Tobit and Prayers in Desperation

We read the book of Tobit at Holy Mass this week.

Welcome, Kyle
Welcome, Kyle
At one point, both Tobit and Sara pray simultaneously to God.

Tobit had been blinded because bird droppings fell in his eyes. The even-more-serious problem he had was that he could hardly get along with his wife.

Meanwhile, as we read, young Sara had problems of her own. The question we hear the Sadducees ask the Lord in the gospel about the seven dead husbands of one woman was no pure hypothetical. They were asking Him about Sara’s case.

Anyone remember who the hero of the book of Tobit is?

Here’s a hint: It’s the name of the first parish I was ever assigned to, back when I was young like Kyle.

Continue reading “Tobit and Prayers in Desperation”

Noble Lent?

Is it more noble to act virtuously for its own sake–as opposed to doing it for a reward?

Not sure. But God does not hesitate to promise a reward.

Give secretly, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

Pray secretly, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

Fast secretly, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

Maybe it is not noble. But we have the right to regard our humble, hidden acts of charity, religion, and penance as deposits. When we give something away quietly, we actually pay the sum to heaven. When we pray, we pay heaven. When we make a sacrifice, it’s a payment.

Maybe it doesn’t seem so noble to think this way, but it is what the Word of God says.

And these secret deposits in the heavenly bank—we do not make them out of noble selflessness. To the contrary: Christ says that we can and should expect full repayment.

God deals justly with us. We pay earthly cash by giving things away, we receive heavenly cash in return. We say earthly prayers humbly and quietly, we receive heavenly praise and glory in return. We renounce earthly goods without letting anyone know, we receive heavenly goods in the sight of angels.

Lent seems like a pretty good deal. Too good to pass up. A chance for some easy money. Make a few quiet deposits now, and the return on the investment…big-time profit.

Samaritan Well

Perhaps you will find this brief essay for Saturday of the Second Week of Lent interesting, or even edifying–even though it was written by the most annoying person in the world…

Jacob's Well
…A little groggy today, since it took the mighty Rams until nearly 1:00 a.m. to send the ‘Noles home to Florida. Robby Robinson took a page from Rich Chvotkin and yelled, “He blocked the shot! He blocked the shot! He blocked the shot!” about seven times, and then “Rams win! Rams win! Rams win!” about twenty times. It was awesome.

…Here’s a homily for the Third Sunday of Lent:

Last week we talked about what salvation is. If you missed last week, I’m sorry. We talked about our father Abraham, Dairy Queen ice-cream treats, Mount Tabor in the Holy Land, and Sophia Loren movies.

Anyway, we do not know yet what heaven is like, but we know that it involves being personally united with God forever.

If we hope to have communion with God in the end, then we probably need to have some kind of communion with Him now, right? Some kind of practice or spring training for the Big Show, so to speak.

Here is an easy question: How do we develop a friendship with the Lord now while we are still here on earth? Easy… You got it: By praying.

Has anyone ever heard of the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Everybody know that the Catechism is divided into four parts, for the four pillars of the Catholic faith?

Part IV of the Catechism concerns prayer. This part of the Catechism begins with the gospel reading about the Samaritan woman at the well.

To pray is like going to a well. Someone who prays opens up his soul to God like a thirsty throat opening up for cool, refreshing water.

When we open up like this, when we go to the well of prayer, we find Christ waiting for us there, like the Samaritan woman did. Upon meeting Him, we discover three amazing things, like the Samaritan woman discovered.

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Praying for Miracles


As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”

And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.”

…Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”

Immediately he received his sight… (Luke 10:46-49, 52)

This is what happened when the Lord Jesus was leaving Jericho. In two and a half weeks, I will be entering Jericho myself.

The blind man had the sense to cry out to the Lord, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” The blind man persevered and kept calling for help even when they tried to make him stop.

We pilgrims are going to the Holy Land to cry out like Bartimaeus, to beg the Lord to have pity on us, to ask God to do good things for us and help us.

maerati(If you have any particular intention for which you would especially like me to pray, write it down on in the comment box, and I will carry it with me to Israel.)

Bartimaeus had the faith and the courage to ask the Lord for what he wanted. He wanted to see—which is a reasonable enough thing to want. Most of us take it for granted. It’s not like Bartimaeus was asking for something extravagant, like an Xbox or a Maserati.

Continue reading “Praying for Miracles”

Priestly Prayer of Christ

christ_high_priest_crucifixJesus raised His eyes to heaven and said…

In the Sacred Liturgical Year of the Church, this is the final week of the Easter Season.

During this week, at Holy Mass, we read the Priestly Prayer of Christ.

This prayer is recorded in John 17.

The prayer is explained in Part IV, Section 1, Chapter 3, Article 3 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The Lord Jesus prays this prayer to the Father in every Holy Mass. It reveals the unfathomably intimate friendship of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit.

You and I are invited into this friendship.

Guest Bests

by Mary Ann
mary-ann1Best runner to cheer for during a marathon: a priest

Best lunch companion: a priest

Best trip abroad: pilgrimage with a priest (or two)

priesthoodBest life’s work: be a priest

Best GPS to Heaven: listen to a priest

Best prayer intention: protection and sanctification of priests

Best Blessing from God: the gift of our priests

Best place to hear the most beautiful words on earth (absolution): Confession to a priest

Best Lenten activity: Stations of the Cross led by a priest

Best Adoration moments: reverent Elevation during Holy Mass by a priest

Best gift: receiving Holy Communion from a priest


Crouching Spider, Little Bird

frodo-phialIf you are a Lord of the Rings fan, then you know that Shelob is the ancient, giant spider that almost killed Frodo when he entered the land of Mordor.

Few of us would want to encounter such a creature. Nonetheless, it is fun for any afficionado of Middle Earth to visit Louise Bourgeois’ sculpture. The truculent iron spider is currently in front of the Hirschhorn Museum in Washington.

"Crouching Spider" on Independence Avenue

icthus…The Lord Jesus said: “Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asked for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asked for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.”

St. Therese of Lisieux wrote:

I look upon myself as a weak little bird…I am not an eagle…In spite of my extreme littleness, I still dare to gaze upon the Divine Sun, the Sun of Love, and my heart feels within it all the aspirations of the eagle…

story-soulO Jesus, I know and so do You that the imperfect little creature, while remaining in its place (that is, under the Sun’s rays), allows itself to be somewhat distracted from its sole occupation. It picks up a piece of grain on the right or on the left; it chases after a little worm; then coming upon a little pool of water, it wets its feathers still hardly formed. It sees an attractive flower and its little mind is occupied with this flower. In a word, being unable to soar like the eagles, the poor little bird is taken up with the trifles of earth.

And yet, after all these misdeeds, instead of going and hiding away in a corner, to weep over its misery and to die of sorrow, the little bird turns toward its beloved Sun, presenting its wet wings to its beneficent rays. It cries like a swallow and in its sweet song it recounts in detail all its infidelities, thinking in the boldness of its full trust that it will acquire in even greater fullness the love of Him who came to call not the just but sinners.

Jesus, I am too little to perform great actions, and my own folly is this: to trust that Your Love will accept me.

–St. Therese of Liseux, Story of a Soul, chapter IX (Manuscript B)

Tremble and Trust

Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

As we recall, our second readings at Sunday Mass for three weeks now have been taken from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians. We will read from this letter once more next week.

Between last Sunday and this Sunday, our readings from Philippians have skipped a chapter. We missed one of St. Paul’s most famous exhortations: “work out your salvation in fear and trembling.” This is what the Apostle told the Philippians to do at the end of chapter two: “work out your salvation in fear and trembling.” Perhaps this sounds strange, since in our reading today, St. Paul began by telling them to “have no anxiety at all.”

“Work out your salvation in fear and trembling.” “Have no anxiety at all.” Did our beloved Apostle Paul contradict himself?

Let us try to understand it this way. In the first sentence, St. Paul was thinking about us, the human race, weak sinners that we are. In the second, he was thinking about our loving and generous Father in heaven. These two sentences were put together perfectly by St. Ignatius Loyola when he said: Work as if everything depends on you. Pray as if everything depends on God.

When our Holy Father Pope Benedict came to visit us here in Washington and New York, his theme was hope. Hope is one of the three virtues which unite us directly with God. We believe in Him—faith. We hope to be in heaven with Him someday. We love Him because He is absolutely wonderful, and we love ourselves and everyone else because God loves us—charity.

We can fail in the virtue of hope in two ways. St. Paul’s words to the Philippians help us to avoid both.

“Work out your salvation in fear and trembling.” The past couple of weeks a lot of people have been nervous and afraid about our economy. When knowledgeable people warn us of possible economic catastrophe, it is perfectly natural for us to be afraid. May it please God to see us through these difficult times.

But when we get right down to it, there is really only one thing to be truly afraid of. God will always provide for us one way or another, so other than this one thing, we really don’t have anything to fear. Even death can’t do us any harm if we die in God’s friendship.

The one genuinely frightening thing is: H—E—double hockey sticks. When we seriously consider the possibility of winding up there, we tremble. Not a good prospect. Not at all. We are right to take every care to avoid the bad place.

Hell is a real possibility. We sin against hope if we presume with God. Hope is hope, not certainty. I cannot assume I am going to heaven. It is not automatic. I have to strive to do good and avoid evil; I have to confess my sins and beg for mercy. Being presumptuous with a friend is rude; being presumptuous with God is a sin.

On the other hand, St. Paul wrote, “Have no anxiety about anything.” Pray, make your requests known to God, and “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Living the virtue of hope means trusting with confidence in God’s generosity. If it really were all up to us, we would be in trouble, serious trouble. But it is not up to us alone. We can trust God.

The good Lord, in fact, has a perfect plan to get us all to heaven. He has a plan to get each of us there, starting right now. No matter what we have done or failed to do, until the moment you and I draw our last breath on this earth, the Lord always has a contingency plan to save us. He will always forgive us our sins, if we ask Him. He will always give us whatever we need to persevere on our pilgrimage, if we ask Him.

It is a sin to presume; it is also a sin to despair. Despair is a sin against hope. God will provide. He will give us the grace to repent of our sins. All we have to do is ask. That is why St. Paul urged the Philippians to pray. And the good Lord has even given us the perfect way to pray.

At the end of today’s reading, St. Paul wrote, “Keep on doing what you have learned and received.” These words call to mind what St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you…In the same way the chalice…saying, This is the new covenant in my blood.”

If we hope in God, we pray. The best prayer is the Holy Mass. In the Mass, we ask for exactly what we need to get to heaven. And in the Mass, the Lord gives us everything we ask for, and then some: He gives us Himself.

If we want to learn how to pray with hope, if we want to learn how to avoid presumption and despair, let’s ‘tune ourselves in’ to all the prayers of the Mass, and pray them ourselves. To pray the Mass is an act of perfect hope.