Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Battle of Prayer

Homily, 29th Sunday, Ordinary Time, Cycle C
Fr. Paul D. Williams, Jr., St. Joseph's, Dalton, Georgia

Here are some excerpts from the Catechism that I used in my sermon today on The Battle of Prayer. The Catechism is a great source for meditations. You can read the section directly from the Catechism of the Catholic Church in English here and en Español aquí.

ARTICLE 2 THE BATTLE OF PRAYER 2725 Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God...

I. OBJECTIONS TO PRAYER 2726 In the battle of prayer, we must face in ourselves and around us erroneous notions of prayer. Some people view prayer as a simple psychological activity, others as an effort of concentration to reach a mental void. Still others reduce prayer to ritual words and postures. Many Christians unconsciously regard prayer as an occupation that is incompatible with all the other things they have to do: they "don't have the time." Those who seek God by prayer are quickly discouraged because they do not know that prayer comes also from the Holy Spirit and not from themselves alone.

2728 Finally, our battle has to confront what we experience as failure in prayer: discouragement during periods of dryness; sadness that, because we have "great possessions," we have not given all to the Lord; disappointment over not being heard according to our own will; wounded pride, stiffened by the indignity that is ours as sinners; our resistance to the idea that prayer is a free and unmerited gift; and so forth. The conclusion is always the same: what good does it do to pray? To overcome these obstacles, we must battle to gain humility, trust, and perseverance.

II. HUMBLE VIGILANCE OF HEART Facing difficulties in prayer 2729 The habitual difficulty in prayer is distraction... To set about hunting down distractions would be to fall into their trap, when all that is necessary is to turn back to our heart: for a distraction reveals to us what we are attached to, and this humble awareness before the Lord should awaken our preferential love for him and lead us resolutely to offer him our heart to be purified. Therein lies the battle, the choice of which master to serve.

2731 Another difficulty, especially for those who sincerely want to pray, is dryness. Dryness belongs to contemplative prayer when the heart is separated from God, with no taste for thoughts, memories, and feelings, even spiritual ones. This is the moment of sheer faith clinging faithfully to Jesus in his agony and in his tomb...

Facing temptations in prayer 2732 The most common yet most hidden temptation is our lack of faith. It expresses itself less by declared incredulity than by our actual preferences. When we begin to pray, a thousand labors or cares thought to be urgent vie for priority; once again, it is the moment of truth for the heart: what is its real love? Sometimes we turn to the Lord as a last resort, but do we really believe he is? Sometimes we enlist the Lord as an ally, but our heart remains presumptuous. In each case, our lack of faith reveals that we do not yet share in the disposition of a humble heart: "Apart from me, you can do nothing."

III. FILIAL TRUST 2734 Filial trust is tested - it proves itself - in tribulation. The principal difficulty concerns the prayer of petition, for oneself or for others in intercession. Some even stop praying because they think their petition is not heard. Here two questions should be asked: Why do we think our petition has not been heard? How is our prayer heard, how is it "efficacious"?

Why do we complain of not being heard? 2735 What is the image of God that motivates our prayer: an instrument to be used? or the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?

2736 Are we convinced that "we do not know how to pray as we ought"? Are we asking God for "what is good for us"? Our Father knows what we need before we ask him, but he awaits our petition because the dignity of his children lies in their freedom. We must pray, then, with his Spirit of freedom, to be able truly to know what he wants.

2737 Do not be troubled if you do not immediately receive from God what you ask him; for he desires to do something even greater for you, while you cling to him in prayer. God wills that our desire should be exercised in prayer, that we may be able to receive what he is prepared to give.

IV. PERSERVERING IN LOVE 2742 [St. Paul] "Pray constantly... Pray at all times in the Spirit... it has been laid down that we are to pray without ceasing." This tireless fervor can come only from love. Against our dullness and laziness, the battle of prayer is that of humble, trusting, and persevering love. This love opens our hearts to three enlightening and life-giving facts of faith about prayer.

2743 It is always possible to pray: The time of the Christian is that of the risen Christ who is with us always, no matter what tempests may arise. Our time is in the hands of God: It is possible to offer fervent prayer even while walking in public or strolling alone, or seated in your shop, . . . while buying or selling, . . . or even while cooking.

2744 Prayer is a vital necessity. Proof from the contrary is no less convincing: if we do not allow the Spirit to lead us, we fall back into the slavery of sin. How can the Holy Spirit be our life if our heart is far from him? Nothing is equal to prayer; for what is impossible it makes possible, what is difficult, easy. . . . For it is impossible, utterly impossible, for the man who prays eagerly and invokes God ceaselessly ever to sin.

2745 Prayer and Christian life are inseparable, for they concern the same love and the same renunciation, proceeding from love; the same filial and loving conformity with the Father's plan of love; the same transforming union in the Holy Spirit who conforms us more and more to Christ Jesus; the same love for all men, the love with which Jesus has loved us. "Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he [will] give it to you. This I command you, to love one another."

2741 Jesus also prays for us - in our place and on our behalf. All our petitions were gathered up, once for all, in his cry on the Cross and, in his Resurrection, heard by the Father. This is why he never ceases to intercede for us with the Father. If our prayer is resolutely united with that of Jesus, in trust and boldness as children, we obtain all that we ask in his name, even more than any particular thing: the Holy Spirit himself, who contains all gifts.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Faith in the Future

Respect Life Sunday, October 3rd, 2010, St. Joseph's, Dalton, GA
Fr. Paul D. Williams, Jr.

I've told you all that my little sister, Andrea, is on The Amazing Race this year. Well, here's her story, as told on the Internet.

From the Fletcher Armstrong blog: Life. What a Beautiful Choice.

I love this story about a mom (Andie DeKroon) who gave her daughter up for adoption. She was unmarried and 22 years old at the time. Later, God blessed her with 10 more children.

In 2008, University of Georgia student Jenna Sykes decided that she wanted to get in touch with her birth mom. Andie agreed, so they started writing letters. Now, Jenna is about the same age as Andie was back then. And they are competing together in the upcoming season of The Amazing Race on CBS!

Think of it. Andie could have said “that baby will ruin my life.” She did’t. She had faith in the future. She loved God’s creation more than her own convenience. And now God continues to bless her with riches beyond measure.

And Youtube:

Jenna telling her story.

And our own Georgia Bulletin has been following the drama.

Wish them luck!

Friday, October 1, 2010

I will not be a Saint by halves

Quotes from The Story of a Soul on this Memorial in honor of Saint Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower.

One day Léonie, thinking no doubt that she was too big to play with dolls, brought us a basket filled with clothes, pretty pieces of stuff, and other trifles on which her doll was laid: "Here, dears," she said, "choose whatever you like." Céline looked at it, and took a woollen ball. After thinking about it for a minute, I put out my hand saying: "I choose everything," and I carried off both doll and basket without more ado.

This childish incident was a forecast, so to speak, of my whole life. Later on, when the way of perfection was opened out before me, I realised that in order to become a Saint one must suffer much, always seek the most perfect path, and forget oneself. I also understood that there are many degrees of holiness, that each soul is free to respond to the calls of Our Lord, to do much or little for His Love--in a word, to choose amongst the sacrifices He asks. And then also, as in the days of my childhood, I cried out: "My God, I choose everything, I will not be a Saint by halves, I am not afraid of suffering for Thee, I only fear one thing, and that is to do my own will. Accept the offering of my will, for I choose all that Thou willest."

Cuenta de Santa Teresita en Historia de un Alma:

Un día, Leonia, creyéndose ya demasiado mayor para jugar a las muñecas, vino a nuestro encuentro con una cesta llena de vestiditos y de preciosos retazos para hacer más. Encima de todo venía acostada su muñeca. «Tomad, hermanitas -nos dijo-, escoged, os lo doy todo para vosotras». Celina alargó la mano y cogió un mazo de orlas de colores que le gustaba. Tras un momento de reflexión, yo alargué a mi vez la mano, diciendo: «¡Yo lo escojo todo!», y cogí la cesta sin más ceremonias. A los testigos de la escena la cosa les pereció muy justa, y ni a la misma Celina se le ocurrió quejarse (aunque la verdad es que juguetes no le faltaban, pues su padrino la colmaba de regalos, y Luisa encontraba la forma de agenciarle todo lo que deseaba).

Este insignificante episodio de mi infancia es el resumen de toda mi vida. Más tarde, cuando se ofreció ante mis ojos el horizonte de la perfección, comprendí que para ser santa había que sufrir mucho, buscar siempre lo más perfecto y olvidarse de sí misma. Comprendí que en la perfección había muchos grados, y que cada alma era libre de responder a las invitaciones del Señor y de hacer poco o mucho por él, en una palabra, de escoger entre los sacrificios que él nos pide. Entonces, como en los días de mi niñez, exclamé: «Dios mío, yo lo escojo todo. No quiero ser santa a medias, no me asusta sufrir por ti, sólo me asusta una cosa: conservar mi voluntad. Tómala, ¡pues "yo escojo todo" lo que tú quieres...!