you spared me not, you protected me not. Your “Safe Environment” programs, your whole bureaucratic machinery, shielded perverts and their patrons, and I was abused.

I was sick and in prison, sick of heresy and constant compromise with secular relativism, in the prison of late modernity with its claustrophobic ceiling and windowless walls, and you did not visit me. You acted as if the sickness were no big deal and the prison a permanent home. You did not even try to see the problem or find its solution. And all around you and within you was the witness of two thousand years of Catholic tradition, waiting to be rediscovered, reapplied to my wounds, and detonated under my confinement. You could have freed me, but you preferred me to be walled up, sealed away, neutralized.

Then they also shall answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee?

Then he shall answer them, saying: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least of the People of God, neither did you do it to me.

And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting. END QUOTES