One of the main themes of this blog is the subject of longing and desire. You and I desire infinitely—without limit—and this points to and proves that God exists and is calling us. The way C.S. Lewis put it is this: If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
Along these lines, I would like to call to your attention a talk by Dr. Peter Kreeft on the Argument from Desire. A written summary of the talk is available HERE . There is an mp3 audio of both the talk and a question/answer session with the audience available HERE Be aware that the talk is a scholarly one and was presented to a largely academic audience. But the fundamental point of his talk is clear enough.
Every natural, innate desire in us corresponds to some real object in the world that can satisfy that desire.
But there exists in us one desire that nothing in time, nothing on earth, and no creature can satisfy—a mysterious longing!
Therefore there must exist something more than time, earth, and creatures that can satisfy this desire.
This something is what people call “God” and “life with God forever.”
There is a heavy snow falling in Washington this March evening. Not every one likes snow but it is an amazing work of God. He takes a barren winter landscape and creates it anew. In the Book of Sirach there is a beautiful and poetic description of God and the majestic work he creates, even in the “dead” of Winter. Enjoy this excerpt from Sirach and reflect on the glory of winter.
God in Winter:
A word from God drives on the north wind.
He scatters frost like so much salt;
It shines like blossoms on the thornbush.
Cold northern blasts he sends that turn the ponds to lumps of ice.
Note that the sermon was preached at Holy Comforter–St. Cyprian Parish in Washington D.C. We are a Catholic parish that is predominantly African-American. What this means in practical terms is that this sermon is LONGER (about 1/2 hour in duration) than the typical Catholic sermon.
The Title of the Message is “Four Habits of Effective Evangelizers”. It is a meditation on the Gospel for Today’s Mass, the text of which can be found HERE.
We received a question about how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. It is a great opportunity to talk about this form of prayer that has been central to the Catholic prayer tradition for more than 1,000 years.Praying the Liturgy of the Hours or the Divine Office as it is also called has its roots in Jewish prayer tradition and the tradition of Jesus to dedicate certain hours of the day to prayer. In the Acts of the Apostles we read “the apostles gathered at the third hour” (Acts 2:1-15). “Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour” (Acts 3:1).
What is the Liturgy of the Hours
The Liturgy of the Hours is prayer that is composed of hymns, psalms, Old and New Testament canticles, prayers, Scriptural and spiritual readings from the writings of the Church Fathers and Church documents. The hymns, psalms and canticles are designed to be chanted or recited. Many religious communities’ rule require they pray all seven hours(Office, Morning, Midmorning, Midday, Midafternoon, Evening and Night prayer). In recent years more and more lay people have discovered and are praying the Liturgy of the Hours either alone, with their family or as part of their parish’s prayer. It is a very important part of my and my husband’s prayer life, something we began while we were dating and have never stopped. A colleague shared that he prays the Hours while he is up in the middle of the night feeding a hungry baby or sitting with a restless child. It is such a celebration of the universal dimension of our Catholic faith that all over the world “the whole course of the day and night is made holy by the praises of God” (Constitution on Sacred Liturgy).
How to Pray the Liturgy of the Hours
The Liturgy of the Hours consists of a four-volume set. Within each volume there are four sections. The first section is particular to the day. The second section gives detailed instruction for each hour and contains the prayers that do not change from day to day. The third section includes a four-week cycle that complements the first section. The fourth section is devoted to the feast days of saints and feasts of the Church.
For people who may not pray all seven hours there is a volume called Christian Prayer or Shorter Christian Prayer that is composed of Morning, Evening and Night Prayer and designed with the lay person in mind.
With the growing popularity of the Liturgy of the Hours as a practice of daily prayer, a modified version is called Magnificat. Magnificat is a “pocket-sized” monthly booklet. It contains Morning, Evening, and Night Prayer, readings for the Mass of the Day and spiritual reflections, including a reflection on a piece of Christian art. See www.magnificat.com
Praying the Hours takes some practice, though all of the volumes mentioned have helpful instructions. Another way to learn is to see if a parish near your home or work prays Morning or Evening Prayer. I am sure that your pastor or another person on the pastoral staff would not mind taking a few minutes to walk you through the structure. Keep in mind there is really no wrong way of praying when your mind and heart are lifted to God.
Please post a comment and share how you have made the Liturgy of the Hours part of your prayer life.
One of the most gifted priestly contributors to the Internet is Fr. Robert Barron, a Chicago priest. He is an insightful commentator on cultural issues and current events and how they relate to Church teaching. Here is an example of his commentary on the A-Rod steroid controversy. Through this example he explores a basic theme of this blog: the longing we all have for God.
When I was a kid, I thought of Church as something my mom made me do with lots of rituals and stuff. I never thought of it as essential for my survival. But Jesus teaches something very profound in John’s Gospel when he was talking about Holy Communion (the Eucharist). In effect he says that without Holy Communion we will starve and die spiritually. Here is what Jesus says, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53)
Even as a young adult I never thought of Holy Communion as essential for my life, as something that, if I didn’t receive it regularly, would cause me to die spiritually. But it makes sense doesn’t it? If we don’t eat food in our physical lives we grow weak and eventually die. It is the same with Holy Communion. Remember what happened in the Book of Exodus: the people were without food in the desert and they feared for their lives. So God gave them bread from heaven called “manna” that they collected each morning. Without eating that bread from heaven they would never have made it to the Promised Land; they would have died in the desert. It is the same with us. Without receiving Jesus, our Living Manna from heaven in Holy Communion, we will not make it to our Promised Land of Heaven! I guess it’s not just a ritual after all; it is essential for our survival.
Don’t miss Holy Communion! Jesus urges you to eat. A mother and father in my parish recently noticed their daughter wasn’t eating. Within a very short time they took her to the doctor, who diagnosed the problem, and now the young girl is able to eat again. Those parents would have moved heaven and earth to make sure their daughter was able to eat. It is the same with God. Jesus urges us to eat, to receive the Holy Communion every Sunday without fail. Jesus urges us with this word: “Unless!”
Here is a powerful presentation of the “Jesus Bread of Life” discourse from the Movie, The Gospel of John. The movie is a worthy production and a word-for-word rendering of the Gospel of John. You can order it here: The Gospel of John.
Here is another question that was sent to us via e-mail:
The Catholic Church does not ordain women as priests. Why is this so and how can the Church continue in a policy that seems so unfair and at variance with the fact that most other denominations now have women ministers?
This question is frequently asked today and seems more urgent when, as you note, other denominations have women ministers. There is also today a stronger sense that all opportunities should be available to everyone.
The most immediate answer as to why the Church does not ordain to the priesthood is that the Church cannot do so. Sometimes we think today that our Church is free to do whatever she wants. But the fact is that the Church is bound to hand on what she has received. When Jesus established the priesthood, he chose from among all his many disciples (which included many prominent women) twelve men whom he named “Apostles.” This call of the Apostles is the origin of the priesthood. Jesus called only men to this office. It is hard to argue, as some do, that Jesus had to comply with the norms of his day and thus had no real choice. The fact is that Jesus broke many conventions of his time and exhibited considerable freedom in interpreting the Law. He was more than willing to engage in controversy where necessary. Jesus himself established the priesthood calling only men and the Church has no authority to overrule Jesus, Sacred Scripture, or the established Apostolic Tradition in this regard. Both John Paul II and Paul VI indicated this very clearly. Here is What Pope John Paul wrote in 1994: “Therefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, 4). Therefore, the Church must hand on what we have received from Christ and the Apostles even if this teaching is not currently popular or in conformity with other modern practices.
As to the question of fairness, I would point out that it is possible to observe differences in regard to roles in the Church without an indication of inequality. Whatever roles individuals fill in the Church, all are equally baptized, all are equally children of the Father, and all are equal in dignity. This is what Paul wrote in First Corinthians 12:
14Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body… 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be… 21The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”
Not long ago I was interviewed on CNN in a kind of debate with another priest who dissents from Church Teaching in this matter. If you wish, you can view the exchange here:
I encourage you to use the comments section if you would like further clarification of this teaching.