Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Why Catholic Men Need the Support of Other Catholic Men

As Catholic men, we all know how difficult it is for men and their families to “thrive” in today’s culture. All of us have ever-increasing demands on our time and energies. It is not hard to see the collapse of traditional values and their support structures. Of course, there is a big difference between just surviving and thriving. We can be just surviving as a family, trying to keep a lid on everything, or we can be thriving as a Godly family. How many men know what it’s like to go through a difficult time when we are just trying to keep a lid on everything, so our families don’t explode? I know there are times when I have.
I believe that if we are to thrive (and not just survive), then we as Catholic men have to be willing to combat the trends of our modern society. For this to happen, we need to go deeper in our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. We need the power of the Cross and the Holy Spirit. Additionally we need the support of other Christian men.

The Scriptures have much to say about why men need support of other men. In Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 and 4:12, this is brought home:

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

Where a lone man may be overcome, two together can resist. A three-ply cord is not easily broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

Why is this true? Listen to what Proverbs 27 has to say:As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)

And in Psalm 133, we hear these words:
How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

Why is it so good and pleasant? Proverbs 17 gives one of the reasons:
A friend loves at all times. A brother is there to help in times of adversity. (Proverbs 17:17)

Listen to the words of Jesus on what happens when two or more of us gather together in agreement, and in his name:
"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:19-20)

Here is another important reason for men to meet together and support one another.

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24)

Finally, 1 John tells us what it means to “walk in the Light” as Christians:
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another” (1 John 1:7)

The National Fellowship of Catholic Men are seeing these Scriptures come alive in men’s lives through the continued increase in the formation of Catholic men’s fellowships groups all across the country. In these groups, Catholic men are building relationships with one another, deepening their faith, and supporting one another through prayer. We have such a group in our parish: The St. Joseph Covenant Keepers. We have two meeting dates for your convenience: the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of the month (7:00PM) or the 2nd & 4th Saturday mornings (9:00AM) of the month. All of the meetings take place in Room 18.

Please consider joining us to build each other up to be authentic Catholic men.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Sanctification: Daily Prayer Habits

"Pray always and do not lose heart" (Luke 18:1).

I am writing this as a follow up to the piece on Spiritual Weapons & Tactics. It occurred to me through our discussions at the St. Joseph’s Covenant Keepers that the previous article merely scratched the surface of what we need to do to answer the “universal call to holiness.”

It seems to me that many of us feel the internal drive to be closer to our Lord, but we don’t seem to know how; we don’t have a game plan. We often succeed at setting and meeting career goals or implementing a physical fitness plan (I can’t say I’ve done that yet.) When it comes to our relationship with God, we become paralyzed, mystified and frustrated with the struggle to incorporate a daily prayer life. The following is a suggested strategy to begin a life of daily prayer.

Before I begin this discussion, allow to me to offer a few reflections about the process. Do not enter this with haste. It is not a crash course. I’m reminded of Stephen Covey’s lesson on the Law of the Farm. You can’t cram on the farm; you can’t get up one morning and expect to harvest the crop when you haven’t taken the time and patience to work the soil, fertilize, remove the weeds and pests, etc. Haste gives birth to frustration and failure. Remember God wants you to succeed at your pace and His. Before you begin to implement these changes in your life pray to the Holy Spirit and ask for His help in fortifying you in your resolve to take this process seriously. We can’t take a sporadic approach to this; we must commit to making it our daily priority. After all we are ultimately talking about the very salvation of our souls. Pray for each other’s resolve. Finally, we must remember that this is not a zero sum game in which we lose time by practicing these habits of prayer. Instead we must view them as investments that will pay dividends in the after life.

In all honesty, I struggle to do this daily. Some days I do better than others. It would be easy to simply give up; that’s what Satan wants us to do. We must persevere. I will list out the daily habits first and then discuss each individually in depth, each in a separate article.

1. Make a Morning offering
2. Pray at least fifteen minutes of mental prayer
3. Spiritual reading (New Testament and a spiritual book suggested to you by your spiritual advisor),
4. Pray the Holy Rosary,
5. Attend daily Holy Mass and Communion,
6. Recite the Angelus at noon
7. Incorporate ejaculatory prayer in your day
8. Make a brief examination of conscience at night.

MORNING OFFERING: Kneel down and using your own words, or a formula, you briefly offer up all the day ahead for God's glory. On a good day, I immediately begin the morning at 5:30 AM by dropping to my knees on the side of my bed and consecrating myself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

St. José Maria said, “Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment, getting up on the dot, at a fixed time, without yielding a single minute to laziness. If, with God's help, you conquer yourself, you will be well ahead for the rest of the day. It's so discouraging to find oneself beaten at the first skirmish!” (The Way, 191)

If we are to follow this saintly advice, then we are NOT to hit the good ole snooze button. I recommend getting up thirty minutes earlier than you normally need. This extra time will come in handy when we begin our mental prayer and spiritual reading. I begin each morning with my own variation of the Daily Offering Prayer: “Heavenly Father, I consecrate myself to Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In so doing, I offer everything I am and everything I do to their intention, especially, the repose of souls in purgatory, the reparation of sinners, the unification of the church, an end to abortion, an increase call to Holy Orders and vocations, the sanctity and fidelity of all your clergy and for those intentions of Pope Benedict XVI and all your bishops.” You may choose to come up with your own prayer or use one of the many daily offering prayers constructed by the saints. Below I have listed some morning offering prayers:

Fatima Morning Offering - O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings, all that this day may bring, be they good or bad: for the love of God, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for all the sins committed against the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Holy Trinity Morning Offering - Most Holy and Adorable Trinity, one God in three Persons, I firmly believe that You are here present; I adore You with the most profound humility; I praise You and give You thanks with all my heart for the favors You have bestowed on me. Your Goodness has brought me safely to the beginning of this day. Behold, O Lord, I offer You my whole being and in particular all my thoughts, words and actions, together with such crosses and contradictions as I may meet with in the course of this day. Give them, O Lord, Your blessing; may Your divine Love animate them and may they tend to the greater honor and glory of Your Sovereign Majesty. Amen.

Morning Offering to the Sacred Heart - O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all our associates, and in particular for the intentions of our Holy Father for this month.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Brown Scapular Morning Prayer - O my God, in union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary (here kiss the Brown Scapular), I offer Thee the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, joining with it my every thought, word and action of this day. O my Jesus, I desire today to gain every indulgence and merit I can, and I offer them, together with myself, to Mary Immaculate, that she may best apply them to the interests of Thy Most Sacred Heart. Precious Blood of Jesus, save us! Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us! Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us! Amen.

A Short Prayer - Lord help me to remember that nothing is going to happen to me today that You and I together can't handle. Amen.

Father John McCloskey says, “In my pastoral experience, those who can live the ‘heroic moment’ in the morning and in the evening going to bed on time will have both the physical and spiritual energy throughout the day to stop what they are doing in order to live the other habits.” Begin your next morning by making a morning offering immediately upon awakening.

Tomorrow: Mental Prayer

May the grace of our Lord be with you all. J.M.J <><

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Spiritual Warfare: Weapons & Tactics

In the last meeting of the St. Joseph’s Covenant Keepers we discussed the commitment we have to protect our families – physically, financially, emotionally and spiritually. The conversation quickly focused on the Ancient War, the Spiritual Combat we find ourselves engaged in as the Church Militant. As the spiritual leaders of our families, we are at the frontline of this battle. What can we do to arm ourselves against the devil and his minions? I was reviewing my notes from a conference I attended last year in which Father John Corapi, SOLT, spoke on this very issues. Here are his suggested tactics and weapons to combat satan:

1. Get straight & get right with God!
2. You can be holier.
3. Nurture your relationship with Him.
4. Learn your faith. “Studying the faith is studying Jesus Christ.”
5. Pray to your Guardian Angel for protection and help.
6. Pray the Rosary – “the greatest weapon;” “prayer of the Gospel. When you pray the rosary, you pray the Gospel, the Good News, the Word made Flesh, who is Jesus”
7. Receive the Sacraments frequently

a. Frequent Communion (i.e., daily mass)
b. More frequent Reconciliation
8. Use the Sacramentals
a.Holy Water
b. Brown Scapular – like “dog tags” it identifies us as children of Mary, the Mother of God; we reflect on prayer & penance; you may grasp it to overcome the temptation

This of course is not an exhaustive list of weapons and tactics. These are simply part of "basic training" guidelines. Perhaps in a later blog I will discuss the tactics & weapons of Special Forces in Spititual Warfare.

For now, may the Lord bless you and your family and fill you with the grace necessary to do His will.

J.M.J. <><