Tag Archives: prayer

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.

Pope asks priests to focus on Christ in prayer in order to serve

This paragraph from the Pope’s homily for the May 3rd
priesthood ordinations is a good example of the Pope’s holy agenda for priests,
indeed, for all who are called to serve the Lord and His Church. As the Pope
says, this is dear to his heart…

priest adoring.jpg…prayer
and its ties with service. We have seen that to be ordained priests means to
enter in a sacramental and existential way into Christ’s prayer for “his
own”. From this we priests derive a particular vocation to pray in a
strongly Christocentric sense: we are called, that is, to “remain”
in Christ
as the evangelist John likes to repeat (cf. Jn 1: 35-39; 15:
4-10) and this abiding in Christ is achieved especially through prayer
. Our
ministry is totally tied to this “abiding” which is equivalent to
prayer, and draws from this its efficacy
. In this perspective, we must
think of the different forms of prayer of a priest, first of all daily Holy
Mass. The Eucharistic Celebration is the greatest and highest act of prayer,
and constitutes the centre and the source from which even the other forms
receive “nourishment”
: the Liturgy of the Hours,
Eucharistic adoration, Lectio Divina, the Holy Rosary, meditation. All these
expressions of prayer, which have their centre in the Eucharist, fulfill the
words of Jesus in the priest’s day and in all his life: “I am the good
shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know
the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (Jn 10: 14-15). In fact,
this “knowing” and “being known” in Christ and, through
him, in the Most Holy Trinity, is none other than the most true and deep
reality of prayer
. The priest who prays a lot, and who prays well,
is progressively drawn out of himself and evermore united to Jesus the Good
Shepherd and the Servant of the Brethren. In conforming to him, even the priest
“gives his life” for the sheep entrusted to him
. No one
takes it from him: he offers it himself, in unity with Christ the Lord, who has
the power to give his life and the power to take it back not only for himself,
but also for his friends, bound to him in the Sacrament of Orders. Thus the
life of Christ, Lamb and Shepherd, is communicated to the whole flock, through
the consecrated ministers.

Apart from God is nothingness

Thinking about prayer, my desire to pray and the priest’s duty to be man of prayer, I found this reflection on prayer, dependence on God helpful. I think Dom Augustin’s essay is quite good at getting the heart of reality. Perhaps it be helpful for you, too.

The reasons for
praying are as numerous as they are imperative. They correspond to all our
needs without exception, and to all occasions. They are also in accord with the
favors we receive in answer to our prayers and to God’s rights over His

Our divine
Master’s word has explored and lighted up everything, our human world and God’s
world. He revealed the powerlessness of the first when He said: “Without Me,
you can do nothing” (John 15:5).


We have read
these words often enough, but without penetrating them. We no more understand
the “nothing” than we do the “all.” The nature of our being does not allow us
to understand it. We do not look at our tiny being as it actually is in the light
of the “all.” We do not compare the hours of our life, so short and transient,
with God’s changeless eternity. We do not see the place we occupy in the
universe as compared to His immensity, which infinitely overflows our tiny
universe, and could embrace numberless others, far greater than ours. Above
all, we forget that our being is not ours. 

Moment by moment we receive the tiny
drop of being that God designs to give us. The only reason we have it is
because He gives it to us; and having received it, immediately it begins to
dissolve; it slips through our fingers and is replaced by another which escapes
us with the same rapidity. All this being comes from God and returns to Him; it
depends upon Him alone. We are like vessels into which He pours that being drop
by drop, so as to create a bond of dependence upon Him, whereby His Being is
manifested and made known and, when lovingly welcomed, is glorified.

Prayer is this
intelligent vessel, which knows, loves, thanks and glorifies
. It says, in
effect: My God, the present moment and the light by which I am aware of it,
comes from You. My mind, which appreciates it; the upward leaping of my heart
which responds to that recognition and thanks You for it; the living bond
created by this moment — all is from You. Everything comes from You. All that
is within me, all that is not You; all created beings and their movements; my
whole being and its activities all is from You. Without You nothing exists;
apart from You is just nothingness; apart from Your Being there is merely non-

How this
complete dependence, upon which I have so often and so deeply meditated, ought
to impress me! I feel that it plunges me into the depths of reality, into
. Nevertheless, it does not completely express that reality. There was a
time when this nothingness rose up in opposition to “Him Who is”. It wanted to
be independent of Him; it put itself forward, refused to obey Him and cut
itself off from Him. It made war on Him and became His enemy. It destroyed His
Image in the heart’s citadel where hitherto He had reigned, and usurped His
Throne. These are only metaphors, and they do not do justice to the real horror
of the plight created by sin; but we must be content with them, as they are all
we have. We must remember, however, that they are completely inadequate.

And every day we
add to this predicament, already so grave. Every personal sin of ours is an
acceptance of this state: we choose it, we love it and prefer it to union with
. We lap up, as it were, these sins like water. We take pleasure in plunging
into them as into a stream, the waters of which rise persistently, and in time
overwhelm us and carry us away. They toss us about like a straw, and submerge
us. Thoughts, feelings, words, really bad acts and innumerable omissions fill
our days and nights, and intermingle, more or less consciously, with our every
movement, and at all hours. They spoil the purity of our ordinary actions such
as eating and drinking; they introduce themselves into our sleep and mix with our
waking movements, and with our external acts as with our most intimate
thoughts. Because of our fallen state, everything becomes matter and occasion
to drag us down further into evil.

Dom Augustin Guillerand, O. Cart. (1877-1945), The Prayer of the Presence of God

The Pope’s brief thoughts on the sacred Liturgy, prayer and belief

Pope Benedict spoke of “teaching the art of prayer, encouraging participation in the liturgy and the Sacraments, wise and relevant preaching, catechetical instruction, and spiritual and moral guidance. From this foundation faith flourishes in Christian virtue, and gives rise to vibrant parishes and generous service to the wider community” to the Nigerian bishops making their ad limina.


Later the Pope said: “The celebration of the liturgy is a privileged source of renewal in Christian living” and “to maintain the proper balance between moments of contemplation and external gestures of participation and joy in the Lord”.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT, follows the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, and is an Oblate of Saint Benedict, works as a monastery farmer and a keeper of honey bees. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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