Sacred Triduum: The Prayer of Poetry

Today begins the Sacred Triduum, the holiest time of the year. In these moments, sometimes I feel so deeply my human weakness and inadequacy and I say like Romans 8: “I do not know how to pray as I ought.” Come Holy Spirit, aid me in my weakness.

As I’ve prayed this Holy Week, I have been assisted in my weakness by poetry depicting Christ’s Sacred Heart and his love for us amidst suffering. If your heart needs assistance in these days, here is the poetry I’ve been praying with.

Rock of Ages

There is an everlasting home
Where contrite souls may hide,
Where death and danger dare not come–
The Savior’s side.

It was a cleft of matchless love
Opened when He had died;
When mercy hailed in world’s above,
That wounded side.

Hail, Rock of Ages, pierced for me,
The grave of all my pride;
Hope, peace and heaven are all in Thee,
Thy sheltering side.

There issued forth a double flood,
The sin-atoning tide,
In streams of water and of blood
From that dear side.

There is only fount of bliss,
In joy and sorrow tried;
No refuge for the heart like this–
A Saviour’s side.

Thither the Church, through all her days
Points as a faithful guide;
And celebrates with ceaseless praise
That spear-pierced side.

There is the golden gate of heaven,
An entrance for the Bride,
Where the sweet crown of life is given
Through Jesus’ side.

– M. Bridges

O Soul of Jesus

O Soul of Jesus, sick to death!
Thy blood and prayer together plead;
My sins have bowed Thee to the ground,
As the storm bows the feeble reed.

Deep waters have come in , O Lord!
All darkly on Thy human  soul;
And clouds of supernatural gloom
Around Thee are allowed to roll.

My God! My God! and can it be
That I should sin so lightly now,
And think no more of evil thoughts
Than of the wind that waves the bough?

Shall it be always thus, O Lord?
Wilt Thou not work this hour in me
The grace of Thy passion merited,
Hatred of self and love of Thee?

Oh, by the pains of Thy pure love
Grant me the gift of holy fear;
And give me of Thy bloody sweat
To wash my guilty conscience clear?

Ever, when tempted, make me see,
Beneath the olive’s moon-pierced shade,
My God, alone, outstretched, and bruised,
And bleeding, on the earth He made.

– Fr. Faber

St. Francis Xavier’s Hymn of Love

O God, I love Thee for Thyself
And not that I may heaven gain,
Nor because those who love Thee not,
Must suffer hell’s eternal pain.

Thou, O my Jesus! Thou didst me
Upon the cross embrace;
For me didst bear the nails and spear
And manifold disgrace;

And griefs and torments numberless,
And sweat and agony;
E’en death itself–and all for one
Who was Thine enemy.

Then why, O blessed Jesus Christ,
Should I not love Thee well?
Not for the sake of winning heaven,
Or escaping hell;

Not with the hope of gaining aught, not seeking a reward;
But, as Thyself hast loved me, O ever-loving Lord?
E’en so I love Thee, and will love, and in Thy praise  will sing;
Solely because Thou art my God
And my eternal King.

 

No Longer Slaves

In the book of Exodus, the Israelites encounter the miraculous parting of the Red Sea to bring them to ultimate freedom from the 400+ years of slavery they endured at the hands of the Egyptians. They were saved through water. This story prefigures our baptism, where we too are saved through water. The magnificence and drama of this story are so helpful for us because it is an even greater drama when we are baptized. But the visual effects don’t have the same theatrical, stunning quality, so we might miss it. But it is true! Our enslavement to sin is worse than the Israelites’ 430 years under the cruelty of Pharaoh.
God even allowed the ferocious army to come after the Israelites as they made their escape, so they could look their death in the face, and know without a doubt how the Mighty God had saved them. They seemed completely fenced in with death on all sides. Drown or be slaughtered. But Moses looks at them, directs them to look at the advancing army, and says,
Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. – Exodus 14:13
We are faced with the same as we approach the font of baptism. The armies of the Evil One press in on all sides and we are enslaved to sin and death. He is behind us and the waters of the font are before us. We must enter in to see the salvation of the Lord. But as we enter, we can hear the loving voice of the Father say, “This sin that weighs upon you, the wages of which is death, you shall never see again!”
Listen to this awesome song by Bethel Music and revel in the fact that you are called to be a child of God. This awesome and mighty God has split the sea so you could walk right through it, drowning all your fears in perfect love. He has rescued you!
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. – Romans 6:4

Lent is for lovers

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” -Hosea 2:14

Lent and wilderness.

Throughout this holy season given to us by the Church, we see the wilderness or the desert play prominently in the Scripture readings. As a season of fasting, penance and almsgiving, it can feel like a wilderness. We have heard that the 40 days of Lent recalls the 40 years the Israelites spent in the desert unable to enter the Promised Land. What we don’t always consider is the above verse from the prophet Hosea. Lent IS a desert wilderness, but Lent is also a profound romance.

Lent is the courtship of a man seeking to make the woman he loves his bride. It is his all-out, no holds barred, last-ditch effort to capture her every attention. It is his plea: let me steal you away for awhile, so I can have you all to myself. I want you all to myself so I can make sure you’re not distracted by your job or your hair or the weather or what is on TV, because I’m going to propose! I want you to be my bride! I want to give it all for you! Please set aside anything that could distract you from this all-important moment!

The wilderness is stripped of comfort and ease; it can be hard and unyielding. There is little to capture our attention in the barren wasteland. How is this a love story, a lover wooing the beloved towards betrothal? God almighty desires that we should come away with him, seek him as our only enduring comfort, and call upon him alone when it is hard and things get barren. He wants to remind us that all of life is a desert without him, the wellspring of life itself. He wants us to have nothing but him in a world that is captivating and alluring at every turn. He wants to speak tenderly to us, but he doesn’t want to shout over the cacophony of our daily lives.

This Lent, think of this time as a whirlwind romance in a foreign land. Your Lord and God is taking you by the hand and leading you to a quiet place, where he will whisper to you his deep, abiding affections. As the forty days draw to a close, he will slip a ring on your finger, promise to lay down his life for you, and lead you to a candle lit church where he will give himself to you day and night without ceasing unto eternity.

worship-easter-vigil

{Note: this post first appeared on the Ministry Blog for Catechetical Leaders in the Diocese of Crookston}

Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I can see the love in Your eyes
Laying yourself down
Raising up the broken to life
— “Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace),” Hillsong

This song is wonderful. Look at your Savior, who is love itself. Let His love fill you. Then be a bearer of His great love to the world.

Epiphany: God made manifest

Epiphany is a marvelous and rich feast. Delightfully, that richness lingers throughout this whole last week of the Christmas season as we approach the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. We see embers of that richness reflected in the prayers offered in the Church’s liturgy and in the readings proclaimed from Sacred Scripture. We hear declarations of the Kingship of Christ, manifestations of His marvelous glory, and his longing to claim His Bride.

Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed her sins away in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the wedding guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia. (Morning Prayer Antiphon)

God himself has taken on our human flesh in the Incarnation, but lest we forget in our gazing upon a sweet infant babe, the ensuing feasts quickly remind us that this sweet babe in the arms of Mary is the all-powerful King of the Universe who has broken into our world to bring light into dark places, to set captives free, and to draw not just a chosen few, but ALL, to himself.

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the LORD shines, and over you appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you… Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. (Isaiah 60:1-5)

In the early hours of Sunday morning the song God With Us by All Sons and Daughters began running through my mind. It is my Epiphany theme song! He has come to be so near to us; He is God with us. Come, stand in His glory; know His peace, hope, and light. And come as the Magi did, no matter how far you must travel, to lay all you are and all you have at His feet, even your costliest treasures. For you shall be radiant at what you see in this great king who comes to take you as His bride, and your heart shall overflow with more joy than you can imagine when His light floods your heart.

Advent: Walk with Mary to Jesus

Posted by: Zealoussheep

The glorious season of Advent is approaching. The superabundance of graces poured forth for us in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ are so vast! We are invited to make ready our hearts and dispose them for his coming. I invite you to consider during the next three weeks some ways to intentionally seek the disposition of heart that will allow Christ’s coming to bear fruit in our souls. Then, come November 30th, I invite you to put those intentional plans into action out of love for your humble Redeemer. Then, as the great drama comes to its pinnacle in the late evening hours of December 24th, not only will you find yourself immersed in festive lights, colors and attire, but you will also find that His LIFE has been born in you in more plentiful ways than ever before.

I will share one of my plans and invite you to journey with me. I intend to walk with Mary to Christmas. Why? Because Mary is the preeminent model of a perfectly disposed heart!

And who was the best disposed for the coming of the Word to earth? Without any doubt, it was the Blessed Virgin Mary. At the moment when the Word came into this world, He found Mary’s heart perfectly prepared, and capable of receiving the Divine riches which He willed to heap upon her. – Christ in His Mysteries, Abbot Marmion, O.S.

I can’t think of anyone better to assist me in preparing my heart than Mary! To facilitate this journey, I plan to reread Walking With Mary by Dr. Edward Sri this Advent.

Walking-with-Mary

This book is one that I can see myself reading over and over again because of its spiritual riches and the light it pours into crevices of Mary’s life I had not previously considered. Join me! Let’s walk together with Mary toward her Son this Advent. May our hearts be tilled soil, readied to receive the Word of Life as Mary did in Nazareth.

Because He Lives

Posted by: ZealousSheep

Matt Maher has a way of penning the thoughts of my heart–in lyrical phrases accompanied by music that stirs the soul–that fills me with gratitude because these songs help me to pray as a child before the Father. His newest song has just premiered : Because He Lives. An anthemic, soulful song calling us to recall our freedom in Christ Jesus, to declare “Credo: I believe!” Jesus, the conquerer of sin, death, fear and shame, has risen from the grave! And in Him, we too can rise to new life. My life is held in His hands and I have LIFE abundant because the Blood of Jesus has overcome sin and death in me!!!

Listen. Pray. Allow the power of Jesus to overcome in every corner of your heart so that you can cry “I’M ALIVE!” and mean it with every fiber of your being.

I believe in the Son
I believe in the risen One
I believe I overcome
By the power of His blood

Amen, Amen
I’m alive, I’m alive
Because He lives
Amen, Amen
Let my song join the one that never ends
Because He lives

I was dead in the grave
I was covered in sin and shame
I heard mercy call my name
He rolled the stone away

Because He lives
I can face tomorrow
Because He lives
Every fear is gone
I know He holds my life my future in His hands

Life & Death

Posted by: zealoussheep

Sometimes, I am tempted to think that the world, societies, and cultures are caught in a downward spiral toward darkness and destruction. I look around and wonder if my fellow human beings are taking care to cultivate Life in their souls or are they hurtling towards death. On a whim as I began to type this, I pulled up the Patheos Catholic Channel and clicked on one of my favorite bloggers, Elizabeth Scalia, and one of her most recent posts confirmed that my temptation toward this line of thought is not held in isolation.

[We are in] a unique ‘time’ of global crisis: governments failing at every level, everywhere; churches are divided, their freedoms challenged; citizens are distracted, dissatisfied and distrustful, their election mechanisms in doubt; schools are losing sight of the primary mission of education; families are deconstructed and the whole concept ripe for dissolution; respect for human dignity is doled out in qualified measures; there is a lack of privacy; a lack of time to think, to process and to incarnate; a lack of silence… the ugly landscape [is] all around us; the one we have wanted to pretend was neither so vast nor so damaged and fragile.

Let me be clear, in no way do I disagree with The Anchoress. But concurrent to this line of thought, sometimes I carve out for myself silence, privacy and time to think. And I find that in those moments—especially if I’m in a hammock in the backyard—I am overwhelmed by how much LIFE is exploding around me. Untold numbers of crickets chirping, the insects are prolific, trees are taking root and climbing… Since the very beginning life has sprung forth from the earth, and continues even in the harshest conditions. At a much faster rate than the downward death spiral of my thoughts, life is bursting from every crevice.

Perspective is a funny thing.

It took living abroad and studying philosophy to jar my mind out of the doldrums of my previously monotonous life, characterized by the somewhat glazed staring that catches only the biggest action and has lost sight of all the details. Suddenly I was paying attention in great detail to the world around me, and it awakened in me a deeply buried sense of wonder. Since those days, I overwhelm my companions with loud exclamations of joy over the perfect iridescent rainbow of colors that reflects of the wings of insects or the soft bright green burst of brand new pine needles in the spring. I am amazed at creation and creatures.

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There are about 950,000 species of insects on earth.
300,000 species of plants.
1.2 million species of invertebrates.
We really have no idea how many species of animals exist on Earth and some 10,000 species of animals are discovered each year. Projections for the total number of species on Earth range from 2 million to 50 million.
Until very recently, our galaxy, the Milky Way was thought to be part of a cluster of 2,000 galaxies in Virgo. Recent research has shown that the Milky Way’s 100 billion stars are actually part of something 100 times bigger: a supercluster of galaxies astronomers have named Laniakea, which means “immense heavens” in Hawaiian. Laniakea is 520 million light-years across and astronomers say the supercluster is as massive as 100 million billion suns.

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It is a big, big world out there. And it is full of vibrancy and life.

A couple of years before I was born Mount St. Helen erupted in the most deadly volcanic explosion in U.S. history. The destruction was beyond comprehension and the President said the damaged landscape was more desolate than the surface of the moon. In all, Mount St. Helens released 24 megatons of thermal energy, 7 of which were a direct result of the blast. This is equivalent to 1,600 times the size of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. A devastating death-blow.

More than 30 years have passed since the blast. Peter Frenzen is a scientist who studies the blast zone. He says,

“One of things that we’ve learned here at Mount St. Helens is that things that initially look dead are usually anything but dead. Those things that look messy to our eye are in fact the critical ingredients of the next thriving ecosystem.”

Out of the devastation has come incomprehensible richness and Mt. St. Helen is literally teeming with life.

20_pyroclastic_flows_intro2

I think we can learn a lot from the world around us. As far as plants and animals go, we are literally immersed in life in vast and innumerable quantities. The soul of a Christian at baptism is drenched, immersed, inundated with divine life that cannot be compared to the 50 million possible species on earth or the 520 million light years’ wide supercluster of galaxies we live in. We are beyond soaked in life. And when darkness and death seem to crash in on every side, we know that we have the Death-Conquerer, Jesus himself dwelling in our souls. He is able even from the rocks to raise up children. And as centuries of Christianity have shown, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. And like Mount St. Helens and the Saints who have gone before, it still remains the case that life blooms in deserts and things that initially look dead are usually anything but dead. Those things that look messy and broken beyond repair to our finite eyes, can in fact be the very thing that tills and nourishes the soil for revival, restoration and renewal in the hearts of men longing for their God.

Days of Grace

posted by: zealoussheep

We are blessed to be immersed in immense days of grace. First, we have been invited to peer into the wounded side of Our Savior and journey the path of the soldier’s lance and so find that most beautiful Heart pierced for love of us.17c10aad06c2615dcc8551edd2d8e492

Then we behold Our Mother, whose Immaculate Heart is a mirror of all the virtues. A heart full of light and beauty reflecting the radiance of the Sacred Heart.
Doves and the Heart of Mary

Finally, rounding out a tremendous trifecta, we honor the Princes of Apostles, Peter and Paul, among the foremost witnesses of the Faith.
peter_paul_pic

Exactly four years ago today, I boarded a plane to depart the Eternal City and return to America. There I spent a year face to face with these princes, confronted concretely with the places and circumstances of their deaths, and with their passion, zeal, and sacrifice. Standing in the places where they shed their blood, I recognized anew the voice of my Savior and theirs calling me to the same: Lay down your life. For love of ME give it all.

Martyrdom, the shedding of one’s blood, is a literal manifestation of giving it all. We may not all be called to die a martyr’s death, but we are called to lay all that we have, are, and will be, before the throne of our King and God and give him all, each and every day.

How are you living? Are you ready to shed your blood? Every Christian disciple should aspire to be brave enough to do so. St. John Paul II said,

If something is not worth dying for, it’s not worth living for.

Is our faith something worth dying for, really living for? Is our living a shining witness of readiness to give it all? Of having interiorly surrendered everything, fully uniting our will to HIS?

May these days of grace be an occasion to gaze upon that burning, pierced, enflamed Sacred Heart. To gaze upon that pure, holy, fragrant, sword skewered Immaculate Heart. To look into those fierce, courageous eyes of those martyred princes. May these days fortify you. May they call you on to greatness. May they inspire you to follow our Savior, our Mother and Saints Peter and Paul in generously pouring out your life. May your offering yield for the world an increasingly confident, joyful, courageous Catholic witness that begins right now in your heart enflamed by love.

 

 

 

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