Pray for the Church…

Isaiah 6:1-3 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’

It is good to remind ourselves especially in times of darkness that the glory of the Lord is eternally present and praised in heaven. Here on earth, however, we are continually reminded of the need for prayers for the Church and the world. Indeed, God is counting on our daily prayers for the Church, and for all those in leadership. I realize I am preaching to the choir, but it doesn’t hurt to highlight this critical duty of ours to pray daily for the Church. The more society descends into darkness, the more it will hate the light of Christ.

The recent abominable, murderous law passed in New York allowing for abortion up to birth and potentially beyond is just one example. The UN itself has factions that threaten to make Church teachings “crimes against humanity” using terms like, “forced pregnancy” to justify abortion on demand at any stage. That is just to mention one issue. There are many, of course. A great persecution is certainly here and coming.

A few days ago, I woke up suddenly at 5:00 am having had a disturbing dream. I was in a school building, alone in a classroom, having stopped for a drink of water before re-joining the rest of the group. A woman came into the room, smartly dressed in black and white. I knew her as a government official. She was accompanied by a boy, around 10 or 11 years old, and he was carrying a baseball bat. She said to me, in a matter-of-fact tone, “Hold out your hand.” I knew three things, that the child was going to smash my hand with the bat as an example to the others, that the woman’s power was absolute and no one could help me, and that her choosing me for punishment was arbitrary. I was no better or worse than anyone else in the school, I was just available. Just being affiliated with that school was all that was required to warrant arbitrary punishment. The boy seemed ambivalent about it all. He would do what was expected.

I woke with a start and felt that this represented the next phase of the persecution coming upon the Western Church (it is already happening elsewhere). During my morning prayers that same day, two passages from the Liturgy of the Hours seemed to confirm what I felt the dream had meant.

The prayer after one of the psalms read:

“Lord Jesus, you foretold that we would share in the persecutions that brought you to a violent death. The Church formed at the cost of your precious blood is even now conformed to your Passion; may it be transformed, now and eternally, but the power of your resurrection.”

(Thursday Week IV, Office of Readings, prayer after Psalm III)

The second confirmation came on the same day in the Office of Readings:

From the Catechesis by St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Even in time of persecution let the Cross be your joy

The Catholic Church glories in every deed of Christ. Her supreme glory, however, is the cross. Well aware of this, Paul says: God forbid that I glory in anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!

At Siloam, there was a sense of wonder, and rightly so: a man born blind recovered his sight. But of what importance is this, when there are so many blind people in the world? Lazarus rose from the dead, but even this affected only Lazarus: what of those countless numbers who have died because of their sins? Those miraculous loaves fed five thousand people; yet this is a small number compared to those all over the world who were starved by ignorance. After eighteen years a woman was freed from the bondage of Satan; but are we not all shackled by the chains of our own sins?

For us all, however, the cross is the crown of victory. It has brought light to those blinded by ignorance. It has released those enslaved by sin. Indeed, it has redeemed the whole of mankind!

Do not, then, be ashamed of the cross of Christ; rather, glory in it. Although it is a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles, the message of the cross is our salvation. Of course it is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it was not a mere man who died for us, but the Son of God, God made man.

In the Mosaic law a sacrificial lamb banished the destroyer. But now it is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Will he not free us from our sins even more? The blood of an animal, a sheep, brought salvation. Will not the blood of the only-begotten Son bring us greater salvation?

He was not killed by violence, he was not forced to give up his life: his was a willing sacrifice. Listen to his own words: I have the power to lay down my life and take it up again. Yes, he willingly submitted to his own passion. He took joy in his achievement; in his crown of victory he was glad and in the salvation of man he rejoiced. He did not blush at the cross, for by it he was to save the world. No, it was not a lowly man who suffered, but God incarnate. He entered the contest for the reward he would win by his patient endurance.

Certainly in times of tranquility the cross should give you joy. But maintain the same faith in times of persecution. Otherwise you will be a friend of Jesus in times of peace and his enemy during war. Now you receive the forgiveness of your sins and the generous gift of grace from your king. When war comes, fight courageously for him.

Jesus never sinned; yet he was crucified for you. Will you refuse to be crucified for him, who for your sake was nailed to the cross? You are not the one who gives the favour; you have received one first. For your sake he was crucified on Golgotha. Now you are returning his favour: you are fulfilling your debt to him.

(Thursday Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Office of Readings, Second Reading)

This is indeed a powerful reading. Let us pray for grace and strength for ourselves and for the Church. God has not left us orphaned. He has given us many powerful graces to defeat the enemy. After I woke from the dream, I spent half an hour praying the Flame of Love prayer: “Holy Mary, Mother of God spread the effect of grace of Thy Flame of Love over all of humanity now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

This month, there will be an “anti-abuse” meeting at the Vatican from Feb. 21-24. We should consider how we can support this meeting with our prayers and sacrifices. In addition, Pope Francis is endeavoring to reshape the Roman Curia and the College of Cardinals. May the Holy Spirit lead and guide him! Again, let us turn up the spiritual heat to support him with our ever more fervent daily prayers. We can always do more as St. Francis of Assisi said often towards the end of his life: “Let us begin again, brothers, for up until now, we have done little or nothing.”

While it is a good practice to regularly evaluate how we spend the precious gift of time especially to see if more time could be spent in prayer, sometimes it may be that we just need to pray better, doing the things we already do with the firm intention of uniting our paltry efforts with Jesus on the Cross in the Divine Will.

One of the little prayers we pray so often that we may be in danger of taking it for granted, is the Glory Be. I listened to one of Fr. Robert Young’s talks on the life and writings of Luisa Piccarreta recently (found at https://divinewilllife.org). She once had a vision of the whole heavenly court as they praised God, continuously intoning the first part of that prayer: “Glory Be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit…” She then felt a strong call to respond: “…as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.” Jesus then explained to her that by participating in the Divine Will with the angels and saints in the ongoing praise of God in heaven, she was able to connect heaven to earth and earth to heaven in the eternal act of praise that all creatures owe to their Creator-God.

This is certainly worth pondering. Since hearing that, I have found it brings new life and an ever-more glorious mission to this little, eternally powerful, often-repeated prayer! This little prayer in the Divine Will, is a bridge of praise connecting the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant for the glory of God and serves to hasten the coming of His kingdom.

Praise of the Lord poisons the air for demons. Let us pray this little but mighty prayer with renewed fervor, in concert with the Church Triumphant, that evil may be defeated in the Church and in our broken world.

May His Holy will be done; may His kingdom come and come quickly; may His holy Name be glorified now and forever!

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