From Today’s Office of Readings

From a Treatise on the Lord’s Prayer by Saint Cyprian, bishop and martyr

Dear friends, why does the fact that God has taught us such a prayer as this astonish us? Did he not express all of our prayers in his own words of life? Indeed this was already foretold by Isaiah. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he spoke of the majesty and fidelity of God: The Lord will speak a final brief word of justice, a word throughout the world. Our Lord Jesus Christ came for all mankind. He gathered together male and female, the learned and the unlearned, the old and the young and taught them his saving doctrine. He did not want his disciples to be burdened by memorizing his teaching; he made a complete summary of his commands such as was necessary for a trusting faith, and could be quickly learned.

Thus he summarized his teaching on the mystery of eternal life and its meaning with an admirable, divine brevity: And eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent. Again, in quoting the first and the greatest precept of the law and the prophets, he spoke in the same way: Listen, Israel, the Lord your God is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. The second is like it: You must love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depends all that is contained in the law and the prophets. On another occasion the Lord said: Always treat others as you would like them to treat you: that is the meaning of the law and the prophets.

God taught us to pray not only by his words, but also by his actions. He taught us by his own example for he often prayed on our behalf. The Scripture says: He withdrew to the wilderness and prayed. And again: He went into the hills to pray and he spent the whole night in prayer to God.

Was the sinless Lord praying for himself? No, he was praying and interceding on our behalf. He explained this to Peter: Behold Satan demanded that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. Later on he prayed to the Father for everyone: I am not praying for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their preaching, that they may be one; just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us. God loves us; for the sake of our salvation he is generous toward us. He is not satisfied with redeeming us by his blood. He also prays to the Father on our behalf. Consider the love exemplified in that prayer. The Father and Son are one; we too are to abide in that oneness.

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My Ananias: Part I

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So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the holy Spirit.” Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. (Acts 9:17-18)

I was 28 years old in the summer of the Jubilee Year 2000. I was very active in the Legion of Mary – so active that I was one of three people entrusted by the Regia (the regional governing body) to approach pastors throughout the Archdiocese of Detroit for the purpose of starting new parish chapters (called a Praesidium in Legion-speak.)

The three of us put our heads together, and decided to begin our efforts in the largest parishes in the City of Detroit itself. Our reasoning went something like this:

  • The spirit of the Legion strongly suggests itself towards work among the poor and forgotten,
  • The less-affluent areas of the city had greater need of the Legion,
  • The most influential of the clergy were located within the city (near the Cathedral and Seminary), and
  • If a pastor of a wealthy suburban parish complained about us, the Archdiocese would take immediate corrective action.

Okay, so that last one may have been a bit cynical, but it was certainly mentioned in our deliberations.

Off we went, not to other “traditional” parishes like our own, but to any parish that would have us. One of my counterparts, John, went to the poorest, most struggling parishes, thinking that a new Legion praesidium might breathe new life into a dying community. The other, Frank, went into parishes almost at random, talking to as many priests as he could. Both strategies worked well, I’m happy to say.

I targeted the largest parishes. My hope was to influence as many people as I could in the shortest possible time. It didn’t work. Large inner-city parishes make a lot of demands on their pastors’ time, and the priests I spoke with weren’t too interested in another group to direct or another weekly meeting to attend. I ran into brick walls everywhere I went, with the exception of Precious Blood parish in the northwest corner of Detroit.

Precious Blood (now closed) was an African-American parish strongly influenced by the charismatic movement. I was completely out of my element, and I knew it. The parishioners knew it too, and went out of their way to make me feel welcome. When I said I was there representing the Legion of Mary, a few of the parishioners became very excited. They were from West Africa, where the Legion is very active, and they were thrilled at the prospect of having a præsidium in their parish. It was these exuberant, spirit-filled ladies who introduced me to Bishop Moses Anderson – who would soon set my whole world on its ear.

To be continued…

The Lorica of St. Patrick

Today I give you the prayer called the Lorica: also called the Breastplate of St. Patrick. This is such an amazing prayer; it’s unfortunate that most people only know the second-to-last stanza. Enjoy.

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The Breastplate of Saint Patrick

I arise today in power’s strength:
Through the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

I arise today through the strength of Christ with His Baptism,
through the strength of His Crucifixion with His Burial,
through the strength of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
through the strength of His descent for the Judgment of Doom.

I arise today through the strength of the love of Cherubim
in obedience of Angels, in the service of the Archangels,
in hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of Prophets,
in preachings of Apostles, in faiths of Confessors,
in innocence of Holy Virgins, in deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through the strength of Heaven:
light of Sun, brilliance of Moon, splendour of Fire,
speed of Lightning, swiftness of Wind, depth of Sea,
stability of Earth, firmness of Rock.

I arise today, through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to secure me:
against snares of devils, against temptations of vices,
against inclinations of nature, against everyone who
shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a crowd.

I summon today all these powers between me (and these evils):
against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and my soul, against incantations of false prophets,
against black laws of heathenry,
against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry,
against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
against every knowledge that endangers man’s body and soul.
Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning,
against drowning, against wounding,
so that there may come abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today in power’s strength:
Through the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

Some Lenten Scriptures

Psalm 15:

LORD, who may abide in your tent?

Who may dwell on your holy mountain?

Whoever walks without blame, doing what is right, speaking truth from the heart;

Who does not slander with his tongue does no harm to a friend, never defames a neighbor;

Who disdains the wicked, but honors those who fear the LORD; Who keeps an oath despite the cost, lends no money at interest, accepts no bribe against the innocent.

Whoever acts like this shall never be shaken.

Isaiah 58 5-7

Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed,
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.

Sede Vacante

I’m setting this post to go active at 8:00 pm Central European Time: the moment the Holy Father officially resigns the papacy.

Dear Lord, please grant peace and consolation to your servant Benedict as he enters this new and (probably) final stage of his earthly journey.

Send your Holy Spirit upon the Cardinal electors and guide them in choosing a new successor to Peter.

Amen.

In memoriam

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Three days ago, Bishop Moses Anderson died at his home in Livonia Michigan. Bishop Anderson had been a guide to me at a time in my life when I didn’t know I needed guidance, and a teacher when I thought I had nothing more to learn. Like me, the bishop was a convert to Catholicism in his 20s — but with the major difference that he was a young black man in the segregated South. Following ordination he returned to his home of Selma, Alabama where he faced such hostility that many so-called Catholics would not come to Mass when he was at the altar.

These experiences would help him later in life, when he made a life’s study of racial hatred in all its manifestations.  He would become a noted expert in the subject – even serving as a consultant to Pope John Paul II on the atrocities that led to the eventual independence of East Timor.  He was a fervent believer in humanity who had seen it at its worst. He was a man of quiet contemplation whose unaided voice could fill a packed church. He could command silence with nothing more than a glance or a raised finger, but was always interested in what people had to say.

I was fortunate enough to spend several weeks around Bishop Anderson in the summer of the Jubilee Year 2000.  I met him through my efforts to expand the Legion of Mary in the Archdiocese of Detroit, and because of him I can never view my Faith the same way again.  I will spend the next several days explaining what he did for me and what I had to re-learn because of him.  I look forward to sharing it all with you.

Pax.