“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
Prayer for Respect of Life
the beauty and dignity of human life
was the crowning of your creation.
You further ennobled that life
when your Son became one with us in his incarnation.
Help us to realize the sacredness of human life
and to respect it from the moment of conception
until the last moment at death.
Give us courage to speak with truth
and love and with conviction in defense of life.
Help us to extend the gentle hand of mercy and forgiveness
to those who do not reverence your gift of life.
To all, grant pardon for the times we have failed
to be grateful for your precious gift of life
or to respect it in others.
We ask this in the name of Jesus.
Almighty ever-living God,
who in the abundance of your kindness
surpass the merits and the desires of those
who entreat you,
pour out your mercy upon us
to pardon what conscience dreads
and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Hb 1:2-3; 2:2-4
How long, O LORD? I cry for help
but you do not listen!
I cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not intervene.
Why do you let me see ruin;
why must I look at misery?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and clamorous discord.
Then the LORD answered me and said:
Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets,
so that one can read it readily.
For the vision still has its time,
presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;
if it delays, wait for it,
it will surely come, it will not be late.
The rash one has no integrity;
but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.
There are many Christians who, like this prophet Habakkuk, want God quickly to punish sinners, especially those who unjustly oppress their fellowman or make life difficult for those who are trying to live honestly and uprightly. God told this prophet to be patient, that he would eventually put all things right; even if he seemed to be slow in reacting, his judgment was certain to come.
Now in the Old Testament times, when a future life was rarely thought of and all retribution was expected on this earth, there was some excuse for the impatience of the prophet. For a follower however of Christ, who came to save sinners, and wished not the death of any sinner but that all might be converted and live, there is no such excuse. Christ tells us expressly: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who maltreat you” (Lk. 6: 27). This is no doubt a difficult command for our weak human nature, but it comes from our Lord who himself set us the example. During his life on earth he dealt with and fraternized with sinners of all kinds. This was one of the “crimes” which the Pharisees accused him of. He met adulterers, murderers, robbers, backbiters, unjust employers and dishonest employees. Did he ever utter one harsh word against any of them? Most of those he healed were sinners. He frequently told them not to sin any more, but he did not refuse to heal them because of their past sins. The crowning act of forgiveness of enemies was on Calvary. As he hung on the cross to which his enemies had unjustly and cruelly nailed him, one of his last words was a prayer for those very enemies : “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”
He was the all-innocent Son of God who had put himself to the humiliation of taking our human nature in order to give us a share in his divinity. He never did and never could injure anybody. “He went about doing good,” yet he bore the insults, the treachery, the thanklessness, the sacrilegious defamation of character when he was called a blasphemer. All these injuries he bore without even a murmur of complaint, although they were heaped on him by the very people whom he had come to save.
Is he asking too much of us then when he asks us to forgive our enemies? There are very few of us who are not guilty of having, at one time or another, offended God and our neighbor. We ourselves have often asked pardon of God and received it. Could we be so mean as not to forgive a neighbor who like ourselves has all the weaknesses of human nature? Worse still could we be so forgetful of our own eternal welfare as to refuse that pardon, for one condition on which we can get God’s pardon is that we first pardon our fellowman. When we pray the Our Father we say: “forgive us the wrong we have done as we forgive those who wrong us.” What we are saying to God then if we do not forgive our neighbor is: “do not forgive us as we will not forgive our neighbor?” What a foolish, what a dreadful prayer to utter!
Life is hard enough for the vast majority of mankind. But keeping up enmities between members of the family, between neighbors, between nations adds a hundred per cent more hardship to our life on earth. Today, billions of dollars and pounds are being wasted, billions which could feed all the hungry of the earth. They are being wasted because nations insist on keeping up enmities instead of getting together as human, rational beings should do and admitting their faults (which are not all on one side), thus establishing a bond of friendship. While we can only use the influence we have, and we are bound to use it, to put an end to the scandal of national hatreds and distrust, let us begin at home to do what is entirely within our own power. Let us forgive all enemies and all injuries real or imaginary (they so often are imaginary), let us live in peace with all our neighbors and prove ourselves worthy to be called followers of Christ on whose forgiveness our eternal salvation depends.
Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14
I remind you, to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God.
Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me,
in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit
that dwells within us.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 84 The apostles entrusted the “Sacred deposit” of the faith (the depositum fidei),1 contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the Church. “By adhering to [this heritage] the entire holy people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. So, in maintaining, practicing and professing the faith that has been handed on, there should be a remarkable harmony between the bishops and the faithful.”2
CCC 857 The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the apostles, in three ways:
– she was and remains built on “the foundation of the Apostles,”3 the witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself;4
– with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching,5 the “good deposit,” the salutary words she has heard from the apostles;6
– she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles until Christ’s return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, “assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church’s supreme pastor”:7
You are the eternal Shepherd
who never leaves his flock untended.
Through the apostles
you watch over us and protect us always.
You made them shepherds of the flock
to share in the work of your Son. ..8
CCC 1202 The diverse liturgical traditions have arisen by very reason of the Church’s mission. Churches of the same geographical and cultural area came to celebrate the mystery of Christ through particular expressions characterized by the culture: in the tradition of the “deposit of faith,”9 in liturgical symbolism, in the organization of fraternal communion, in the theological understanding of the mysteries, and in various forms of holiness. Through the liturgical life of a local church, Christ, the light and salvation of all peoples, is made manifest to the particular people and culture to which that Church is sent and in which she is rooted. The Church is catholic, capable of integrating into her unity, while purifying them, all the authentic riches of cultures.10
CCC 1556 To fulfill their exalted mission, “the apostles were endowed by Christ with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming upon them, and by the imposition of hands they passed on to their auxiliaries the gift of the Spirit, which is transmitted down to our day through episcopal consecration.”11
CCC 1577 “Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination.”12 The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry.13 The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ’s return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.14
CCC 2471 Before Pilate, Christ proclaims that he “has come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.”15 The Christian is not to “be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord.”16 In situations that require witness to the faith, the Christian must profess it without equivocation, after the example of St. Paul before his judges. We must keep “a clear conscience toward God and toward men.”17
1 DV 10 § 1; cf. 1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 1:12-14 (Vulg.).
2 DV 10 § 1; cf. Acts 2:42 (Greek); Pius XII, apostolic constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, 1 November 1950:AAS 42 (1950), 756, taken along with the words of St. Cyprian, Epist. 66, 8:CSEL 3/2,733: “The Church is the people united to its Priests, the flock adhering to its Shepherd.”
3 Eph 2:20; Rev 21:14.
4 Cf. Mt 28:16-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Cor 9:1; 15:7-8; Gal 1:1; etc.
5 Cf. Acts 2:42.
6 Cf. 2 Tim 1:13-14.
7 AG 5.
8 Roman Missal, Preface of the Apostles I.
9 2 Tim 1:14 (Vulg.).
10 Cf. LG 23; UR 4.
11 LG 21; cf. Acts 1:8; 24; Jn 20:22-23; 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6-7.
12 CIC, can. 1024.
13 Cf. Mk 3:14-19; Lk 6:12-16; 1 Tim 3:1-13; 2 Tim 1:6; Titus 1:5-9; St. Clement of Rome, Ad Cor. 42,4; 44,3:PG 1,292-293; 300.
14 Cf. John Paul II, MD 26-27; CDF, declaration, Inter insigniores: AAS 69 (1977) 98-116.
15 Jn 18:37.
16 2 Tim 1:8.
17 Acts 24:16.
At the time that St. Paul wrote this letter he was expecting his execution at any moment. He knew not when or how it would come. But Paul is not thinking of himself, or of what fate awaits him; “he has fought the good fight, he has kept the faith,” he confidently leaves the rest to God. He is much more concerned with the spread of the Christian message and with its preservation in its pristine purity, than he is with his own personal affairs, hence this letter to Timothy, Bishop of Ephesus, as well as another to Titus whom he had appointed Bishop of Crete. The theme of both letters is very similar. They consist of exhortations and encouragements to two somewhat young men, recently appointed to direct the Christian community in these important places.
They had many difficulties to contend with. The majority of the inhabitants in both places were still pagan, with a large sprinkling of Jews. These Jews were bitterly opposed to Christ and his Gospel, even more so than the pagans, and were often influential enough to stir up the pagan authorities against the Christians. Added to this was the difficulty that pagan converts met with from their families and neighbors who thought that the self-mortification for the sake of some future happiness, which to them seemed doubtful, was really the height of folly.
So these young bishops had need of their beloved teacher’s exhortations and advice. It was not given in vain. Within a generation of Paul’s martyrdom, the island of Crete and not only the city of Ephesus but almost all the surrounding districts, were predominantly Christian. Like Paul, his two disciples fought the good fight. They preserved and spread the faith. Nor did they count the cost. Like their teacher, tradition maintains that they both laid down their lives for the sake of Christ and are numbered among the saints in heaven.
To become a Christian in the first century was not exactly like becoming a member of the Retired Businessmen’s Club, or an honorary member of the Old Ladies’ Cultural Society. One had to be ready to face and bear with opposition from all sides. Giving up one’s long-practiced pagan vices was not easy, nor was excommunication from one’s family a trifling thing. Then, there was the continual threat of persecution, arrest and imprisonment on the flimsiest pretext. These persecutions often resulted in martyrdom. If, as Tertullian said, “the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians,” it was no wonder that the number of Christians increased so rapidly. There was no shortage of the seed of martyrs’ blood during that first century.
Living the Christian faith in our twentieth century is not quite so dangerous or so difficult perhaps. But living it fully and sincerely can and does make serious demands on weak, human nature. The true Christian today has to face opposition which, while it is not so open and so evident, is all the more dangerous and insidious because of its secrecy and its clever camouflage. The man who thinks he has outgrown childish practice by lolling in bed when he ought to be attending Mass on Sunday morning, and who nags his wife all day for disturbing him when she got up to do her duty towards God, is no better than the pagan husband of Timothy’s day, who forcibly kept his Christian wife from attending her Christian meetings.
The scandal given by those who in their youth offered their lives to serve God and their neighbor, but who now in their mature years find plausible excuses to return to worldly pleasures and pursuits makes them little different from the Judaizers who troubled and seriously disturbed the faith of the Gentile converts. The emphasis on sex and the right of the individual to do as he pleases is nothing less than neo-paganism, which, not content with claiming license for its own devotees, wants everyone else to join its ranks.
The corruption and bribery that is rife in political life and in big business in most countries makes it extremely difficult for a Christian who believes that the seventh commandment should be kept. If he keeps the commandment he’ll very soon find himself out of a job. If he holds on to his job he’ll find himself out with God and his faith.
In most countries of what we call the Western World, leaving out the communist countries, Christianity is not persecuted openly. There is no immediate threat of martyrdom for those who profess it. There is, however, an insidious ground-swell of opposition which comes not only from the non-baptized and they are numerous, but also from those who were baptized but who have found the yoke of Christ too burdensome.
It was never easy to be a loyal follower of Christ. It never will be easy. Yet those who follow him are on the right road. They have to fight the good fight, but the reward is worth the struggle. We who are trying to be loyal must heed Paul’s words to Timothy—we must stir into flame the gift of faith that is in us. We must never be ashamed of the faith which we profess, the cross is a sign of our eternal salvation and the symbol of our present obligations. It is through the cross that we shall earn the crown. It is by climbing Calvary with Christ that we shall reach our Mount of Ascension.
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
The Lord replied,
“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
“Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,
‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’?
Would he not rather say to him,
‘Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished’?
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?
So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded,
say, ‘We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.'”
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 162 Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: “Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith.”1 To live, grow and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith;2 it must be “working through charity,” abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church.3
1 1 Tim 1:18-19.
2 Cf. Mk 9:24; Lk 17:5; 22:32.
3 Gal 5:6; Rom 15:13; cf. Jas 2:14-26.
Although the words we have read were addressed to the Apostles, they apply to all of us, each in his own station in life. Following the example of the Apostles, we must all pray for greater trust in God. Most of us are inclined to forget God and his providence when our earthly affairs are going well. How often do we thank him when we are enjoying good health, and when our home-life and business are going smoothly? How many Catholics make a novena of thanksgiving for all the gifts they have received and are receiving daily from God’s providence. How many, rather, pat themselves on the back for what they claim as their own successes?
It is only when a storm arises in their lives that they think of him. Remember that storm on the Lake of Gennesaret. The Apostles were rowing cheerfully across the lake. They were probably telling tall yarns about the size and the number of fish they had caught there in their day. They may have been striving against one another to show who was the strongest oarsman. They did not seem to notice that Jesus was sleeping soundly in the bow of the boat. They thought of him only when the storm arose, and then when they realized that they were in danger they shouted to him for help (Mk. 5: 37). They didn’t realize that both the calm and the storm were under his province.
Too many of us also, forget God and fail to give him the thanks and the credit for our well-being which we owe him. We rush to him only when trouble strikes. In his infinite goodness he often answers such panic prayers. If, however, we had thought of him every day and realized his place in our lives with how much more confidence would we then approach him in our hour of special need? If our own personal lives were stronger how much more readily would we accept the adversities and the trials that he sends us or allows to befall us for our eternal good? We can all ask God today to “increase our faith.”
As regards our work for God’s kingdom and for the salvation of ourselves and of our neighbor we are, like the Apostles, servants of God, and we should be proud of our status. We should be glad, that is, that he allows us to cooperate with him in the building of his heavenly kingdom. Are we really dutiful servants in this regard? Let each one of us ask himself seriously today : What have I done up to now to help to make God known to my neighbor who is ignorant of God and never thinks of what will happen him after death? I may not be able to put in words very clearly what I know and believe about God and the future life, but I can speak to him far more convincingly by my way of living, by my daily actions. I once knew a customs officer whose work was in a whiskey distillery to see that excise duty was paid on all spirits sold. He had two non-Catholic, in fact non-baptized, assistants working in his office. One of their privileges was three free drinks a day, one in the morning before work began, one at mid-day, one at 6 p.m. before leaving the office. A devout Catholic, the officer recited his Angelus before taking the refreshment. His assistants, out of respect, stood up in silence while he recited his prayer–they jokingly called it the “grace before drinks.” After a while they began to question this evidently sincere man. He explained that the prayer recalled to us the coming of Christ, the Son of God, on earth to bring us to heaven. They eventually took instructions and became devout Catholics. A “grace before drinks” said with sincerity can be apostolic work.
The sincere Christian can find many ways to help to make Christ known to his neighbor without going on the foreign missions. There are pagans and unbelievers, often such through no fault of their own, and there are many lax Christians all around us. We should, and we can, have an effective influence on them and on their eternal future, if we ourselves live our Christian lives as Christ expects us to do. A quiet word, a charitable gesture, a truly unselfish interest in a neighbor’s troubles, coming from a sincere lay-man can do more good than a series of sermons given by a renowned theologian in the parish church.
Look around you today. Think of your fellow-workers and those living in your own street. Many of them need help and need it badly. You can help them, God expects you to help them. It is his plan for getting you to help yourself to get to heaven. If you fail to cooperate with God by helping to bring his stray children back to him, you may find that you will be a straying child on your day of reckoning. God forbid.
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.
The World’s Need for Transformation
The holy mystery of God, the mustard seed of the Gospel, cannot be identified with the world but is rather destined to permeate the whole world. That is why we must find again the courage to embrace what is sacred, the courage to distinguish what is Christian – not in order to segregate it, but in order to transform it – the courage to be truly dynamic. In an interview in 1975, Eugene Ionesco, one of the founders of the theater of the absurd, expressed this with all the passion of seeking and searching that characterizes the person of our age. I quote a few sentences from that interview: “The Church does not want to lose her current clientele; but she does want to gain new members. The result is a kind of secularization that is truly pitiful. The world is losing its way; the Church is losing herself in the world… I once heard a priest say in church: ‘Let us be happy; let us shake hands… Jesus is pleased to wish you a pleasant good day!’ Before long they will be setting up a bar in Church for Communion of bread and wine and offering sandwiches and Beaujolais… Nothing is left to us; nothing solid. Everything is in flux. But what we need is a rock.” It seems to me that if we listen to the voices of our age, of people who are consciously living, suffering, and loving in the world today, we will realize that we cannot serve this world with a kind of banal officiousness. It has no need of confirmation but rather transformation, of the radicalism of the Gospel.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Prayer to Our Lady of the Rosary
O Virgin Mary, grant that the recitation of thy Rosary may be for me each day, in the midst of my manifold duties, a bond of unity in my actions, a tribute of filial piety, a sweet refreshment, an encouragement to walk joyfully along the path of duty. Grant, above all, O Virgin Mary, that the study of thy fifteen mysteries may form in my soul, little by little, a luminous atmosphere, pure, strengthening, and fragrant, which may penetrate my understanding, my will, my heart, my memory, my imagination, my whole being. So shall I acquire the habit of praying while I work, without the aid of formal prayers, by interior acts of admiration and of supplication, or by aspirations of love. I ask this of thee, O Queen of the Holy Rosary, through Saint Dominic, thy son of predilection, the renowned preacher of thy mysteries, and the faithful imitator of thy virtues. Amen.
October is the Month of the Holy Rosary, and one of the reasons that Pope Leo XIII designated it so is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, which falls on October 7. Like many Marian feasts, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary celebrates the protection of Christians through the intercession of the Mother of God; and, like many feasts toward the end of the liturgical year, it commemorates a struggle with the forces of Islam.
In this case, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary celebrates the victory of Christian naval forces at the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. At a time when Christian Europe was being torn apart by internal strife and the Reformation, Don John of Austria destroyed the Turkish fleet in the Gulf of Lepanto. His victory was attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom rosaries were offered and processions were made in Rome on the day of the battle.
The feast was instituted by Pope St. Pius V shortly after the victory, and Pope Clement XI extended it to the entire Church in celebration of another victory over the Turkish Muslims in 1716.