Serenity Prayer

Most of us are familiar with the “Serenity Prayer”.  It’s most famous use is as the prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change,

the courage to change the things I can change,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

I include this prayer every day in my Divine Office.  For some reason it occurred to me this morning just how difficult it is to live this out.  I spend a fair amount of my time trying to change things that just can’t be changed.  I often lack the wisdom to know the difference between what I can change and what I can’t.  This lack of wisdom makes it hard to achieve the serenity that we all desire.  What I see as courage is actually a lack of wisdom on my part.

Persistance is a positive trait but persisting in pursuing the impossible is something else altogether.  It leads to frustration, anger, and a feeling of failure.

They say you should be careful what you pray for.  In my case, I have to seek wisdom first, then the courage to change the things I can change.

40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic #25 We ARE the Body of Christ

Everyone likes to belong to a group.  As Catholics, we belong to the largest family of all, the body of Christ.

There are over a billion Catholics around the world and we all pray together.  And that’s not all!  There’s more???  Yes there is.  Not only do we pray with all those other Catholics, we pray with “all the angels and saints.”  That’s HUGE!  Think about what we say in the Penitential Rite:

Therefore I ask blessed Mary, ever-Virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord, our God.

In one simple sentence, we’re flooding heaven with prayers.  Every Sunday hundreds of millions of Catholics are making that same prayer.  When we ask our brothers and sisters to pray for us, our prayer isn’t limited to just those people who surround us in the physical dimensions of our local church, we’re uniting our voices with every Catholic, in every church in the world;  PLUS all the angels and saints.

I feel sorry for people who say they can worship God without going to mass.  “I can speak to God anywhere, not just in a particular building.”  They’re right, but only up to a point.  Which is better, to pray to God all by myself, or to pray to God along with the entire Church?

Having the entire Body of Christ joining in my prayer makes me a part of the largest family, not just in the world, but in the entire universe.

Isn’t that cool?

Ash Wednesday

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“Remember, you are dust, and to dust you will return.”

This is one of the formulas used for the imposition of ashes today.  Maybe we should include it as part of our daily prayers the other 364 days of the year.  It’s a sobering reminder of the reality of this life.  Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel,

“When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.”

Today we make an exception.  Today we wear the ashes on our foreheads as a sign of our humanity, our sinfulness.  We are dust and to dust we shall return.  Tomorrow the ashes will be gone, but our sacrifice continues.

The tradition of the Church calls for prayer, sacrifice, and charity during the Lenten season.  Many of us have a human tradition of “giving it up for Lent”, but are we really doing enough.  “Giving it up”,may satisfy the sacrifice part.  But prayer and charity are just as important.

Saying a rosary every day, or even just a Hail Mary and an Our Father, are acceptable too, just as long as we do them faithfully and with the proper reverence.

As far as charity, it can be giving our treasure, our time, or just being nicer to people, especially people you don’t particularly like.  If someone notices the change, you can tell them joyfully that you’re waiting for the day of Christ’s resurrection.  You’re following the Lord’s instructions in today’s Gospel.

We ARE a Christian Country!

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In today’s Gospel for the Feast of Saint Agatha Jesus says,

Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Today at 1:00 pm, my wife will be having surgery to remove a tumor.  I’m a firm believer in the power of prayer so I have asked my Internet contacts, Facebook friends, and online business associates to pray for her.  Normally I wouldn’t do that in a business context, but this is too important to leave any stones unturned.

The response has been nothing short of amazing.  People who I barely know, people I’ve never met in person, and people that I would never have thought to be particularly religious have responded to my request with kind words, thoughts, and the promise of prayers.

In spite of what you may see, hear, or read in the media, the world is full of wonderful, faith-filled people.  Responding to Jesus’ words today, they’re not ashamed of their faith.  Whether the president thinks this is a Christian country or not, I know that it is.  That doesn’t mean that every one of our citizens is a member of a Christian church, but most of them are.  And I don’t mean to imply that those who aren’t Christian are somehow inferior to those of us who are.  But those who aren’t  Christian are influenced by the Christians around them, whether they realize it or not.

Using the word “Christian” is a larger sense, we all follow Jesus’ teachings and we’re all affected by His Presence, whether we give Him credit or not.    “Love one another as I have loved you” is more than just a passage in a book.  It’s a principal that’s long been followed in this country by Christians, Jews, and others who want to live life in harmony with their fellow citizens.  You don’t have to be a Christian to embrace Christian values.

So, be proud of your faith!  Be proud of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  And be proud of your identity as a Catholic.  That’s what He asks us to do.

JanAnd, thanks to everyone who’s praying for Jan today.

The First Friday of Advent

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“GIGO”, Garbage in-garbage out, is a phase used in the world of computer programming.  It means that your results are only as good as the raw material that you put in.  In our modern world there’s no shortage of  “garbage” to put into our minds and bodies.  Garbage in-garbage out.

As we prepare for the arrival of the Son of God, we do our best to get ourselves ready.  But sometimes it’s an uphill climb.  Reality TV.  Endless ads touting the latest stuff that we just have to have or our Christmas won’t be complete.  The evening news tells us that we’re going to hell in a hand basket.  It’s enough to make you  wonder if it’s all worth it.  Sometimes “Silent night, holy night” seems like a naive pipe dream.

But, this isn’t anything new.  In an interview for Liguorian Magazine in October, 1992, famous author Henri Nouwen had this to say:

If you want to follow Jesus…[you must] control what you take in every day.  When you are on the bus or subway, or in your car, why busy your mind with television and radio?  Somehow you have to decide what your mind will receive.  I don’t mean you shouldn’t ever go to the movies or watch television, but control what enters your mind and heart.  It’s not just a question of pushing bad things out but a question of holding on to something really good.

It is good to have a prayer on your lips wherever you go.  There are so many moments in life when you are free to pray.  When you are waiting for the cashier in the supermarket, getting mad because he or she doesn’t hurry, say a little prayer.  ‘Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.’  Take that prayer with you wherever you go.”

Remember, Nouwen gave this interview more than seventeen years ago!

I recently had a conversation with a very wise Trappist monk.  We were talking about the sin of being judgmental.  Like Nouwen, he had a prayerful suggestion.  He said, when you finding yourself passing judgment on someone else,   stop and bless that person.  If you’re like me and you take that advise to heart, you’ll spend a good part of your day handing out silent blessings.