Home for a Hermit – Introducing “Friends of the Little Portion Hermitage”

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Kevin Lowry, William Newton, and I have started a non-profit organization to raise money to buy and/or build a hermitage to house my good friend, colleague, and mentor, Brother Rex Anthony Norris, and others who may succeed him in this vocation. Our organization is entitled “Friends of the Little Portion Hermitage”. Please take a moment to read the following blog post from our president, Kevin Lowry:

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Br Rex This is Brother Rex Anthony Norris, or Br. Rex for short. He’s a hermit.

Yes, a real, live hermit.

So what does a hermit do? Well, suffice it to say that what is referred to as the eremitic life is a vocation, and has to do with what the Church calls assiduous prayer.

He prays. A lot.

Br. Rex is something of a walking contradiction. You might reasonably think that a hermit experiences some level of solitude as part of his (or her) vocation (yes, there are women hermits too). And you would be correct.

What doesn’t show up on paper, though, is that the guy is a total crack up. He’s hysterically funny, with a tremendous sense of humor and thoroughly infectious laugh. Simultaneously, he’s a deeply committed prayer warrior, who spends countless hours in intercessory prayer and takes his vocation extremely seriously.

You definitely want to be on this guy’s prayer list.

In knowing Br. Rex for the past couple years, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called when things were rough, knowing he would take my prayer requests to his daily Holy Hour and hold them before our Lord. In fact, my debt of gratitude became so great, that a couple friends (the esteemed Jon Marc Grodi and Billy Newton) and I started a non-profit organization called Friends of Little Portion Hermitage to “support the worship of God, the eremitic life, Christ-centered solitude, contemplative silence, intercessory prayer and the spiritual works of mercy.”

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Our vision is very much in line with the above: “Through the generosity of our donors, Friends of Little Portion Hermitage seeks to provide for the temporal needs of Little Portion Hermitage and the hermit who resides there. We believe consecrated life to be essential to the spiritual well-being of the Body of Christ, most especially the witness of those in consecrated life whose lives give first place to prayer for the glory of God, the good of the Church and the salvation of the world.”

So here’s where you come in. Br. Rex was lamenting to me the other day that he hasn’t received many prayer requests through the website we set up, littleportionhermitage.org – and that’s an opportunity.

At the same time, Friends of Little Portion Hermitage would like to purchase a modest hermitage for Br. Rex and his successors. Thankfully, he lives in a part of Maine where land and buildings are inexpensive, but we still need at least $50,000 to make things livable – even for a hermit.

Would you help us? Please stop by littleportionhermitage.org and send Br. Rex your prayer requests. It will make him happy, and these intentions will be treated with the utmost respect and confidence.

Also, if you can afford to make a donation towards the home for a hermit project, we would appreciate it ever so much. Let’s keep Br. Rex in prayer – and facilitate his prayers for us. Thank you for your support!

Special note: We’re happy to announce that Br. Rex will be appearing on EWTN’s The Journey Home program on Monday, April 7 at 8:00 p.m. EST. Hear the story of Br. Rex’s conversion to Christ and His Church!

(Article reproduced with author’s permission. Originally published at http://gratefulconvert.com/hangin-with-a-hermit/)

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For more information on Br. Rex, please see:

http://chnetwork.org/2014/02/interview-with-brother-rex

 

Eucharistic Adoration: Alone with the Perilous Question

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In December of 2010 my wife was leading a bible study on the Theology of the Body at our local Dominican parish, St. Thomas Aquinas. A couple of weeks before Christmas due to her having a cold on the scheduled night for the study, I myself bundled up and trekked out into the snow to lead the study in her place.

Due to the snow, the vigil mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and little bit of scheduling confusion, only one other person showed up. As a result, I and the other gentleman only stuck very loosely to my wife’s discussion points about “Christ as the new Adam” and ended up simply pursuing tangents and enjoying our conversation. Somehow or another, we ended up talking lengthily about our love for and wonderful experiences of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

For those who might not be familiar, Eucharistic Adoration or Benediction is the practice of “adoring” Our Lord in the Eucharist. Our Lord Jesus Christ, present to us as the consecrated bread and wine, is placed on the altar in the church. The faithful come to pray, worship and adore Him in this Blessed Sacrament.

It was moving, to say the least, to find myself on a cold snowy night sitting in the conference room of the parish center, sipping coffee and listening to this gentleman – many years my senior – share his love for the devotion.

It came into the conversation that Eucharistic Adoration could be very inspiring and invigorating to lukewarm believers, as it had often been to both of us. We observed that the faith was, for many of our fellow parishioners, little more than a habit. Many were very involved with the parish, but few seemed to really know Jesus Christ. It was great to see people involved with the liturgies and events – to see new members being received into the Church and receiving the sacraments for the first time. However so many of them seemed to pass quickly through the various programs and initiations only to settle into a comfortable, complacent “Sunday morning at 10:00” Catholicism.

One reason we decided upon for this rut was that many people who became active in the church had not previously come to know Jesus Christ – in fact maybe they never even knew that they could have a personal relationship with their God or that that was the kind of relationship He wanted. These misconceptions are unfortunate ones. The Catholic faith is tasked with making Christ present in the world, making Him present in the sacraments. Yet many people to go through all the programs, prayers, and motions and somehow miss the person of Christ, the most important part of the faith. Even among those Catholics who attend the holy sacrifice of the mass every week, there are still many who would balk or stare at their feet were the doctrine of the “real presence” of Christ in the Eucharist explained in their midst.

With all this in mind we conjectured that Eucharistic adoration, if we were able to get people to attend, could be particularly effective in trying to fill in that crucial gap in the faith lives of many Catholics in our community. The devotion is unique and powerful in the simple and frank way in which it faces the participant with the presence of Christ. In addition, the meditative silence that usually accompanies a Holy Hour is uniquely purifying. We agreed that more people ought to be persuaded – nay, dared – to try a Holy Hour.

In fact our conversation confirmed what I have thought for a while: Not just that Adoration is a great devotion (for the obvious reasons) but that it is a particularly great devotion for the souls of modern men and women (for slightly less obvious reasons). It is my opinion that Eucharistic Adoration could be that spark that finally starts thawing a few of our many “frozen chosen”. Let me explain.

Consider the following scriptural image which is quite applicable to our modern day:

[2] For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,

[3] inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good,

[4] treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,

[5] holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people. (2 timothy 3:5)

Now the line I am most interested in is that last one. What does it mean to “[hold] the form of religion but [deny] the power of it”?

There are a variety of causes causing a variety of ills, but that last image is, I believe, most telling. You see, people are comfortable with “morality”. They are comfortable with “church”. They are comfortable with “causes”, and “values”, and “goodness”, and even “God”, to a certain degree. However they are not comfortable with Christ Himself. Many of my fellow parishioners, dear souls that they are, are quite friendly and sociable talking to me about youth groups and turkey dinners and church renovations and Christmas concerts. However, when I try to bring up Jesus Christ, conversion, the Holy Spirit, or experiencing Our Lord in the Eucharist, awkwardness ensues.

Sadness, rather than indignation, is the emotion triggered by such attempted conversations. People need Jesus Christ and deep down they want Jesus Christ. But many people keep the “power” of religion, our Lord Himself, at a distance.

While there are among the many causes of our spiritual estrangement, there are two fears that often cause people to hold tight to their lukewarmness – that keep them from asking the perilous question: “Are you there God?”.

Some people avoid a real pursuit of God because they are afraid that he doesn’t really exist. People like the idea of God and all the other ideas that accompany Him but they are not confident that there is much beyond the idea. To press the idea, to question it, and to suggest that one really can come to know God personally – this brings the blissfully and intentionally ignorant person far too close to the perilous question. While the desire for God is strong, the fear of asking a question which could yield disappointing answers is stronger.

Other people fear to pursue God because, as C.S. Lewis explains, they are afraid they might actually find Him. He says:

An “impersonal God”– well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads — better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap — best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps, approaching an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband — that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (“Man’s search for God!”) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us? –C. S. Lewis

To face up to the tough questions, to face up to the “power of religion” is to face up to the possibility that Christ really is there pursuing us, desiring us, and calling us out. Along with the pervading propaganda of our culture, we dislike the mere suggestion that we still have room to grow, that we have a destiny, duty, and responsibility.

Because of these two fears, we latch on to morality or ritual or causes or values or lingo or community. We latch onto something that is “safe”, anything that can keep us occupied and make us “look busy” but which will never bring us face to face with the”power of religion” which is Jesus Christ Himself.

Have you ever wondered why people can talk endlessly about morality, values, church, worship, prayer, and even “God”, etc etc etc, but are uncomfortable talking about “Jesus”? The reason for this is that Jesus is where the “rubber meets the road”. He is what makes the transcendent God present in the world. He is the “word”, the “light of the world”. It is easy for most people to talk of religion or “God” but hard for them to talk about Jesus, because He is the point at which those two meet. Without Jesus Christ, man is relatively “safe” from God.

As a result “Jesus” is an uncomfortable name for people to say. That Christ is present is an uncomfortable suggestion. That Christ is present physically as a tiny communion host, sitting on a stone altar in your local church… more uncomfortable still. Uncomfortable, but oh so simple, clear, shocking, and utterly unabashed.

This brings us back to the power of Eucharistic Adoration, specifically for the sick soul of modern man. Like a wound that needs to be cauterized by fire or purified by alcohol, our hearts need to be brought where they are afraid to go. They need to be faced with the real fear and peril of asking ” Are you there God?”. He may not be there, and I may be heartbroken in disappointment. He may indeed be there, and my heart may be rent with love, convicted, burned, and purified more than I am presently comfortable with.

The beauty of Eucharistic Adoration is in the utter simplicity and clarity with which it faces us with the perilous question. There are few other prayers or liturgies that are so simple, so clear, so shockingly frank.

This is an extremely powerful antidote for the confusion and malaise that faces men and women of our time. It is powerful because it is uncomfortable. It forces us out of lukewarmness. It perfectly sets the stage for a modern man or woman to face up to the perilous question. It is a question we will otherwise avoid as long as possible knowing that once it is out there, our lives will not be able to be the same.

There is however a second aspect of Eucharistic Adoration that is of infinite practical import and must not be overlooked: It is silence.

Soren Kierkegaard stated:

“If I were a physician, and if I were allowed to prescribe just one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, I would prescribe silence. For even if the Word of God were proclaimed in the modern world, how could one hear it with so much noise? Therefore, create silence.”

We live in a world completely filled with noise, and I am not just talking about physically audible sounds. Consider how loud our world is physically, mentally, and emotionally. When do we ever get a break from all the noise?

Most of us don’t and that is why we have no spiritual silence either.

Usually we think of ourselves as victims of noise but I would suggest that this is simply self-deception become habit. In the book “Finding Sanctuary”, Chistopher Jamison discusses this phenomena. He states:

People speak and act as if being busy is a force beyond their control, as if somewhere back in history a malign spirit of busyness invaded the planet. There was a time, in the good old days, when people had time, and life moved at an easy pace. But modern society changed all that, and now we are stuck with a way of life that is a breathless rush. “People don’t have time like they used to” – and we all nod in agreement.

and later…

…if somebody says they are too busy, then either they are too busy or they think they are too busy. Either way, the responsibility lies with them; they choose to lead a busy life, or they choose to think that they do.

You and I are only as busy and our lives only as noisy as we make them or let them become. The reason we so instinctively deceive ourselves on this issue is that noise and busyness are often additional ways we keep from facing God.

Think about it. Why are silences so awkward? Why are we practically terrified of boredom? Why is it so excruciating for us to simply sit still nowadays? The truth is that noise and busyness can become like any other “attachment” which takes the place of or distracts us from God.

In the same ways that we cling to all manner of the “forms of religion” while avoiding real contact with Christ, we fill our lives with noisiness, busyness, and distraction to keep from hearing God’s voice. Nearly all of us, if we had less noisiness in our lives, would begin to notice things we were missing or passively ignoring. We’d notice the people in our life that are hurting or who need us but who we ignore. We’d become aware of little failings that we repeat over and over without improvement or effort. We’d realize our selfishness because we’d be more aware of the needs of others, etc.

There are many little realizations that we would have to face up to if we ever sat still for a moment – this is one of the reasons our modern world is so eager for constant and instant gratification, so insistent on having interminable noise and busyness, and is so absolutely terrified of being “bored”. The noise and busyness protect us from the “still small voice” of the lord, most perilous of all, and this is one of the reasons we hold on to the noise in our lives. Because of this, it is also the silence of Eucharistic adoration that make it such a prime opportunity for men and women to come to know Christ.

My challenge, thus, is this: When you have decided you are ready to know God better, to seek truth and accept no substitutes, and to face not only your fears but also the desire, deep down, to really come to know God…. Eucharistic Adoration is a perfect place to start.

Be open to the desire to know Him. Ask the perilous questions. Give the noise time to die down and the silence time to sink in. Don’t give up, even if the process is agonizing.

He is waiting for you.

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Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)

It is pleasant to spend time with Him, to lie close to His breast like the Beloved Disciple and to feel the infinite love present in His Heart….how can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament?
– Pope John Paul II

 

We too are called to withdraw at certain intervals into deeper silence and aloneness with God….
not with our books, thoughts, and memories but completely stripped of everything,
to dwell lovingly in God’s presence – silent, empty, expectant, and motionless.
– Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

 

Silence is something more than just a pause; it is that enchanted place where space is cleared and time is stayed and the horizon itself expands. In silence, we often say, we can hear ourselves think; but what is truer to say is that in silence we can hear ourselves not think….In silence, we might better say, we can hear someone else think.
– Pico Iyer

A Couple Thoughts About Journaling…

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A character in a novel I was reading the other day remarked that he didn’t journal because he feared the self-focus would be a source of vice. While this is certainly possible, I think there are some wonderful benefits of journaling that perhaps outweigh this risk, particularly in our modern busy age.

A key benefit of journaling for me is the continuity in self-reflection that it yields. I find that a lack of continuity between days and events – caused by busyness or other distractions – often keeps me from capitalizing on moments of grace or from fully realizing and addressing instances of vice. In the busyness of daily life, worsened in many ways by our technology, I find it especially difficult even during brief silences to be able to take a deep breath, step back, and reflect on where I am going.

Particularly in the stage of the spiritual life where one is concerned with eliminating subtler vices and cultivating long-term virtues, the growth and progress (or regress) is slow and not always readily perceptable. This is especially a problem for instances of regress because without a wider birds-eye view of how things have been going, we can easily be complacent to ways we have been backpedaling or allowing occasions of sin. All in all, the primary practical effect of journaling for me is to see better whether and in what ways I have been drawing closer to God, or not, in all aspects of my life. I suppose it is, in some sense, simply the written equivalent of the daily examen.

Another benefit of journaling I have discovered lately is that it is the context which often yields my best writing. After pondering a bit, I think the reason for this is the mental audience I have when journaling vs sitting down to write for my blog or some other public forum. When I sit down to write a blog article, I seldom make much progress, and when I do, a sort of perfectionism and indecisiveness draw the writing out until it is so convoluted and overworked that I must often fight the temptation to simply give up and start over. I have begun to think this is the case because when I write for the public, this mental audience is quite loud, over-critical, and difficult to please. Of course this is more reflective of my own mind than the public itself, but nevertheless, when I try to write in this context I often get nowhere.

Observing this, I have taken recently to journaling first and allowing any additional writing to flow from that. In addition to the quiet, reflective recollection that I enjoy with journaling, I find often a natural and relaxed transition into writing about whatever topic or theme has been bouncing around my head recently (yes, this reflection on journaling started out in my journal). I think the quiet, reflective mood lends itself to this, but I think it also, again, has simply to do with my perceived mental audience. When I sit down to write in my journal, it is not simply a private mental exercise but also a prayer. When I journal, the audience is myself and God.

My life is not my own and neither is my destiny. Journaling is a bit like going back over a script one has performed and realizing previously unnoticeed details, subtexts, patterns, and designs. As I journal, I work these details out and see a bigger picture. Also, because our lives are the mysterious mix of God’s complete sovereignty as well as our free will, we are cooperating with the author’s pen when we reflect on the script and ponder our past and future steps.

As journaling thus, is a particular kind of prayer to my creator, it is no small wonder that the context is ideal for the act of sub-creation. To reflect and meditate first on the great manuscript always seems to open the door to lesser ones. It reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ words on originality:

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.
C. S. Lewis

What do you think about journaling? Do you journal? Do you do so intermittently or every day? What benefits (or disadvantages) does the discipline bring to your life?

 

Why I Pray Boring Prayers

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RosariesRepetitious prayer is one of those “Catholic things” for which we receive criticism from other sectors of the Christian community. The scripture verse concerning “vain repetition” is often quoted as evidence of a biblical incongruity with Catholic practice. It is however not a conclusive argument, as Catholics point out that the vice is the vanity, not necessarily the repetition.

Nevertheless, despite the weakness of this objection to Catholic prayers such as the Rosary, Catholics are not always able to respond with positive support for their Catholic practices. I must admit that for a long time, though I was unconvinced by arguments for why repetitious Catholic prayer was wrong, I was nevertheless not wholly convinced of its usefulness or value.

I think at times, as I struggled with the Rosary and daily prayer from the Divine Office, I concluded that perhaps I was “doing it wrong” because I didn’t feel anything. Often I would lose my place in the Rosary or realize that I had gone through a whole set of prayers and not once consciously focused on what I was saying or to whom I was saying it. I figured that something needed fixing in me before these prayers would feel right or mean anything.

My relationship with Teresa Grodi – my significant other of three years, and my wife of one – has yielded many spiritual and personal insights. One of these has been to draw a connection between my experience of the natural progression of a human relationship and my experience of progress in prayer, particularly in regular, routine, and often repetitious prayer.

Concerning my human relationship, my experience followed what common sense (and our parents, priests, and any sensible contributor of relationship advice) tells us about the progression of committed relationships: Infatuation doesn’t last and must inevitably give way to something better, though only as a result of work and perseverance. With perseverance, what develops in its place is a stable, peaceful, mature, long-term relationship that can continually increase in passion, richness, and depth.

Now, I am well aware of my youth and of the relative brevity of my marriage, and thus do not purport to be able to effectively report on this progression in a very long-term sense. Nevertheless, already I have observed this natural arc in many aspects of my relationship.

A concrete example I offer is of my experience of saying the words “I love you”.

The first time I told my then-girlfriend/now-wife Teresa that I loved her, the words had tremendous force to them. They brought her to tears as I said them and rocked my world as I heard them returned. With the simple utterance of these three words, our worlds could never be the same.

The second and third time I told her I loved her were almost as tremendous. The fifth and sixth were less so, but still powerful, and as the phrase began to be a normal part of our relationship, the emotional impact that accompanied them lessened.

I remember pondering this at one point and becoming discouraged. Were these words going to simply become more and more mundane? Were they going to lose their meaning and passion entirely? Should I even say “I love you” during the times that I didn’t particularly feel “in love”?

I didn’t know the answer. But I continued to tell her “I love you” and to express those words through my actions as best as I could, even and especially during the times when I didn’t feel it. I am happy to report that common sense, parents, priests, and other sensible contributors of relationship advice are correct: While infatuation may fade, with perseverance, what takes its place is something stronger, richer, and deeper than the infatuation stages of a dating relationship.

Looking back at those dry times, I am glad I didn’t stop saying “I love you” just because I was experiencing an absence of happy feelings. Far from losing their meaning, the words have become a source of comfort, intimacy, and joy – invaluable during times of trial and a treasure during times of peace.

What does all of this rambling about relationships have to do with repetitious prayer? The “arc” that I have experienced in aspects of my human relationship I have also encountered in aspects of my heavenly one: regular, routine, daily prayer to my Father in heaven, which is much like the regular, routine, daily “I love you” to my spouse on earth.

When I experienced my adult conversion and began to take my daily walk with God seriously, even the most mundane daily prayer was easy. In particular, I started out very enthusiastically praying the Rosary and my Breviary, but both quickly became very regular and routine. For those not familiar, the rosary is a long sequence of The Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be all prayed in meditation on the mysteries of Christ’s earthly life. The Divine office is a specific set of daily prayers, readings, and responses, that are recited at various times of the day. The Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours is the epitome of routine in its repetition of similar readings, responses, as well as the order and form of the daily devotion. As I struggled to continue praying these prayers, I became discouraged at the absence of the passion I had felt during my initial undertaking of these devotions.

My thoughts echoed those I experienced in my human relationship and those that I suspect occur to many people in regards to routine or repetitious prayer: Is this it? Are these beautiful words going to simply continue to sound more dull and mundane? Is it even worth praying if I don’t “feel” anything?

After a couple years of staying more or less faithful to praying my breviary soon after waking, one morning in the silence of the chapel something “clicked”. After struggling for months to remain attentive and sincere about the words I was praying, suddenly I began to hear the words as if for the first time and found them being spoken with a new voice. After struggling long through the mundanity of daily prayer, my soul now seemed quiet enough to finally listen. Though I no longer have access to a physical chapel in the mornings, the Divine Office – in all its routine and repetition – brings me back to that quiet, inner-chapel every day.

I experienced the same “arc” with the rosary. I started out with enthusiasm, eventually became discouraged by my waning passion and attentiveness, but in the end – after many rosaries – began to notice a new quiet peacefulness in my soul. Suddenly each individual prayer seemed to have new power and each mystery of Christ’s life – which we meditate on while saying the rosary – began to come alive.

In these experiences, I have found great joy and intimacy in my relationship with God through prayer that for a long time seemed mundane and even tiresome. While I think it would certainly be a mistake for me to claim that quiet, routine, and repetitive prayer is inherently better than, say, spontaneous prayer, I think it is also a mistake for people to assume that prayer is more authentic, sincere, or powerful simply because it is articulate, loud, impassioned, or spontaneous. If this were the case, the less creative pray-ers, like myself, would be naturally worse pray-ers (and to draw the correlation regarding relationships, the non-romantic types – unlike myself – would be naturally bad lovers). I think in either case, the quality of prayer has little to do with us beyond our sincere attempt at praying – God can take it from there.

Simply by the nature of our relationships, whether human or divine, there will always be some aspect of repetition, or routine, or mundanity. Why? Because whether the object of our love is another human being or God almighty, our hearts are fickle and will continually be susceptible to distraction. Our hearts will at times be bored by things that should inflame them with passion or indifferent to things that should bring them to tears – this is just human nature.

When we experience dry times, it is easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that our actions proceed from our feelings or drives rather than from our wills. The result is that we become convinced that we can only say and do loving things IF we still have the loving feelings. But our actions are not dependent on our feelings. In fact, the opposite is true: our hearts will inevitably follow where our wills lead.

We must keep on praying, even and especially when the passion is lacking, for our hearts will eventually come around and follow our wills. Just like always saying “I love you” to our spouse no matter what mood we are in, perseverance in repetitious prayers like the Rosary can get us through the dry times in our spiritual life. But even more than that, I think we will find these prayers becoming the brick and mortar of beautiful inner chapels where we learn to walk and talk with God intimately, and at all times. Eventually, these little, mundane, repetitious, routine, faithful…. acts of love, will become unmatched sources of joy and grace in our lives.

Never stop praying, and never stop saying “I love you”.

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How to pray the Rosary: http://www.newadvent.org/images/rosary.pdf

More information about the Liturgy of the Hours: http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/breviary.htm

Great website to help you get started praying the Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours: http://divineoffice.org/ 

JonMarc on Deep In Scripture discussing faith

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Today I joined my father Marcus Grodi on his radio program Deep In Scripture. We talked about one of my favorite topics which: trying to get at a very basic, foundational understanding of what faith is.

The word “faith” is tossed around so much, sometimes interchangeably with “belief” or “trust” and the meaning of it gets very watered down. It is such a presumed part of the life of a Catholic or Christian, that it often “goes without saying”. But the culture’s presuppositions about faith get into our psyche and pretty soon our understanding of faith is informed more by the scoffs and criticism of our detractors, rather than our Church and our Scriptures.

Is faith just “belief” or “trust”? Is it something we do or something that God does? Is it simply Pascal’s wager, as it is reduced to in so many Philosophy 101 classes? What does it mean to have faith? What does it really look like to put faith in God?

Daily Mass – Living the Dream!

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My wife and I have been attending daily mass ever since we moved to Zanesville Ohio (a few months ago). Before we were married, we lived close to each other at the Newman center at Bowling Green State University and attended mass frequently also.

Since we arrived here, we made daily mass a priority with the idea in mind that this daily sacrifice and prayer would be a healthy routine to establish. This was made easier in that we found a pleasant daily-mass-going community, greater liturgy and homilies by the Dominican friars (St. Thomas Aquinas Parish), and the church is not far away and easy to get to over lunch hour.

While I generally enjoy daily mass, I have tended to regard it as just another spiritual practice. Not that I didn’t appreciate the eucharist, the source and summit of the faith (and all that) but going every day never seemed that special.

In prayer at mass today, I decided that I will now make daily mass one of my highest priorities.

Here’s the thing: Why do I work? Why do I save my money? What are we working towards?

Well, at least in theory, personal holiness is my first priority as well as the spiritual health of my family. Thus my working/saving/supporting must be to try to provide the kind of life that will help my family to become holy.

It occurred to me today that daily mass is the kind of thing one pencils into one’s hypothetical perfect schedule. You know, the “If I had a million dollars I would…” kind of hypothetical. When a devout catholic does this, “being able to go to daily mass” is usually on the list. It’s just obvious!

And yet, I’m always tempted to think of mass as “just another nice spiritual practice”, rather than the source and summit of my relationship with God in His Church. I would list mass as part of the perfect schedule, and yet how often do I find myself getting weary of it?

I guess what really hit me today was that if I am given a good job, money enough for the gas, and a great Catholic church nearby and I am NOT seeing daily mass as a no-brainer, then I need to think about what the goals and priorities in my life really are.

There are many things we have to save our money for – house, cars, our children’s education, etc. But we have already been given the means to take our family to mass every day, and if holiness is indeed our first priority, how could we not take the opportunity?

My wife and I are saving our money, working hard, preparing to give our family the best life possible, but part of that “best life” is already ours for free – a daily celebration of God’s love. A daily communion with the God of the universe and His body the Church. Daily readings from His holy words. A daily sacrament of cosmic life-changing power.

With this in mind, its not that we are required to go to mass everyday, but why wouldn’t we?

It is a great undeserved privelege which we will be appreciating more in the future.We really are living the dream!

Your brother in Truth,

JM