The 8 Benefits of Regular Confession

Pope Pius XII lists 8 benefits of regular confession:

  1. Genuine self-knowledge is increased.
  2. Christian humility grows.
  3. Bad habits are corrected.
  4. Spiritual neglect and tepidity are resisted.
  5. The conscience is purified.
  6. The will is strenghtened.
  7. Salvatory self-control is increased.
  8. Grace is increased in virtue of the sacrament itself.

Prayer Reading Program

spiritual_summer_reading_plan_graphic

This is re-posted from the National Catholic Register. You can see the original article here. I do not claim authorship. The original author is Dan Burke of SpiritualDirection.com.

* * *

The official start of summer is just a month away — are you ready?

I teach a course called “Foundations of Prayer and Union with God” for the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation. In this course I have had the great blessing of watching hundreds of God’s good people grow more deeply in their prayer and union with God. During the course a number of the students asked if I could provide a list of spiritual reading that might help them continue in their progress. The graphic and list you see below is what I prepared for them.

I have given an order of priority to the list in terms of what might be most meaningful at each stage of the three-fold path of spiritual growth (purgative, illuminative, unitive). Of course, there are spacial limitations to this approach. Beyond that, there are more books than I could ever fit in! So, I had to compromise and provide a list that will still keep anyone busy for at least a few years.

There are a few more distinctions about the list that might be helpful. The books in red are works that I believe every Catholic should read at one time or another for various reasons.

For instance, Fr. Thomas Dubay’s Prayer Primer is a must-read even for those advanced in prayer. Why? Because there is much by way of false teachings on prayer spreading around the Church. This work, coupled with Part Four of the Catechism on prayer, will provide a firm foundation and understanding of the life-changing prayer in the authentic tradition of the Church.

The books in blue are recommended for daily meditation, daily spiritual reading, or lectio divina. The Better Part is by far the best daily meditation book for those who are new or relatively new to a daily practice of meditation because it is completely focused on the person and work of Christ in the gospels. The Better Part provides reflections on every passage of each of the gospels focused on Christ as our teacher, our friend, our Lord and then Christ in our life.

For the soul that has spent at least a year in scriptural meditation on the life of Christ, I strongly recommend Divine Intimacy for additional daily meditation or lectio divina. This work is a treasure of the interior life that will keep you spiritually challenged for decades. It will also expose you to other spiritual masters and mystics along the way.

With respect to a summer reading program, my prayer is that you will just pick up one of these books and launch into an adventure with God that you would not have otherwise known.

By the way, if these reads seem a bit heavy, I might recommend two resources that would be on the fun side. One is on the list: the Screwtape Letters. The other is not: a recent devotional by my friend Teresa Tomeo, Walk Softly and Carry a Great Bag. This book was written for busy women in a style that is pithy and relevant to the daily challenges women face.

If you appreciate these resources, please help us spread the word by sharing it on Facebook and any other way that works best for you.

The best place to first look for these books is at EWTN’s Religious Catalogue. Every purchase there helps the great work of EWTN.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/dan-burke/life-changing-summer-reading-program/#ixzz3aVcpyNQ2

Scripture Reflections, 5/17–Prayer, Praise, and the Ascension of Christ

Ascension

A blessed Ascension Sunday to you! While many dioceses celebrated the Ascension this past Thursday, here in the archdiocese of Los Angeles (and from what I understand most of the US), we celebrated the Ascension today.

Before I turn to scripture, I want to talk about the nature and meaning of “ascension.” Of course, ascension comes from the root word ascend, which means:

  • to climb
  • to go upward
  • to rise
  • to mount
  • to go toward a source or beginning
  • to gain altitude
  • to gain, succeed, or acquire

There’s a sense in which all of these meanings describe what we’re celebrating today. On a very literal level, we’re describing the “rising of Christ” to heaven, where he “mounts” his throne in Heaven. This is certainly a very literal elevation–by which he gains altitude. It is very much a return toward the “source or beginning.” And if we look at Christian art and iconography of the ascension, there is a very real sense in which he is “gaining altitude” as he “moves upward” toward Heaven.

But I think there’s also a whole bunch of figural ascensions going on. Since Thursday, I’ve been thinking a lot about Ascension and I keep coming back to the idea of prayer. In a more figural sense, I think prayer is a very profound kind of ascension in which the indwelling of the Holy Spirit seeks to return (in union) with the Father and the Son who dwell in Heaven. And so the very idea of prayer is, itself, a kind of Ascension, in which we are called and urged to raise our hearts and minds to God.

This seems to be something of what our Psalmist, David, captured in today’s Psalm. I want to quote the second strophe to illustrate what I’m getting at:

God mounts his throne and amid shouts of joy; the Lord, amid trumpet blasts.

Sing praise to God, sing praise; sing praise to our king, sing praise (Ps 47).

The phrase “sing praise” is repeated four times in that second line, which indicates that singing praise is what we should be about. The Psalm sings praise, but so does prayer. As Fr. Timothy Gallagher beautifully notes, praise is a form of prayer that

situates us in our truth as creatures before our Creator and as those redeemed before our Redeemer…. As I read, I found that praise is the way to live in the truth that I am God’s creature, loved before all ages, given life in time, and called to eternal joy[,] and that praise is the way to live in the truth that I am loved infinitely by the Redeemer, who gave his life for me…. Praise is… “essentially an unlimited appreciation of the grandeur of God, a loving appreciation which expresses itself in words, and better still in song. It is not a cold and objective statement, but warm and human acknowledgment of God” (59).

Prayers of praise, then, are a kind of ascension, in which our hearts and minds Ascend with Christ to sing the praise of our Creator in his presence.

All of this is very much made central in today’s reading. First, we are told that we are called to pray–to lift our minds and hearts to God through praise. Hence, Christ tells his disciples that “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:1-11). Likewise, after Christ has ascended, two men clothed in white appear and ask the disciples, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven” (ibid.). Jesus will return precisely in this mode of ascension–when we lift our hearts and minds to Christ in a prayer that Praises our Creator and his blessed son.

A blessed Ascension! And praise to the Ascended Christ!

Scripture Reflections, 5/10, 6th Sunday of Easter

gods-love

A blessed Sixth Sunday of Easter to you and yours! Today we celebrate the God of Love, commemorated so elegantly in the First Letter of St. John:

Beloved, let us love one another,
because love is of God;
everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.
In this way the love of God was revealed to us:
God sent his only Son into the world
so that we might have life through him.
In this is love:
not that we have loved God, but that he loved us
and sent his Son as expiation for our sins (1 John 4: 7-10).

I’ve seen this read in a number of contexts against Saint Paul’s meditation on love in the 13th chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians, in which he contends that,

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated,
it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing (1 Cor 13: 4-8).

Using a deductive logic, it would make sense that, if God is love, then God is also all of these things. God is patient, God is kind, God is not jealous, is not inflated. God is not rude, does not seek his own interests, is not quick tempered, does not brood over injury, does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. God bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Most poignantly, God never fails.

This is the God I pray to every day. This is the God I visit in the Tabernacle at Catholic Churches. This is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–the God of our Fathers. As my parish priest (who is a Saint in the making) often reminds me, this is the God that never tires of forgiving us of our sins. And this is also the God of today’s Gospel, the God who laid down his life for us, his friends:

Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another” (John 15: 9-7).

As modern-day Christians, who live in the shadow of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, we can’t help but read this passage in a doubled sense: first as Christ’s love for the world, Christ’s act of “laying down his life for his friends,” but also a call to lay down our life for others, as St. Maximilian Kolbe did for a stranger at Auschwitz.

And, as the Pastor of our Parish reminded us yesterday, this is a call to die to self in service to others so that we might serve Christ as he served us.

God will never stop loving you because God is love, a love marked by patience, kindness, selflessness, and forgiveness. I hope that you encounter this God today–and every day.

In Christ, who is love,

NR.

Evening Psalm

RSV

A favorite Psalm for rough days. And a centerpiece of tonight’s Evening Prayer. “Cast me not off, forsake me not, O God of my salvation.” Turn to the Lord, our God, even in your despair.

[1] The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
[2] When evildoers assail me,
uttering slanders against me,
my adversaries and foes,
they shall stumble and fall.
[3] Though a host encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
[4] One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after;
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the LORD,
and to inquire in his temple.
[5] For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent,
he will set me high upon a rock.
[6] And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies round about me;
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the LORD.
[7] Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
[8] Thou hast said, “Seek ye my face.”
My heart says to thee,
“Thy face, LORD, do I seek.”
[9] Hide not thy face from me.
Turn not thy servant away in anger,
thou who hast been my help.
Cast me not off, forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
[10] For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the LORD will take me up.
[11] Teach me thy way, O LORD;
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
[12] Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.
[13] I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living!
[14] Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
yea, wait for the LORD!

***

“The Lord bless you and keep you: The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: the Lord lift his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Num 6:24-26).

Good night. God bless. And Amen.

Memorial of St. Catherine

stcatherine icon

A blessed Wednesday to you as we (Catholics) celebrate the Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, a Dominican Sister and Doctor of the Church.

I’m a fan of St. Catherine, and not just because she is a Saint and a Doctor of the Church (although, those are quite good reasons). Her story is also quite compelling. Born to a clothier and a poet amidst the scourge of the plague, she had a vision of Christ at the young age of six and, as a teenager, a vision of St. Dominic that led her to join the Dominicans. And at 21 she had yet another vision, this a vision of a mystical marriage with Christ himself. She is also given credit for persuading Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome.

That said, what I find most impressive about St. Catherine’s life is how literally she interpreted the message of Christ that “I am the Bread of Live” (ergo sum panis vitae, John 6:48). According to the saint herself, she contract illness at the end of her life that prevented her from eating or even drinking water. And so she subsisted on the Eucharist (John’s “Bread of Life”) alone.

As we memorialize St. Catherine today, I hope to reflect on the sustaining power of the Eucharist–not just spiritually, mentally, or psychologically–for our physical human lives.

Ergo sum panis vitae! God bless.

St. Catherine, pray for us!

Lectio Divina Explained

An interesting how-to on lectio divina for those interested in contemplative prayer. ACCEPTING THE EMBRACE of GOD: THE ANCIENT ART of LECTIO DIVINA by Fr. Luke Dysinger, O.S.B.

Here’s the practical advice. Again, this is pasted from Fr. Dysinger’s instructions on the Valyermo Abbey website:

CHOOSE a text of the Scriptures that you wish to pray. Many Christians use in their daily lectio divina one of the readings from the Eucharistic liturgy for the day; others prefer to slowly work through a particular book of the Bible. It makes no difference which text is chosen, as long as one has no set goal of “covering” a certain amount of text: the amount of text “covered” is in God’s hands, not yours.

PLACE YOURSELF in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent. Some Christians focus for a few moments on their breathing; other have a beloved “prayer word” or “prayer phrase” they gently recite in order to become interiorly silent. For some the practice known as “centering prayer” makes a good, brief introduction to lectio divina. Use whatever method is best for you and allow yourself to enjoy silence for a few moments.

THEN TURN to the text and read it slowly, gently. Savor each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow says, “I am for you today.” Do not expect lightening or ecstasies. In lectio divina God is teaching us to listen to Him, to seek Him in silence. He does not reach out and grab us; rather, He softly, gently invites us ever more deeply into His presence.

NEXT TAKE the word or phrase into yourself. Memorize it and slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories and ideas. Do not be afraid of “distractions.” Memories or thoughts are simply parts of yourself which, when they rise up during lectio divina, are asking to be given to God along with the rest of your inner self. Allow this inner pondering, this rumination, to invite you into dialogue with God.

THEN, SPEAK to God. Whether you use words or ideas or images or all three is not important. Interact with God as you would with one who you know loves and accepts you. And give to Him what you have discovered in yourself during your experience of meditatio. Experience yourself as the priest that you are. Experience God using the word or phrase that He has given you as a means of blessing, of transforming the ideas and memories, which your pondering on His word has awakened. Give to God what you have found within your heart.

FINALLY, SIMPLY rest in God’s embrace. And when He invites you to return to your pondering of His word or to your inner dialogue with Him, do so. Learn to use words when words are helpful, and to let go of words when they no longer are necessary. Rejoice in the knowledge that God is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity.

SOMETIMES IN lectio divina one will return several times to the printed text, either to savor the literary context of the word or phrase that God has given, or to seek a new word or phrase to ponder. At other times only a single word or phrase will fill the whole time set aside for lectio divina. It is not necessary to anxiously assess the quality of one’s lectio divina as if one were “performing” or seeking some goal: lectio divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the Scriptures.