Summer…offers the opportunity to refresh our spiritual lives…

One of the great treasures of the Church is the variety of spiritual resources available for personal prayer and reflection. While it is important to take advantage of more formal prayer especially Holy Mass, receive the sacraments especially confession, and participate in spiritually powerful devotions like adoration and the rosary, brief daily readings that invite us to reflect on our lives and our personal relationship with Jesus Christ can be especially helpful.

Some are recommended elsewhere in this edition of The Bishop’s Bulletin.There are two that are currently part of my daily prayer. One is “My Daily Bread” first published in 1954 and authored by Rev. Anthony J. Paone, S.J. (Confraternity of the Precious Blood). It was a gift to me on my ordination to the priesthood 29 years ago. I use it for reflection every few years.

The introduction sets the scene: “If, like Mary, the sister of Lazarus, we had the privilege of sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to his precious words of wisdom, peace and joy, who would refuse to do so?” Each brief chapter has a statement as if God is talking to us, a ‘think’ reflection in response to that statement and a prayer of personal response. They are not inspired Scripture but reflect scriptural themes.

One conversation that especially resonated with me recently was entitled “The Voice of Conscience.” It reads in part:

“3. No one can safely enjoy life except the man whose conscience is clear. The wicked never have true joy nor real interior peace. They may say that they have peace and that they never expect or fear harm from above. Either they are lying or they are fools…A bad conscience is afraid and disturbed. A good conscience has peace even in time of hardship. The good man’s glory lies in the testimony of a clear conscience.”

The prayer in this section begins: “Dear Lord, grant that I may never be insincere in my daily life. Let me always have the strength, the courage and the loyalty to follow what is right.” This gives me pause as I reflect on my conscience and the strength of my courage or its lack.

Another is entitled “Visits to the Blessed Sacrament.” It reads in part:

“People come to Me for different reasons. Some come only on Sundays and holy days, through a sense of obligation…There are those who come to me through mere habit. They act automatically, without any particular devotion to Me. There are however a certain number who come to Me for the best reason. They come because they are glad to be near Me…They receive many extra graces which are not granted to others…You too have the opportunity to give me your time and attention…You have the privilege of kneeling before Me like the simple, wonderful shepherds; the tired, admiring Magi; the suffering begging leper; the penitent, hopeful Magdalene; the convinced, converted Thomas. How are you taking advantage of this privilege.”

Included in the prayer is this yearning: “This sacrament is a living proof of Your love for me. I hope to show my love for you by a greater devotion toward you from now on.”

It gives me pause as one privileged to serve in persona Christi at Holy Mass. Do I allow it to become an obligation, a habit, or am I humbled to be so near Him?

The second spiritual guide in my daily prayer is a recent discovery “When the Lord Speaks to Your Heart” authored by Father Gaston Courtois first published in French in 1991 and available in English only last year (Pauline Books and Media). It is based on the notes written by the priest which he jotted down as thoughts came to him which he attributed to God.

Several have pricked my conscience and challenged me.

“Nothing is more subtle than the poison of pride in a priest’s soul. You yourself have often experienced it. Take your brethren upon yourself, especially those for whom apparent and momentary successes risk turning heads. If only people would think about Me instead of thinking about themselves. This is why the contemplative life, faithfully lived, brings security and a precious equilibrium.”

“Today out of pride too many people, too many priests, think they are authorized to reform the Church. Instead they should begin by reforming themselves and forming around them faithful disciples who will not listen to what they think, but to what I myself think”

As a recommendation for a daily prayer:

“O Jesus, grant me to be in you and for you what you want me to be. Grant me to think in you and for you what you want me to think. Grant me to say in you and for you what you want me to say. Give me to love in you and for you all those whom you give me to love. Give me courage to suffer in you and for you with love what you want me to suffer. Make me seek you always and everywhere in order that you may guide and purify me according to your divine will.”

Summer is a more relaxed time which offers the opportunity to refresh our spiritual lives and taste the many spiritual resources available to prick our consciences, strengthen our appreciation for our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, confront the pre-eminent sin of pride, and to open our hearts more fully to the divine will. May your summer be restful with family and friends and inspirational as you sit at the feet of the Lord and listen for his words of wisdom, peace and joy.

Bishop Swain's Column, July 2017