February 9, 2016
On Prayer And Fasting
My dear brethren,
According to an ancient and salutary tradition in the Church, on the occasion of the beginning of Lent, I address these words to you in order to encourage you to enter into this penitential season wholeheartedly, with the dispositions willed by the Church and to accomplish the purpose for which the Church prescribes it.
If I look in books from the early part of this century, I find that they indicate three purposes for which the Church has prescribed this penitential time:
- first, in order to curb the concupiscence of the flesh;
- then, to facilitate the elevation of our souls toward divine realities;
- finally, to make satisfaction for our sins.
Our Lord gave us the example during His life, here on earth: pray and do penance. However, Our Lord, being free from concupiscence and sin, did penance and made satisfaction for our sins, thus showing us that our penance may be beneficial not only for ourselves but also for others.
Pray and do penance. Do penance in order to pray better, in order to draw closer to Almighty God. This is what all the saints have done, and this is that of which all the messages of the Blessed Virgin remind us.
Would we dare to say that this necessity is less important in our day and age than in former times? On the contrary, we can and we must affirm that today, more than ever before, prayer and penance are necessary because everything possible has been done to diminish and denigrate these two fundamental elements of Christian life.
Never before has the world sought to satisfy—without any limit, the disordered instincts of the flesh, even to the point of the murder of millions of innocent, unborn children. One would come to believe that society has no other reason for existence except to give the greatest material standard of living to all men in order that they should not be deprived of material goods.
Thus we can see that such a society would be opposed to what the Church prescribes. In these times, when even Churchmen align themselves with the spirit of this world, we witness the disappearance of prayer and penance-particularly in their character of reparation for sins and obtaining pardon for faults. Few there are today who love to recite Psalm 50, the Miserere, and who say with the psalmist, Peccatum meum contra me est semper—”My sin is always before me.” How can a Christian remove the thought of sin if the image of the crucifix is always before his eyes?
At the Council the bishops requested such a diminution of fast and abstinence that the prescriptions have practically disappeared. We must recognize the fact that this disappearance is a consequence of the ecumenical and Protestant spirit which denies the necessity of our participation for the application of the merits of Our Lord to each one of us for the remission of our sins and the restoration of our divine affiliation [i.e., our character as adoptive sons of God].
- In the past the commandments of the Church provided for:
- an obligatory fast on all days of Lent with the exception of Sundays, for the three Ember Days and for many Vigils;
- abstinence was for all Fridays of the year, the Saturdays of Lent and, in numerous dioceses, all the Saturdays of the year.
What remains of these prescriptions—the fast for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstinence for Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent.
One wonders at the motives for such a drastic diminution. Who are obliged to observe the fast?—adults from age 21 to 60 [here in the USA, the minimum age is 18 years old—Ed.]. And who are obliged to observe abstinence?—all the faithful from the age of 7 years.
What does fasting mean? To fast means to take only one (full) meal a day to which one may add two collations (or small meals), one in the morning, one in the evening which, when combined, do not equal a full meal.[The archbishop is referring to the European order of meals; in the United States though, dinner is usually the evening meal—Ed.]
What is meant by abstinence? By abstinence is meant that one abstains from meat.
The faithful who have a true spirit of faith and who profoundly understand the motives of the Church which have been mentioned above, will wholeheartedly accomplish not only the light prescriptions of today but, entering into the spirit of Our Lord and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, will endeavor to make reparation for the sins which they have committed and for the sins of their family, their neighbors, friends and fellow citizens.
It is for this reason that they will add to the actual prescriptions. These additional penances might be to fast for all Fridays of Lent, abstinence from all alcoholic beverages, abstinence from television, or other similar sacrifices. They will make an effort to pray more, to assist more frequently at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to recite the rosary, and not to miss evening prayers with the family. They will detach themselves from their superfluous material goods in order to aid the seminaries, help establish schools, help their priests adequately furnish the chapels and to help establish novitiates for nuns and brothers.
The prescriptions of the Church do not concern fast and abstinence alone but also of the obligation of the Paschal Communion (Easter Duty). Here is what the Vicar of the Diocese of Sion, in Switzerland, recommended to the faithful of that diocese on February 20, 1919:
- During Lent, the pastors will have the Stations of the Cross twice a week; one day for the children of the schools and another day for the other parishioners. After the Stations of the Cross, they will recite the Litany of the Sacred Heart.
- During Passion Week, which is to say, the week before Palm Sunday, there will be a Triduum in all parish churches, Instruction, Litany of the Sacred Heart in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction. In these instructions the pastors will simply and clearly remind their parishioners of the principal conditions to receive the Sacrament of Penance worthily.
- The time during which one may fulfill the Easter Duty has been set for all parishes from Passion Sunday to the first Sunday after Easter.
Why should these directives no longer be useful today? Let us profit from this salutary time during the course of which Our Lord is accustomed to dispense grace abundantly. Let us not imitate the foolish virgins who having no oil in their lamps found the door of the bridegroom’s house closed and this terrible response: Nescio vos—”I know you not.” Blessed are they who have the spirit of poverty for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The spirit of poverty means the spirit of detachment from things of this world.
Blessed are they who weep for they shall be consoled. Let us think of Jesus in the Garden of Olives who wept for our sins. It is henceforth for us to weep for our sins and for those of our brethren.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for holiness for they shall be satisfied. Holiness—sanctity is attained by means of the Cross, penance and sacrifice. If we truly seek perfection then we must follow the Way of the Cross.
May we, during this Lenten Season, hear the call of Jesus and Mary and engage ourselves to follow them in this crusade of prayer and penance.
May our prayers, our supplications, and our sacrifices obtain from heaven the grace that those in places of responsibility in the Church return to her true and holy traditions, which is the only solution to revive and reflourish the institutions of the Church again.
Let us love to recite the conclusion of the Te Deum: In te Doming, speravi; non confundar in aeternum—”In Thee, O Lord, I have hoped. I will not be confounded in eternity.”
+ Marcel Lefebvre
February 14, 1982
I will be honest and say that setting aside time every day for a full hour of prayer is difficult. During seminary it was easy and a basic fact of life. Even a few years ago I didn’t have a problem finding an hour of quiet prayer. However, when multiple children are thrown into the mix an hour is hard to grasp.
That is why I was intrigued by a new book entitled The 15-Minute Prayer Solution: How One Percent of Your Day Can Transform Your Life by Gary Jansen. It may seem like a “cop-out” to only pray for 15 minutes a day, but when you lead a busy life or are starting out in the spiritual life, 15 minutes is perfect. We can all find 15 minutes.
But is that it? Do we simply kneel down for 15 minutes? What do we do during that time?
In his book, Jansen provides detailed instructions on how to pray for 15 minutes based on ancient practices, many of which were inspired by St. Ignatius of Loyola.
First of all, Jansen exhorts us to set-aside time every day for prayer. This is a pre-requisite of the spiritual life and is something we must do if we want to progress in our relationship with God. Some of us may be intimidated with that task, but it really shouldn’t be a problem. We don’t have to start by devoting ourselves to a full hour of prayer. Instead, we can begin by giving God one percent of our day. Jansen explains:
“Did you know that there are 1,440 minutes in a day? It’s true. I did the math. Did you also know that one percent of all that time is fourteen minutes and twenty-four seconds? What would happen if you made a conscious decision, every day, to exercise your soul by giving roughly fifteen minutes of your time over to God? Just one tiny percent of your life. Would your life change? Mine did.” (The 15-Minute Prayer Solution, 3)
The key is to set-aside time every day. As the saying goes, “slow and steady wins the race.” Steady, consistent prayer has a much greater effect on our prayer life than intense bursts that fizzle over time.
Connected to this thought of giving God one percent of our day is the idea of faith the size of a “mustard seed.” Jesus said to His disciples:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32
“For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from hence to yonder place,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” Matthew 17:20
Praying for 15 minutes a day may seem like a short amount of time, but when it is done in faith the effects can last a lifetime. Not only that, the goal is that 15 minutes of prayer will lead to praying “without ceasing.” We must start small, have faith the size of a mustard seed, and let God do the rest.
The Jesus Prayer, Lectio Divina, & The Examen
Jansen does not dwell too much on theory before he starts explaining what to do during those 15 minutes. He gives many different ways to pray that can all be accomplished during that time frame. For the most part Jansen focuses on ancient ways of praying that aim at quieting the soul. The first type of prayer he describes is the famous “Jesus Prayer,” made popular by the Russian book The Way of a Pilgrim. It is a very simple prayer that involves saying the words, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner,” by slowly breathing in and out. The breathing is an essential part of the prayer and helps calm a person’s mind and allows them to focus on God.
After saying the “Jesus Prayer,” Jansen suggests meditating on a short passage of scripture and engaging in what is called Lectio Divina (“Divine Reading”). This type of praying with scripture focuses on immersing oneself inside the scripture passage and listening for God’s voice.
Another option is the “Examen” prayer. This type of prayer aims at finding God in the various people, things and events of the day. Often the “Examen” is done at the end of day where we meditate on how God brought different people into our lives and thanking Him for His divine providence. It is a great way to remind ourselves that God is present in all things and nothing happens “by chance.”
Seven Days of Exercises
The book itself is not very long (which makes sense) and at the end of it is a simple guide to praying for seven days. It includes seven days of Lectio Divina and is a great way to get started, especially for those of us who don’t know where to begin. This is probably one of the most helpful parts of the book and allows you to practice what you learned.
To conclude, I heartily recommend getting a copy of The 15-Minute Prayer Solution: How One Percent of Your Day Can Transform Your Life. Jansen has a writing style that is accessible to anyone. He writes about deep theological truths in a way that a person who has zero years of religious education can understand. Much of what he writes is from experience and he gives many short stories to explain how prayer has affected his own life.
I will be honest, much of what Jansen writes may challenge you and your idea of prayer. He focuses much more on relational types of prayer than formula-based prayers. In other words, while he draws from the rich tradition of the Catholic Church Jansen focuses more on calming your soul to listen to the Holy Spirit than reciting different prayers to get what you want.
I know that I have benefited from Jansen’s book and will return to it on a daily basis.
Father Heilman shares tips on how to take advantage of one of the MANY tools the Catholic Church offers to help save your soul as well as the souls of others.
How I Gained a Plenary Indulgence Today
Here’s a scenario for gaining a plenary indulgence today …
(A more detailed explanation is available HERE)
First, I have the conditions in place:
1) I’m in a state of grace.
2) I’ve gone to Confession within 20 days (before or after today).
3) Going to Mass and receiving Communion today.
4) I prayed an Our Father and a Hail Mary for the pope’s intentions.
5) I have not let any sin(s) defeat me, by hanging on to it. In other words, at my last confession, I made my confession with a truly “contrite” spirit … meaning, I did NOT confess my sins, while saying to myself something like, “… even though I know I will do this again” or, “… even though I am confessing that I am angry with this person, I am not letting go of that anger.”
DOING THE WORK
Okay, now that the conditions (above) are in place … now I simply need to choose which of the four activities the Church allows on any given day for gaining a plenary indulgence. I call these the “Big Four:”
*Adoring the Blessed Sacrament for at least one half hour
*Devoutly reading Sacred Scripture for at least one half hour
*Devoutly performing the Stations of the Cross (only at approved Stations)
*Reciting the Rosary with members of the family, or in a church, oratory, religious community, or pious association
In order to gain a plenary indulgence today, I chose to pray the rosary before the Blessed Sacrament.
Now I simply choose a Holy Soul. I chose my dad, Walter Heilman
Now I simply choose a saint to pray with me for my dad. I chose St. Joseph
So, after I have prayed the rosary with St. Joseph for my dad, I went from a “force of one” (just me) to a “force of three” (St. Joseph, dad and me).
That’s just after Day One. If I add two every day (recruited Saint and grateful Holy Soul), inside of five months, I will have a Battalion of 300+ (Saints and Holy Souls) in my own Holy Alliance.
Now I simply ask my Holy Alliance to pray with me a Divine Mercy Chaplet for someone I know who is in need of conversion, or simply someone I want to pray for to receive more grace in their life. (in the photo above, Mary Smith is a fictitious name)
You can get your own blank journal to use, or you could use my Field Manual or Field Journal as seen HERE. But, it is also real simple just to keep a journal right on your computer, as seen in the photo above.
TO SUM UP
So, there you have it … I gained a plenary indulgence for my dad today, with the help of St. Joseph and my Holy Alliance. And, I asked God, with my Holy Alliance, to grant more grace for Mary Smith.
I am developing my spiritual muscles, because I am doing these “acts of obedience.” This is “Resistance Training,” because I am choosing to do it the Church’s way which is God’s way, while “resisting” my desire to “do it my way.” At the same time, I am becoming a “force to be reckoned with” as I grow in God’s grace, and grow my Holy Alliance.
It was not hard at all!!!
Novena to St. Anthony of Padua
Say once a day for nine days, especially beginning on 4 June and ending on 12 June, the eve of the Feast of St. Anthony. Some pray a Novena to St. Anthony on thirteen consecutive Tuesdays, per the instructions of Pope Leo XIII, or on all Tuesdays.
Patronage: American Indians; amputees; animals; barrenness; Brazil; elderly people; faith in the Blessed Sacrament; fishermen; Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land; harvests; horses; lost articles; lower animals; mail; mariners; oppressed people; poor people;Portugal; pregnant women; seekers of lost articles; shipwrecks; starvation; sterility;swineherds; Tigua Indians; travel hostesses; travellers; Watermen
O White lily of purity, sublime example of poverty, true mirror of humility, resplendent star of sanctity. O glorious St Anthony, who didst enjoy the sweet privilege of receiving into thy arms the Infant Jesus, I beseech thee to take me under they powerful protection. Thou in whom the power of working miracles shines forth among the other gifts of God, have pity upon me and come to my aid in this my great need.
(Mention your intentions here).
Cleanse my heart from every disorderly affection, obtain for me a true contrition for my sins and a great love of God and of my neighbour that serving God faithfully in this life, I may come to praise, enjoy and bless Him eternally with thee in Paradise. Amen
Recite one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be.
I desire therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men: For kings, and for all that are in high station: that we may lead a quiet and a peaceable life in all piety and chastity. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
And another angel came, and stood before the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer of the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar, which is before the throne of God. And the smoke of the incense of the prayers of the saints ascended up before God from the hand of the angel. (Rev. 8:3-4)
You will not go to heaven if you don’t pray. Just like with any relationship, you cannot form a good one without communication. Please read the article from Father Ed Broom who is an Oblate of the Virgin Mary and begin communicating with the one that will determine where you will spend eternity (God)!. This article appeared in the Catholic Gentlemen blog.
10 Ways to Grow in Prayer
Prayer is the key to salvation. St. Augustine says that he who prays well lives well; he who lives well dies well; and to he who dies well all is well. St. Alphonsus reiterates the same principle: “He who prays much will be saved; he who does not pray will be damned; he who prays little places in jeopardy his eternal salvation. The same saint asserted that there are neither strong people nor weak people in the world, but those who know how to pray and those who do not. In other words prayer is our strength in all times and places.
We would like to offer ten words of encouragement to help us on the highway towards heaven through the effort to grow in our prayer life!
1. Conviction or Determination. There is no successful person in this world in any enterprise who was not animated by a firm determination to achieve his goal. Super athletes, accomplished musicians, expert teachers and writers never arrived at perfection by mere wishful thinking but by a firm, tenacious determination to arrive at their goal—come hell or high water. For that reason, the Doctor of prayer, Saint Teresa of Avila, stated: “We must have a determined determination to never give up prayer.” If we really believed in the depths of our hearts the priceless treasures that flow from prayer, we would make it our aim in life to grow constantly in prayer.
2. Holy Spirit As Teacher. St. Paul says that we do not really know how to pray as we ought but that it is the Holy Spirit who intercedes for us teaching us to say “Abba” Father. The Holy Spirit is the Interior Master or Teacher. With Mary the Apostles spent nine days and nights praying and fasting and they were imbued with the power from on high—the Holy Spirit. Before starting any formal prayer period why not invoke the Person of the Holy Spirit to help you in your weakness. During the course of your prayer period why not beg the presence of the Holy Spirit to enlighten your mind and ignite your heart. He is closer to you than you are aware. If your are in the state of grace He resides in your heart.
3. Time, Place, Good Will, and Silence. As in any art we learn by practicing. This applies to prayer. To learn how to pray we must have a set time, a good place, good will on our part and silence. The saying rings true in sports as well as in prayer: “Practice makes perfect.”
4. Penance. It might be that our prayer has become insipid, boring, lifeless, anemic and stagnant for many reasons. One possible reason might be a life of sensuality, indulgence, gluttony, and simply living more according to the flesh then the spirit. As St. Paul reminds us, the flesh and the spirit are in mutual opposition. Jesus spent forty days and nights praying and fasting. The Apostles spent nine days and nights praying and fasting. One cannot arrive at any serious mystical life led by the spirit if he has not passed through the ascetical life of self-denial, mortification and penance. A bird needs two wings to fly; so does the follower of Christ. To soar high in the mystical life the two wings are prayer and penance. If you have no training in the penitential life consult a good spiritual director and start with small acts of penance to build up will-power so as to do the more heroic acts of penance! If you have never run before, start with a block and build up to the mile.
5. Spiritual Direction. Athletes need coaches; students need teachers; teachers need mentors to learn the art. Equally important, prayer-warriors must have some form of guidance and this is called spiritual direction. St. Ignatius of Loyola insisted on the spiritual life as being a journey of accompaniment. St. Teresa of Avila had several saints directing her on her long and painful journey leading to perfection—St. John of the Cross, St Peter of Alcantara, and St. Francis Borgia. There are many obstacles in the spiritual journey, especially when one pursues a deeper life of prayer; for that reason having a trained spiritual director who knows the traps of the devil, the pitfalls always present, and the dangers that are always present can help us to grow steadily in holiness through a deeper and more authentic prayer life.
6. Prayer and Action. St. Teresa of Avila points out that authentic growth in prayer is proven by growth in holiness and that means by the practice of virtue. Jesus said that we know the tree by the fruits. Likewise an authentic life of prayer blossoms forth in the practice of virtues: faith, hope, charity, purity, kindness, service, humility and a constant love for neighbor and the salvation of his immortal soul. Our Lady is model at all times but especially in the intimate connection between contemplation in action. In the Annunciation we admire Mary absorbed in prayer; then in the following mystery (in the Visitation) she follows the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to serve her cousin in a mission of love. In truth we can call Mary a true “Contemplative in action”. Like Mary we are called to be “Contemplatives in action.
7. Study-Read about Prayer. St. Teresa of Avila would not allow women into the convent of the Carmelites who could not read. Why? The simple reason was that she knew how much one could learn on many topics, but especially on prayer through solid spiritual reading. Find good literature on prayer and read! How many helpful ideas come through a good spiritual reading. One suggestion: read Part Four of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is a spiritual masterpiece on prayer.
8. Retreats. A most propitious manner to really go deeper in prayer is to set aside some time for a prolonged period of prayer; this we call a spiritual retreat. One of the most efficacious styles of retreats are Ignatian retreats. It might last a whole month, or eight days, or even a weekend retreat can prove extremely valuable. Seeing the Apostles overwhelmed with work Jesus exhorted them: “Come apart for a while and rest…” This rest that Jesus mentioned has classically been interpreted as a call to the spiritual retreat! Look at your calendar for the year and set aside some time. More extended periods of time for prayer allow for greater depth in prayer!
9. Confession and Prayer. Sometimes prayer proves exceedingly difficult due to a dirty conscience. Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure of heart, they will see God.”(Mt. 5:8) After a good confession, in which the Precious Blood of Jesus washes our souls and consciences clean, the interior eye of the soul can see and contemplate the face of God with greater clarity.
10. Our Lady and Prayer. As we have mentioned the importance of the Holy Spirit to be with us as our Interior Master, so also we should constantly beg Mary to pray for us and to pray with us every time we dedicate time and effort to prayer. She will never fail us. As Jesus turned water into wine at Cana through Mary’s intercession, so she can help to turn our insipid and flavorless prayer into the sweet wine of devotion. Mary will never fail you! Call upon her.
Litany of Humility
Composed by Cardinal Marry Del Val,
the saintly Secretary of State to Pope St. Pius X
O Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
DELIVER ME DEAR JESUS.
From the desire of being loved . . .
From the desire of being extolled . . .
From the desire of being honored . . .
From the desire of being praised . . .
From the desire of being preferred . . .
From the desire of being consulted . . .
From the desire of being approved . . .
From the fear of being humiliated . . .
From the fear of being despised . . .
From the fear of suffering rebukes . . .
From the fear of being calumniated . . .
From the fear of being forgotten . . .
From the fear of being ridiculed . . .
From the fear of being wronged . . .
From the fear of being suspected . . .
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
That in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease,
Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
That others become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,
Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.