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A Reflection on the Lord’s Prayer

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Having celebrated this morning the memorial Mass for St. Francis of Assisi, I am inspired by the votive Gospel reading (Matthew 11:25-30) to reflect upon the Our Father. This may seem a bit odd as the reading was not about the Lord’s Prayer, per se, but rather a different albeit neglected oration with similar attributes. Jesus announces, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.” This much, any of us as believers could recite. However, unlike the Our Father, this was Jesus’ personal prayer. There was no request to teach the gathering how to pray. The Lord’s Prayer is given to us as one that reflects the human condition of weakness and sinfulness. Like us, Jesus will be tempted in his humanity; unlike us, he will surrender himself into the hands of the evil one so that we might be delivered. The prayer here speaks of his unique identity as the divine Son of God: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

Note that it begins much as does the Lord’s Prayer as an oration of praise addressed to the Father. Heaven is also mentioned although here it is clear that he has lordship over both heaven and earth. We are given a quick glimpse of our Lord’s relationship as “the Son” to the Father. This is not figurative language or pure analogy. It is expressive of his very identity. (Note that at his baptism in the Jordan the identity of Christ as the beloved only Son of God is revealed; when it comes to our baptism, our identity is changed— we become adopted sons and daughters to the Father.) We are summoned as “children” to trust God in our communication with him and in the life of faith. Ours is not a detached or malicious deity. He loves us and wants the best for us, which is union with him. Suffering and death come into the world through sin. While the dark mysteries are not immediately brushed aside, we have in Christ one who is in solidarity with us. Indeed, by enduring the price of sin, he redeems us. A distinction must be made between the active and passive will of God. The Father did not send his Son into the world because he directly willed for him to be tortured and murdered. That would image God as monstrous. The reason or motivation for his coming is made clear in the reading: “Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.” The mission of Christ is to be faithful to his Father’s will— to do whatever it takes to fulfill the divine saving plan. Both here and in the Our Father, the providence of God is accentuated, “thy will be done.” The reading continues: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.” We know that his situation is not entirely comparable to our relationship with the Father because we are purely human and Jesus is the second person of the Holy Trinity. He is God made man. Nevertheless, he gives us something of his relationship as our own.

Interestingly, this prayer in Matthew appears in the Gospel again tomorrow (Saturday, the 26th Week of the Year, Cycle 1) albeit from Luke 10:17-24. Prior to the prayer, the text states: “At that very moment he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit . . .” This is an important lesson for us as the great Christian revelation is that of the Trinity. Jesus reveals to us the face of God. He patterns for us how we are to pray to the Father, through the Son and by the Holy Spirit. Our Lord prays in the Spirit. Saturday’s text from Luke also precedes the prayer of Jesus with the return of the seventy-two disciples sent out by the Lord. We are told they come back rejoicing and say, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.” Jesus responds, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky.” A link can be drawn between this and the ending words of the Our Father where we pray “deliver us from (the) evil (one).” Ours is a jealous God. He will not share us. If we belong to him then the devil can have no part of us!

More than any other prayer, the oration that is held in common by all Christians is the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father. While there are a few variant English translations, we all recognize it and it is a staple in our liturgies. It is the one prayer that we have memorized. Until recent times, most Catholics could also recite the Our Father in Latin, something which the Vatican still promotes so that visitors to Rome from around the globe can recite this prayer in unison. Note that the prayer for peace and its sign is placed immediately after the Lord’s Prayer in the Mass. This is no accident as both the ritual and the prayer from the lips of Christ immediately signifies the unity of the believing community in Christ. We should exhibit caution that while it is memorized, we should never say it mindlessly or mechanically. We would not want to lose sight of the treasury of prayer types that make up the whole. It has been called the perfect prayer. Our Lord gives it to us as both as a prayer to be said and as a formula for other prayers. These are words that we must make our own if it is to be a true dialogue with God. It is the one prayer that is essential to a person’s daily prayer and spiritual life as a Christian.

During the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord introduces the Our Father. “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7-8). Why did the ancient pagans babble with many needless words? First, they were speaking to a false deity. As such they were really talking to themselves, trying to convince themselves, despite their frustration that someone was listening. Nevertheless, there was no response— no intervention— just a painful silence. Second, some of the pagans believed that if they could stumble upon the true name of God then all their wishes would be granted. They literally babbled long strings of nonsense words for this purpose. This was no genuine speaking in tongues, but a one-sided and deliberate effort at magic or sorcery so as to manipulate the deity. It was not intelligent conversation just fruitless gibberish. Nothing came from it. Third, some sought to pamper God just as they did people of power or high station or wealth. They were moved not by a desire as creatures to give praise to the Creator; no, this was simply an effort to ingratiate themselves so as to court favor. Such people were often very weak and fearful in character. The more anxious they became the more they talked and talked and talked. Fourth, the pagan priests in particular would often shout and repeat their petitions— almost as if their deity were deaf or had to be convinced to respond. This stood in stark conflict with the intimate union that Jesus shared with us by giving “his” Father to us as “our” Father and suggesting a back room, hidden away, as the best place to privately pray.

Note that those who know each other often need few words. I have known long-term spouses that can communicate to each other with a look or a nod. God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what we want. More importantly, he knows what we need. He hears all prayer, even that which is said in a whisper while we are alone. We do not have to make a big show about prayer and faith. The main thing is that it remains real. The Lord’s Prayer helps us to render true prayer.

Certain anti-Catholic critics will use our Lord’s spurning of the babbling prayers of the pagans to attack upon our recitation of the rosary. But such an argument collapses as there is definite content to the rosary, i.e. the mysteries of faith. Others, particularly the “once saved, always saved” apologists will argue against persistence in prayer. This latter view crumbles because we are urged to pray always. Note the story about the mistreated widow in Luke 18 who prevails against an unjust judge because of her persistence in wanting justice. Jesus commends her to his listeners. If she can find justice from a bad judge, just imagine how well our petitions will fare given that the divine judge is all good and loving. Our Lord tells his listeners not to lose heart when they pray and that it is a “necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary” (Luke 18:1). Patience and persistence is really more for our sake than for God’s. While the Christian will humbly acknowledge divine providence, our petition prayers ideally express what we really want, the desires of our hearts. This speaks immediately to our relationship with the Lord. Is Christ our true treasure? Do our hearts belong to him? What do we really want? God knows what we really need. It has been said that God answers all prayer. A catechist friend teaches, “Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes no and sometimes not now.” I would add that often the asking itself is the true answer as it breeds a sense of dependence upon the divine. When the answer does come it is often a gift unexpected but what we really need.

I think part of the answer for which we are looking is hidden in the Catholic mystery of purgatory. We are taught that this purification rightfully begins in this world. Often we pursue penance and various mortifications. But we are also purified and transformed in our daily life of prayer. The response of God and his timing brings us to a continual conversion or changing by grace. This is also expressed in the Our Father, to put on Christ, to have the will of the Father. Any questioning experiences a reversal. Those least enlightened and transformed will ask, “Why doesn’t God give me right now what I want?” The person who has walked with the Lord for a while will ask, “Why is it that I am still restless and fail to want what God wants in my life?”

Christianity is not sorcery and the Our Father is not a magical incantation. Christianity is the end to magic and superstition. The words of the Lord’s Prayer are precious but they also constitute a formula to assist us in putting together our own personal words when we pray. Further, prayer is a back-and-forth operation. We talk to God and then we pause and find quiet in ourselves to listen for God’s whispering to our souls. This is not self-deception. It is something wondrous and real. The conversation with God must be authentic if it be constitutive of a worthwhile and personal relationship in faith. Remember that Catholic-Christianity is not a book religion or one of philosophy and rules. At its very heart, Christianity is a personal and communal relationship with a person, with the saving Lord. It is Jesus who draws us into the mystery of the Trinity. He is our mediator to the Father. Remember, our orations are made to the Father, through the Son and by the Holy Spirit.

How are we to pray?

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:7-13).

1. To Whom is Our Prayer Addressed?

As mentioned before, we address the Father as a people who have been brought into a more intimate relationship with God. We are not merely creatures appealing to the Creator but adopted sons and daughters to our heavenly Father, kin to Christ and children of our Queen Mother Mary. We are invited into the family of God. The Holy Spirit makes possible this saving faith. Otherwise, neither believing nor prayer would be possible. While we are naturally wired for God as demonstrated by all the efforts at sacrifice and worship toward a deity around the world and throughout human history; the God of the Jews is revealed as a loving Father. He is the Abba or “papa.” We are his little children. It is this God who surrenders his only Son so that we might be saved from our sins. Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit. He works his miracles by the Holy Spirit. He raises himself from the dead by his own power, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is extended to us in faith and baptism. We become temples of the Holy Spirit— a people regenerated or “born again.”

Our posture as we approach the Father in prayer is not comparable to the oppression humanity endured as the devil’s property. Redeemed or bought at great price, we are no longer slaves but sons and daughters.

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:14-17).

Note that we address God by denoting that he is in heaven. Heaven is by definition where God is. One might even say that God is heaven. Those who would live in heaven must live in God. The Trinity will be our eternal home.

“As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God” (Galatians 4:6-7).

We are literally heirs to the kingdom of heaven. It is in Christ and by grace that we will be divinized— members of the family of God.

2. Summoned to Give Glory to God with the Angelic Hosts.

The angels of God always keep their sights upon God and give him eternal glory. We are invited into this chorus of praise. Our rejoicing comes with the acknowledgment of God’s holiness, “. . . hallowed be thy name!” At Mass we have the Sanctus where we cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Holiness is more than a description of God or a divine attribute. One might regard it as a name. Indeed, the Trinity is intimated by the Sanctus, the triune holy God; he is three co-equal divine persons in one God or divine nature. What is holiness? It signifies something of the divine otherness. When possessed by men they are transformed into the likeness of Christ. Saints are not self-made and it is so much more than being good. Foremost, a saint is a sinner that has been forgiven. God extends something of his own mystery and plants himself into the souls of men. We become temples of the Holy Spirit and new Christs for a world that still needs to encounter Jesus.

The pattern when praying is always to begin with praise. It conveys the basic posture of the creature to the Creator and the Son to the Father. Other forms of prayer will eventually pass away. Giving glory and praise to God is not only foundational to the spiritual life but to the order of creation. The sung praises of the heavenly hosts is the symphony or music of all rightly disposed creation. If there is a discordant note or break in the harmony, such is reserved for the devil and his indentured pawns. Those who keep faith with Christ have every reason for their “sure and certain” hope. The righteous man or woman (not self-righteous) knows joy even before crossing the threshold from this world into the next. He or she already carries something of eternal life.

The Mass gives us the Gloria, a wonderful expression of praise which ushers forth a real sense of the Church in pilgrimage giving praise in unison with the Church in heavenly glory:

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise you,
we bless you,
we adore you,
we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory,
Lord God, heavenly King,
O God, almighty Father.
Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son,
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.
For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

It is a peculiar but authentic side-effect in the spiritual life that when the creature (the lesser) gives glory to the Creator (the greater) that something of the divine shines back upon the one rendering praise. We laud God as holy and thus make ourselves into recipients of his holiness. That which is praised, is shared or reflected back. We can only be saints because we participate in the holiness or divine otherness that is God. The one human person that supremely participates in this holiness is the Virgin Mary. She is preserved from sin and made holy because the All Holy One enters the world through her. She becomes an exemplar for God’s other children as to how we can be transformed by grace. Note the humble posture of Mary in Scripture. The pattern of praise that Jesus sets for us is realized in his first disciple. The Church echoes her daily in the Magnificat when reciting the Liturgy of the Hours: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.”

3. It is in Giving that We Receive.

The liturgy, our prayers and even the life of charity consist of elements of giving and receiving. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The pattern is clear. The kingdom breaks into the world through the person of Christ. Then we respond by taking up our crosses and following him. The obedience of those on earth should mirror the fidelity found in heaven. The back-and-forth and the many prayer types in the Our Father also find witness in the great prayer of worship, the Mass. We encounter the Lord in his Word and we respond with praise and alleluia. The Gospel is proclaimed and we respond with affirming the Creed and petitions. God has given us the grain of the field and the grapes of the vine. We take them and make them into bread and wine. Next, we offer them to God that they might become the body and blood of Christ. Given to us again, we offer the Lord to the Father as the one acceptable sacrifice. He gives it back once more for Holy Communion. We take what we have been given and then give it to others as a people sent on mission. We cooperate with God but the initiative remains with God. We would have nothing to offer— we would be nothing— apart from the movement of God and his gifts to us. While we are called to obedience and to be sentinels of the kingdom, the kingdom of God breaks into the world according to his providence and not by human labor and whim.

This reception requires reflecting upon what the Lord says and does for us. Otherwise, we would be hard-pressed to know his will in our lives. Many people think they are good but, separated from the Lord they do not know how to be good. A son or daughter might advocate euthanasia for a parent suffering pain. A husband might urge contraception to his wife because of pressing financial worries. A friend might suggest to another teen an abortion because of unplanned pregnancy. They might all think they are doing right; however, they are easily led astray when separated from the Church and the content of the Good News (the Gospel of Life).  Formation in the faith, along with prayer and reflection, give us divine guideposts as to how we should live and act.  Otherwise, genuine love is replaced by a terrible and false compassion.

We must all be alert to the danger of devaluing prayer from a dialogue to a soliloquy. Are we communicating with God and allowing him to speak to us? Are we talking to ourselves and simply mimicking God with what we want to hear? While obedience plays an important part in Catholic discipleship, we are not mindless robots or soulless ants. The hands of the soul must be outstretched to receive what the living Word would give us. Indeed, the true disciple hungers for the truth that God wants us to receive and to know. Disposition and appropriation are vital. We must be ready for what God wants us to have. We must make what God offers our own, before any selfish desires or human fears. The pain at the end of a person’s life might be the means of a final purification so as to see God. The self-donation of spouses in the marital act may give their union it’s most precious gift and preserve their union. The unborn child regarded as an inconvenience or an accident may prove to be the person who most loves us in return and makes a positive difference in what would otherwise be a lonely life filled with regret. We have to know God’s will, even in the face of sin, and then trust God’s will in a childlike manner.

Christians should regularly open the Scriptures. It is God’s inspired Word. When we read or hear the Word of God there is a human-divine encounter. Every meeting with God changes us— if we are open— if we want to be in right relationship with God. Catholics should also know their catechism and look up all the attached Scripture passages. There is also utility in following the daily readings of the Mass as well as looking at the prayers. We are people called to both a personal and a corporate faith. We pray alone, among a few friends or family and with the community of faith at the Lord’s Supper (the Mass). The Mass is a participation in the marriage banquet of heaven. Christ is the groom and the Lamb of God. The Church is his bride. Christ instituted the Church so that we would have each other and to insure that his truths and sacraments would not be lost in the passage of time. The kingdom of God breaks into the world, first through the person of Christ and now through the Church, his mystical body.

4. Supplication Emerges from Our Dependence upon God

“Give us this day, our daily bread.” The first prayer that we learn as children is one that comes naturally— intercession and petition. A child asks his mother for a cookie. We make a request of God for a favor. We pray for ourselves and for others. There are some who reduce all prayer to petition. This phenomenon was manifested after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. There was a short while when millions seemed to return to religion. They had lost control. They were desperate and afraid. A year later many of them had fallen away again. Their faith was shallow. They could ask God for things; but, they were ill-equipped spiritually to give. Where was the praise? Where was the thanksgiving? Too often when it comes to “gimme” prayers, there is a lack of balance or focus. If the person does not get what he or she wants, then the person gets angry and stops praying. They are quick to tell God his business but slow to listen.

While prayers of petition might be the most elementary and readily distorted; God indeed wants his children to turn to him. However, we must do so with a profound humility and acceptance of God’s will. The Lord’s Prayer has us pray for our daily bread, that which sustains our life. Yes, this first may be the food for our bellies but it is so much more as well. We are also fed from the table of the Word and from that of the Eucharist. Jesus teaches, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). Given how Jesus does not run away from his mission; we must also pray for strength and courage. This was lacking when Peter denied knowing Jesus and the apostles were in the locked upper room hiding. The risen Lord would appear to them and along the beach to heal Peter. We cannot escape the Lord and we should face the challenges that come to us with a witness that celebrates Christ’s victory over sin and death. Whatever this world takes away from us, we know that Christ can give back many times over.

The Bidding Prayers or General Intercessions at Mass constitute a wonderful model for petition prayers. We pray for many needs: the Church, our country and the larger world, for the oppressed or those facing injustice, for the suffering or the sick, and for those who have died as well as for those who mourn them. A number of us regularly pray for an increase of vocations as well as for good and holy priests. Given the tragedy of abortion, most faithful Catholics pray daily for the unborn child, the right to life and that parents will have hearts welcoming toward their children. We can pray about anything— safety, health, solvency, security, belonging, love, etc. A mark of our Christianity is our willingness to pray on behalf of those who hate and seek to hurt us. This is a great measure to the authenticity of our faith and our willingness to imitate Jesus.

Having said all this, such supplications should not be reduced to crass and ineffective magic or superstition. The believer trusts that God knows best. It is not like rubbing Aladdin’s lamp and wishing for a million dollars in small bills. I would also doubt that an angel will come down from heaven with the winning lottery numbers. My credulity is also strained by those who pray during sporting events. While it is okay to pray for a fair match and the safety of players, I am doubtful that God would intervene so that the Redskins football team would beat the Cowboys, even if the devil does have a contract with the athletes from Texas. Countries might pray for victory and for peace during times of upheaval and war; however, I think God is more on the side of justice over oppression. Historically both sides often pray to the same God. I am reminded of the unofficial truce of 1914 during World War One. The leadership of the warring countries refused a papal petition for a hiatus in violence. Nevertheless, the soldiers in the trenches declared their own unofficial Christmas truce. It was said that one could hear the hymn Silent Night simultaneously being sung in the different languages of the combatants. Many visited the enemy camps. Food and drink was shared. The dead were exchanged. Small gifts were given. The peace did not last very long but it was a teaching moment about human brotherhood that still haunts us in a divided world.

Watching the news on television or reading about tragedies in the newspapers often leaves us unmoved. This should not be the case. We have access to news unlike any generation before us. This should become an occasion for prayer, not voyeurism seeking the sensational. We may not personally know the victims of violence or natural disasters but they are still people like us. They need to be remembered in our prayers to God. When possible we can add our donations to those prayers to assist people in a material way, too.

The worse the people, the more we should feel compelled to pray for them. Who knows, a believer may find out when he meets the Lord at judgment that his were the solitary prayers for some poor soul who had no one to care enough to remember him to God. Many will rightfully pray for victims, but how many of us pray for the victimizers? The most they usually receive is the venom of curses elicited from hatred. Over time many poor souls are forgotten. We should pray for those who need jobs and for those who sell themselves and are exploited to make ends meet or to care for children and those who need them. We should pray for those living on the street and eating out of dumpsters; we should also pray for the callous who walk around them each day uncaring. Many have made bad decisions and are locked into destructive behaviors and addiction. We can lend a helping hand and keep them in our hearts and their needs upon our lips. Such prayer can be effective. It is also transformative for the person who is praying and interceding for others. Do we invite others to know Christ as we do? Do we ask them to pray with us? Have we ever asked a friend or neighbor to join us at Sunday Mass? Prayers of supplication are a demonstration of compassion.

5. The Proclamation of the Gospel Begins with the Cry to Repent and to Believe.

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Our Lord came into the world to make possible the forgiveness of sins. Here is the root of my vocation as a priest.  Every priest is a minister of reconciliation ordained to extend the saving work of Christ. Repentance makes the ground fertile for faith. We have to let go of what a fallen world offers if our hands are to be free to accept the gift of Christ. (Years ago I remember reading a book by a Pentecostal minister who explained this clause of the Our Father as a bargaining with God: if you forgave others then God would give you mercy in return.) No, there is no such deal.  It does not work that way. We have nothing with which to bargain with God. He holds all the cards. The Lord’s Prayer is not offering us a deal as might be imagined between gangsters; no, rather the prayer is pointing to imitation and how this furthers our new creation in Christ. If we forgive as Christ forgives then we are imitating the Lord. If we love and forgive like Christ then the Father will see something of his Son in us and give us a share in his Son’s reward. The reference to temptation is an acknowledgment of human weakness. It is okay to ask God to avoid certain challenges which might be too much for us. Of course, when empowered by grace, people are often surprised by how much they can endure as a disciple. The deliverance from evil or from the evil one is indicative of the whole meaning of Christ’s redemptive Cross. Original sin made us the devil’s property. Christ redeems us and makes us free.

We want our personal sins forgiven or remitted. We also want true liberation or the lease broken from the house that sin built— the various injustices, sources of hatred and manipulation— indeed, any and all of the framework of sin that would bring us back into demonic bondage. Christ reached out to those who were oppressed, hated, scapegoated, and cast aside. He let them know that they were important and loved. He also healed the sick, forgave sins, exorcised demons and raised the dead. These were the acts by which he gave us a powerful example of counteracting the presence of sin or evil among us. When facing the effects of evil, we all need deliverance prayer and heartfelt contrition. Our sins placed Christ on his Cross. He died for each of us by name. He said from the Cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). The war is over and Christ is the victor. But the devil is spiteful. He fights his small skirmishes for individual souls. We must still battle powers and principalities. Between this world and the next saints will certainly be made perfect but on the way saints are sinners who know they have been forgiven.

 

Is There a Pressing Need to Change the Our Father?

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The Greek verb is εἰσφέρω which is usually rendered as “lead into” or “bring in.” While I see no serious problem with the proposed revised translation, “do not let us fall into temptation,” I am at a loss to any pressing need for dismissal of the traditional rendering. The word “lead” acknowledges the mystery of divine providence and election. God writes his straight lines with our crooked ones. God never intends evil, but the fact that we live in a broken world means that we face many temptations and must take up our crosses to follow Jesus. We can ask that God might excuse or protect us from being brought before temptations that we might find too terrible to bear. But the Pope’s translation might be inferred as divine intervention or as an imposed moral restraint that would violate the person’s human will and freedom. I would suggest an in depth catechesis upon the Lord’s Prayer before any change in the traditional English rendering.

Given all the issues that face us, do we really want to open this can of worms?

Wider Participation in the Prayer of the Church

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The Prayer of the Church… not just for priests and religious anymore.

SCRIPTURAL LITANY OF MERCY #4

Litany Composed by Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P. (MAGNIFICAT)

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Offered at the 9:30 AM Mass at Holy Family 1-3-16

Throughout the ages, almighty God has manifested his unfailing mercy.
Oh infinite, divine mercy, you are:

Response: Lord, have mercy on us.

The command to take up our cross and follow Christ.
The invitation to discipleship offered to the rich young man.
The water and the wine applied by the Good Samaritan.
The words traced in dirt at the absolution of the adulteress.
The unique, longed-for voice of the Good Shepherd.
The hunger of the starving prodigal son.
The running of the father to reunite with his lost son.
The robe and ring of the forgiving father.
The certainty impelling the tax collector to pray in the Temple.
The guest who makes himself at home in Zacchaeus’ house.
The summons raising Lazarus from his four-day-old tomb.
The beauty awakening the five wise virgins.
The largesse prompting the poor widow in the Temple.
The gaze of love cast on Peter at the point of his denial.
The gleam of Christ-washed feet.
The friendship bestowed by the Son of God.
The dwelling place prepared for us in the Father’s house.
The Presence alive in the Last Supper Bread and Wine.
The offer to Simon the Cyrenian to help carry Christ’s cross.
The forgiveness to those holding hammers on Calvary.
The assurance of paradise to every begging Good Thief.
The priceless gift given to us in the Motherhood of Mary.
The saving blood and water pouring from the Crucified’s side.
What is greater than darkness, sending the women to the tomb.

Feast of the Epiphany
January 2 & 3, 2016

Celebrant: The Wisemen seek the child-king born in a Bethlehem stable. Their gifts signify a grasp of his identity and mission: Gold to express his royal dignity; Frankincense to express the offering he would make; & Myrrh to express his burial. The Magi receive in return an extraordinary gift: seeing the child whose love would one day be proclaimed everywhere. They see the Word made flesh and it alters their lives forever. Let me offer you 3 points for reflection: (1) Make the journey to Christ. It is a daily conversion of our mind and heart from sin to God’s goodness. (2) Offer Christ the gift he wants, our love. (3) Note how the Wisemen take another route to avoid Herod. Our life too has to change direction! We must move away from what destroys the reign of Christ in our hearts and move toward our true home, which is heaven. We have to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that we may walk in the ways of the Lord!

Adapted from Archbishop Lori

SCRIPTURAL LITANY OF MERCY #2

Litany Composed by Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P. (MAGNIFICAT)

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Offered at the 9:30 AM Mass at Holy Family 12-20-15

Throughout the ages, almighty God has manifested his unfailing mercy.
Oh infinite, divine mercy, you are:

Response: Lord, have mercy on us.

Elijah’s unlimited jar of flour feeding the widow.
Elijah’s victory over the prophets of Baal.
The tiny whispering sound Elijah heard on the mountain.
The cure of Naaman the leper.
The new eyesight given to Tobit.
The conquering might of Judith.
The intervention of Esther that saved her people from destruction.
The valor of the mother with her seven martyred sons.
The compassion shown to Job.
The shepherd sung of by the Psalmist.
The lover sought in the Song of Songs.
Divine Wisdom, overlooking sins so that people may repent.
The comfort proclaimed by the Prophet Isaiah.
The expiation of guilt proclaimed by the Prophet Isaiah.
The wolf and the lamb grazing together.
The voice that formed us in our mother’s womb.
The new law within us, written on our heart.
The new heart and new spirit replacing our stony heart.
The spirit and flesh put on once-dry bones.
The rescue of the young men from the fiery furnace.
The espousal of the Lord of the unfaithful wife.
The fish that swallowed Jonah, saving him from drowning.
The preaching of Jonah, converting the great city of Nineveh.
The Day of the Lord foretold by the prophets.

Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 19 & 20, 2015

Celebrant: Almighty God and Father, You have created all things and know the desire of every heart. In this Year of Mercy, we reflect on your great love for us, and acknowledge our sinfulness and need for your healing mercy. Trusting that you never tire of forgiving us, we open our hearts to receive your forgiveness and love. Having encountered you, Mercy itself, and guided by the Holy Spirit, may we witness to the love we have received by sharing it with those most in need: the hungry, the homeless, the afflicted, and the oppressed. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Archdiocesan Prayer for Mercy)

SCRIPTURAL LITANY OF MERCY #1

Litany Composed by Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P.  (MAGNIFICAT)

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Offered at the 12 Noon Mass at Holy Family 12-13-15

Throughout the ages, almighty God has manifested his unfailing mercy.
Oh infinite, divine mercy, you are:

Response: Lord, have mercy on us.

Beauteous Creation brought forth from the abyss of nothingness.
The breath that turned muddy clay into a living human being.
The leather garments that clothed sinful man and woman.
The ark that saved Noah from the cataclysm of the flood.
The rainbow—sign of your covenant with the earth.
The halt put to building the haughty Tower of Babel.
The everlasting covenant made with Abraham.
The angel who stayed Abraham’s knife above his son Isaac.
The stairway shown to Jacob in a dream.
The forgiveness Joseph offered to his treacherous brothers.
The hope of liberation promised in the burning bush.
The miraculous passageway through the parted Red Sea.
The authority of Moses and the attained Promised Land.
The manna in the wilderness for those facing famine.
Flowing water to drink from a rock in the desert.
The gift of the tablets bearing the Ten Commandments.
The Ark of the Covenant.
The certainty that filled Joshua to serve God alone.
The strength of Samson.
The tenderness that moved Ruth to stay with Naomi.
The voice that beckoned Samuel in the nighttime.
The kingly anointing of Saul.
David’s defeat of the Philistine Goliath.
The Temple built by Solomon.

Third Sunday of Advent
December 12 & 13, 2015

Celebrant: What is mercy? Mercy is the experience of God’s love that forgives faults, heals hurts, and connects us more deeply to God and each other. Pope Francis describes mercy as “the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness” (MV, 2). This Advent as we prepare our hearts to welcome Jesus and to share His love, reflect on how you can open your heart to God’s mercy and share that mercy with friends, family, and those most in need.

(Archdiocesan Resource Prayer)

LITANY OF THE MERCY OF GOD

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Prayed on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (7:30 PM Mass)

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, Have mercy on us.

Response: We trust in You.

Mercy of God, supreme attribute of the Creator,
Mercy of God, greatest perfection of the Redeemer,
Mercy of God, unfathomable love of the Sanctifier,
Mercy of God, inconceivable mystery of the Holy Trinity,
Mercy of God, expression of the greatest power of the Most High,
Mercy of God, revealed in the creation of the heavenly Spirits,
Mercy of God, summoning us to existence out of nothingness,
Mercy of God, embracing the whole universe,
Mercy of God, bestowing upon us immortal life,
Mercy of God, shielding us from merited punishments,
Mercy of God, raising us from the misery of sin,
Mercy of God, justifying us in the Word Incarnate,
Mercy of God, flowing from the wounds of Christ,
Mercy of God, gushing from the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus,
Mercy of God, giving to us the Most Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother of Mercy,
Mercy of God, shown in the revelation of the Divine mysteries,
Mercy of God, manifested in the institution of the universal Church,
Mercy of God, contained in the institution of the Holy Sacraments,
Mercy of God, bestowed upon mankind in the Sacraments of Baptism & Penance,
Mercy of God, granted in the Sacraments of the Altar & the Priesthood,
Mercy of God, shown in calling us to the Holy Faith,
Mercy of God, revealed in the conversion of sinners,
Mercy of God, manifested in the sanctification of the just,
Mercy of God, fulfilled in the perfecting of the saintly,
Mercy of God, font of health for the sick & the suffering,
Mercy of God, solace of anguished hearts,
Mercy of God, hope of souls afflicted with despair,
Mercy of God, always and everywhere accompanying all people,
Mercy of God, anticipating us with graces,
Mercy of God, peace of the dying,
Mercy of God, refreshment & relief of the Souls in Purgatory,
Mercy of God, heavenly delight of the blessed,
Mercy of God, crown of all the Saints,
Mercy of God, inexhaustible source of miracles,

Lamb of God, Who did show us Your greatest mercy in redeeming the world on the Cross, Spare us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, Who mercifully offers Yourself for us in every Holy Mass, Graciously hear us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world through Your inexhaustible Mercy, Have mercy on us.

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.

V. The tender mercies of the Lord are over all His works.
R. The mercies of the Lord I will sing forever.

Let Us Pray.

O God, Whose Mercy is infinite and Whose treasures of pity are inexhaustible, graciously look down upon us and increase in us Thy Mercy so that we may never, even in the greatest trials, give way to despair, but may always trustfully conform ourselves to Thy Holy Will, which is Mercy itself. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Mercy, Who with Thee and the Holy Spirit doth show us Mercy forever and ever.

R. Amen.

Responding & Praying for a Critic of Catholicism

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PAUL:

You know Father Joe, you sound a lot like the secular scientist Richard Dawkins who if you don’t just take his word as fact without any REAL evidence, then “you’re stupid!”

You have only church practices to back your claim about Mary’s holiness.

If I’m not wrong, doesn’t God say, “There is none righteous, not a single one”? Doesn’t he say, “All have fallen away”?  Doesn’t he say, “All have fallen short of the glory of God”?  Now I’m sure you’ll have a very convincing argument for Mary’s not being included there but is that based on biblical teachings or the churches practice?

What did Christ day about the teachers of the law? Be careful to judge others Father Joe lest you be judged likewise!

There’s only 1 Judge I know. I’d appreciate you not praying for me thanks as you’ll probably go in front of a statue of Mary to do so. It’s no wonder Jesus called the teachers hypocrites!

P.S. If you can’t reply without so much anger in you, maybe it’s time for you to shut down your blog eh? FATHER and LEADER of the flock!

FATHER JOE:

Ignorance is not the same as stupidity, or at least it need not be.  We can be properly informed and grow in the truth.  Dawkins negates any philosophy or religion that falls outside of his limited scope for truth.  Dawkins does not deny all evidence, but he does throw out much of the richness that belongs to human culture and genius.  I throw nothing out.  We can be informed through science, philosophy and religion.  We can be edified by mathematics or a poetic sonnet.  We can learn from dissertations or from fanciful myths.  I believe that God speaks to us in natural law and in his revealed Word.  How is it then that I am like Dawkins?  Indeed, would you not be the one to show him essential agreement and kinship in discounting Sacred Tradition and the teaching role of the Magisterium?

Actually, in regard to Mary’s holiness, we have the testimony of Scripture, as I have earnestly attempted to demonstrate to you.  You are the one who would question Mary’s divine election as the immaculate Mother of our Savior.  Why would you question God’s providence or his power to give his Son a pure vessel through which to enter our world?  Original sin was passed to us through human generation.  It would make no sense for Christ as the All Holy One to take his humanity from sinful flesh.  The privilege of the Immaculate Conception was not simply to honor Mary but to protect the divine dignity of Jesus Christ.  Mary is hailed by an angel as “full of grace.”  She is the most favored daughter of God chosen to be the holy Mother of the Messiah.

Yes, all have fallen short of the glory of God.  Yes, we are sinners.  It was precisely for this reason that Mary calls Jesus her Savior.  However, in her case there is prevenient grace.  Mary is preserved from sin by the same saving Cross that transforms us through faith and baptism.  Mary does not save herself.  Jesus does for her what he will do for us who believe in him.

The testimony of Scripture comes to us through a living Church.  It must be understood within the context of the tenets and worship of that faith community.  Your rejection of the Church and her traditions results in numerous false interpretations.  However, I doubt you will appreciate how the disjointed interpretations you give are severed from any kind of logical or authentic hermeneutics.

Our Lord criticized the Pharisees and Scribes as blind guides and hypocrites, but he did not deny that they received their authority from God.

“The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice” (Matthew 23:2-3).

The Pope sits in the cathedra or chair of St. Peter, to whom our Lord gave the keys of the kingdom and renamed as the ROCK upon which he would establish his Church.  The Magisterium is composed of those bishops who teach in unity with him Priests are also given apostolic orders and are charged to teach what the Church teaches.  Thus, you may not think much of me, but if you were consistent, you would take seriously to observe what the Catholic Church teaches.  Instead, you ridicule the messengers and reject the message.  If you do so from ignorance then you may still be open to Christ’s mercy.  If you do so from enmity, then the warning about judgment also applies to you.

Christ will judge souls, but the teaching Church and her ministers are charged to proclaim the truths of faith.

Why would you reject my offer of intercessory prayer for you?  Is it just because of an expressed malice against Mary?  I fear that a proper discernment of spirit would disclose a poorly disguised diabolical oppression.  On this account I will redouble my efforts.

“Dear Lord Jesus, you made yourself a slave so that men might be free.  You were renounced by the crowd so that we might be claimed by God as his children.  You were mocked by the soldiers and crowned with thorns all so that we might be made members of your kingdom.  You suffered the scourging and passion so that a broken world might be healed.  You died on the Cross so that we might live.  Dear Jesus, you are the SAVING NAME, and we ask you to open the eyes and to soften the heart of Paul who has commented on this Blog.  Let him know the love you have for him.  Forgive his sins and join him ever closer to the family of faith.  We offer this prayer in Jesus’ Name, the one who is the Son of God and the Son of Mary.  Amen.”

Again, I will extend to you the Peace of Christ.

Establishing a Home Altar or Shrine

There are some who put up wood cabinets, either free-standing or in the wall. These can be quite nice but also expensive. The top of a small wall table, mantle or shelf might do as well. The use of a cabinet makes it easier to store additional religious items.

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The home altar is a place for family and individual prayer but is also a visible reminder of our Catholicity. Every home should make room for Jesus and have visible signs of faith and divine protection. What does one place upon the altar? There should be a standing crucifix or one attached immediately to the wall behind the shelf or table. Often there is a statue of the Blessed Mother although one might substitute a statue of the Holy Family.

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If Mary is depicted alone then a parallel statue of St. Joseph might be in order. I am also a proponent that every home should be consecrated to the Sacred Heart. Either a statue or picture of the Sacred Heart should be displayed. Candles are traditional and some would add flowers. There should be Holy Water (font and bottle). Medals associated with devotions could be placed on the altar. The rosaries of family members may either sit upon the table or hooks adjacent in the wall or mantle itself. Various Holy Cards of special patrons could be set there. There should always be a Bible and individual prayer books. Many also include a missal so that if Mass attendance is impossible, the readings of the day can be studied. If a table is used, then a nice linen cloth should cover the top.

Here are a few suggestions that can be purchased online:

Large Standing San Damiano Marble Resin Cross Crucifix

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Holy Family Jesus Mary Joseph Religious Figurine

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Design Toscano Blessed Virgin Mary Statue

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12 Inch Sacred Heart Of Jesus Holy Figurine

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Saint Joseph with Child Statue

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Holy Spirit Holy Water Font

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Votive Candle Holders (use inexpensive tea lights)

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St. Joseph Daily & Sunday Missal

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The Didache Bible: Ignatius Bible (RSV-2CE) Edition

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Catholic Prayer Books

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8 Oz Holy Water Bottle / 5 oz Stainless Steel Round Holy Water Bottle

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San Damiano Corded Wood Rosary / Madonna and Child Hematite Rosary

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Community, Intercession & Apostolic Men

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CHARLES:

You are simply ridiculous!

Only God can forgive sin. The only way a person can get God to forgive his sins is through God’s Son and perfect sacrifice, Jesus. The way to the Father is through the Son. There is nowhere is Scripture that says priests can forgive sin. It is quite clear when Jesus healed the paralytic that only God and the Son could forgive sin.

FATHER JOE:

Yes, since sin is an offense against almighty God, it belongs to God to forgive sin. This is not contended. Where we disagree is about how goes about pouring his mercy upon us. The incarnation is a theme that runs through Catholic doctrine. God is made present in Jesus Christ. Jesus who is God is made present in his Word. Jesus who is God is made present in his Church. Jesus who is God is active in his ministers or priests. Jesus who is God is present and saving in his sacraments. The Mass offered by ordained priests is understood as a re-presentation of the saving oblation of Jesus. The ordained presbyter participates in the one (high) priesthood of Jesus Christ.

Christ is the center of everything. He is the divine pontifex or bridge to the Father. There is no way to the Father except through the Son. All this is Catholic teaching. None are saved apart from Christ. Your assertion that the Scriptures do not support the ministry of reconciliation cannot be substantiated. Indeed, it would make no sense for Jesus to establish a Church and then to make her impotent to extend his forgiveness. The work of Jesus is the work of the Church— the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of souls.

Here are some pertinent Scriptures:

Matthew 16:19 – “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

John 20:23 – Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 – So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

James 5: 16 – Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.

James 5: 19-20 – My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

CHARLES:

In Mark 2:5-12, with the healing of the paralytic, Jesus did not correct the scribes because there was nothing to correct. No one but God and the Son can forgive sin.

FATHER JOE:

Twice you have made a distinction between “God and the Son.” You do understand that Jesus is God, right? God in Jesus Christ is revealed as “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Actually, the scribes are questioned for their “reasoning about these things” in their “hearts.” They are not only desperately trying not to believe but not to love. Jesus heals the paralytic to prove that he has the power to both heal and forgive. The physical operation points to the spiritual. We will later see similar miracles in the ministry of his apostles. They will be imbued with Christ’s power and something of his authority.

CHARLES:

Secondly in John 20:23, Jesus was not speaking about priests. He was speaking about Apostles and their special authority that was given to them. Nothing in Scripture says “Apostle Authority” can be passed down, e.g. the authority to forgive sin and to write Scripture. However it does mention appointing elders. Priests are being ordained as elders not as Apostles. They did not inherit any special “Apostle Authority” and frankly there is nothing to suggest they did.

FATHER JOE:

Actually, it was only with the reformation some 1,500 years later that this succession in authority and transmission of power was questioned. The Apostles would lay hands upon their successors, the Episcopoi or Bishops and they in turn would ordain Presbyters (Priests) and Deacons. We find this truth fully realized in the early Church, especially during the Patristic Period. You speak from a severe ignorance of history. Indeed, even within the period of the Acts of the Apostles, the numbers of apostles expands beyond the dozen that followed Christ. Christ established a Church and gave men to shepherd in his name. It would make no sense to do so and then strip that Church of his saving presence and power.

CHARLES:

The simple fact of the matter is the Catholic Church is corrupt and “gave” itself the “authority” to forgive sin in order to fund its coffers through indulgences and encourage men to sign up for the Crusades and go to Heaven.

FATHER JOE:

There is no fact here at all, just a bigoted opinion. Our Lord called sinners to himself and the Church does the same. The Church is holy because Christ is holy. Indulgences were abused by some but reflected our sense of communion with the saints. The merits of Christ have lasting value, both those performed by him and those made possible with him in others. As for the Crusades, they were an attempt to keep the Holy Land open to pilgrims and to defend the Christian faith. Again, there were abuses, but this was the central thrust. The Western world is again threatened by a radical militant Islam; but this time will there be any Christian Knights to defend it?

CHARLES:

Since only God can forgive sin, praying to God is all the matters. Priests, the saints or Mary are not needed as intermediaries. Thinking of them in any such way (besides people whose actions should be emulated) clouds the direct link between people, God, and the forgiveness of sin through his Son.

FATHER JOE:

Your religion collapses under numerous contradictions. You deny the Church any legitimacy, and along with it reject true fellowship in Christ, the communion of the saints, priestly ministry, and the sacraments. You would not even have a Bible were it not for the Church that collected the books, translated the texts and transmitted it down through the centuries. Christ said that he came to establish a Church and yet you seem to miss that important biblical truth. Just as the Jews needed each other and even made atonement for the dead; so do Catholic Christians. Devotion goes way beyond hero worship or simple imitation. We are bonded to them in love and love is always active. Love always has a role. When our Lord tells us to abide in LOVE, this is precisely what he means. Love is more than sentiment or empty words. Love is always realized in prayerful intercession and acts of charity. Otherwise, it is not really love. It is foolish and arrogant to think otherwise.

CHARLES:

Also praying to God doesn’t change anything except for forgiveness from sin. God is perfect and as such never changes his mind. How could we trust a covenant with Him if he changed his mind? God may use prayers as a mechanism of miracles but they did not “convince” God to do anything. He was already planning on doing it. So intercession from a horde of saints and Mary has no effect. This isn’t a democracy. More or less voices in support a person don’t change anything. Praying to saints doesn’t make it more or less likely that a miracle will happen.

FATHER JOE:

You miss the whole point. Prayer is never about changing God but about transforming us. God is the source and the fruit of our prayer. The Holy Spirit gives us faith and makes prayer possible. God is perfect but we are sinners. While the Scriptures speak in an anthropomorphic way about God, Catholicism appreciates the philosophical concept of God as the Unmoved Mover. In other words, in God as Spirit there is no potency. It is peculiar that you have borrowed these Catholic principles given that they are not clearly found in Scripture but rather in Church tradition and philosophy.

God knows what we need and yet he wants us to call upon him. It may seem that he anticipates our requests, because from our perspective he answers— God always answers. Prayer or dialogue with God is not about changing God’s mind but about conforming our own hearts and minds more closely with Christ’s. It is in Christ, a divine Person incarnate, that we experience the revelation of God that makes a supernatural faith possible. If we pray with faith, we are told that trees can be uprooted and mountains moved. Would you deny the Bible on this? We can join with one another in our prayers— both the living in pilgrimage on earth and the living in glory within heaven. Prayer like sacraments have efficacy because the Spirit of God has power. Catholics do not view God as a genie in a lamp upon which we can press our wishes. When we pray to God it is always approach from the posture of humility. The Catholic stance always echoes, “Thy will be done.”

CHARLES:

Prayer is meant to form a more personal relationship with God and for people to find forgiveness with God. By praying to Mary or Saints this goal is obscured and misconceptions regarding the truth of forgiveness and salvation are formed. This is why Protestants don’t do it. The only way to salvation is through the Son. All this other hogwash is just obscuring and confusing this fact.

FATHER JOE:

Your reductionism of prayer is pathetic. Before you would try to teach others, you need to be better informed. Otherwise, the blind will lead the blind. I know informed Protestants who would be embarrassed by your caricatures of Catholicism and by statements that conflict with teachings in their own denominations.

As I said before, Christ and his redemptive work opens the gates of heaven to us. He makes possible our approach to the Father. This is Catholic and Protestant belief. Protestants disagree (in some cases) about intercessory prayer because of views about justification or the status of the saints in heaven. How would I as a Catholic priest explain prayer?

Prayer, at its heart, is communication with God. All true prayer, even intercessory prayer, has as its proper object— almighty God. Prayer is both personal and communal. We approach God as individuals and as members of a faith family. The prayer we first learn as children is the GIMME prayer. Some adults never learn any other type of prayer. This is sad, even tragic. It can make us selfish, concerned with “self” instead of with “other.”

There is nothing wrong with petition but it is not sufficient by itself. We submit our needs before God knowing that he loves us and will provide for us. All prayer acknowledges the basic dependence of the creature upon the Creator.
The most important oration is that of the saints and angels. It should also be ours— the prayer of praise or adoration. We honor God just for being God. He is the source of our existence. Something of his majesty shines back to us through the order and beauty of creation. We praise God, yes even if nothing should be received in return. He is all perfect, all knowing, all loving, and all good. Glory be to God! Hosanna in the Highest! Alleluia!

There are also prayers of contrition where we approach God with sorrow over sin, desiring his mercy. Imperfect contrition would have us fear the loss of heaven and the pains of hell; perfect contrition would have us grieve in love over how our sins afflicted the Sacred Heart, literally the source for our Lord’s Passion and Death. It saddens us that we have offended God when we should have loved him above all things. Christ, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

There is also a place for Thanksgiving. Indeed, the word EUCHARIST means to give thanks. Catholics thank the Lord in their morning offerings and evening prayers. We thank God before meals. We thank him at the Eucharist or Mass, the great communal prayer that has within it all the forms of prayer.

The Eucharist is viewed as our opportunity to enter into the prayer or saving action of Christ. It is are-presentation of Calvary. We encounter both the saving REAL PRESENCE of Christ in Holy Communion, but also his oblation that makes true atonement for all the sins of the world. It is a command performance. The Lord told his apostles at the Last Supper to “do this in remembrance of me.” The word that helps us to understand here is “amnesis,” meaning that which is remembered is made present. Jesus refers to himself at the Supper as the Lamb of God. He shares the cup of his covenant. A covenant cannot be established with fake blood— only real blood. There is a great mystery given believers. Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the word, have mercy on us! Grant us peace!

CHARLES:

The “Church” is rotten to the core: centuries of corruption, war, theft, distortion of Scripture, and the covering up of sexual abuse of children. Continually chanting that “the Catholic Church” is the only true Church changes nothing. I can safely say Jesus would be disgusted by the Pope sitting on his golden throne as children starve across the world and lack basic education and medicine.

FATHER JOE:

The Church was instituted by Christ and preserved by the Holy Spirit. Condemnation of the Church is blasphemy against God’s handiwork. Your criticism also trespasses into the area of sinful calumny. It is one thing to be critical; it is another to be prejudiced. You are the latter. The history of the Church is the history of the world. The legacy of the Church is the testimony and witness of the saints. We still live in a world of corruption, war and greed. Often the Church is the one voice which speaks out for healing, peace and charity. You would silence this voice; or worse yet, to allow the sins of a few to negate the blessings and miracles she has brought into the world. The Catholic Church is the Mother of the Bible. The distortion belongs to those who dismiss her life you. You define yourself by your hatred of all things Catholic. The Catholic Church has done more to protect children and to care for the world’s poor than any other non-governmental institution. I bet you have done little or nothing for the poor and hurting, either at home or around the world. We run thousands of schools and hospitals and yet you condemn the Church for leaving people in ignorance and sickness. Hypocrite, deal with the plank in your own eye before condemning the Church and others for the splinter in theirs!