Catholic Church: August 2002 Archives

One More Time--Audience in Krakow

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Here is a wonderful reflection from the Wednesday Audience held in Poland. The prayer at the end is, again, exemplary.

From the Wednesday 21 August 2002 Audience in Krakow, (?) Poland
John Paul II

4. My pilgrimage then took me to Kalwaria Zebrzydowska to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the shrine dedicated to the Passion of Jesus and to our Lady of Sorrows. I have been attached to that holy place since childhood. I often experienced there how the Mother of God, Our Lady of Grace, turns her merciful eyes to afflicted humanity, in need of her wisdom and help.

After Czestochowa, it is one of the better known and visited shrines of Poland to which the faithful come even from the countries nearby. After travelling the paths of the Way of the Cross and of the Compassion of the Mother of God, the pilgrims pause to pray before the ancient and miraculous image of Mary, our Advocate, who welcomes them with eyes filled with love. Beside her, one can perceive and understand the mysterious bond between the "suffering" (patě) Redeemer on Calvary and his "co-suffering" (compatě) Mother at the foot of the Cross. In this communion of love in suffering it is easy to discern the source of the power of intercession which the prayer of the Virgin Mary has for us, her children.

Let us ask Our Lady to kindle in our hearts the spark of the grace of God and to help us transmit to the world the fire of Divine Mercy. May Mary obtain for all people the gift of unity and peace:  unity of faith, unity of spirit and of thought, unity of families; peace of hearts, peace of nations and of the world, while we wait for Christ to return in glory.

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A Response to Mr. Shea

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It is with some trepidation that I consider venturing into this nearly sacred area. I know how well Mr. Shea is liked, and indeed, I find his work enlightening and amusing, but occasionally a trifle harsh. This post is one that disturbed me.

Here's a bogus factoid from the article: "Sexual abstinence is nothing new, of course: it is prescribed for Muslims from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, Roman Catholics during Lent and Orthodox Jews during a woman's menstrual period."

"Of course"? I missed the memo from the Vatican instructing all Catholics to abstain from sex during Lent. Or might it just be that the reporter is yet another ignoramus from the NY Times who heard something once in a college bull session and now repeats it as gospel. Maybe she mistook the movie "40 Days" for the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Now, I do not claim to be an expert on Church history, nor on all the practices of the Church; however, it seems from all the medieval history I've read that abstinence during lent included abstinence from sex. It is a key theme in the Kristinlavransdatter series. Yes, I know it is medieval times, but I do not know whether the practice continued until the present day in remote areas or what Catholic teaching pre- and post-Vatican II may have been. However, I do wish to acknowledge that at one time this may have been common practice even it not church teaching.

The reporter certainly needs to update her records if she is reporting medieval cultural practice as modern church teaching, but I shy away from the language used to describe the reporter. Even if true, it is hardly charitable unless said directly to her face with the hope of correcting the dismaying trend observed by Mr. Shea. Didn't Jesus say something about calling thy Brother "Racha! Thou fool." I tend to take that admonition very seriously as I spend a goodly portion of each of my days being a fool, I don't know that I'd like to have it identified every time it happened. I haven't achieved that pinnacle of humility yet.

[Later note: The ever-courteous Mr. Shea stopped by and helped me to significantly improve the post above. He truly is an apologist and a gentleman. I mean that seriously, thank you, Mr. Shea.

Please visit and read Mr. Shea's very funny and very gracious revision of aforementioned post.]

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The Prayer of Silence

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Different book this time:

Meditations Before Mass Romano Guardini

Stillness is the tranquility of the inner life; the quiet at the depths of its hidden stream. It is a collected, total presence, a being "all there," receptive, alert, ready. There is nothing inert or oppressive about it. . . .

"Congregation," not merely people. Churchgoers arriving, sitting, or kneeling in pews are not necessarily a congregation; they can be simply a roomful of more or less pious individuals. Congregation is formed only when those individuals are present not only corporally but also spiritually, when they have contacted one another in prayer and step together into the spiritual "space" around them; strictly speaking, when they have first widened and heightened that space by prayer. Then true congregation comes into being, which, along with the building that is its architectural expression, forms the vital church in which the sacred act is accomplished. All this takes place only in stillness; out of stillness grows the real sanctuary.


While this is undoubtedly true of mass (and one of the reasons I tend to impatience for people who wander in with a hale-fellow-well-met attitude) it is doubly true of all prayer. Prayer is encased in a house of silence. Outside of silence, prayer becomes just more roaring against the sound of the rushing wind of culture. That is not to say that God does not hear it, because of course He does. However, it is not the kind of praise that rises like an incense to the throne of heaven.

For prayer to be truly pleasing to God it must be of the sort that makes one completely present to God. Such prayer is not acquired in the short run, and ultimately its final stage is not acquired at all. However, one must dispose oneself to receive the gift of infused contemplation. One of the ways of doing so is to practice this "prayer of silence." In addition, the prayer offers the person praying innumerable benefits stemming from a "mental vacation from the world." It "recharges the batteries" and makes one more capable of coping with what occurs in everyday life. It helps one to experience the presence of God in all of life's activities. It helps one to empty oneself to be filled with the Holy Spirit. In short, it opens the doors to greater levels of prayer..

But it isn't easy, and it isn't a short road. It may take years, perhaps decades. But, as with the bloom of the Century Plant, it is both spectacular and worth waiting for. In the prayer of silence, we take the first steps toward becoming like our grand model of prayer, the Holy Mother of God. We learn to "ponder these things in our hearts" and to derive from them great joy and peace. The prayer of silence, it would seem to me, is one of the most effective tools on the road to lifestyle evangelism because it causes a fundamental change in the person who is doing it consistently. From agitated and worried to peaceful and trusting, the prayer of silence changes lives.

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More about the Rosary

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I must first say that I find much of what goes on at Disputations is well beyond my immediate ken. But I profoundly admire the spirituality and understanding that seems to come from the site. Continuing an extremely fruitful strain on the Rosary:

The goal of the Christian life is perfection in Christ. Praying the Rosary is a tremendously effective aid to achieving this goal, but it doesn't work by magic. If it is not helping you to become perfect in Christ -- although, as I've written before, it takes some time and effort to be sure about this -- then don't pray it.

Insight like this will keep me going back to Disputations even when posts like this make my head spin:

St. Thomas Aquinas, taking up the question of whether contemplation is the cause of devotion, considers this objection:

[I]f contemplation were the proper and essential cause of devotion, the higher objects of contemplation would arouse greater devotion. But the contrary is the case: since frequently we are urged to greater devotion by considering Christ's Passion and other mysteries of His humanity than by considering the greatness of His Godhead.

Yes, I know, it's merely a matter of applying myself. But I must confess a certain sympathy for the woman described in Chesterton's biography, St. Thomas Aquinas:

A lady I know picked up a book of selections from St. Thomas with a commentary; and began hopefully to read a section with the innocent heading, "The Simplicity of God." She then laid down the book with a sigh and said, "Well, if that's His simplicity, I wonder what His complexity is like."
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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Catholic Church category from August 2002.

Catholic Church: July 2002 is the previous archive.

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