A free heart where God can dwell

Quote of the Day
excerpt from chapter 2 of The Gift of Faith by Tadeusz Dajczer

And you, in whom or in what do you place your hope? What do you count on? Who is your God? If you place your hope in a false god, then you will know bitterness and disappointment, because it is a matter that sooner or later will disappoint you. This will be a great grace for you because then your trust in mammon will begin to crumble.

What can this mammon that enslaves your heart be? It can be material as well as spiritual goods. For example, it can be attachment to money, to your children, to you work, or to something you are presently creating or working on. It may be attachment to peace or even to one’s own perfection. All these attachments cause your bondage and bring you slavery. As a human being you can choose to attach yourself to the one and only reality — the will of God. Everything that enslaves you closes you off from God and diminishes your faith.

How can you uncover your mammon? Are the tension, stress, restlessness, rushing, and sadness that accompany you through life signs that you serve some kind of mammon? There are people, for example, who live under constant stress. How great then must be their attachment to something opposed to God. People free from attachments are filled with the peace of God. The peace of God builds and strengthens mental health, which in turn reflects on physical health. In this way, the soul, the psyche, and the body participate in a person’s great freedom. A person free form attachments is also free from facial wrinkles, from stress, and from the diseases of civilization. Mammon systematically destroys a human person. It not only blocks you way to Christ and your adherence to Him, but it also destroys your health and your psyche.

An obvious sign of attachments is also your sadness in situations when God takes something away from you. He will, therefore, take that to which you are enslaved; hence, He will take everything that is your greatest enemy — whatever causes your heart not to be free for Him. It is only when you start to cheerfully accept these kinds of situations, and submit with serenity, that you will become more and more free.

While standing before the Lord during prayer, show Him not only your empty hands, but also your dirty hands defiled by your attachments to mammon, and pray that He will have mercy on you. Prayer can develop only in the atmosphere of freedom. As a disciple of Christ, you are especially called to contemplative prayer. For your prayer to become contemplation — a loving gaze on Jesus Christ, your beloved — it is essential to have a free heart. That is why Christ fights so much for your heart to be free. He fights through various events, difficulties, and storms, all the while giving you the chance to cooperate intensely with grace. In all these situations, Christ expects that you will try to cleanse your heart soiled by attachments and servitude to mammon. Hence, all these difficult moments and all the storms are graces for you. They are the passing by of the Merciful Lord who loves you so much that He wants to give you the magnificent gift — the gift of the total freedom of your heart. Your heart should not be divided; it should be a heart solely for Him.

To have faith means to see and understand the meaning of your life in accordance with the Gospel, and that God is most important. Your life is to be oriented toward Him — primarily to seek and to build His kingdom, with faith that everything else will be given to you (cf. Mat 6:33). God wants to bestow each person with all His love. However, He can bestow this on a person only to the extent of his openness and his readiness to be stripped of his attachments so that room may be made for Him. It is faith that creates the emptiness and vacuum in us where God can dwell.

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Lord, teach me to pray

God alone can teach us how to pray

Quote of the Day
excerpt from chapter 4, How to Pray by Father Jean Nicolas Grou

Notice yet one important point. If when you are meditating or reciting vocal prayers, you feel yourself strongly impressed with the presence of God, and you enjoy a certain sweet calm, and are inwardly drawn to silence, this is a sign that the Holy Ghost is taking special possession of your soul, and that He is communicating to you, on trial as it were by the way, the gift of mental prayer. Then you must be silent and suspend the exercise of your faculties, remaining calm and passive under the operations of the Holy Ghost. For when He acts in a way that is thus sensibly felt, we must in no way disturb His action, but give ourselves up to it by a very simple inward act of consent. If this action of the Holy Ghost were to last some time, or become more frequent, after having asked the advice of some one experienced in the spiritual life,  you would have ground for believing that you were called to real mental prayer and would be obliged to follow the call. In order that we may have the dispositions requisite for receiving the gift of mental prayer, three things are necessary: humility, simplicity, and docility.

In the first place constant humility in everything relating to prayer is indispensable. We must be always willing to depend on the Holy Ghost; we must not rely on our own efforts to acquire devotion, but expect all from God. We must believe ourselves unworthy of His favours, we must not desire them too eagerly, we must not be envious of the souls to which they are granted, we must remain in our own nothingness, and be content to remain there, as in our proper place, we must not aspire to anything exalted. Better would it be for us to pass our whole life in humility and vocal prayer, than that we should conceive the least esteem of ourselves, or prefer ourselves to others on account of our sublime gift of prayer. The greater number of souls whom God has raised from the ordinary path never desired this grace, or thought of it, and did not know in what it consisted. But they were humble. Their first feeling was one of astonishment that God should have deigned to cast a look on them; in calling them to this familiar converse with Himself, God above all proposed to Himself to make them perfect in humility, and if they had not corresponded to His designs they would have fallen lower than they were before.

Simplicity is the true note of all prayer, and nothing pleases God more. He does not wish so much studied preparation in his service; all is spoilt when devotion is reduced to a system, and so much careful arrangement is thought necessary. After all we must ever go back to the Holy Spirit; He alone can teach the right way to converse with God, and when He takes possession of a soul, the first thing He does is to withdraw her from all methods taught by men.

…Oh! how much is accomplished by doing nothing of ourselves, but relying on God to do all in us!

Prayer of the Day

O my divine Savior! Again I beseech Thee, more earnestly than ever, to teach me to pray. Place in me both the remote and proximate dispositions for the prayer of the Holy Ghost. Make me humble, simple, and docile; grant that I may do all in my power to become so. What will my prayer be if the Holy Ghost does not pray with me? And if my prayers are not well said, what will my life be? If it is not a life of sin, still it will be in danger of becoming so, and in any case full of imperfections and subject to heaps of venial sins.

Come, O divine Spirit! come and dwell and act within me. Take entire possession of my understanding and my will; direct their exercise not alone at the time of prayer, but at all times. I can neither glorify God, nor sanctify my soul without Thee. Amen.

[chapter 4, How to Pray, Grou]

An increase of love

God alone can teach us how to pray

Quote of the Day
excerpt from chapter 3, How to Pray by Father Jean Nicolas Grou

The third quality of prayer is that it must be loving.

God wishes to be no less loved than respected, and the Holy Ghost who is the eternal love of the Father and the Son, inspires no prayer that is not all love, or that does not tend to produce it. Love it is, or at least the desire of love, that should lead the Christian to pray: love should be the final object or the very subject-matter of prayer; and an increase of love should be its fruit. Even when the fear of the judgments of God is the determining motive of the prayer of either the sinner or the just man, still love must always be the end we aim at, and if love does not in some measure enter into our prayer, either as a motive or end, it is not inspired by the Holy Ghost.

This comes back to what I have just said; namely, that it is the heart that prays, and consequently that loves, or aspires to love.

When a sinner asks for the grace of conversion is it not the same thing as asking God the grace to love Him? If his heart be really touched, will he not experience a certain feeling which is a beginning of love? There will be warmth, soul, life in his prayer; if it were cold or indifferent the Holy Ghost would have no part in it. If a just man prays from an impulse to pray, with much greater reason will his prayer be loving, for it is nothing but charity carried out in practice. If his heart were cold and insensible, it would be a sign that grace was not working in him at that moment.

Prayer of the Day

Alas! Lord, I have but too much reason to reflect on my own way of prayer, that so I may condemn and reform it. I do not find in my prayers any of the qualities essential to prayer. Scarcely do I say a single prayer with proper attention; I bring to it a dissipated mind and a cold heart. I show Thee too little respect, either interior or exterior, and still less love. My confidence is weak and wavering, I always have a secret fear that Thou wilt not grant my prayer, I do not do justice to Thy bounty, nor approach Thee as the best of Fathers. Hence comes the want of patience and perseverance. I want to obtain what I ask for, all at once, and without any delay; I give up correcting my faults, practicing virtue and imploring Thy help for this end, because I am not all of a sudden as perfect as my self-love would wish me to be. How can I become good if I pray so badly?

O my Savior! teach me to pray, no longer in my own way nor according to any human methods, but according to the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. May He animate my prayer, and ask in me with the unspeakable groanings mentioned by Thy apostle! Amen.

[chapter 3, How to Pray, Grou]

Think of me, and I will think of thee

 

Quote of the Day
excerpt from chapter 2 of How to Pray by Father Jean Nicolas Grou

The second end of prayer is to consider God in Himself, to adore His supreme Majesty, to contemplate His infinite perfections, to praise Him, to congratulate Him on being alone great, alone holy, alone All Powerful, the external, the immutable, independent Being; to rejoice with Him at His glory and His happiness, to love Him purely for Himself, to desire that all creatures should know Him, love Him, and obey Him; to esteem ourselves happy to be able to contribute in the smallest degree to His glory; to offer ourselves to the fulfillment of His adorable designs.

I will here remark that almost all those persons who limit themselves to vocal prayer, as a rule refer all their prayers to themselves; the more spiritual-minded Christians who make meditation, mostly apply the subject-matter to the amendment of their life, so that their reflections, have no other end but the avoiding sin, the correcting their faults and the acquiring virtues. It is interior souls that are the only ones who make God Himself the principal theme of their meditations, they being wholly devoted to His glory, His love and His adorable Will. This will not seem strange when we reflect that it is God who prays in them, who praises and glorifies Himself through them, and rightly understood, their prayer is the image, more of less perfect, of what He is continually doing in Himself.

The effect of all this should be to teach us how great need we have of being taught by God, and of frequenting the school of His grace, because in our prayers we refer all to ourselves, whereas we ought to refer all to God. Would that once for all we were convinced of a truth, which is no less evident than certain, to wit, that our interests are comprised in His interests; that in loving him we love ourselves; and that He is all the more mindful of us, the more we forget ourselves in order to think exclusively of Him!

Perhaps you say: “But if I do not think of myself, of my spiritual wants, of my salvation, who will think of them for me?” Can you, of yourself, have a thought of these things? Is it not God who puts good thoughts and holy desires into your heart? Does He never put thoughts in your mind that relate expressly to Himself? Why then do you not dwell on them, and why return always to yourself? Is it God, or rather is it not your own self-love that makes you leave Him to think of yourself? …

“My daughter,” said Jesus Christ one day to St. Catherine of Siena, “think of Me and I will think of thee.” He would say the same to each one of us, if we were in the dispositions of this Saint. And why are we not, or at least why do we not labour to acquire her dispositions?

Prayer of the Day

O my God! I plainly see I have not hitherto prayed as I ought; I have not known the great end of prayer. Rarely, perhaps even never, have I come into Thy presence with the sole intention of rendering Thee due homage; it is ever myself, and my needs of all descriptions that I lay at Thy feet. Deeply am I humbled at the imperfection of my prayers, and I beg Thee graciously to pardon me.

O Lord, purify, ennoble, raise my intentions to Thyself, never allow me to keep them fixed on myself. Pray Thyself in me, that my prayer be directed always to Thy glory. Should I in Thy presence have thoughts of anything but Thee? Is it not right that my nothingness should be lost in Thy immensity, and that the sight of my sins and imperfections should excite me to admire and praise Thy infinite holiness? Be Thou then master of my heart and mind in the time of prayer; employ them solely, or at least chiefly in adoring and loving Thee; and may the sentiments that enrapture Thy saints in heaven be frequently my occupation before Thy Altars. Amen.

[from chapter 2, How to Pray by Father Jean Nicolas Grou]

The silent language

Question of the Day

What does He care for words, He who listens only to the heart?

Quote of the Day
excerpt from chapter 1, How to Pray by Father Jean Nicolas Grou

You ask me what is this voice of the heart.

How can I tell you? And how could you understand me? The voice of the heart is love. Love God and your heart will always be speaking to Him; it will always be praying to Him. The germ of love is the germ of prayer; the development and the perfection of love are the development and perfection of prayer. If you do not understand this, you have never yet loved and never prayed. Beg of God to open your heart and light it up with one spark of his love; then will you begin to understand what it is to pray.

But, some may say, does a sinner who prays to God from his heart already love Him? Yes; at least has the beginning of love, otherwise how could he pray from his heart? And it is this love that dictates his prayer. It may not as yet be strong enough to justify him; but it prepares and leads him on to justification. But what about the just man who is distracted, cold and insensible in his prayer? Does not he love God? If it is through his own fault that he is in this disposition, he may have habitual love, as we are supposing him to be a just man; but at this moment he makes no use of his habit of love; love is dormant; he does not pray, his heart is idle, while his tongue is in motion.

Holy souls, who are undergoing the painful trial of dryness and aridity, and whose love is so much the purer, as it is less sensible, must not be alarmed; what has just been said does not apply to them.

If it is the heart that prays, evidently it can sometimes and even habitually pray alone, without words, either expressed or mental. This is just what few people understand and many deny altogether. They must have express and formal acts, at least interior, that are distinctly perceived, and of which the soul is conscious; without such acts they recognize no prayer. They are however mistaken and God has not yet taught them how the heart prays.

Suppose then, a soul so united to God, that to be attentive to prayer it needs no longer explicit acts in these moments of silence and of peace when it heeds not what is passing within it. It prays, and excellently too, with a simple, straightforward prayer that God hears perfectly, although the soul cannot perceive it, being as it were transported out of self by the action of divine grace. The heart is full of thoughts of God, which it is unable to express clearly, and which are so spiritual that they escape its knowledge, but hey are not unknown to God. This prayer so empty of all images, and seemingly inactive, is yet so active that it is, as far as it can be so in this life, pure adoration in spirit and in truth; the adoration that is really worthy of God where the soul is united to Him in its very depths, the created intelligence to the increated intelligence, without the medium of the imagination or of the reasoning powers, or anything beyond a very simple attention of the understanding, and an equally simple application of the will. This is what is called prayer of silence, the prayer of quiet, of simple contemplation, of pure faith, to which God raises by degrees those who have given themselves entirely to Him, and whom He governs by His grace in a most especial manner.

The souls favored with this excellent gift, who read this, will easily understand it, and they will recognize in this the prayer that keeps them as it were annihilated before God, and lost in Him. Others will understand nothing of it, and (using the Gospel phrase) it will be a hidden word to them. Let these begin by respecting what they cannot understand, let them desire to experience the same in order that they may understand it, let it be the object of their prayers, and let them live in such a way as to deserve that God should listen to their prayer.

If there be one favor more than another, which God desires to communicate to us, it is this; but where are the Christians who dispose themselves to receive it by detachment and purity of heart? Where are they who having received the first-fruits of it know how to cultivate them by unreserved correspondence to grace?

Prayer of the Day

O my Divine Master! teach me this silent language that says so much. Teach me to keep myself in interior and exterior silence in Thy presence; to adore Thee from the very depths of my being, to expect all from Thee without asking for anything but the fulfillment of Thy will. Teach me to let Thee act upon my soul and in it produce the simple and general prayer which puts nothing into words, and says everything, which specifies nothing and includes everything. If Thou grantest me this grace how faithfully shall I consecrate to Thee a fixed time each day for prayer! With what joy shall I fulfil this duty, and what care shall I not always take to preserve so precious a gift! But O Lord I know not what I am saying. I speak as if I were capable of making promises, of keeping them, if made, by my own strength, and as if my promises could cause Thee to do me any good. I look at Thy bounty alone; grant me this favour for the glory of Thy name, and add the grace of making good use of it and of meriting its increase. Amen.
[— chapter 1, How to Pray, Father Jean Nicolas Grou]

Nestled in God’s Word

Question of the Day

If I’ve never read the Bible, how do I get started?

Get Started Today

January, especially January 1, is a time when many people decide to start reading the Bible. And they buy a new copy, even though they have never cracked open the “old” like new copy that has been sitting on their bookshelf for 5 (or 10, 15, 20) years. It seems logical to begin on page 1, and start with Genesis. “In the beginning, when God created…

And while that may be a good and acceptable way to begin (though many do not begin that way—many often start with a gospel), where do you go after Genesis?

Well, you just follow the plan, and read the number of pages listed for that day, right? You simply go from page 1, to 2, to 3, until you reach the end of the book on December 31. The problem is that the Bible is not a book; it’s a cannon—a library of 73 books. And the books are not in chronological order, but rather, they are organized by literary genre [books of the prophets, wisdom books, poetry, gospels, epistles (or letters), and so forth.]

By the time you get to Leviticus (around March), you probably will stop reading and abandon your journey. Not everyone walks away (years ago, I, as many do, plowed through a “read the Bible in a year chart” and read the books of the Bible as they were bound together, and not as the story unfolds). When you finish, you discover “reading” isn’t enough.

According to Jeff Cavins, coauthor and presenter of The Bible Timeline: The Story of Salvation History, there is a better way to approach your first read of the Bible. Your first read must allow you to grasp the narrative—the story of God’s love. Also, you must understand how to interpret what you are reading, accounting for the sum of the story, and not just picking apart bits of scripture in isolation.

Because “reading the Bible,” is more than just reading and learning, because it is an encounter with the God who loves you, because both your head and heart are required to participate, I recommend that you grab a couple of friends (or likeminded strangers), and allow Jeff Cavins to lead you through the story using The Great Adventure series.

Prayer of the Day: Dialogued Prayer to Take Hold of God’s Word

The wisdom of Jesus is found in two main sources:
—the Holy Bible and the Sacred Tradition of the Church.
But it can also reach us in hundreds of ways, such as:
encounters with other human beings,
meditation on good reading,
and the ordinary events of daily life.
—The sole requirement is that we be open to this wisdom.
The Bible is transmitted to us in human words
written in a time and culture different from our own.
—It requires some effort on our part
so that it will be well understood.
But if we persevere,
we will reach through human word.
—We will take hold of the word of God
that has the power to change the world
beginning with our own lives.

Source: New Saint Joseph People’s Prayer Book #719

Quote of the Day: The Presence of God in the Word

The Holy Bible is “Someone;” it is the presence of God. Therefore, when taking it into your hands, you enter into the realm of that very Presence. It becomes a “mystery” for you, a truth that grasps you and into which you are immersed.

You will find your Lord in the Bible, and that is why your contact with the revealed text has a special meaning. It is contact with God who loves you and desires to affect you with his grace. This contact leads you to inner conversion—its greatest purpose. You should, therefore, not read the Bible just to satisfy your curiosity, or to gain knowledge, or to find a solution to a problem that is nagging you—although this will be needed at times. You should take advantage of this form of contact with the Lord in the hope that he will bestow the grace of conversion on you. If you enter into a person-to-person relationship with Christ, who is present throughout the inspired text, this text will permeate you. Then you will begin to listen intently to the Word of God, understand better the thoughts and desires of Jesus, and begin to know him even better. Saint Jerome warns: “Ignorance of the Holy Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Listening intently to the Word of God will influence your choices and decisions. You will want them to be in accordance with his teachings and his desires. Reading of the Holy Scriptures is fundamental to your growth in faith and of your sharing in God’s life. It is looking at oneself and surrounding realities as though through the eyes of God.

— The Gift of Faith, pp 215–216, Father Tadeusz Dajczer (1931–2009), Polish priest, professor, and author

Take Hold of the Story of God’s Love for You

Resources

Scripture of the Day: Hebrews 3:7–14

The Holy Spirit says:
Oh, that today you would hear his voice,
“Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion
in the day of testing in the desert,
where your ancestors tested and tried me
and saw my works for forty years.
Because of this I was provoked with that generation
and I said, ‘They have always been of erring heart,
and they do not know my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter into my rest.'”

Take care, brothers and sisters,
that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart,
so as to forsake the living God.
Encourage yourselves daily while it is still “today,”
so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin.
We have become partners of Christ
if only we hold the beginning of the reality firm until the end.