“Our Hearts are Restless Until They Rest in You”

St. AugustineSaint Augustine is one of my favorite saints. In fact, it was through his writings, and the writings of the other Early Church Fathers, that brought me to the Catholic Church. I can identify very much with the struggle he faced in his life. Full of restlessness, seeking to “find” himself, searching for that which could fill the emptiness he felt in his heart, the emptiness that every human feels. Like Augustine, many of us try to fill it with things, belonging, sex, food, popularity, etc. It’s especially evident in our world today. Sadly, many do not come to the understanding that Augustine did. They close off their hearts, perhaps due to the cloud of pain and loneliness that they feel. They close themselves off from the grace that God wants to give us all.

Augustine’s story also shows us, that we can’t do this alone. We need help. Not just God’s help…but help from our brothers and sisters, our fathers and mothers. Augustine had his mother, Monica, who prayed for him for 33 years. Without her prayers, I wonder if he would have come to know Christ and be honored as the Saint we know and celebrate today. I really doubt it. Today, I think more than ever, we need more “Monicas”, to pray for the many who are searching with restless hearts. The next time you see someone lost with an empty heart, whether at work, on the street, in the news or in the entertainment business, pray for them, instead of condemning them. They are lost, broken, hurting, and restless, just as Augustine was, but with our persistent prayers, we can have hope that they too can find the rest that are searching for. Pray that their restless hearts, come to rest in Our Lord!

From the Confessions ~Saint Augustine of Hippo

Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise; your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so we men, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you – we also carry our mortality about with us, carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud. You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you.

Grant me to know and understand, Lord, which comes first. To call upon you or to praise you? To know you or to call upon you? Must we know you before we can call upon you? Anyone who invokes what is still unknown may be making a mistake. Or should you be invoked first, so that we may then come to know you? But how can people call upon someone in whom they do not yet believe? And how can they believe without a preacher?

But scripture tells us that those who seek the Lord will praise him, for as they seek they find him, and on finding him they will praise him. Let me seek you then, Lord, even while I am calling upon you, and call upon you even as I believe in you; for to us you have indeed been preached. My faith calls upon you, Lord, this faith which is your gift to me, which you have breathed into me through the humanity of your Son and the ministry of your preacher.

How shall I call upon my God, my God and my Lord, when by the very act of calling upon him I would be calling him into myself? Is there any place within me into which my God might come? How should the God who made heaven and earth come into me? Is there any room in me for you, Lord, my God? Even heaven and earth, which you have made and in which you have made me – can even they contain you? Since nothing that exists would exist without you, does it follow that whatever exists does in some way contain you?

But if this is so, how can I, who am one of these existing things, ask you to come into me, when I would not exist at all unless you were already in me? Not yet am I in hell, after all but even if I were, you would be there too; for if I descend into the underworld, you are there. No, my God, I would not exist, I would not be at all, if you were not in me. Or should I say, rather, that I should not exist if I were not in you, from whom are all things, through whom are all things, in whom are all things? Yes, Lord, that is the truth, that is indeed the truth. To what place can I invite you, then, since I am in you? Or where could you come from, in order to come into me? To what place outside heaven and earth could I travel, so that my God could come to me there, the God who said, I fill heaven and earth?

Who will grant it to me to find peace in you? Who will grant me this grace, that you should come into my heart and inebriate it, enabling me to forget the evils that beset me and embrace you, my only good? What are you to me? Have mercy on me, so that I may tell. What indeed am I to you, that you should command me to love you, and grow angry with me if I do not, and threaten me with enormous woes? Is not the failure to love you woe enough in itself?

Alas for me! Through your own merciful dealings with me, O Lord my God, tell me what you are to me. Say to my soul, I am your salvation. Say it so that I can hear it. My heart is listening, Lord; open the ears of my heart and say to my soul, I am your salvation. Let me run towards this voice and seize hold of you. Do not hide your face from me: let me die so that I may see it, for not to see it would be death to me indeed.

Excerpted from the Confessions of St. Augustine (Book I, Chapter 1)

Why do Catholics kneel during Mass?

In the middle ages, men would kneel in all night adoration prior to being knighted.

In the middle ages, men would kneel in all night adoration prior to being knighted.

Why do Catholics kneel during Mass? We kneel because we are in the presence of God. Kneeling is a very meaningful and intimate gesture, and it expresses adoration and shows our reverence towards Him.

We live in a society today that in many ways has lost reverence for things which are holy and sacred. We approach God in a way that is casual, almost as if He is on the same level as us. This lack of reverence can reflect a lack of humility. When we kneel we remind ourselves that we are not God and we are not in charge; rather, we are only creatures before our Lord.

Several points of this reflection on kneeling are drawn from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s, The Spirit of the Liturgy.

Kneeling does not come from any culture, contrary to those who claim that kneeling is the product of western culture. It comes from the bible itself and its knowledge of God.  Kneeling occurs many times in the Old Testament and New Testament.  The Greek word for kneeling, “proskynein,” occurs fifty-nine times in the New Testament, twenty-four of which are in the book of Revelation, the book of the heavenly liturgy, from which the Church takes as her standard for her own liturgy.

One of the most significant moments in Jesus’ life on earth occurs in the garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Jesus’ agony in the garden follows the institution of the Lord’s Supper with his Apostles. In the Gospel of St. Luke Jesus prayed in the garden on his knees, signifying the moment that he truly enters his passion. In this gesture Jesus takes upon himself the fall of man, who is brought low by his sins. In this place of human anguish Jesus cries out to his Father that the cup of suffering might be taken from him; ultimately Jesus surrenders his will to the will of the Father: “Not my will but yours be done.” He lays the human will in the divine. He takes up all the hesitation of the human will and endures it. Herein resides the very heart of our redemption. Jesus as the new Adam is tempted in the garden to reject God, just as Adam was tempted in the garden of Eden. Here, however, Jesus as the New Adam, surrenders his will and obeys the will of his Father, thus beginning the full redemption of what was lost by Adam’s sin.

There is no other way for us to find salvation apart from following Jesus by surrendering our own will into the will of the Father. Hence our kneeling at Mass, which occurs during the Eucharistic Prayer and after the Lamb of God, and optionally after receiving Holy Communion, expresses the humility of Jesus before the Father’s will. As we receive Holy Communion, then, prayers of thanksgiving should include a surrendering of our own will into the Father’s will, just as Jesus teaches us in the Our Father prayer.

The Greek word for kneeling “proskynein” is related to the Latin word “prostratio,” a word that we translate, “prostration.” Prostration is a form of kneeling. Prostration occurs twice in our liturgical celebrations: on Good Friday and at ordinations. On Good Friday prostration by the priest before the altar and cross expresses our sense of shock that by our sins we share in the responsibility for the death of Christ; the people kneel during this prostration to share in this shock. This is who we are: fallen creatures whom only the Crucified One can set back on our feet. We fall down before the power of God, just as Moses did before the burning bush, knowing that the full power of God is revealed in the Cross, the true burning bush, the place of the flame of God’s love, which burns but does not destroy.

At ordination the candidates’ prostration comes from the awareness of our absolute incapacity, by our own powers, to take on the priestly mission of Jesus Christ, to speak and act in his person. While the ordinands are lying on the floor the whole congregation sings the Litany of the Saints. The saints are living testimony of the power of God’s love revealed in the Cross of Jesus Christ. Calling upon the help of the Saints helps the ordinand to accept the mission of Jesus Christ.

Finally, kneeling also expresses adoration and reverence to our Lord. Kneeling expresses humility and vulnerability. Only the humble and vulnerable before God can receive His grace and mercy. Kneeling bodily expresses this truth.

Kneeling in God’s presence during Mass emphasizes the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and how much we love and adore our King. St. Paul says, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2:10).

So kneeling in prayer is scriptural. In Ephesians 3:14 Paul says, “I kneel before the Father,” and in Acts 9:40 Peter “knelt down and prayed.” The Catholic habit of kneeling is consistent with Scripture and is another manifestation of the continuity between the Church of the first century and the Catholic Church of today.

Like St. Paul, we get down on our knees during Mass and humbly adore Him.

The Meaning of “A Holy Day of Obligation”

Today is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, a holy day of obligation for all Catholics. Why is it an obligation? Some may hear the word “obligation” and not understand the real meaning behind it.

My pastor at my parish had this wonderful explanation of what “a holy day of obligation” actually is and I thought I would share it…

“A holy day of obligation”, the word, obligation, is not always seen as something positive in our culture. For some it may seem to suggest “my free choice” is taken away and ours is a culture that is all about freedom. “I get to choose”, “no one can tell me what I should do”, “I’m not obliged to do anything, I get to decide”. However, for the Christian, obligation is part of our lives. Our freedom to choose, in regards to faith, what is our decision, is to be a follower of Christ or not, to be a part of a faith community, the Church, a parish or not. That is our free choice and once that choice, that free decision is made, obligations are placed in our lives as disciples. Just as people are free to marry or not marry, but once a person decides to marry, obligations come with married life. “I must be faithful”, “must be supportive”, I must be self-giving” “I must be open to children.” Nowhere in the marriage sacrament does it state “oh and you can choose to date another even after marriage.

Obligations are a part of life and a part of being a follower of Christ and once the decision is made to follow Christ we are to embrace the obligations in joy. To choose to follow Jesus, but then say, “oh it is no one’s business if I go to Mass on Sunday or not, it’s no one’s business if I pray or not, it is no one’s business if I participate fully in the life of the Church and its Sacaments, is simply a false teaching and a dangerous lie, dangerous for the soul as it is all our business to be concerned about another’s soul. Some of the most interesting conversations I have had have been when I remind someone of their “obligation” to attend Mass on Sunday. Reactions have ranged from “you know Father you are right”, which is humbling to hear and “Father what business is it of yours”, which is odd to hear as someone concerned about a person’s journey to heaven.

So as we hear these words, “a holy day of obligation” from the Church, a Church we have freely chosen to be a part of, may we thank God for placing in our lives that desire, that joy found in receiving these “obligations” of our faith and for bearing witness to others as we faithfully, joyfully fulfill them, which is for me, as I see so many in the parish fulfilling the obligations of faith, a true inspiration.

Real Men Pray the Rosary Challenge

Today, Real Men Pray the Rosary launches a countdown towards the start of a 33 day Rosary Challenge. RMPTR (realmenpraytherosary.org) would like to encourage all Catholic faithful to pray the Rosary daily for 33 days. We all need a challenge and what better day to begin a challenge than with the help of our Blessed Mother.

Please consider joining us in this worldwide prayer initiativeToday is 14 days till the start of the 33 day initiative, which will begin on August 29th. Praying the Rosary “provides genuine training in holiness.” Who wouldn’t want Mary as their spiritual trainer.

Join us in praying the Rosary daily. Will you take the challenge? Invite someone you love.

Go to 33dayrosarychallenge.org for more information.

Take the Real Men Pray the Rosary Challenge!