Tag Archives: prayer

Lectio Divina will bring about a new spiritual springtime in the Church, Benedict recommends

On the occasion of the 40th anniversary Dei Verbum in 2005, Pope Benedict made what I think is a brilliant claim that lectio divina will be instrumental in bringing a new era in the Church. The Pope said:

In this context, I would like in particular way to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of “Lectio divina”: “the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart” (cf. Dei Verbum, 25). If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church — I am convinced of it — a new spiritual springtime. (16 September 2005)

Catholic Prayer: experiencing a deeper and authentic prayer life in the Blessed Trinity

Where and how do we seek communion in prayer with God? Catholics enter into communion with God through the Blessed Trinity. I purposely ask the question this way because so often I meet Catholics who have fallen into a quasi-Protestant manner of thinking and praying. They say, “My prayer is a relationship with Jesus.” They go no further. They also rarely give an indication that there are two other persons of the Blessed Trinity. Certainly, we all are to seek an intimacy with the Lord Jesus, but as Catholics our theology and its manifestation in the spiritual life through the sacred Liturgy and personal prayer is always in conversation with the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is an essential point in the spiritual life. You miss this point, you miss the point of Catholic prayer. In fact, all of our liturgical prayer, save for a few, is directed to the Father, through the Son under the power of the Holy Spirit.

Catholics ought not be functionally unitarian: prayer exclusively directed to one member of the Trinity but it ought to be trinitarian:  Father, Son AND Holy Spirit. In 1989, Cardinal Ratzinger, with his typical clarity, addressed this issue in a “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some Aspects of Christian Meditation.” He said, in part:

St Ignatius of Loyola at Manresa.jpeg

“From the dogmatic point of view,” it is impossible to arrive at a perfect love of God if one ignores his giving of himself to us through his Incarnate Son, who was crucified and rose from the dead. In him, under the action of the Holy Spirit, we participate, through pure grace, in the interior life of God. When Jesus says, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9), he does not mean just the sight and exterior knowledge of his human figure (in the flesh is of no avail”–Jn 6:63). What he means is rather a vision made possible by the grace of faith: to see, through the manifestation of Jesus perceptible by the senses, just what he, as the Word of the Father, truly wants to reveal to us of God (“It is the Spirit that gives life […]; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life”–ibid.). This “seeing” is not a matter of a purely human abstraction (“abstractio”) from the figure in which God has revealed himself; it is rather the grasping of the divine reality in the human figure of Jesus, his eternal divine dimension in its temporal form. As St. Ignatius says in the Spiritual Exercises, we should try to capture “the infinite perfume and the infinite sweetness of the divinity” (n. 124), going forward from that finite revealed truth from which we have begun. While he raises us up, God is free to “empty” us of all that holds us back in this world, to draw us completely into the Trinitarian life of his eternal love. However, this gift can only be granted “in Christ through the Holy Spirit,” and not through our own efforts, withdrawing ourselves from his revelation (20).

I would recommend reading Cardinal Ratzinger’s full letter to the bishops; it is linked above.

Prayer is our nature

Prayer is more essential to us, more an integral part of
, than the rhythm of our breathing or the beating of our heart.
Without prayer there is no life. Prayer is our nature. As humans we are created
for prayer just as we are created to speak and to think. The human animal is
best described, not as a logical or tool-making animal or an animal that
laughs, but rather as an animal that prays, a eucharistic animal, capable of
offering the world back to God in thanksgiving and intercession. (Bishop Kallistos Ware)

Our vision baited to behold God’s beauty

Our methods of entering the divine mysteries are varied: some
use the spoken or written word (poet, some use photography, some will engage nature,
some may use music & dance and still others will use the time-honored
tradition of icons. Jesuit Father Stephen Bonian takes us through a variety of
fitting understandings of iconography and their use for prayer in his article,
Gateways to Prayer.”

For we see …

“In God’s beauty, all the earth is sanctified.
Tree and stone, wood and paint have glory
In His beauty.
Creation is transformed;
The fallen is made holy.
And man, beholding Beauty’s vision,
Shares His life.”

(“On the Beauty of God” by an anonymous Orthodox author)

Prayers for those who really need them

Yesterday morning my mother called me with the startling news that a second cousin on my father’s side had died. Deborah was 42; because of a complicated family system I don’t recall meeting her. Deborah’s father is my father’s cousin and we would see him every now-and-again. Deborah’s death was kept a secret from family and friends; a proper Mass of Christian Burial with the prayerful solidarity of the family and friends is not happening. The ministrations of the Catholic Church were sidelined. The cross of addiction on which Deborah hung –which is known to many in this world– was quite heavy, probably too heavy, for Deborah and for her family to carry. I am presuming that Deborah’s death is and will continue to be for years to come an unfathomable puzzle –full of incredible pain and sorrow– for the family and friends who survive. My also think that God mourns the loss of His daughter.

Where is God in the circumstances of Deborah’s pain and ultimately in her death at 42? Looking at the history of humanity from the Christian perspective, suffering and death is not part of the divine plan. We are not made for suffering and death but we are faced with these things. The question of evil and suffering is known by Christianity as a struggle with the rebellious powers that enslave the world, like drug addiction, and the power of God’s love. What God permits because of the supreme gift of our personal freedom often runs contrary to His will. Since we live in a biological world and our biology has natural limits and can’t be sustained if it’s oppressed by exterior forces (disease, addiction, diabetes, cancer, etc). Our human freedom is God’s supreme gift to us and it allows us to say “Yes” to God or “No” to Him; God allows for the possibility free will to run contrary to what He wants for us. Sadly, we have made our autonomy a god and we would sacrifice anything for it on the altars of selfishness; sometimes our actions say we love death more than the gift of life. Man and woman love the word “No” in the face of living life to its fullest potential in God (and the Church). When the Church says drugs are bad for you, we say “let me use them.”

As a Christian I believe that Deborah’s life, not her death was tragic. Today she knows the fullness of who God is, today she knows His mercy and healing and today she knows intimately the embrace of His love.
Pray for those who struggle with addiction and for those who bear this cross alone. Pray that the community of faith will assist those left behind to know that they are loved by Jesus and by others. Pray that we use our freedom wisely. Pray for Deborah’s peace for her family who survive to make sense of life now.
Give eternal rest, O Lord, to Deborah and let her share your glory.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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